17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr.speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Returned from Service Badge - Taxation.
– Can the Treasurer state whether it is intended that members of the merchant marine shall have issued to them the returned from service badge, and also be granted exemption from income tax, as are members of the fighting forces who have served overseas?
– I shall arrange to have a full reply prepared and supplied to the honorablem ember.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and
Shipping indicate when the Hobart to Sydney passenger and cargo shipping service is likely to be re-established?
– I am not in a position to give any information at the moment. I shall ask my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Shipping, to furnish it as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister for the Army in a position to statewhether the 293 servicemen who have been stranded in Melbourne have been transported to their homes in Tasmania, and, if not, whenwill he honour his promise to return them to their homes without delay?
– I have been in consultation to-day with the Minister for Supply and Shipping and the Minister for the Navy in relation to this matter, and have also been in communication with the Deputy Quartermaster-General. I assure the honorable member that action is being taken which will result in the transfer of the personnel now awaiting transport in Melbourne. Later this afternoon I hope to be able to supply the honorable member with definite information as to the ship on which they will travel and the time of its departure. I can assure the honorable member that the Government is “ right on the ball “ in this matter.
– At page 40 of the Statistical Bulletin issued by the Commonwealth Bank for February, 1946, dealing with central banking business, including the Note Issue Department, the amount of gold and balances held abroad at the18th February, 1946, is stated to have been £183,300,000. Can the Treasurer explain why the gold holdings are not shown separately? Is it in accordance with government policy that this information shall not be disclosed to the people of Australia?
– I have not given particular thought to whether or not the gold holdings ought to be disclosed. The statistics are prepared by the Commonwealth Bank, and the Treasury neither gives any direction nor makes any suggestion in regard to the manner of their compilation. The Commonwealth Bank is, of course, required to conform to the law as it has been laid down by this Parliament. I do not attempt to interfere in regard to the information which it furnishes. I shall, however, arrange to have an inquiry made, so as to ascertain whether there is a special reason why further information should not be supplied.
Permanent Administrative Building
– by leave- Yesterday, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked the following questions : -
I now supply the following answers : -
Mr.FRASER. - I shall preface a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by a brief explanation. Each day the Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcasts a number of news services, including reviews and commentaries, anddoubt sometimes arises as to the fairness of the comments. One commentator, Mr. H. D. Black, who is employed by’ the commission frequently as a news commentator, and for school broadcasts on public, affairs, said recently that he regards histask as being to insinuate ideas into the minds of his listeners. I now ask whether the Minister will arrange that copies of all news broadcasts, reviews and commentaries to be made over national stations shall be made available for inspection by members of Parliament, preferably by having them placed on the table of the Library?
-I shall bring the honorable member’s question and suggestion to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral, and shall also ask him to give consideration to the desirability of employing commentators who make it their business to insinuate ideas into the minds of listeners.
Interim Army Establishment - Evacuation of Lae Area
– Yesterday, I asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice, a question relating to the daily enlistments for the volunteer force that is being recruited, and received a reply which gave the average daily enlistments since the recruiting campaign commenced. As that answer does not contain the information which I sought, I now ask the Minister whether recruiting for the first month of the campaign was stopped after only eight days, and, if so, why?
– To-morrow, I shall give the information asked for to the honorable member.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Army been drawn to a letter in to-day’s Daily Telegraph, signed by L. F. Dunne and George C. Armour, in which, to use their own. words, they “demand immediate action to relieve the deplorable state of affairs and betrayal on the part of the Minister and his military cohorts “, in relation to troops in the Lae area? If so, is it a fact, as stated by those men, that although the Minister stated on the15th March that the only troops remaining in the Lae area were either guards of essential equipment or garrison troops, 450 men are still at New Guinea Details Depot,. Lae, awaiting transfer to the mainland, and about 700 personnel of other units in the area are also awaiting movement? Will the Minister explain the apparent discrepancy.
– Had the honorable member brought this matter to my notice earlier I could have given him a more detailed reply. I know that a complaint was made by the troops at Lae that certain things had happened contrary to what they expected as the result of statements made regarding the movement of troops. Upon becoming aware of the complaints, I immediately despatched the Deputy Adjutant-General, Brigadier Campbell, to Lae to inquire into complaints that officers were being brought out in preference to other men who considered that they were more deserving, and to find out whether troop movements were in accordance with the arrangements that had been made. Brigadier Campbell arrived at Lae on Wednesday morning last, and I expect to receive his report before long. It is the policy of the Government to honour, in the letter and in the spirit, all promises made to the troops as far as possible. Sometimes ships are delayed for one reason or another. In one instance, a ship was scheduled to go to Lae to remove troops, but because all the Japanese had been removed from Faroe Island, the ship was diverted to pick up Australian soldiers who had been doing garrison duty there. As a result, the arrival of the ship at Lae was delayed. I assure the honorable member that the matter to which he referred is not being overlooked.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that officers employed by private banks, who contribute to provident funds conducted by the banks, are denied the right to withdraw their contributions when they resign their positions, even though they may have been contributing for as long as 25 years? Will the PrimeMinister see that such officers obtain redress, and that they will be no longer robbed as is being clone to-day?
– As the result of representations made to me by certain bank officers introduced to me by, I think, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), I gave some consideration to this matter when the banking legislation was before the Parliament. It was very difficult to obtain complete information upon the point, but I was informed that some banks, at any rate, refused to refund contributions when an employee resigned. [ do not think that that is true of all private banks. I had such inquiries made as it was possible for Treasury officials to make, and last week I received a detailed statement on the subject, but I think it will be necessary to have the matter examined by the Commonwealth Actuary.
– Can the Minister for Munitions say whether the reports in the press are correct that a Melbourne firm offered to buy from the Maribyrnong munitions factory, lathes which it is proposed to destroy? If this is correct, what does the Minister propose to do about it?
– I have already made inquiries, and have learned that there is no substance in the allegation that machines which are still useful arebeing destroyed or broken up for scrap. It is necessary to protect the public against imposition. It is not unknown for’ persons to buy up what is virtually scrap material in the form of worn-out machinery, then to repaint it and palm it off on to people, particularly in country districts, as being of much greater value than it really is. These machines have done a great deal of war work and are considered by competent judges to be of no further use. Such parts of the machines as may be used in some other way have been taken from them, and only parts that have no further use have been discarded. That is a protection to the public, and I consider it to be the right and proper procedure to take.
– Will the Minister representing the Acting Minister for’ Trade and Customs inform the House of the estimated loss to the revenue occasioned by the decrease of excise duties on beer as a result of the brewery strike in New South Wales ?
– I shall have inquiries made and the information supplied.
– In view of the importance to honorable members of securing the maximum of up-to-date information regarding the sister dominion of New Zealand, will the Minister for External Affairs arrange through his department for the delivery of New Zealand newspapers to the Parliamentary Library by air mail? The most recent issue of New Zealand newspapers in the library to-day is about a fortnight old, whereas the latest available copy of the London Times is only two or three days old.
– I ask that the question be referred to the Library Committee. This is not a matter for my department..
– Has the AttorneyGeneral read an article published in yesterday’s issue of the Sydney Daily Mirror which states that the New South Wales Minister for Lands, Mr. Tully, named Sir Keith Murdoch in the Legislative Assembly as “ one of the land-holders holding out on the Government and demanding exorbitant prices for land for soldiers’ settlements “ ? The article also stated that Mr. Tully had said that Sir Keith Murdoch came to an agreement for the sale of certain land on his estate at East Wantabadgery to the Government through the Closer Settlement Advisory Board, but had “ twisted on it although the Lands Department of New South Wales had given him much more than the ordinary retention area that he was entitled to under the Act - probably twice as much “. Has the Commonwealth Parliament power to assist State governments to compel large land-holders such as Sir Keith Murdoch to sell their land at a fair valuation for soldier settlement?
– It is not usual to answer a question of law of this character. However, I do not know of any such power. I know that the State Parliamenthas complete power, and I assume that it is exercising it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs regarding the despatch of vessels to the Netherlands East Indies with food and medical supplies urgently required by a large number of white people who have been interned for a long period. In view of the Dutch Minister’s statement that he regards the conditions sought to be imposed upon the shipment of these goods, namely, the appointment of two observers, as a reflection on the integrity of the Dutch Government, and in view of the statement by the Minister for External Affairs that the Commonwealth Government proposes to set its own foreign policy and not to be directed by the waterside workers, will the honorable gentleman say what steps the Government intends to take, after a delay of seven months, to transport those urgently needed goods to the Netherlands East Indies ?
– All that I can tell the honorable member about the matter is that an agreement was made with the Dutch Government, through the Dutch Minister, that the distribution of foodstuffs in the Netherlands East Indies would be completely in the hands of the British Command in the Netherlands East Indies or of agencies approved by the British Command. The presence of an observer to see whether that arrangement is properly carried out does not seem to me to be a matter for the Dutch Government at all. What the Dutch Minister objects to is the suggestion that an observer should sail on a Dutch ship. That objection I share with him.
– What does the Government propose to do?
– The Prime Minister answered that question recently. My colleague, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), is endeavouring to have the goods shipped. I have answered the question as to the Dutch Minister’s attitude, and the Government does not propose to allow an observer to sail.
– Why does the Government not have the ships loaded by naval personnel ?
– That isanother matter.
– If the Minister for the Navy is still Chairman of the Security Council of the United Nations has he been asked to convene a meeting of the council to deal with the complaint of Persia about Russian interference? If so, what action has he taken or does he propose to take to meet the Persian request ?
– The honorable member needs to be brought up to date. I am not Chairman of the Security Council of the United Nations. The representative of Brazil succeeded me in that position, but, on the 17th March, Dr. Wellington Koo, the representative of China, succeeded him. The honorable member must address his inquiry to another quarter, not to me.
– Will the Minister for the Army, in due course, disclose to Parliament why the Army is, I am informed, refusing to make to rifle clubs an allotment of the surplus ammunition that it must have, particularly as it apparently does not intend to use much of it on Japanese war criminals ?
-The future of rifle clubs in Australia is under consideration. The Military Board has been asked to submit a recommendation on the matter to the Government. Then it will be the subject of a Cabinet agendum and a decision will be made by the Government. I fully appreciate the great work done by rifle clubs in Australia, but I am not able to say now what amount of money, if any, will be spent annually on them. When a decision has been made by the Government it will be announced in the usual way.
– About a fortnight ago I tabled in this House my report on the coal-mining industry overseas. I should now like to know from the Prime Minister whether any representations have been made by the Government to obtain as reparations one or more of the six plants in Germany by which oil is extracted from coal by the Fischer Tropsch process?
Alternatively, have any experts been sent to Germany to ascertain the possibility of the removal of those plants or any one of them to Australia? The second suggestion I made, on the advice of Mr. Beesley, of the Imperial Chemical Industries, was that we should obtain blueprints of the plants in order that we might erect replicas in Australia under the supervision of German experts. I now ask the right honorable gentleman to have steps taken, if they have not already been taken, to obtain either one or more of the plants or the blue-prints.
– I have not had an opportunity to read the complete report which the honorable member made to me and which I tabled. Some representatives of the Australian Government are now in Germany whilst others are on their way to Germany. These officers are examining some of the aspects mentioned by the honorable member, and their inquiries concern the particular plant he has mentioned. The value of industrial equipment which we anticipate receiving from Germany in respect of reparations will not exceed £2,000,000. I do not know on what basis that valuation has been made. Of course, we shall also receive capital goods as a part of the reparation arrangements. The particular plant mentioned by the honorable member would have to be dismantled and this would involve the destruction of much structural work, whilst two, or three, large ships would be required to transport the plant to Australia. Ships will not be available for many years for that purpose. The honorable member has suggested that the Government should consider obtaining blue prints of this plant in case it may be thought desirable to erect similar plant in this country. Inquiries are being made into’ that proposal. ‘
Destruction at Morotai.
– The Minister for the Army when commenting recently upon a report that 90,000 tyres in their original paper wrappings were destroyed with a number of new motor trucks at Morotai, said that he assumed that the destruction of these goods was in compliance with lend-lease conditions. Can the Minister now give the reason why this large quantity of tyres was burned at Morotai, bearing in mind the serious shortage of tyres in Australia? Further, if motor tyres and motor trucks are available could not the Government make representations to the Government of the United States of America to permit these valuable and necessary articles to be made available even at cost to Australia which is so badly in need of such goods ?
– When this matter was raised I said that immediate inquiries would be made to ascertain the accuracy of the report which was attributed to residents in the islands. I cannot say whether these goods are “lend-lease goods, and I have not made any public statement to that effect. The matter is being investigated, and so soon as I receive a report I shall furnish the information to the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether it is a fact, as reported, that there is likely to be a serious shortage of children’s clothing in the stores during the coming winter? If so, what action is being taken to promote the production of children’s clothing?
– I have not seen any report of the kind mentioned by the honorable member. I shall have the matter investigated. However, I suggest that in this matter a responsibility rests upon the clothing industry, and that the community should not always look to the Government when shortages of goods occur.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has received any request from the Queensland Government for financial assistance for people who have suffered considerable loss as a result of the recent floods in north Queensland? If not, will the Commonwealth Government give favorable considerationto such a request should it be made by the Queensland Government ?
– I have no recollection of any representations having been made by the Premier of Queensland to myself, that being the usual channel through which such a request would come. If an application for assistance be received, naturallyan inquiry will be made into the extent of the damage, and whether it is desirable for the Commonwealth Government to make a contribution towards meeting the losses caused by the floods and to relieve necessitous cases. If the representations do come through that channel, they will be given every consideration.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform me what is the policy of the Government regarding the great holdings in the Northern Territory of such people as Lord Luke, of Bovril Limited, and Vesteys? Does the Government propose to resume all land reverting to it with a view to settling ex-servicemen on those areas? In explanation, I point out that many ex-servicemen desire to settle in the Northern Territory. Does the Government propose to give those men an opportunity to do so? Does it also propose to clip the wings of those great monopolies there?
