17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr.Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
– May I inquire of the Prime Minister (Mr.Chifley) whetherhe proposes that the House shall meet regularly on Wednesday, or alternately on Wednesday and Tuesday? Can he give some indication of what the sitting days will be in the next few weeks?
.- The intention is that the House shall meet on Wednesday of next week and the following week. Certain legislation is being drafted, and it is hoped that if it can be brought forward sufficiently quickly the House will later be able to sit on four days a week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 7th March (vide page. 113), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.
.- In this protracted debate, the Government has been criticized from the Opposition side of the House on innumerable counts. The framing of the motion in general terms has enabled honorable members opposite to discuss almost every subject, from war brides in Britain to the foreign policy of the Government, In the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), certain oblique references were made to a tendency on the part of the Government to criticize Britain unduly in the field of foreign policy. Since the matter of foreign policy has been raised, I wish to discuss four fundamental principles of Australian foreign policy, and to examine the record of the Government concerning them. I assume that it will be agreed everywhere that the four cardinal influences on the foreign policy of this country are : first, its connexion with Britain ; secondly, its membership of an international organization ; thirdly, its policy in the zone of special concern to this country - the South-west Pacific; and fourthly, the attitude that it should adopt towards the rise of Asiatic nationalism. I have never heard anything more trivially discussed from the Opposition benches than the rise of Asiatic nationalism. One would imagine that some of the Asiatic national leaders represent only themselves. That raises the question: If they have no influence and no power among their own people, who are primitive, backward, and incapable of organization, why do the Governments of the various colonial powers negotiate with them? In India, it was considered necessary for Sir Stafford Cripps, in the depth of the war crisis, to consult with Indian national leaders. That is not to say that they arc all-powerful. But they are influential, and ‘their power must be respected. Similarly, the Dutch Government has had to negotiate with Soekarno. We cannot escape from the present situation merely by saying that Japanese occupation stimulated those national movements, or that many of these men were Japanese puppets. The fact still remains that they have influence among the majority of their people, and therefore must be considered as a political force. It is perfectly true that in China, one who was a left-wing leader - Wang Cheng Wei - became a puppet. Subhas Chandra Bose, President of the Indian National Congress, became a puppet. No doubt Soekarno, in Java, also was a puppet of the Japanese. That points to a dangerous and significant thing. All of these people claimed at one stage to be Socialists. When matters reached a crisis they showed themselves to be, in fact, Pan-Asiatic nationalists, and to be prepared to collaborate with the worst form of imperialism the world has known - that of the Japanese, That still does not destroy the fact that there was in Java a consciousness, however slight, of some form of solidarity with the rest of Asia, and one fact wc cannot fob off is that the achievement of Chinese independence will be a stimulus to Asiatic nationalism everywhere. The defeat of Russia by Japan in 1904 was the first great stimulus to the Asiatic nationalist movement. Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, the Governor of Burma, has drawn attention to the growth of nationalism in that country. Australia will have to adopt a realistic attitude towards this movement. An attitude of mere repression is perfectly useless^, because that will not succeed. European nationalism was a powerful force in the 19 th century, . but it has probably burnt itself out. I hope that the people of that continent will not’ bc prepared again to “ hoch “ and “ heil “ and goose-step at the behest of some leader who plays upon nationalist sentiment. Asiatic nationalism, however, will be the most potent factor, in our policy on foreign affairs in the 20th century. I take it that the policy of the Leader of the Opposition was to be repression at home, as far as the wharf labourers arc concerned, which would lead vis to be identified with repression abroad.
Turning to the relationship of Australia with Great Britain, I notice a tendency on the part of members of the Opposition to regard themselves as being the only people in this country who value the connexion with Great Britain. Seeing that the Australian Labour party is getting more than 50 per cent, of the votes of the people at present, it would be wrong to imagine that more than 50 per cent, of the people are anti-British. Criticism has been directed at the appointment of a Minister of the Crown as Resident Minister in London. It has been contended by the Opposition that Mr. Beasley should have resigned from the Ministry, and that the representation of this country in Great Britain should be by a career diplomat and not by a Minister. That is wrong. The relationship between Britain and the Dominions is a special one, and there should continually be appointments of Resident Ministers in London from the various dominions. The career diplomat should be there with his particular form ifr. Beazley. of expertism, to supplement the representation of the Minister, but a Minister knows the outlook of his colleagues and is aware of every nuance of government opinion back at home. That is the best form of representation we could have in form of representation we could have in the United Kingdom. So I hope that this and subsequent governments will continue the practice of appointing resident ministers, and giving them an adequate staff of career diplomats. I hope that we shall never revert to the practice of appointing as our sole representative in Great Britain a career diplomat who may be of an opposite political persuasion to that of the government he is to serve. I hope that the appointment of Mr. Beasley as Resident Minister in Great Britain will be regarded as a precedent for the appointment of other Ministers after him, men who will be in close association with the Australian Government. During the war, the British Government appointed Mr. Duff Cooper Resident Minister in the Ear East, with his head-quarters in Singapore, because it was believed that this was. the best form of representation.
It has been suggested, in the course of this debate, that during the Uncio conference in San Francisco, Australian representatives were sometimes out of harmony with the British Government, and the - Leader of the Opposition said that this was to be- regretted. I remind honorable members that in 1919, when the question of whether the United States of America should join the League of Nations was under discussion, one of the strongest points made by the isolationists in the United States was that the British Empire, having representatives from Great Britain .and the five dominions in the League, would have six votes as against one vote of the United States. They maintained that the dominions would be merely “ stooges “ for the purpose of multiplying the British vote, and the demanded that the United States of America should not submit to the indignity of having one vote against six for Great Britain. I maintain that if, in an international organization, the role of the dominions is to be nothing more than little “ Sir Echoes “ to the British Foreign Secretary it will not be long before we have no international representation at all. The British Government has never demanded such compliance from the Dominions. It has always been recognized that on fundamental issues agreement between the component parts of the Empire is desirable, but complete agreement on all matters has never been required. The fact that Canada and the other dominions during the period between the two wars acted independently as members of the League of Nations, removed the ground for objection in the United States of America to the principle of allowing the Dominions to have separate votes. As far back as the eighteenth century, when the break-away of the American colonies was under discussion, Edmund Burke designated as the worst enemies of the British Empire those who believed that the Empire “should furnish out a spectacle of uniformity to gratify the schemes of visionary politicians”. I commend that quotation j;o members of the Opposition. The representatives of the Commonwealth at the conference which drafted the first international charter played a constructive part. They contributed major amendments to the charter which recommended themselves to a majority of the nations of the world, and because of their attitude they were elected to the cabinet of -the new organization, the Security Council. Therefore, there is no ground for criticizing the Government on that account.
The creation of a zone of special interest in the South-West Pacific was another constructive action by this Government, although it was -strongly criticized by the Opposition. The setting up of the South- West Pacific Affairs Council under the Australian-New Zealand Pact to supervise and improve the native policy, native education and missionary activities, and to provide for consultation between the various governments administering possessions in the Pacific, was an act of great importance profoundly affecting both our colonial and foreign policies. We must recognize that there is now greater sensitivity in Asia regarding the relationship of white people to coloured people. When Mr. Casey was appointed
Governor of Bengal, the Indian Nationalist press attacked the appointment on the ground that he came from a country which discriminated against Asiatics - under our White Australia policy - and which was racially callous, as was proved by our treatment of the aborigines. This point was touched upon last night by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). The Indian Nationalist press made the further assertion that no Australian has any place in the administration of India. Continually we have seen this growing sensitivity to the relations between white and black in India and elsewhere in Asia. A direct example was in the Viceroy’s own Executive Council - by no means consisting of Indian Nationalists since they are the Viceroy’s appointees - which passed a bill applying item by item to South Africans in India the discriminatory legislation which the South African Parliament had directed against Indian residents in South Africa. Any step which is taken under the organization set up under the AustralianNew Zealand Pact or the South-West Pacific Council to improve our native policy will have important repercussions in Asia in the way of doing something to offset the criticism directed at British dominions by the people in Asia concerning our native policy. On that point also, in the Australian-New Zealand Pact, the Commonwealth Government has taken a constructive step to dissipate some of the tension which arises in connexion with the colour problem in this area. In respect of those four points in foreign policy - the relationship of Australia to Britain, the Australian role in the international organization, the zone of special interest in the South-West Pacific, and the relationship to the rise of Asiatic nationalism - the Commonwealth Government has adopted a constructive attitude. In this debate very little has been said concerning any issue that really matters. It has been largely a debate in which all sorts of minor points have been taken : any grievance about brides, or someone who has been delayed in his reconstruction training has been used as ammunition to fire at the Government. I am not surprised at that. There have been other assertions, particularly concerning taxation and its effect in impeding the restoration of industry. It is a very great mystery to me why no member on the Opposition benches ever attempts to explain why savings in this country rise between £10,000,000 and £12,000,000 every month. They assert at the same time that taxation takes away spending power and that everyone has excess spending power and there is a measure of inflation! The truth is that the taxation which is being represented as an annihilation of spending power is purely distributive. For instance. £54,000,000 for deferred pay is taken from the taxpayers and given to a particularly vunerable section of the community, consisting of returned service men and women who are rehabilitating themselves and have a strong tendency to spend money. The same thing occurs in connexion with the £75,000,000 payable in gratuities and the additional £77,000,000 paid as child endowment and invalid and old-age pensions. The Government is not so much an annihilator of spending power as it is a distributor of money. The money paid out by the Government to the community augments the people’s savings.
The Opposition has concentrated on one particular incident of the past, namely, the sale to Japan of iron ore from Yampi Sound, on the coast of Western Australia. To his very great credit the Leader of the Opposition was Attorney-General in a government that vetoed the action of a Labour Government in Western Australia which proposed to sell iron ore to Japan through Brassarts Limited. I commend the right honorable gentleman for his having been associated with the administration that vetoed that contract, but, in the interests of honesty, we might mention that the entire Western Australian Legislature, including the Country party Opposition and the Nationalist party Opposition, protested unanimously against that action of the Commonwealth Government, and the Western Australian Labour Government, which formed the Executive, put the matter to the Commonwealth Government on the grounds of that unanimous protest. If the right honorable gentleman was motivated by humane considerations, if he did not desire iron ore to he rained on the Chinese . as bombs, 1 respect him highly for it; but, contradictorily, he did not veto the. sale of pig-iron to Japan. I do’ not join in a campaign against the right honorable gentleman in respect of that. The sale of pig-iron to Japan before the war I recognize as-normal trade, and I am not concerned in condemning the right honorable gentleman on that ground ; but I do not think he should look back on the inciden with pride, as he says he does. At that stage, we were trying not to give Japan any cause to he involved in war with us. We made those sales as a part of a policy of appeasement, not because we desired. to supply Japan with materials for war. So the right honorable gentleman has no cause to look back on the matter with pride. At most, it should be viewed as a regrettable necessity But there is a common factor in the pigiron, which must be sold, and the Yampi Sound iron ore, which must not be sold. First, the pig-iron, which must be sold, belonged to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and, secondly, the Yampi Sound iron ore, which must not be sold, did not at the stage when the sale was vetoed belong to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited; but finally it did belong to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, could be converted into pig iron, and in that form could be sold. So, there is no clear cause in those absurd incidents for anybody to criticize anybody. We have to realize that the sales were normal pre-war trade. It would have been a very good thing had this debate not been reduced to that level of triviality.
The other points made by the Opposition concern rehabilitation. “ Nobody is receiving training! Chaos exists everywhere ! “ Those are fine generalities that anybody can say because they cannot he pinned down. I do not know anything about nobody getting any training, but I do know that no room is left at the Perth Technical College and that the Commonwealth Government has been forced to extend the University of Western Australia.
T <lo know that the vice-chancellor of that university has contacted me concerning the lack of room there. I also know that there has been criticism on these lines - “If you must make so much room available for rehabilitation., why continue with university assistance schemes for civilians? “Why not exclude civilians and make room for returned soldiers?”. I have received that kind of criticism in correspondence.
Any one can be destructively critical of the method of demobilization adopted by lbc Government. If release.’ from the services arc based on occupational grounds, that is, if releases are made primarily on the ground that tho.=e released have jobs to go to, those who would qualify for release on a points system because of their longer service and the other considerations taken into account will complain, and their complaints will be repeated in this House. If the points system is adopted as the only basis on which releases shall be made, those with jobs to go to will complain against their being kept in the services, and their complaints also will be echoed in this House. When both those principles are combined, as the Government combined them for a time, many anomalies arise and many complaints are voiced. The truth is that a highly abnormal situation developed during the war, and the unwinding process presents endless opportunities ‘ for destructive criticism. That has been the tone of speeches made by honorable members opposite.
– Is the honorable gentleman satisfied?
– I am not satisfied that things are perfect, but the charge that chaos exists and. the reckless statements made by honorable members opposite with respect to shipping when they do not know the facts are not constructive criticism. In respect of the major issues which have been raised, the Government, particularly so far as its foreign policy is concerned, has an excellent record. Although unforeseen problems have arisen in its rehabilitation plans, the Government is coping effectively with those problems. The other incidental matters raised amount largely to abuse in digging up the past and are not worthy of serious consideration by honorable members on this side. I am convinced not only that the motion will fail, but also that it should fail.
Dame ENID LYONS (Darwin) [10.56”. - I believe that no one in this House or outside will accuse me of ever attempting to make political capital out of the mistakes of a government. It is part of my political philosophy that in a democracy the elected government of the day deserves from the people a loyalty not demanded under other forms of government: and on all occasions throughout the wai’, and since, I have done what I could to help the Government maintain its activities which I regarded as being in the national interest, and on no occasion have I attempted to capitalize anything which I regarded as an .honest mistake due to the exigencies of war conditions.
I take part in this debate to-day for one reason only, and that is to make a statement with regard to the incident which occurred when what has become known as the Australian “ hell-s’hip “ left Sydney Harbour.
– More ?ob stuff.
– That is a delightful interjection from the honorable member. I am astounded that any Australian at this moment could make such on observation. I am astounded that any member of this House should dare to make it. Yesterday. I made a statement to the press at the request of the press in which-I said that I did not blame the Government. I said that the things that had happened were things for which our former enemies were now being executed. I did not blame the Government, but it was necessary that the Government immediately express its horror at what has happened,- and take whatever steps were necessary to rectify matters. I have received numerous protests from women, and I would be false to the womanhood of Australia if I did not now make a protest and say that in my opinion the Government foolishly, and for no reason that I can see, assumed responsibility for these things. After what has happened the Government could be justified only by making one of two statements: either that it was satisfied that every condition on the ship complied with what Australians would like to believe existed; or, that it was horrified at the conditions on the ship and was taking immediate steps to have them remedied. And either of those statements could have been made only on the condition that the ship was diverted to an Australian port to be examined by an Australian authority. But neither of those statements was made, and to my extreme disappointment no condemnation of the state of affairs reported in the daily press has come from a member of the Government. That is an appalling thing; and I plead, with the Government even now to retrace its steps in this matter. Is it satisfied that the conditions on the ship are as described in the press? Can it say that the conditions are not as described in press reports-? If it cannot say so, the Government has entirely failed the people of Australia. One reporter described the conditions prevailing on the ship as follows: -
To look at what Commander Araki had arranged for his passengers, we walked through two compartments. They had been specially constructed. Each measured 43 ft. by 20 ft. There was a narrow passageway. We walked ulong it.
Ho said the height was 0 ft. 0 in. On each side of the passageway were common dormitories. The deck had been divided in half so that from floor to ceiling in each was only about 3 ft. Those lucky enough to crawl side by side into the top dormitory had portholes through which they could watch for 24 hum’s at a stretch the progress of Evening Moon through the waters. For those sleeping waist to waist below, there wore no’ portholes.
I have a very distinct recollection of listening in this House to a statement read by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) about conditions on .a ship on which Australian prisoners of war were being conveyed to Japan. I .wanted to say something on that occasion; I was too deeply moved to do so. I was particularly horrified at the lack of space provided for those men. Yet on the ship which left an Australian port this week, the space provided was very little different from that provided on the Japanese prison ship which caused such a wave of horror throughout Australia.
