17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mb. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– As Chairman, I present the report, together with minutes of evidence, of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Automatic Exchange and Postal Building, Russell-street, Melbourne, and the Bussel! Aiito.iiui.tic Telephone Exchange.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Ship Repair Work
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that Royal Australian Navy ratings are performing, on ships at the South Brisbane repair base, work that is usually performed by members of the Ships Painters and Dockers Union? Will the honorable gentleman institute inquiries, and if what I allege be found to be true will he ensure that this work shall be done in future by the members of the Ships Painters and Dockers Union ?
– Already I have had inquiries set in motion. I shall advise the- honorable gentleman when the position has been made known to me.-
Conditions in Russia.
– With a view. to encouraging an interest in and a knowledge of foreign countries, will the Minister for External Affairs make it possible for Australian representatives returning from abroad to make an interim report, or to deliver an address, to the members of this Parliament? For example, would it be possible for Mr. James. Maloney, who has just returned from Russia, to deliver an address on hat .country?
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) yesterday made a similar suggestion. I refer the right honorable gentleman to the answer that I gave to him.
– Having regard to the statements which the Minister for External Affairs made yesterday in that portion of his speech which dealt with Russia, will the Prime Minister lay on the tabic of the House any reports that have been made by Mr. James Maloney, ex-Minister to Russia, having particular reference to the relations between Australia and Russia, so that this House may be fully informed as to the nature of the reports that have been received by the Government in this connexion?
– I am not aware that any written report has been received by the Government, although I have no doubt that a verbal report has been made bv Mr. Maloney to the Minister for External Affairs.
– No written report has been made.
– Honorable members will have a full opportunity next week to discuss in detail the speech made yesterday by the Minister for External Affairs. I shall ask my colleague to consider making available any report that may be received from Mr. Maloney.
Use for Purchase of a Home.
– Can the Prime Minister intimate how war gratuities may bo used by ex-servicemen when seeking a loan from, the Commonwealth Bank for home building purposes?
– Section 22 of the War Gratuities Act provides that loans may be made to an authority approved by the prescribed authority under the act. It has been necessary to co-ordinate procedure with the State governments, and a Treasury official will be in charge of this work in order to determine what bodies will be approved. An interdepartmental committee met to consider the matter the day before yesterday, and yesterday the honorable member’ for Parramatta ‘ (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked a question in the ‘ House on the subject. I hope to have the report of the committee within the next four or five days. As for the Commonwealth. Bank, there is no doubt that it will be an approved authority.
Movement ok Russian Troops.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs received any official information, beyond what has appeared in the press, relating to the movement of Russian troops in Persia? If so, will he make a statement on the subject, and give the House an expression of his views regarding the implications of such troop movements ?
– I have no official information on the subject. No doubt the honorable member received his information from the sa.me source that is available to all of us.
– A booklet entitled The Indian Market, published by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, contains very valuable information on export and import trade between India and Australia. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say what action is being taken by his department to foster and promote trade between these countries? Will the Government consider sponsoring a trade delegation of business men, carefully selected, with a view to developing this trade? Has the Minister any information which he can impart to the House about what is being done to explore and develop the tremendous possibilities for trade in India and Empire countries in the Pacific in the early post-war years?
– My department and the Government, are fully alive to the possibilities of developing a big post-war trade with the countries mentioned by the honorable member. Australia, since before the war, has had a resident Trade Commissioner in India, and recently my department arranged for the appointment of two additional Trade Commissioners to India, and another to Colombo. The department is calling for applications for the position of Trade Commissioners, and the majority of those appointed will be sent to the areas mentioned. As for a trade delegation, negotiations have been proceeding for some time, and a trade delegation consisting of Australian business men’ has been sponsored by the Government, and will be accompanied by a responsible official of the department. I assure the honorable member that everything possible is being done to facilitate trade with India and adjacent areas.
American Loan to Great Britain - Bretton Woods Agreement
– I ask the Prime Minister to state the attitude of his Government to the proposed loan by the United States of America to Great Britain, particularly regarding its possible effect on Empire trade preference? Is the right honorable gentleman able to state the Government’s attitude to the Bretton Woods Agreement?
– A loan by the ‘ United States of America to the United Kingdom is entirely a matter for those countries. It is not one into which I would in any way intrude any request from Australia. A question about Empire trade preference was asked during the last sessional period, and,” in reply, it was clearly indicated that this country would do its very best to retain Empire trade preference.
– Lt is obliged to do so under the Ottawa Agreement.
– That is true. I made that clear then. Yesterday I answered a question about the Bretton Woods Agreement. I said that no final decision had been made and that consideration of the agreement had been deferred until we had obtained a .report from Professor Melville, our observer at the first meeting in regard to the agreement.
– Seeing that at long last the dead hear.t of Australia has been geographically and politically located at Canberra, will Mr. Speaker give consideration to providing a room for each member in this temporary Parliament House, as is now done for each senator?
– I doubt the accuracy of the first part of the honorable gentleman’s question. The matter of accommodation has had the attention of previous Speakers. Structural difficulties are in . the way of achievement of the honorable gentleman’s desire, but I shall give him a fuller answer at a later date.
– In view of the improbability of refrigerated shipping space being made available, except to a limited degree, for the export of apples and pears to the United Kingdom, and in view of the attendant disabilities to orchardists in Tasmania, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give favorable consideration to a suggestion that the apple and pear acquisition scheme be continued for one season longer ?
– The Government is agitated over the apple and pear position. I recently had a conference with the heads of the Apple and Pear Board, who are doing all they can to cope with the accumulation. Everything possible is being done to process for export those apples and pears that we cannot export in a fresh or frozen form.I will give earnest consideration to the continuance of the acquisition scheme. I will examine the constitutional aspect and then make a submission to Cabinet.
– by leave - In announcing in the House of Representatives on the loth May, 1945, the Empire plan for campaign stars and the Defence Medal, the Acting Prime Minister stated that whilst Australia accepted the scheme in general, it was desired to make certain reservations in the interests of more appropriate recognition of the services of the Australian forces.
A further statement on the 18th May clarified and explained the import of the major Australian reservations, and these have since been the subject of protracted negotiations with the Government of the United Kingdom.
The present position regarding these reservations is as under -
In order that honorable members will have a statement on campaign stars and war medals in handy and concise form, I shall, with the consent of the House, incorporate in Hansard the following details: -
Descriptionof CAMPAIGN STARS and War Medals.
The scheme for recognition of the war services of members of the forces of the British Commonwealth of Nations, by the award of campaign stars and war medals common to the Empire forces, is approaching completion and has been made the subject of conditions operative throughout the Empire. The conditions, in detail, will shortly be published in a White Paper by the United Kingdom Government.
There are ten separate awards - eight stars for operational service, the Defence Medal for non-operational service, and the War Medal for general service, either operational or non-operational. Clasps have been approved to certain stars and medals, with corresponding emblems for attachment to the appropriate ribbons when these are worn separately. There is also a special emblem awarded to those who have been “mentioned in despatches “.
The following is a brief description of the significance and conditions of eligibility of each of the awards, in the order in which they are worn : -
The 1939-45 Star was originally instituted in August, 1943, as the 1939-43 Star, and it waslater extended to cover all operations between the outbreak of war with Germany on the 3rd September, 1939, and the unconditional surrender of Japan on the 2nd September, 1945. It is awarded to mark the completion of six months’ operational service (two months in the case of air crew) and also to mark participation in certain specific operations which generally did not extend over six months.
Participation in certain specific operations is a qualification for the 1939-45 Star. Those operations of particular significance to the Australian Forces are -
Greece and Crete, from the 10th March, 1941, to the 31st May, 1941.
Syria, from the 8th June, 1941, to the 11th July, 1941.
Hong Kong, from the 8th December, 1041, to the 25th December, 1941 (Japanese invasion).
Maraya, from the 8th December, 1941, to the 15th February, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Bismarck Archipelago (Rabaul), from the 22nd January, 1942, to the 27th January, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Bismarck Archipelago (Admiralty Islands), from the 29th February, 1944, to the 18th May, 1944 (Allied invasion).
Java, from the27th February, 1942, to the 9th March, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Molucca Islands (Ambon), from the 30th January, 1942, to the 26th February, 1942 (Japanese invasion) .
Morotai, from the loth September, 1944, to the 5th December, 1944 (Allied invasion).
Nauru, from the 8th December, 1941 , to the 1st March, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Ocean Island, from the8th December, 1941, to the 26th August, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Philippines, from the 20th October, 1944, to the 4th July, 1945 (Allied invasion).
Northern Group (including Bougainville), from the 1st February, 1942, to the 30th April, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Florida’ (Tulagi), from the 1st February. 1942, to the 31st May, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Florida (Tulagi), from the 1st August, 1942, to the 31st August, 1942 (Allied invasion).
Guadalcanal, from the 1st February, 1942, to the 31st May, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Guadalcanal, from the 7th August, 1942, to the 9th February, 1943 (Allied invasion).
New Georgia Group, from the 1st February, 1942, to the 31st May, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
New Georgia Group, from the 28th June, 1943, to the 13th October, 1943 (Allied invasion).
Treasury Group (including Mono), from the 1st February, 1942, to the 31st May, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Treasury Group (including Mono), from the 25th October, 1943, to the 26th November, 1943 (Allied invasion).
Choiseul, from the 1st February, 1942, to the 31st May, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Choiseul, from the 28th October, 1943, to the 4th November, 1943 (Allied invasion).
Malaita, from the 1st February, 1942, to the 31st May, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Green Islands, from the 15th February, 1944, to the 19th February, 1944 (Allied invasion).
Sumatra, from the 14th February, 1942, to the 23rd March, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Timor (Koepang and Dilli), from the 20th February, 1942, to the 31st March, 1942 (Japanese invasion).
Operational service of less than six months, brought to an end by capture or by death, wounds or other disability due to service is a qualification. Members who have been mentioned in despatches, or who have been awarded an honour or decoration for operational service, are thereby qualified for the award of the 1939-45 Star irrespective of completion of qualifying service.
The ribbon is dark blue, red and light blue in three equal vertical stripes, and is worn with the dark blue stripe furthest from the left shoulder. The three stripes represent respectively the services of the Navies and Merchant Navies, the Armies and the Air Forces. A clasp to the Star recognizes the services of air crew of fighter aircraft in the “ Battle of Britain “ between the 1st J uly and the 31st October, 1940, and is indicated by the emblem of a Gilt Rose worn on the ribbon.
The Atlantic Star was instituted in May, 1945, to commemorate the ‘“‘Battle of the Atlantic “, and is designed primarily for convoys and their escorts and for fast merchant ships that sailed alone between the 3rd September, 1939, and 8th May, 1945. It is awarded to members of the Naval Forces who have served at sea for twelve months in operational areas, any six months of such service being in the defined Atlantic area. In the Merchant Navy it is awarded for twelve months’ service at sea including at least one voyage through the Atlantic area. Air crew are eligible if they have had four months’ operational service, any two of which have been in the defined Atlantic area. Army and Air Force personnel serving in HisMajesty’s Ships or in defensively equipped merchant ships are eligible under the conditions applicable to the Navy or Merchant Navy.
The ribbon is blue, white and sea green, shaded and watered, and the colours are symbolic of service in the Atlantic. If the holder bias also qualified for the “France and Germany” or “Air Crew Europe “ Stars these are not awarded. but a. clasp is added to the Atlantic Star and a Silver Rose emblem is worn on the ribbon.
The Aircrew Europe Star was instituted in May, 1945, as an award for operational flying from United Kingdom bases over Europe (including the United Kingdom) between the 3rd September, 1939, and the 5th June, 1944. Those eligible must have completed four months’ operational flying, any two of which have been in the defined area and period.
The ribbon is light blue, with blackedges, and a narrow yellow stripe on either side. The colours are symbolic of the service of the Air Forces by night and clay. The “ France and Germany “ or “Atlantic” Stars are not awarded additionally. Those who qualify for either receive a clasp to the Aircrew Europe Star indicated by a Silver Rose, emblem on the ribbon.
The Africa Star was instituted in August, 1943, to mark the expulsion of the enemy from North Africa. It is granted for participation in operations in North Africa between the 10th June, 1940 (the date of the entry of Italy into the war) and the cessation of hostilities in North Africa on the 12th May, 1943. Service in Abyssinia, Somaliland, Eritrea and Malta is a qualification, but service in West Africa or east of the Suez Canal is excluded. Service at sea anywhere in the Mediterranean between the specified dates is a qualification.
The ribbon is pale huff in colour, symbolical of the desert. A central red stripe indicates the Armies engaged, whilst narrower dark blue and light blue stripes are indicative of the Naval and Air Forces. The ribbon is worn with the dark blue stripe furthest from the left shoulder. Service after the 2’3rd October, 1942 (El Alamein), is recognized by clasps and emblems as under : -
Service- with Eighth Army - Silver “ 8 “. -
Service with First Army - Silver « j » “
Service with Eighteenth Army Group - Silver Rose.
Service at sea (on ships which worked inshore “or operated against Rommel’s or Von Arnim’s communications) - Silver Rose.
Service of air crews - Silver Rose.
The Pacific Star was instituted in May, 1945, for entry into operational service on land or in the air in the Pacific theatre between the 8th December, 1941, and the 2nd September, 1945. Service at sea in the Pacific theatre qualifies after the completion of six months’ service afloat.
The ribbon is dark green with red edges, a central yellow stripe and two narrow stripes, one dark and the other light blue. The green and yellow symbolize the forests and beaches of the Pacific, whilst the dark blue, red and light blue stripes indicate the navies, armies, and air forces, engaged in the campaign. A clasp with a silver rose emblem indicates that the member has qualified also for the Burma Star, which is not awarded additionally.
The Burma Star, instituted in May, 1945, marks entry into operational service on land or in the air in the Burma theatre between the 11th December, 1941, and the 2nd September, 1945. Service at sea in the Burma theatre qualifies after six months’ service afloat.
The ribbon is dark blue with a central red stripe and two orange stripes. The red stands for the British Commonwealth Forces and the orange for the sun, and these are placed on a contrasting background of dark blue. A clasp, with a silver rose emblem, indicates that the member has qualified also for the Pacific Star, which is not awarded additionally.
The Italy Star was instituted in May, 1945, for entry into operational service on and or in the air in the Italian theatre between the 11th June, 1943, the date of the capture of Pantellaria, and the 8th May, 1945, the date of the end of active hostilities in Europe. Service at sea in the Mediterranean which was directly connected with active operations qualifies after the completion of six months’ service afloat.
The ribbon is in the Italian colours, and has five vertical stripes of equal width. The stripes at each edge are red, the central stripe is green, and the two intervening stripes are white.
The France and Germany Star was instituted in May, 1945, to mark participation in operations in France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany between the 6th June, 1944, the date of the landing in
Normandy, and the end of active hostilities in Europe on the Sth May, 1945. Service at sea in the North Sea (south of the Firth of Forth), in the English Channel and in the Bay of Biscay (east of longitude 6 degrees west) will qualify, provided it was directly in support of the land operations.
The ribbon is in the red, white and blue of the Union Jack and these colours are also symbolical of France and the Netherlands. There are five vertical stripes of equal width, blue at the edges, red at the centre, with intervening stripes in white. A clasp to the star and a silver rose emblem on the ribbon indicates that the holder has also earned either the “ Atlantic “ or “ Aircrew Europe “ Stars which are not awarded additionally.
The Defence Medal was instituted in May, i945, for non-operational service. This medal marks twelve months’’ nonoperational service overseas, from, or outside, the country of residence, or three years’ service in non-operational areas which were subjected to air attack or closely threatened. For personnel of mine or bomb disposal units the qualifying period is three months’ service in such areas.. The medal is also awarded irrespective of length of service to those who may have received an award or commendation for brave conduct or for valuable service in the air whilst serving under circumstances qualifying for the Defence Medal. A reduction of the qualifying period from twelve to six months in non-operational areas overseas that were subjected to air attack or closely threatened, is under consideration.
As a special case the Defence Medal is awarded for six months’ service in the Northern Territory (north of latitude 14^ degrees south) or in the Torres Straits islands during the period between the first and last air raids in those areas. It is also awarded for civil defence service in military operational areas and in non-operational areas subjected to air attack or closely threatened. Insofar as the Australian forces are concerned, qualifying service rendered between the 3rd September, 1939, and the 2nd September, 1945, may be counted.
The centre of the ribbon is flamecoloured and the edges are green, symbolical of the enemy attacks on the British
Isles, whilst two narrow black stripes, represent the blackout.
The War Medal will be instituted to mark full-time service during the war, whether operational or non-operational. Conditions of this award have not yet been promulgated, but an announcement giving full particulars is anticipated in the near future.
Mentioned in Despatches Emblem. - An emblem in the form of a bronze oak’ leaf is awarded to indicate that the wearer has been “ mentioned in despatches “. The emblem is worn with the stalk furtherst from the left shoulder and will be attached to the ‘ribbon of the War Medal when these are issued.
General. - The stars and medals referred to have not yet been manufactured, but the ribbons of all except the War Medal are available’ to all serving members of the forces entitled to receive them. Cabled advice has just been received that the United Kingdom Government will shortly publish a new White Paper covering full details of campaign stars and war medals.
In regard to the striking of campaign stars advice has been, received from the United Kingdom Government as follows : -
The striking of Campaign Stars instituted by the King for service in the war has begun in the Royal Mint and is about to start in the Royal Ordnance Factory, Woolwich. The designs for the eight awards, that is to say, for the 1930-4.3, Atlantic, Air Crew European, Africa. Pacific, Burma, Italy, and France and Germany Stars, were prepared in the Royal Mint and approved by His Majesty. The stars are to be struck in a yellow copper zinc alloy.
Each is a star of six points If inches across between the extremities of the points. In the centre is the Royal and Imperial cypher “G.R.I.” with “VI’”’ below, the whole being within a circle bearing the title of the star and surmounted by. a crown.
It is hoped that the striking of Campaign Stars for awards for service in the United Kingdom Forces may perhaps be completed in approximately two years. It may be possible to begin the issue in about twelve months’ time hut -no exact forecast can be made at present.
It is estimated that approximately 1,000,000 campaign stars will be required for issue to members of the Australian forces. It is probable that Australian requirements will be manufactured locally.
Dismissal of Temporary Clerks
–I ask the Prime Minister.- (1) In the process .of reinstating ex-servicemen in the Public Service, what is the basis of priority on which the dismissal .of temporary clerks is carried .out? (2) Is it a fact, as has been represented to me, that women clerks a.r.e dismissed first, solely on the ground of sex? (‘3) If so, in view of the fact Khai many of these women, including widows, have dependants, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that in future, itho.se circumstances will be taken into consideration?
– I shall arrange for answers to the honorable member’s questions to be supplied in a few days.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Taxation Board of Review has not yet dealt with some of the matters which were referred to it more than two years ago? Is -it also a fact that after notice of objection to an assessment has been given, it is still necessary that the amount of tax assessed shall be paid? If so, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration at once to the establishment of a second board of review?
– I am not aware that any appeal to the Board of Review has been delayed for more than two years, although I must admit that about twelve months ago, because appeals had accumulated to some degree, I did discuss the matter with the Commissioner of Taxation. It was hoped then that the delay in hearing those appeals would be overcome. I .shall make a point of discussing this matter with the Commissioner of Taxation with a. view to seeing whether any action such as that suggested by the honorable member can bc given effect.
Rehabilitation Loans to Ex-Service Personnel - Catering: Businesses
– I have received from the Kerang Branch pf the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia a letter protesting against the delay in dealing with appli cations for advances pf £250 to discharged personnel who are engaged in .occupations differing fr.om those in which they were engaged prior to the war. In view of the fact that the Director .of Land Settlement, Canberra, has ha,d these cases under consideration since last October and the delay in dealing with them is retarding, and, in some instances, cancelling .the satisfactory return of ex-servicemen to civil life, “will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction ascertain the cause of the delay, and take .prompt action to rectify it? ‘”
– I believe that some confusion has arisen regarding this matter. The Minister for Repatriation . is responsible for the administration of repatriation loans of £250, but the Department of Post-war Reconstruction deals with agricultural loans. The honorable member has not made it clear whether he refers to agricultural loans or repatriation loans. I invite him to submit to me details of specific cases, and if they .concern my department I shall’ have them examined. The Minister for Repatriation will consider the applications if they relate to his department.
– I ask the acting Minister for Trade and Customs whether ex-servicemen, who desire to establish small catering businesses and the like throughout the country but are being prevented from doing so because they cannot obtain a supply of couponed goods, can be assisted to achieve their desires? The only ex-servicemen who are being supplied with couponed goods in such circumstances are those who were in the same callings prior to the war. Will the Minister reconsider the present policy with the object of giving sympathetic consideration to ex-servicemen who desire to establish these businesses and need “couponed goods for the purpose?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member ha? relation to our ability to supply very much needed goods to Great Britain. The present policy is that coupons for rationed goods will not be issued for the establishment of new businesses. To adopt that procedure would increase the local consumption of commodities which we desire to send to Great Britain. An exception has been made in respect of discharged servicemen who were engaged in such callings before the war. Whether the concession can be extended to o’.her discharged servicemen who desire to enter this field of business is a matter to which I shall have to give further consideration.
Forces for London
– Will the Minister for the Army inform me whether the Government proposes to send representative forces of Australian servicemen to England to participate in the peace celebrations? If so, how will the members of those forces be selected? Does the Government intend to include in such forces members of the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Divisions, because those are the men who did the real fighting in the war?
– The Government has decided to send a contingent of 250 personnel representative of all the fighting services, including women’s services, to participate in the Victory Parade in London, in June this year. That, however, will be dependent upon our being able to obtain a warship of some description to carry the contingent to and from Great Britain, and to carry, also, sufficent supplies for it. The selections will be made on a proportionate basis according to the relative strength of the fighting services during the war. Personnel with distinguished service will be selected, but I cannot say that the representation will be confined to any three divisions or any three squadrons, or any particular branch of the Navy. The claims of all sections of the fighting services will be taken into consideration.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government intends to continue control of the potato industry this year. If so, will the right honorable gentleman give some indications of the conditions, particularly in regard to acreage?
– Contracts have been entered into for this year, though on a smaller basis than formerly. I believe that what -has been done has met with the general approval of potato-growers throughout the Commonwealth. The Government has gone as far as it could go in view of the heavy falling-off of service orders. The measure of control is being determined in consultations with representatives of the industry and of State governments. Such control has been maintained hitherto under National Security Regulations. If the regulationsunder which the action is being taken should pass with other war-time controls,, such control of the industry will not bepossible unless some other provisions can. be made.
– Is the Commonwealth Government consulting with the State governments at present?
– The matter was considered at the recent meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. The Commonwealth Government. is> anxious to ensure the stabilization of the potato industry and to replace the haphazard forms of marketing of pre-war days.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House of any progress that has been made with the proposal to provide financial assistance for wheat-farmers who suffered severely from drought last year?
– This matter has been a subject of investigation by a departmental committee. As chairman of the committee I submitted a certain recommendation to Cabinet. The States chiefly concerned, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, have been notified that the Commonwealth Government considers that the .immediate granting of relief to .persons in ‘the areas affected is the responsibility of the State governments concerned.
Report of Mr. Justice Reed. “ Mr. DALY. - Is it the intention of the Minister for the Army to give effect in its entirety ‘to the report of the Commissioner, Mr. Justice . Reed, who held an inquiry some months ago into the cases of Privates Wilson, Derrick and Chalmers? If so, when will that action be taken? Will the right honorable gentleman also give effect to that portion of the report which refers to the discharge of these men from the Army without ignominy?
– Already action has been taken to give effect in toto to the recommendations of Mr. Justice Reed.
– I present the eleventh report of the Broadcasting Committee relating to the control of overseas material for Australian programmes.
Ordered to be printed.
Sale to Britain
– I understand thata recent broadcast suggested that Australia was negotiating a long-term agreement with Great Britain for the sale of quantities of canned fruits. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give any idea of the nature of the proposed agreement, and say whether it embraces the sale of canned apples?
– The matter has had some consideration, but has not yet been completed. I shall obtain the information sought by the honorable member, and advise him as early as possible.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service be good enough to inform the House of what progress has been made in connexion with the application to the Arbitration Court by different groups of trade unions with respect to a 40-hour working week? What is the present position ?
– Some time ago, negotiations were initiated between the Arbitration Court and all the parties associated with this matter. Subsequently, the court fixed the 25th March as the date up to which all applications should be lodged with it. On or after that date, the court will again call the’ parties together and will fix a date oh which the hearing of the case shall be commenced. It is anticipated that the date may be about the first week in April. Some of us hope that the hearing of the case will be completed by the end of June.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a photograph published on page 1 of yesterday’s Sydney Sun. of a number of W.R.N.S. who are returning to the United Kingdom by Stirling Castle, and to the note at the foot of the photograph which states that complaints have been made of the cramped accommodation? Has the right honorable gentleman received any protest from the Opposition in connexion with this matter, and a statement of its intention to move either a censure motion or a motion for the adjournment of the House in order to direct attention to it ?
– I have not seen the photograph, and have no information as to the intentions of the Opposition.