– I have pleasure in advising that the whole of the ordinance which relates to Northern Territory leases is now under review. A considerable number of leases will fall due this year and next year. Those leases, of course, are subject to the existing ordinance, which gives certain rights to the present lease-holders, provided they elect to make certain improvements. But I am hopeful that sufficient leases will be available in the Northern Territory to satisfy the applicants to whom the honorable member for Bendigo referred.
Resignations of Senior Officers
– When the retirement of senior Royal Australian Air Force officers was announced recently, did the Minister for Air undertake to supply the full list of those whose resignations had been sought as soon as the officers concerned had received the official notifications? Is the list to be announced?
– My recollection of the matter is that the Minister for Air indicated that before consideration was given to any announcement of the names, the officers concerned would be notified individually in writing. I am not sure whether the Minister promised to make available a list of the names, but I shall arrange for him to give a complete reply.
First Session of General Assembly
Meetings of Security Council and Economic and Social Council : Report of Australian Delegation
– I lay upon the table the f ollowing paper : -
United Nations Organization - First Session of General Assembly, January-February. 1946 - Report of Australian Delegation, together with a Report on the Meetings of the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council, with appendices. and move -
That the paper be printed.
During January and February, I had the honour to lead the Australian delegation
– Has the Minister obtained leave to make this statement?
– The Minister hat made a motion, and is electing to speak to it now.
– Is it essential for me to obtain leave to make this statement?
– No. When papers are laid upon the table of the House, sometimes a Minister elects at that stage to speak to the motion “ That the paper be printed and the Leader of the Opposition secures the adjournment of the debate. On other occasions, the Minister does not speak to the motion until later. The Minister for the Navy is quite in order in proceeding.
– I do not desire to be obstructive, but I should like to have the position clarified. You will understand, Mr. Speaker, that the report which has been laid on the table relates to a subject germane to a matter now before the House - a ministerial statement on international affairs - and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), who spoke yesterday in that debate, is now making another speech upon the subject. If a member of the Opposition secures the adjournment of the debate on the motion “ that the papers be printed”, and the subject is placed on the notice-paper, it may exclude the whole of this matter from the debate on the earlier motion. I should like an assurance that this will not happen. For the Minister to make two speeches on this subject is bad enough. I should welcome an opportunity to make two speeches myself, and I should like to know whether I shall be able to do that.
– The titles of the two documents are different, although I suppose their subject-matters overlap to some degree. However, I give to the Leader of the Opposition an assurance that the matter upon which the Minister isnow to speak will be treated as a separate debate, and that the same privileges will be extended to all honorable members.
– During January and February, I had the honour of leading the Australian Delegation to the first part of the first session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, meeting in London, and now take the opportunity of placing before honorable members some account of the work of the General Assembly, and, in particular, the part taken in its proceedings by the representatives of Australia. Honorable members will recall that, at San Francisco, in June last, the delegates of Australia signed the Charter of the United Nations. The Charter was subsequently approved by this Parliament and its ratification by the Australian Government was signed and sealed at Canberra on the 4th October last. The ratification was deposited in Washington on the 1st November, on which date Australia formally became an original member of the United Nations. All of the 51 signatories have similarly ratified the Charter. With the coming into force of the Charter, the way was open to translate a written constitutional document into a living and active institution and, certain preparatory work having been already accomplished, the General Assembly was called into session in London on the 10th January.
As this was the first General Assembly, a great part of its work was organizational in character. On the one hand it was necessary for it to organize itself so that it could exercise its functions. For example, it had to establish its own committees, decide on the methods by which its business should be conducted and lay down its rules of procedure. On the other hand, it was also necessary for the General Assembly, as the only fully representative organ of the United Nations, to perform certain acts in order to bring the other principal organs into existence. For example it had to elect the non-permanent mem bers of the Security Council and all the members of the Economic and Social Council and of the International Court of Justice and it had to establish the regulations under which the Secretariat is to be appointed,
A great deal of this organizational work was perhaps not so much in the public eye as some of the other matters that came before the General Assembly, but, in assessing the importance of the recent meetings, it is no exaggeration to say that the success of the first part of the first session, and the happiest auguries for the future of the United Nations, lie in the fact that this essential organizational work was done smoothly and effectively and, for the most part, without contention or controversy. In a sense, this work was an act of faith - a practical manifestation by the nations that they intend to make the organs of the United Nations work and have a clear idea of the way in which they wish to see them work - and in this act of faith every one of the United Nations joined. All were equally trying to build a sound structure.
The Work of the Preparatory Commission.
The success of the General Assembly in this regard was to a great extent due to the work that had been done by the Preparatory Commission, brought into being by the Interim Arrangements Agreement, which was signed by all the
United Nations at San Francisco immediately after the signing of’ the Charter. The Executive Committee of the Preparatory Commission, consisting of the representatives of fourteen nations, including Australia, met in London last August and worked steadily for over three months preparing agenda, drafting rules of procedure, staff regulations, and plans for the functioning of the various organs. Their work went on almost unnoticed, in committees and sub-committees, day in and day out, while other political issues were occupying the public mind ; but the detailed technical work done by this committee, composed of persons expert in the field of international relations, had a considerable influence on the orderly inauguration of the United Nations. The report of the Executive Committee was submitted to the Preparatory Commission of 51 nations, and the Commission carefully examined the report and passed it on, with some amendments, to the General Assembly. The substantial parts of the Commission’s recommendations have now been approved either by the General Assembly or by the other organs and- so have passed into the structure of the United Nations.
Australia can find some satisfaction and pride in the fact that it was one of the fourteen nations privileged to serve in the Executive Committee and that its delegation, under the extremely able leadership -of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), made a positive contribution to the work of that Committee. I should also like to inform the House of the very high standing of Australia’s prestige in the councils of world affairs. The Minister for External Affairs has contributed a magnificent part in placing Australia in a foremost position, and his -administration of this high and responsible office has given a new significance and import to the place this country occupies in the esteem and goodwill of other nations. Similarly in the Preparatory Commission, which met for a month in London immediately before Christmas to receive the report of the Executive Committee, the Australian Delegation led by Lieutenant-Colonel Hodgson, Australian Minister to Paris, played a notable part,
The .Election of Councils
The whole of the work of the first part of the first session of the General Assembly is reviewed in some detail in a written report by the delegation, which I have tabled. This report includes an account of the steps which the General Assembly took to establish itself, and the other principal items on its agenda, together with the text of the resolutions adopted, whilst among the appendices are reproduced the more important states ments made by the Australian delegates. 1 do not propose to go over the same ground in the same detail in my present statement, but it may be of interest to honorable members if I were to refer briefly to some of the more outstanding events.
First, there is the election of Australia for a two-year term as one of the nonpermanent members of the Security Council. As was mentioned by the Minister for External Affairs, an attempt was made before the election by some of the major powers tq arrange an agreed list of candidates for election to the six vacancies, and it appeared that various other groups of powers having interests in common, were prepared to, accept such a list of candidates on the understanding that the candidate or candidates favoured by their group would be supported. The view taken by the Australian delegation was that the criteria for election to the Security Council, are clearly laid down in the Charter - first, the contribution of nations to the maintenance of international peace and security, and, secondly, the equitable geographical distribution of seats - and that members should apply those criteria in casting their votes.
Australia was not included in the lists which were being handed around, but, on instruction, we formally notified other delegations that we wished to be considered. In seeking support, the Australian delegation did not bargain with any other delegation nor did we express an opinion regarding the claims of any other candidate. We based our case, first, on the fact that Australia’s record in two world wars showed that it was a nation which had contributed to security and, second, on the necessity, in view of the importance of the Pacific in future world security, of having a representative of that region on the Security Council. The proposed list of candidates made no provision for the representation of the Pacific among the non-permanent members.
Our action was justified by the fact that a majority of the General Assembly supported us. It was an accidental but nevertheless unfortunate result of Australia’s candidature, that it should have been brought into a direct contest with Canada for the last vacancy on the Council. After three ballots the position was that Australia had 28 votes and Canada 23, but neither had obtained the necessary two-thirds majority. To end the deadlock, Canada withdrew in our favour. This gracious gesture was immediately acknowledged by our delegate. In conformity with our instruction, the delegation had supported the nomination of Canada as well as that of Australia right down to the final ballots, believing that Canada’s war record, too, had marked the sister dominion as a “ security “ power.
Iri the elections for the Economic and Social Council Australia supported the candidature of New Zealand, which closely’ contested the last vacancy, but eventually, to end a deadlock, stood down in favour of Yugoslavia.
Election of Members of the Court.
In the elections for the International Court of Justice, Australia, for the first time in its history, had nominated a candidate, Professor K. EE. Bailey, Professor of Public Law in the University of Melbourne, who had- been a member of Australian delegations to the San Francisco Conference, the Preparatory Commission, the General Assembly, and other international gatherings. It is a tribute to the high personal regard in which Professor Bailey is held in international circles that, in the circumstances, he should have come within a few votes of election. “What chiefly militated against him was that several delegations were firmly of the opinion that the Anglo-American system of law would be sufficiently represented by three members on a bench- of fifteen, and when, in the first ballot, eminent representatives of the United Kingdom, the United
States and Canada were returned, some of the members who had previously supported Professor Bailey and placed him high on the list, apparently switched their votes in succeeding ballots in order to give stronger representation to some of the other systems of law.
Another most important decision was the appointment of Mr. Trygve Lie, of Norway, as Secretary-General. The Secretary-General has to be nominated by the Security Council and appointed by the General Assembly. Under the interpretation of the Charter given by the five permanent members of the Security Council, the nomination of the Secretary-General required the concurrence of these five powers. It therefore became necessary to find a name that was acceptable to all five. In private discussions ‘ various names were- mentionedand eventually it became apparent that Mr. Lie would be acceptable. to all of the Big Five. The recommendation was made unanimously by the Security Council and accepted by. 46 votes to three in a secret ballot of the General Assembly.
The sixth of the principal organs of the United Nations, the Trusteeship Council, has not yet been established. The difficulty is that under the Charter the Trusteeship Council is to consist of representatives, in equal numbers, of states which administer and states which do not administer trust territories. Therefore, it is impossible to set up the council until a minimum number of trusteeship agreements have been concluded and approved by the General Assembly. After various proposals had been discussed, involving some issues not immediately concerned with the organizational task of bringing the Trusteeship Council into existence as early as possible, the General Assembly . adopted recommendations, the effect of which is that the states administering territories now held under mandate have been invited to take steps for the conclusion of agreements on the terms of trusteeship in respect of such territories. On the conclusion and approval of these agreements by the General Assembly, preferably not later than the second part of the first session next September, it is expected that there will be a sufficient number of trust territories to enable the Trusteeship Council to be constituted.
As the Minister of External Affairs has already dealt with other aspects of trusteeship, particularly as they affect territories administered by Australia, I do not propose to touch on any but the purely organizational aspects of this matter.
– The Australian Government has indicated its desire to negotiate an agreement relating to trusteeship in respect of certain territories. Such an agreement will have to be entirely satisfactory to this nation; consequently, many of the fears that have been expressed by honorable members opposite are groundless.
Other important decisions taken by the General Assembly concerned the location of its head-quarters and its budgetary arrangements. After prolonged debate and a certain amount of contention, it was decided to locate the permanent head-quarters in the United States at a site to be selected in the “Westchester and Fairfield districts on the border of New York State and Connecticut. Recommendations regarding the exact site and precise area will be made to the General Assembly next September after further studies by the Head-quarters Commission, of which Australia is a member. Until the permanent headquarters have been developed - and estimates of the period range from two to five years - the temporary head-quarters will be in New York City. The position taken up by the Australian delegation in debating this question was in favour of a site in the United States, preferably in the vicinity of San Francisco. We differed from some other delegations in. believing that a more thorough examination of the subject, and ‘ a careful consideration of all relevant factors, should have been made before a particular region or site within the United States was designated; but, the majority having made the choice in favour of New York, mainly because of its relative nearness to Europe, we acquiesced in the decision, and will co-operate in establishing near New York a head-quarters that will be such as to allow the United Nations to develop and to carry out its great responsibilities in favorable conditions. Australia is a member of the Head-quarters Commission that has been appointed to make further studies and report to the General Assembly in September on the requirements at the head-quarters.
The conditions surrounding the headquarters will be largely determined by a convention on privileges, facilities and immunities to be negotiated between the United Nations and the United States of America. Australia, whose representatives took a leading part in the preliminary discussion of the draft of this convention, has been appointed to the negotiating committee.
So far, only a provisional budget for the United Nations has been adopted.. This is for a total of 21,500,000 United States dollars ; but much of this sum is made up of non-recurring costs .incurred or likely to be incurred in the inauguration of the organization. This provisional budget will come up for review at the September meeting, in the light of experience in the intervening months. In order to finance the first year’s expenditure, a Working Capital Fund of 25,000,000 dollars will be established, and members will be asked to contribute to it in accordance with a temporary assessment, based on the scale used for the - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Australia will be asked to pay 2.875 per cent, of the total advances. This quota is subject to adjustment when a permanent scale has been adopted, and amounts paid to the Working Capital Fund may be set off against future contributions if the General Assembly should later decide that it is not necessary to maintain the fund at its original level. An Expert Committee on Contributions, on which Australia is represented, has been established to make recommendations regarding a permanent scale for the assessment of contributions.