To make matters worse, there were women and children aboard the Yoizuki Lieu tenant-General Sturdee, Chief of the Aus tiwi ian General Staff, has stated that there was room on the destroyer for fifteen more passengers. Fifteen more people could have been put aboard the vessel ! I am absolutely astounded that such ian effort at justification could have been made by Lieutenant-General Sturdee. I invite honorable members to pay particular attention to the picture of the Yoizuki which is published in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald. I should like them particularly to observe the emergency lavatory accommodation provided for all those people. It is not pleasant for me to mention this. Having travelled a great deal on small ships in stormy waters, I know something of the very grave discomforts of moving from a bed, however uncomfortable, to any other part of a ship. I have also travelled on a luxury liner through the tropics and suffered a . collapse in which I almost lost my life because of the heat. By courtesy of the Commonwealth Government, I travelled in the best cabin on the ship, with ventilators and every comfort that could be provided for me. When I think of the conditions under which the passengers are travelling on the Yoizuki, I am very deeply moved.
By the indignation . that has been expressed from one end of the country to the other the Australian people have absolved themselves from any charge of complicity or condonation in this affair. For some unaccountable reason, the Government refuses so to absolve itself. There was no reason at all why the Government, having had these matters reported to it, should not have immediately ordered a complete investigation of every charge. Instead of doing so, the Government preferred to say, as I had said for it on the previous day, that it Avas not responsible. But having made no effort to right these matters or investigate them properly, the Government has assumed that responsibility. One defence which has been m,ade is this : The accommodation provided was obviously not suited to Australians or members of the white race, but for Asiatics the conditions were all right, because those are the conditions that they know, and, perhaps, appreciate. If those are the conditions with which they are familiar and which they regard as all right, how can we justly accuse the Japanese of inhumanity to our prisoners? We must be quite honest in this matter. Whilst men are being executed for breaches of our standards, we Australians are standing in the shadow of an accusation that we ourselves have disregarded. I say once more to the Government that, throughout Australia, it will gain nothing but condemnation for its inactivity in this matter. This ship, so far as I am aware, is still within the jurisdiction of the Australian Government. It could still be diverted to an Australian port. If, for one hour longer than is necessary, these men, women and children are forced to suffer the conditions that they are now enduring, it will be a condemnation of honorable members opposite as a government. It is not too late for the Government to heed the protests of the people of (iris country. This incident will produce unfavorable reactions to Australia throughout the world. Nothing we can say now can prevent the knowledge of what has happened from being brought to the notice of the people of , every country. Motion pictures of the pitiful scenes at the embarkation are already being released throughout Australia. These things can never be explained away unless the Government takes immediate action to give real expression to the complete horror that the people of Australia are feeling to-day. I believe that the men of this Government are as other men ; yet apparently they have the extraordinary notion that for some reason, a mistake having been made and a regrettable incident having occurred, it is their duty to defend the action at all costs. Nothing could be more suicidally wrong or ridiculously pathetic at a time like this when men and women are condemned to suffer as the people on board that vessel are suffering to-day. Whether the cause be bungling or mere stupidity, this is something that moves me beyond the power of words to express.
I believe that unless some members of this Parliament had given expression to their feelings in regard to this matter they would have done to this country the disservice which the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) last night laid at the door of those on this side of the chamber who have protested. If this incident had been published abroad as an action which roused no protest by any official body in this country, our credit deservedly would have fallen to that of the less reputable nations of the world. We must ensure that from this moment nothing shall be done to make more vivid in the minds of the peoples of the world the fact that this incident occurred at an Australian port ,on the very day on which thirteen Japanese suffered the death penalty because of their ill treatment-
– They murdered Australian soldiers.
– I admit that the men in this case were murderers, but there are others now on trial for mere ill- treatment, and we have yet to see whether this vessel will reach its destination with all its human cargo alive. I repeat that it is extremely distasteful to me to have to speak in these terms. Fears have been expressed for the welfare of the women and children on that ship which I shall not echo but which may well have some substance, and which it would be advisable for the authorities not to discard entirely. As a final word, I plead with the Government in the name of our common Australian citizenship, in the name-of the women of Australia, and in the name of the parents of Australia, to take steps now to divert the ship to an Australian port so that it may, once and for all, either allay entirely the fears that have been expressed throughout Australia or remove the conditions which have given rise to this outcry.
.- The motion submitted by the Opposition is to the effect that the Government does not possess the confidence of the House; that implies that the Government does not possess the confidence of the people of Australia. Nothing has occurred since this Government was returned to office which would seriously alter the opinion then held by the people and expressed by them at the elections. The Labour party came back into office in 1943 when the nation was still at war. The Government’s record in bringing the country successfully through that period is one which deserves the highest commendation. The Government has also had to deal with vast problems created by the change-over from war to peace conditions and by the necessity for the rehabilitation of men and women serving in the armed forces and in the many instrumentalities which had been created to supply the wherewithal for prosecuting the war. It has discharged its duties in an excellent manner. The only way to determine whether or not the Government deserves the censure of the House is to refer to its record. This record is one of which the Government may well be proud. There has been nothing in the conduct of the nation’s affairs for which it has reason to apologize. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has told us that discharges from the armed services now total 325,000 and that, of this number, only 5,000 are registered as unemployed. That is a creditable achievement. I had not believed it possible to achieve such excellent results, and I was astounded when I heard the Minister’s statement. Furthermore, amongst the 5,000 men who are registered as unemployed are many who are awaiting rehabilitation training and are receiving unemployment payments to tide them over that period of waiting. The unemployment situation amongst ex-servicemen is very satisfactory indeed, particularly in view of ibc industrial upset which occurred some months ago and which had a considerable effect on the employment market. Returned soldiers can be confident that their destiny is safe in the hands of this Government. It has done a praiseworthy job for them, and they have nothing to fear.
Attacks which were launched on the Government’s foreign policy by honorable members opposite were very satisfactorily dealt with by the Prime Minister. The speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was one of the weakest efforts I have heard from him in this House. I am supported in that opinion by t.° general tone of the comments which I have heard since he spoke. It seemed to me that he did not believe that he ha.d a sound case and that he was trying to bolster it by making empty “ wisecracks “. For what has been accomplished by the Government on the food front, I refer those who may read my speech to the statement made yesterday by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Air. Scully), which completely answered the accusation that the record of production had been a bacl one. As a matter of fact, during the war period and up to the present time it has been outstanding, and one of which the Government may justly be proud.- As I said earlier, in order to judge whether the Government has served this country well and deserves the goodwill of the people, or lias bungled its task and deserves censure, we must examine its record. The present administration came into office in 1943. Not until the 1st July, 1944, had it a majority in the Senate, and only from that date has it had the power to implement its policy. Its record in regard to the legislation passed during that period is outstanding. Definitely, in respect of social legislation the period has been the greatest in the history ‘ of this country. Alist of the legislation passed during 1945, supplied to me by the Clerk of the House, reveals that the number of bills placed on the statute-book was 59, and that one-third of them were purely social service measures, designed to make the lot of the people of this country bettor and happier. The invalid and old-age pension, and the widows’ pension, were substantially increased, whilst the conditions attaching to the payment of the pension were improved so greatly that a man and his wife who to-day are old-age pensioners receive together £3 5s. a week and are entitled to an additional income of £1 5s. a week, making a total of £4 10s. a week, which is comparable with the basic wage of a man with a wife and one child. Although by itself the pension is not high for an individual, those capable of earning in addition a few shillings a week are in a much better position than they were when the Government came into office.
Child endowment has been increased by 50 per cent. From the birth of a child, when a high allowance is paid to the mother, throughout the various stages of life, the people are being afforded a greater measure of security under the policy adopted by the Government. Child endowment was increased because it was considered that the person in need of assistance could be helped in the rearing of a family much better by that means than by a substantial reductim of income tax, which would benefit mee materially those who are in the higher ranges of income and do not need the relief I hope that the endowment payments will be increased from time to time. A man in receipt of an income of £250 a year, and paying ls. in the £1 on his taxable income, would benefit to an amount of only £2 10s. by a deduction of £50 in respect of a child, whereas a person whose taxable income is taxed at the rate of 15s. in the £1 would receive a benefit of approximately £37 10s. by being granted a similar deduction. Therefore, deductions in respect of members of the family do not apply equitably among all sections of the community. Consequently, the endowment principle is sound, and I hope that it will be extended. - The motion seeks a declaration that the Government does not possess the confidence of this House, by which is inferred the country. As the Government will bc judged on what it has achieved in the interests of the people, and what the people desire it to do, I am completely justified in referring to the record of its accomplishments. In addition to providing child endowment, the Government has entered the education field by making substantial contributions which will assist in the education of the child. Apart from subsidies of different kinds, any child who has the necessary qualifications for entry to the university, and has not the means to do so, will be entitled to maintenance from a government fund during the period of its education. Many boys and girls who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to qualify for a professional career are now receiving the higher education that they need by means of the excellent legislation brought down by the Government, and others will have that opportunity in the future. This action was first taken under National Security regulations. Last yea]’, legislation was introduced to give effect to the education facilities that bad been offered.
Housing, too, has been the subject oi legislation. Agreements have been mad with the States, under which the Commonwealth will provide large sums that will enable homes to be built for the people. Undoubtedly, the shortage of homes to day is very great. However, that position has been developing over a period of years. There was a considerable shortage during the depression years, and it has been argued that it would have been greater had the spending power of the people been higher, enabling those who needed homes to pay the rents that were demanded. Many persons then lived in hovels, but did not complain because they had not the means to rent a decent home. The conditions have improved under this Government, and the demand for homes to-day is far greater than it has ever been previously. Apparently, the shortage is more acute now because of the higher spending power of the people. That higher spending power is something of which the Government is justly proud, ljnder the agreements that have been made with the States, homes will be built for renting, and the maximum rent will be equal- to one day’s pay. Should that amount be £1 a week, and should the economic rent of the house be £1 os. a week, the difference will be payable out of a fund that is to be provided by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States. That is a departure from previous practice which will ensure decent housing conditions for the vast army of people who should be provided with better homes than they have previously had.
The hospital benefits scheme initiated ‘ by this Government is being implemented in many of the States. Unfortunately, the Government of New South Wales has not yet ratified the agreement; but I understand that the scheme is in operation in most of the other States. In future, all persons will receive the best attention in our hospitals, without charge, unless they wish to enter a private or a semi-private section of the institution and are prepared to make a payment for the privilege. The general hospital accommodation will be available to every section free of charge because of the action of the Commonwealth. The pharmaceutical benefits legislation made provision for free medicine, but, unfortunately, did not survive a challenge in the High Court and was declared unconstitutional. The Parliament will have to consider late? an appeal to the people for wider power to enable security to be given in this respect. The legislation in relation to tuberculosis was designed to give to persons suffering from that disease an opportunity they had not previously enjoyed to -obtain curative treatment. Many people affected by tuberculosis have had to remain in their employment in order to eke out a living for their families, and therefore they were deprived of the possibility of cure. To-day under the legislation submitted by the Government they will be able to enter suitable institutions, and their wives and families will be adequately supported during their absence from their employment.
One of the most useful pieces of legislation passed at the instance of the Labour Government is the Unemployment and Sickness Benefit Act, under which every worker is guaranteed against unemployment, and the responsibility of finding employment for him rests on the Commonwealth authorities. If the Government cannot find a job for him, reasonable sustenance has to be provided during the period of unemployment. Some years ago a great deal of unemployment prevailed in this country, and many people would like to see a repetition of that condition ; they say that it leads to a full and free .market for labour. But benefits have been conferred upon the people by the legislation introduced by the Labour party which are not enjoyed in any other part of the world. To-day persons who suffer periods of illness receive payments under this legislation, and their wives and other dependents are provided for. This measure has been brought down during the last twelve months, and the Government is deserving, not of censure, but of the highest commendation. The matters to which I have been referring are the issues which most closely affect the people. A lot of sloppy sentiment has been indulged in during this debate, but the people have the satisfaction of knowing that their economic security, nationally and internationally, has been looked after by the Government.
A reduction of 12^ per cent, in the income tax has been made, and I hope that when the next budget is introduced there will be a further reduction. The sales tax has been reduced. I dealt earlier with what has been done by the Government for the rehabilitation of ex-service per- sonnel. The Re-establishment and Employment Act is one of the most farreaching measures passed in any part of the world in the interests of returned soldiers. Men under eighteen years of age joined the fighting services without having been equipped for civil careers, and they are now being assisted under the government scheme. They are being helped financially to go into business, or they are being trained for various trades and occupations. Owing to the legislation sponsored by the Government a great deal of security has been given to exservice men and women. One of the most important features of the rehabilitation scheme is the provision made for the equipment of ex-service folk for civil li’fe. A substantial war gratuity has been provided, and it will ensure a comfortable reserve for discharged servicemen. Those who need the money immediately to assist in their re-establishment in civil life can obtain cash value for their bonds. That legislation also has been implemented in the last twelve months.
The land settlement scheme introduced by the Government for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen is more generous than previous schemes, and it will enable the participants to be granted land free of cost. Previously those who could not go on the land, because of lack of finance, were unable to benefit under the scheme, but there is a special provision in the present agreement between the Commonwealth and the States that lack of funds shall not be a bar to any ex-serviceman taking up life on the land. Any man qualified to engage in a rural pursuit will be supplied with a block. This assistance will be greatly appreciated, particularly by exservicemen living in country districts.
I regard the Commonwealth Bank Act and the Banking Act as the most important legislation ever enacted by this Parliament. The power of money is the power of government, and that power has now been given to this Parliament. During the last depression, the government of the day was refused adequate finance, but I hope that these measures will be used to the full during the period of rehabilitation. Other legislation deals with life insurance and the national air services. The acts passed regarding the manufacture of motor vehicles has resulted in the establishment of the motor car ‘ building industry’ in Australia. Already certain companies are setting up manufacturing plants in this country. Millions of pounds will be invested in the industry, and millions more will be paid in wages because of this legislation alone.
The cities are dependent upon the prosperity of the country, and the Wool-Use Promotion Act will increase our markets for wool, and thus increase the prosperity of the people. Under the Wool Realization Act, the large stocks of surplus wool in Australia will “be disposed of. Stability has been given to the wool-grower and to those who work in the industry by the provision of stable prices and to the townspeople who depend on the industry for their livelihood. The excellent work accomplished by the Labour Government 13 appreciated by the people. The legislation sponsored by it has given security to the primary industries. Never previously in the history of Australia has such security and stability been enjoyed by them. Whether we take wool, wheat, meat, eggs, or milk, the prices received to-day are better than ever previously. All these things are to the credit of the Government. A government which has done all this for the people, and given them economic security is worthy of support. The Opposition has attacked the Government on trivial issues, but I have enumerated the solid achievements of the Government, for which it deserves, and will receive, public commendation.
.- I listened with interest to the speech of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark). He is very easily pleased if he is satisfied with the record of the Government. I say that the Government deserves condemnation on the various grounds which have already been stated, and particularly because it has surrendered the government of the country to secret forces, and foreign juntas outside Parliament. It is only a shadow government which accepts orders from the Communist-controlled Trades and Labour Council. The members of the Government are no more than marionettes, and though honorable members opposite may bc satisfied with such a situation I am not.
The Government is deserving of censure because of its inept and irresponsible handling of the Indonesian situation. The Government, abjectly surrendering to the Communist-controlled Waterside Workers Federation, abandoned our Dutch allies. It is a disgrace that our foreign policy should be dictated by the extremists of the Trades and Labour Council. The Government has shown an utter disregard of our obligation to the Dutch, and to the people living in the Netherlands East Indies. It has permitted the holding up of mercy ships loaded with Red Cross and medical supplies, and with food and comforts for people who for years were in the hands of the Japanese, and were ill treated by them. The Government made no effort to have the ships despatched, but stood idly by while Communists and other extremists dictated the country’s foreign policy and our relations with our Dutch allies.
– Absolute nonsense!
– Any Minister who tries to justify the attitude of the Government in regard to this matter must be lacking in ordinary decency.
– Nonsense !
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is’ again using one of his two pet interjections, “ Curse the press “ and “ Nonsense “. When the Minister is confronted with a statement so demonstrably true that he cannot attempt to refute it he repeats his old parrot cry of “ Nonsense “. A government which stands idly by and allows the despatch of mercy ships to be held up must be condemned. The observations of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) condemn him and his Government, because they make it clear that he was not prepared to do what he knew was his duty, the reason being that he was afraid it might precipitate a’ strike. The ineptitude of the Government, and its failure to govern gave New South Wales a black Christmas. The Government allowed the strikers to do what they like. It was npt until hundreds and thousands of persons had been thrown out of employment that the trade unions themselves - not the Government - compelled the strikers to go back to work.