Report by Mr. R. James, M.P.
– I lay on the table of the House the following paper : -
Coal. - Report by Mr. R. James, M.P., on his overseas investigations into methods of working thick coal scams, solid stowage, mechanization, practices generally in coal-mines, oil from coal, and amenities for miners.
I ask the House not to order the printing of the report. On account of technical difficulties, it would not be possible to print it in the normal way. Arrangements will be made to have it printed under the supervision of the Coal Commission, which can exercise an oversight of the technical details.
– I have received from the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The necessity for immediate action by the Government to achieve the restoration of normal fat-stock sales at Newmarket and Victorian provincial stockyards on a basis equitable to producers, and to restore reasonable supplies of meat for consumers.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I have been compelled to resort to this procedure in order to bring to the notice of the Government and the Parliament the unquestionably very serious development in Victoria, as a result of which no sales of fat-stock have been held during the last two” weeks at the Newmarket saleyards in that State. I have been informed that up to the present time no trucks have been ordered to send fat stock to Newmarket for next week’s sales, and the decision has been taken in the three major provincial centres of Victoria - Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo - that there shall be a cessation of fat-stock sales at those centres until this problem has been satisfactorily adjusted. That this should have occurred, and that it should have resulted iri the withholding of all the fat stock from what has been described as the greatest live-stock market in Australia, and perhaps in the world, is so serious a matter that one- would have expected the Government to take immediate action to solve the problem. What the .Government has done has been little and tardy and quite ineffectual. Therefore, I take this opportunity to press the Government to intervene, and .to take what steps may be necessary to reach a solution.
When considering this matter, it is necessary to bear in mind something of the manner in which this trade in fat livestock, both for local consumption and for export, has been conducted in the past, and also something of the recent experiences of those concerned in the raising of fat stock. This great trade has been conducted from the earliest times on the basis of open competition at auction, and the development which has compelled producers to withhold their stock was designed to abolish auction sales, at least for the time being. We must also bear in mind the succession of very bad seasons which have been experienced. We have just had the severest drought in the history of fat stock raising in Australia.
Certainly, no one will dispute that it was the most severe since 1902, and its effects were all the more serious because it followed a succession of lean years. It must also be remembered that the costs which primary producers have to bear have risen by leaps and bounds. T remind the Government that this is one of the few major industries in Australia, the representatives of which have never come to any government for a subsidy or for assistance of any kind. In fact, when thu Government, some months ago, proposed to vote money for the assistance of cereal growers who had suffered from drought, I moved an amendment designed to extend the benefits of the scheme to producers of fat-stock, but the Government rejected the proposal. The industry had always stood on its own feet, and the Government insisted that it should go on doing so.
Due to a combination of circumstances, there has been a very serious diminution of the quantity of fat stock available for sale, and three forms of active competition have developed for such stock as are available. First, there is the competition for fat stock for consumption on the home market; secondly, there is competition for stock to fill the quota which Australia feels in honour bound to supply to the United Kingdom; thirdly, there i3 the competition of the graziers for stock with which to replenish their herds after the losses resulting from drought. These three factors in combination have had the inevitable and predictable effect of driving up prices. Notwithstanding the fact that the Government has assumed the direction of many industries, it deliberately resolved, with the .approval of the fat-stock industry, to leave unchanged the system of selling by auction. The keen competition for stock drove prices to a level which made it impossible for wholesale butchers to sell carcasses at a price within the limits prescribed by the Government. As a result, black marketing has been widespread, but the producers have not been a party to it. They sold their stock in open competition in the manner approved by the Government. However, it is common knowledge that black marketing operations have been going on. During last winter, the shortage of fat-stock was nw;[ acute in the southern market. Great quantities of fat-stock were bought, in New South Wales, at the Homebush market and in other places, as well as in the graziers’ paddocks, by persons who trucked them to Victoria for -slaughter in Melbourne. The stock were bought at prices- which butchers in New South Wales could not afford to pay and still sell within the fixed government prices. When the cost of transporting the stock to Melbourne was added it was obvious that the carcasses could be resold only at prices well in excess of the fixed wholesale selling price. Yet this trade went on for many months without intervention by the Government until it assumed the proportions of a stable business.
– Does the honorable member say that the stock was sold twice?
– No, it waS sold on the black market, and with the knowledge of the Government, but nothing was done to put an end to the practice until, in very recent times, the Government found itself in possession of quantities of frozen meat in northern areas, particularly Queensland, which could be sent to the south and sold in order to cope with a particular situation. The Government had been virtually a party to widespread black marketing operations for many months, but only when it found itself with supplies of frozen meat in Queensland did it decide to do something about stopping black marketing. Incidental, but important, is the fact that the action of the Government in sending frozen beef from Queensland to Victoria for sale on the local market can only mean a reduction of the quantity allotted for shipment to the United Kingdom. Then the Government set about quashing the black market. Butchers’ premises and private homes were raided, books and money seized, and prosecutions launched. It was made quite clear then, only a few weeks ago, that thenceforth no butcher would be able to black-market, and must trade within the law. I offer no criticism of that. What I do criticize is the result. The butchers met and, quite understandably from my point of view, decided, “If we can no longer black-market and if we are to remain in business, we must protect ourselves “. They decided to protect themselves against competition between themselves by appointing from amongst them a panel of appraisers whose duty it would be to appraise the value of every pen of livestock at Newmarket. The appraised price is what one man shall bid. One man having obtained the stock, then they ali, by some process, divide it amongst themselves for slaughter. From their point of view, that was a good scheme that would work, but, at one stroke, the traditional basis on which the live-stock industry is founded, open competition at auction, was ended. It is analogous to the employers grouping to decide what rate of wages shall be paid to all workers and that men not prepared to accept that rate shall not be employed. The prices that the producers receive for their stock are their wages.
– Not necessarily the producers.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is going to say, “ The dealers .come into it “. Of course they do; but, basically, it is the product of the producers that is sold. The honorable gentleman knows that . no government, particularly a Labor government, would condone action by the employers to dictate what rate of wages should be paid in industry. It certainly would not be expected that a Labour Government would take steps to force men refusing to accept work at rates so determined. But this Government is now confronted with a state of affairs in which the purchasers of the products of the live-stock breeders, which represent their wages, have banded themselves into a monopoly and have publicly announced their intention to pay their price for stock. The Government has done nothing to prevent the development of this. situation. The only step that it has taken is equal to a strike-breaking step, namely, the diversion of beef originally destined for Great Britain to Melbourne for sale.
– The honorable gentleman admits that this is a strike.
– Yes; my friends in the live-stock industry deny it, but I do not attempt to do so, because it is equal to a strike. It arises from recognition of the fact that the only language this Government understands is the language of strikers. “We have been brought to a sad state of affairs when producers, who never before in the history of this country have taken action that could be described as striking, have now taken action which I have no shame in describing as a strike against an intolerable state of affairs.
– Is it claimed that the appraised price is too low?
– Of course it is, but, in addition to that, it is claimed that,
– For a considerable time there has been a conspiracy between certain sections of the meat industry to destroy the coupon ration scheme, the quota system, and the control of meat prices. 1 need not describe ki detail what would be the consequences if that conspiracy were successful. It would mean that the price of meat would rise to an exorbitant level, and that the quantity of meat which we could export to Great Britain would be greatly reduced.
– Did the Minister say that there had been a conspiracy?*
– Yes, a conspiracy between certain sections of the meat industry in Victoria.
– Who are they ?
– I shall make my speech in my own way. Lest it should be thought that I have made an exaggerated statement, I propose to read extracts from certain articles in the Melbourne press; and the Melbourne press is not biased in favour of this Government. In the Age of the 4th March, 1946, appeared the following statement: -
Any breakaway from controlled prices would have far-reaching effects on the cost of living. What is happenning with meat is a depressing commentary on civic and ethical standards, and an obvious, curtailment of our ability to help the people of Britain.
– Is that editorial comment?
– Yes. In the Argus of the 5th March, 1946, this statement was published -
Consequently Mr. Scully, Minister for Commerce, is justified in invoking National Security Regulations to acquire all supplies of meat in the Melbourne metropolitan area.
The Age of the 6th March, 1946, stated -
The whole campaign for enforcement of rationing and curbing its evasions and abuses arises from this basic wish to comply with Britain’s urgent need. Unless the objective can be achieved, a major purpose of the controls is forfeited. Prices and margins as among graziers who withhold stock, wholesalers who refuse to operate, and retailers bound by prescribed selling limits . . .
And honorable members can judge for themselves from that statement who the conspirators are - . involve questions too intricate for those outside the trade to pass competent judgment. But most people realize that overall organization of the trade, and a firm control of the market, are necessary for two reasons. First, that more meat may go to Great Britain, and. second, that sufficient sup-, plies to cover the ration scale be available in the shops here from day to day.
The Melbourne Herald, of the 11th March,. 1946, .contained the following passage : -
To the outsider unskilled in the finer points of price-fixing, there would seem to be something anomalous in fixing retail prices without fixing wholesale prices for beasts at the stockyards. But, despite “this apparent illogicality, the system worked until the last few weeks. The grievances which have developed have been most marked since the drive against black ‘marketing became more forceful. Whether or not the suggestion can bie sustained, there is ground for the suspicion that the crisis may be due in some part to collusion between various interacts which are determined to discredit the whole system of pricefixing.
In further substantiation of my contentention that a conspiracy has occurred. I quote from the verbatim report of a deputation which waited on the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) at the end of last week. . Mr. McNamara, a well-known stock and station agent, i? reported, thus -
He went on to say that following the butchers’ decision he had been inundated with inquiries from clients wanting to know what they should do. He had told them to please themselves and his firm had announced that as far as they personally were concerned they did not want to take any truck orders. He felt it was necessary to take a stand and with the result there was no stock in the market at Newmarket.
Quite clearly that is a “stand and deliver “ attitude on the part of this stock and station agent. The report continued -
Mr. McNamara suggested that if wholesale prices and quotas were lifted, 95 per cent, of “ black marketing “ would disappear in Victoria.
Mr. McKenzie, another member of the deputation ; strongly suggested the abolition of the compulsory ceiling price and the introduction of free competition.
Later in these lengthy proceedings, *Mr. ** McNamara mentioned that -
Owners had plenty of feed and need not market stock for about two’ (2) months.
Obviously that was a threat by this particular stock and station agent to influence stock owners against sending their stock to market.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister reading from the verbatim report of a deputation which waited on the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture? If so, will he lay the report upon the table of the House so that all honorable members may peruse it?
– I am reading from a verbatim report, and I do not propose to lay it upon the table.
– I rise to order. Under the Standing Orders is the Minister not obliged to lay the report on the table if required by an honorable member- to do so?
-If the Minister declares that it is a confidential report, he need not lay it on the table.
– The Minister has not said that it is a confidential report.
– It is a confidential report. In order to obtain a proper understanding of this problem, one has to explain certain facts about the meat industry. The present difficulty has arisen because of the relationship between retail meat prices, carcass meat prices, and the price of. fat stock. By regulation, the Government has fixed the retail and wholesale prices of meat, and it was intended that those two controls should so operate that in the live-stock markets wholesale butchers would not bid more for the stock offered than would enable them to sell at -or below the wholesale ceiling price fixed by government regulations. That was the purpose of the regulation. Some persons declared- that it could not and should not operate, but I fail to see any difference between that position, and what operates at ordinary times when there is no price control. The wholesale butcher estimates what he should get for his meat if he sells wholesale, and bids accordingly in the market. In this instance, he does not have to go to the trouble of making an estimate of what he will get for his meat when he sells it wholesale. The regulations provide that he shall not go above a certain price, and that saves him so much trouble.’ Acting on that, he is in exactly the same position in the livestock . markets as if there were no price control at all. Therefore, I fail to see why that method should not have operated satisfactorily, but, in fact, some wholesalers, and again I ‘say thai their actions deserve profound disapproval, bid higher prices at the fat-stock sales than would enable them to sell their meat at the’ fixed ceiling price; in consequence, a certain measure of black marketing developed in the wholesale and retail butchering trade. Determined to stamp out this black marketing, the Government introduced regulations acquiring all carcass meat in the City of Melbourne. The purpose was to ensure that whatever meat was available in Melbourne should be equitably distributed among the retailers in the city. Since the Government has taken that action, those who have live-stock for sale have come to the conclusion that they will not send their stock to be marketed.
Another factor in this industry should be explained, namely, that prices fluctuate according to the season of the year. In the winter time, prices are high; in the spring and summer, prices decline to about export parity. It has been said - I do not know how much truth there is in it - that at times meat is sold wholesale in the winter months at a loss to the wholesale butchers, and that in the summer they recoup in some measure their losses. Whether that be the case or not, it is a fact that prices for meat are higher in the winter months than they are in the spring or summer. The Government, realizing that stock producers had suffered very considerably in recent droughts, raised the ceiling prices for meat to the winter level at a far earlier stage this year than it did last year or in previous years. That was done because it was recognized that the producers of livestock had suffered some loss in the recent drought. In fact, however, the prices for livestock this year are higher than they were at this time last year, when we were right in the middle of the disastrous drought.
– There is a reason for that.’
– I am well aware that there is an explanation of it. We have had good rains and people are competing in the market for stock. Yet the plain fact is that the prices for fat stock are higher this year than they were last year, when, as I have said, we were in the middle of drought. It is also true that the Government has advanced the price of meat earlier this year, right to the average winter level. This has been done far sooner than would normally have been the case.
The issue is, of course, whether the producers of livestock are obtaining an adequate return for the labour involved in providing livestock for the community. I have had discussions with a large number of livestock producers on this subject, and every one of them has said that the wholesale ceiling price for meat is high enough to allow prices to be paid in the stock market which will give producers an adequate return. Not only so, but as I pointed out earlier, the price of meat has risen- 40 per cent, above pre-war prices. The cost of living, however, has risen by only 22^ per cent. Therefore, the producers of fat-stock in Australia have obtained a greater “increase over prewar prices than have the producers of any other class in the .community. They have certainly obtained a very much greater increase than the increase which the wage-earners have received. The price of meat is now definitely 40 per cent, higher than in 1939. As to whether the producers are obtaining an adequate return for their labour, I have some additional evidence to offer in the form of statistical information which I have obtained from the Taxation Department. This information, let me say, is not of a confidential character, for it could have been obtained by any other honorable member of the House who had asked for it. The information is of such a character that it will sound the death-knell to whatever hopes Opposition members may have had of winning any additional country seats at the next election. The figures show the increase, expressed as a percentage, in the number of primary producers enjoying incomes in specified ranges in 1943-44 as compared with 1939-40. The table is as follows : -
– The Minister should relate those figures to all other economic activities.
– The figures throw a flood of light on the question whether or not producers of live-stock are obtaining an adequate return for their labour, and they show clearly, especially when related (to other figures which I have given, that these particular producers are in an extremely good position, i The Commonwealth Government does not intend to accede to the request of certain grazing interests, supported, apparently, by the honorable member for Indi, for a subsidy on beef, lamb and mutton, for to do so would amount to a direct contradiction of the policy of price control which operated during the war years. It would also involve in further losses those, graziers who desire to re-stock their holdings. If the price of fat stock is allowed to go to an extravagantly high figure, those who desire to buy cattle for re-stocking will have to pay correspondingly high prices.
– How does the appraised price of meat compare with previous prices?
– It is 40 per cent, higher than the pre-war price.
– Some of the pre-war prices were disastrously low.
– The honorable member for Indi is apparently now ‘ready to admit that prices are much higher than they were. The Commonwealth Government is determined to adhere to its policy of controlling prices, at a’ reasonable and equitable level, which will ensure to livestock raisers an adequate return for their work, and to consumers of meat, a reasonable price for meat. In effect, the propounders of this scheme for a subsidy are suggesting that the ceiling price for beef in Melbourne should be 60s. per 100 lb. as against the recognized ceiling price of 41s. 8d. per 100 lb. in Queensland, which is export parity.
– It is suggested that the subsidy should be 5s. per 100 lb.
– It is possible to move chilled beef from Brisbane to Melbourne and land it at a -figure that can be related to 50s. per 100 lb. Why, then, should a subsidy of 10s. per 100 lb. be paid for beef in Melbourne when, normally, supplies are available, and always have been . available, from New South Wales and Queensland at the lower figure? This transfer of chilled meat is not new. It has always occurred in the trade. The Commonwealth Government can see no reason whatever why, at this particular juncture, it should prevent the free movement of meat or stock from the lower price markets of neighbouring States to the high price market in Victoria. The meat industry has consistently asked the Commonwealth Government for freedom from control-
– What the live-stock producers want is a fair price.
– I believe that I have said sufficient to show that the present ceiling price is fair and reasonable. This is one instance, apparently, in which freedom from control is not acceptable. The Government intends to see that essential institutions in Melbourne are supplied with meat. It will continue the acquisition order. until such time as equilibrium between supply and demand has been achieved at prices which will be related to the prices ruling in other States of the Commonwealth. As soon as that position has been realized,, action will be taken, to lift the acquisition order at present in operation, but not sooner than that. Meat will be moved, when necessary from’ New South Wale3 and Queensland to Victoria. I make.it clear that if the producers in Victoria continue to defy the Government in their endeavour to break down price control and the coupon rationing- system, which is- being maintained for the purpose of enabling us to send more meat to Great Britain, the Government will very seriously consider acquiring stock on the hoof.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has made a rather remarkable reply to the very sound case placed before the House by the honorable member for Indi (Mr, McEwen), and has threatened the producers that, unless they take certain action, the Government will acquire meat on- the hoof. The Government will be very sorry if it takes such a step. It is difficult enough to maintain and police rationing at the present time, and the system has largely failed. Control of prices, on the hoof in a country which sells millions of fa.t and store stock of every description would be an almost impossible task. The control could not be satisfactorily policed. The Minister mentioned a conspiracy between certain sections of the meat industry. I should like him to tell us what the conspiracy was, and who wore the conspirators. If there has been any arch-conspirator, it is the Government, which by reason of its failure to enforce rationing during the last eighteen months has definitely been responsible for the situation that now exists in Victoria. All. must admit that effect has not been given to the coupon system. That, is not new; it has been happening during the hist twelve or eighteen months, and the Government has not taken any action to correct the position. The chairman of the Rationing Commission admitted in this House that it was almost impossible to police meat rationing in this country. Month after month the Government has failed to take any action to police meat rationing. The situation has been allowed to drift. I have no doubt that the people of Melbourne have been consuming what may be described as black market meat, and that: it can be said that butchers have been- selling such meat. The real reason for that, is the failure of the Government to take steps to check the practice. It is more at fault than, any other section, of the community. The. producer has merely sent stock to the Melbourne market, and has taken, the price paid to him a>t open auction.
I wish to make, a brief reference to the income tax figures cited by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. If we have regard to the rising national income,- we must conclude that almost every section of the community has had an increase of income within recent years. But the fact has to be remembered that the man on the land has not been able to obtain superphosphate, or labour to carry out necessary works. In many respects, his property is in an advanced state of disrepair. These factors are reflected in’ his income tax returns. That position has been recognised by the Taxation Department, and the Government last year took certain steps - not very good ones - to alleviate it. The Minister mentioned a 40 per cent, increase of meat prices compared with 1939. It is well known that prior to the war the prices of woo] and meat were considerably below- the cost of production. It is not fair to compare the pre-war prices, which were below the cost of production, with the very high prices that were caused mainly by drought conditions. The Minister took the figures for the year 1943-44, not the year that has just closed, which reveal the severe losses which the producers have suffered by reason of the drought. The drought has been the main reason for the debacle that has occurred in Victoria. Last year, when making provision for drought relief, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) estimated that drought losses of producers amounted to approximately £60,000.000. The estimate of some of his colleagues was £100.000,000. In view of the smaller wool clip that is now coming forward, probably the estimate of his colleagues was the more accurate. Of that £100.000,000, between £50,000,000 and £60,000.000 was borne by the farming and pastoral industries. Such losses have not been paralleled previously in the history of this country. With the loss of millions of sheep, have not these figures’ to be taken into consideration in assessing, the cost of production to-day? Of course they have! Many of the sheep that are being sold to-day have cost from 15s. to £1 a head to keep alive. Ewes that are being sold for £2 a head have cost the grower of wool up to £3 a head, taking into consideration the cost of feeding them for two years. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, who. has had practical experience on the land, knows that. I fed sheep from early in January last year, and. the cost was fairly considerable. ‘ The losses caused by the drought, and the increased costs that had to be incurred, have been tremendous. These are reflected in the fat-stock markets. Graziers are to-day attempting to restock their properties, in order to maintain production and make possible exports of meat to Great Britain. The demands by graziers for restocking have had the effect of forcing up the prices in the fat-stock markets. Winter prices of fat-stock last year were allowed to rise to higher levels. The Government made no attempt to force the market down to ceiling prices, or to enforce rationing. This year, growers bought sheep at certain prices in anticipation of a high level prevailing throughout the winter. Most of the men on the land to-day are looking forward to receiving enhanced prices for their wool, particularly fine crossbred and comeback varieties. That is having a very definite effect on stock prices in this country. All of these factors must have been known to the Government, if there is a practical man in its ranks. Yet, in the closing months of last year, price control attempted to bring prices down. In Victoria, normally 4,000,000 lambs were killed ; this year the number totalled hundreds of thousands only. The rest either died or were retained for breeding purposes on the farms. Yet the Government began to reduce ceiling prices. Three reductions were made in successive months - September, October, and November. Action of that kind was calculated to breed black marketing. The demand existed. The people of Melbourne were prepared to buy meat at the prices asked. In the circumstances, what other action could the butcher take, unless he was prepared to lose hundreds of pounds a week? The Minister claimed that the Government had raised prices. Of course it has, but in February only. Nevertheless, the present prices are still not sufficient to meet the new level of values established because of drought conditions and the other factors I have mentioned. If the Melbourne market is to be forced back to ceiling prices, there will be a loss to producers of between 8s. and 10s. a head on lambs, of between 6s. and Ss. a head on mutton, and of £2 or £3 a head on cattle. Of course, dealers go to New South Wales, bring stock down, and sell it at convenient centres in southern districts. In that connexion, they do what necessarily .has to be done. Sometimes they make good profits, but at other times they make a loss. The hig majority of the crossbred sheep, particularly, that have been taken to the southern districts and sold, are now in the possession of the producers. Those producers who breed stock in the hilly country look to others to fatten them on better quality country during the winter. The levels at which stock are sold in the saleyards to-day are much higher than the ceiling prices. The grower can sell at ceiling prices only if he is prepared to lose up to 10s. a head on lambs, 8s. a head on mutton, and £2 or £3 a head on cattle. I do not believe that the grazier is on strike. He is being asked to sell at below the cost of production. No law of equity can force a man to sell at less than the cost of production.
– The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Sufficient has been said about what has occurred at Newmarket, and what has been responsible for the present position. What is needed is a solution of the problem. AVe should endeavour to view the matter clearly. What do the producers want most of all? They require that the Newmarket sales shall be kept open. Even if the prices were £1 a head lower than they are, these men would still require an open market. It may be said that Newmarket is the shop window of the primary producer in respect of fat and store stock. It is the great price-fixing centre of Victoria, the southern Riverina, and all the districts in the south-east of South Australia. It controls also the price paid at private sales in the paddock. When buying sheep from a mail in the paddock, he will tell the buyer if the prices at the Newmarket sales are up, and the buyer will tell him if they are down. Therefore, Newmarket has become of vital importance. It is essential that the Government take steps to ensure that it shall be kept open as a great auction market. When an auctioneer opens hig sale he must by law read the conditions of sale, the start of which is “ The highest bidder shall be the purchaser “. Under the scheme of buying that” producers are protesting. against, this condition would not -apply. Bidding was to be allowed to go only to a level approved by appointed persons, and then the stock had to be “ knocked down “, no matter how many buyers were then prepared to bid for and buy the stock at higher rates. The stock so purchased was to be distributed to retailers, despite the fact that there is a law in Victoria which prohibits the splitting of lots, the penalty for infringement being for the first offence .a heavy fine, and for subsequent offences terms of imprisonment. This wholesale distribution to retailers would not allow of the best result, as there are many butchers who, according to their equipment and customers, are able to handle stock of a certain class and weight to much better advantage than would be the case under the proposed scheme of buying. The whole scheme is not in the best interests of producers or any one else. After years of drought, primary producers had to take very low prices. One man sent two trucks of stock from Donald to Newmarket. The agents returned to him an account for £4-odd; and did not charge him commission. If these nien take low prices without any floor price being fixed, surely they are entitled to a higher price when the conditions are such as now exist. If the wholesale price level were to go, the wholesalers would have to buy their meat in the market at the level at which the retailers could sell. The Government does not feel inclined to lift that restriction. Every other class in the community appears to be sheltered in one way or another. Many years ago, the stock manager of a public body in Melbourne which had a farm decided that he was overstocked by 700 or 800 sheep. He decided to put some of the stock on the market. A meeting of the directors of the firm was called to consider what price should be accepted, and one of them, a manufacturer, was perplexed. He said, “ Why not put 33 per cent, on them, and let. them go?” Of course, primary producers cannot do that, because theirs is not a sheltered industry. When they have the opportunity to sell at high prices why should they not take advantage of it? I maintain that, at the .present time, the graziers are not on strike. A boot manufacturer who made boots, but who, for some reason, declined to sell them, would not be on strike. The graziers are keeping their properties in order, and the stock are, in the meantime gaining weight in most instances, and this will be of benefit to the community when the stock are finally put’ on the market. There has been some mention of food for Britain. I have here some tickets which were taken off export lamb carcasses. They show that the lamb was classed for export, but a butcher in Melbourne took the tickets off the carcasses and handed them to me.