League of Nations
Side by side with the establishment of “the United Nations, there arises the problem of the winding up of the League of Nations. The League is doomed to go out of existence; but some of the activities which the League carried on and some of the assets which it built up are of interest to the new organization. For example, the work “which the League is still doing in regard to the control of narcotics should be continued without a break, and the library which the League possesses will be of great service to the secretariat and members of the United Nations. Moreover, the League performed certain functions and exercised certain powers originating in international agreements and, unless the agreements are to lapse, a transfer of these functions and powers will have to be arranged.
Discussions in the Preparatory Commission and negotiations between the Supervisory Commission of the League and a negotiating committee appointed by the Preparatory Commission resulted in the preparation of plans for the transfer of functions and assets, and these plans were eventually adopted by the General Assembly. The effect of the General
Assembly’s decision is that technical and non-political functions originating in international agreements will be assumed by the United Nations, and other powers and functions originating in agreement will only be assumed, after examination by the United Nations and on the request of an interested party. Other nonpolitical functions and activities will be subject to selective transfer after examination by the Economic and Social Council, but in the meantime certain activities, such as control of dangerous drugs; will be carried on provisionally. The material assets of the League of Nations will be taken over by the United Nations on or about the 1st August, 1946, valued at their original cost to the League. Shares in the total credit established will be distributed among states which are entitled to participate in accordance with percentages to be fixed at the next meeting of the League Assembly, which, it is expected, will be held early in April. Shares of members of the League which arc members of the United Nations - and Australia is such a member - will be credited to them in the books of the United Nations, and the General Assembly will decide on the purposes to which these credits will be applied. The League will take* steps to separate the interests of the International Labour Office in the assets of the League before transfer to the United Nations.
Atomic Energy Commission
Among the major problems which faced the General Assembly w,as that presented by the discoveries in relation to atomic energy. ‘ After the United Nations Charter had been signed, it was dramatically revealed to the world that a new and devastating weapon had been developed. The question was immediately asked whether . the system of world security, which had been so carefully planned and written into the Charter, would now be of any effect. Numerous other questions, ethical as well as political, were raised by thoughtful men in all countries, who saw the discovery as the beginning of a new era in human history.. At the same time the great possibilities of applying atomic energy, not for destruction but for the advancement of material welfare, were- foreseen. Numerous related problems of raw material supplies, location of industries, and the value of resources developed in a pre-atomic age, immediately came to mind.
The General Assembly, after only a brief discussion, .adopted a resolution sponsored by the five permanent members of the Security Council and by Canada, to set up an atomic energy commission, whose function will be to proceed with the utmost despatch, and inquire into all phases of the; problem, and make such recommendations from time to time as it finds possible. In particular the commission is charged with making- specific proposals to extend the exchange of basic scientific information for peaceful ends, to control atomic energy to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes, to eliminate atomic weapons from national armaments, and to provide effective safeguards by way of inspection and other means to protect complying States against the hazards of violations and evasions. The commission will report to the Security Council and will be accountable to the Security Council for matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security. In appropriate cases the reports will be transmitted by the council to the General Assembly and the members of the United Nations as well as to other organs. Australia, as a member of the Security Council, will be .a member of the Atomic Energy Commission during the next two years.
Urgent Problems Arising from the War.
Among the urgent current questions in which the General Assembly was asked to make decisions were several arising immediately from the war, namely, the plight of refugees, the reconstruction of devastated countries, contributions to Unrra and the fear of impending starvation in many countries.
The debate on refugees revealed differences in view as to the seriousness of the problem and the principles to be applied in solving it, one of the main differences being between those who wish to compel refugees to return to their country of origin, and those who believe that, if a refugee has valid objections to doing so, he should not be compelled to go back. The General Assembly asked the Eco- nomic and Social Council to examine the whole problem and make recommendations to the second part of the first session next September. The Economic and Social Council acted promptly and appointed a committee of twenty members, including Australia, tq commence the examination of the problem and report to the council in May.
Following a debate in the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council has also been asked to place the problem of the physical reconstruction of devastated countries on its- agenda as an urgent matter. The subject has also been listed for further consideration at the September meetings of the General Assembly.
A resolution drawing attention to the critical state of the work of Unrra and urging members to make a second contribution to Unrra of 1 per cent, of national income was introduced by the United Kingdom delegation. The General Assembly decided to appoint a committee of ten members to consult with the signatories of the Unrra agreement who have not made or arranged to make their second contribution, and to urge upon, them that they make their second contribution with the least possible delay. Before the close of the General Assembly the Australian delegation was authorized by the Government to announce that Australia would make a further contribution to Unrra, subject to agreement with Unrra as to the goods to be supplied.
A resolution was’ adopted unanimously by the General Assembly drawing attention to- the world grain situation and urging emergency action to conserve grain and make it available for human consumption. The debate revealed an appalling prospect of starvation in many lands, and a strong appeal was made to all countries to take concerted and coordinated efforts, both for humanitarian reasons and to maintain order and stability and allow reconstruction to proceed. Several grain exporting countries, including Australia, placed before the General Assembly the facts concerning grain stocks and possibilities of shipment. Speaking for the Australian delegation; Mr. Beasley promised that both the Government and the Australian people would contribute in whatever way they could to overcome the present shortage and check the spread of famine.
On completing its agenda, the Genera] Assembly adjourned until the 10th September next, when the second part of the first session will be held. It is expected that the agenda of the second session will contain a great proportion of items related to current world problems, although some organizational matters, such as the budget, the head-quarters, and several questions relating to the secretariat, will also have to be completed.
On the whole, the work of the first part of the first session has been encouraging. I should like to take this opportunity to pay a warm tribute to the excellent work that was achieved by every member of the Australian delegation. I cannot speak too highly of the. manner in which each member devoted himself to his duties, which at times proved a serious strain and required long hours in the preparation of material, as well as other inescapable tasks. In every instance the co-operation given w.as extremely valuable.
It is a memorable fact that, within a year from the date on which invitations were first sent out to the peace-loving nations of the world to attend a conference at San Francisco to consider the establishment of a new international organization, that organization has commenced work. In face of any momentary discouragements, we should recall this achievement as an indication of the continuing unity and determination of the 51 members of the United Nations in responding to the world’s need for peace. The important fact to remember at all times is that these 51 nations are now working together within the framework of a great institution dedicated to international co-operation.
Besides leading the Australian Delegation to the General Assembly, I had the honour of representing Australia at the meetings’ of the Security Council which were held in London at the same time as the meetings of the General Assembly. Under the provisional rules of procedure adopted by the Council, the presidency of the Council rotates monthly among the members in the English alphabetical order, ‘ and it therefore was my great honour to be asked to preside, as the delegate of Australia, over the meetings of the Council during the first month of its life.
That was an exceptionally difficult month for the Council. In the first place the Council had to establish itself and organise its work so that it could discharge its functions under the Charter. In the second place it had to handle some exceedingly delicate current problems which- were brought before it under Chapter VI. of the Charter, which concerns the pacific settlement of disputes. The Preparatory Commission had worked out in detail provisional niles of procedure for the General Assembly, which was able to adopt them provisionally a,t the very start, and to act under them throughout. In the case of the .Security Council, however, no rules had been prepared for dealing with matters under Chapter V,I. of the Charter. The idea was that these matters were so delicate that it would be wise to leave the Security Council itself to draw up its rules when it was fully constituted. The result was that the Council had to work out its rules ad hoc, as it went along, taking each step as the need arose. The task is still far from complete. A committee of experts was at work during the first series of meetings, and was to meet again before the Council reassembled in New York to-day.
Since my return to Australia I have been asked questions about the use by the Soviet delegation of its “ veto “ to prevent a majority of the Security Council from adopting a resolution about the withdrawal of French and British troops f rom Syria and the Lebanon. The voting rules laid down in the Charter for the Security Council are certainly both complicated and controversial. They were adopted at San Francisco only, after long debates. My colleague, the Minister for External Affairs was by general consent the leader of those who thought that the voting formula was unsatisfactory. I should like to quote what he said at the conclusion of the debate. It still stands, and goes to the heart of the problem -
I can only hope that during the next few years the Great Powers will demonstrate to theworld by their actions in the Council that they will not in practice exercise to the full the veto rights which they possess under the Charter. Certain public indications along these lines have already been made, and we all accept these indications thankfully and in good faith. If it can be agreed that all peaceful means of settling disputes must be adopted and exhausted, and that in practice the veto will not be used to block such procedures, I am convinced that we will make a great step forward.This would remove many of the doubts which the middle and smaller countries have felt regarding acceptances of the present text . . . The Great Powers can perform a great service to the world if they demonstrate in practice that the powers given to them under the Charter will be used with restraint and in the interests of the United Nations as a whole.
The San Francisco text is there, and we must work under it as it stands. It means that the Security Council cannot adopt a resolution on any matter of substance whatever, unless all the five permanent members vote in favour of the motion, and at least two of the six elective members. Obviously, if any of the permanent members were to use their legal powers, as an everyday practice, to prevent a majority of the Council from adopting a resolution with which they individually disagreed, the Council could easily be paralyzed altogether as an instrument for effective international conciliation and the peaceful adjustment of situations that are likely to endanger international peace.
Our experience in London has shown three rather encouraging things: First; that, even without any formal resolutions at all, the Security Council is a valuable forum for consultation and discussion. The more the frank exchange of views on important current international questions takes place in the Security Council, instead of at informal or secret meetings of the former belligerent States, the stronger will the Charter system become. Even though no motion is carried the discussion can make clear to the States concerned how their actions are regarded by other States - in a word, can express world opinion on the matters in hand. Secondly; that even if a permanent member of the Security Council can and does prevent a majority of the Council from adopting a resolution dealing with the substance of the matter in hand, means may nevertheless be found of expressing the sense of the Council on the merits of the issue. An illustration of this is the statement made by myself, as President, by common consent, in closing the discussion on the Greek question. Everybody agreed that in this case no formal action was required ; a declaration by the President sufficed to make clear the opinions held by a majority of the members. Thirdly, even though no formal resolution can be taken; the parties may nevertheless be willing to act in accordance with what they realize is the general sense of the Council. A case in point is the example set by France and Britain, in agreeing to act in exactly the same way as they would have done if the veto had not prevented the Council from adopting a resolution concerning the withdrawal of French and British troops from Syria. This is a most valuable precedent.
Summing up, I would say that the voting rules laid down in the Charter make it essential for the Security Council to aim, in all its discussions, at building up the maximum of agreement, and avoiding asmuch as possible the easy but rather disintegrating course of voting each other down. The Council is made up of eleven States, five of which hold permanent seats. Effective action will not be possible unless it can build up a real corporate sense. I think there are signs already that such a corporate sense is growing, despite the difficulties of opinion, between the permanent members themselves, that were expressed with regard to the situations in Greece, in Indonesia, and in Syria and Lebanon.
In conclusion, I would suggest to honorable members that, in reviewing the events of London, they should look on them as the start of what we hope will prove a great concerted move by the nations to’ bring peace and security to the world. The task will call for much patience and understanding and goodwill among all nations. The members of the United Nations must honour their undertakings and live up to their responsibilities. Australia, as a young nation, side by side with other members of the British Commonwealth, has already played an active part in the foundation of this new organization and we must be prepared to go on with faith and energy, proving ourselves worthy members in a great cause.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
SUPPLY (Grievance Day).
Death of Ian Munchenberg - Potato Industry - Gift Duty - Housing - Price of Ice-cream - Reestablishment: Employment; Land Settlementofexservicemennorthern Territory : Development - Soil and Water Conservation - Income Taxation: Donations - Royal Australian Air Force: Demobilization -Motor Vehicles : Impressment - Buffalofly - Knitting Yarns - New Guinea: Return of Civilians.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
.- I refer again to a matter which I brought to the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in July last in connexion with the death at Bone, Algeria, in April, 1944, of an Australian lad named Ian Munchenberg. Munchenberg attempted to enlist in the Royal Australian Air Force in South Australia in 1943. He was rejected as being medically unfit. He then attempted to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, and was again rejected on medical grounds. He was anxious to serve his country, and therefore he requested permission to join the crew of a Norwegian vessel which at that time was lying at Port Adelaide. He was then eighteen years of age. His mother, a widow whose husband died from wounds received during the 1914-18 war, was in receipt of a war pension. The boy joined the crew of the Norwegian vessel, but he was not granted a passport. He was not vaccinated or inoculated and, having to pass through feverinfested areas, he contracted fever during April, 1944, was taken off the ship at Bone, and placed in a hospital where he died a few days later. He was to have received £25 a month from the company which owned the ship, and he had made an allotment to his mother of £10 a month. His mother, who is in very straitened circumstances, received one allotment. In July last, I asked a question about the treatment of this woman and received the following reply from the Prime Minister : -
Inquiries have been made into the matter, and I now inform the honorable member that Ian Walter Munchenberg was signed on as assistant steward ona Norwegian steamer at Port Adelaide on the 23rd February, 1944. His monthly wages were £A71s. 3d., plus £A17 13s.1d. war risk bonus. He died of smallpox at Bone, Algeria, on the 18th April, 1944. According to information supplied by the Norwegian Shipping and Trade Mission, no money was due to him at date of death, but. on the contrary, he was in debt to the vessel to the extent of £13 19s. 7d. As stated by the honorable member, one allotment of £10 had been paid to his mother. It has also been stated that his effects did not warrant fumigation expenses and were destroyed. This may have been necessary on account of the disease from which he died. The engagement of the. deceased was not subject to the Navigation Act or the Merchant Shipping Act, and it seems that compensation in respect of his death would be payable only if Norwegian law so provided. It is not possible to extend benefits to Mrs. Munchenberg in accordance with the provisions of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, as this act only applies if a deceased seaman loses his life through “ war injury “
This boy made every effort to enlist in both the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Imperial Force, and his sole purpose in becoming a merchant seaman was to make some war effort. Some consideration should be given to his widowed mother. When I heard that the boy was supposed to have been in debt to the shipping company to the amount of £13, I interviewed a number of ship captains, who informed me that on no occasion would a captain advance to a seaman as much as £13. The position is that somebody is “ holding out “ on Mrs. Munchenberg. If the lad was not advanced £13, then the company must have been indebted to him prior to his death. He could not have been paid off at Bone, because he was then very close to death and would have been unable to take the money. I ask that further consideration be given to this case. The widow is not in a position to make representations to the Norwegian Consul. When she first approached the shipping company’s agency in South Australia, she was informed that money that was owed to her son would be paid to the Australian
High Commissioner in London. No money has been paid into that office by the Norwegian company. Mrs. Munchen.berg sacrificed her husband in the I914-1S war and then sacrificed her son in the war that has just ended. Therefore, I ask the appropriate Minister to survey the position again and assist Mrs. Munchenberg to secure a full account of the facts of her son’s death from the Norwegian company. If she is not entitled to compensation from the Norwegian Government, the Commonwealth Government should make some payment to her in gratitude for the sacrifices which she has made.