The Government is deserving of censure because it has not had the courage to deal w:.h Communists, who are to-day wrecking every worthwhile national activity. Returned prisoners of war have written to me protesting against the failure of the Government to take appropriate action, particularly in regard to the holding up of ships for Indonesia. Some of these men have served in the Middle East, in Greece, Crete and Syria, and were on their way to Malaya when they were diverted to Java, where they were taken prisoner. Prom their sick beds at Greenslopes Hospital they have written me a letter, part of which I quote as follows : -
The position concerning Dutch ships in Australia lias become absurd and intolerable. Somebody should take charge and call for volunteers to load the ships if the Prime Minister and his executive arc too timid to do so.
Returned soldiers would do the job, we believe, if appealed to. 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.
For five months now several ships have been held up in Australia (three ships in Brisbane). During that time we have returned from the fighting overseas or from prisonerofwar camps.
It is humiliating and disgusting to men who have been willing to risk life for this country to see and to feci the decline of our prestige as a nation in world affaire.
Australia is becoming known as a nation that allows itself to be run by Communists and as a nation that is fickle and disloyal to an ally. We used these same ships to transport our troops and to repatriate our own prisoners of war. Now the war is barely finished and we repudiate these ships.
This is not only ingratitude, but it displays a callousness towards the pitiful situation in Java that is a blot on our reputation, and will remain a blot that will blacken more and more as long as there arc helpless people to be rescued from Java.
The question of what. is the best and fairest Government for Java is a question so complex that it is a matter for the United Nations Organization to deal with.
Meantime, our duty is towards our Allies. It is Australia’s part to back up the forces of law and order and the decisions of the United Nations Organization. If the Federal Government will not at once wake up to the obligations it is time that soldiers and citizens took a hand to save the reputation and the decency of this country and to end this unlawful victimization of Dutch ships.
E. E. Huxtable, ex-P.O.W., on behalf of the following: - H. Parsons, ex-P.O.W. ; H. T. West, ex-P.O.W. ; D. J. Morley. ex-P.O.W.;
F. Hodgen. E.A.A.F.; C. Horsley, A.M.F.; N. D. Pixley/B.A.N.E.; F. West, ex-P.O.W. ; K. J. Turich, ex-P.O.W.; J. G. White, ex-P.O.W. ; J. F. Rutter, ex-P.O.W.; Tom Pedrazini, ex-3rd Div.; H. G. Curtain, ex-P.O.W.; A. E. Millard, A.M.F.
Dr. C. R. Huxtable has been a personal friend of mine for over 30 years. He served with distinction in the last war and was decorated. He served again in this war, and was for three and a half years a prisoner of war. That letter is a complete condemnation of the Government for its disregard of the law. It is true, as others have said, that the Government has handed over the control of the Commonwealth to outside influences. On this subject I shall read an extract from one of the chief shipping journals in Australia -
One of the most infamous things on record against this country - we repeat that word infamous in case it may be thought in some quarters that it is a lip-easy exaggeration - is to be found in the record of our dealings with our Dutch ally. The story of the five Dutch ships marooned in Sydney Harbour since last September under the black ban of the Wharflabourers’ Union is a grim commentary not only on the industrial anarchy that holds this country in its grip, but upon the evidence it affords of the general breakdown of responsible government that has obtained in increasing ratio since the Curtin Government assumed office and the Chifley Government has been carrying on. Through the most amazing period of strikes ever inflicted upon this Commonwealth, through a progressive decay in our industrial status that is without parallel, there has been a corresponding failure of government in all its aspects and a degeneration into those moral and political turpitudes that are far removed from the constitutionalism that we associate with British standards and the history and traditions of our race - something much more akin to the standards of a defaulting Central American republic - something starkly class, lopsided and tyrannical.
Consider this matter. Encouraged by local unions. Indonesian crews refused to sail even with cargoes of food, clothing and Red Cross parrels for relief of Dutch distress in Java. The unions had previously and impudently and illegally placed an interdict on the transport -of troops and arms, and a cowardly administration let them get away with it. The Trades and Labour Council, certain of its overlordship and ability to dominate and intimidate the subservient gang at Canberra, kept a heavy jack-booted foot on the neck of the Government, and Ministers skulked within their tents while a great infamy was being done. Extra-parliamentary authority, in the shape of a professed class interest, took affairs from the hands of those in authority and determined for them the foreign policy of this Commonwealth. It offered gross affront to a valued and long-suffering ally, who had made, perhaps, a far greater contribution to defending Australia than we had made ourselves; it trampled on every virtue and tradition of the nationhood we inherit; and it has brought us increasingly within the orbit of ridicule and contempt which the rest of the world must feel for such poltroonery. While, men and women perished or languished in durance vile in Indonesia, terrified, abused and ill-used by a cutthroat gang of Japanese-inspired and armed natives, and while the British Army operated to restore the gross ill-balance, this country stood idly by and did nothing, i the Accepted rale of a Sydney mob watching a hard-pressed policeman being bashed and battered by gangsters. An unlovely - » mean, contemptible role.
On the grounds mentioned in that article, the Government stands condemned as being incompetent to govern, and therefore, in. the interests of decent government And the fair name of Australia, I ask honorable members to support the motion, and so remove the Government of this country from dictation by outside bodies.
The Government’s actions in respect of rationing, restrictions and prohibitions of various kinds have bewildered the people. One day the Government does one thing and the next day it does something entirely different. To-day, it makes promises; to-morrow it denies that those promises were made. The people are so bewildered that they labour under a sense of frustration. The policy in respect of the rationing of such items as petrol, food and clothing, particularly household linen, has changed time after time. One day a bureaucrat in one of the government departments will promise that something will be done, and immediately the responsible Minister issues a denial that the things promised will happen. But the next day the Minister retracts what he said and falls into line behind the bureaucrat. We have reached the position that bureaucrats in the various, departments, and not the Government, are announcing government policy. This control by bureaucrats is most noticeable in connexion with the newer departments. The trouble is that the Government is so dependent on these men that it does not s attempt to curb their activities. So incompetent is the Government to perform the tasks awaiting attention that many of its own supporters would be relieved if there were a change of government. Bureaucrats are not only dictatorial; they are also wasteful. No sooner is a new department created than it spreads like a bush fire. Bureaucrats in control of various departments have commandeered so much of the office accommodation of Brisbane that exservicemen cannot find rooms in that city in which to set up in business. I understand that similar conditions exist in the ether capital cities of Australia. All the time the cost of government is increasing; yet inefficiency and incompetence were never more evident. Members of the Government appear to be mentally tired. They seem to be bereft of any ideas of government except the putting into operation of their socialistic ideas. Tens of thousands of service men and women, who have every right to expect fair treatment in return for the services that they have rendered to their country, are scouring the country looking for jobs. They realize now how empty were the promises made to them. The full employment so glibly promised to them is now only an illusion. Unless the Government takes steps to honour the promises made to the men and women of the fighting services it will have to vacate the treasury-bench, because this repudiation will not be tolerated. When the country was in danger men were urged to join the Army or the Air Force and there learn various trades. They responded nobly to the call, believing that the promises made to them would be honoured, but now that they Lave been demobilized they find that they are unable to carry on in the trades in which they had assisted in fighting for the defence of their country. Many of the trade unions that form the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, the real ruler of this country, for to it the Government turns for orders, will not allow men, who in the armed forces were engaged in trades that they represent, to follow those trades on their return to civil life. The failure of the Government effectively to repatriate, them, by ensuring that, notwithstanding the contrary orders of the union bosses, they shall have the jobs they were promised when they answered the call to protect Australia against its enemies will not be tolerated any longer. The ex-servicemen’s organizations of both world wars are up in arms over the Government’s neglect of their members. “Rebellious” is not strong enough a word to describe the feelings of the rank and file of the members and their executive officers. Meetings are being held all over the country to protest against the chaos in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and other departments associated with repatriation and rehabilitation created by the bungling and ineptitude of the Government in dealing with the welfare of the thousands of young men and women who, having saved Australia, on their return to civil life find that their reward is utter neglect. The training to fit them for trades and professions promised to them when they took up arms they cannot get. Thousands of young men and women have been examined by the appropriate committees and adjudged eligible and suitable for training. They are still waiting for it. Their number is ever-increasing. Another example of the Government’s ineptitude is that, although thousands of young men already competent to take up a trade are anxious to do so, no tools that would enable them to do so are available.
– Who manufactures the tools of trade?
– They are manufactured in this country.
– But by whom, the Government or private enterprise?
– Most tools of trade are manufactured by private enterprise, but the Government has taken no steps to ensure their availability. It has utterly fallen down on the job in allowing men to. face a blank future because the tools they need cannot be provided. The Department of Post-war Reconstruction is jammed with blue-prints and the plans to cope with the demobilization of our forces, but we have seen none of the plans in operation. This country cannot live on blue-prints. So, on this score also, the Government is deserving of the censure of this country. What has happened to the land settlement scheme? Just where have ex-servicemen been given holdings to work? How marked is the contrast between what this country has not done in that respect and what New Zealand has done. The records show that New Zealand began three years ago to settle its former servicemen on the land, and thousands have been provided with blocks in conformity with the active application of that country’s land settlement policy. But what has this Government done? For a long time I have had on the notice-paper a question as to how many ex-servicemen have been settled on the land in Australia. I cannot get an answer. Nor can I find any one who has been able to. The Government’s neglect of land settlement is a further ground on which it stands condemned in the eyes of the people. I cannot imagine why any one in this House should seek to defend it on such a. record of ineptitude. The “ dead hand of Dedman “ has blighted the hopes and ambitions of men who hoped to play their part in developing this country into, as it should be, the greatest country in the world. The only jobs that thousands have been able to find after having been demobilized are at pick-and-shovel work. Yet, when they nobly responded to the country’s call, they were promised that as their reward they would come back to better jobs.
What a dismal prospect the chaotic conditions in Australia to-day present to the more than 300,000 still in the forces awaiting demobilization. It is no good for the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to say that unemployment figures are low. The trickle will become a torrent and an engulfing flood of workless, which will do dreadful damage to our economy, will occur, unless effective immediate action be taken to redeem the Government’s pledges. Tens of thousands of returned men are out of work without means, and tens of thousands of others have up to 140 days of leave and money to spend. When they have finished both they will join the ranks of the others, and there will be such a mass of unemployed in this coun try that the Government will at last suffer a rude awakening. But that will be too late. The victims of the Government’s shortcomings will rebel and deservedly wipe it out. At a meeting in Brisbane at which Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett was present representatives of ex-servicemen’s organizations gathered in great numbers to protest against the
Government’s neglect of them. Here is one observation made at that meeting -
Ministers of the Crown will have to accept full personal responsibility for the present chaotic conditions surrounding the problems of discharged Service personnel.
These men are infuriated. In righteous indignation they demand that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction himself go to Brisbane to examine the problem on the spot, but he is not game to go, because he knows that the situation is getting out of hand. The Government stands condemned, and this motion of censure ought to be carried by an overwhelming majority.
Men and women still in the forces are as disgruntled as they could possibly be because of the conflicting statements made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) about their future. They have been so confused by his own confusion that they do not know where they are. At the end of the last sessional period, I raised the matter of thousands of men at Emirau, a little island in the Pacific between New Guinea and the Philippines, who had been there for two years or more without leave. I made my protest. The Minister for the Army shilly-shallied. Eventually, after I had again pressed the matter with him, they were returned to Australia and given 50 days’ leave, after which they were sent to a camp and warned that they were due to return to the Pacific area within a few days. What arrant folly it was to tell men who had served more than the allotted span of two years in the tropics that they would’ have to return now that we have peace. I protested to the Minister for the Army by telephone, telegram and airmail. Then, after prolonged negotiations, the Government declared that those men, having served their two years in the tropics, would not have to go back. What a tragi-comical situation it is that a government should have to be flogged into conceding the right of respite from tropical life to men who had served under the unbearable conditions of the tropics without leave for so long as two years !
It is utterly wasteful to retain in the forces men with a job to go to. Men senselessly retained would be key men in industry who could build around them posts for other servicemen. Notwithstanding the obvious wisdom of. releasing them so that the wheels of industry might turn again, the Government has consistently refused to accede to my requests for. their release. Why on earth the Government insists on the retention in the forces of men who are not needed in them but are needed in industry so that they might by their own efforts create other jobs for other men to go to when their time for release comes is beyond my comprehension. It is a sheer waste of public money. They have to be paid* their dependants receive allowances, all the time the value of their entitlement to deferred pay and war gratuities is mounting. They have to be provided with the services of doctors, dentists and nurses. They make calls upon transport, land, sea and air. All of them have to be fed and clothed. All that is a needless drag on the Treasury. It reflects serious discredit on the Government. Every thinking honorable member should do his best, both inside and outside of the House, to put a stop to those conditions.
I turn now to the subject of housing. The Government stands condemned because of its failure to provide houses for the people. This is one of our most urgent problems. It has an importanthumanitarian aspect. Tens of thousands of ex-service personnel who, in quiet moments prior to their discharge, visualized a day when they would return to Australia to find available a home in which they could settle down and live happily with their families. But what did they find? Hundreds of thousands of homes are needed. The Government has failed deplorably to provide the necessary materials for home-building. So soon as we foresaw victory and peace honorable members on this side urged the Government to release every member of the fighting services who could be used for the production of raw materials required for the building of homes. We urged that they be employed as soon as possible in the production of timber, bricks, tiles, galvanized iron and all the materials needed in the construction of homes. We urged the Government at that time to build up raw materials skyhigh if necessary in preparation for the days of peace. Had that policy been adopted employment could have been provided, in the erection of homes, for tens of thousands of men who are still idle. But what was the Government’s response to that, advice? The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) simply said that conditions were all right, that the Government had its housing plans well in hand, and that adequate raw materials would be available in all the States when required. Speaking in this House on the 16th July, 1945, the Minister said that, subject to anticipated releases from the services, sufficient supplies of materials and fittings would be available in every State to meet each quarter’s requirements. What nonsense! What has happened to the supplies promised by the Minister? Our ex-service personnel will not allow the wool to be pulled over their eyes any longer. Where is the material which the Minister promised would be available? The Minister sits as dumb as the dodo.
– The honorable member has not quoted me correctly.
– The Minister made that statement in this House on the 16th July last. This Government has passed the buck to the States, with the result that the States have been caught unprepared. The deplorable lack of housing is having a most serious effect upon the health of the community. The chairman of the Health Committee of the Brisbane City Council recently reported many cases of overcrowding of houses in Brisbane, and that such conditions were endangering the health of the community. I shall give three of the examples he cited. In one house in which a case of diphtheria was reported the health inspector found that three families consisting of ten persons were living in a weather-board room measuring 16 feet by 5 feet. Is it any wonder that a person contracted’ diphtheria when living under such conditions? In another house in which not more than five persons should be living, 30 people, including three ex-servicemen and their families, were found to be residing. That, case was discovered when a medical doctor was called in to attend a case of hook-worm. In the third case, a house in which six persons should have been accommodated was occupied by seventeen people, and cases of sickness had been reported among them. The Minister for Works and Housing said that adequate material would be available in all States as soon as it was required. That is the way in which the Government has hoodwinked the people. The truth is that the Government is opposed to Australians owning their homes.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- When the honorable member for Morton (Mr. Francis) was speaking, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) described his remarks as nonsense. I concur with that opinion of the honorable gentleman’s speech. I have never listened ro worse drivel since I was elected to this chamber. The honorable member spoke in generalities which he interspersed with quotations from irresponsible correspondents. He made wild and silly charges against the Government. But he failed to present one tittle of evidence to substantiate any of them. He said that the Communist controlled the Trades and Labour Councils in Australia, and by that means this Government was controlled by interests outside Australia. He produced no evidence in support of that statement for the very good reason that it would be impossible to do so. If the honorable member does not know; the facts, he should not bc a. member of this chamber. Every intelligent person is aware that the Trades and Labour Councils of this country arc not controlled by Communists. It is disgraceful that honorable members are obliged to listen to such drivel.