– Are they the same tickets which the honorable member for. Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) had?
– Yes; but what I am saying is true now, just as what he said was true. These tickets prove that meat intended for export to Great Britain and other countries has been diverted to overcome the present difficulty in Victoria. While that situation continues there is a danger that small buyers will be forced out of. business. Newmarket is a great market only because there are so many competitors. One agent alone on one day sold to ICI different buyers. If sales are held up for much longer, many of these small buyers who created competition will have to turn their attention elsewhere. Then, Newmarket will be like other markets where there are only a few buyers, and there will not be the same keen competition as before
The Government should remember that the primary producers are not alone affected by, the present deadlock. Others are out of work, including drovers, saleyard employers, butchers, slaughtermen, &c. It would be hard to estimate the actual number of persons whose .employment depends upon the fat-stock market. Their interests also should be considered.
Reference was made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to the higher prices which prevail in winter as compared with summer prices; and that can be easily explained. lt is. n matter of supply and demand. Naturally, in the winter-time, when the weather is cold, it .is harder to fatten stock, no matter how much feed there is. However, in the spring-time, when the weather improves, stock fatten more easily, and increased supplies become available. The Minister said that the fixed prices would allow winter values to bc maintained for a longer period. It is necessary to remember that because of the drought not so many stock are available. Supplies are light, and therefore prices are higher.
Representatives of the meat trade in Melbourne are anxious that something shall be done to put an end to the present deadlock. The butchers themselves finally decided to put an end to black marketing, and the Government should take action to help them. Does the Government believe that a subsidy to retailers would solve the problem? I do not propose to offer suggestions because the present difficulty has arisen out of the restrictions imposed by the Government, and it is the Government’s duty to overcome those difficulties. I urge that the open market for fat-stock should bc -restored as quickly as possible. Something has been said about stock agents advising their clients not to send fat-stock forward for sale. I remind honorable members that the stock salesman is the agent for the vendor only, and that he gets his living from the commission charged on the sale of stock. When stock are selling at 5s. a head, the agent is not able to pay his expenses any more than is the producer.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The speech of the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen) had an apologetic flavour, and it was obvious that he was not too confident of his ground. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) found fault with the Government chiefly on the ground that it had delayed taking action.
He did not condemn the action which was eventually taken, but said that the Government should have acted twelve or eighteen months ago. Apart from that, his only suggestion was that the black market should have been allowed to continue. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), who is himself an auctioneer-
– I was.
– He is engaged on the selling side, and the auctioneers are playing an important part in the hold-up. The honorable member said that ‘meat was being diverted from export in order to supply the home market, and he produced some tickets in order to prove that carcasses offered on the home market had been passed for export. Only a little while ago, the Grazier.? Association carried a resolution asking for a 20 per cent, reduction of meat for the home market in order that more meat might be sent overseas. To-day, graziers are acting in such a way as to withhold meat, not only from local consumers, but also from Great Britain, because it has been found necessary to divert meat intended for export in order to supply local requirements. The first priority in regard to meat is for the Army. The second is for local consumption, and the third is for export. If, because of a strike by graziers, the local demand cannot be satisfied within the limits imposed by rationing, it then becomes necessary to draw upon meat intended for export. The action of the graziers is unpatriotic. Indeed, their patriotism is conditioned by their anxiety to make profit.
– That is a rotten charge to make against the graziers.
– I make it against some graziers, and some of their agents, also. The present situation developed because the Government took action to prevent black marketing in meat. The Government refused to permit the meat to be sold on the black market, either retail or wholesale. Then the wholesale butchers refused to pay more in the market for fat stock than would enable them to sell the carcasses within the price limits fixed by the Government. This was followed by threats that stock would be withheld, and the Government intervened by declaring that it would take over all stock offering on the market in order to ensure that supplies were distributed equitably, while also ensuring that the interests of the graziers were protected. However, at the request of the auctioneers and agents, many primary producers have actually withheld their stock from sale. Last week, a substantial number of stock were brought in and were available for sale, but the auctioneers refused to offer them, with the exception of one truck load. Cattle and sheep were turned out of the yard without being offered for sale. In that instance, the auctioneers, not the graziers, were responsible.
The chief purpose of the Government has been to ensure that the producers shall receive fair prices. Many of the graziers are content with the prices fixed by the Government, which are a good deal higher than the average previously prevailing. I was present when a deputation discussed, this matter with representatives of the Government, and I heard some of them admit that the outlook for meat producers for the next two years was brighter than ever before. The Government is charged with three responsibilities - first, to ensure a fair price for the producers; secondly, to ensure that consumers shall be provided with meat at a reasonable price; and, thirdly, to ensure that the producer who has to restock his property after the drought shall not be exploited because of the high prices resulting from black marketing.
The Government has taken action to ensure that the supply of meat shall be maintained, particularly during the difficult period following the drought. Six months ago, a meat famine threatened. The railway authorities refused to carry stock from New South Wales to Victoria, but the Commonwealth Government intervened to ensure that trucks were made available for this purpose. Since then good rain has fallen, and there is now no excuse for withholding stock from the market. As long ago as last September the Government warned agents and producers that the Government would act to ensure that meat was not sold above the fixed price. After that the licences of some operators were cancelled because of their association with black marketing operations. They were not allowed to trade for several weeks, and suffered heavy losses in consequence.
The maintenance of fixed prices is important, not only to the meat trade, but to other sections of the community also. Wages have been fixed, and prices for most primary products and secondary products also have been fixed. Therefore, the Government cannot allow the meat producers to charge any price they like. The same rule must apply to all.
Those graziers who are” now withholding their stock will probably be complaining in a little’ while that they cannot get their stock killed. Supplies of fat lambs on the Victorian market were small last year, probably only one-sixth or oneeighth of the usual quantity. This is a bumper lamb season, and lambs for export are coming forward much earlier than usual. Consequently we shall have a very heavy export killing to deal with, and if stock is held back from the markets, the producers will not be listened to if they then complain that they cannot have their stock killed. They cannot expect to withhold stock now and then send it to the market and have it slaughtered in the flush period. That is only common sense.. They are receiving a fair and reasonable price for their stock. The price of lamb for home consumption is more than 2d. per lb. greater than the price for export. [Extension of time granted.’] We have heard to-day that the stock-raisers are being harshly treated because they will have to buy stock at high prices and will not be able to market it at a profit. High prices for stock would not help men who lost their stock in the droughts. On the contrary high prices would ruin them when they tried to re-stock. The only persons who would benefit from high stock prices are the speculators who have bought stock at low prices in drought affected areas, and sold it in Melbourne at high prices. Mcnamara went to one town in my electorate and bought 3,000 head of sheep at 30s. a head. He re-sold them in Melbourne at 55s. a head. That is a net profit of £3,000 on one deal.
– Did the honorable member say that he bought them?
– He bought them through his agents’. The auctioneer told me that they were bought on Mr. McNamara’s account. Every one knows that he operates through “ dummies “. The honorable member for Wimmera, who is an auctioneer, should know that.
– I was an auctioneer.
– The honorable member for Indi ‘(Mr. McEwen) is a dealer in stock. He does not breed lambs at all.
– I do.
– He buys stock, puts it on his property, fattens it and resells at a high profit.’ ‘ “ Mr. McEwen. - I wish it were true.
– He “cashes in” on other producers who have suffered drought. Because he has an irrigation block, he is able to fatten the stock he buys from less fortunate producers and is thereby able to “ cash in “ on the present high prices, whereas the genuine re-stocker will not be able to sell for another twelve months when prices will be down. To allow prices to go high will be to bring ruin to men who have to re-stock their properties. The meat industry of this country must export. Lamb is one of our greatest export commodities. The price of lamb for home consumption is about 2d. per lb. more than the export price. If the lamb-raisers do not breed for the export market they will face ruin. New Zealand, a most serious competitor with us on the overseas meat markets, is increasing its lamb export trade. Argentina before the war was a small producer of lambs, but it has doubled and is still increasing its lamb production. If wc are to maintain our position in the overseas market we must sell at strictly competitive prices. The advocates of “ lifting the lid “ off meat prices so. that the price spiral might go as high as possible advocate a policy of ruin for not only the stock-raisers, but also every one associated with the meat industry, as well as the consumer whose wages are pegged but who has to pay the ruling prices, whatever they may be, for meat. Melbourne requires about 1,500 tons qf meat a week to meet the coupon demand, but 2,000 tons has been sold. So there has been a loss of 500 tons a week on the black market. Comparable losses have been experienced in other capital cities of the Commonwealth, but Melbourne is one of the worst black market centres, as far as meat is concerned. The Government is determined that the black market shall not continue and has taken action to stifle it. I do not desire to labour the matter. I think I have covered most of the points raised in this debate. I conclude by stressing that the Government is determined to break down the black market rampant in Melbourne. The plan that it has devised to do so is the only method. If the graziers are wise they will send their stock to the market and accept what is a reasonable price. The only solution offered by honorable members opposite is that the Government should accept the black market as a fa.it accompli, and’ “ lift, the lid “ so that prices might rise even higher than they are now.
– That is incorrect.
– It is not. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) disclosed what was said by the representatives of the stock-raisers in Canberra, a few days ago. I could quote their statements because I have them beside me. I was at the meeting and have a record of what was said. One of the chief complainers is McNamara, who has possibly done more to wreck the meat market than any one else in Melbourne. It is known that he has cornered trucks and not used them, in order to keep stock off the market and so enhance prices for the stock available. It is said that on one occasion his representatives went into the stock yards after midnight and took out 100 head of cattle so that the price of those remaining might be increased. The honorable member for Indi is quite familiar with that practice, for his career as a primary producer has been based on the exploitation of other producers by buying their stock when they have suffered adverse seasonal conditions, fattening it on his irrigated block and then reselling at a profit.
.- The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) seems to regard the pastoralists as the villians of the piece. I am a primary producer, but I do not feel a bit like a villain.
– The honorable gentleman does not look a villain.
– Thanks for the compliment. A great, many of my friends, constituents and others, are also primary producers, and I know much of what goes on in primary production to-day. I do not like citing my own experience as an example, but, over the last two years, I have lost 75 per cent, of my sheep. Those that I have saved I have kept alive by paying for feed for them. “What is true of me is true of hundreds of other pastoralists.
– The honorable member does not say that he lost stock on the property on which he lives.
– The sheep I saved were on that property and the others on property in New South Wales. The pastoralists have a particularly strong claim for consideration from the Government, but the Government does not seem prepared . to give it to them. I appeal, however, to it, if I may call it an appeal, for consideration on a wider line than it seems to have adopted. Four interests are concerned in the intolerable situation, which has existed, not for a week, or six weeks, but a couple of years. The first interest is that of the consuming public, which has had to buy meat at high prices, very high prices in some cases. On occasions it has not been able -to get meat at all. The second interest is that of the producers. They were sailing on an even keel until the Government upset the boat. The third is that of the wholesale and retail butchers, particularly the retail butchers.
– By what action has the Government upset the boat?
– Give me time and I shall tell the honorable gentleman all about it. I say openly that wholesale and retail butchers, who themselves will admit it, have been compelled to deal on the black, market in order to save businesses that, after many . years of hard work, they have developed. The fourth interest is that of the United Kingdom, and it is the most important. The requirements of the United Kingdom have .been neglected by this Government. The supplies that might have been forthcoming for export to Great Britain have not been forthcoming. I lay at the door of the Government, without any compunction, the responsibility ‘for the position that has arisen in the Victorian meat trade. It is responsible because of two fundamental facts, first, the rationing of meat and, secondly, the fixing of ceiling wholesale and retail meat prices. Rationing of meat was introduced to reduce local consumption to a reasonable level so that more meat might be sent to Great Britain. Then we had the imposition of ceiling prices. But what happened? Neither control was observed for a moment, but no action was taken by the Government until recently to enforce either. In the first few months after meat rationing was introduced in Great Britain, thousands of prosecutions were launched against offenders against the regulations, but I cannot recall more than ‘three or four prosecutions for breaches of the regulations in this country, and even those prosecutions were not launched until, so to speak, the eleventh hour.
Although the ceiling prices have been altered to a degree they have never taken into account the production costs of the primary producers. I heard the honorable member for Darling say that the meat producers were doing very well,, that prices were 40 per cent, above the pre-war levels, but 40 per cent, above the. pre-war levels only represents the increased costs of production to-day. A lamb sold at 37s. 6d. to-day represents a return of 25s. before the- drought, the fires and other recent occurrences. So, when he gays that the meat producers are making too much money, I tell him that the Government’s policy is not only going to. ruin many producers– I am not talking particularly about them-but also the whole system by which meat is grown and marketed’ for this country and Great Britain. Therefore, I believe that the Government will, give further attention to this most important matter. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) put forward several possible courses. The only one, that he turned down,, as I do, is the lifting of the controls. That cannot b& done. Another was the payment of a subsidy, which is not a new idea, for a short space of time to cover the winter months. Let it be 2d. per lb. for mutton and lamb, and 7s. 6d. per 100 lb. for beef. The third course, which I regret, is. that which the Government itself has proposed, namely, to enforce at the eleventh hour, regulations which should have been enforced when they were introduced. The Government has created a situation during which strong vested interests have been formed, including butchers, distributors and consumers. Now, the Government is attempting to enforce a control which it should have enforced four years ago. - Its action is too late,. ,and will do harm only to individuals but also to the whole of the meat trade.
– To say that the position in Victoria is not difficult is simply to beg the whole question. Last Friday .a deputation representing the Newmarket Producers Association waited on me in Canberra. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) were presentUnfortunately. I had to leave the conference after lunch for the purpose of fulfilling, a long-standing engagement, but the honorable member for Ballarat took “le chair in my “absence, and I understand that the conversations were quite harmonious.
– Members of the deputation informed’ a meeting of producers at Newmarket that the honorable, member for Ballarat had’ been very discourteous.
– The delegation consisted of Mr. McNamara, whom I know very well and whom I regard as a personal friend. Mr. McLennan. Mr.. McKenzie .and Mr. Field. All of them are estimable men in their own sphere, and they submitted their case to me. I did not agree entirely with some of their statements, and later they were so informed, but they did adduce arguments which impressed ma considerably. The whole basis of their contentions was that all controls over the meat industry should be lifted for a period of two months.
– We do not advocate that.
– I am aware of that. 1 informed the deputation that the Government considered that the controls could not be removed at this juncture. After the war of 1914-18,. meat prices soared to abnormal levels and suddenly collapsed, with the result that throughcut the length and breadth of Australia, but particularly in the eastern States, many thousands- of graziers and stockdealers were ruined. I contended that a similar situation would arise- in the future if meat controls were removed, now. With the abolition of “ controls, all the big dealers in Australia would forward stock p.s quickly as possible to the Melbourne market, thereby reducing supplies in other States, particularly Queensland and New South Wales, where the season has been comparatively favorable. In addition, supplies would not be available for the eastern markets and. those meat works which operate almost wholly for export purposes. The result would be disastrous. Naturally, I am anxious to end the deadlock in Victoria. It is operating to the disadvantage of all concerned. I informed the deputation that the Government does not intend to use a “ big stick “. I said, “ The moment we can see daylight, controls imposed by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture will be removed “. I assure honorable members that some of the controls were not imposed until after we had been notified that supplies were being withheld.
– The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) spoke in a different strain.
– He referred to action that may be taken in the event of a definite hold-up, as a result of which thousands of people in Victoria might starve. That position would be intolerable, and in such circumstances, the Government would introduce, acquisition and appraisement of stock on the hoof. On several occasions, I have received requests from stockowners- in many parts of Australia for the introduction of appraisement of stock on the hoof. In my opinion, that is impracticable. Honorable members opposite declared that butchers- in Melbourne had been placed inan” intolerable position, but I contend that some members of the trade aggravated the. situation… They engaged in black-marketing. They sold meat, and did not demand coupons for it. That increased the price of meat. I do not assert that black-marketing is confined to Victoria, bat it’ has been rampant, in that State. That is evident from the number of prosecutions’ which have been launched. One speaker in this- debate declared that only a few prosecutions had taken place, and said that if there had been tens of thousands’ of prosecutions, as in the United Kingdom, the position: would have been different. That may be true, but, in order to be able to launch thousands ©f prosecution’s, the department would require an army of inspectors-. We do not employ a large staff of inspectors, and it is difficult to get a conviction. The policing is not so easy as honorable members opposite appear to believe.
As I stated, the Government, is anxious to overcome the present deadlock. Mr. Stan Kelly, who is a primary producer, attended the conference last week as the representative of the Prices Branch. No man is more sympathetic or is better equipped than he is to assist in overcoming the present deadlock. Honorable members opposite will not dispute that fs et. He and men of his calibre are endeavouring to end the present impasse. Last night, we made arrangements for the Meat Commission to sit in Victoria next week-end in an effort to solve the problem. I do not desire the present situation to exist for one moment longer than is necessary. On behalf of the Government, I give an assurance that we do not wish to use a “ big stick “, but definitely, we cannot permit control to be taken out of the hands of the Government. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has referred to the export lamb trade. The fact is that thousands of lambs and tens of thousands of tons of beef, which are passed for export, are never exported, because they are required for local consumption. Every day, every hour, every minute that supplies are withheld from the Victorian markets, our export . trade is being affected.
At heart, the grazier and primary producer are very sound, but certain influences are at work among them. Having lived for many . years among dealers, I know how they operate. They have to . look after their own interests. As the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) stated, it appears that during the last few months, or even longer, a fictitious market has been created in Victoria.. The. result is that high prices are being paid for meat. The cost of sending stock from my electorate, or Southern Queensland to the southern markets is 5s. a head. That, charge is added to the price of meat. Of course, dealers are performing an essential service in bringing stock to the southern- markets, but they are not doing it for nothing. A fictitious market has been created in Victoria, and the Government is endeavouring to suppress black-marketing in order to make more meat available for the United Kingdom, where supplies are so urgently needed. Consequently many dealers who have had their stock on agistment in some parts of Victoria or the more favoured portions of New South Wales, are “ feeling the pinch “. From my consultations with the small producers in Victoria, I believe that they are only too anxious to cooperate with the Government. I trust that the common’ sense of all concerned will prevail during the forthcoming discussions so that conditions may return to normal.
.- It is all very well for the Government to assert that graziers are making large profits, but the fact is that they are not. A well-known grazier in the Deniliquin district, who has a fine property and is an efficient primary producer, stated that he has not paid any income tax for eight years. Doubtless the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) wonders who that man is. His identity would not be difficult to discover. But there are thousands of others in the same position. For a number of years, they have not made any profit. The head of a well-known pastoral company, a family company, informed me last Saturday that its loss last year totalled £90,000. Yet it is one of the most efficient pastoral companies in Australia and sold some of the finest stock at high prices!
– Let that company sell its property, and the land could be used for the purpose of soldier settlement.
– The firm may be glad - to adopt that course if it remains under the heel of the present Government for a lengthy period. The contention of Ministers that graziers are being well treated is ridiculous. When- restocking their properties, they have paid high prices for sheep and cattle. Some used to shear between 15,000 and 16,000 sheep, but this year they have not shorn any. When the forage was exhausted last year, it was impossible for many graziers to buy feed for their stock, and they sold the few sheep and cattle they had left at very low prices. Within the last eight months, lamb has been sold in the Melbourne market at 4d. per lb. The fixed price for wether mutton for export is 1 1/8d. per lb. less than it was in the 1914-1S contracts. The price of export beef is 4d. per lb., but that meat is being sold in London at ls. 5d. per lb. I should like to know who is reaping the profit. Some one must be making a handsome contribution to campaign funds.
– To the campaign funds of the Australian Country party?
– No, we do not indulge in those jokes. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) should look much nearer home.
In regard to by-products, I know one man who wanted to sell lambs’ skins with fourteen months’ wool on them. When he tried to sell the skins he was offered 6s. each for them by the merchants, but eventually managed to squeeze 6s. 6d. out of them. The lambs were shorn and then left for a fortnight. He then sold them for ls. a pelt and received per head 13s. 7d. for the wool. That is the way the big companies, which honorable gentlemen opposite rail at but in effect support, get the better of the deal. Companies like Angliss and Company Limited and Vesteys Limited have found this Government to be the best friend they have ever had.
– They return the friendship in a strange way.
– Honorable gentlemen, opposite “ stick up “ for these big companies and, in doing so,’ encourage monopoly. To judge the truth of that statement we have only to consider this Government’s treatment of Vesteys Limited in the Northern Territory..
– Such companies paid no taxation while the previous Government was in office.
– In my opinion individuals who live in the Northern Territory should be relieved of the liability of. taxation,, but I do not consider that big monopolistic companies should be allowed to hold millions of acres in- that area without making proper use of it. It cannot be said that the country is being used, as it should be, to produce food for Britain or Australia. It is really being held to keep competitors with’ their big investments in Argentina out of the British market in which Australia is entitled to preference under the Ottawa Agreement. Such companies should not be allowed to hold huge areas of country. Yet honorable gentlemen opposite are doing nothing about that situation.
I was at the meeting of stock-raisers in Melbourne. It was attended by 2,000 persons who constitute the most loyal and law-abiding section of the community. The meeting decided, without a dissentient voice, that graziers would not accept the existing conditions. The fact is, of course, that the value of the stock which those people own is being appraised under most unjust conditions. At the sales only one bid is offered and there is, in effect, a restriction of bidding. As one honorable gentleman has stated this afternoon, the legal position in Victoria is that persons responsible for restraining bidding or intimidating potential buyers at auction are liable to a fine of £100 or six months’ imprisonment. In my opinion, the people who are responsible for restraining the bidding are these companies to which honorable gentlemen opposite are so friendly at present. The law against the restraint of bidding at auction was introduced by a Victorian Country party Government. I wish to point out that subsidies to primary producers are being provided in other countries, including Britain and New Zealand. There is no reason why such subsidies should not be provided in this country.
– The fact that the price of meat for local consumption is higher than the price of meat for export shows that subsidies are being provided here.
– The position in this country is that exporters are excluded from operating on the market by local competition except at such time as there is a glut, or the market can be “ rigged “ in order to force down prices. We all know that there is the prospect of an excellent season for spring lambs. I’ suppose, in due course, a strike will be arranged which will rob the producers of the benefit of the good season. But this Government is not likely to do anything to stop the strike. Under such circumstances the hig companies will, as they have done in the past, send their buyers into the Riverina and to other parts of Victoria where they will be able to purchase lambs at prices ruinous to the producers. That is the kind of thing that we desire to prevent.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country, party (Mr. McEwen) submitted his case in a far more moderate way than is usual with him, but in my opinion he was effectively answered by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). According to the honorable member for Indi, it is still necessary to maintain some controls, -including a retail ceiling price for meat. He said, in -effect, “ We must not ‘ lift the lid ‘ altogether “. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), however, said, “ There must be no controls. Let us “lift the lid “ altogether. If there is no bottom in the market there must be no ceiling “. The honorable gentleman cited the case ‘of a farmer who sent a truck of cattle to the market and received only about £4 in return. He added that the big-hearted auctioneer did not even charge his commission !
– That is right. They were old ewes.
– The honorable gentleman said that as there was no minimum price there should be no maximum price. It is apparent, therefore, that the Australian Country party is speaking with two voices. I suggest to honorable gentlemen opposite that they should take these arguments into the country. I also suggest to the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party that he should train his colt a little more before he gives him another gallop.