– I have one or two matters to bring to the attention of the Government. The first, which relates to potatoes, has already been the subject of questions in this House this week. As the Minister for Commerce and. Agriculture (Mr. Scully) at least must be aware, every State, except “Western Australia and Tasmania, has imported potatoes in the last few weeks, and there is still an acute shortage in most States. Whilst that is the position on the mainland, there is a crop of about 250,000 bags of potatoes waiting to be dug in Tasmania. The cause of this position is the shortage of shipping. I am well aware that few ships are available, and I have frequently stressed that fact in the last few months in speeches which I have made to my constituents. The loss of shipping during the war was much greater than most people supposed, and I have told the electors that we must share with the peoples of other nations the inconveniences caused by the shortage. However, I consider that, if the Government made an extra effort, it would be possible to divert some ships to Tasmania to load potatoes, in the interests of both the growers in Tasmania and the consumers on the mainland. During January and February last year, 571,000 bags of potatoes were exported from Tasmania, but this ‘year only 211,000 bags have been shipped across Bass Strait. The potatoes remaining in the ground are rapidly deteriorating because of second growth. In the north-east about four weeks ago the loss from second growth was from 15 to 20 per cent., and now it is as high as 70 per cent. In other parts of the State Irish blight has led to the loss of a tremendous quantity of potatoes. At the same time the Federal Potato Controller, Mr. Foster, has been suggesting that it may be necessary to. give a premium to growers in other States to dig immature crops owing to the shortage. So it will be readily apparent to the Government that a ship or several ships at the moment would be of tremendous benefit. I am well aware that other things are in need of transportation, but the point in connexion with- the potato crop is that it will deteriorate and eventually be lost with great pecuniary loss- to the growers and considerable loss of food to the other States, whereas other materials possibly might well be a little delayed without detriment.
The other point in connexion with the potato position I mentioned yesterday in a question, to which the Minister replied that consideration was being given to the whole position. The point I raised was that control of the growing and distribution’ of potatoes will come to an end in November next, but most States have not yet any plans to take its place. There appears to be indecision all round as to the methods that will be adopted after November to carry out the marketing of potatoes. In Tasmania the preponderance of opinion among farmers seems to be in favour of continuance of. orderly marketing. If the present scheme comes to an end without any other scheme having been adopted and put into operation by the States, great loss and confusion will eventuate. I understand that several States have made application to the Commonwealth Government, to have the present scheme continued for at least another year, to allow time for. the other plans that are maturing to be placed before the farmers. It will be understood , (hat such schemes as that proposed by the Potato Marketing Board of Tasmania will be put before the growers for acceptance or rejection, but. in the meantime, these farmers, who have been sowing 10 or 20 acres and are likely to go on doing so unless .some guidance is given to them, will possibly find themselves in a very serious position next year, when requirements will be down to the peace-time level.
The point I put to the Government is that it is absolutely necessary for some announcement to be made at a very early date as to its intentions, so that there shall be no indecision and confusion and so that the growers shall be aware of their precise position. Whether the Commonwealth Government decides to comply with this request or to do otherwise, the growers should at least know where they stand.
Mr.guy.-Planting will start soon.
– Planting begins in June in Tasmania, and much earlier in other States. Unless a decision is announced it will be seen that the position that I have suggested may easily arise.
The other matter that I raise concerns the operation of the Gift Duty Act. Most people are aware that the intention of that legislation is the prevention of the avoidance of death duty. I must admit that death duties have never appealed to me as a very ethical source of revenue for the Government. It is perfectly all right to hit a man on his feet, but when he is down-
– He does not know anything about it when he is dead.
– He cannot hit back.
– He ceases to worry about taxation when he is dead.
– Yes ; but those left behind are often the least able to take a hard hit. ‘However, that is not the position that I rose to discuss. Under the operation of the Gift Duty Act certain things have occurred that I believe were not intended, and, at present, a kind of inquisition goes on which, I think, is not at all desirable in the interests of any member of the community.
– Where does this inquisition take place?
– All over Australia.
– Not in the hereafter?
– What I particularly draw attention to is that this affects particularly family life. It means that men who try to provide for their families, whatever their age, are penalized. I have collected several instances that, I think, will throw a little light on the subject. I am assured that the Commissioners of Taxation watch the daily register, and, if a married woman is shown to have acquired property, she is immediately sent a letter somewhat in the terms of this letter, which, I understand, was actually received -
According to departmental information, it is understood that you recently acquired title to the land described in . . .
For the purposes of the abovementioned act, it is desired that you please -
inform me whether the purchase of your equity in the property was financed directly from moneys belonging to you, or accruing therefrom, and held in your own right and individual possession since the 29th October, 1941.
advise whether the purchase money was withdrawn from your bank account or derived from the sale of any assets, giving details of the assets sold.
forward your bank pass book for perusal and return should any portion of the purchase money have been withdrawn from your account.
supply full details concerning any contributions towards the purchase made by any person other than yourself giving the amount contributed and the name and address of the person or persons concerned.
When that information has been supplied it is usually followed up by other searching inquiries into the affairs of both the husband and the wife. Here are some of the cases that have been put to me as having actually occurred or as being liable to occur. The first case is that of a man who buys a house and puts it in the joint names of himself and his wife. That, I believe most honorable gentlemen would agree, is a. perfectly reasonable and proper thing for a man to do. It is to be noted that in this case there is no possible avoidance of estate duty, as on the husband’s death estate duty would be payable on the full value of the property. Under the Gift Duty Act, however, he is regarded as having made a gift to his wife, and that, I would remind honorable gentlemen, despite the section of the Christian marriage service that says, “ With all my worldly gifts I thee endow “. In this case apparently all the property is regarded as the property of the husband, and he is regarded as having made a gift to his wife of a half of the value ofthe property. If the property is valued at over £1,000, gift duty is charged on a half of the amount. If the value is £800, and the gift, therefore, £400 that amount would be free of duty, because the amount; on which duty is charged is limited to £500; but if eighteen months before or after the date on which he makes that gift of £400 to his wife he makes a gift to any other person the value of all the gifts is added together, and if the total exceeds £500, gift duty is payable on the total. This latter rule applies in all instances. Of course, if the husband bought the house in his wife’s name only, he would pay duty on the full amount.
Another point is that if a man takes his son into partnership in a business which he has built up over many years - and very many men build up businesses with that object in view whilst, frequently, the son himself helps in the processthe value of all of the assets in the business is calculated, and one half of the total value is regarded as a gift from the father to the son, upon which gift duty is payable.
Another case to which I direct particular attention is that of a wife who purchases a property, say for £900. out of her own separate bank account which she had accumulated over a period of twenty years by savings out of her weekly allowance from her husband. The commissioner rules that these savings remain the property of the husband and that on the wife purchasing the house, the husband has, in effect, made a gift to her of the value of the house; andhe is assessed gift duty on that amount.
I cite another case: If a man opens a bank account in the joint names of himself and his wife, whenever he makes a deposit it is regarded as a gift, and when the total is sufficient it becomes subject to duty. I understand that at present several cases of that kind are pending; but they have not progressed sufficiently to enable me to say definitely on what basis the duty is assessed, although I presume that it would cover half the amount of the joint account. Unless the Commissioner has discretionary power in the matter, a great many difficulties will arise in the future for families, although a man in cases of the kind I have cited would only be doing his best for his family.
Finally, where a gift is made and a return is not lodged within one month, double duty is charged. The Commissioner has power to waive the penalty, but I know of the case of an old-age pensioner who inherited some money, and paid £1,000 to his wife, and because he had never heard of the Gift Duty Act, he did not lodge a return. The Commissioner said that ignorance of the act was no excuse, and he charged the pensioner double duty, which amounted to £60.
I have said sufficient, to . make it apparent to the Government that in the operation of the act, real injustice is done to many people. They are forced into the position of being charged with attempting to defraud the Government when they are doing no more than their moral duty on behalf of their families.
As the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) is at the table, I should like to deal with the problem of housing; but as many honorable members wish to take advantage of Grievance Day to bring urgent matters to the notice of the Government and the time allotted for the debate is restricted I shall postpone my remarks on that subject.
Mr..FADDEN (Darling Downs- Leader of the Australian Country party) [4.14]. - I bring to the notice of the House a matter which I and every responsible Australian believes to be of extreme importance, namely, the appalling housing position generally throughout Australia; and, at this juncture, I shall draw particular attention to conditions in Queensland. On the 28th February last the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) stated -
Following the entry of Japan into the war, house-building virtually ceased in Australia.
And present indications are that this position has not altered materially. Six months ago, in order to draw the attention of the Government to this problem, I made a formal adjournment motion. On that occasion I made six suggestions to the Government for meeting the appalling housing shortage. The Government has adopted two of those’ suggestions, namely the abolition of the permit system up to a certain value, and “the definition of responsibilities as between the Commonwealth and the States. The Government cannot regard lightly its responsibility in this matter, nor escape blame for its neglect of duty, by “ passing the buck “ to the States as it has done on so many previous occasions. Under the co-operative agreement, the States are supposed to build the houses, and the Commonwealth supplies the money, repayable over a 53-year period. Does the Government’s handling of the problem inspire confidence? Prom April, 1944, to December, 1945, a period of twenty months, 3,077 homes were built in Australia. Of these only 2.99 were built in Queensland, a State with a population of over 1,000,000. The result has been alarming, and, in some cases, shocking. In many instances, severe overcrowding has led to the transmission of contagious diseases. Leprosy, diphtheria and paratyphoid cases were reported to the health committee of the Brisbane City Council in overcrowded homes, of which these, a re typical : A house at B’righton-road, West End, suitable for six, was occupied by seventeen; another at Beard-street, Auchenflower, suitable for housing five, was occupied by twenty, including four families, three of them ex-servicemen’s families. Should honorable members imagine that I am relying only upon isolated cases, I have here more than 1,000 Lette’rs from people in Brisbane who are in urgent need of homes. A friend of mine advertised a furnished house to let last month. In reply to his advertisement, which appeared once in one newspaper, he received 1,064 replies. I exhibit those letters to honorable members. They are convincing evidence of the appalling position in Brisbane, which, nevertheless, is better served than any other capital city in Australia, so far as housing is concerned. These letters tell a piteous story of husbands separated from their wives and children, of ex-servicemen tramping the streets, of whole families living in - ingle rooms and on side verandahs, and of unfortunate families facing ejectment and unable to obtain alternative shelter. There is no need for me to elaborate. I shall let the people themselves, some of the th.ousand.-odd who answered this advertisement, tell their own story.
– Sometimes those advertisements are highly coloured.
– This advertisement was not coloured. It read -
To let, furnished house, near tram, moderate rental.
The rental was 37s. 6d. a week This correspondence tells its own story. I select the following letters at random. Here is one from Petrie-terrace - 1 am the wife of a returned Australian Imperial Force man with five years’ service. We have two young children aged four yeans mid twelve months, and I am expecting another baby in September.
We are being evicted from’ the house we have been living in for eleven years by new owners, and have to vacate the place by next Monday.
We have nowhere to go, but a friend, of the above address, has offered to let us sleep on her verandah until we can find a place. I have my own linen, cutlery, blankets and crockery. So please could you let us have your place. We are desperate. .
Here is another from Quay-street -
T asn a returned soldier with a wife and four-year-old daughter and am living in a 12 ft. by 12 ft. room which we have to sleep, eat and cook in.
The third is from Bald Hills-
I have three children., five years, three years, and seven mouths, and at present living in the country with an old .lady. We have a double room and use of conveniences. It is very hard living under these conditions.
We are all sleeping in one room. I have tried tor a few places but haven’t had any answers, but I think the reason is having children, as they are not wanted in houses these days.
My husband is an ex-soldier (four years), and now back on his old job.
Here is another from Camp Hill -
At present myself, wife and two children, are living in” one room’ - 10 by 12. So you can imagine our plight. It has been that way for two years. I am a returned airman.
The fifth is from George-street -
I n.m .a returned man, of S.]X years with the Sixth Division. At present my wife and twin baby daughters are in Melbourne and I have to keep them, and myself here. We have been separated six months, and I cannot have them up here until T. find a home for them. They arc nil packed and just waiting fur nic to send for them.
Here is another written from a hotel, and containing a photograph and a receipt, from a young returned soldier of this war, with a wife and one child. He wrote -
I am at present paying £86s. per week for board, and naturally being only an ordinary working man, I will not be able to stand that for an indefinite period. I am taking the liberty of enclosing receipt for last week’s board, so as you can see that what I state is correct.