We have just listened to what has been described as the Opposition’s full dress rehearsal for the approaching general elections. I can now express my pleasure at the performance. Honorable members on this side, who represent what are regarded as border-line constituencies, now feel much happier about their prospects at the elections, because the rehearsal has shown that the Opposition is hopelessly weak. We heard the leading man deliver his lines from a prepared script; but he showed little enthusiasm in saying his piece. I sincerely hope that he will be retained as Leader of the Liberal party during the next election campaign because, undoubtedly, he will be a great help to Government supporters. His deputy, the bold, bad villain of the piece, in his usual bombastic and inaccurate style, made wild and reckless charges. I welcome him as an opponent in a political campaign, because while he is advocating the Liberal party’s cause he will convince many right-thinking people that liberalism as it is to-day will be of no use to this Commonwealth.
One other performer in this drama was the “ tragedy queen “ of the show, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). Vacating his place on the back bench, he advanced to the table, occupied the Leader of the Opposition’s position, and delivered an impassioned appeal to the people of Australia. With tears in his eye,?, he said that the Labour Government had forfeited the confidence of the people because it bad failed to provide sufficient food for the people of .the United Kingdom. Not satisfied only with condemning the Government for not having provided sufficient food, he also suggested a remedy. It is typical of the honorable member for Balaclava that he should suggest a remarkable remedy. He advocated a reduction of postage rates on food parcels. Because the Government has not reduced the postal charges on food parcels, the honorable member declared that it is condemning the peop]e of the United Kingdom to slow starvation. That appeal may have brought tears to the eyes of an imbecile, but it would not have influenced a sane person.
– I think that the honorable member is weeping now.
– During the last session, the honorable member for Balaclava said that he would come into my electorate and speak in opposition to mo in the next election campaign.
– I spoke in the honorable member’s electorate last Friday night.
– I sincerely hope that the honorable member will keep his promise to speak in opposition to me.
– I certainly will.
– With the honorable member for Balaclava leading my opponent*, I have no doubt that the electorate of Bourke will continue safe for democracy and Bryson.
– The honorable member should have heard me .speak at Coburg last Friday.
– The honorable member endeavoured on that occasion to make a. little political capital out of exservicemen.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to address the Chair.
– I am sorry if I have digressed, but we were told that this motion of want of confidence in the Government was the beginning of the election campaign, and I am only replying to some of the utterances that have been made in this debate by honorable members opposite. 1 am telling the honorable member for Balaclava that when he spoke at Coburg, he attempted to make some more political capital at the expense of ex-servicemen. His remedy for the difficulties of the English brides of Australian servicemen was, as usual, to abuse the Government, and that got him nowhere. He did not make any reasonable suggestion. He is leading those ex-servicemen “ up a lane “ and he will eventually leave them there. The honorable member only “beat the air”, and he will soon find that ex-servicemen have had enough of that experience. Since 1918, the honorable member and the party to which he belongs have been making promises to ex-servicemen. When he was a Minister he made no attemptto fulfil those promises. Of course, the honorable member was willing to give to ex-servicemen the dole. Tie helped to keep them alive, but on the verge of starvation. Although he did not worry about providing food parcels for unemployed ex-servicemen in Australia, he now expresses concern at the rate of postage charged on food parcels between Australia and ;he United Kingdom. His only concern is to keep himself in place and in power, and I am satisfied from the demonstration which he has given in this chamber that he will never regain office, and will have exceptional difficulty in even retaining his seat in this House.
– I shall visit the honorable member’s electorate again.
– 1 shall be pleased to welcome the honorable member, and if be will lead my opponents in the election campaign, I shall have no cause for worry.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to address the Chair.
– During the debate on this so-called motion of want of confidence, we listened to an impassioned appeal for assistance from the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). His position is so serious thaihe had to make an impassioned appeal, nor only to the Parliament, but also to the electors of Darling Downs. It is history now, although large headlines did not appear about it in the press, that a few weeks ago, the Labour candidate won the Queensland electorate of East Toowoomba. In that election, the Country party candidate’s campaign was conducted by the right honorable member for Darling Downs. In the past, this electorate had been held for only one term by a Labour candidate. On present indications, the position of the right honorable gentleman is particularly serious, and he has to do something.
– What happened in Wimmera ?
Mv. BRYSON.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) is on my side in this debate. He has been marked down for slaughter by the rejuvenated Liberal party ; but, for once, he will agree with me when I say ‘that his prospects of re-election are distinctly enhanced, because the action of the Liberal party in opposing him will gain for him support. If the honorable member had had only a Labour opponent, he would have been defeated; but as the result of opposition from the Liberal party he has a fifty-fifty chance of being returned. Not that I believe that the honorable gentleman deserves to be re-elected; his energies would be put to better use on the land.
Other members of the Australian Country party have condemned the Government during this debate. For example, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) declared that the Government has lost (he confidence of the people, and set out to give, a very good reason why the Government should be defeated. His brilliant reason was that he had read in a Queensland newspaper a message sent by some cranky reporter overseas with a perverted sense of news value. This reporter cabled that the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Mr. Beasley, had arrived, in London wearing a Homburg hat and carrying a silver-mounted umbrella, and the honorable member for Richmond considered that, on those grounds, the Commonwealth Government deserved condemnation.
Mi-. Anthony. - What other things did Mr. Beasley take with him ?
– This cranky reporter told us also that Mr. Beasley took quite a lot of food with him. I hope he did so, because as honorable members opposite tirelessly inform the House, there is a definite shortage of food in the United Kingdom. Therefore every additional consignment of food from Australia to the United Kingdom will assist to ameliorate the position there.
– I can see Mr. Beasley distributing the food that he took.
Mr. - BRYSON.- The Agent-General for Victoria, Mr. Martin, was appointed by the former Country party Premier, Mr. Dunstan. A few weeks ago, the Melbourne press published photographs of Mr. Martin visiting the London .dock area where Australian preserved fruits were being unloaded. A big feature was made of the fact that Mr. Martin invited the dock workers to como to Australia House, where he would present each of them with a tin of Australian fruit. Did the Resident Minister purchase these foodstuffs on the London market or did he take them from Australia? I hope that he took them from Australia, because I believe that it is part of his job to popularize Australian products. If it is the duty of the Agents-General to do that, surely it is the duty of Australia’s Resident Minister in London also to do it. For an ex-Minister of the Crown to say that the Commonwealth Government is to be condemned because .a Homburg hat, a silver-mounted umbrella, and some Australian foodstuffs were taken to London by the right honorable member for West Sydney, is too ridiculous for words. The suggestion is worse even than the complaints of the honorable member for Balaclava, and I did not think that was possible.
I listened attentively to the maiden speech of the honorable member for
Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), and I can only come to the conclusion that he was not shown to his right place in this chamber. His condemnation of the Government was in fact ho condemnation at all. He made three points. First he warned the Government that it would be confronted with a problem in the rehabilitation of exservicemen a few months from now because many ex-servicemen who had returned to their pre-war jobs would be seeking to change them, and others who had been enjoying a well-earned holiday - a holiday, incidentally, to which some honorable members opposite apparently take objection - would be coming on to the labour market, .[.assure the honorable member that the Government has not lost sight of that, problem, and will be able to .find employment for these men just as effectively as it has been able to provide for the absorption into industry of ex-servicemen who already have come on to the labour market.
The honorable member’s second point embraced a request to the Government - it will be agreed, I think, that this is the first occasion on which the request has been made - that returned prisoners of war should receive the subsistence allowance of 3s. a day for the period of their incarceration. The honorable member made his request in an honest manner, and I am sure that it will receive the sympathetic consideration of the Government.
The only other point made by the hon.orable member for Wimmera was in regard to the Government’s wheat stabilization plan. I have only one farm in my electorate and that is a prison farm, so as an individual, I am not concerned with wheat stabilization, but taking a broad outlook, I am concerned with the prosperity of Australia as a whole, and of course, the prosperity of the wheat industry has a direct bearing on the prosperity of Australia. I remind the honorable member for Wimmera that this is the first Government that has ever propounded a reasonable and sound stabilization plan for the wheat industry.
– The honorable member would be well advised to ke*>n off wheat.
– The honorable member for Wimmera and probably also the honorable member for Barker (Mr.
Archie Cameron) complain that the plan is not fair. They say that the Government should not stabilize the price of wheat in a favorable season, when there is a shortage of wheat overseas. The suggestion is, apparently, that in good seasons the wheat-farmers should be permitted to obtain the highest possible price for their product, but that when unfavorable seasons were encountered, a wheat stabilization scheme should be introduced, finance to the amount of a few million pounds being provided by the Government. In other words they say, “ While the farmers are able to make big profits, let them do so; but when profits fall in times of adversity, the Government must go to their assistance “. That means, in effect, that the taxpayers of this country must be prepared to ensure the maintenance of high profits in the wheat industry. If that is the plan desired by the honorable member for Wimmera, we must reconsider the economy of this country. We must consider whether it is economic to grow wheat for export at the expense of the Australian taxpayers, or whether we should decide that as wheat grown for export represents a loss to the taxpayers, we should restrict wheat acreage to an area sufficient to fulfil Australia’s domestic requirements. I am’ not suggesting that that should be done.
– The wheat-growers only want a return equal to the cost of production.
– Yes, and the honorable member has implied by his arguments that the cost of production this year is 9s. 2d. and not 5s. 2d. a bushel. Hi5 demand was for the full 9s. 2d.
– To tide the farmers over the drought.
– The Government has been doing its best to tide them over the drought and will continue to do so.
A number of honorable members opposite have made violent attacks upon the trade union movement. They have alleged that industrial workers have gone on strike for no reason at all; that they are “going .slow”, and not pulling their weight; and in fact, that they are doing everything but being good citizens. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) pointed out, if the workers of Australia cease work, production stops, but ii the bosses have an extended holiday, industry goes on as usual.
– What would happen if the primary producers ceased work?
– The primary producer too. is a worker, but the honorable member’s’ interjection reminds me that a section of primary producers in Victoria is on strike this week. Instead of condemning the strike however, honorable members opposite have made an appeal for assistance for the strikers. No member of the Opposition has demanded punitive action against the strikers. On the contrary, they have asked for a Government subsidy. If an honorable member on this side of the chamber were to advocate a subsidy for coal-miners when they were on strike, as an induceii cut for them to go back to work, he would be condemned by every member of the Opposition; but now that some primary producers have ceased work, the Opposition says, “Give them a -subsidy”. At-eat is required for the people of Victoria. What does the Opposition propane to do to send the producers back to work?
-LL - Give them a fair deal.
– Honorable members opposite have advocated gaoling the coalminers. Why not gaol the graziers ? But no. We are urged to give them a subsidy because it is alleged that they are not receiving an adequate return. The same partisan attitude has been exhibited by Opposition speakers throughout this debate. The workers are always wrong.
The Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite claim that the incentive of employers to increase production is being destroyed by high taxation; that because of high taxation the bie employer of labour is refusing to do his best. In other word.?, employers have decided to stage a “go-slow” strike. However, because it is the employers who are staging the strike, members of the Opposition say, not that the employers should be forced to resumo work, or to work harder, but that they should be allowed, increased profits. They say that the Government should reduce taxation to encourage industry to do its best. But when the bricklayers in the building trade went slow they de manded punitive action. They did not say to the Government, “ Give the bricklayers an extra 10s. a week, or grant them a rebate of taxation, in order to get them to work a little faster”. They said, in effect, “ Wield the big stick over them and force them to work harder under their present conditions “. It is an entirely different story when the friends of honorable members opposite go slow.
In this debate the Opposition has failed to discuss a subject which is exercising the minds of a very large section of the Australian public, namely, the conditions of employment of a majority of our people. These people are demanding two things, and they must get them sooner or later - the sooner the better. The first is a 40-hour maximum working week, and the -second is a considerable improvement of the basic wage standard. The workers are entitled to those two thing?. They must get them, and they should get them in the near future. Of course honorable members opposite will raise the old cry that industry will be unable to bear the costs of the changes. 1 have heard that cry for many years, but 1 noticed during the war that, although the Opposition complained . that high taxation destroyed the incentive of employers to produce, the dividends of most of the big companies remained as high as usual and, in some instances, were even higher than in pre-war years. Private enterprise, which continued to enjoy large profits during the. war, is not playing its part in the rehabilitation of the nation. The Opposition demands that the Government should do many things which ought to be done by private enterprise. For instance, we have heard complaints that the Government is not providing houses and tools of trade. Private enterprise is producing the timber, the bricks, the tiles, and all the other things required for home building, and private enterprise is deliberately going, slow on the. job. We have the words of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) himself to hear out that statement. Housing is not the only project affected by the “ go-slow “ tactic? of the employers. Instead of appealing to the Government to do things which it can not do, honorable members opposite should appeal to their friends, 1 he employers. We must face the fact3 and place the responsibility where it belongs. In the tobacco industry, for example, the manufacturers themselves Iia ye admitted that there is sufficient tobacco leaf in Australia to supply al] Needs. They complain of a shortage of labour. “Why should there be such a shortage? Is it because of man-power controls? No. The Opposition squealed about man-power controls last year; those controls do not apply this year. The cigarette and tobacco shortage is entirely due to the fact that the manufacturers are not bothering to employ additional labour. Their profits, even with restricted production, are as high as they have ever been. They are deliberately going slow. That is equally true of the breweries and other manufacturing concerns. If we are to. secure the increased i ate of production which the Opposition demands, we must have a wholehearted effort, not only from the workers, but also from the employers. If the employers v/ill not pull their weight, the Government must find power to compel them to do so. If they will pull their weight, we will secure the increased production that we need. I have listened to the speeches of members of the Liberal party, and I am pleased with this rehearsal for their election campaign because it is a good augury for the success of the Labour party. Although the party, will face the electors under a new name this year, a mere masquerade such as we have witnessed in this debate will be no cure foi1 senile decay. The party will be in an even, worse condition after the elections than it is in to-day.
Sitting suspended from l&.Jil to 2.15 ‘p.m.
.- Any one who has taken a serious interest in. the welfare of this country must agree with the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). We know that during a time of war many unpopular things have to be done. We realize that there must be controls, and that, irrespective of what government may be in power, certain action, is essential to the welfare of not only the country but also the armed forces which fight for it. Bui: we object most strenuously to the policy of this Government, which has had the backing of a corps of. ferocious professors, many of Whom are pf military age, and during the last five or six years, might, very well have donned khaki instead of the flat-topped hat that is indicative of the university degree that they hold. If the Government wishes to regain the confidence of the country which it has lost, and of this House, it might expo.rt a few of these professors, not as Ministers to countries such as that occupied by the unfortunate Chinese, but into the islands to relieve some of the men who have given six years’ service to Australia, during which time they have risked their lives, their health, and everything that they hold dear, as well as their possibility of success in very many instances.
During the course of . the debate, numerous subjects have been debated very strongly, and in particular the matter of the ship that has left this country carrying a number of persons who are being repatriated- to their homeland. I do not propose to say much about that matter. The speech of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), to which we listened this morning, covered the ground very effectively and successfully. 1 have no brief for the Formosans, because I have two nephews who unfortunately were prisoners of war. One of them was for three and, a half years in Siam, where he suffered all the disabilities and brutalities, imaginable. The other was wounded and captured at Rabaul. He was sent to Manchuria, and later to ian island to the north, of Japan, but was not so badly treated as were those unfortunates who were kept in captivity in Siam and Malaya. Both of those boys, and scores of others from my electorate, say that the Koreans and Formosans serving with the Japanese were the most brutal people with whom they had to deal. But as the honorable member for Darwin said, it does not matter whether those who arc travelling on this vessel : are Japanese or other nationals. A large number of those placed on board were taken from Cowra. Judging by the treatment which they had meted out to our soldiers, as. well as to. civilian,* when some of them escaped, and by their record in the ca.rap, they ha e no more compunction or decency than have tigers. A tiger at least has courage, which I believe they do not possess. They are just plain beasts. But placing 100 women and 112 children on a ship crowded as this was, with SOO or 900 “ animals “ of that type, will redound to the disgrace of Australia as long as the memory of the people of this country lasts. The Government must make an immediate investigation, and take appropriate action, even though it does no more than remove the women and children from the vessel and ensure that they will be repatriated under safe conditions. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has been a keen exponent of the Atlantic Charter, which provides for freedom from fear. Can any one tell me that these women and children boarded that vessel free from fear? They went aboard fearing for their existence, their honour, and every sense of decency which they possess.