One striking fact that has emerged from this debate is that it is not the breeder of fat stock who started this trouble, for that unfortunate individual has once more become the “ stooge “ of the big business interests. This trouble has been started by the interests which stand between the breeder and the general community and who render no real service to the country. These interests “ toil not, neither’ do they spin “.. Yet the Australian Country party is found advocating their cause. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) referred to campaign funds. He apparently forgot that it was the Australian Country party which placed a 15 per cent, tax on the export lamb industry for the purpose of subsidizing the canning industry, and that a Labour government removed that iniquitous tax, which benefited not the farmers but the big canning interests. I was rather sorry to hear the concluding remark’ of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to the effect that if necessary the Government would give consideration, in the interests of the general community, to acquiring stock on the hoof. As a practical farmer, I consider that that would be an impracticable proposition. I also think that it would be a mast unnecessary and undesirable procedure. I do not sell my fat stock through the dealers. I have been exporting direct to Great Britain for the last twelve years. So honorable gentlemen opposite have nothing on me in that regard. In my opinion the Government has a golden opportunity at the moment to acquire the abattoirs, the freezing works, and the killing organization, the Government to kill the stock and pay for it on a weight grade basis. If it were to take that course, the producers in Victoria would ‘have reason to be grateful. By following that course it would be able to save the commission of the auctioneers and eliminate the activities of middle men. The honorable member for Wimmera said that these individuals were now unemployed because fat stock was not coming on to the market. Who pays them ? They receive their payment, of course, on the one hand from the farmer and on the other hand from every worker who buys 1 lb. of steak. If the members of the Australian Country party were really the friends of the farmers, as they would, have us believe them to be, they would stand behind this Government and endeavour to influence it to acquire the means of handling all the fat stock, not only in Victoria but throughout Australia. In my opinion the farmers have given Australia a far better “ go “ than the merchants, who have been speculators through the war period. We had an experience in Western Australia quite recently similar to that which Victorian producers are now having. The middle men went on strike and refused to operate. One dealer said to me, “ I have lost £5,000 because of this ceiling price during the last two seasons “. I said to him, “Let me see your income tax returns “. Of course he refused to do so. We had no stock sales in Western Australia for a couple of weeks. In that period, because of seasonal conditions, the retail ceiling price of meat increased slightly. That was normal. But when the agents found that the Commonwealth Government was not prepared to “ pull its punches “ they decided to discontinue the -strike. In the first sale that took place afterwards sheep were down 2s. a head, which is conclusive evidence that the merchants had no interest in the stock breeders, but only in profit margins.
The honorable member for Indi said, in his introductory remarks, that we had just passed through the most terrible drought since 190b, and that this had left the producers in a terrible plight. It is worth recalling, therefore, that on two or three occasions in this House recently this Government has been castigated because of a falling off in certain classes of primary production. In one instance, the Government was blamed, but in this instance, according to the honorable member for Indi, the drought is to Warne. I do not need to say any more.
– I congratulate the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) on his common-sense approach to this big problem. I am not one who says that because there was a drought in a portion of Victoria those graziers who live in the more favoured portions of the State were not finding the prices obtainable for their stock reasonable. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) overlooked one important point in the lecture he delivered this afternoon, which is that the graziers are to-day competing successfully with the butchers and exporters for ewes and ewe lambs for breeding purposes on their estates. This has had the effect of pushing up or inflating values. It is all very well to say that although there is a ceiling price the Government is ensuring that producers are receiving a fair return for their stock. Let me remind the House of what happened after the disastrous fires in certain districts in Victoria. I have in mind the case of one man who overnight was burnt out of house and home and had to consign his sheep to market because he could no longer feed them. He received only Id. or 1-Jd. per lb. for mutton that would! normally have fetched 3-Jd. or 4d. per lb. To-day, after another lean season, some of these men are expecting to be able to stock up. During the last few months,, they have been compelled to pay for store stock prices considerably in advance of those fixed by the Government for fat stock. Only ten days ago, in Geelong,, a line of store wethers was sold at a store sale for 3’7-s. Id. a head. Imaginethose sheep going on to country that ha.s. not been stocked for two years and, when they were fattened, the owner being told that he was compelled to sell them at 30s.. a head ! It cannot be done.
– Why did he pay 37s. Id. ahead?
– That is his business. Another point made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction was that the Government could not subsidizethese primary producers. That is a. remarkable statement, in view of the subsidies that have been paid in the past. I remind the House particularly of the subsidy amounting to the substantial sum of £6,000,000 that was paid to the dairying industry on the eve of a general -election. There are meat growers who to-day are in an infinitely worse position, by reason of drought, fire and misfortune generally, than were those dairy farmers. 1 believe that, whilst controls cannot be lifted, it should be possible, in the temporary period through which we are passing, to. arrange that these men who are providing meat shall receive a price which will at least return to them the cost of production. That would need to be done only .temporarily. To say that these ‘primary producers have gone -on strike is beside the question. The season has broken early throughout a large part of Victoria. The majority of the primary producers who to-day are engaged in sheep farming find that they are understocked, and are loath to sell in any circumstances, being desirous of keeping up their wool clips. Had there not been any government control, the number of sheep going into the market to-day would have been very limited. That, I consider, is an additional reason why, when meat is urgently needed, some consideration should be shown to those who can supply a portion, though not all, of our requirements. If the policy advocated by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction be followed, and these men are to be compelled to sell, will the man who is keeping ewes for breeding purposes in order to build up his flocks be visited on his farm and told, “ You are compelled to sell a certain proportion of those sheep”? I warn the Government that if action of that sort be taken, the resultant chaos will not be forgotten. The position in Victoria to-day is causing worry to every sensible person. I, like the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), wish the matter to be settled. There should be enough common sense among members of the Government and the people involved to work out a scheme which will tide us over what, after all, is only a temporary difficulty. The position has been accentuated by a succession of lean seasons. Those who have a flush of feed have been compelled to put stock on it. Their view is, “ If we cannot stock it, we cannot make anything off it”. Such persons have come into competition with graziers and exporters, by purchasing ewes which otherwise would have been sold for export or canning purposes. They intend to use this stock for breeding purposes during the coming year.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
– I desire to. make a personal explanation. During the debate just concluded the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) made certain statements about me. I had offered suggestions in respect of an industry in which I am engaged. I take it to be obligatory upon any member of the Parliament who makes a speech concerning an industry or business in- which he is engaged, to be very careful not to offer suggestions- or to advance proposals designed to benefit himself. The honorable member for Darling imputed that I had transgressed this principle, for he charged that, I, as a grazier, had not bred any fat lambs ; that I am virtually a dealer ; and that I am a buyer and re-seller. This scurillous allegation was founded on a complete untruth. I am, and for years have been, a breeder of fat lambs. Not for several years have I purchased any sheep for refattening, and not for a considerable period of years have I purchased any sheep for fattening other than in competition at open auction.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Indi described my remarks as “ scurillous “. As no objection was taken at the time by the Chair, I now ask that he be required to withdraw that statement.
– Usually, the Chair does not take notice of such an incident unless the honorable member criticized objects.
– I am objecting now.
– I think that I should leave the matter to the good sense of the honorable member for Indi. I consider, however, that to request a withdrawal of the adjective mentioned would be to stretch the Standing Orders a little too far.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under Commonwealth nationality law as it now stands, a woman who loses her British nationality because of her marriage to a foreigner may, by making a declaration, exercise in Australia and its Territories the rights and privileges of a British subject. In such instances, a woman does not regain her British nationality but remains a foreigner, and the only way in which she can regain British nationality while her marriage continues is by her husband becoming naturalized.
The bill provides that a British woman resident in Australia shall, on marriage, retain her British nationality under Commonwealth law, irrespective of her husband’s nationality. It therefore makes a further advance towards the goal towards which many women have long and earnestly striven - the right of a woman, on marriage, to choose her own nationality.
The national status of married women is a somewhat complicated subject, and for the guidance of members I propose to give a brief historical survey of the legislation governing the matter in the United Kingdom and Australia. Prior to 1844, the national status of married women in Great Britain was governed by the common law position. Under the common law of England, marriage had no effect on the nationality of a woman, although the legal position was not strictly adhered to in practice. This position applied in the United Kingdom and British possessions. The position of women was first modified by ‘the Aliens Act of 1844, which provided that a foreign woman who married a British subject was deemed to be a naturalized British subject. The act did not, however, affect the status of British women who married foreigners, and legally such women retained their British nationality. In 1870, the British Naturalization Act was enacted. Under it a married woman was deemed to be a subject of the State of which her husband was a subject. Under that act, therefore, a British woman marrying a foreigner automatically lost her British nationality and acquired her . husband’s nationality, whilst a foreign woman marrying a British subject became. a British subject. It is not easy at this stage to state with any precision the considerations which actuated the British Government to deviate from the common law principle in regard to the nationality of British women who married foreigners. The act was apparently introduced to give effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission which was appointed in 1868 to inquire into the Laws of Naturalization and Allegiance. There was little discussion on the bill, and it would appear that what was in the mind of the British Parliament was - (i) the law ought to be amended so as to make it conform more nearly with private international law and the principles governing the nationality laws of other countries; (ii) nationality as distinct from the right to hold property was not at that time considered of great practical importance ; and (iii) except sentimentally, the legal status of the wife would not be altered by taking the nationality of the husband on marriage. British ‘law remained in that position until 1914, when, with certain exceptions, the Nationality and Status of Aliens Act of the United Kingdom laid it down that the wife of a British subject was deemed to be a British subject, and the wife of an alien was deemed to he an alien. The two principal exceptions to the general rule were: (i), if a man ceased to be a British subject his wife would remain a British subject on making a declaration of retention of British nationality; and (ii), a British born woman whose husband was the subject of a State at war with His Majesty could, by making a declaration, regain her British nationality. In 1923, a Joint Select Committee of the House of Lords was set up to consider the legal and practical aspects of questions involved in the possession by husband and wife of the same and different nationalities, and to report what, if any, alteration of British law was desirable. A number of important witnesses, including representatives of the Home Office, Colonial Office,
Foreign Office, International Law Association, and women’s organizations, were examined, but the Select Committee was unable to agree as to the form of its report.
In Australia there was no Commonwealth Statute prior to 1904 dealing with nationality matters, and these were governed by State legislation - which, of course, was effective only in the State concerned. There was no uniformity in the State laws in respect of the national status of married women, and generally their position was governed by the British naturalization law of 1870. The Commonwealth Naturalization Act which came into operation in 1904 gave to the Commonwealth Government control of nationality matters throughout Australia and its territories. The only specific provision in that act in regard to women was in section 9, which provided that a foreign woman, upon marriage to a British subject, acquired British nationality by virtue of her marriage. The wife of an alien who became a naturalized British subject did not, however, acquire British nationality by reason of her husband’s naturalization, but remained an alien unless she took out a certificate in her own name. The bill originally introduced contained a clause providing for the loss of British nationality by a woman marrying an alien, but this was struck out by the Senate, the expressed intention being to allow a British woman to retain her British nationality on marriage to an alien. According to a Crown Law opinion given in 1910, however, a British woman who married an alien lost her British nationality because of the British Naturalization Act of 1870. The Naturalization Act was repealed by the Commonwealth Nationality Act of 1920, which adopted Part II. of the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914. Commonwealth law in regard to women was, therefore, the same as the United Kingdom law; that is, with certain exceptions, the wife of a British subject was deemed to be a British subject and the wife of an alien was deemed to be an alien. In 1930, the Commonwealth of Australia was one of 45 nations represented at an international conference which met at the Hague under the auspices of the League of Nations, to consider certain questions relating to the conflict of nationality laws. The matters discussed included the national status of married women. As the result of its deliberations the conference agreed to an international convention to which the Commonwealth was a party. The following articles were included in that convention : -
Article 8. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality on marriage with a foreigner this consequence shall be conditional on her acquiring her husband’s nationality.
Article 9. - If the national law of the wife causes her to lose her nationality upon a change in the nationality of her husband occurring during marriage this consequence shall be conditional on her acquiring her husband’s new nationality.
Article 10. - Naturalization of thehusband during marriage shall not involve a change in the nationality of the wife except with her consent.
These articles have been embodied in our Commonwealth nationality law.
In most civilized countries during recent years the trend has been to adopt a more liberal attitude in regard to the national status of married women, and in fact a number of countries including the United States of America, the Soviet Republics, Eire, and many South American countries have already placed women on an equal footing with men insofar as their nationality is concerned. The Canadian Government has also given a clear indication that it favours equality of treatment between men and women in matters of nationality.
The bill now before the House does not entirely fulfil the Government’s wishes, which are that a woman’s nationality should not be dependent on that of herhuaband but that, equally with a man, she should have freedom of choice in so important a matter. Under the bill, a British woman who marries a foreigner will retain British nationality only in Australia and its territories. Outside the limits of the Commonwealth she may be regarded as an alien if under the law of her husband’s country she acquires his nationality.
In explanation of this apparent weakness. I may say that at the Imperial Conference of 1930 it was agreed that no member would take any action affecting the “common status” possessed by all subjects ofHis Majesty, except toy agreement with the other members, but that this did not debar any member of the British Commonwealth who desired to do so from conferring local rights within itsterritory on women who have ceased tobe British subjects by marriage with aliens. All of the Dominions have adopted Part II. of the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act, thereby ensuring uniformity of nationality laws throughout the British Commonwealth, and it would be necessary to secure the agreement of the Governments of the United Kingdom and the other Dominions before an Australian woman who acquires a foreign nationality upon her marriage would be accepted as a British subject by those governments. For the present therefore the best that can be done for women resident in Australia is to make provision that in Australia and its territories they will not lose their British nationality because of marriage with a foreigner. The bill provides for this.
In asking the House to accept the bill, the Government does not propose that the matter shall rest there. It is hoped that in the not far distant future representatives of the United Kingdom and Dominion governments will confer on various aspects of their nationality laws. The Commonwealth Government will then do its utmost to have brought into being a uniform provision throughout the British Commonwealth whereby a woman shall be free to determine her own nationality on marriage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the existing, provisions of the War Service Homes Act 1918-1941 to include as eligible persons within the meaning of the act, certain members of the mercantile marine who served in theAustralian coastal shipping during thewar, and also to provide other amendments which it is considered will be of value in assisting ex-members of the forces desirous of obtaining homes.. The principal amendments cover -
Under the existing definition of “ eligible person “ members of the mercantile marine are excluded from the privileges of the act unless they were employed in sea-going services between Australian ports and ports other than those of a State or territory of the Commonwealth. The amendment proposed is that members who served their country in shipping engaged on the Australian coast during the war will be granted the same privilege in respect of eligibility under the act as those who served in other sea-going activities. With the development of the war in the Pacific, honorable members appreciate, I am sure, the value of the services rendered by such persons, and the justice of their inclusion within the category of those eligible to receive assistance by way of loans to acquire or erect homes under the War Services Homes Act.
A further amendment submitted for consideration of the House is in relation to the acquisition of land and erection of dwelling-houses - Part III. of the act. Under existing conditions, the Commissioner is required to include in the sale price of a home erected on land owned by the commission under this part, the total cost of such land. The total capital cost of certain land acquired some years ago to meet requirements now exceeds, in some instances, by fluctuation of value, or inclusion of total interest, or both, the fair market value of the land, but the Commissioner has no power to make the land available at its fair market value to eligible persons who desire assistance under the rent-purchase system provided for in Part IV. of the act. This is an anomaly in that, under Part V. of the act, which covers the granting of advances on mortgage for the purpose of homes., the Commissioner may determine the fair value and allot the laud to an applicant at that value.
The position, therefore, is that a distinct benefit is conferred upon an applicant who is fortunate enough to be able to contribute a deposit of 10 per cent, or more to obtain assistance under Part V.; whilst, on the other hand, the applicant who is able to contribute only the lesser deposit of not more than 5 per cent, required under the rent-purchase system, Part IV., can be alloted the land only at a figure equalling its full capital cost. The need for an amendment to adjust this position is obvious, and I commend the proposal put forward that the Commissioner should be empowered to determine, subject to the approval of the Minister, the fair value of land included in the cost of any home provided under Part IV. of the act, notwithstanding the fact that its value may be less than the capital cost, including interest, at the time of sale. As honorable members will see from the memorandum distributed in connexion with the bill, the amendments which propose to give effect to the intentions expressed comprise alteration of sections 18 (2.), 19 (3.), and the deletion of section 19 (9.).
To meet the changed conditions relating to the cost of erection of homes, it is proposed also, that the present statutory limit of £950, which the act allows to be granted for the purpose of acquiring or erecting a home, be increased to £1,250. It is considered that if the commissioner is granted power to make loans not exceeding this sum in the aggregate, it will be reasonably possible to meet requirements of many applicants possessed of moderate means only to acquire homes who, otherwise, because of the general increase of building costs, would be excluded from participating in the benefits and privileges which the act confers.
Another feature of the bill which I commend for favorable consideration by honorable members, is the proposed amendment to empower the Commissioner to grant loans for the discharge of any mortgage, charge or encumbrance already existing on homes erected on land leased by eligible persons within the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. Section 44 of the act at present provides, that the Commissioner may acquire leases for the purpose of erecting homes thereon on behalf of applicants or, to grant assistance to applicants to build a home on leases held by them, but no provision is made under which the Commissioner may grant assistance covering the discharge of a mortgage or other encumbrance entered into by an eligible applicant in respect of a home acquired by him in these territories.
Whilst there has been little demand in the past for a measure of this nature, expansion of the Australian capital which may reasonably be expected in the years before us, together with the increase of the number of ex-members of the forces now resident in the Australian Capital Territory, warrant the same facilities being made available as those which are applicable in the different States. Generally, the provisions of the act now restrict the commissioner to the granting of loans in respect of lands the title of which is held in fee-simple. The only exception to this is that he may accept as security Crown leasehold in the Commonwealth territories I have mentioned. It is, therefore, proposed that the definition of “ holding “ be amended to include State Crown lands held by eligible applicants in perpetual leasehold. This will enable the commissioner to make advances for the erection of homes or for the discharge of any mortgage, charge or encumbrance existing on such land leased in perpetuity from the Crown by an eligible person where the commissioner is satisfied that this should be done. This amendment will enable applicants resident in States where leasehold tenure of land is customary practice, as in Queensland, to obtain assistance where otherwise this would not be possible unless land with freehold title could be secured.
The amendments to which I have referred are important in that they will be of material benefit to ex-members of the forces who are eligble, or who will become eligible, to receive assistance under the provisions of the act, and will also assist the administration in giving effect to those provisions. I trust that honorable members will give the proposals favourable consideration, and assist their speedy passage.
I’ebate (on motion by Mr.White) adjourned.
Report of Mr. Justice Clyne
Debate resumed from the 13th March (vide page 236), on motion by Mr. Be a z ley -
That the following paper be printed: -
Australia First Movement Inquiry -
Report of Commissioner (Mr. Justice Clyne) appointed under . the National Security Regulations.
– I do not propose to occupy a great deal of time in this debate, or to discuss the various cases involved. Those matters were carefully examined in a speechby the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) last night, but I desire to make some remarks on a matter which, I believe, goes very near to the heart of this problem. The problem of the interning of civilians during a war is, of course, always an extraordinarily difficult one. It cannotbe supposed that in all circumstances the security authorities will find themselves able to act on a body of evidence which would be sufficient to bring a man to trial in an ordinary court. Consideration of the national safety no doubt make it necessary that, in some instances, something short of full proof of a specific offence should be accepted as ground’ for detention. That, I think, will be common ground in the minds of all honorable members. Persons reasonably suspected of subversive activity may very well be liable to arrest in time of war, and to detention while further investigation occurs; but full investigation after an arrest has occurred on some reasonable suspicion should always be prompt. There should be not only a full investigation, but also a prompt one. It is necessary, even in the heat, and emergency of war, that the administration should avoid hysteria in the treatment of citizens. When I say the administration, I refer particularly to those in the security organization whose duty it is to conduct investigations and recommend detentions. In some circumstances it will ultimately appear, as it does here, that some persons have been, in fact, innocent, and have yet been detained, and the real difficulty which arises in this matter is what treatment is to be accorded to persons who fall into that category - persons who were detained, and who have, by reason of subsequent investigation, turned out to be completely innocent. Indeed, there are two, kinds of cases : There are persons against whom there is some reasonable ground for suspicion, but who are discharged from suspicion by subsequent investigation. In the second category are persons against whom there was no ground for suspicion and who were from the very beginning improperly detained, as happened to several people who were the subject of the inquiry. To people in either category we, I believe, are under an obligation, as one of the costs of war, as well as one of the moral obligations on a government, first, to afford public exculpation, secondly, to pay all expenses arising from their detention; and, thirdly, to provide some compensation for the inevitable injury to their reputations that accompanied their detention. I take leave to state those requirements again, now that the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) is here: public exculpation, compensation for expenses to which the internee has been put, and thirdly - and this is an entirely different matter - compensation for damage to reputation. In continuance of what I might call my general remarks on this matter, let me point out to honorable members that property is protected under the Constitution. If the Commonwealth desires to take a man’s property for some public purpose, it can do so only on just terms. We bad hundreds and hundreds of illustrations of that during the course of the war. It means that if the exigencies of war require the Government to take a man’s property from him, it must compensate him by giving him the full value of the- property. Reputation is infinitely more important than property, and, while there is not one word about it in the Constitution, if the Government, under the stress of war, or for any other reason, takes a man’s reputation from him, it still has the inescapable obligation to take that reputation only on just terms and fair and full compensation should be paid to him if investigation shows that he is an innocent person entitled to his reputation untouched. That to me is the heart of this matter. I add this: it is true that in this case, a report by a learned judge contains in words the exculpation of certain people. I need not tell any honorable member that no form of words in a document will ever entirely restore a reputation once shattered by a notorious public act, an act of detention, an act of internment. We all know from experience that although hundreds of thousands of” copies of Mr. Justice dyne’s report might be circulated throughout the country, which is not the case, it will still be true, that two, three, four or five years hence, if the name of one of the men whose case is dealt with in this report crops up and some one says, “ Was he not one of those Australia First internees?”, that will be all too automatically regarded as a black mark against him. “ Oh, yes, wasn’t he interned? Wasn’t there some trouble? I believe two or three were all right. I have forgotten who they were, but I know he was one of those put in “.
– That will live for a long time.
– Yes, I agree that that will live for a long time. Indeed, no form of words can possibly be used that will restore in full the reputation of men about whom it will be said that in the greatest war, the greatest crisis of our history, “ He was for six months, or whatever it may have been, interned as an enemy of this country “.
I turn from that general study, which, I believe, will be endorsed by every honorable member, to consider the case of one man dealt with in this report. I am not taking this one ca-se because I want to cast some doubt on the others. I am taking it .because I believe that, for the sake of clarity, it is a good thing to take one case, and have a look at it, and I take the case of Harley Matthews. As my material I shall use the report of the learned judge. One page 1 of his report, he says, having mentioned the names of those who were arrested -
Of the foregoing persona who were arrested, Bath. Kirtley and Matthews were not members of the movement, though friends of Stephensen.
In other words, Harley Matthews was not a member of the Australia First Movement. The learned judge then went on to point out that certain activities by a group of people in Western Australia having been disclosed, activities that led the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to make his initial announcement, which was .so severe in its terms, so widely publicized all over Australia - and so inevitably damaging to all those whose names subsequently emerged - security officers investigated to find who belonged to the Australia First Movement and so on, and then proceeded to arrest a certain number of people. Then he said -
Having received the message referred to from Western Australia they were I think justified in arresting the persons who were in fact arrested.
I ask honorable gentlemen to have that in mind in view of what occurs later.
It is true, he then goes on -
But. in my opinion, they should have acted with a little more caution in making recommendations that all the persons arrested should he detained.
Then he explains that a little closer examination would have shown that that was not a sound course, because he said this-
J hey had in their possession dossiers relating to the persons arrester], and though they had strong reasons for suspecting some relationship between the persons detained in Western Australia and some members of the movement in Sydney, a little more investigation would have shown that some of the persons arrested had never heard of Bullock-
That was the Western Australian man or any nf his associates.
Then, still confining my attention to Harley Matthews, I go to page 13 of the report, where, in a paragraph the learned judge sets out the facts in relation to him. I may say at once that I am. relying upon this report made after a very careful and judicial investigation for various reasons, the best of which is that to my knowledge I have never seen Harley Matthews -
Matthews did not appeal and was released subject to restrictions in September, 1942, by the Attorney-General. One of his reasons for not appealing was that the Appeal Tribunal was a secret tribunal. Matthews had been an articled clerk, but at the time of his arrest was a vigneron. He was not a member of the Australia First Movement but, according to Captain Blood, the case for his detention was strong enough “ with his association with the movement “-
That is of course a quotation from Captain Blood -
He had been a subscriber to the Publicist and had contributed poems and a story to it,, and he had, so he said, attended the Yabba Club twice in 1939. which it appears elsewhere was a club whose meetings were open to other people -
It was also alleged against him that he had referred to certain prominent people as saboteurs of Australia First– “J am not at all sure that I was not one of those referred to -
But in explanation of this he said he meant that these people had no regard for Australia First. Another fact upon which intelligence officers acted was that Matthews had written an article in the Publicist in July, 1938, relating to Australian and British military discipline, but this article contained nothing prejudicial to Mat-thews.
Matthews served with some distinction in the last war and was, as he claimed and I believe, a loyal subject of the King. Intelligence officers, in my opinion, committed a grave blunder in procuring his arrest and in recommending his detention.
I direct the attention of honorable members to the fact that though a general statement is made earlier that the arrest of all those persons was justified, when the learned judge turned to this particular case he said -
Intelligence officers, in my opinion, committed a grave blunder in procuring his arrest, and in recommending his detention.
So here is a case of a man who on this finding should never have been arrested and should never have been detained.
That having been said and other cases having been looked at, the learned judge came to make his answers to the specific questions submitted to him, and he found, first of all, that “ the Army authorities were not justified in recommending the detention of the following persons “. He then sets out the list, including Harley Matthews. Later he says -
The persons who, in my opinion, ought not to have been detained and therefore should be granted compensation are the following: -
Again the list includes Harley Matthews. Then he says, rather remarkably, I think, this is pure inadvertence on the part of the judge -
As, in my opinion, the arrest of these persons was justified, but their subsequent detention was not, they are not entitled to compensation as a matter of law.