The next is slightly different. It comes from Wilston, and the writer stated -
I have a grown-up family of three and we are at present living on a side verandah and every time there is heavy rain we are nearly flooded out. My husband is a returned soldier of No. 1 War.
The next letter, from Taringa, was from a married couple, both of whom served their country in this war. It read -
There is only my wife and myself and our babe’ of three months, and at present we are living in one room with the use of very few conveniences. As will be appreciated this is far ‘from satisfactory, and as a result my wife’s health is suffering. We are both ex-service personnel, my wife serving for three and a half years and I for five years.
Typical of many is a letter from a man at Toowong, who is separated from his wife. His letter stated -
I am a newly married returned soldier and am at present living at home with my mother. My wife is living in Sydney with her people until we are able to find a home.
Another letter from Toowong gives, the reverse case -
I am a returned R.A.A.F. officer, with seven years’ service, and am married with. one child.
My present accommodation is only temporary and unless I can find something of a more permanent nature within the next week, I will be. forced to send my wife and child to live with relatives in Melbourne.
From Stone’s Corner comes the complaint of a family of four living under three different roofs. She wrote; -
Through scarcity of accommodation, I am living at the above, my elder sister is staying in half a flat with a lady, and my younger sister and mother are stuck out in the bush 80 miles away through lack of accommodation in Brisbane. We all feel as though we are just existing and not living: There just being four of us and we live under three different roofs. It is so depressing to think we can’t get a place where we can all be together and enjoy the happy privilege of “ home “.
A returnedsoldier with nearly six years in the Army, and an excellent service record, has been away from his wife and family for nearly six years. She is living in Sydney with their two children, a girl of three and a baby boy. They cannot get a house in Brisbane.
Here is a letter from Edward-street -
I am a married woman with two children, aged6 and 1 year. I am living in a room with my husband and two children, all sleeping in the one- bed.
From Kangaroo Point comes this letter -
I am an ex-serviceman with wife and baby daughter. I am now living in a room 12 x 12, and I might say it is not very comfortable for three of us.
The next letter, written from Annerley, was still more tragic. It stated -
My husband is an ex-Australian Imperial Force serviceman. We have one small child and twin babies, aged four months.
At present the five of us are living in a . small sleepout with a single bed. My husband has to sleep on the floor and the conditions under which we are living make it very hard to maintain an average standard of cleanliness.
A letter’ from Yeerongpilly stated that the correspondent and his wife would have to occupy an 8-ft. by 10-ft. tent in a few weeks, when they are evicted.-
Another from The Grange said that there are 10 persons, three families, living in a two-roomed house. Still another letter stated that a family of five, live in a small room, and folding stretchers were put up at night to provide a sleeping place for the children. A young Royal Australian Air Force man of 30, with five and a half years’ service, has twin daughters, four months old, living in Melbourne. This is what he says -
We are ayoung couple of 30 years of age. and have twin daughters 4 months old. I am living in Brisbane and my wife and our wonderful twins are in Melbourne living with her family. 1 am a returned soldier, and . on discharge lust . December, was moved to Brisbane by the firmI was employed by prior to joining the army. This was a big blow to us after being away from each other for five and a half years except for an occasional leave.
Here is another letter from the wife of an Air Force man -
We are a young couple, my husband having served five years in the Royal Australian Air Force. We have been fruitlessly seeking a house or flat for a considerable length of time. I am expecting my first child in April, and I have no place of my own to bring my baby after its arrival.
The same ‘story of fruitless search is contained in this extract -
My husband and I are in the same position as so many other young couples, living with our parents, despite heart-breaking efforts to get a home of our own.
Another unfortunate case is cited in the following extract: -
This friend of mine is a young married woman with only one leg. She uses a crutch and has three girls all school age, two of them in higher grades, and she needs a house down here and is unable to secure same on account of her leg and the distance from town. By the time she answers they are always gene.
A letter from Eagle Junction read -
My husband is an ex-Royal Australian Air Force man. and he has a good position in the city. We have one child four and a half years.
We are at present living in one room underneath a house. My child has known no other house, as I have not been able to find suitable living arrangements.
But now. after five years’ separation, my husband is back to share his life with us, and it’s most unsuitable for the three of us to live in one room, and there are no conveniences.
Finally, there is a letter from a young ex-serviceman, who is not yet married -
I am an ex-serviceman with a clean record and good character. 1 am waiting to be married, but cannot do so because of lack nf accommodation. At present I am staying with relatives and we are crowded out, there being six adults and one child in a flat . intended for two.
I have quoted not quite % per cent, of the letters in my possession.. No words of mine can convey the story of misery, hopelessness and need written into every line of the human tragedies that I have before me, They could he multiplied fifty-fold from the material in my possession. How many thousands more are there in Brisbane, in Queensland, throughout the whole of Australia? On the day on which the advertisement which brought all these replies appeared, there were a number of other houses advertised in the Brisbane press.
– What is the address of that house?
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell)’ is a Doubting Thomas. He will not believe any one., Whenever the Opposition makes disclosures of this nature, honorable mem-‘ bers opposite immediately regard them as a personal affront. They forget that we are a virile Opposition, and represent a large section of the Australian community. We shall continue to criticize the Government until it does the right thing by the nation, and particularly exservicemen.
The appalling state of affairs which I have described is not confined to Queensland. It is nation-wide. In New South Wales, the housing shortage has reached alarming proportions, and there is every indication that, twelve months hence, hundreds of people will still be seeking homes in that State. In Victoria, it was estimated a few days ago that S0,000 homes are needed to overcome the present shortage. In South Australia, 1,000 persons answered an advertisement offering a five-roomed furnished house in Adelaide, while in one day, 200 to 300 persons replied to an advertiser who wanted to sell a house for £1,050.
During the war, the Martin bombe”r plant in Maryland, United States of America, needed 1,800 homes for its workers. They were erected in an average time of 35 man-hours. The wall material was made by applying coatings of cement and asbestos to both sides of a slab of celotex, made of sugar-cane fibre. Thus the various elements of a wall - studding, plaster, lath, sheathing, siding, &c. - are rapidly combined in one piece. In other areas, box-girder construction with plywood bonded to hardwood frames, has been used successfully. It is stronger than steel and permanently waterproof, and is similar in principle to the construction of the Mosquito bomber, which is now being made in Australia.
In other countries, we read of modern methods used to overcome the housing shortage. Using the maximum of unskilled labour, manufacturers turn out prefabricated panels complete with prefitted doors and windows, electric cables, plumbing and insulation. Munitions factories, no longer needed for war, are ideal for conversion to this type of production. One famous designer, Norman Rel Geddes, has designed such a house containing only 27 basic prefabricated units. It can be assembled by six men in an S-hour day, and admits of eleven different variations in the type of heme Although this method of construction is a potential source of thousands of homes, I have in my possession correspondence indicating that machinery capable of producing 6,000)000 square feet of plywood annually has been held in Sydney in its original cases since 1941, and that it still is not available for home building, solely because of Government bungling. I have taken this’ matter up with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction but I have not been able to obtain any satisfaction, nor has the firm which owns tha material-, yet the Government professes to be satisfied with the present housing position. If for no other reason, this Government stands condemned in the eyes of every responsible Australian citizen because of its failure to provide adequate shelter for the people of this country.
.- The remarkable speech of the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) calls for some comment. The Social Security Committee investigated the housing problem throughout the Commonwealth and reported upon it in its fourth report presented to Parliament on the .20 Idi May, 1942. That report stated -
Although in the past housing has generally been regarded as .the province of private enterprise, it is obvious that the return to be de- rived from low rental type cottages has been insufficient to induce Birch interests to undertake this class of house building to any considerable extent. Because of this, and also the extreme difficulty - in most States impossibility - of the worker being able to secure finance for a home at less than a 10 per cent, deposit even from the Government or semigovernment al authorities, the shortage of ‘ dwellings for low wage earners has been much more significant than for the more costly higher rental types in the provision df which private enterprise has, mainly, concentrated its activities. Indeed, there is ample evidence to indicate that the immediate needs of the nation would be met by an adequate supply, of the former types.
The inheritance at this early stage of Australian development of such a serious dislocation of social and living conditions as a direct result of inadequate and low standard housing indicates a serious defect in housing policy in this country. It demonstrates either unreadiness or inability of existing housing authorities or private interests, to keep pace with normal housing demands or to make any provision for the cleaning out of slums and rehousing of their present occupants.
As I have said that report was made in 1.942 - three years after the outbreak of war - and the acute housing shortage indicated therein was the inheritance of the Labour administration from the Government of which the Leader of the Australian Country parry was a member. Conditions similar to those that the right honorable gentleman says exist in Queensland to-day are paralleled in all States. Everybody knows that houses are in short supply all over the Commonwealth and the civilized - world. The position is deplorable, but had anti-Labour administra- tions made- a realistic approach to the problem conditions to-day would not be nearly so bad as they are. The shortage of homes was greatly accentuated by the suspension of building operations during the six years of the war. It is futile for the right honorable’ member to indulge in a tirade against the Government because of the present state of affairs. I venture to say that had the administration of which the right honorable member was a member remained in office during the war, our housing standard would now be akin to that of the Japanese.
– I promise the honorable member more than he wants if lie talks in that strain.
– Threats from the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will not deter me from saying what. I want to say and what I believe to be true.
The report of the Social Security Committee to which I have referred, also contained the following reference to the Commonwealth Housing Act 1927-192S :- .
The Commonwealth Housing Act gave power to the Treasurer, under the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1918, or by means of the issue of treasury-bills, to borrow a sum which, with other amounts available, will permit it to lend £20,000,000 for the purposes, of the act. Pending the borrowing of this amount, the Treasurer may advance moneys to the Savings Bank out of the Commonwealth Public Account.
Then it sets out a list of the approved advances. When he was Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons promised the people of this country from the hustings that, if his Government were returned to office at the next elections, action would be taken to implement the £20:000.000 housing plan ; but what happened? Not one penny was expended on the construction ofhomes in fulfilment of that promise, or in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Housing Act.
– -Anti-Labour governments built 21,000 war service homes;: this Administration has built only eight.
– It is all very well to talk about the building of 21,000 war service homes; the plain fact is that not one house was built in accordance with the act which provided for the raising of £20,000,000 for that specific purpose.
– One was built in the Australian Capital Territory for a former Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
– If the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) insists on making statements such as that, I shall have no scruples in telling the House of some of the things that were done by governments of which he was a member. He must beprepared to carry his share of the responsibility for the ineptitude of those administrations, and their disregard for the needs of the people. As I have said, not one home was built underthe Commonwealth Housing Act.
– That is not so.
– I challenge the light honorable member for Cowper to name one home that was built in Tasmania or any other State under that legislation. Let us examine what has occurred in the Australian Capital Territory, for which the Commonwealth Parliament is entirely responsible. When I was first elected to this chamber in 1934, I took an interest in Canberra and the housing of its citizens. At that time there were 300 or 350 people waiting for homes. To-day the figure is hearer 500. But what of the record of the Government of which the right honorable gentleman was a member? What did he do about the housing shortage when he controlled the public purse?
– I have no desire to screen the present Government from blame, but at least I. can say in its favour that, during the course of the war, bouses could not be built because labour and material’s were diverted almost solely to war purposes. It is true that during the term of office of the Scullin Government Labour and materials were plentiful, bat that Government could not provide the requisite finance to undertake housing construction. How comparatively easy it became later to find millions of pounds every day to finance the exigencies of the war! Every honorable member to-day’ receives heart-rending letters from servicemen and others recounting their difficulties in securing, not a home, but even a place of shelter. We have inherited the legacy of the failure of past governments to plan for the future housing needs of the people. Private enterprise, being influenced only by the profit motive, has contributed little to the solution of the problem. being interested only in construction which yielded a high rate of interest on the capital investment. One of the effects of the bad housing position has been the phenomenal growth of slums, not only in the capital cities but also in the provincial towns, and, let it be said to our discredit, even in Canberra. Honorable members opposite cannot absolve themselves from blame for the state of affairs that exists to-day and charge this Government with having neglected the needs of the people, in view of the fact that during the 25 years the governments they supported were in office, nothing was done.
– Still nothing is being done.
– I shall leave it to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) to give facts concerning the Government’s housing plans. I agree that these plans are not being brought into operation fast enough to. satisfy requirements.
– They are being implemented as fast as labour and materials become available.
– That is the sole limiting factor in the Government’s housing programme. Having regard to the circumstances that exist to-day, the chargeof neglect of the housing needs of the people levelled by honorable members opposite is hypocritical and completely unjustified.