The attempt by the Communist section of the wharf labourers of this country to decide Australia’s foreign policy in relation to Java and other territories to the north of Australia is something that we cannot tolerate. I have received communications from a number of soldiers, suggesting that volunteers should be called for to load these vessels and despatch them on their journey. Some of those men were interned with white women and children, Eurasians and Dutch citizens, and know what they suffered under Japanese rule. Soekarno has been lauded by the Communist section of the wharf labourers as the great leader of the Indonesian republican movement. That is the man who visited Japan to make obeisance at the shrine of the Emporor, and to say how pleased he was with the behaviour of the Japanese in Java and with the fact, that they intended to bestow the freedom of democracy on the people of Indonesia. This small Communist element in the ranks of the wharf labourers is of the same type as Mr. Thornton, of the Ironworkers Union, who, when our men were fighting in. the Middle East, boasted that his union had engaged in more strikes than any other union in Australia, their reason being that their job was to strike and to take advantage of the country being at war so as to improve their conditions. The men in the field in North Africa, living in holes scraped in the sand and being harried by day and night from the air as well as from the ground, had no opportunity to improve their conditions. They asked for an opportunity, not to improve their conditions, but to defend their country and the liberties which they had enjoyed and hoped that their children would enjoy.
Tlie Government has failed dismally with its plans for the rehabilitation of the S00,000 men and women of this country who have served in our firmed forces. The legislation that it passed for that purpose was a travesty of justice, and would be a disgrace to any country or government in the British Empire which was responsible for it. Is the Government attempting to give preference to ex-servicemen? No. Is it trying to settle returned soldiers on the land ? No. In Victoria it has done nothing but make a statement that it is prepared to advance £1,000 to approved candidates for land settlement.
– What did Mr. Dunstan’s Government do about it?
– It tried to pass legislation which the Cain Government, being devoid of brains, adopted in toto. The first proposal was to appoint a commission consisting of three men, but the Cain Government said that only one man should he appointed. It said that with its tongue in its cheek, admitting that the proposal was unworkable. As coon as the Legislative Council rejected it the State Government agreed to the appointment of a commission of three.
– How much land did Mr. Dunstan acquire for soldier settlement?
– His Government had served notices on landholders with regard to the proposed acquisition of large areas. The present Government in Victoria will be able to give effect to the acquisition. I am reliably informed that 9.000 ex-servicemen in Victoria are waiting to take up life on the land. I shall refer shortly to a man who has been sent, from Sydney among the munitions workers in Victoria. He comes from the Ironworkers Union, which has a bigger percentage of traitors among its members than , any organization in Australia. It has sent one of its leading lights in order to spread its story amongst those workers.
The Government has made no serious attempt to put ex-servicemen back into employment. A former member of this House, who, in my opinion, betrayed his electorate, has been appointed by the present Government as Administrator of Norfolk Island, but he is not a returned soldier. The Government did not advertise for applications from those willing to undertake the work. Men have been discharged from the Common wealth Public Service recently without any reason being given for that action, except, that of age. These men were aged about 51 or 52 years. In most instances they were younger than members of the Government, and had much more ability. They had war experience, which very few members of the Government have had. Certainly, no Minister has had experience in any high command. If the men like those to whom I have referred are to be discharged, why does not the Government find posts for men like Air Vice-Marshal Bostock? I could also mention scores of other servicemen like Cole, De la Rue, General Allen, and Brigadier Hammond, who have given yeoman service to this country. They have contributed pages to Australian history which resound to the country’s credit.
– The honorable member would get a surprise if I told him something that I know about a few of those gentlemen. .
– I . know them, and am aware of what they have done. Possibly they had men of the type of the honorable member for “Watson (Mr. Falstein) to deal with, and had a lot to put up with. I am not surprised about the honorable member getting into the defence forces. The only thing that astounds me is that he was not put inside somewhere and kept there. Why did the Government provide jobs for men like the present Administrator of Norfolk Island? It was in payment for services rendered to. the Government. Why did it appoint a. man who had not served in the armed forces to follow an officer like General Rosenthal, a soldier of repute who stood up well against the best German troops in the war of 1914-1S, and who is a proved administrator? The other officers whom I have mentioned are men of standing who have given valuable service to the country. I do not know that they would have accepted such .an appointment, but I feel sure they would not do so now in succession to the present occupant of the position.
Since the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has taken part in this debate, I point out to honorable members that a man named Jones has been sent from the Ironworkers Union in Sydney to the ammunition factory in Gordon-street, Fitzroy, at a salary of £60S a year. That man is not a returned soldier, and the job to which he has been appointed was not advertised. It is said that he is to arrange sales to private industry through the Munitions Department. I do not blame the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin), who was absent overseas at the time of the appointment. Mr. J. Cain, the secretary of the Victorian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, wrote requesting a reply to correspondence on the matter, and he received the following communication on behalf of. the Minister for Munitions from the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction : -
With reference to your communication of loth December, 1945, I desire to inform you that the services of Mr. J. Jones have been borrowed from the Ironworkers Federation for a period of six months in connexion with exploration of the possibilities of obtaining additional orders from commercial industry for the government factories. The intention underlying this is that .the greatest possible number of persons now on the factory staffs should be retained in employment, and that there should be employment available for returning servicemen who have reinstatement claims.
Mr. Jones has special qualifications for the duties in mind, in as much as he has acquired a very complete knowledge of the manufacturing resources of all the factories, and can advise potential customers as to the factory best qualified to meet their needs. This is knowledge which can be acquired only after experience of the extensive range of production undertaken by the factories, and in fact is possessed only by comparatively few of the permanent staffs.” Actually, Mr. Jones has been responsible for bringing commercial inquiries to the factories since as far back as early 1!)44, and thus has undertaken thu duties ‘ voluntarily for some time.
During the period of loan, the arrangements further to be made will be developed, and you can be sure that if an outside appointment is to be made, it will be in accordance with the Rehabilitation and Preference
This man, I am reliably informed, knew practically nothing about the work, and he was running about the factory trying to get information from those who did know something. He was a research worker for the Ironworkers Union. I would say that he was searching for men who would carry on the Communist activities of the Ironworkers Union, and apply the policy of its leader, Mr. Thornton. I am sure he was approved by Mr. Thornton and by Mr. McPhillips and others of the same kind. I am sure that they sent this man down there for six months training at the Government’s expense so that, when the time came for the making of a permanent appointment, they could claim that he was qualified to fill the position, lt would then be possible foi1 the authorities to say, “We would like to give the job to a returned soldier but this man has had the training. We would like to give it to some poor fellow released from Changi prison camp, or one who was a prisoner of war in Germany for four years, or who had served in the islands to the north, but this man knows all about the work.” After all, those other poor fellows only fought for their country, while this man stayed at home and established his right to the job. The explanation of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is one of the. weakest, washiest and most contemptible I have ever heard.
I intend now to refer to the unfortunate position which has arisen regarding the meat trade.
– Because the producers went on strike.
– Throughout northern Victoria, South Australia and the Riverina, primary producers are enjoying the advantages of a bounteous season, a gift, from the Almighty. The opportunity exists to produce meat and food of all kinds for the people of Australia, for our kith and kin in Great Britain, and for those unfortunate people overseas, even our enemies, who are faced with starvation. I am sure no one will suggest that, even though those people were our enemies, even though they did some dreadful things during the war, they should be allowed to starve while we have full and plenty, and food for export..
Such a thing would, be contrary to common humanity and all standards of decency. The Government has become very sentimental about the supply of meat to Great Britain. Yes, it will supply cheap meat to Great Britain at the expense of a section of the Australian community which has had the benefit of only two moderately good seasons in nine. During that period, there have been four years of drought and three very lean years. ‘ Last year was a very lean one throughout northern Victoria, western Riverina, the Wimmera, and a great part of Western Australia and South Australia. Notwithstanding the huge increase of costs since 1914-18, the Government has fixed the export price of wether mutton to-day at Id. per lb. less than the price ruling in 1914-lS. The fixed export price of beef is 4d. per lb., but the beef is being sold in Great Britain at ls. 5d. per lb. Members of the Government frequently condemn the activities of large commercial monopolies, but the great meat firm of Vestey’s and other monopolistic concerns of the kind, have never had a better friend than the Labour Government. Who is getting ‘the difference between 4d. per lb. and ls. 5d. per lb. on the price of beef?
– The Government of which the honorable member was a supporter placed a tax of 15 per cent, on fat lambs, and we took it off.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) has madesome weird statements .since he entered this House. His interjection contains the usual exaggeration and untruth.
As honorable members know, the producers of meat in Victoria who usually dispose of their animals at the Flemington saleyards, have decided that they will no longer carry a burden which the whole community should bear. The Government has fixed the prices at which meat may be sold, but those prices compare most unfavorably with the rates which ought to be permitted. For instance, the price of lamb has been fixed at lOd. per lb. and of beef at 4d. per lb., whereas British producers of meat are paid 17 3/4d per lb. dead weight for lamb, 16£d. per lb. dead weight for mutton and 16d. per lb. dead weight for shorn mutton. The price of beef in Britain is from 68s. 7d. to 74.3. 6d. per 112 lb. live weight in respect of steers and heifers, and from 59s. to 6Ss. 7d. for the same live weight in respect of heavy cattle. Moreover, British ‘producers of meat are paid in sterling, which is 25 per cent, more than Australian producers receive for their meat. The supply of foodstuffs to the people of Britain is a national responsibility and if the Government were to «ay that Australia could afford to send meat to the value of £1,000,000, or even £2,000,000, to feed the people of the Home Country the cost should be borne by the people as a whole, not by any one section of the community. Australia could afford to do that, because although individuals in Australia have suffered as the result of the war through the loss of their dear ones, this country as a whole cannot be said to have suffered. We must not forget that the people of Britain stood between the world and destruction. They, not the people of the South American countries, which the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) represented so well at San Francisco, saved civilization. A great deal of emphasis has been given to the claims of countries which might be called one-horse shows, but we must have regard to the part played in the war by the United States of America and also by the French people, who have suffered more than most of us realize. We should be prepared to stand by them, but the whole of the burden should not be placed on one unfortunate section of the community. The price of tallow has been fixed at £27 10s. a ton, but in August, 1919, tallow was sold for £75 a ton, and in March and September of the following year at £9S and £102 a ton, respectively. As honorable members know, production costs have risen enormously since 1920. The fixed price of sheepskins is SM. per lb., whereas in March, 1920, sheepskins brought from lid. to 12d. per lb. and in 1921 from 14d. to 15d. per lb. Calfskins to-day may be sold at from 6d. to 9d. per lb. ‘although in 1920 from 4s. 6d. to 5s. per lb. was paid for them. A similar state of affairs exists in connexion with hides. The fixed price of choice hides averages from 6£d. to S-id. per lb., but in 1919 and 1920 prices ranged from 20d. to 30d. per lb. The Government’s price-fixing system is nothing short of cold-blooded robbery. If the people are willing to tolerate the present Government any longer they deserve the treatment they receive.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I shall deal with some of the matters in respect of which the Government has been criticized from the termination of the wai1 to the present time. First, I shall read some paragraphs from a statement, by Mi-. E. R. Henson, the Unrra Director of Agricultural Rehabilitation. As the statement has been sent to each, honorable member no doubt members generally are conversant, with its contents. One paragraph reads -
In Yugoslavia fields of corn are now growing over the trenches recently occupied by the Germans. The trenches have not been filled and wrecked guns and cannon and helmets are still evident along the roadside and occasionally in the fields.
Some of the corn was planted before the last battle began. Other lands in the battle zone were not planted till later. Often on these lauds open trenches cross the field with late planted corn growing right up to the embankments. It took a tremendous effort on the part of people and the Government to get this land planted again. All available draught animals were used and men and women hitched themselves to the ploughs.
That statement, which was made on the 5 th November, 1945, refers to. instances which occurred between the 2nd August and 2nd October of that year. As hostilities against Japan did not cease until September, 1.945, it will be seen that on the 2nd August Australia was still at war with that country. At that time the war concerned Australia more than it did Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia and other European countries. The Government has been criticized because it was not prepared to switch over to peace-time production immediately the war ended last September. If European countries found it necessary to harness men and women to ploughs iu order to provide food for the ensuing winter, could we in Australia have justified diverting the efforts of people engaged on war work to preparations for the peace? Could that have been done when we knew that 1S,000 Australian prisoners of war were still in areas occupied by the Japanese? Could we have clone that with our young men still fighting in the islands north of Australia. Had we done it with the war still to be won, could we have looked them in the face when they came back from the battlefields or the prisoners of war when they came back from captivity? Could we have said to them, “ “We were not greatly concerned about how much longer you had to stay in the line or the prison camps. We were concerned in preparing for the peace; we were concerned in taking men from all sorts of places where our war activities required them to be in order that they might make plans, bricks and mortar for peace-time. The war did not matter? Had we done that, we should not have been worthy of the men who fought to make this country worth while to live in. As we did not, I challenge anybody to say with logic that this country could have houses, machinery, and areas of land prepared for soldier settlement now or within the next six months.
Then honorable members opposite said that we should have done this, that and the other to prepare against the inevitable food shortage in Europe after the cessation of hostilities there: But we had obligations to democracy, and, still more intimately, to the men still fighting the war, or languishing in Japanese prison camps. It has been said that during the war we mismanaged things. For instance, it has been claimed that we mishandled the wheat industry, and that if we had put men into wheat production during the war, we should have had a tremendous wheat surplus now. I shall tell honorable members something about wheat production during the war. In 1939-40, we had the biggest wheat crop in our history, and did not know how to preserve it let alone continue to grow wheat and maintain a balanced economy. The Opposition parties were then in power. On behalf of the Menzies Government, the then Minister for, Commerce (Sir Earle Page) evolved a wheat pool with no guaranteed price. In the next year sowing was limited to what would normally produce 140,000.000 bushels. We were accused of having restricted wheat acreage during the war when man-power was not. available, but, in 1939-40, when there were ample supplies of men to engage in agriculture, including wheat production, the scheme evolved by the then Minister for Commerce provided for a guaranteed payment of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. for only 140,000,000 bushels, which meant that any one who contributed to the pool more wheat than was required, to make up the 140,000,000 bushels, had to take the risk of getting ls., 2s. or 3s. lOd. a bushel for it. The Labour party came into power towards the end of 1941 and had to prepare against the possibility of war on our own shores. Despite that obligation, it had a true recognition of the work of the primary producers particularly the wheat-growers, in contributing to the wealth and defence of this country, and it provided for a minimum of 4s. a bushel for 1,000 bags of wheat. As the war went on, the wheat carry-over grew year after year until, in February, 1943, our reserve stocks amounted to 261,000,000 bushels. It was completely impossible to get ships to take wheat overseas. Ships were being sunk faster than they could be built. In that year Ave exported to Great Britain only 3,500,000 bushels compared Avith the’ 40,000,000 bushels that we sent to England in pre-war years, and the 32,000,000 bushels that we sent in 1940. A commentary on the tragic shipping position then is provided by the following report in the Sydney Morning Herald : -
TRAGIC DAYS OF 1942 RECALLED.
The hearing of an action to settle a longstanding commercial dispute involving many thousands of pounds began before Mr. Justice Owen in the Commercial Causes jurisdiction of the Supreme Court yesterday.
It is a test case to determine whether shippers are liable to “back-freight” on cargo returned to Australian ports because the goods could not be discharged in Malayan or Javanese ports occupied by the Japanese in 1942.
The plaintiffs are Gillespie Bros. Pty. Ltd., flour-millers, who shipped about 17,000 ‘sacks of flour by the steamer Mangola
The flour, after a long journey to Batavia, was returned to Sydney.