The judge there falls into error because he has already said specifically about Matthews that neither his arrest nor detention was justified. So I treat that as a mere slip in the compiling of the answer at a later stage. Then the learned Commissioner says finally -
That the persons wrongly detained are entitled to a public declaration that they were in fact wrongly detained and were not disloyal, and such a declaration should afford them some measure of redress.
Honorable members will all agree that “ some “ is the right word -
They are also entitled, I think, to receive some compensation for the pecuniary loss they have sustained.
Again I emphasize that the judge is directing his attention to compensation for pecuniary loss. After all, they all incurred expenses or losses in connexion with their appeals, and so on. Many of them, no doubt, were enormously out of pocket as the result of having been interned and put out of the way of earning. Matthews, stung as a man with his record well might be by this stigma which had been placed upon him, and finding that one of the newspapers had published an article based on the original statement of the Minister for the Army, issued a writ for damages for libel. He lost the action. The defence was that what the newspaper had published was fair comment on public matters stated in this House. But I have a great sympathy for his point of view. Many of us, in the same circumstances, might han rushed into some attempt, even by litigation, to clear our names in the public eye. As the result of the litigation, he found himself some hundreds of pounds out of pocket. In addition, while he was interned, his vines were un tended and unpruned. I do not propose to tell a harrowing story about this case, because all honorable members are perfectly familiar with it. I need only refer to it. The payment recommended as compensation for him for the pecuniary loss that he has sustained, is £700 - a sum of money, of course, that stops far short of even compensating him for pecuniary loss, and does not even begin to compensate him ‘ for the damage to his reputation. There is not an honorable member of this House who would not regard the loss of hundreds of pounds, or thousands of pounds, or all the money that he possessed, as being of small consequence compared with the permanent blasting of his reputation.
The point, which I desire to make is this: This report, careful as it is and made by an able and disinterested judge, does not deal with the real matter. A loyal, zealous and innocent man was interned in the course of a war. He is fobbed off at the finish with such public exoneration as can be found in a document and a few hundred pounds as some contribution towards the actual money that he is out of pocket. But no compensation is offered to him for the reputation that he has lost! This is a very grave matter. In no sense is it a party matter. Those arrests and detentions could have occurred under any political administration. The real problem is one on which all of us must think; and think earnestly. If, in the course of a war, with officers acting quite honestly, no doubt, as they think best for the security of the country, an innocent man has his reputation unjustly taken away from him by internment, are we, as the representatives of the people, to say to him : “ We shall do nothing for you in those respects in which you have been most hurt ? “ The greatest injury to this man is not that he is to start his life again, and begin to earn a few pounds again, although that is a very great injury to any man. The greatest injury to him. is that for the rest of his
life, there will be idle tongues, perhaps malicious tongues, and perhaps the tongues of unthinking people who will say, “ Matthews ! he was interned during the war. Was not he one of those Australia First people? Was not there some scandal? Were there not prosecutions in Western Australia? Were not there some suggestions of co-operation with the Japanese?” I content myself by making a plea to this Parliament, and through this Parliament to the Government, to ensure that men, whose reputations have been tarnished in this fashion, shall, as an act of common justice, be given some compensation which will make it clear to every one that their reputation having been touched, we who are responsible for the government of Australia have done our very utmost to repair it.
– I listened with interest to the defence which honorable members of the Opposition have made of the so-called Australia First Movement. Whilst the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) admitted that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) acted in a manner that any other Minister possessing the same information as he did would have acted, honorable members opposite have devoted their criticism entirely to what they regard as an injustice inflicted upon some persons who were wrongfully detained, . according to the judgment of Mr. Justice Clyne. But the amazing thing about it is that the Opposition has not uttered one word of condemnation of the activities of this alleged Australia First organization, and of its objectives. There can be no doubt whatever that the Australia First Movement was a Fascist organization. It does not necessarily mean that the organization really has for its objective what its title would imply. In the same way, the Liberal party could not be regarded as being liberal in outlook. Its title is only a misnomer designed to mislead. So it is with the Australia First Movement. Therefore, it is rather surprising that members of the Opposition have not condemned the objectives of the organization. Among its objectives is the declaration that the Australia First Movement is opposed to sectional political ‘parties. Well, some people may applaud that, but I think that aim is somewhat similar to a slogan of the Nazis in Germany. But members of the Australia First Movement are not opposed to all forms of political parties, because in the Commissioner’s report it is stated -
But behind the movement’s ostensible aims there were on the part of certain members activities which, in my opinion, were intended to cause disaffection against the Government-
The Labour Government - and calculated to promote ill will and hostility between different sections of the community and to cause prejudice to the war effort of Australia.
Honorable - members opposite evidently applaud those sentiments. If they were able to dispose of this Government in a constitutional manner by convincing a majority of the people that there should be a change of government, we would have i!0 objection. But this organization was not designed to change the government by the use of constitutional methods. This organization was on a basis somewhat similar to that of the New Guard organization which we once experienced in this country and of which the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who is the most voluble speaker in defence of the Australia First Movement, was a member. The New Guard movement bad exactly the same objectives, and was prepared to resort to force, if necessary, to defeat Labour governments. So I should like the Minister for the Army to tell me as soon as he possibly can, whether a careful examination has been made of all the available evidence to disclose exactly who were members of the Australia First Movement. On the basis of objectives, I could quite imagine that the honorable member for Wentworth would have no objection to joining the Australia First organization. During a particular period of the war, the honorable member was occupying a position which would have been of great value to a Fascist organization. If I remember correctly, he was for a long period associated with activities at the Victoria military barracks in Sydney; and it is rather interesting that practically all of the protests - - this flood of letters, communications and correspondence - which were coming in from members of the Australia First organization were apparently going to one member of this Parliament. That is rather significant. I do not know whether we can take it that they evidently knew he was in sympathy with them and the work that they were doing, and their objectives, but it is very significant that the bulk of the correspondence was going into this one channel. I should like the Minister for the Army to make a very careful investigation for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is any evidence that some of the men who were involved in this insidious work were not in some way connected with the Opposition parties.
Let us turn now to some of the men whom the honorable member for Wentworth has defended. First, I refer to Mr. P. R. Stephensen. Honorable members opposite persist in referring only to those members of the. Australia First Movement whom the judge has exonerated from any responsibility. Let me say this to the Opposition : Before a man joints an organization he should ascertain what are its objectives/what are its associations, and, as far as possible, the type of individuals numbered amongst its members. Those are necessary precautions. But I am prepared to accept that, ir> the opinion of the judge, some of these men evidently did join this organization without knowing really what it was, or what it intended to do, or what its activities were, just the same as there are a few gullible people in this country who pay 2s. 6d. to become members of the Liberal party without really knowing what its policy -or- its objectives are. Therefore, I am prepared to concede that the judge may have been right in finding that certain of these men joined the organization without knowing its objectives. But what have members of the opposition said regarding the activities of those whom the judge condemned? They persist in citing the cases of those whom the judge has exonerated, and we can only assume that, if they do not avail themselves of this opportunity to condemn those whom the judge condemned for their part in those activities, they approve of the ‘ activities in which these men were engaged. In previous discussions the honorable member for Wentworth defended some of those whom the judge has found guilty and who, his Honour said, were rightly detained. Mr. P. R. Stephensen, editor of the Publicist, wrote some very interesting things. Probably the honorable member for Wentworth would now regard them as being rather embarrassing, in view of his previous defence of Mr. Stephensen. Here is an illustration of the views expressed by this man Stephensen in the Publicist -
For Australians to be incited against the Japanese in the interests of Britain and the United States of America might be good perhaps for the peoples of those two lands, but we are of the convinced opinion that it would be bad for Australians. We have nothing to fear from the Japanese who are the very people more than any other enterprising and progressive with whom Australians could advance through reciprocity.
Wanted 500,000 young Australians, must be physically tit, perfect in wind and limb for use in Europe as soil fertilizers. Apply stating nitrate content of body to No. 10 Downingstreet, England.
This is the Mr. Stephensen of whose activities honorable members opposite evidently approve, because in this debate they have not uttered one word of condemnation of this individual, who was associated with the Australia First Movement. In November, 1941, after Australia had been at war for two years Mr. Stephensen wrote the following statement in an article headed “ Britain versus Germany “ : -
It is not the Germans, but the Australian parliamentarians who have made a “mock” of “ Democracy “ in Australia. Three Prime Ministers representing three different political sections in succession within three months during war time! . . . And all the political sections equally impolicied equally vague, equally shifty. It’s enough to make n cat laugh and a kookaburra cry.
Another, Valentine ‘Crowley, took a prominent part in expressing views calculated to foster feelings” of hostility to Great Britain and cause disaffection in Australia. Referring to the British, hp expressed the view that he was only waiting for the rain of bombs to start and they would be forced into submission.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– The movement was undoubtedly a Fascist organization. The honorable member for Wentworth, who has temporarily put away his “ black shirt “, has used his position, as a member of this Parliament to abuse roundly this Government and particularly the Minister for the Army because of what he has termed an improper use of power. I do not know whether it is mere coincidence, but yesterday honorable members of the Opposition were doing their best to inflame the’ public mind against this Government for what they described as its inhuman actions against persons who were formerly enemies of this country, whereas to-day they are using their time to defend people who attempted -to injure Australia in the darkest hour of its history. Prior to the suspension of the sitting I quoted some extracts from the Publicist, the newspaper of “Inky” Stephensen. I wish now to refer to the Yabba Club, which, in my opinion, should have been called the “‘Gabba” Club. Mr. Justice dyne’s report states that at a meeting of the club held in June, 1940, a member said that he was only waiting for the rain of bombs to start and then England would be forced into submission. This individual also said that the sooner Germany bombed England the better. Let me remind honorable members that this individual was a member of the Australia First Movement. The same member, at a meeting in January, 1941, said that England would get the greatest hiding it had ever got. The report goes on-
For some time prior to March, 1942, the meetings of the Yabba Club had been subject to investigation by Army Intelligence Eastern Command, and its officers or their agents made from time to time reports of speeches delivered at these meetings. It was said that these reports were untrue or inaccurate, but I- believe they were substantially true and accurate.
I emphasize that Mr. Justice Clyne said that he believed that those reports were substantially true. If it be right for honorable .members opposite to. quote passages from the report to show that Mr. Justice Clyne considered that there might have been doubt about the propriety of the arrest of some .of “these individuals, it would also be right that they should quote passages showing that others were culpable and deserved arrest. The report shows that the Australia First Movement was formed in 1941 with a constitution awd certain definite objectives. The- report- states”1 -
Those are Mr. Justice Clyne’s words written a-s the result of careful- and thorough investigation.-
I ask any honorable gentleman opposite to show nae a single passage in Hansard which contains any condemnation by a member of the Opposition of either the Australia First Movement or its objectives. On the contrary,- honorable gentlemen opposite have done their utmost to show that the Government acted wrongly in proceeding against this treacherous body, . notwithstanding that it has been fauna -guilty of engaging in subversive activities against the Commonwealth.
Seeing that the Opposition has made so many references to individuals who were to a degree exonerated by Mr. justice Clyne, I wish to make some quotations concerning persons who, in the opinion of the judge, were properly detained. The first relates to Edward John Arnold and reads- -
Arnold was a member of the movement. He had. been a railway porter, but was dismissed in October, 1939, and he said Security Service was responsible for his dismissal.
He did not appeal against his detention and said he did not seek this inquiry.
In December, 1933, Arnold had written n letter to Dr. Asmis, the Consul-General for Germany, in which ho expressed an intense admiration for Get-many and her people, and his letter was acknowledged in a friendly manner.
In April, 1938, he again wrote a letter to Dr. Asmis and, after expressing a, desire to bring about friendly relations between Germany and Australia, went on to say: - “In the meantime, however, the relations between Britain and Germany have taken a decided turn for the worse, and this country echoes everything Britain does He said also his principal reason for writing was to say how much he rejoiced with Dr. Asmis and Germany over the great events that had recently taken place in Europe, and he asked to be instructed by someone whose views were those of the German Government.
I do not- suggest for a moment that such statements have always been regarded as a sufficient reason for internment. I have a very distinct recollection of having read in anti-Labour journals opinions attributed to some members of the
Opposition which were couched in somewhat sim’il’ar terms. If we were to regard- the use of such language as a sufficient reason for internment we should, if we were consistent, have a few more empty seats on the- benches opposite. Concerning the- remarks of Arnold, Mr. Justice Clyne said -
In my opinion1 they were sound reasons for leis detention..
I come now to a person named Keith Percival Bath. The honorable member for Wentworth suggested that Mr. Justice Clyne had completely exonerated this individual. I have read the report very closely in this connexion. Although Mr. Justice Clyne said that he did not regard the detention of Bath as justified he also said -
In my opinion the arrest of these persons wag justified.
And Bath’s name appeared in the list. Here is a significant fact about Bath: I am reliably informed that he was and probably still is a member of the Opposition party. He was a member of the Manly Municipal Council. Although on rare occasions Labour candidates have been elected to that council, it is a safe bet that the members of the council, generally speaking, are members of antiLabour parties. If there was any doubt about Bath’s affiliations, let me remind honorable members that he was also a member of the Constitutional Association. How he could consistently have been a member of the Australia First Movement, which desired to use armed forces to overthrow a Labour Government in this country, and at the same time be a member of the Constitutional Association I do not know.
The allegation ha3 been made that the attack upon the Australian First Movement was a Communist conspiracy. However, I find that an individual named Leslie Kevin Cahill, one of those who had been detained, had been a member of the Communist party, but had. resigned his membership. Evidently the Australia First Movement had no objection to accepting into its membership ex-members of the Communist party. Apparently it was prepared to accept members from all sources so long as they were prepared to play its game and work for the objectives of the movement. Mr. Justice dyne’s report stated that Cahill agreed with Stephenson’s ten-point manifesto. This ex-Communist, according to the report, stated -
He was opposed to law and order insofar as they were not in the interest of Australia. He was not necessarily loyal to the “ prevailing “ Parliament, and was prepared if necessary to resort to violence.
Honorable gentlemen of the Opposition have not said one word in condemnation of those sentiments, although they constituted a threat against a constitutionally elected government. Because the remarks were made against a Labour government they were applauded. As a matter of fact honorable gentlemen opposite ha-ve shown themselves in their true colours. I will guarantee that you would not have to reach very far on the Opposition benches in any direction without being able to touch someone who is a Fascist… Honorable gentlemen opposite say that they believe in democracy, but they believe only in democracy when the people, elect a form of government which will apply a. policy that suits themselves. They never believe in a democracy that puts a Labour government in control of the affairs of this- country for the benefit of its people.
Mr. Justice Clyne’s report refers to an individual named Valentine Crowley, who, on one occasion, said: -
The sooner Germany bombed England the better. ,’.. English cannot evacuate any further unless they dive ingloriously into the sea.
Mr. Justice Clyne said that in his opinion Valentine Crowley was properly detained.
Apparently the Leader of the Opposition is feeling so ashamed of his. performance this afternoon that he has gone away to hide his head from the justifiable wrath of the members on this side of the chamber. In case any honorable member may still be in doubt as to just how this organization originated and as to how far its tentacles had extended, I refer them, to the fact that Fred Morley Cutlack, associated with the Sydney Morning- Herald, was a member of the Japan-Australia Society. I do not know what its objectives are; they are- not before me-. Mr.
I return to Mr. Justice Clyne’s report to refer to the case of John Thomas. Kirtley. In relation to him the report states -
Kirtley had strong views which, in my opinion, could only be regarded as subversive. . . He had a tremendous con.tein.pt -for Australians and would punch them hard on the chin. … He regarded the leaders of Australia as “fools and scoundrels” and Australians iai general, as “gutless swines of the highest order “.
He also said that Australian: soldiers were 99 per cent, mercenaries. Of this person Mr. Justice Clyne said -
In my opinion there were ample grounds for Kirtley’s detention.
He could have gone a little further and said that there was every justification for keeping many of these individuals in detention longer than they were actually held.
In regard to Percy Reginald Stephensen, who commonly answers to the name “ Inky “, Mr. Justice Clyne said -
In my opinion, his writings in the Publicist showed that he admired the Nazi regime in Germany. He assented to- the views expressed in an article in the1 Publicist published in September, 1938. This, article was headed, “ Good Voyage to Count von Luckner “, and stated, amongst other things, that the Publicist supported (and sympathized with) the Nazis and their actions hi Germany, and it concluded with the words, “ Happy return home to COUnt von Luckner! “.
It is as well that the honorable member for Wentworth made some reference to the activities of the Communists. At least it may be said to their credit that the Communists, the trade unions, and the Australian Labour (Movement were denouncing Count von Luckner, and trying to expose the insidious work which they felt sure he was engaged upon in this country. When he paid a visit to Canberra, it was difficult even to get a view of him, because he was-‘ surrounded by all the tories and reactionaries who now sit in Opposition in this House. They were not concerned about the work in which he was engaged in this country. I do not know whether they actually approved of what he was doing ; but the only interest they showed in his visit was in trying to get him to demonstrate how he could bend and tear up telephone directories. These people feted, entertained, applauded and conversed with him in’ the most friendly fashion, whilst Labour organizations were being condemned because they had attempted to prevent him from landing in this country, and wanted some action to be taken in connexion with the work in which he was engaged. According .to Mr. Justice Clyne, Stephensen proved- himself to be a clever and astute - witness, who at times was embarrassed in finding explanations for some of the statements which previously had been made by him. Probably he found himself in a similar position to that in which the Leader of the Opposition finds himself from time to time - > embarrassed by the repetition of statements previously made by him. His Honour said that, in his opinion, the arrest of the persons whom he named was justified. These persons the honorable member for “Wentworth has endeavoured to defend. The Minister for the, Army has been wrongfully attacked for the action that he took on that occasion. Any member of this chamber, with the same evidence before him as the Minister had, would have acted similarly. I repeat that it is rather significant that organization’s engaged in subversive activities can always depend upon having a defending counsel on the Opposition benches in this chamber. We are all in agreement in accepting what the judge has said about those who subsequently were deemed to have been wrongfully detained; consequently, there is no need to continue to thrash that subject. But we invite honorable members opposite to condemn the Australia First Movement. Is there one of them who disapproves of the objectives of that movement? If he does, has he said so? Has any Opposition member expressed disagreement with the statements that were made by the members of that organization to which I ‘have referred? It may be true that in wartime some, people are wrongfully held in detention. On one occasion the ex- member for Henty suggested that I should be interned. Had such action been taken, it would have been a national calamity. I have no doubt that had honorable members who now sit in Opposition composed the Government I would have been interned, because they have strongly objected to my criticism and exposure of their activities. They are a Nazi party. They are Fascists at heart. They object to the expression of any political opinion contrary to their own. That is why the majority of them support the banning of the Communist party. I take the opposite view ; I believe that the proper way in which to combat any other political argument, if one has faith in one’s own party and its policy, is to convince by logical argument the majority of the Australian, people that one’s own party is right and the others are wrong. An idea is not killed by being suppressed ; it must be met in the open. By logical debate, the people of this democracy must be convinced that one’s own policy is the correct one to follow. The Minister for the Army is to be commended for his prompt action. Even though mistakes may have been made and individuals may have suffered, it was far better that the Minister should cast his net and bring in the guilty people; because, had he not been able to gather in the subversive elements, there is no knowing what damage they might have done to this country. He acted in the only possible way. I commend him. for the prompt steps that he took, and condemn the Opposition for their defence of enemy agents who were working for the discredit and destruction of this country.
.^- The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) is rather a unique specimen. He seems to have the shortest and most convenient memory we have ever experienced in this Parliament. Any one who has listened to him in this House during the last fourteen or fifteen years knows him as a first-class pacifist; yet now he has lectured us upon the defence of Australia. He is a man who was not willing to have this country prepared, or even to fight for the retention of its territories.
During this debate, he has endeavoured to draw all sorts of “ red herrings “ across the trail, and has delved deeply into the past in the ‘attempt to find evidence to support his contentions. He might have gone back beyond the original deluge were it not that red herrings do not live in fresh water and consequently his quest would have been fruitless. In a speech that he delivered in November, 1941, he condemned this organization and insisted that it should be banned. He and his party have been in office for four and >a half years, ‘yet the organization has not been banned and the Publicist has not been suppressed by means of the censorship. The manner in which he has lectured us would make it appear that he was still sitting in Opposition. The question before the House k, whether the Government of this British dominion intends to stand up for an elementary measure of British justice. If, by reason of a government blunder, reputable citizens of this country who have since been proved to be innocent, have been subjected to an indeterminate period of imprisonment without a trial, surely we who sit in this Parliament should assess what would be just and reasonable compensation to be paid to them to enable them to be restored to their former financial position and to regain the esteem in which they were previously held by their fellow citizens. On that point I quote a remark by the late honorable member for Bourke, Mr. Blackburn. Speaking on this very subject in this Parliament he said -
One of the great glories of the British people has been their solicitude for a fair trial of persons charged with high treason. Long before anything was done to protect persons charged with committing felonies, the British law provided the greatest guarantees for the fair trial of persons charged with treason, particularly that they should be defended at the expense of the Government. This House should not prejudice the trial of those persons.
I shall show how the Government, by its actions, has prejudiced the trial of these persons, and the miserable way in which it has treated the whole matter. I was not present in the House, or even in Australia, when the original debate took place, but I have been able to acquaint myself with the facts by reading the reports that appeared in Hansard and the press at the time. The outstanding feature is that a Labour government acted on evidence which definitely has been proved to have been manufactured by one of the police agents, a government pimp named Thomas, whom Mr. Speaker has said in this House ought to be in gaol. The Government, on evidence manufactured at the most critical stage of the war in March, 1942, stampeded the Parliament, the press and the people into” believing that there was a huge organized move to sabotage the administration and to assassinate the political and military leaders of this coun-try. The Government knew, as I- shall show,»that when this statement was made on the 26th March, the organization about which such a great fuss was made was an organization of five persons which had been brought into being by its own pimp, who had gone to “Western Australia for that particular purpose, and, as was proved by the photostat copies that were taken of letters that were sent through the post, it had no connexion whatever with the New South “Wales members of the Australia First Movement. The Government threw a number of innocent, reputable citizens of New South Wales into internment. It was not until two years later that Mr. Justice Clyne was appointed to conduct an inquiry in connexion with the internments, and a further twelve months elapsed before he reported that many of those who had been interned . knew absolutely nothing about the Australia First Movement. I shall make quotations later, but shall not repeat the garbled statements regarding men whom the judge declared to be innocent, as the Minister has done. A favorite trick of his is to quote a portion only of the relevant testimony. I shall quote in each case the concluding statement of Mr. Justice Clyne in order to show that some of the men to whom he referred were adjudged true and loyal citizens of Australia and the British Empire who had never done anything prejudicial to our. safety. What happened to those citizens who were known to have no connexion with the movement in Western Australia - which I deprecate much more heartily than does the Minister for Transport ? It was a foolish and fantastic movement, but it might have spread. One has no quarrel with the way in which it was .attacked. Those people were brought to trial openly and immediately. They were arrested in March, and were brought to trial in May. Two of them were found guilty, and two were found to be innocent. But citizens of New South Wales were kept in internment for months without being brought to trial or having any charge laid against them. Finally they were released without being given any reasons. Is it British justice to treat in that way reputable persons who had been held in esteem and whom the evidence - which was taken in an extraordinary way, judging by the report of His Honour - proved conclusively were innocent of any offence? These citizens were forcibly taken from their homes in tie middle of the night and placed in an internment camp, but no charge was laid against them. When it was proved that they were completely innocent and the judge found that they should not have been detained, they were given inadequate compensation. The news of the supposed infamy of these persons was bruited about. The press had screaming headlines right across the page> and the newspapers that I saw devoted practically onehalf of their space to the matter. The statement of the Minister for the Army was so vague and alarming that the right honorable member for Darling ‘ Downs (Mr. Fadden), who was Leader of the Opposition at the time, moved to have the matter . dealt with on an even broader basis than that on which it had been placed. There was no justification for such stampeding and alarm. To my amazement, I £nd that two’ years later, when the evidence was in the AttorneyGenerals Department and in the possession of the Department of the Army, and after Mr. Justice Clyne had been asked to investigate the matter, the Attorney-General suggested that it would be very unwise for the Opposition to attempt to do anything to help the people who had been victimized, describing them as Quislings and anti-Australians. That was an extraordinary statement to make after a judge had been commissioned to inquire into one of the most dastardly events in the history of this country, into the way in which innocent people had been pilloried, and their livelihood taken, away from them.