I propose now to deal with the price of ice-cream.For a long time I have been making representations to the Prices Commissioner relative to the surcharge of -Jd. on the retail price of packed icecream, but so far have been unable to influence him to remove this unfair and excessive impost. One has only to look at the balance-sheet of one of the largest manufacturers of ice cream in Australia, namely, Peters American Delicacy Company Limited, and -examine its disclosed profits, to discover how this surcharge is inflating the annual profits of that concern. The company was registered in September,’ 1920, with a nominal capital of £3,050,000, issued in 1,500,000 shares of 14s. each. According to published figures the paid-up capital of the company was £834,383, issued in 1,079,144 shares fully paid and 169,247 shares paid to 9s. -4d. In June, 1922, the published accounts of the company disclosed that its profits amounted to £25,647, and that a dividend of 13^ . per cent, had been declared, £10,647 being passed to reserve, reducing the deficit to £14,594. In the year ended the 30th June, 1932 - ten years later - the profits amounted to £22,779, a dividend of 10 per cent, was declared, and £42,583 was passed to reserve, making the total of the reserve fund £480,360. Written-off investments accounted for £12,435, and there were unexplained additions amounting to £19,434. In 1943 we find that the company made a profit of £83,825 and paid a dividend of 9 per cent. In that year an amount of £8,730 was passed to reserves, making a total of £376,230 in the reserve fund. For the financial year 1944-4’i the disclosed profits amounted to £S6,166, and a dividend rate of 9 per cent, was declared. An amount of £11,071 was. passed to reserves, making the total of the reserve fund £455,534. The figures I have cited are’ the net figures after making special provision for tax reserves. On the position disclosed by skeleton balance-sheets published, it is interesting to note the long run of satisfactory dividends, sweetened by the issue in 1940 of bonus shares on the basis of one bonus share for each share held, which make distributions since that date equal to double the declared rate on capital as it stood before the gift. Not only was this company able to pay the dividends to which I have referred, but in 1940, while the war was on, it was able to make an issue of bonus shares. Thus, the divi- dend of 9 per cent, paid the following year really amounted to 18 per cent, on the invested capital, and this was achieved partly by robbing the children who bought ice-cream . packs. I understand that last year the company was unable to meet the demand for’ its. product. Despite its difficulties it appears to have achieved satisfactory results, and notwithstanding further advances in costs, and much more than usual being set. aside for taxation, plus £12,402 allocated to the staff fund, the net earnings were £86,166. This was equal to 10.3 per cent, on the paid-up capital of £834,283, as compared with dividends of 10.2 per cent., 10 per cent., 8.4 per cent., 9.2 per cent, and 10.5 per cent, for the previous five years. The dividend this year remained at 9 per cent., leaving £11>071 to be put on the shelf, together with £20,000 previously overpaid in taxation; which increased the reserve to £455,534.
Despite these disclosed facts, the Prices Commission still persists in allowing the extra half-penny to be charged for icecream packs. It seems to be robbing the children for the .benefit of a firm that is admittedly doing very well. I have a grievance against the Prices Commission on this issue. I am prepared to give credit to the Commission for its work during the war, but in this particular instance it has failed to give satisfactory replies to my letters. It has evaded my questions, and supplied me with irrelevant statements. A review of the price of ice-cream, which to-day is regarded as a wholesome product, is long overdue. I should not have raised the matter here but for the continued evasions of the Prices Commission. The fact that the price of an ice-cream pack is 3id. forces children, who have only 3d. to spend, to buy something else with it. Although I have a grievance about the price charged by the company, I freely admit that it puts up a very wholesome product, one that is both tasty and nourishing. I am not able to say that the present pack is smaller than that put up before the war, but I believe that it is. If that is so, then the company is not only getting the extra half-penny on each pack, but is making bigger profits because that pack itself is smaller.
I trust that what I have said on the subject to-day will be brought to the notice of those responsible in the Prices Commission. I object very strongly to the way in which my representations have been received. If the Prices authorities arc not prepared to reduce the price they should say so, and give their reasons. Instead of doing that, they evade the issue, and attempt to brush me aside, but I am not prepared to be brushed aside. I want an answer. The company, admittedly, has been making big profits, and although considerable sums have been paid in taxation, I believe that it is still receiving more than it is entitled to. I know that it can be argued that all companies engaged in the manufacture of this product are not so prosperous as this one. If that is so, then it is too bad, but I do not think that the Government ought to stand idly by and allow this particular company to make a huge rake-off at the expense of the children of this country.
– I regretthat I was not able to reply immediately to the utter irresponsible statements of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden).
– Their irresponsibility can be measured by the fact that they were based upon over 1,000 letters.
– They were just.as- big a “ fake “ as any confidence trick that has ever been practised.
– On a point of order,I demand a withdrawal of that accusation. The letters are absolutely genuine.I am prepared to table them and, if the House permits, have them incorporated in Hansard.
– I ask the Minister to withdraw the accusation.
– I withdraw the expression “ fake “. The right honorable gentleman has used housing purely for party political purposes, to a greater degree than any other member of this House. He raises the subject on every conceivable occasion, not only in this House but also in the country. He has referred to letters which he claims to have received from persons who have made application for a five-roomed cottage, partly furnished, and situated on a tram route, at a rent of £1 17s. 6d. a week.
– I. did not say that it was a five-roomed cottage.
– The right honorable gentleman does not know where the cottage is situated. I challenge him to give the exact address of it. If a house of such a character were advertised, there would be 100,000 . applicants for it. The right honorable gentleman has presented the most fantastic case I have ever heard. Even were there no housing shortage, there would still be as many applicants for a house of that character at that rent. In bringing forward these letters, the right honorable gentleman has indulged in nauseous repetition in an endeavour to reflect on the Government. He has to be reminded of the background of the matter. Throughout the years during which honorable members opposite composed the Government, their administration did not build a single house for any one in Australia, nor did they pay any attention to the housing problem, as they are doing now because it is a convenient party political “ stunt “. Had housing been properly attended to in earlier years, there would have been a surplus of houses during the war period instead of the acute shortage that existed. The right honorable gentlemanshowed to me a letter concerning a firm which has a large quantity of material for the production of p re-fabricated houses. He did not say, although he knew, that that is lend-lease material which is owned by the American authorities. All the information in possession of the Government indicates that the authorities in Washington intend to invite tenders throughout the world for the purchase of it. Australia has no more right to it than has any other country, and if our tender for it is not high enough, it will be sent out of Australia. We have no control whatever over it. For paltry I arty political purposes, the right honorable gentleman endeavoured to misrepre- sent the position to this House. Not a government in Australia concerned itself about the housing of the people until after the war.
–That is . not correct.
– It is correct. I am speaking, not of war service homes, but of the general housing position.
– Nor am I speaking of war service homes. Consider the houses that have been built by the South Australian Housing Commission.
– That body built some houses in South Australia; but they were few in comparison with what were needed throughout” the Commonwealth. In New South “Wales, there was an unofficial body-
– A body without a head.
– Sir Frederick Stewart was the head of it. That unofficial housing council held its last meeting in 19#9, and Sir Frederick Stewart presided over it. At the outbreak of the war, public opinion was by no means convinced that housing was a function of government, apart from the provision of concessions in relation to finance, such as those provided by the New South Wales Savings Bank scheme. One proof of that statement is that the unofficial housing council of New South Wales, a propaganda and research body of which, as I have said, Sir Frederick Stewart was the chairman, devoted itself to the improvement of housing conditions. At the meeting that it held in 3939, it decided that the moment was inopportune for reform in the nature of slum clearance and intervention by a government housing authority, and went into recess, lt has rot since held another meeting. T admit, 1 1ia t there were Labour government? in rower in some of the State** prior to the war, when housing was neglected. Apart from ‘ the activities of ibc South Australian Housing Commission, no government carried out anything like fi comprehensive housing programme .until the inauguration of the scheme agreed to at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The scheme provides that the Common-wealth shall bear most of ibc financial burden whilst the States will carry out the actual building operations. A target cf 24.000 houses ro be construe ed 4>y the end of this financial year was set by the Housing Commission. Many people in the community, including honorable gentlemen opposite, said that that target would not be reached. There was much jeering and cynicism. When the building restrictions were lifted to allow private builders to construct homes costing up to £1,250 without a permit, the governments of New South Wales. Victoria and South Australia amended their legislation to provide for houses of a- certain maximum area. Of the target of 2-4,000 houses set for the current financial year, half were to be governmentsponsored, and the other half to be built privately. The quarterly quotas were -
Figures supplied ‘by the Commonwealth Statistician show that between July andDecember, 1945, 6,000 houses were completed, 1 800 being government-sponsored, and 4,200 privately built. Of the 8.000 houses which were in course of erection at the 31st December, 1945, 4,300 were government-sponsored, and 3,700 were being privately built. It will be seen therefore, that houses completed and under cons’ ruction at the 31st December, 1.945, totalled 14,000, which was 5,000 more than the target set for that date. The indications are that more than 24,000 houses will be built before the end of June next.
– What does the Minister mean when he refers to governmentsponsored houses?
– I refer to houses covered by the agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and State Governmen s. The agreement provides thai 50 per cent, of such houses shall be made available to ex-servicemen,- and shall be distributed on a needs basis. The demand for houses is so great that completed buildings have’ to be balloted for. The increased cost of houses makes the economic rent more than many home-seekers can afford to pay, and, accordingly, the agreement provides that the Commonwealth shall pay three-fifths, and the State Government concerned two-fifths, of ihe difference between the economic rent and the rent which the tenant could afford to pay - approximately one clay’s income. The agreement provides, further, that if the tenant becomes sick or unemployed, the rent may be reduced to as low as 8s. a week. So far, 60 per cent, of government-sponsored houses have been allotted to ex-servicemen. Considering the dearth of materials at the time that the scheme was launched, the achievements to date constitute a remarkable record. Honorable member’s surely have not forgotten that the whole of the resources of this country were requisitioned for war purposes, so that when the war ended there was a shortage of bricks, timber, and other building materials. Yet, in the face of those facts, honorable members opposite continue to say that Commonwealth and State Governments should have done more. If honorable members who express those views were to consult the master builders in their electorates they would obtain confirmation of what I have said. The truth is that Opposition members are using the housing shortage as political propaganda in the hope that they will secure some additional votes at the next elections, but their tactics will be of no avail. The total number of houses erected under the government-sponsored programme 3ince its inception in April, 1944, to the 21st February, 1946, was 3,33S. During that period, the number of houses erected privately ‘was 10,000. Between the 1st July, 1945, and the 2lst February, 1946, government-sponsored houses erected in the Commonwealth totalled 2,292. In the same period privately built houses to the number of 4,200 were erected, making a total of 6,492 in less’ than eight months. Ar the 21st February last, S/704 houses were under construction, consisting of 5,004 government-sponsored homes, and 3,700 private homes. The figures in relation to homes privately built have been obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician and cover the period from the 1st July to the 31st December, 1945, only. They, therefore, understate the number of houses completed and under construction on the 2.1st February. Later figures are not available. As during the war 2,566 homes for war-workers were erected, it will be seen that to the 21st February, 1946. 16,104 homes were completed, that number comprising 2,566 war-workers’ hom.es, 3.53S governmentsponsored homes, and 10,000 homes built “by private enterprise. Tn addition, S.704 homes were under construction on the 21st February, making a total of 24,80S homes either erected or in course of construction from April, 1944, to the 21st February, 1946. It must be borne in mind that that excellent result has been achieved notwithstanding grave shortages of materials and man-power. I agree that the housing situation is still desperate, and I fear that, regardless of the government in office, the demand for nouses will continue for a further ten years before the shortage is overcome. I repeat that the extremely serious position which exists to-day is the result of the policy followed by private enterprise in the days before the war, when there was no restriction whatsoever on the building of houses. Those were the- days when land was bought by the acre, and sold by the foot, when houses were built in rows and terraces which to-day are eyesores. The slums which now exist had their beginning in the days when men with the same political outlook as honorable members opposite governed this country and “allowed jerry-builders to erect for human beings buildings which were not fit for pigs to live in. That is the heritage left to us by antiLabour governments. Honorable members opposite do not care a “ halfpenny dump “ about the housing position or about how people are to get houses. They are simply interested in kicking a political football about. If, by some extraordinary misfortune, the people were stupid enough to return an anti-Labour government to office at the next elections they would find that that government would have little interest in the shortage of houses.
Mr. Fadden interjecting,
– The right honorable member for Darling Downs is the head of an accountancy business, and I have no doubt that many of his clients are people who constructed jerry-built houses. Honorable members opposite speak on this subject with their tongues in their cheeks. I say in all sincerity that his Government, in spite of all the handicaps which it has had to face, has done the best job it was possible for any government to do to relieve the unfortunate housing shortage in this country.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Minister for
Works and Housing said that I had misrepresented the position in regard to the plywood establishment at Alexandria. The facts are as follows-
– I rise to a point of order. The Leader of the Australian Country party is not entitled to discuss that subject. ‘
– I submit that I am entitled to put the facts to the committee.
– I rise to order. The right honorable gentleman is entitled only to show wherein he has been misrepresented. He may not introduce new matter into the debate. .
– How can I show where the Minister was . wrong if I may not submit the facts to the House?
Mi: ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Mulcahy). - I cannot allow the right, honorable member to make a second speech.
– I have no intention of doing so. The Minister contended that the plywood factory .to” which I have referred was not capable of meeting theposition, and that certain machinery for fabricating plywood was not available to the Government because it is lendlease material belonging to the United States of America. I wish to point out that on the 17th August last the Government called for tenders for this plant. It was because no tender was accepted that I brought the master under notice.
– I bring to the notice of the Government anomalies which have become apparent in the administration of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. We were told when this measure was before Parliament that it was designed to ensure the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel. Unfortunately, the use of the guillotine by the Government when the bill was under consideration prevented the discussion of about 40 amendments of which members of the Australian Country party had given notice.
– Order! The honorable member may not reflect upon a vote of the House.
– Because of the failure of the Government even to consider those amendments the act now in operation is sadly deficient in many important respects. Unfortunately workable machinery has not been put into operation tq enable ex-servicemen to re-establish themselves. In consequence of this I made representations to the Minister for Labor and National Service (Mr. Holloway) on the 12th November last, in respect of two specific cases. Only to-day I received a reply from the Minister, dated the 19th March, with regard to one matter that I then raised. The case involved a soldier who had served as an army electrician. On his demobilization he was unable to secure a trade union ticket, and so he has not been permitted to work as a qualified electrician. On the 14th November last, I placed before the Minister a similar case, and I have only now received a reply which unfortunately is quite unsatisfactory. Ex-servicemen are, in fact, being debarred from obtaining trade tickets because they have not served the required apprenticeship. After months of delay, I have now been advised by the Minister that the matter has been referred to a State government department for consideration.