That Avas only one ship. Many other ships, Avith their cargoes and all souls aboard, found a resting place at the bottom of the sea. Yet Ave hear people talking about the extravagance of the Labour party and its inability to handle the economic position at that time. Those who criticize the restrictions that were imposed on wheat production forget that we had a carry-over of 261,000,000 bushels compared with an annual home consumption of 60,000,000 bushels. Why, in reserve stocks alone, we had sufficient to last us nearly five years if we had not grown another bushel. We had all that wheat, but we were short of other commodities and we were short of man-power in practically every phase of operations necessary to carry on the war. What would be said’ of a government that continued to produce wheat, wheat, and more wheat, when we were so short of all the things that we should have needed had the Japanese reached Australia. In spite of the fact that we had to divert men, materials, and money to measures essential to our safety, we were able, weather permitting, to grow a crop of 140,000,000 bushels of wheat a year. We had ample wheat but a shortage of meat. The British people wanted as much meat as we could send them and were able to provide ships to lift it. Meat was as necessary to Great Britain as aircraft were to Australia. But Great Britain did not want wheat from us, because Canada, in a - much more bandy position, could supply all the wheat it. needed. So this Government made provision for the use of wheat in the production of meat instead of letting weevils destroy the wheat stacks. Provision was made for the supply of wheat to meat-raisers at concession prices. As the result, the consumption of wheat as stock feed rose from 10,000,000 or 11,000,000 bushels in 1939 to 40,000,000 bushels in 1943. That contributed tremendously to the supply of meat that could be exported to Great Britain and other places designated by the American authorities. In all, about 70,000,000 bushels of wheat was consumed in meat production in three or four years. But for the concession price that wheat would not have been consumed by the stock-feed market. Breeders of fat lambs and pigs and poultry-farmers have told me that they had paid 3s. 6d. a bushel, less freight, for wheat for stock feed for which in many cases they themselves had received 4s. 6d. a bushel. And when I asked them whether they would have been prepared to pay 4s. 6d. a bushel for wheat for stock feed they said emphatically they would not. Thus the Government’s policy has enabled surplus wheat to be turned into meat, which is the commodity which Great Britain needs most urgently. Governments which honorable members opposite supported lacked the capacity and vision to handle problems of that kind. The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) realizes that what he says in this House comes under the closest scrutiny and can be refuted if it is not correct; but I notice that he is not so careful in making statements on the hustings when no one has the opportunity to challenge his statements. I can quote from newspaper reports of speeches he has made outside this chamber in which he has made incorrect statements, the reports, apparently, having been supplied to the press by the Australian Country party publicity organization.
I turn now to the marketing of our wool. A former president of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, Mr. Cole, has been running around the country saying that the Government has stolen £7,000,000 from the proceeds of the sale of wool, whilst, at the same time, it has paid the fares of “commos” to travel overseas. One would not be surprised to hear irresponsible statements of that kind from professional party publicity officers, but as Mr. Cole has represented the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales on the Central Wool Committee, he must know the facts and deliberately distorted them. The £7,000,000 to which he refers was derived principally from the sale of sheep-skins in Australia, and if any one is entitled to a bonus from that fund it is the people who have been obliged to dispose of their sheep-skins on an open market.
I note that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has re-entered the chamber. I followed his speech very closely, and I was surprised when he said that he was proud of the title of “Pig-iron Bob “ because it had been conferred upon him by the “ commos With selfrighteous emphasis he took pride in that title just as the veterans of Mons took pride in the title of the “ Old Contemptibles “ which was given to them by the Kaiser. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has shown that many responsible people shared the Communist’s view of the right honorable gentleman’s conduct in handling that dispute at Port Kembla, including no less a person than a former Chief Justice and Governor-General of Australia, Sir Isaac Isaacs. I intend to cite another responsible man who shared that view. I refer to Mr. Simon Harcourt-Smith who, during the greater portion of 1938-39, when the Leader of the Opposition was endeavouring to prevent Australian trade unionists from showing their feelings with regard to trading in war materials with Japan, served in His Majesty’s Legation in China or in the Far Eastern Department of the British Foreign Office. Mr. Harcourt-Smith, on page 165 of his book, Fire in the Pacific, says -
At, last the Attorney-General, Mr. Menzies, promisedthat the Government would reconsider their policy in the matter, if only the men went back to work. Taking this for a hint that they had won, the wharf-side consented in January,1939, to load the disputed cargo of iron only to learn three weeks later that they had been misled, to use the mildest word. The Government had no intention of doing anything which might bring down on their heads the wrath of Japan in order to get their way they were prepared to interfere with the right of free speech and to close a broadcasting station by cutting the cables to its transmitters in the middleof a programme.
No one would accuse Mr. HarcourtS mi th of being a Communist or a Fifth Columnist. His view of the conduct of the right honorable gentleman in this matter is shared by many other responsible people. If, in view of these facts, the right honorable gentleman takes pride in the title of “ Pig-iron Bob “ he is welcome to it.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S..Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the Government does not possess the confidence of this House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.).
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
formosan ex prisoners of War and
Internees - Trade with India - Wives of ex-Servicemen in England - Buffalo Fly - Meat Industry.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed.-
That the House do now adjourn.
.- During thepast few days the press of this country has conducted a “blitz” on the Government in regard to the repatriation by the Japanese destroyer Yoizuki of a number of prisoners of war and internees held in this country on behalf of certain Allied powers. An attempt has been made to discredit not only the Government, but also Australia itself in the eyes of the world. We realize, of course, that an effort is being made also to discredit General MacArthur. It is well-known that when General MacArthur was appointed Allied Supreme Commander, South- West Pacific Area, the press was not very enthusiastic; but he has proved to be a great general and has done a splendid job in the interests not only of this country but also of the Allied nations. The question that now arises is by whom is this country to be governed?
Is it to be governed by the Government or by the press “ barons “, who are doing everything possible to impose their conception of the right way of life upon the people of this country?
In regard to the voyage of Yoizuki, we must not lose sight of the fact that the vessel is well stocked with food. I gather also that the passengers are being transported in a manner conforming to Eastern customs and standards. I am deeply concerned with the attempt that has been made by honorable members opposite and by the press to discredit the Government and Australia in the eyes of the peoples of the world. If the pictures which have appeared in Australian newspapers yesterday and to-day, depicting the embarkation of the men and women carried by Yoizuki are exhibited in other parts of the world, they will not convey a true impression of what took place. I do not know what course is open to the Government, but I trust that some action will be taken to prevent the use for propaganda purposes of these pictures overseas.
– More censorship !
Mr.SMITH. - I shall tell the honorable member something about censorship in a moment. I have no doubt that similar pictures could be shown of conditions under which people of our own race have departed from Australian and other ports. I myself have seen some distressing scenes. I am convinced that the pictures of the departure of Yoizuki were taken solely to discredit the Government. The time has come for the Government to wrest the control of this country from the press “ barons “. A demand is being made in the press for action by the Government to have Yoizuki ordered to the nearest Australian port, but as has been pointed out already, responsibility for the vessel rests with the Supreme Allied Commander in Japan.
– Is the honorable member endeavouring to justify the conditions on board the ship?
– I am merely placing on record the fact that the press of this country is ever-ready to discredit the Government. The treatment by the press of three statements on this matter made by well-known soldiers - two of them former prisoners of war in the hands of the
Japanese - is significant. I refer to tlie Chief of the General Staff, LieutenantGeneral Sturdee, Lieutenant-General Bennett, and last, but not least, Brigadier Blackburn, V.C. Lieutenant-General Sturdee’s statement appeared in only one Sydney newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. Apparently it was “ censored “ by the Sydney Morning Herald. LieutenantGeneral Bennett’s statement appeared in the first edition of the Sydney Sun, yesterday, but was censored out of later editions. The Sun, by the way, was one of the newspapers which used to howl about government censorship. Now it conducts its own censorship to suit itself. It is not the only newspaper that doe3 so. The purpose is to prevent the actions of the Government from being viewed favorably by the people. As far as I have been able to ascertain, Brigadier Blackburn’s statement appears only in this morning’s edition of the Adelaide Advertiser. The report published in that newspaper is as follows : -
Brigadier A. S. Blackburn, V.C, and former prisoner of war in Japanese hands, said last night that the Japanese understood neither humanity, principles nor decency in any form. “ The Japanese passengers on the ship would bc travelling under conditions which would be like heaven compared with the way they habitually moved Allied prisoners during the war. They are not one scrap worse off than other Japanese women or children I saw moved by sea while I was a prisoner,” he added. “On those occasions the conditions were absolutely revolting according to our standards, but they did not appear to mind in the least. On a 10 days trip to Japan from Singapore, the ship was loaded to its absolute capacity with Japanese troops. In addition, there were about 100 prisoners and on top of that they brought in a concert party of ten Japanese young girls and women who were dumped in a corner of the deck. There were no sanitary or washing arrangements foi- these women but they took it all as a matter of course. I have no doubt that the women and children o.n the Japanese destroyer, which left Sydney on Wednesday, would have considered that they were travelling in a normal way had they not learned our standards of living during their stay in Australia.”
Brigadier Blackburn added that he did not think any one in Australia could be blamed for Iiic conditions under which the ship sailed as lie understood arrangements had been made for the Japanese to move their own nationals.
I believe that, within a week or two, the people of Australia will awaken to this trick that some sections of the community have tried to put across us.
.- Had it not been for the speech of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Smith), who now proposes to leave the chamber, I should not have risen to discuss the issues which he has raised. I do so because it is obvious that the Government has chosen him as the mouthpiece of certain senior Ministers who are not prepared to defend the action which he seeks to excuse. Two excuses have been offered on behalf of the Government. One is that the Government was not responsible for conditions on Yoizuki because the Commander-in-Chief of the Occupation forces in Japan ordered certain things to be done. I fail to understand how an order issued by that gentleman can operate upon a sovereign government such as the Government of Australia. The second excuse is that the filthy and intolerable conditions under which Japanese men and women are sometimes transported by the Japanese authorities justify the action. I have heard a great deal of humbug in this chamber but none greater than this attempt to defend an indefensible position. We have heard many very voluble pronouncements by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) on the subjects of the “ Four Freedoms “, our obligation to protect backward races, trusteeship for native peoples, and a great number of other such things. However, on the first occasion when he could have put his views into practical effect he has hidden behind a cloud of silence and held aloof. It is lime that the people were told of the real issues in this matter. I raised the question in the first place on the motion for the adjournment of the House on Wednesday night, and I said then, in fairness to the Government, that I did not blame it at that stage because it could not be expected to know of the conditions on board Yoizuki. However, I expected some action to be taken as soon as it became aware of those conditions. Instead, there has been a very unwise and cowardly attempt to shelve the responsibility on to General MacArthur and the United States of America, and a refusal to do anything about conditions on the ship, despite a rising tide of public opinion. The honorable member for Wakefield quoted
Brigadier Blackburn, V.C. That statement was no defence of the Government’s continued inaction after it had been told of the conditions under which those internees and prisoners of war were being repatriated. Every time an issue which reacts against the Government is raised in this House we are told that those who raise it are doing a disservice to the country. That savours of the old jargon employed during the war by the Communists, whose ideology is now gaining expression through the Government. It is the bounden duty of members of the Opposition to raise these issues to secure action on a non-party basis or, if that proves fruitless, to take such action as the parliamentary forms permit to enable them to be debated thoroughly. During the past three days the extraordinary ineptitude of the Government in facing up to its responsibilities in this matter has been clearly revealed. The transportation of women and children under the conditions which apply on the Japanese destroyer cannot be excused by saying that similar filthy conditions apply in’ their homeland, and therefore are quite good enough for them. We have at all times asserted the importance of proper conduct towards the peoples of other nations. The Indonesians were transported back to their country on board Manoora, not on an overcrowded destroyer. I know the Indonesians. I have visited Eastern countries, and I know that there is no distinction between the Indonesians and the Chinese, with whom the repatriates aboard Yoizuki are now nationally identified. The attempts which are being made to defend the Government’s actions only make the matter worse and redound to its discredit. I expected that the Government would do the fair and proper thing and concede that the repatriates should not have been allowed to leave our shores under the conditions that existed. There was time to have diverted the ship to Brisbane or back to Sydney. But instead of doing that the Government now seeks to shelter behind somebody else. The Government’s position is indefensible. We have come to know this Government as a “ government of alibis “. It is never prepared to stand up to the blame for its shortcomings. It casts blame upon other nations and public servants, but never accepts responsibility for its own -misdeeds. If Ministers had the courage and the decency which they reveal as individuals, they would direct the ship back to an Australian port, remove the women and children from it, and arrange to transport them back to their homes under decent conditions. How can any man who pretends to have democratic ideals and vision defend the transportation of women and children under the awful conditions that were aptly described by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) this morning? To think of men and women being herded together under such conditions would, I think, have shamed the national conscience of this country even a century ago. Yet honorable members opposite, who at all times pretend to be the great defenders of democracy, are prepared to defend this unpardonable action. When a ship comes inside our territorial waters we are the master of the conditions under which it shall sail. A commander-in-chief in Japan, who does not exercise any sovereignty over this country, could have no idea of the conditions under which these people were loaded on to this vessel. But we are aware of those conditions. They were brought to the attention of the Government last Wednesday night. I should have thought that a responsible government would have said, “ We shall have this matter investigated immediately Instead of doing that, it has been seeking ever since to find excuses for an act which will redound to the discredit of this country. I am sick and tired of being told that a disservice is done to the country whenever such a matter is raised. When criticism is directed against the Government from this -side of the House, from outside, or through the press, the charge is always made that a great disservice is being done to the country. That is jargon with which we are becoming very familiar. Since last Wednesday night, I have received a large number of letters and telegrams seeking to enlist my support in having the position remedied. By no means the least important are those communications that
I have received from . organizations of ex-servicemen, with a membership of many thousands, throughout my electorate. These men say, “We fought for principles which it now seems the Government is prepared completely to forfeit “. I have not shown any desire to make party political capital out of this matter. That is proved by the fact that last Wednesday night, in studied and moderate terms, I gave the Government the opportunity to correct the position. Not even now is the position beyond repair. For the Government, to satisfy itself merely by sniding a wireless signal to the Japanese commander of the vessel, and having such a simple faith in the reply made by that officer, after the experiences we have bad in this war. is too puerile for words. It is about time the Minister for External Affairs expressed his view. Does he believe that the conditions under which these people are being transported are consistent with our dignity? If he does not, what steps does he intend to take te rectify the position? The matter conies within his domain, because it deals with our external relations. Does lie intend to remain aloof from the discussion? There has not been any occasion when there was demanded with greater force from every one of us the expression of a concerted view. Honorable members opposite must bring pressure to bear upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and other Ministers, with a view to ensuring that the right thing shall be done. In having raised this matter, memberi>f the ‘ Opposition have discharged a public duty. We discharged it fir-r by raising the matter last Wednesday night in non-controversial terms. Meanwhile, we have heard raised a defence which makes the issue a political one, because of the charge that was ran de by the Minister for the -Navy (Mr. Makin) - who, if I may say so, delivered the most arrant and hypocritical speech that I have yet heard from him, and that is saying a great deal. He wrung his hands and, like Pontius Pilate, offered the excuse moa non culpa est - I am not to blame ; we are not to blame, ft must be obvious to all that there was ample time for the Government to act. It failed to do so. It was recreant to its duty, not only to humanity, but also to this Parliament.
.- I do not know whether the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was “ pointing the bone “ at me. He frequently looked in my direction while he was addressing the chamber. Nor do I know very much about this matter, which has arisen during the last day or two. I did not see the ship; consequently, I have no first-hand knowledge of the merits of the case. But I place no reliance on the photographs that have been published in the newspapers, or in the screening, which it was publicly announced was to take place last night in the lobbies of this House. I w.as not made aware of that fact until this morning. I am not prepared to accept merely at its face value the film that will be screened throughout Australia. History will record whether or not this Government has been a government of alibis, whether it has failed in its duty to the people of this country, and whether this country has been associated with the cause of the freedom of humanity. More than that I do not propose to say, except that I am prepared to accept much more readily the views that have been publicly expressed - and, I should say, considered fully before they were expressed - by Brigadier Blackburn, V.C, than those of the honorable member for Warringah, who became so hysterical in regard to the matter.