The men were arrested on the 10th March, 1942, upon the receipt of a telegram from Western Australia stating that a letter was being forwarded by the secretary of the movement in Western Australia to the Australia First Movement in Sydney. The letter itself contains proof that there was at that time no association between the two organizations. It showed clearly that the people in Western Australia had heard of the Australia First Movement in the east, and were making inquiries regarding its constitution. The letter, which was in the hands of the authorities on the 12th March, 1942, satisfied the police that there was no association between the movement in Western Australia and the movement in Sydney, and it was the Western Australian movement alone which had any possible association with plans to sabotage and assassinate. Even this association was more or less engineered by a government pimp. The regulations prescribe that persons so detained should be released or charged within ten days. In this case, such action should have been taken before the 20th March, but six days later the Minister for the Army made in this House his extravagant statement regarding the alleged activities of members of the Australia First Movement. He shocked and frightened the people of Australia, who were already sufficiently worried about the Japanese menace. He could have struck no greater blow against the morale of the people, and that at a time when it was urgently necessary that_ morale should be improved. The Minister is on the horns of a dilemma: either lie deliberately deceived the House when the relevant, information was in his possession, or he did not have the information when he should have had it.
On the 25th March, a question on the subject was asked of the Acting Attorney-General, who replied that he had no knowledge of the matter, although the regulations provided that the Attorney-General should be informed of the detention of persons in such circumstances. On the next day, however, the Minister for the Army made his disclosure in the House. It would appear that there was incredible carelessness in dealing with a matter of such importance. The Minister alleged that there was in existence a plan to assassinate military leaders and to commit sabotage, and yet he kept this information exclusively to himself, failing to disclose it to other members of the Cabinet. I sat in Cabinet for years, and I cannot understand how any responsible Minister could dream of keeping information of that kind in his own. exclusive possession. Some explanation of this matter is certainly needed. Either the Acting Attorney-General must have known of the matter at the time he was questioned, or he was guilty of a grave dereliction of duty. The Government must answer these five questions: On what ground did the Government conceal the police report of the 20th March, and mislead Parliament and the people regarding an act of such rank injustice to residents of New South Wales? Why were these men interned so long on most flimsy evidence against some and none at all against others? When the present Government came into, office it took immediate action to deal with and release Ratliff and Thomas, who had been tried and convicted in a court of law. The present AttorneyGeneral said that it was wrong, that they should be dealt with by secret tribunal, without their being present to give evidence; yet that was exactly what happened to those who were detained in connexion with, the Autsralia First Movement, and even then nothing was done until three months after they had been arrested. The third question is: was the. whole campaign inspired, by Communists and carried out at Communists instignation? In November, 1941, the Communists advocated at a meeting attended by the Minister for Transport that the Australia First organization should be broken up.
– That is a deliberate lie!
– Was the whole thing a deliberate perversion of the pro- tcesses of justice for the purpose of suppressing certain political opponents? Will a royal commission be appointed to formulate a proper basis for the compensation Qf the persons victimized? As the . Leader of the Opposition said, there must be, first, compensation for direct financial loss. Up to the present this compensation has not been accurately assessed. Then there is the loss they have suffered due to shock, and by injury to their social prestige and standing in the community. For the rest of their lives- they will suffer as a result of this. Finally, I ask whether a royal commission should not investigate Communist infiltration into government departments1, the services and the trade unions of this country. This point i* of particular importance, having regard to what has recently happened in Canada.
Let us now consider the cases of some of the men involved. There is first the case of Bath, who was in a big way of business. He was an alderman of the Manly City Council, a member of some of the leading committees, such as the Royal Automobile Club, and one of the managers of a number of public societies in Sydney. He was forced into bankruptcy, and the Taxation Department remitted a sum of £5,000’ which was owing to it. His business was ruined, and he had. to sell his home for over £400 less than the price at which it was valued. Now, at tie age of 45, he has to start at the bottom again. Is this, I ask, an example of British justice? I believe that it is one of the most dastardly things that has ever happened. Regarding him, Mr. Justice Clyne found that there was nothing subversive in his papers at the time of his arrest, and that he had had no association with the Japanese or the Germans.. He did not approve of Australia heading away from the British Commonwealth of Nations. “In my opinion” said Mr. Justice. Clyne, “Bath ought not to have been detained “.
Watts, another of the men detained, was a decorated soldier of the last war, who had been a guard at St. Mary’s munitions factory, near Sydney. A few days before his internment he had been commended by the Security Department for stopping a serious fire at the factory. While in the Prince of Wales hospital he died, obviously as the result of his treatment. This was while the inquiry was in progress.
Regarding Harley Matthews, Mr. Justice Clyne said that he had served with distinction in the last war, and was absolutely a loyal subject of the king.
He added : “ In my opinion, the intelligence officers committed a grave blunder in arresting and holding him.” Such a man is surely entitled to much more compensation than he has obtained so far. I think he was detained for six or seven months without there having been made against him the slightest charge that could have been sustained for a moment. Yet the Government has nothing whatever to say in defence or praise of him. I now come to one of the most tragic oases of all, that of Mr. Hooper, a man who in all his 73 years had held his head high in the community. He had been a branch manager of one of the great Australian banking houses. On all sides he was recognized as a great patriot. He subscribed to every Australian war loan. In fact he subscribed £150 to the loan opened just before he was interned. He also subscribed £25 to, the appeal for funds with which to replace the Sydney. This old man was rudely taken from his bed to internment. Think how he was treated! He was ill for months as the result of his internment, which took place three weeks after the death of his wife. During his incarceration he was once placed on a lorry under a guard of fixed bayonets. Fancy that treatment being thought necesary for a man of 73 ! When he was released, so ill that he was unfit to leave his bed, this old man, like other internees, was harassed by security police in a manner which, on the showing of the police reports, was more like that of the Gestapo or the Russian O.G.P.U. than anything in a British country. About him, Mr. Justice Clyne said: -
He was intensely Australian, but upon the evidence I cannot find that he acted in a manner prejudicial to Australia and the Empire. In his written statement to the Advisory Committee in June,. 1942, he mentioned, apparently, as an indication of hia loyalty, that he “ took up £150 in the .last War Loan” and “gave £25 to the new Sydney Cruiser ‘ “. In my opinion Army Intelligence made a mistake in recommending the detention on Hooper.
I come new to Mr. Masey, who His, Honour was prepared to believe, “ did not act in a manner prejudicial to Australia and her war effort”, and who, in the judge’s opinion, should not have been detained. One can go right, through the list with the same results. A government guilty of the detention of innocent men
Sir Earle Page. ought to have the common decency to ensure that its Ministers, when addressing themselves to this subject, shall quote the whole report of Mr. Justice Clyne, not just a selection of passages that they regard as favorable to themselves and their actions when guiltless men were incarcerated.
– Why does. the righthonorable gentleman himself not quote the whole report?
– I am ready to do so. I am now quoting the findings of the judge, whereas honorable members opposite have tended to select from the report passages redounding to the discredit of the men who were wrongly interned. If the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) thinks these men were traitors, let him prove it fairly and squarely. But they have not been proved to be traitors. On the contrary, they have been proved loyal. Yet the honorable member apparently approves of the way the Minister for Transport tried to heap on them muck from the garbage can. That is something that should be foreign to this House. The statements by the judge about the men whom he found to have been wrongly detained contrast remarkably with the statement by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) when the commissioner was appointed, in which he urged Opposition members not to take up the cases of the Australia First Movement internees, since it would be proved that they had been members of a quisling, subversive, anti-Australia and antiBritish group which had been prepared to stab Australia’ in the back. The Government was not able to establish any subversive act of which the men whom Mr. Justice Clyne excul.pated had been guilty. In point of fact, although the Government had counsel briefed, it submitted no evidence of anything subversive done by them. Nevertheless they had been interned for months and months.
It is interesting to examine the connexion of the Australian Communist party with these internments. Two Communists, Ratliff and Thomas, were charged and found guilty of subversive acts, sentenced to imprisonment for a term and then, on their release from gaol, interned. All sorts of efforts, extending even to strikes fostered by the then communistic Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales, were made to have them released from internment. Within two or three weeks of the Labour party’s accession to power both men were released. Then started a campaign by the Communists against the Australia First Movement, apparently as a part of their general campaign to force the hands of the British Empire in order to ensure the earliest opening of a second front in Europe, and it was the more intense because Cahill and Stephensen had formerly been members of the Communist party. Meeting after meeting of the Australia First Movement was interrupted by the Communists. Even before the activities in Western Australia came to light, the Communists urged the Commonwealth Government to suppress the movement. Notwithstanding that the Government was largely dominated by the Communist-controlled trade unions, the Government did nothing to suppress it, evidently because the Communists were unable to establish their case. So, having no actual evidence against the movement, the Communist’s next step was to manufacture evidence, and, accordingly, this man Thomas was sent across to Western Australia to contact Bullock. It is most extraordinary that when the internments were made the publication of their names was suppressed in every newspaper in Australia except the Communist Tribune, which published their names only three weeks later. It was dastardly to publish the names of men who had been interned without the slightest justification and without their ever having been called upon in a court to answer a specific charge. That is why it is absolutely necessary that we examine the- connexion .in this matter between the Communist party, the Government, government departments and the services, because a leak that enabled the banned Communist press to publish names that were unknown to the other legally recognized papers is a leak that cannot be tolerated in a democracy. That is the first matter. The second is the delay that occurred before these men were allowed access to a tribunal empowered to hear their objections to their internment. The set-up of the tribunal had been condemned in principle by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) when in Opposition, but that was all they were allowed. Appearance before the tribunal resulted in ten of the men being released within a few weeks of their cases having been heard. Some, however, refused to appeal to a secret tribunal. Eventually, the Attorney-General was good enough, to set up a special tribunal to hear their cases. It is interesting to contemplate the remarkable chain of coincidences. It is incumbent on the Government to ensure that our national life shall not be disturbed by communistic influences like those discovered recently in Canada. So I urge the Attorney-General, who has been loud in his condemnation of the suppression of liberty in other countries, to take up the banner of freedom in Australia and ensure that these men who have been so harshly and unjustly victimized shall be restored to the positions they occupied in public life, socially and financially, before they were taken into custody.
– Speeches on- this matter from honorable gentlemen opposite, including the last speaker, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), have taken their customary pedestrian course away from the main issue, because those honorable gentlemen know that they have no case. The position has been eloquently and trenchantly explained’ by the Minister for Transport (Mr: Ward), and the report of the learned judge, Mr. Justice Clyne, on the arrest and detention of certain members of the Australia First Movement is quite clear. In the alarums and excursions of war innocent persons are apt to be taken with the guilty into custody in the interests of the nation as a whole. I wonder whether honorable gentlemen opposite are not hurting the members of the Australia First Movement who come within that category even more than they were hurt by any action of the Government. The. situation must be looked at, not in the calm atmosphere of this chamber in the conditions that operate to-day, but in the atmosphere that prevailed everywhere in Australia when the Japanese were reaching for our throats. With that conceded, the Attorney-General and his ministerial colleagues’ need offer; no excuses for what was done. It was a. case- of: the greater good for the: greater number in. the hope that Australia might be saved. Even if a1 security officer a. little, overzealous, did something that resulted in Australian citizens suffering injustice,, they have, the means of redress,, and, I submit, that redress has been given. In the. judgment of Mr. Justice Clyne, certain people- who were not embroiled in the Australia- First Movement might have been floating on the fringes of the movement or entirely innocent. He recommended as amelioration certain compensation which has been granted. The judgment of the Opposition is a cash judgment : how much is. it worth? There is no answer in financial terms to that The answer is that this nation’s primary concern was its security. If measures to ensure that security reached beyond the guilty and netted some innocents, that has happened before, but I have never heard the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the ancient Briton of this chamber, protest against the imprisonment of workers, such as Tom Bowling, who have been innocent of any crime except, if it be a crime, standing up for the workers’ rights. In war, citizens sometimes get into the line of fire and suffer hurt, not from bullets, shells or bombs, but because, innocent though they may be, they come within the purview of those entrusted with suppressing subversion. What can be done about it? What can the Government do about it? This Government was sufficiently just to appoint Mr. Justice Clyne to discover whether that was what happened in the case of members of the Australia First Movement and, if so, what could be done to make restitution. But what of the political side of it? I am sorry for Mr. Harley Matthews.
– That is very generous of the honorable member.
– I am sorrier still for members of the Opposition, who make a political holiday out of a man’s misery. I am sorry for Matthews, who was gathered in,, and I think that the concert or the exhibition given- in this chamber by the Leader of the Opposition and his henchmen was purely the rawlings of election time. Anything will do for them for political propaganda. Members of the Opposition have been dabbling in. foreign affairs, and have criticized what: happened to the Formosans: aboard, the- Japanese destroyer Yoizuki. An. enterprising member- of this chamber suggested! that, the Oppositionhad formed a “ Free Formosan party “, and honorable- members- on this side of tha House, would, not be eligible for membership.. Honorable members opposite have been rattling their -sabres during the last month about various Australian problems,, but they do not apply their maids to these, matters when the serious business of the Parliament begins. Instead, they resurrect a dead subject like’ the Australia First. Movement. As the Minister for Trans-port pointed out so trenchantly, the Opposition did not cry, “ Down with the traitors of Australia “, but asked “ How much will the Government, pay to the .fellows who were not crook?” That is typical of the Opposition’s behaviour. Honorable members opposite are looking for a little very necessary propaganda for the election, but their changing from one leg to the other convinces me that their political publicity heads are very uneasy about the result.
I come now to the position of the two protagonists of this movement. We witnessed, in the cloistered calm of this Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition gesticulating right and left and impressing us with the misery of the occasion, and the awful damage that has been done to some -members of the Australia First Movement. Then, having sniffed his brief, he left the chamber. The jackbooted gentleman from Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who will rattle the sabre on any issue, against the Government or the worker, also participated in the debate. I wonder whether the Opposition really has any sincerity. I regret that the honorable member’ for Wentworth is not present, although it is rather a relief to the House when this bombinating person is not buzzing around the chamber, causing irritation to other honorable members. He made an impassioned and poignant appeal, which he can turn on and off like a prima donna, and talked of the misery and suffering of certain members of the Australia First Movement who had been interned. We admit that they were interned, and the justice that has followed it. Then the. honorable member, under cover of parliamentary privilege, and in the coward’s castle, strutting like the Fascist . that he is, attacked a civil servant who had no opportunity to reply. This civil servant has given not only civil service; but also yeoman service. I refer to the secretary of the AttorneyGeneral, Mr; DalzieL It was a gratuitous insult to a fine Australian; in addition to the damage that could be caused to him, to associate him with Communist activity. “Was this attack designed to destroy this man in the eyes of a party which is not favorable to Communists?
The honorable member for Wentworth referred to Mr. Dalziel at the conclusion of a speech which was full of his usual rhetoric, the thunder of ari empty mind, and at the last there came the poison of the snake. The honorable member read a letter which had been published in a newspaper and which had been sent originally, I think, to the member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). _ In that, Mr. Dalziel had suggested that when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was stumping the country- for recruits, he said, “ I. think that a better way of getting recruits would be to improve conditions’ and make Australia well worth fighting for.” No ohe would suggest that that was hot the case in those days. I remember distinctly when the right honorable gentleman was touring the country in a recruiting campaign, because it was at the tail-end of the depression and I, a journalist, was employed oh a country newspaper. Some years prior to that, I had written a peace play, and he suggested to me that he would be willing to write a preface for it. With this peace play still _ in my pocket, I attended one of the right honorable gentleman’s meetings. In his well-known tone.;,- he shouted, “ Boll up again for war “. Honorable members will recall the way in which he stumped the country in that campaign. I asked him, “ Do you remember Les Haylen?”. He replied, “Yes, how is he I must go down’ and see him.” So I naturally concluded, that the tenacity of his friendship would be about as strong as is his affiliation to one idea.
I turn now. from the crusade conducted by the right honorable member for North Sydney to the letter written .by Mr. Dalziel. At the time, he was the secretary of the Christian Youth Movement, and to suggest, as the honorable member for Wentworth did last night, that he was a Communist fellow-traveller, is to suggest that its patron and its financial helper, Lord Gowrie, might also be in the same camp-. These irresponsible utterances of the honorable member, who was almost drawn over the political cliff some time ago by a lady; should at some time or other be stopped. Being a sensitive fellow myself, I can see the skin ‘creeping
On the back of hil leader’s neck when he rises to address1 the House. I always think that it is a wonderful thing for our party that, in the event of the retirement of the right honorable member for Kooyong; the honorable member for Wentworth would be li Ls successor.
I desire to return for a moment to .the matter which brought me to my feet namely, the dastardly action of the honorable member in attacking a civil servant who has rendered nothing but good service to this country. I say in his defence that when he,- as an Australian, expressed an opinion; he should not be pilloried here by an honorable member who, with false adulation and pious platitudes, complained that the Government did ,an awful thing to certain members of the Australia First Movement. What is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.” This man might be, by chance, fi supporter of ‘lie Labour party, and naturally he would be open to the barbed darts of the Opposition.
There is nothing t6 Answer in this debate, and I leave it to the AttorneyGeneral to drive the nails’ firmly into the coffin “of the Opposition’s argument. But I impress 6ri the minds of honorable members the shameful action of this man who used this chamber to have a “ go” at a civil servant and then walked out, and went to Melbourne to urge the electors of Henty to vote against the’ Government, which is fighting for the rights of the worker.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) the kind of war in which this country unfortunately was engaged for nearly six years, the first rule which must be laid down is that the security of the nation is the overriding consideration. In the first few days of September, 1939, this Parliament, of which I was a member, passed certain special legislation under which virtually for the duration of the war, certain civil liberties were placed in abeyance, or certain restrictions were placed upon the operation of the normal lawful safeguards of the liberties of the subject. That legislation was the National Security Act. So that there shall be no slips of memory, I took the trouble recently to refer to what I said on that occasion, because I have vivid recollections of that debate. Certain matters hinged on the question of the control of enemy property in this country, and the rights of certain of our citizens. On that occasion, I pointed out to the Parliament that if unbridled control were given to people who were not obliged to come out into the open, state, and attempt to prove their case, quite a number of innocent people might be placed under surveillance and probably interned for long periods during the war. Australia had no security service whatever in peacetime. In fact, the Security Service was not established until the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) took the necessary action. Certain activities were undertaken by the intelligence section of the Army - a section which was never trained for that purpose. Therefore, it stands to reason that with the wide expansion of Army intelligence after the outbreak of war men would come into the forces who had had no particular training in any one of the activities in which they might have to engage. That was not an exception which could be sheeted home to Army intelligence only. -It applied to all the fighting services. Men were taken from the highways and byways and placed in certain position’s. Under those conditions, it was inevitable that mistakes would be made. But it is equally inevitable that in a democratic community such as we are reputed to be, and which, I hope, in fact we shall ultimately prove to be, where mistakes are shown to have been made with the best of intention on the. part of the officers concerned, this Parliament will not be so oblivious of the rights and privileges of citizens as utterly to deny the ventilation of their cases when time and opportunity occur. It is true that a certain amount has been done by the inquiry conducted by Mr. Justice Clyne, but the important thing from my standpoint is the judge’s own comment on the first of his terms of reference. He said -
Having dealt generally with the evidence relating to the matters the subject of this inquiry and having stated my conclusions thereon, I now propose to deal with the specific questions submitted to me -
Whether the detention in March, April and May, 1942, under Regulation 20 of the National Security (General) Regulations of certain persons connected with the “Australia First Movement” group as recommended by the Army authorities was justified.
This is the judge’s own comment -
This question in the form in which it is expressed leaves some doubt as to its proper construction.
So the judge, who on his own showing sat for months on this investigation, was not able at the conclusion of his inquiry to be quite sure in his own mind as to what construction he was to place upon the first of his terms of reference. That fact alone must have been brought to the notice of the AttorneyGeneral, who, I have no doubt, read Mr. Justice Clyne’s report. That, in itself, raises the question whether there should be a further investigation of these cases.
I put another point to the AttorneyGeneral. There are not only the cases of the Australia First Movement. They number only twenty. But in many other instances, British-born subjects were interned for very long periods, and many problems are now arising as the result of their internment. The Attorney-General knows from correspondence that some men have been interned for four or five years. They are now returning to civilian life, and are told that there is nothing against them. They were never charged with any offence, and they are not able to secure employment in Australia. They are in a most unfortunate position. Their number is only small compared with the huge numbers of men returning from the fighting services, but the fact remains that certain restrictions have been imposed on these men in war-time, and I believe that the Commonwealth, through its security service, is under a moral obligation, at any rate, to supply these men with documentary evidence that they were not charged with any offence. Some time ago,. I received a letter from the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley), during the long absence of the Attorney-General abroad. He declined to agree to the proposals of certain sub-branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in my electorate, namely, that there should be published in the Gazette a roll of the names of every person who had been interned for the duration of the war. The Acting AttorneyGeneral very rightly pointed out that the publication of such a list of names would do infinite and irreparable injustice to many people against whom no charge whatever had been or could be laid. These things, from the point of view of a government which has a two to one majority in this Parliament may be very small, but “ the toad beneath the harrow “ sees them very differently.
The first thing we heard about the Australia First Movement was from the lips of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), in this chamber. I have the report of his statement before me. There is no doubt that he “ rocked “ this House that afternoon. It was one of the shortest statements the right honorable gentleman has ever made to Parliament, but it had an extraordinary effect. It was something in the nature of a foretaste of the atomic bomb. Parliament was astonished when the right honorable gentleman said- -
Documents and papers which have been seized purport to show that certain people in Australia intended to make contact with the Japanese Army at the moment of an invasion of Australia. The documents set out elaborate plans for sabotage at vulnerable points in this country, and describe methods calculated to make resistance to the Japanese impossible. Plane for the assassination of prominent people are set out. One document purports to be a proclamation with the heading “Australia First Government”, and “ welcomes to this country as friends and liberators the Japanese leaders and army “.
If what was said on that occasion was correct I would like to know why the provisions of the Crimes Act were not enforced. The Attorney-General should be fairly familiar with the provisions of that act; if he is not familiar with them it is a great pity. The act provides -
An intention to effect any of the following purposes, that is to say -
to excite disaffection against the Sovereign or the Government or Constitution of the United Kingdom or against either House of the Parliament of the United Kingdom ;
to excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of any of the King’s Dominions;
to excite disaffection against the Government or Constitution of the Commonwealth or against either House of the Parliament of the Commonwealth ;
to excite disaffection against the connexion of the King’s Dominions under the crown ; is a seditious intention.
I point out that the penalty laid down for some of the crimes referred to by the Minister for the Army is no less than death. The full statement of the Minister for the Army, to which I referred a few minutes ago, appears in Hansard of the 26th March, 1942, volume 170, at page 462. If there was any foundation in fact for what the Minister said, the individuals concerned should have been tried under Commonwealth law for treason and sedition. If they had been found guilty the death sentence should have been imposed. I ask members of the Ministry whether, if the High Court, or any other competent court, had tried such individuals, foundthem guilty and imposed the death sentence, the sentence would have been carried out? I am not a lawyer-
– That is obvious.
– It was equally obvious last night that the Minister is not a lawyer. If the death sentence had been imposed in the circumstances to which I have referred, would a Labour government have allowed it to be carried out, or should we have had a repetition of a scene in which you, Mr. Speaker, took part in this’ chamber some years ago when a motion for the adjournment of the House was debated all through the night and until 8 o’clock next morning, as a protest against the hanging of a man for the murder of 22 people in New Guinea? Some honorable gentlemen who now sit on the treasury bench, participated in that debate.
What I have heard to-night from the Government benches leaves me stone-cold. The question we are discussing at present, is not whether there was any association between the Australia First Movement and the Opposition. Personally, I do not know anything about that. I suppose, if it came to the point, Opposition members would have been in the same position as Government members in regard to the matter. We had never before heard of the Australia First Movement. But when the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) emphasizes, as he did to-night, certain planks in the platform of the Australia First Movement, I. am entitled to reply to him, and to his colleagues, that some of the planks of the platform of that movement, referred to in the public document to which reference has been made, were actually put into effect by this Government very shortly after the members of the movement had been interned. One of .the most important of these related to the recall of the Australian Imperial Force from the Middle East.
– Was the honorable umm bor against that being done?
– I was.
– Then the honorable gentleman was wrong.
– I was also in favour, in September, 1939, of e ending five Australian divisions to the Middle East.
– So the honorable gentleman was wrong again?
– I was not born under a lucky. star, but I remind the honorable gentleman of the great Emersonian law of compensation. Somebody must be wrong. I may be wrong at one time, but the Minister is sure to be wrong at another time. I remind the honorable gentleman also of the words r f Lowell -
Truth forever on the scaffold.
Wrong for ever on the throne.
The Commonwealth Government has been guilty of a gross, unexplained and unpardonable dereliction of duty in this matter if members of the Australia First Movement who were interned were guilty of the conduct alleged against them by the Minister for the Army. I point out that no charges were subsequently laid against these individuals. There was no hearing in open court, and the persons concerned were denied civil, liberties which have been the right of every British, citizen since the day when. King John signed Magna Charta in 1215. Under that great charter, it became, the right of every British citizen accused! of a breach of the law to be tried in an open court by his peers for the crime alleged against him.
What was done, in regard to these members of the Australia First Movement was. covered by National Security Regulations. I should like to have heard Mr. JusticeEvatt, who is now the Attorney-General, deal on the High Court bench with the abrogation of the civil rights of. citizens under a measure which was properly operative only for the duration of the wor and for six months thereafter, but which is still in force. A man could be arrested under National Security Regulations on the signature of - a Minister of State. The men were arrested in this instance over the signature of theMinister for the Army. But althoughthey were arrested they were never accused, and there has been no inquiry into their conduct in open court.