When the Re-establishment and Employment Bill was before Parliament, the Australian Country party did its best to secure the approval of honorable members to amendments which would have made the measure workable. Our party received desired amendments from many servicemen’s organizations for our consideration, and we even met executive members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and’ Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in conference in Canberra in order to discuss amendments that had - been proposed. Two or three days ago the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) certain questions on this subject. In order to indicate how unsatisfactory the present position is. I quote the following questions and answers from Hansard -
asked the Prime Minister, upon no lire -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows: -
It must be obvious that the situation is entirely unsatisfactory to ex-service personnel. It is apparent now that even the degree of preference that was accorded to men and women who served in the last war has been withdrawn from them. Sixty per cent, of the members of the Australian Country party are exservicemen, and if the amendments which we desired to incorporate in the Reestablishment and Employment Act had been agreed to, the position would have been very much better. They were reasonable suggestions intended for the benefit of ex-servicemen, and if they had been implemented they would have guarded against, most of the disabilities now being experienced. This half-baked measure provides rehabilitation facilities for all sorts of people other than ex-servicemen, who receive very little preference in fact. For instance, the benefits of war service homes legislation have recently been extended to merchant seamen who served in Australian coastal waters during the war. It is wrong and unfair that they should be given the same benefits as are applied to disabled ex-servicemen. It is also anomalous that these seamen should be given preference for which land army girls are not eligible. The Government has been neglectful of the rights of exservicemen in limiting to seven years the duration of the preference legislation. After the war of 1914-18, legislation enacted by an anti-Labour government provided special preference conditions for ex-servicemen without any time limit. Those laws were enforced until the Re-establishment, and Employment Act wiped them out. Exservicemen also have reason to complain of the lack of vocational training facilities and other re-establishment aids which, the people of Australia want them to have. No provision was made for vocational training during the war, in spite of the example of another government during the 1914-191S war. On that occasion, vocational training courses and soldier settlement schemes were inaugurated before the cessation of hostilities, so that men who were discharged even two years prior to the armistice were able to receive the assistance which they needed. During the war which has just ended not one government in Australia, with the exception of the New South Wales Government, developed any rural area for the purpose of the settlement of ex-servicemen. The Commonwealth Government made no effort to initiate its scheme until hostilities had ceased, and even now; the necessary land has not been selected. Earlier to-day, I asked that the State governments be assisted in their settlement schemes by obtaining the services of New Zealand surveyors to proceed with the surveying of blocks. Over 6,000,000 acres of grazing land in western Queensland is awaiting development. This land reverted to the Crown and was set aside for post-war development. Half of it is to be provided for the ^establishment of ex-servicemen, and the remainder is to be available to the public generally.
– Order ! The honorable member is out of order in discussing the land settlement of ex-servicemen, because by doing so he is anticipating debate on item No. 12 on the noticepaper.
– I . agree with what the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said this afternoon regarding unnecessary delays and inconvenience associated with providing homes for ex-servicemen. We know that housing is a world-wide problem at present, but the inactivity of this Government is largely responsible for the present acute shortage in Australia. The Minister for Works and Homing (Mr. Lazzarini) has told us that the Government’s housing scheme is progressing according to schedule. Nevertheless, although the Government has first priority for supplies of building materials, very little progress is being made. ‘ Private individuals wishing to build homes have little chance of doing so for a long time. . Illegal strikes in industry are aggravating the position. For instance, there is a shortage of galvanized iron as the remit of an industrial disturbance. During my last visit to Queensland, I was told by building contractors that they are being delayed because of the shortage of nails caused by another strike. A further strike has been allowed to develop in the Lysaght organization, and it may extend to other establishments associated with the production of building materials. Strikes of this nature should be banned. The seriousness of the situation demands such strong action in the interests, not only of ex-servicemen, but also of the general public. I hope that the Government will give more serious consideration to the many urgent requirements of men and women who are being discharged from the armed forces than it has done in the past. It should give to this House an opportunity to discuss in detail its treatment of ex-servicemen. Such a debate could be conducted in a non-party atmosphere, and honorable members could assist the Government by revealing anomalies which should be corrected in the interests of the men -who fought for the safety of the nation.
– I have read with interest the report prepared by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) on his visit to the Northern Territory. I fully concur with many of the suggestions which he has made in the report. The Northern Territory has for too long been regarded as too remote from the rest of Australia to be worth while developing. People who for years struggled hard, earning a bare livelihood, in order to develop that part of the Commonwealth, have riot received the measure of support from various Commonwea’lth Governments that they have deserved. This lack of interest in the Northern Territory dates back to the time when South Australia handed over control of the area to the Commonwealth Parliament. The needs of people in the distant parts of Australia have been overlooked because of their very isolation from the more settled areas. However, their isolation strengthens their claim on the Commonwealth Government, for the provision- of amenities and modern means of communication and development. Honorable members will agree that this vast expanse of country, over 500,000 square miles in area, is capable of tremendous development. The report of the Minister for the Interior, stresses, as do other reports that have been submitted to Parliament, from time to time, the importance of making a careful scientific analysis of the potentialities of the Northern Territory with a view to> exploiting them to the fullest possible degree. The development in the Northern, Territory to meet war needs shows beyond, doubt its tremendous possibilities. It behoves the people of Australia, especially the members of the National Parliament,, to ensure immediate action to develop and. populate it. Its development is essential to the welfare of Australia, but particularly to the welfare of the settlers who have struggled against tremendous odds and adverse conditions - conditions that should be altered at the earliest possiblemoment - to produce the food that this nation needs for home consumption and; for export to Great Britain and othercountries that face starvation as theresult of the war.
South Australia is the gateway to theNorthern Territory, but although bitumen-, roads have been built in the territory for war purposes, there is no satisfactory link, between central Australia and South: Australia. The Commonwealth Government should assist the Government of” South Australia to build such a road. I recently travelled over the roads in northern South Australia and saw their bad condition owing to the floods.. The Government of South Australia has not the money to do the jabwithout Commonwealth aid. We pay only lip service to the task-of populating our country when we neglect the development of the Northern Territory that isits due. The people who under adverse conditions have pioneered and developed the pastoral areas that produce the food! for which the world is crying out deservegreater consideration than they have hadThe women there have given yeoman, service and ought to be rewarded with: the amenities enjoyed in more settled’ areas. They are entitled to telephones or wireless telephones of the type lately developed, refrigerators and electric lighting. If they cannot afford them theGovernment as a mark of its appreciationof what they have done, should subsidizethem. The principle of payment of subsidies where warranted has already beenrecognized by the Commonwealth. Inthe outback families are isolated to a degree almost beyond the comprehensionof any one who has not travelled through the country and seen the way in which the people there struggle for existence. Homesteads are from 50 to 150 miles from each other, and it is little wonder’ that women so isolated from other women suffer nervous breakdowns. Only a few weeks ago I met a man on a station whose wife is in the metropolitan area trying to regain her health. Sometimes there Are only the proprietor or manager and his wife and family on a holding, which means that with him out on the run, miles from home, if something goes wrong at the homestead or with himself, there is no means of communication, because the mother is often either alone or with small children. The inevitable result is the collapse of the health of the women. I am given to understand that a body called the Australian Development Committee, which is representative of pastoral, water, mining and “engineering interests, has been set up to investigate and report on this important part of Australia. But we have had reports on it before. Several have been presented to Parliament, pigeon-holed and forgotten. For instance, the Payne report, one of the finest ever presented to the Parliament, was filed and forgotten. Had some of the recommendations contained in some of those reports been carried out, the Northern Territory would not have been so sparsely peopled and undeveloped, and the amenities that I want to see extended to it would have been already provided..
A legislatively- created federal soil and water conservation service, such as I suggested in this House some time ago, would more effectively deal with soil conservation than would any other committee that could be set up, if it were given the widest powers, not only to investigate the problem, but also to apply an effective policy. Ever since I have been in this Parliament I have preached the urgency of providing counter measures to the erosion that is rapidly destroying the heritage of unborn generations. . The recent drought had one good result, in that it convinced even the most reactionary State Ministers for Agriculture of the necessity for an effective Commonwealthwide soil conservation campaign. At that time some members of the South Australian Parliament were inclined to ridicule my statements. They said that ihe drought was not nearly so bad as I claimed. However, all that I said on that occasion has been borne out in fact. According to a report published in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 12th March last, the Minister for Agriculture in South Australia, speaking at a conference of the Agricultural Bureau at Jamestown, warned the farmers that despite the good rains that had fallen soil conservation was still a great problem. I agree with that view. Throughout Australia, _ and particularly in the northern and central areas, unprecedented falls of rain have been recorded; but no effort was made to conserve water. We must undertake schemes on a national basis to conserve water and arrest soil erosion. This problem is of vital importance to our people as a whole.
It was reported in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 25th January last that, as the result of recommendations by the Agricultural Council, the Premiers Conference had decided to establish a standing committee on soil conservation, composed of representatives of the Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Council for Scientific ‘ and Industrial Research and seven other members, including the heads of each State Soil Conservation Service and the Commonwealth Soil Conservation Service. This proposal is constructive, and follows very closely the lines of the scheme which I put forward on a previous occasion in this House. However, so far as I have been able to discover, the Commonwealth Soil Conservation Service has not yet been established; or, if it is in existence it functions only as a minor offshoot of a department. The seriousness of soil erosion calls for far more effective action. I believe that the Commonwealth, in order to shoulder its responsibilities in this matter, must set up a permanent and separate organization and clothe it with full administrative power.
The territory under the direct control of this Parliament comprises an area of 500,000 square miles of country which varies from semi-desert to high rainfall tropica] forests. It is ridiculous to imagine that this huge territory can be effectively administered, and its soil and water resources properly conserved, under the existing system of control and organization. The Government plans to expend thousands of pounds in developing Darwin, on (he basis of a population of 30,000. Such a scheme must also envisage the development of the agricultural, pastoral and mineral resources of the hinterland of the Territory. The history of land development in Australia follows a tragically familiar course. The usual practice has been to set to work with no thought but for immediate production. The land has been mined rather than farmed, and wherever it has been used for grazing it has been ruthlessly overgrazed. Consequently, it is true to say that today there is no area in Australia’ which has not been affected by erosion to some degree. That being the case, and with these examples before it, the Commonwealth Government has a responsibility to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated in the territory under- its direct control.
Therefore I urge the Government not to toy with this vital problem. It should immediately introduce legislation to set up a permanent and effective soil conservation service, clothed with the fullest authority and provided with ample means to discharge its liabilities to the future generations of Australians. The first essential preliminary to any scheme of land settlement and development in the Northern Territory is a soil survey. This must be carried out by officers of the proposed federal soil conservation service. As reported in the Adelaide . Advertiser of the 10th November last, the’ necessity for this survey was recognized by the Minister for the Interior during his recent visit to the Northern Territory. Early action must be taken in this direction if we are to prevent the development of dust-bowls.
I implore honorable members of both sides of the House to approach this subject from a national view-point. In all my references to this matter I have endeavoured to do so. I am aware of other grave problems confronting the nation, but none is so fraught with danger as the threat of soil erosion. The soil is the source of all wealth, and its fertility is the basis of all industry. Any force which threatens the life of the soil, strikes at the very root of national prosperity. I hope that the Government will realize its responsibilities by giving effect to the resolution passed on this subject at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- For the current financial year, this Government budgeted to expend £492,000,000, consisting of war expenditure of £360,000,000 and non-war expenditure of £132,000,000. Fortunately for this country, the war ended six weeks after the commencement of the financial year, and, accordingly, ample funds should be immediately available thus making a reduction of taxes . possible. But this country is still subjected to foolish, unjust and crippling taxes. Ex-servicemen’s prganizations, in their efforts to raise funds to build soldiers’ war memorials, have experienced confiscatory taxation. . I shall cite one example, and ask the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to grant the necessary relief by waiving this iniquitous’ claim.
At Beaudesert, in my electorate, the Returned Sailors,. Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, with the assistance of the local amateur racing club, is endeavouring to raise funds for the erection of a soldiers’ memorial hall. These two bodies held three special . race meetings, and agreed that 33 per cent, of the net profits of the first meeting, and 50 per cent, of the net profits of the second and third meetings should be allocated towards the : cost of the building. The hall, which would be erected by diggers, would perpetuate the memory and exploits of fallen comrades and others’ who had fought in two great world wars and would also be a meeting place for exservice personnel. Of the proceeds from the three race meetings £450 was allotted to the building fund, and £300 set aside for taxation because of a claim made . by the Taxation Department on the Amateur Race Club. That is confiscatory. Company tax was claimed as payable at the rate of 8s. in the £1. This is the act of a brigand or a pirate. Even Ned Kelly, in his wildest dreams, would have shuddered at the thought of making a similar extortion. I ask the Treasurer to agree that money raised for the erection of soldiers’ memorial halls shall be exempt from taxation. The principle- of exempting funds collected for the erection of such buildings was established by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) when he was Prime Minister by exempting from entertainments tax on all functions held to raise funds for the erection of memorial halls; but to-day confiscatory taxation is levied on money raised for this worthy object. The act should be amended in order to ensure that all efforts to raise funds for soldiers’ memorial halls shall not be subject to any taxation.