I propose to address myself to another matter which has some connexion with the Asiatic races, though not with Japan. Some time ago, I raised in this chamber the matter of trade with India, which is going to be very important for this country in the future. Indeed, the whole of the future associations of Australia with Asia will be very important. If there is one thing which the last world war impressed on us above all others, it is the need for good neighbourly relations with Asiatic races. Australia’s proximity to 1,000,000,000 Asiatic people, speaking different languages, embracing different ideologies, and having different conditions of life, forces upon us a realization of the dire need for determining our relationship with them. The national consciousness of these peoples has been rudely awakened by the flood of new knowledge that has flowed into them during six years of war. Common sense proves clearly that we cannot any longer remain complacent in regard to these race.?. The situation thus forced upon Australia has become extremely dangerous. By reason of our geographical position, it is imperative that we should cultivate friendship with the Asiatic peoples. The alternative would be’ to expose ourselves to the possibility of: annihilation. The problem which now confronts us is, therefore, racial, economic and political. The racial problem has largely arisen through a lack of understanding of each other. The westerner, ignorant of the Asiatic ways of life and mentality, has acquired a superiority complex. On the other hand the Asiatics, who through the centuries have been more or less suppressed and underprivileged peoples, unfamiliar with the progressive ideas of the westerner, have acquired an inferiority complex. There are definite signs that these peoples will retaliate when they are in a position to do so. A striking instance in recent times is the reciprocity act passed in India in 1943. This measure decrees that nationals of other countries shall enjoy only such rights and privileges as regards entry, travel, residence, &c, in India as are accorded to Indians in the countries of the nationals concerned. Should other Eastern races follow India’s example, what will the future relations of Australia be with the Orient? This is a serious matter for a continent like Ausf 1 al i a ? situated in the southern seas, with Asiatic races at its back door. “We should concern ourselves with the removal of misunderstandings. We should first cultivate improved relations with the countries associated with us as fellow members of the British Empire, such as India, Ceylon, Burma and Malaya.
This brings me to the economic aspect of the matter. Much could be done by reciprocal trade with our empire countries in Asia. Australia stands to gain tremendously by developing its export trade, and at the same time receiving from the East many valuable commodities. India has a population of some hundreds of millions, and the possibilities for the development of trade are tremendous. I presume that all honorable members have received publications issued by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture in recent, weeks. One is entitled The Indian Market. I notice at page 26 that the Indian Trade Commissioner in New York, in a report on the post-war trade possibilities between India and the United States of America, states -
I suggest that India’s plan for industrial rehabilitation and new development be translated immediately in terms of types of machinery required. This list should be put in the hands of an agency here (in the United States of America) which has full authority, subject to the advice of competent consulting engineers, to make purchases of capital goods as opportunities arise.
The figures published in the pamphlet to which I have referred show clearly the volume of trade that has taken place between India and Australia over a number of years. During the last peace-time year, 193S-39, the total imports from India were valued at £2,870,000 sterling, and the pamphlet shows the items under which these are grouped. Another pamphlet published by the Department bears the title, Marketing Australian Dairy Produce in India. On page 18 sound advice is given to us by the Australian Trade Commissioner in India, Mr. H. R. Gollan. The booklet points out that the Indian market requires close examination and a thorough understanding of the difficulties involved in its exploitation, and a personal visit to India by intending exporters or their representatives is recommended. Then the following remarks by Mr. Gollan are quoted : -
T can give no better advice to Australian exporters wishing to sell in India than that they send a representative to this country to see the conditions under which their products would be purchased, received, stored, transported and sold, and thereafter to f raine a production and selling policy to meet the requirements? peculiar to the Indian market.
– They cannot get export licences.
– I am trying in’ my own way to bring to the notice of the public the desirability of developing trade with India, and other British territory in Asia. Although we are not able to obtain export licences to-day, the time is fast approaching when that disability will be removed. Australia must look for new markets in tlie early post-war years, and this is one of the avenues which. I suggest we should explore.
Our laws are so adamant that the people of the East are debarred from enjoying educational facilities in this country. We might invite promising students to our institutions of higher learning, and that would do much to foster better relations and a closer understanding of Eastern people.- Asia will need increasingly large numbers of educationists, engineers, agriculturists, doctors and other specialists, to assist them in the conquest of illiteracy, poverty and disease. In that contention we have the support of eminent authorities in the United States of America. Famine conditions prevail in many parts of Asia, and at present India is threatened with the ravages of famine. That tremendous need would provide a great opportunity for trained young men and women of the East who wish to exercise their gifts for service by rendering assistance to Oriental people in the raising of their economic standards.
.- I feel impelled to join in the protest against the action of the Government in permitting the Japanese ship Yoizuki to leave Australia having regard to the conditions which prevailed upon it, and I am anxious to provoke the Government into making a statement regarding its attitude into the matter. It seems clear that the Government, which has been described by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) as a government of alibis, has a choice of only two alibis as a defence against this charge. Either it has no authority to interfere in the matter at all, or the conditions under which this ship sailed were satisfactory. Does the Government say that it had no authority? The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), when he first spoke on the subject, suggested that that was the case.’ If that is the Government’s attitude, it is a matter of tremendous consequence. Has Australia a government which is prepared to confess that it accepts orders on matters of consequence affecting the honour and prestige of this country from a general of a foreign nation? We should have a. clear answer to that question? If the Government’s attitude is that it is powerless to make a decision on such a matter which effects the reputation of Australia, then the people are entitled to pass judgment on it for having thus surrendered our national sovereignty. If, on the other hand, the Government’s attitude is that conditions aboard the ship are satisfactory, it raises very serious issues for consideration by this Parliament and this country. There has been severe condemnation of the conditions under which Australian soldiers were carried during the war in Japanese ships ; conditions which gave rise to the use of the expression “ hell ships “ ; yet the conditions prevailing aboard those ships were almost identical with those on Yoizuki. We have heard harrowing accounts of the way in which Australian prisoners of war were conveyed from Singapore to Japan, and of how American prisoners of war were thrust into fetid, overcrowded holds. We have been told of how Dutch and Australian nationals were crowded into insanitary ships for the voyage from Sumatra and Java to Singapore. We were horrified at the description of conditions on Montevideo Maru which set out from Rabaul with Australian prisoners from Rabaul. In every case the story was one of -overcrowding of ships’ holds, and of packing human beings into narrow spaces formed by subdividing decks. In every instance the story finished with accounts of the death of men from disease and lack of ventilation. Yet those conditions, which produced such awful results, were practically identical with those on Yoizuki, as described by newspaper reporters, and as indicated by actual photographs. The unfortunate people who have been crowded on the ship are not going on a voyage of a few days only between the Philippines and Japan or from Java to Rangoon. Even on those short voyages men died in scores and hundreds, but this ship is going on a voyage that will take weeks, and it may be regarded as certain that many deaths will occur. Upon whom is the responsibility of those deaths to rest? If deaths occur, will Ministers explain that they are very sorry that the people died, but that General MacArthur gave the orders ? If they do not proffer that explanation are they going to accept the responsibility themselves? According to the statement of the Government, it is not even known whether there is a doctor aboard. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) says he thinks a doctor is aboard, but there is no certainty of that. We are certain, however, that this grossly overcrowded ship lias left an Australian port with sick people who were carried aboard on stretchers, that it is carrying also pregnant women and new-born babies, and that they have set out on a long voyage through the tropics, the conditions being such that the people will not have an opportunity to exercise, let alone to get fresh air. We know also that there are no proper facilities for cooking food, and that sanitary arrangements are very bad.
I have heard scores of speeches from the Minister of External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) in which he referred to the equality of all mankind, to human rights, and to the four freedoms, including freedom from fear. We may be sure that the reputation of this country among the nations of the world will rest, not upon such speeches, but upon our actions, and if those actions stink, so will our reputation. In this instance, the ship started ont on its voyage in a stinking condition, but the real matter for concern is not so much how the ship started out, but how it will finish the voyage. The ship could have left from an Australian port only with the consent of the Australian authorities. Does the Government propose to give an assurance that conditions at the end of the voyage will be investigated and reported upon? We are at present conducting war trials in which some of our late enemies are being tried for various offences. I expect that some of them will be charged with being responsible for having compelled Australian soldiers to travel under the appalling conditions prevailing on Montevideo Maru and other so-called “hell ships “. It has been made clear that the perpetrators of such atrocities are to be tracked down and punished. I now nsk the Attorney-General whether, at the trial of Japanese charged with such crimes, it will be accepted as a defence that the conditions on board those “hell ships “ were practically identical with those on board a ship which the Australian authorities permitted to sail from an Australian port. If it is not a good defence, then the war trials are a travesty. If it is a good defence, the laying of charges against certain Japanese nationals is a travesty. Difficult as it is for a government to retreat once it has taken a stupidly obstinate stand on such an issue, it would be far better for the reputation of Australia if the Government were to try to recapture its position by directing this ship back to an Australian port. It should not be directed to proceed to a port in New Guinea where only government officials will be present to see the conditions in which it will arrive. The vessel should be directed to proceed to the nearest Australian port where it can be inspected by persons representing the people of this country, so that Australian citizens may know exactly what conditions existed on it. Unless the Government takes that action it must assume the responsibility for nullifying the results of the charges against certain Japanese nationals for loading Australians into Japanese “ hell ships “, for besmirching the fair name of Australia, and for the words of Australians attending international conferences being completely discounted by reason of the fact that they are not matched by deeds. It would be futile for any representative of Australia attending a future international conference to speak with fair words about equality for all sections of mankind, trusteeship in respect of backward nations, the recognition of the rights of every man, and the necessity for freedom from fear, if instances like this are likely to be cited to discount every word that may be uttered. If the description which we have been given of the conditions under which Japanese “ hell ships “ have sailed be correct, and if it be true that deaths occurred on those ships,-we can only deduce that deaths will occur on this ship also because of the conditions under which men, women and children have been forced to travel on it. What a weight of responsibility attaches to those who to-da.y still have an opportunity to recapture events, but will not have that opportunity after another day or two have passed !
and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) have already reported to the House the facts relating to this ship ; but I think that some protest against the type of speech that has disfigured the adjournment motion this afternoon is called for. Does any honorable member opposite think that there is any member of the Government not as much alive to the well-being of the people on that ship as is any member of the Opposition ?
– This afternoon the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) showed that he could not discuss this subject apart from politics. It was clear from his words and his tone that he almost hoped that the voyage of the ship will be attended by disaster so that some responsibility can be imputed to the Government.
– That is a lie.
– Order ! The honorable member may not use such language.
– The voyage of Yoizuki is a part of a general shipping movement under the control of General MacArthur in which a number of vessels are involved. The transport of about 22,000 prisoners of war and internees back to their own countries has to be undertaken. Yoizuki is not the first vessel to leave Australia as part of that general shipping movement; twoships left Australia under similar conditions within ten days before the departure of this vessel.
– Did they have women and children on board?
– There was no word of protest when those vessels left Australia.
– They were ships of a different kind.
– They were fittedout in a similar manner to this ship in that sleeping accommodation was provided between decks. Who are the people on board this vessel? They are enemy subjects. It is true that among them are people who were born in Formosa and whose parentage is, I think, Chinese, but they are not Chinese subjects or Chinese nationals. They are Japanese nationals. There are hundreds of men on the ship who fought against our soldiers in the war and were taken prisoners. There are also women and children on board. The women are travelling with their husbands, who have been interned here at the request of Allied governments.
– That does not apply to all the women.
– I do not think that honorable members know the conditions under which shipping is now being carried on in almost every part of the world. They are completely different from peacetime conditions.Indeed, the shipping position to-day is worse than it was during the war. I travelled recently across the North Atlantic in a vessel which normally would carry about 1,600 passengers, but I was one of about 10,000 persons on board. In addition to many Allied servicemen, women and children were on board.
– What was the size of the ship?
– It was a large vessel, which ordinarily would have carried about 1,600 passengers, but, as I have said, there were about 10,000 persons aboard. The conditions were such as would have been intolerable in normal circumstances. According to a statement attributed to Brigadier Blackburn, V.C., the conditions on Yoizuki would not be regarded as abnormal by either Chinese or Japanese people who are accustomed to travel under conditions which Australians would not accept. The Acting Chinese Minister implied as much as that in his statement yesterday, because, according to him, the distress shown by some of the Formosans on the ship was due to the belief that they were to be landed in Japan, and not in their homeland. The Government is just as concerned as is any honorable member opposite about the safety and well-being of the people on the ship. As my colleague has already informed the House, it is intended that the vessel shall be taken to an island port, where a complete inspection of it will be made with a view to seeing if anything is necessary to ameliorate the conditions of those on board. The women on the vessel will probably wish to continue the journey to their homeland, as otherwise they would bc separated, from their husbands who arc travelling on the same vessel. The vessel will be examined at that port by skilled officers.
– Why not take the ship to an Australian port?
-.- The position was made clear by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) in his announcement that an island port had been chosen because that was the best in all the circumstances.
– The people of Australia do not think it is the best.
– The honorable member is not entitled to speak for the people of Australia. That decision, was made after reviewing all the circumstances, and it will be adhered to by the Government. [ ask honorable members to assist the Government in this matter, and not to try to make ‘political capital out of it. Public opinion on the situation, has-been inflamed, I think unfairly. I do not. justify for a moment the distress or the herding together that takes place on ships whoever they may carry, but I regard it as almost inevitable under present conditions when shipping is so scarce.
– Am 1 to understand that the right honorable gentleman regards the conditions under which those people were sent as conditions that we as a nation should adopt?
– The honorable member must think he is tit a police court. [ do not regard the conditions under which any of these ships are making voyages as satisfactory.
– If the right honorable gentleman put up that defence in a police court he would get three weeks.
– And the right honorable gentleman would get three months.
– But the AttorneyGeneral would get three weeks.
– I do not think so. The right honorable gentleman does not appreciate the significance of what I am saying. He has not, I concede, tried to make political capital out of this unhappy situation; but I impress upon him that we are most anxious about it and have considered it as a government. We are doing our very best to ensure that the voyage shall proceed safely and that the
welfare of those on board the vessel shall be duly attended to.
– Are the women on board to be given the option of leaving the ship at an island port?
– I believe that is the position. I do not know just where the island. port is; I believe it is in New Guinea. If the situation o’n board is unsatisfactory and the women do not wish to go on, I believe that a decision will be made to that effect.
– Is it intended to allow the representatives of the press or an independent authority the opportunity to inspect the conditions on the vessel ?
– We cannot allow any outside authority to determine this matter. lt must be determined by “ the Government.
– It is intended to keep the press out?
– It is nol a matter of keeping the press out, but one of doing what Ave think is the best to meet the situation.
– An iron curtain is to be rung down on the conditions on board.
– An iron curtain? That was the phrase used three times yesterday by the honorable member. It i.i n foolish description of what wil take place. I hope that next week the Government will be able to report satisfactory and acceptable arrangements for all on board the ship. More than that I do not wish to say now, but we are most anxious about the position. In all the circumstances, we think the decision reached by the Government was the best. I appeal, therefore, to honorable members to assist the Government in this matter instead of rising one after another and attempting to denounce it. I am sure that all honorable members hope that ‘the ship will proceed safely and that all the people on board will reach their destination in good health. This is the position. If positive suggestions are made to the Government they will be considered. It was suggested that there should be a report on the circumstances. I assure the House that it will be made aware of whatever report reaches the Government from responsible officers.
– I had not intended to speak on this matter on the adjournment motion, but I am forced to do so by the entirely lamentable defence put up on behalf of the Government by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). He said not one word that would contradict or modify any of the descriptions of this ship given to the public. So far as his defence is concerned we may assume that the published description of this ship is completely true, that, it is a ship on which the accommodation’ is so densely crowded that it is a ship in which the sanitary accommodation is so primitive as to be inhuman, that it is a ship in which there is undoubtedly danger to health and perhaps danger to life. All that is admitted so far as the AttorneyGeneral’s defence is concerned. That is the first thing that emerges from his defence. The second is that the right honorable gentleman has thought fit to underline on two or three occasions in his remarks that, although these, people are in this shockingly crowded situation, they are enemy nationals. It is not in the tradition of our race that even enemy nationals after a war should be transported from our country in circumstances of this kind. I am entirely at a loss to understand why the Attorney-General should imagine that we may do with credit to our enemy something we would not do to our own people or to an Eastern people of a friendly race. The third thing that emerges from the Attorney-General’s defence is that, the gravamen of the charge being admitted, the only excuse, if it be an excuse, being that they are enemy nationals accustomed to conditions different from those to which we are accustomed, no change is to be made of the policy of the Government, notwithstanding the exposure of this matter and notwithstanding what has undoubtedly widely outraged the public conscience. Here are people who, as clearly as they have spoken for a long time, say “ At least you satisfy us by bringing this ship back to an Australian port where under the control of Australian officials, it may be examined so that our minds might be satisfied”; but he says, “ The ship will be stopped at some island port which is anonymous. If we come to the conclusion that the conditions on board should not be tolerated, wives will be allowed to leave their husbands and stay there isolated from them”. The plain course for the Government when this matter emerged was to say at once, “ Here is something we did not know about “. No one expects Ministers to know about all these things. None of us knew about this matter until it had publicity. When it had publicity the course for the Government to adopt was to radio the captain of the vessel: “ Stop, come back, let this ship be examined, because our reputation, our humanity is involved “. But, because it had permitted the ship to go, the Government decided that the only check that would be made would be at some port outside Australia. It has come to the conclusion that the course of strength is to persist, and all that the AttorneyGeneral has done, ‘after all this discussion, is to say, “ We are not altering our minds at all. We are not in any way responding to this public demand “. One new allegation that he brings to the controversy is, “ You must not become too excited. After all these are not British people. It is not that they are Chinese nationals, because their parents fell into the bands of the Japanese and became Japanese nationals, and whatever happens to an enemy whom we have defeated does not matter to its.