Not . long ago this Government appointed a new justice in the Australian Capital Territory. His first duty, however, was not to inquire into incidents in which injustices have been alleged against British-born citizens of Australia, but to inquire into the position of certain aliens who had been allowed to remain hereduring the war, and were about to be sent overseas. There is a good old rule that charity begins - at home. I believe in. putting first things first. If certain things were done in the stress of war, which were alleged to be unjust - and I realize that such things may be done in the stress of war - surely in the name of common sense, decency, and British citizenship, it is only right that the wrongs should bc reviewed. The first duty of the Government must surely be to its own citizens. It is not sufficient for the Government to -say to certain individuals: “ It is most unfortunate that, on account of an error, a gross injustice has .been done to you, but there is nothing to do about it “. This is particularly unsatisfactory, because a judge which the Government itself selected found that grievous blunders had been made. I am not an advocate of attacking responsible officers in the Army who had to do a difficult job, in circumstances of which they had had no previous experience, but surely the dictates of decency and justice tell u.s that there should be a review of cases like these. I can picture vividly, in my own mirid. what would be happening at present if the treasury bench . were occupied by honorable gentlemen now sitting on this side of the chamber, and honorable gentlemen now in office were sitting in opposition. The Labour party, in such circumstances, would not be satisfied for a government to accept the Clyne report as final. I would like to hear what the Attorney-General and the honorable member for Melbourne would say in such circumstances. They would wax most eloquent at the enormities and wickedness of ministers of a capitalistic government denying the common man his rights.
– Tell us something about .station 2KY.
– I will tell the Minister that no member of the Australian Labour party has ever been game to challenge me in this House in regard to station 2KY. The man I asked lime and again to do so was the honorable member for East Sydney, but after a certain telephone conversation he had very little to say about it, particularly after I told him that I had taken, not a shorthand record, but a gramophone record ‘ of what , was said over station 2KY, and I was ready to play it for him at any time. I may be a so-and-so from the bush, but I was not born yesterday.
– The honorable gentleman knows a lot of tricks.
– At any rate I was ready for a showdown at any time about station 2KY.
– The honorable gentleman was talking about civil liberties.
– I would like the Minister to have a look through that file. If he does so -I am sure that, as a junior Minister - and a very junior
Minister at that - he would have a lot less to say on the subject. /
– I may be able to look through it in my spare time. Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON. - If the honorable gentleman did so, he .would have a lot less to say than he had to say about a junior member of the Australian hierarchy. After the honorable gentleman had castigated His Holiness the Pope last January we should have liked to hear more about it, but the point is that the Pope is still at the Vatican and the honorable gentleman is still here. Possibly the Minister bad a look along the Cabinet bench and, seeing that there was not an Anzac among Ministers, he said to himself, “ How could His Holiness have the hide to elevate to the College of Cardinals an Anzac, when there is not one on the treasury bench?”.
– He was .no more an Anzac than is the honorable member. -
– Coming back to the Australia First Movement, the Minister for Transport might find it better to base his next campaign in East Sydney on the Australia First cases than on the administration of the Chifley Government.
I put it to the Attorney-General, who has been a justice of the High Court of Australia, and who has a wide legal knowledge, that the rights and civil liberties of individual citizens are of very great importance to them. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said this afternoon, if it be just to compensate individuals in respect of properties taken from them in the stress of war, it must surely be much more just to compensate them for character and reputation also taken from them in the stress of war. Unless I am mistaken in the right honorable gentleman, I believe that before very long he will be informing the House that the Government has decided that some further investigation of these matters is to be made, not with a view of trying to erect an “ Aunt Sally “ to be knocked down, but with a view to rectifying a wrong that has been done, if a wrong has been done. I am not one who believes that every man interned was innocent. In fact, as I said when speaking on the National Security Act, thereare certain men who ought to have been taken into custody as soon as that measure was passed; but I do not think that many of them were.
– The honorable gentleman has not condemned many of those who were put in.
– It is not within my province to condemn them. Unless I had access to the files of those persons, it would be a wicked sin were I to condemn a man whose case I had not heard. But if the Minister has gone through those files and, having studied them, is certain that some of these men were guilty, he is in a position which I at present do not occupy, and do not want to occupy, because I do not consider that I have the necessary judicial qualifications, although perhaps, if search were made, it might be found that I have one or two elements of common sense in my make-up. Looking through the files, some judicial body might be able to decide whether an injustice has been done.
– Why not accept Mr. Justice Clyne’s report?
– The form in which the first question which Mr. Justice Clyne was asked to determine was expressed, leaves some doubt as to its proper construction. I do not know who drafted it; but I do know that the responsibility for it rests on the front ministerial bench. Everything that I say to-night, as well as what I said last night, concerns the front ministerial bench ; it concerns the actions and the statements of His Majesty’s Ministers. They cannot get away from it by saying that this has been done and that has been done. The matter first arose in this Parliament by means of what we know among ourselves as a “ Dorothy Dix “. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) whether certain internments, arrests or apprehensions had been made; and in reply the Minister made his amazing declaration. If that declaration was justified, those men should not have been interned but should have faced criminal charges in a criminal court. Since they have not done so, the Ministry still has something to explain. I hope that we shall not have to wait long for that explanation to be forthcoming.
.- I am rather astonished that there should not have been a speaker from the front ministerial bench on this important matter.
– I propose to reply to the debate.
– I had in mind the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde).
– Had the honorable member been here last night, he would have . heard the speech that I made after the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) had spoken.
– It is noteworthy that during the debate on the previous evening no honorable member on a back government bench was given an opportunity to speak; yet to-night, on a matter which also effects the liberties of the subject, the front ministerial bench is very silent. However, I accept the assurance of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that he will speak later in the debate. We shall listen to him with profound interest and respect. Apparently, this matter has been made -the football of party, not by the contributions that have been made to it by honorable members who sit on this side of the House, but because of the reception of their arguments by members of the Government. When, to-night, I saw the giggles and smiles of government members at the sallies of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who denied those civil liberties which so often have been advocated in this House by members who now compose the Government, the thought occurred to me that even the shade of Maurice Blackburn had disappeared from the ranks of the Labour party. This matter affects, at the moment, nine or ten individuals who belonged or were deemed to belong - as a- matter of fact, the report of Mr. Justice Clyne says that some of them did not belong - to a body known as the Australia First Movement. Those men were taken from their homes, thrown into an internment camp, and charged with treason and with association with the enemy at a time when Australia was in vital peril. Those who had such a charge over their heads, and their families, must have suffered a degree of humiliation and injury which no action by this chamber oan remedy but at least some effort ought -to be made to palliate the injustice. I have risen, not because I know any member of the movement who has been a victim of what lias occurred, but because what happened to. members of the Australia First Movement might happen to any Australian citizen at any time. The principle upon which British civil liberties are based is that even the humblest citizen is entitled to a fair trial, and justice. When we fight the case for these exinternees on the ground that they were wrongfully and shamefully treated, we fight it on behalf of every individual in the community who might be similarly treated now or in the future. We want to lay down the precedent and Iia ve it made a tradition, that if such things are done to a citizen the wrong will be righted and he will receive justice.
What is the case against these unfortunate individuals? In- the early stages of the war, an organization known as the Australia First Movement came into being. It attracted, I believe, only 70 or SO adherents. It had a platform, and certain planks of policy. The Attorney-General has probably read or seen that platform, and to many of the planks he would subscribe. I shall mention the ten points of policy only in order to indicate how attractive they might appear to any citizen with an interest in the welfare of his country. They are” these -
Who would fail to subscribe to that, except, the Minister for Transport?
– The honorable gentleman agrees with the movement.
– I know that members of the Government disagree with it; but that is no reason for interning those who hold such views,
– If the honorable gentleman agrees with .it, -he ought to be interned.
– The other points of policy are -
Is there anything in” that to which one could not subscribe?
I submit that that will be approved-
The Australia First Movement opposes the surrender of any of Australia’s rights of self-government.
I believe that the Minister for External Affairs has advocated that -with some effect at San Francisco and elsewhere -
Does the Minister for Immigration object to that?
That is the manifesto of the Australia First Movement. I have recited it merely for the purpose of indicating how easy it would be for any well-meaning, patriotic individual to subscribe to it and to join the movement. Similar things are happening every day. A Minister says that that is how Hitler obtained his adherents. I agree that a very attractive programme sometimes gets innocent people in. Such organizations a3 the Eureka Youth Movement and the Youth Movement of Australia, which we know are Communist inspired, are based on -very specious grounds. What I want to emphasize, and what other speakers on the Opposition side have emphasized, is that the Minister for Transport, following the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) tonight, concentrated his attack upon what Stephensen did, or was alleged to have done. Having based his argument entirely on the assumed guilt of Stephensen, he proceeded to tie up with him other men whom Mr. Justice Clyne had pronounced innocent. The report of His
Honour iii respect of Bath is that that individual was not even a member of the movement, had never attended a meeting of it, and had not subscribed to its policy, although he had made application for membership, which tip to that time had not been accepted. On this aspect of the matter Mr. Justice Clyne reported : -
When the Australia First Movement was formed in October, 1941, ite original aims might be regarded as legitimate. The original manifesto of ten points would ‘no doubt be regarded with approval by some sections of the community and by other sections with disfavour, but in my opinion the mere advocacy of the views expressed iri this manifesto was not likely to prejudice the war effort of Australia of the Empire.
It will be recalled that the only charges preferred in court in connexion with the case were those against four persons in Western Australia. The others who were detained were thrown into prison, their businesses ruined and their families disgraced because, in matters of this kind, the family can-not escape the odium attaching to the charges preferred against the husband or father as the case may be. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that many others had suffered in this war, and that some had had to take their place in the firing line. That is true, but the greatest hardship that can’ be inflicted on any person is to have a charge of treason preferred against him. Such a charge should never be made against any citizen unless it is fully justified.
– Does not the honorable member- think that the Government has tried to make amends?
– It has taken some tardy steps in that direction, but does the Minister really belie’ ve that the payment of £200 or £300 is sufficient to compensate a man for the destruction of his reputation, for months in gaol, for the loss of his business, and for other damage sustained? The Opposition- has discussed this matter in a’ most reasonable way. No speech could be more temperate than that of the Leader of the Opposition. He said that any Government in office at the time would have had to do w-bat the present Government did in view of the report made to it. but he added that when these persons had been proved innocent, then, for God’s sake let us, in the interests of Australia, see that justice is done to them. Nothing is to be gained by the Opposition from stumping the country on the Australia First issue. All we can get out of it is the satisfaction of defending the rights of citizens whose liberties were taken away from them by the exercise of the powers of government. I ask the Attorney-General not to take the attitude that the incident is closed because the judge has given his finding. Judges are not the final arbiters in matters of this kind. The final arbiter is this Parliament; and it is for every member of this Parliament to decide in his own mind whether justice has been done to men who have been proved innocent.
– ‘The judge has determined that certain amounts of money shall be paid to the persons concerned. What suggestion has the honorable member to make regarding the payment of additional amounts?
– The Opposition will suggest certain action which might be taken by the House to vindicate the honour of the Commonwealth .and to ensure that justice be done.
.- * When speaking on this subject last evening, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) made an appeal that the subject should be discussed dispassionately. Probably that accounts for the way in which the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) spoke to-night. However, I shall not imitate his intemperance because it is not my nature to ‘be vituperative, and because I believe that I can do a greater service to the men who have suffered by making a dispassionate appeal to the better instincts of the members who must finally decide what further shall be done in the matter. Fortunately, it will not be left to the Minister for Transport. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for the Army, in whom I have much more confidence than in the Minister for Transport, will probably have most to do with it.
The Minister for Transport blamed honorable members on this side for having concentrated their attention largely oh the cases of those men who were eventually exonerated. I intend also to follow that line, and I make no apology for doing so. I accept the findings of Mr. Justice Clyne regarding the other persons. I agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that in time of war even civil liberties have to be subordinated to the interests of the State. It may be that many others, apart from those detained in connexion with the Australia First Movement, including Australian citizens and aliens, have suffered injustice because it was necessary in the interests of national safety that they should be interned. Much was made by the honorable member for Parkes and the Minister for Transport of the allegedly subversive purpose and aspirations of the Australia First Movement. On that point it will be interesting to read the findings of Mr. Justice Clyne -
The Australia First Movement was formed irc October, 1041, with a definite constitution and rules, and its original aims were set forth in the manifesto containing ten points to which I have referred; according to the register of members, 05 persons became members of the movement. The formal aims of the movement, including the ten-point manifesto, may perhaps he regarded as legitimate propaganda and not prejudicial to Australia’s war effort, hut it is not unreasonable to suggest that the organization made its appearance at an inopportune time. I might add that according to Captain Blood, Army Intelligence did not object to the manifesto.
Thus there was inherently nothing wrong with the manifesto of the organization. Whether some of its members held ideas beyond what was stated in the manifesto it is not for me to judge. Mr. Justice Clyne made his determination on that point, and I accept it. However, I am concerned with the injustice done to a number of men, each of whom was named by Mr. Justice Clyne in his report, and whose case was dealt with individually. An unwarranted attack was made by the Minister for Transport on Mr. Keith Bath, and therefore I shall deal with his case, although I recognize that an attack by the Minister for Transport ought to be regarded as a compliment by any one, whether inside Parliament or out of it. This is what Mr. Justice Clyne said–
Bath applied for membership of the Australia First Movement on the 17th February, 1042, but received no official notice of his election as a member. He said he applied for membership because of his love of freedom of speech. He lodged an appeal against his detention and was released by the Attorney-General subject to certain restrictions in August, 1942.
We have been asked by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) to accept the judge’s report, and I do so. However, I did not need Mr. Justice Clyne to tell me about the loyalty of Mr. Bath, because I have personal knowledge of him extending over many years in social and business capacities. Therefore, I know that His Honour correctly assessed the position when he said that the authorities had no right whatever to detain “Mr. Bath. I emphasize that I accept Mr. Justice Clyne’s report respecting the guilt of pome of the members of the movement; but about Mr. Clarence Crowley, His Honour said -
Clarence Crowley appealed to an Advisory Committee, which recommended his release, and he was released in August. 1942, subject to restriction. He joined the Australia First Movement soon after it was formed. He attended Yabba Club meetings on a few occasions. Clarence Crowley when giving evidence was at some pains to protect his brother Valentine Crowley, but generally I considered his evidence was in substance reliable. I believe that he was a loyal subject and the evidence called on his behalf confirms this belief. … In my. opinion the recommendation for his detention was not justified.
So the story proceeds. Another man whom I know personally is Mr. Masey. I need not refer to Mr. Harley Matthews, whose case was one of the most grievous of all, because it has been already well ventilated. But, dealing with Mr. Masey, Mr. Justice Clyne reported -
Edward Gory de la Roche Ma,&01.1 - Masey appealed to an Advisory Committee which found that he had not discharged the onus upon him of satisfying the Committee that he was entitled to release. He was released subject to restrictions in October, .1942. on the recommendation of a Special Committee. He is an accountant by occupation. He was a member of the Australian Institute of Political Science and other associations, and a contributor on political and economic questions to various magazines, and had for- many years taken a keen interest in economic questions. . . While Masey expressed strong views about Australia’s ability to defend herself and about freedom of speech, there was nothing to indicate that he had used the right to freedom of speech which he claimed to inculcate hostility to England, although one might easily suspect that he had no pro-British sentiments. It was also alleged against him that he had said that a definite defeatist feeling was whipping up in his office, and lie had added fuel to it, but there was not sufficient evidence to support this allegation. Evidence was called on behalf of Masey to support his denial that he had ever used subversive language in regard to England. . . . Though Masey was perhaps indiscreet I am prepared to believe that he did not act in a manner prejudicial to Australia and her war effort. In my opinion he should not have been detained.
Again, I can say on personal knowledge of Mr. .Masey, who is a constituent of mine, that I entirely agree with that summing up of his case by Mr. Justice Clyne. So the report goes on covering seven or eight other men who, in the words of His Honour, should never have been detained, although he said, as we freely admit, that in the interests of national security, the net had to be thrown wide and sometimes innocent men, men whose detention could not be sustained, might have been quite justifiably taken in the original apprehension. My purpose in speaking to-night is to urge on the Attorney-General the need to ensure more appropriate justice than has been given to men upon whom Mr. Justice Clyne reported favorably. Dealing with the question of compensation, His Honour said -
In dealing with the question of compensation, it may reasonably be said that it is impossible to grant adequate compensation to a person who has been deprived of his liberty “and branded as disloyal.
That may reasonably be said, but, surely, that does not mean that it is impossible for us to make an attempt at some measure of compensation for all the pain and suffering involved in their detention and in their having been branded as disloyal. I have searched the report in vain for any recommendation that compensation be granted for that. I remind honorable members that in June, 1942, the AttorneyGeneral made this definite public pronouncement on this matter -
I am determined that, if any individual has suffered any wrong, not only will he be vindicated and vindicated publicly, but he will receive adequate compensation for the wrong that has been suffered.
I ask the right honorable gentleman to stand by that pronouncement. I am sure that he will not hesitate to do so. His Honour said that it was impossible to place a monetary assessment upon distress and loss of social prestige and all the other ignominies inherent in having the brand “ traitor “ unjustly placed upon, one. Then he proceeded to make an assessment of certain compensation. His recommendations in that connexion were carried out by the Government. Mr. Masey was granted £350 on a recommendation of the Commissioner. He established to the Commissioner’s satisfaction that he had suffered the loss of £300 in salary and between £40 and £50 in legal expenses. That, of course, accounts for the recommendation that he be reimbursed £350. But there ?s not one penny for the pain and loss of social prestige that he suffered, which will be remembered for all’ time, despite the public vindication of his honour, as the result of his having for a long period in the time of Australia’s greatest crisis been interned as a subversive subject. Mr. Bath established before the Commissioner - at any rate, I find no refutation in the report - that he had lost £4,957 in salary. I understand that that loss was substantiated by the presentation of income tax returns. As one who makes out income tax returns occasionally, I know that the amount returned can be taken as the minimum of income. He also showed that the legal costs associated with his efforts to be released amounted to £403. That is a total of £5,460. Yet, the amount recommended by the judge and paid by the Government to Mr. Bath was only £500. Even when it was offered it was accompanied by all sorts of conditions. Both the money and the conditions were refused. Eventually it was offered unconditionally and accepted. Clarence Crowley was one of those fortunate people who are able to live on their income without working. So he made no claim for loss of salary, but he did submit a claim for £500 for legal expenses. Mr. Justice Clyne recommended that he be paid that amount and his recommendation was accepted b.y the Government. In one or two other cases the men concerned asked merely for legal expenses which were granted. Mr. Salier was given £500 in respect of the loss of £280 .of salary and £220 legal expenses. Those instances suffice to show that no consistent formula was adopted by His Honour in arriving at the amounts that he thought should be paid. I can only assume that Mr. Justice Clyne, in stating that it was impossible to place a monetary value on the other losses, left it to the good sense of the Government to determine what compensation should be paid in that respect, and’ I, too, leave it to the good sense of the Government. I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will appreciate the strength of the position that I have just enunciated and will see that the judge, in fixing the compensation at an even amount of £500 apiece to some of the men, decided that those payments had no relation whatever to the individual claims of each of them in respect of the sufferings that were inflicted upon them. I therefore appeal to the right honorable gentleman to ensure that they shall be more adequately compensated than they have been, even though i; is impossible for any government to restore them to the position in society from which they were cast by their internment. The millions of pounds that this Government is. handing out as compensation to contractors whose contracts have been voided, and to other people who have suffered loss because of’ Australia’s participation in war, show that it has ample financial resources from which to make handsome payments to offset the distress to which they were so needlessly subjected.
. -I have listened to this debate with great interest. I do not propose to go over the history of the internment of these men, but I do entirely agree with the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that all the men not freed by the report of Mr. Justice Clyne from the charges made against them should be charged under the Crimes Act with sedition or as enemies of their country in time of war. I can see no difference between trying them as traitors and trying war criminals in enemy countries. Every free citizen should have the opportunity of being tried by his peers in accordance with the principle laid- down in Magna Charta. Mr. Justice Clyne definitely cleared certain members of the . Australia First Movement of any guilt.
I desire to place on record some of the types, of evidence on which these men were internal for many months. The gentleman who seems to have been principally responsible for their incarceration was a Captain F. B. Blood, officer in charge of investigations of the Australia First Movement and the Publicist. He was the expert in this matter, and both Colonel Powell and Captain Newman stated in their evidence before Mr. Justice Clyne that their actions were based upon the reliance which they placed on him. He was the key man, who was responsible for the reports and the statement which landed these men in an internment camp. Let us examine some of the evidence which Captain Blood gave under crossexamination by Mr. Cassidy, K.C. Mr. Cassidy asked whether every article in the Publicist had been censored. Blood replied, “ No, probably none at all “. Mr. Cassidy then asked “Do you say that seriously?” and Blood answered, “Quite seriously. Because of the policy of the Government, all publications were under voluntary censorship “. Yet as a matter of fact, every copy of the Publicist had been censored since 1940.
I come now to the evidence which Blood gave regarding the arrest of Harley Matthews. He stated that at the time of the arrest he thought that Harley Matthews was a member of the executive of the Australia First Movement. As a matter of fact, Matthews was not even a member of the movement. Then he mentioned a report by Constable Doyle that Matthews was an ex-barrister and a war correspondent in World War I. The fact is that he was never a barrister and was a serving soldier in the war of 1914-18. One statement which Blood made regarding Watts was that, “ What a man does for the outside public is no indication of what is going on in his mind.” He said also that Matthews opposed conscription in 1938. No evidence to support this statement was produced. If people were to be interned because they had opposed conscription in 1938, almost every member of the Labor Government would have been put into a concentration camp, just as Matthews was. That, is the kind of tainted evidence which led to the arrest and detention of these men. When Blood was examined during the inquiry conducted by Mr. Justice Clyne he still insisted that he approved of the internment of Matthews. He said also that he disagreed with Dr. Evatt’s statement on the 31st March, 1944, that Matthews. was not implicated in subversive activities. Then be was questioned regarding bis statement that Matthews was rather closely in touch with P. R. Stephensen, and he was asked : “ Why put an evil construction on this association?” The reply which Blood made, shows the kind of man he is. He said - -
Because I probably knew what the basis of their conversation was. “ He probably knew what the basis of their conversation was “ ! That is the kind of evidence which led to the internment of these men ! It is to the credit of the Attorney-General that when he returned from England, he acted promptly, and so far as he was able, to ensure that these- men were given an opportunity to have their cases investigated.
– The AttorneyGeneral had too many faces to save.
– He had a difficult task. I shall not pour more oil on the fire, but other people had got into the devil’s own mess, and the AttorneyGeneral had to pull them out of it. I return to this perfect witness, this fountain of truth, Blood. Mr. Cassidy asked him -
Does it not stand out in your mind in regard to Masey that his articles were mainly economic ? - No.
May I take it that you do not worry much about what this man wrote? - Not to any extent.
That was the reply of the nonchalant Blood. He had made up his mind before these men ever entered the detention camp that they all were guilty. They never had a fair “ go “. I have no brief for “ Inky “ Stephensen or for “ Pig-eye “ Ward, but I contend that every man is entitled to justice in this country, and no” man should be detained in a prison camp for any period without being brought before his peers and given the right of trial by jury. What else does “ Sniffer “ Blood say ? He was asked-
What act did Maser do or what propaganda did he spread? - Masey was an active associate. . . . T think he was a member nf the Australia First Movement.
He was not even sure. He only “ thinks he was a member “. I shall select a few more gems by this gentleman. I know what a great historian the AttorneyGeneral is. Doubtless in the future he will write a History of Parliamentary Government, or perhaps the Death of Parliamentary Government if this Government stays in power much longer. Perhaps he will write his own history under the title of “ Another great Labour leader”. But on page 1049 of the evidence, Blood, in an expansive moment, stated in reply to a question by Mr. Cassidy - .
There was a ministerial minute to the effect that no Communists were to be submitted to internment.
I ask the Attorney-General to explain to the House why, in a time of national crisis* such as that which faced Australia in 1942, Communists were granted immunity from internment ?
– There was no such minute. Blood’s evidence in that respect was entirely incorrect.
– Did Blood lie?
– I said that Blood made an incorrect ‘ statement regarding that matter.
– The Attorney-General is a great constitutional lawyer, a great student, and a great Roman lawyer.There Ls an expression in Roman law, Falsum in una, falsum in omne. “ Sniffer “ Blood, if false in one thing, ‘is false in everything, and none of his evidence which was given against the members of the Australia First Movement is worth a damn. He is a tainted witness.
During the inquiry Mr. Cassidy, K.C., read to this gentleman an article on Hitler.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
-“ Pig-eye “ Ward ! Look at his eye! Look at a sow at a trough and you will see a replica of him. I shall now read something which Captain Blood said about an article on Hitler. He asked when it was written, and Mr. Cassidy replied, “ About 1937 “. Blood, who is a lofty gentleman, said -
It is hardly a Churchillian statement. I disagree with it.