.- An aspect of the shipment to Australia of the wives and families ,of servicemen stranded in England remains’ to be explored. I know that this matter has been debated, but it is deplorable that if one raises a subject one is enthusiastic about and concerned in, he is immediately assailed by no less than the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), as I and others who have spoken about this matter were last night. The right honorable gentleman in attacking those honorable members who are anxious that husbands and wives and families should be re-united went to the length of charging us with having indulged in party politics. He then talked about the Queensberry rules and “Rafferty” rules. Then, to-day, I was subjected to a venomous attack by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr.
Bryson) because I dared attend in bis electorate a meeting of young airmen whom I knew and with whom I served who are anxious to have their wives brought to Australia from England. Because I went to that meeting at their invitation I was assailed in an unparliamentary fashion. We shall take what is coming to us; but because the honorable member is unpopular with the servicemen that is no reason why honorable members ou this side should not present the case for servicemen in this Parliament. I have been advised that soldier planters in New Guinea have protested to the Prime Minister concerning statements made by the honorable member with respect to them. They wrote to me asking me to urge the Prime Minister to censure the honorable member for that reason. When honorable members on this side cannot obtain redress outside the House they will continue to bring up these matters in this chamber. Honorable members opposite should remember that patriotism goes beyond unionism. Tn spite of statements of the kind made by the honorable member for Bourke and other honorable members opposite, -I intend to press the case on behalf of the wives and children of ex-servicemen in Great Britain. I brought this matter originally to the attention of the late Mr. Curtin, when he was Prime Minister, and he promised me that these women and children would be given priority of passage. That was a year ago, but 3,000 wives of exservicemen are still stranded in Great Britain. I pointed out last night that husbands of these women are becoming most anxious about the position. Some of these men are expending their deferred pay in order to return to Britain to rejoin their wives. But the Government is still unmoved by such appeals. It says that the requisite shipping is not available. Let me make this suggestion to the Government: There are in Australian waters at present the following passenger ships: Wanganui, Manunda, Manoora, Katoomba, Kanimbla, Canberra, Marella and Ormiston. Some of these vessels have been employed as hospital ships and others as troop ships, but the majority of them are idle, or only partly employed.
In view of the fact that we can send Indonesians back to Java on passenger ships of the class of Esperance Bay and Manoora, I can see no reason why some of these vessels should not be despatched to Britain loaded with foodstuffs which would not require refrigeration space. I am informed that at least four of these vessels could be spared for this purpose. It has been stated on behalf of the British authorities, and also by the Prime Minister here, that Britain cannot provide the necessary ships for the transport of wives and children of exservicemen to Australia, and that Canada was able to provide cargo ships. I urge the Government to allocate four of these vessels for this purpose. Each of them is capable of carrying 500 passengers. Therefore, the Government should not continue to “ pass the buck “ by saying that it is Britain’s fault. We can solve this problem, and speedily bring these people to Australia. They are receiving a very bad impression as the result of the humbug and procrastination in governmental fi n d official circles. This comparatively simple problem should have been solved long ago. I again urge the Minister to check passenger vessels now in Australian waters, with a view to allocating four of them for this purpose.
.- Like other honorable, members on both sides of the chamber, I have been much moved by reports of the conditions existing on what has become known as the “hell ship “. I am intensely disappointed that the Government has not thought fit to take action in the matter in order to set at rest the fears and anxieties of the people of Australia on the subject. I had hoped that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) would at least have said something that would have allayed this widespread anxiety; but I gathered from his statement that the position is even worse than has been generally feared. Is the Government satisfied that the conditions on the ship are up to Australian standards? If not will it, on ordinary humanitarian grounds, interrupt the voyage of the vessel and disembark half of the internees travelling on it? Earlier, two honorable members opposite cast doubts upon the accuracy of the press reports in this matter. They argued that, after all, we could go on only press reports and photographs and a film, and that behind this publicity was a desire to embarrass the Government and undermine its authority. Any one who has read those reports and seen the photographs and the film, and read the dimensions of the quarters provided for the prisoners of war and internees on the vessel, must realize that the accommodation is far below the standard which Australians think should bo. provided for human beings travelling on a long sea voyage through the tropics and through heavy seas. If the Government had any doubt about the matter it should have instructed responsible officers to ensure that Australian standards of accommodation’ were provided for hae people. It has been said that in any case these people are only ex-enemy nationals and that as Asiatics they are used to the standards of accommodation provided on the vessel. I know that throughout the East human beings are often treated worse than cattle; but, surely, that does not mean that we should herd people into a boat to travel under conditions which a veterinary officer would not approve for the transport of cattle. Even now, the Government should take steps to remedy the conditions on this ship so that all doubts on the matter will be resolved, particularly with respect to the treatment of women and children among the internees. ‘ As other honorable members have pointed out, this incident affects not only the Government, but also Australia’s reputation. It is no excuse to say that because other ships have left these ports in similar circumstances, this incident should also be condoned. The main difficulty arises from lack of determination on the part of the Government. I hope that, in spite of what the Attorney-General has said, steps will be taken immediately to bring the ship to port and disembark half of the number of passengers.
.- I join with other honorable members in protesting against the Government’s indifference to the well-being of the persons who have been placed aboard- the “ hell-ship “ Yoizuki. After all the appeals that have been made. I am at a loss to understand why the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) should still see .fit ,0, S say, in effect. “ The Government will not re-direct this ship to an Australian port to enable the plight of the passengers to be examined. The vessel will be sent to some island unknown to the public and there a report will be compiled regarding what happened or what has not happened aboard “. That is most improper. Every one in this country is concerned about the action of the Government. It had ample warning of the conditions aboard Yoizuki, and I cannot understand why it has not readily said, “ This boat has departed from Sydney. We regret what has happened. The facts were not. fully known to us at the time, although they were known to some senior officials. We shall direct Yoizuki to call nt the nearest Australian port, send a competent senior officer to inspect it, and do everything possible to ensure an improvement of the conditions”. 1 was immensely disappointed with the Attorney-General’s reply. Even at this hour, he should arrange for the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), to give, on behalf of the Government, the undertaking for which we have been asking during the last few days.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has referred to the problems and difficulties of the beef and dairy cattle industries in Victoria. At the Newmarket saleyards, no meat is being offered. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have appealed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to take prompt and effective action to ensure the eradication of the buffalo fly in north Queensland. If those appeals are not heeded, within a few years there will be no meat and very little dairy produce in Australia. Three years ago, I emphasized the necessity for taking prompt, action, and the Minister- promised to visit north Queensland and inspect the damage which the buffalo fly was causing to beef cattle and dairy cattle. Now, the position has gone from bad to worse. The buffalo fly has spread down the coast of Queensland. In north Queensland and in parts of central Queensland, the loss of calves is estimated at 25 per cent. If that mortality persists, the number of cattle in Australia will bc substantially reduced. The loss of weight of carcases is as high as 15 per cent, and according to estimates, it will be 25 per cent, in 1947. The value of a hide has declined by about 3s. because of the damage caused by the buffalo fly. The affected beast rubs itself in an endeavour to obtain relief. Losses of dairy produce in northern Queensland are estimated at 33 per cent.
The buffalo fly has spread from Darwin in the Northern Territory into Queensland, and the Commonwealth Government must accept responsibility for combating it. At times, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has endeavoured to “ pass the buck “ to the Government of Queensland and the Government of New South “Wales, but the beef and cattle industries, and the dairying industry, are vital to the prosperity of the Comonwealth, and we must prevent the depredations of the buffalo fly. I protest vigorously against the attitude of the Minister. Three years ago, he promised to visit northern Queensland to inspect conditions in the affected areas. Recently, he went to Brisbane but did not go into the affected areas. He merely had a conference with the Queensland Minister for Agriculture. If the Minister will not honour his promise, what confidence can the people of north Queensland have in his word? And what confidence can the people in the areas about to be affected by buffalo fly have in the Minister? The fly will destroy their herds, production and income. If l lie Minister will not inspect these areas in Queensland, the Government must depute some one else to do so.
– The Minister may be frightened that the fly may get him.
Mi’. FRANCIS. - If that were so, the Minister might move more quickly than lie does now. As many as 5,000 flies settle on a beast in a day. If that number settled on the Minister, it should spur him to action.
For some time, emphasis has been placed on statements that DOT, an insecticide which has been produced by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, was available for the treatment of these affected animals in the beef industry and dairy industry. By implication, the Minister suggested that endless quantities of DDT were available. But in a letter which I received to-day in reply to my representations ou this subject, the Minister admitted that virtually nothing had been done. He wrote -
Recommendations covering the use of DDT preparations for the control of the abovementioned pests were released by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research during” November and December, 1045. These information circulars issued by tlie Council foi” Scientific and Industrial Research were based oil the results of trials carried out up to thatdate in Australia on these pests, and gavegreater promise for the control of buffalo fly in dairy cattle by means of DDT emulsion.? and sprays than for the control of buffalo fly and cattle tick in beef cattle. The reason for this is that to date there is unfortunately no DDT preparation available that is really suitable for general use in cattle dips.
Up to the present time this directorate has not received an officially sponsored demand for DDT from Queensland, and it is suggested that all graziers and dairymen’s organizations submit details of their requirements of DDT to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock, Brisbane. DDT and DDT preparations are available from local and United Kingdom sources and the total Australian demand must be known before any decision oan be ariived at on the question of importing DDT. from America. It is possible that tlie cost of locally manufactured DDT to thu consumer will be substantially reduced in the near future.
Honorable members have been allowed to believe that supplies of DDT and DDT preparations, were available. Now, we are told that particulars of requirements should be obtained from every graziers’ association and dairymen’s association. The Minister has not been straightforward. These important industries should not be treated in this manner, and undertakings which he gave to visit graziers, and make available adequate supplies of DDT should bc honoured. If they are not, the Government deserves even greater condemnation than that which it received during the motion of want of confidence.
.- Yesterday, I criticized in this House the circumstances surrounding the despatch to Japan and Formosa of the destroyer Yoizuki, and various Ministers declared that I had done a disservice to Australia because I had ventilated the matter in this chamber. I believe that the proper place in which to ventilate such matters is the Parliament, and honorable members on the Government side of the House, who disapprove of matters such as this, should voice their disapproval in Parliament, where they are expected to register their opinions, instead of going outside the chamber, as did the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser). He was not “game” to rise in his place in this House and condemn the conditions under which the prisoners of war and internees of Yoizuki are travelling. He went outside the chamber and gave a statement to the press. In addition,, he broadcast the statement. I have a copy of it. It is a condemnation of the defence which the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) made to-day. The newspaper report, reads -
Mr. Allan Fraser (Labour,’ New South Wales), in a broadcast to-night, condemned the Labour Government for not calling the ship into port and for failing to check the conditions before it sailed. “ Just because I am a supporter of the present Government it is inconceivable that I should defend the treatment of these Formosa)! women and children he said. “Australia should stand appalled at the disclosures.”
Yet, the honorable member for EdenMonaro has not said a word in this chamber, but has been content to hear members of the Opposition villified because they have had the courage to protest. I have pushed this matter very strongly, and the reply made this afternoon by the Minister for External Affairs will satisfy nobody, least of all the Minister himself. If the Minister is the man we believe and hope he is, and meant what he said when he represented Australia abroad, he should take steps to ensure that the ideals which he enunciated in other parts of the world shall be put into practice whenever he has an opportunity to do so. What is the public of this country demanding? It asks only that action which, is within the competence of the Government be taken immediately, namely, that Yoizuki be ordered to call at the nearest Australian port, so that we may determine whether or not the allegations that have been made are true. We in this chamber are not in a position to say with any degree of finality just what the conditions are; but last night, I was privileged to see in this city a newsreel of the embarkation, and I came away sickened by the scenes depicted. They were paralleled in my experience only by scenes filmed in Nazi prison camps. We saw men wearing the uniform of the Australian Provost Corps, heavily grasping these unfortunate wretches, belabouring them with batons, truncheons or some other weapon, and pushing them on board the vessel. Screaming women and children were treated in the same way. If honorable members opposite witness at the Capitol Theatre to-night the graphic pictures of what occurred in Sydney, they will be able to form their own opinions. The film shows Yoizuki sailing down Sydney harbour with its decks absolutely jammed with people - packed on board as I have never seen people packed even on a Manly ferry boat in holiday time. Men, women and children will be’ forced to endure those conditions whilst the vessel makes a voyage through the tropics lasting, I believe, for two or three weeks. It is inconceivable that a government, which represents, or claims to represent, the humbler elements of life - the poor, the weak, and the defenceless - should shut its ears to everything except the opinions of generals and ignore altogether the rising indignation of the people of this country. That indignation is being expressed not by only one section of the community. Press reports, and telegrams and letters sent to honorable members show that it is being expressed by union secretaries, shop assistants, and in fact people in every walk of life, who feel that their humanitarian instincts have been violated, and are looking to the Government for immediate action. I have asked the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) this afternoon to permit an independent authority to inspect the vessel at the earliest possible opportunity. It; is stated that the vessel will call at Finschafen, where, I understand, there are a few Air Force officers, but no Army officers or civilians. There will only be the Japanese captain of Yoizuki to give an assurance in regard to what is going on. If the Minister views the newsreel to which I have referred, one scene which will horrify him, as it horrified me probably more than any other, is that showing the leering faces of the Japanese crew, as they watch women and children being embarked. It is inconceivable that this should happen in Australia. I urge the Government to meet the reasonable request of the Australian people that an immediate inspection of the vessel be made. It is possible that the ship will complete its trip without the loss of a single life - we all trust that the unfortunate people aboard will arrive safely at their destination - but the fact remains that they are herded together and are living under conditions that no human being should be asked to endure. One photograph that has appeared, in the newspapers shows that, one deck with standing room of 6 ft. 6 in. has been divided horizontally so that several hundred people will be forced to endure tropical conditions living in an area with head room of only 3 ft. 3 in., ami without even portholes. Is it suggested that the Minister for External Affairs, whom we believe to be a humanitarian, can placidly contemplate the conditions on board that vessel as it sails northward into hotter regions? There are only two or three small lavatories for 1200 people. It is inconceivable that the Government should adopt such a complacent attitude. I am not disposed to condemn the Government for Ais incident having occurred originally. No doubt it could have occurred under the jurisdiction of any government. These things do happen ; but this Administration will stand condemned if it permits the voyage of Yoizuki to. continue without attempting to remedy the appalling conditions on board before they become even worse. One of the most shameful aspects of the matter is that the. name of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Japan, General MacArthur, has been linked with this atrocity. It is not of his doing, or of the doing of the American Government. The supreme Allied Commander may have given the orders and made the arrangements originally, but the people responsible for bundling these unfortunate - individuals on board this ship, knowing what the conditions were, and smelling the stink, are Australians. I demand in the name of the Opposition that this vessel ho ordered to the nearest Australian port without loss of time, so that an inspection of the conditions may be made. I demand further that if the vessel be permitted to proceed to Finschafen, that representatives of the press ot some other independent authority be given an opportunity to inspect it and report to the Government and to the people of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1048, No. 37.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired lor Commonwealth purposes - Puckapunyal, Victoria.
Navigation Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1046, Nos. 41, 42.
House adjourned at S.4 p.m.
The following answers to question were circulated: -*
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : - .
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 March 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460308_reps_17_186/>.