Mr. Cassidy then revealed that the article had been written by Churchill, and included in his book Great Contemporaries. That shows what Blood’s judgment was worth. I quote another extract from the evidence of this delightful gentleman. A passage was taken from a speech by the late John Curtin, in this
House on the 27th September, 1938, regarding the Munich negotiations. Blood remarked -
That involves Australia, in Secession from the British Commonwealth of Nations.
The following words were contained in Mr. Curtin’s speech : - /
Our first duty is to Australia.
That was one of the tenets of the Australia First Movement. Blood said -
I entirely disagree with that.
No one suggested that Mr. Curtin should have been interned. The extracts which I have read show exactly what Blood’s evidence was worth. I suggest that the Attorney-General should make a close study of it. The right honorable gentleman gave him a nice testimonial this evening when he said that at least one of Blood’s statements was not correct. I suggest that he be reported to the Law Institute of New South Wales, where I understand he practices as a solicitor, and that it be suggested that he be struck off the roll of legal practitioners in that State. The thing that seems most essential is that these men who have been exonerated’ by Mr. Justice Clyne should be given the compensation which they deserve, for the injuries which they have already suffered and the continued injury that they will suffer throughout their lifetime for an unjust internment in time of war. In order to indicate something of the suffering that these men endured I shall read to the House an extract from a letter which I received from Mrs. Dora Watts, the widow of Mr. Watts who was interned. Replying to a letter of sympathy which I sent to her Mrs. Watts wrote -
I thank you very much for this. You are right about my husband’s death. He was a sensitive man, and delicate from injuries received in the last war. Not as quickly, but just as surely as if they had stood him against a brick wall and shot him, they killed him.
I do not know what compensation ought to be given to Mrs. Watts.
– She was paid £400.
– I know that, burt what real compensation is that sum? Watts won the Military Medal in the war of 1914-18. As he was totally incapacitated he drew a military pension. Mr. Justice Clyne said of him -
There was nothing in the evidence relating to Watts to justify the conclusion that he was acting in a manner prejudicial to Australia and her war effort and I believe he was at all times a loyal subject of the King. If he had been still living, he would, I think, have been entitled to some compensation, and there are reasonable grounds for a grant of some compensation to Mrs Watts.
Mrs. Watts was paid £400 as compensation. At 3 per cent, interest that sum provides her with an income of £12 a year. Will any honorable member say that amount is ample compensation for the internment of her husband and his death, which was a direct outcome of that internment?
A good deal has been said by the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) and other members regarding the case of Masey. Mr. Justice Clyne has said that, in his opinion, Masey should not have been detained. This man was the planning manager of Johnston and Johnston Proprietary Limited, but his internment lost him that job. Had he been released five weeks earlier than he was released he would have been re-instated in his position, but the managing director of the company, Mr. Stapely Edwards, who had promised that he would be taken back after his release, died in the United States of America, and Masey was not restored to his position. Because of the charge that had been levelled against him his position in the company became so untenable that he had to resign. Masey is entitled to a good deal more compensation than the £350 that has been paid to him.
Finally, I shall deal with the case of Mr. Bath, about whose treatment a good deal has been said. I find that this man proved before Mr. Justice Clyne a losE of income amounting to £4,957 from the date of his internment until the date of his hearing before the enquiry. In addition, he lost his position as a partner in one of the largest estate agency businesses in Manly. He was ruined because of his internment, and yet Mr. Justice Clyne said that he was wrongly detained. I draw attention to the fact that in 1910 a somewhat- similar case was decided in Great Britain, first in the court”, and finally a payment of compensation was authorized by the Parliament. I refer to the case of Archer-Shee, a naval cadet at Osborne. He was accused of stealing a postal note of the value of 5s. from another cadet in the college. The evidence against him appeared to be conclusive. However, the boy had a record for truthfulness, and, although hi3 parents took him from the academy when requested to do so, the authorities of Stonyhurst College, a well known Roman Catholic institution, were so certain of his honesty that they took him back into their college although he had practically been expelled from the naval college at Osborne. His case came to the notice of Sir Edward Carson, K.C., who believed in the boy’s innocence and set out to obtain justice for the man. The only way that he could get the case heard was on a petition of right to the Crown. Sir Edward Carson issued the petition and Majoribanks in his Life of Carson said- -
The maxim “The King can do no wrong” is one which applies literally in the courts. But redress is given to his subjects, not as a right, but as a “matter of grace, when damage accrues as a result of a breach of contract by the Crown. By ancient custom, when a subject humbly “ petitions “ the Crown in respect hi such a breach of contract the Attorney-General on behalf of the Crown endorses the claim “ let right be done “.
I say to the Attorney-General to-night, “let right be done”.
– “What the honorable member has told us is very interesting, but what has it to do with these cases?
– It has a lot to do with them. If the Minister for Transport(Mr. Ward) had been listening he would have seen the connexion. Sir Rufus Isaacs, on behalf of the Crown, relied consistently upon the right of dismissal by the Crown in the maxim that “ the King can do no wrong “. Carson appealed to the House of “Lords’ Court of Appeal and his appeal was heard before Lords Justices Vaughan- Williams, Fletcher-Moulton, and Buckley. Although the immunity of the Crown was pleaded strongly by Sir Rufus. Isaacs, his pleadings were overruled and the judges asked for the facts. The case was finally sent to be heard before Mr. Justice Thompson. After four days the Admiralty admitted that the boy had never taken the 5s. The
Crown made no offer of. compensation in that case, but the matter came before the House of Commons when the Navy Estimates were under consideration by moving for a reduction of the Navy vote. Sir Edward Carson had the support of Lord Charles Beresford, Mr. Alfred Littleton, Mr. McKenna, Sir Rufus Isaacs, and others. They fought the case without making much progress until something similar to what happened here within the last week occurred. There was a defection from the ranks of the Liberal party of the House of Commons, just as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) showed that he was not to be tied by a caucus decision in regard to the treatment of Formosans on the Japanese vessel Yoizuki. In the debate on the Archer-Shee case a Liberal member, Mr. Roch said -
No father in the House would say £10,000 or £20,000 would compensate it. It is in the discretion of the First Lord of the Admiralty. Let him get up and. do it like a man.
I say again that a terrible wrong has been done to these people; and urge the Attorney-General to follow the example of the Liberal Government in Great Britain in 1910 and appoint a justice of the High Court to inquire into this matter. The Government should also appoint a committee consisting of representatives of both sides of this chamber under a Justice of the High Court, in order to assess what damage and injury has been done to these men. Although the Government cannot compensate Mrs. Watts for the loss of her husband, it can ease her distress in her old age. It can compensate those men who have been done a terrible wrong. I urge the AttorneyGeneral to consider the petition on the endorsement of a Petition of Right - “ Let right be done “. Let the right honorable gentleman act like a man in this matter and set up a tribunal to inquire fully into it, and to meet the costs of the people involved. I should point out that Archer-Shee was reinstated in the Navy, and was killed in action in 1914. Nevertheless, the House of Commons agreed to the award of the committee and paid . to Archer-Shee and his parents the sum of £7,000 compensation for the injury done to him. I again plead with all my head to the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister to see that justice is done “ to these men.
– I regret that at such a late hour I am obliged to deal with a subject of such fundamental importance. The principles underlying this matter strike to the very roots of British justice and the British way of life. The reasons for the attitude adopted by members of the Opposition have been well stated during the debate. “We believe that a wrong has been done, and that this Parliament is the place where that wrong should be righted.. Certain men were interned in circumstances which called for an inquiry by a judge appointed by the Government. The view which I and my colleagues take is that these men were either right or wrong. Those who have been proved to be in the wrong are not entitled to any consideration whatever. It is just that they should suffer the rigours of the law for their wrong-doing. But . those who have been shown to have done no wrong should be compensated, and the degree of the compensation should take into account all the elements involved, namely, financial loss suffered as the result of their internment, loss by reason of distress, loss in respect of their principles, loss of prestige and standing in the community, and loss of prestige suffered by their families and their associates. But for the lateness of the hour I should touch upon several matters mentioned in the debate; but I believe that ample evidence has been supplied by the Opposition to impel the Government to right the wrong that has been done to these men. While the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was speaking, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) persistently interjected, inquiring whether honorable members, on this side- of the chamber agreed with the formation, constitution and activities of the Australia First Movement. I state emphatically that we do not associate ourselves in any way whatsoever with that movement, nor do we encourage to the slightest degree any organization that is not consistent with the requirements of our British way of life and constitutional government in Australia. It is strange that despite the vigorous protests of the Minister for Transport regarding the alleged subversive activities of this organization, the Government of which he is a member did not take steps to declare the Australia First Movement to be an illegal organization, or to prove that its activities were subversive. The organization was formed in November, 1941. The leading members of the movement, and the members of its executive, were interned in March, 1942, and the organization was allowed to continue until it died for a lack of resources. It continued until the following May. In the meantime, the Government did nothing whatsoever, nor has it done anything up to the present, to declare the organization to be a subversive organization. No one associated with the Opposition has directly, or by inference, lent any encouragement, or given any sympathy, to those who have been found guilty in this matter. What we bring before Parliament is the wrong and injustice that has been done to certain people as disclosed by the official inquiry. Several cases have been mentioned during this debate by honorable members on this side in their endeavour to persuade the Government to right the wrong that has been done to these men. I propose to cite a case which has not yet been referred to in the debate. It is the case of Corporal Cleve Kirkland Downe. Downe was a young man who had just passed his 21st birthday. He was serving with the armoured division of the .Australian Imperial Force when he was flung behind barbed wire on the 10th March, 1942. Mr. Justice Clyne in his report says that “ after his internment Downe appealed to the Advisory (Internments) Committee and withdrew his appeal “. The facts as given in evidence were thatDowne, after he had been in internment for ten days - the statutory limit, for which he could be kept without trial, or the serving of an -order by the Minister - appealed to his commanding officer on the ground that he could not be further held. His commanding officer replied that he was sorry about his case. He said “ I like what I know of you and am pleased with your work, and progress, but can do nothing without knowing the facts “. Notice under section 26 of the Security Regulations was not served on Downe, or any other internee, until’ the 25th March, when the late Mr. Blackburn, who was then member forBourke, raised the matter in this House. A notice ante-dated to the 20th March in order to comply with the regulations was then served on all of the internees. On the 26th March lire Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) gave as the reason that the internees- were connected with a plot to sabotage the war effort, to make defence impossible, to make contact with the Japanese upon their arrival, to form a revolutionary government, and to start a pogrom. Downe then asked for a court-martial, or public trial, and that was his reason for withdrawing his ease from the tribunal. Mr. Justice Clyne did not state -that in his report. 1. emphasize what the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has said in regard to this matter. It was proved beyond doubt that there was no connexion between the organization in Western Australia and the movement in Sydney. Tt was, in fact, proved that on the 20th March, five days before the permanent internment notices were served on them, the police of Western Australia reported that the people of that State had no connexion with that plot. The judge said that Downe was subsequently released by the Attorney-General in .September, 1942, on the recommendation of the special committee. But he omitted to say that Downe was released despite the fact that he had refused to accept or to sign conditions of restriction which the Security Department had tried to impose on him. The obvious inference to the average man is that Downe did not receive fair treatment, or anything like the justice that he should have received under British constituted authority and law. It was stated in evidence before Mr. Justice Clyne that Downe -had volunteered for the Royal Australian Air Force in May, 1940, and had been rejected on medical grounds. He volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force in May, 1941, but was again rejected. The occasion of his actual enlistment was in November, 1941, when the Australian Imperial Force recruiting depot asked him to resubmit his name for a further medical examination. This he did’ immediately. Mr. Justice Clyne also failed to say that Downe gave evidence of the purpose- for which he had asked Stephensen for the” forms, and that he had named the person who had asked him for them. His Honour further failed to say that a copy of a letter from the commanding officer of the unit in. which Downe was serving indicated that unit inquiries had not disclosed any improper acts by him in violation of his oath of enlistment. The Crown did not make any attempt to produce evidence of improper acts, or to rebut Downe’s evidence. However, Downe, after he had been released from internment,, and having had 279 days’ service, was dismissed from the forces. Having accused this man of having been guilty of the act of a traitor, the Government allowed him to remain in the forces for 279 days. Upon his discharge, he was immediately re-admitted to the Australian Imperial Force, and was actually serving in it when he was brought hurriedly to Sydney to give evidence at the inquiry. He continued to serve, having been posted to a special section of an Australian cavalry commando unit for 1,260 days, in addition to the period of his service before and during hia internment. Of this period, he served for 481 days outside Australia. I now come to the most startling fact in regard to this unfortunate man. The Army branch which interned him was Army Intelligence. The Chief Intelligence Officer in New South Wales, where his arrest was made, was, at the time of his arrest and throughout the period of the inquiry, Colonel John Prentice. At the inquiry, counsel for the Army pressed vigorously the point that Downe’s actions had been most suspicious, and argued that his internment was fully justified. They succeeded in persuading the judge to accept this view. Yet Downe has a letter written on official Army notepaper, and ostensibly signed by Colonel Prentice in December, 1944, while the inquiry was still in progress. It is addressed to “ My dear Downe “, and offers to recommend him for posting to one of the most secret and confidential units in the Army, one so secret that its members are sworn to refrain from mentioning that they have been members of it, even after they have been discharged from the service. If the Army had the slightest doubt about this man’s bona fides; it would be nothing short of treason to recommend him for such an important post. Yet, while he was being held up as a highly suspicious character - associated-, according- to the Attorney-General, in a statement that he made when Mr. Justice Clyne was appointed, with a subversive, quisling, anti- Australian, anti-British group that was prepared to- stab Australia in the back at the period of its greatest peril - he was- actually recommended for transfer to this position by the head of military intelligence,, audi was on service in a1battle area, at the very time when- he waft being blackguarded^ .before the commission by the subordinates of that officer.. These is no- need, to say anything further in- regard! to this maru in order to show the ridiculous position in which the Government. has> allowed itself to remain.
The men who were interned were either guilty or not guilty. If they were guilty, they have no right to any consideration’ or compensation. If they were not guilty, the- compensation mentioned in Mr. Ju’stice dyne’s report, if paid, will be no more than: a token payment, and will be totally inadequate to mete out justice .and to- erase the blot on their characters. Consequently, I move -the following amendment: -
That all the words after- “ That “ be 1’efS out. with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words:’ - “a. commission be appointed. Consisting of a justice of the High Court of Australia, a member of the Government and a’ member of the Opposition parties, as may be agreed’ upon by the Prime Minister, a nd the Leader of the Opposition’ and the Leader of the Australian Country party, to investigate and assess the compensation, if any, which should be paid to ,the Australia First’ internees for the loss of income’ and status- in the community which they unjustly suffered through their internment “.
Surely, in the light of thi) revelations that have been made during this debate, the Government should, in fairness and justice, and with a conscientious desire to correct the blunder it has made and has allowed its officers to make, accept without hesitation the amendment I have moved.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-! wish to bring before the House a matter which may be small compared with other matters that are debated in this chamber, but, nevertheless, is of considerable importance to dairy producers and retailers in the Gippsland district of Warragul and should’ receive’ attention as early as possible: I refer to the price paid for milk in Warragul. The milk supply in Warragul passes- through the factory of the firm of Holdensen and Neilsen,, which also deals with a large quantity of the milk that goes’ from Warragul to Melbourne. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr: Scully) knows that Warragul’ supplies a large quantity of the whole milk that is consumed in Melbourne. An anomaly arises’ in this way : Milk passing through the factory for the Melbourne market is handled on a basis different from that of milk supplied by the same producers, but destined for consumption in Warragul itself! The price of milk in the country districts is different from that ruling in Melbourne, and the depot dealing with milk produced for Warragul1 is permitted to impose different handling charges. For handling milk destined for consumption in Warragul, the factory receives 3d. a.gallon, but for milk destined for the Melbourne market, its return is l£d. a gallon. Eighteen months- ago the Prices Commissioner fixed the price for whole milk consumed in certain country districts. The price fixed for milk consumed in Warragul was ls. 3d. a. .gallon, plus a subsidy of 2d. a gallon during the winter months. In addition, as I have said, the depot charges 3d. a.gallon for the treatment of local milk to- be consumed in Warragul. Of that 3d., the retailer himself has to pay 2d., and the producer Id. That means that the price of milk to the local retailer is ls. 5d. a gallon. The producer in his turn gets’ ls. 3d. a gallon, less the Id. a gallon that he pays to the depot for treatment of the milk, plus the 2d. a gallon subsidy applicable during the winter months. On an average throughout the year he receives ls. 3d. a gallon. The anomaly lies in the fact that Warragul retailers pay ls. 5d. a gallon” for the same milk foi- which retailers in Melbourne pay ls. 3 1/2d. a gallon. This is absurd, considering that Warragul is 50 miles from Melbourne. At the very least, the price to retailers in both localities should be the same. This matter has been under investigation for some time by the Department of Agriculture, and more recently the Prices Commissioner suggested as a solution that the producers of milk supplied to the Warragul district should be paid on a butter-fat basis. That would mean that the retailer would pay ls. 3£d. for milk compared with ls. od. at present, and the depot would receive 3 1/4d. for treatment, paid partly by the retailer and partly by the producer. In addition, the Prices Commissioner suggested that during the months when milk for Melbourne is in short supply, the producers in the Warragul district are not able to meet the demand, the milk produced by farmers whose product in ordinary circumstances would be paid for at butter-fat rates, be forwarded to Melbourne as contract milk and paid for at the contract price. But under present conditions, when dairy-farmers are being urged to produce more milk, and the season is a good one, that arrangement would mean that producers who would be offered an extra price if a shortage occurred would have to rely entirely on the butter-fat price, for milk. It is quite unfair that milk from one district should be subject to a .varying price. I bring this matter up because I believe, that it is one that should be rectified quickly. Negotiations have been going on for a long time, but the only result has been the suggestion by the Prices Commissioner, and no one is satisfied with it. I ask the Government to consider as a solution bringing Warragul under the Melbourne Milk Board. That would mean that all producers, whether their milk goes to Melbourne or is consumed in Warragul, would receive the same’ price for it. The only objection that could possibly be raised to that proposal is that it might entail a small additional subsidy being paid -by the Government. At present farmers producing milk for country towns receive a subsidy of 2d. a gallon during the six winter months, thus averaging Id. over the whole year; farmers producing for the Melbourne market, receive a subsidy of 3 l-6d. a gallon, less transport charges of 1-Jd., or a net subsidy of 1 2/3d a gallon. That means an addition of only §d. a gallon. I hope that the Government will consider this matter at an early date and endeavour to solve the problem on the lines I have suggested.
.- 1 wish to draw the attention of honorable members to an anomaly suffered by Australians serving with Unrra in Europe and other parts of the world. Some of these Australians are in charge of groups including representatives of many nations, yet, they are the only ones who pay income tax on their salary. It is argued that in view of the conversion to sterling of Australian currency, the imposition of income tax, and the abnormal conditions which have to be endured including the risk of disease, or injury from underground factions, the Government should take a more generous view of the position of these, officials. The matter was raised some time ago, and was promised consideration, but no relief has yet been given,” and I feel that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) might very well confer with the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) to see what can be done. One need not dilate on the conditions under which the task of Unrra officials is being carried out. We should be proud to be represented in this international effort. There is no starker tragedy in the world to-day than that now being enacted in Europe, and when statistics are available I have no doubt that they will show that millions of unfortunate people have died during the winter. Our fellow countrymen who are carrying on this humane work should be placed upon the same basis in regard to remuneration- as the representatives of other nations.
.- I have had submitted to me the case of Mrs. Betterridge, a widow of a soldier killed on service, who is receiving a pension and superannuation from the
New South Wales Superannuation Board. Prior to enlistment her husband was a member of the public service of New South Wales. The lump sum received was £396, on which income tax was levied amounting to £109 17 s. Had the amount been divided into three parts and each part taxed as income for a year, the amount of the tax would have been only £4 7s. I maintain that superannuation cannot be regarded as income in the year in which it is paid in a lump sum. The Lismore Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League has asked me to take the matter up. The letter which I have received from Mrs. Betterridge is as follows : -
Alston ville, 3rd November, 1945.
R.S.S. & A.L.L.A. (Lismore Branch),
Care T. Cooling, Esq.,
Memorial Baths, Lismore.
TAXATION OF ARREARS OF PENSION RECEIVED FROM THE STATE SUPERANNUATION BOARD.
I desire to bring to the notice of your association my case, having regard to the taxation of arrears of pension received by me from the State Superannuation Board, and would request that certain representations be made with the view to having such tax modified.
The facts briefly are as follows: -
My husband, NX70256 Captain Alexander James Betterridge, was killed in action in Malaya on 9th February, 1942. Official notification of his death was advised to me on 21stJune, 1945 (copy of communication attached). My husband was a State Public Servant (permanent appointee), being an officer of the Department of Lands, New South Wales, and, thus, a contributor to the State superannuation fund. On his death I became entitled to a pension in respect of myself and our son, Neil Alexander Betterridge, now aged seven years, from the State Superannuation Board. This pension was granted me and made effective on and from 10th February, 1942 (copy of communication attached). Accordingly, during October of this year (1945), 1 received a lump sum payment of £396 19s. 3d., covering the period 10th February, 1942, to 30th September, 1945 (copy of communication attached ) .
I am now informed that the above amount of £39619s. 3d., together with the monthly payments of £9 15s. from October, 1945, to June, 1940, inclusive, will be taxable to me as the income of one year, viz., 1945-46. It appears that the income tax law provides that arrears ofthis nature are assessable in the year of receipt.
An estimation of the tax., payable in accordance with the above law, would be: -
The total tax payable under this method would be as follows: -
That I be permitted to lodge returns of income in respect of such pension moniesfor each of the years ending 30th June, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944. 1945 and 1946, setting out therein respectively the amountof such pension as is applicable to those years, and that the Commissioner of Taxation accept and assess such returns on this basis. My only other incomeis that of a military pension, which is exempt from tax.
Thanking you, I am, yours faithfully,
I ask that an examination of the matter be made with a view to laying down a rule governing similar cases.
. -in reply - I shall examine the matter raised by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan).
In reply to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), it is true that representations were made to the Government some time back regarding the taxation of salaries of the Australians working forUnrra. I point out that in some instances the salaries received are much higher than they ever earned before.
– Some are receiving much loss.
– I am not so sure about that. The Taxation Commissioner discussed the matter with me some time ago, and I shall see that an examination of it is concluded as soon as possible.
Regarding the matter raised by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) I point out that there are variations’ in the manner of assessing taxation on lump sum payments. I shall be glad to have a look at the particular ease which he has mentioned. This is a technical subject, as. the honorable member, who has himself been an Assistant Treasurer, must know.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Air Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 51.
National “Security Act -
National ‘Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Order - New Guinea (Administration) (No.6).
National. Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of second-hand jute - Revocation.
National Security (Mobilization of Elec- tricity Supply) Regulations - Order - Electricity (Australian Capital Territory ) - Revocation .
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinance - 1946- No. 1 - Liquor.
House adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
No lands have yet been allotted under the Agreements. (It is understood that the New South Wales Government has allotted some blocks under earlier State legislation ) .
In addition a further 100 will be in training in New South Wales by the end of March and at least 79 in Victoria within eight weeks.
n asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
When does the Minister intend to table the annual report of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission as promised in answer to a question by the right honorable member for Darling Downs on the 5th October, 1945?
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer : -
The annual report of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission was laid On the table of this House on Wednesday, the 13th March, 1946.
y. - Yesterday the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) referred to the question of shipment of potatoes from the wharfs in Tasmania to the mainland.
The honorable member is now advised that potatoes are being shipped from Tasmania as quickly as shipping space becomes available but the shortage of space is likely to continue for several weeks. Everything practicable is being done to avoid deterioration of the potatoes and they are not brought to the wharfs until shipping is available. This week 99,000 bags are being loaded.
National Security Regulations.
Mr. - Fadden asked the Attorneys General, upon, notice -
Will he indicate the reason for the delay in answering question . No. 1 on notice-paper No. 82, dated the 25th September, 1945, asked by the right honorable member for Darling Downs ?
When will the answer be given?
t. - The question referred to was asked only a few days before the adjournment of last year’s sittings, when the pressure of work in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department was very great. The question is being answered to-day.
– On the 25 th September, 1945, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) asked the Acting Attorney-General the following questions : - ]. How many national security regulations and/or orders under them have been declared invalid by legal tribunals in Australia?
The Acting Attorney-General then promised that the information would be obtained, and I am now in a position to inform the right honorable member that the information asked for by him is set out in the following schedule: -
y asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– I am obliged to the honorable member for bringing this important matter under my notice, and inquiries are being made in each State as to whether the preference provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act are being evaded in the manner brought under notice by the honorable member. If the act is being so evaded, consideration will be given to seeing whether it is possible to deal with evasions of the act in the manner referred to. In the meantime, it is suggested that any particular complaints should be made to the Attorney-General’s legal service bureau in the State concerned.
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Yes.
l. - Yesterday, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked the following questions, upon notice -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 March 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460314_reps_17_186/>.