Another matter of special importance is the plight of the Royal Australian Air Force personnel at Madang. I have just received from an- airman a communication which. I believe, deserves investigation on the spot. A Royal Australian Air Force camp at Madang featured prominently in the news about a month ago, when a petition was signed by many Royal Australian Air Force personnel stationed there, directing attention to the extreme dissatisfaction . in that area ‘because the men were not being demobilized. My correspondent made an exceedingly grave allegation. He declared that the consensus of opinion in his unit was that high ranking officers had evolved a scheme to delay discharges, and evade the notoriety of the Madang complaints. The scheme is to move Northern Command from Madang to Port Moresby. That decision would affect hundreds of men, and entail almost as much work as would a move to the mainland. It would involve a substantial additional expense, and considerable waste. According to my correspondent, such a move could not possibly be reconciled with the declared policy of the Royal Australian Air Force of rapid discharges. I demand a searching inquiry. There must be no. obstacle to the speedy return of servicemen to civil life.
For .some time, most of the flying from Madang has been to places where Australian service personnel are stationed, including Rabaul, Torokina, ‘ Tadji, Lae and Finschafen. These camps are much more accessible from Madang than they are from Port Moresby, because a journey by air from Port Moresby in volves hazardous flying over the Owen Stanley Range. The aircraft that would be engaged in such a transfer would be much better employed in transporting service personnel to the mainland instead of making a double shift, first to Port Moresby arid, after a lengthy delay, to the mainland. Repeatedly, the Government has used lack of transport as its excuse for slow demobilization. When Northern Command is finally abolished, the entire transportation procedure will again be undertaken. This needless use of aircraft and unnecessary creation of work will inevitably delay the return of hundreds of men and entail considerable additional expense, and waste of time and money. Every available aircraft and ship should be commissioned to bring these men back to Australia. A glance at a map will convince honorable members of the stupidity of the moye. In the afternoon, the Owen Stanley Range often cuts off Port Moresby from the five bases which I have named, ‘because bad weather makes the crossing of the mountains ait that time impossible. That was proved during the last war. Doubtless, the authorities consider that the unpleasant publicity given to Madang will be forgotten when all personnel are moved from that centre, but, in reality, it will be the same men, with the same complaints, who will be involved if Northern Command is moved to Port Moresby. I warn the Government that these men, who fought for their country, will not forget either the way in which they are being treated, or ‘ the Government’s failure speedily to discharge them.
The receipt of the Madang petition was followed by a hurried visit from the Chief of the Air Staff to investigate the complaints. He examined personnel, and heard their grievances. He represented that he was sympathetic to their proposals, and that the men would be moved as early as possible. That policy seemed to be given effect for a time, because immediately after, the visit of the Chief of the Air Staff, large numbers of personnel left Madang for the mainland. But other men, who were not transferred, and who have been idle for months, are disgruntled, because they believe that their retention at Madang is completely unjustified.
I now desire to refer to the housing problem. Housing is urgently needed, and every delay in discharging service personnel accentuates the difficulty. Reference has been made to this matter already to-day. The delay in repatriating Australian servicemen is having an adverse effect upon the housing programme, and upon the carrying out of. other reproductive work. The urgent need for houses alone warrants immediate
Steps to expedite the return of these men from the islands. I have been informed that it is the clear intention of senior officers stationed at such places as Madang and Port Moresby to delay the repatriation of’ the men, so that they may retain their “ cushy “ jobs for a while longer. I urge the Minister to make a statement to the House on this matter to-night, and to make an immediate investigation with a view to ensuring that Australian servicemen still serving in the islands will be returned to their homes and families as soon as possible.
The honorary secretary of the Boy Scouts Association of Queensland, Mr, George Rees, has sought my co-operation in urging the Government to allow donations to the association to be regarded as concessional deductions for income tax purposes. This request has been before the Government for a number of years, but a deaf ear has been turned to it. Surely a budget providing for an estimated expenditure of £492,000,000, in the circumstances I have already stated, permits a reduction of taxes, and I suggest that this request by the Boy Scouts Association could be complied with. The sum involved will not be very great, but the granting of the concession would be of material assistance to the association. The Boy Scouts Association was established in 190S, and in. 1919 it was appointed by royal charter. According to that charter, the object- of the association is primarily to instruct boys of all classes in the principles of discipline, loyalty and good citizenship. It is urgedthat for taxation purposes the association be regarded as an “ educational’ charity “ and that donations made to it be allowed as concessional deductions. In Queensland the association is recognized as an educational charity by the Queensland Stamp Duties Office - no doubt in accordance with an opinion obtained by the State Crown Law Office. In view of itslaudable objectives, the association isworthy of encouragement and supportIt is not merely a national organization,, but also an international organization, with branches in almost every country. Iii fact, if the principles of the association were adhered to by citizens of all countries, it would be the foundation of a new League of Nations. During the “ blitz “’ on Great Britain the boy scouts did a noble job, and many were decorated by His Majesty the King for conspicuousbravery. Members of the association were enrolled to play an important part in our own air raid precautions work, but fortunately their services were not required, because no Japanese “ blitz “ eventuated. On the grounds which I have specified, and others which time will not permit me to enumerate, I consider that the Boy Scouts Association, which plays an important part in our community life,, should be encouraged as a national organization, and I strongly urge the Government to exempt from taxation’ the donations made to it.
There is another phase of taxation towhich I shall refer. During the war many motor-car owners had their vehiclesimpressed by service or other authorities, and are now endeavouring’ to replacethem. They find, however, that in makingpurchases chiefly through the CommonwealthDisposals Commission they haveagain to pay duty and sales tax. This double taxation is an injustice, and I have received from several car ownerswho were deprived of their vehicles during the war, requests for assistance insecuring the removal of this anomaly.” I ask ‘ the Government to examine the matter.
Again I direct the attention of the House to the serious menace of the buffalo fly to the dairying and beef cattle industries of this country. I make no apology for raising this matter again to-day.. These industries in north Queensland arebecoming seriously jeopardized because of the ravages of. this pest. I have brought this matter to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) on several occasions, and I again ask kim to honor his promise to visit north Queensland and inspect the affected areas. So serious has this menace become that there is a distinct possibility that instead of this country being an exporter of dairy products and beef, in the not far distant future we shall have to import these commodities from New Zealand. The Minister is doing a serious injustice to men engaged in those industries by not heeding the warnings he has received. The honorable gentleman also undertook to make supplies of DDT available as a means of curbing the ravages of the buffalo fly, but to date that promise. also has not been fulfilled. The buffalo fly has been a pest in the Northern Territory for 100 years, and because the Commonwealth has failed to take steps to control it in its own territory, it has now spread across to north Queensland. To a considerable degree, the economy of this nation depends upon the export of primary products, and if the export of beef and dairy produce cannot be continued, our entire economy will be adversely affected. There are many commodities that Australia has to import from overseas, and it can only pay for those imports by maintaining its export industries. What confidence can those engaged in the dairying and beef cattle industries in north Queensland have in the Government .in view of the Minister’s failure to fulfil his promises to visit north Queensland or those in southern Queensland that are likely to be affected by the spread of the pest, and to make available supplies of DDT? Unless some worthwhile action be taken in the immediate- future, many holdings may become worthless because of the depredations of this pest. The Government has many sins to answer for, and the people in the country districts of Queensland will deal seriously with it unless it heeds the appeals that are being made in this chamber from time to time on their behalf. I appeal to the Minister to lose no time in honouring his promise to visit northern and southern Queensland and discuss with dairymen’s and graziers’ organizations the most effective means of combating this pest.
.- Throughout my electorate are established many small but nevertheless vitally important industries. Included among them is a modern knitting mill in which is installed some of the most up-to-date knitting machinery in South Australia-. The company concerned has also incurred considerable expense in installing one of the most modern buttonhole machines in Australia. The company’s operations, however, are greatly restricted by the shortage of yarn. It has already considerably increased the number of its employees and if adequate supplies of yarn could be obtained the existing staff could probably be doubled. This ready means of providing useful and profitable employment should not be lost sight of, having regard to the desirability of encouraging secondary production in South Australia. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping to ask his colleague to look into this matter with a view to seeing whether the company’s requirements of yarn can be met.
During the debate this afternoon the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) flayed the Government for what he described as its failure to tackle the problem of providing houses for the people. The provision of housing for the people, however, is a matter which falls within the province, not of the Commonwealth Government but of the governments of the States. Bo’.h the right honorable gentleman and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) have predicted the fall of the present Government following the next elections, on this very issue. I remind them, however, that the stocks of the Country party in Queensland are so low that that party recently lost East Toowoomba, formerly a strong Country party seat in the State legislature, to a member of the Labour party. The Leader of the Australian Country party referred to the experience of a constituent of his who having advertised for letting a five-roomed house-fully furnished and fronting a. tram-line, for 37s. 6cl. a week received 1,000 applications from people anxious to rent the property. I am surprised that he did not get 2,000 or 3,000 applications from people willing to pay £2 to £3 a week for the house. Honorable members opposite know only too well that the control over building materials exercised by the Commonwealth is limited to those not commonly produced in all States; the remainder are controlled by the States. As critical statements have been made by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party blaming the Federal Government for not immediately providing houses for the people, it is only right that the people should be informed of all the facts relating .to the housing shortage. Twenty years ago the then Nationalist Government told the people that £20,000,000 had been made available for the erection of new homes. But what became of the money? Only £1,500,000 was expended, and nothing further was done. When moves were made, to secure for this Parliament, power over housing, the- Leader of the Australian Country party and his followers opposed them with vigour. I suggest that the right honorable gentleman should say to the thousand applicants “for the home about which he told us to-day “ I opposed the referendum that would have given power to the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate for the housing of the people; therefore I am. responsible for your inability to secure a house”. When the right honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Scullin) was Prime Minister he appointed a committee consisting, amongst others, of Sir Herbert Gepp and Professors Brigden, Giblin and Hytton to inaugurate a plan of works to provide jobs for the unemployed. The committee submitted a list of works which included the construction of workers’ homes. The banks, however, being the masters of finance, refused to make the requisite money available and the proposal was abandoned. In 1934, the late Mr. Lyons, promised to assist in the building of homes in order to abolish slum areas; but after the elections he refused to do anything. In 1936, Mr. Lyons, despite ‘ his election pledges, said that the government could not do anything in the matter. In 1938, the right honorable gentleman said that it was quite impossible for the United Australia party government to take part in any programme of home construction for the abolition of slum areas. In 1939, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) came into the picture as Prime
Minister, and in May of that year refused to make money available for a re-housing plan for the people. The right honorable gentleman then said that this country was at war and that the exigencies of .the war would prevent him from saying whether or not we could build houses, but that the outcome of the war would determine the matter. We should endeavour to secure what we have, been able to hold as the result of the magnificent efforts of our fighting services, and I firmly believe that if the people stand by the’ present Government at the next elections all their troubles will be ironed out smoothly and quickly. For years prior to the war, religious bodies, the Labour party and other organizations urged the government of the day to make provision for a national housing scheme. They drew attention to the appalling conditions in which people were living, and detailed the horrors of slum areas. During those years thousands of people were out of employment and material was cheap, but successive governments supported by honorable members opposite, by whatever name they were known at the time, remained adamant and refused to assist in any way. Had they done so there would not be such an acute shortage of houses as there is to-day. Honorable members opposite will gain little prestige by telling the people that the present Government is responsible for the housing ills that exist to-day. The people know only too well that when honorable members opposite were in power they could not agree among themselves and were forced to hand over the reins of government to a party which could speak with the voice of unity. Labour took office in the darkest period of Australian history. At that time Japan entered the war and we found ourselves totally unprepared and threatened with invasion. I recall to the memory of honorable members opposite the threats made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that he would resign from the government of which ‘ he was a member because he was dissatisfied with the manner in which that government was preparing for war. The honorable gentleman gave effect to his threat. Later the Labour Government organized Australia and in doing so had to place every available man in the forces to stop the downward march of the Japanese. Would any sane man suggest that the Government should have released men from the Army, and provided materials that were urgently required for defence purposes when we were fighting for our very existence? It is known that the Americans at first established their head-quarters in Australia, and that we had placed on us the obligation to provide them with whatever accommodation we could make available. This, of course, accentuated the position ; but it was unavoidable. The Government, however, was. fully aware of the housing shortage. In conjunction with the Governments of. the States, it inaugurated a plan for the erection of thousands of homes in the post-war period. In passing, perhaps it is necessary to remind the people that the Commonwealth Government has not power under the Constitution to build any homes except war service homes. That is an inescapable fact. Despite the position in which we were placed, 115,000 homes and fifteen hostels, which are accommodating 4,600 persons, were built during the war. All that it can. do is to make finance available for the building of homes by other authorities. Since the present administration has been in office, ample funds have been provided for home construction. What I am now about to say may be of interest to the people. Between July and December last, 6,000 homes were erected by the Government and private enterprise, and 8,000 were in course of erection. To-day, the number -is substantially greater. Unfortunately, there is still a shortage of building materials, and this prevents the more rapid erection of houses; but it is being gradually overtaken, and there is every hope that the number of homes erected weekly will increase in the future. I repeat that had the United Australia party, as one of the parties opposite was then called, carried out its pre-election promises, and had it considered the welfare .of the people who were living in deplorable conditions, the position would not be so serious as it is to-day. Having done nothing, it now has the audacity to try to attach to. the present Government, the blame for the lack of houses. This Government has endeavoured to assist the States in every possible way. The responsibility is now on the States to utilize all the resources they can marshal and allocate materials to the most necessitous cases.. There are various house-building organizations in the different States. It is not my intention to quarrel with what has been done by any of them. I merely . emphasize that the whole of the responsibility for housing the people, apart from the provision of war service homes, now rests with the States, and it will be futile for honorable members opposite to try to convince the people that the Commonwealth is the responsible authority. Housing is undoubtedly a national problem. The people are entitled to decent homes. But it was just as much a national problem in the pre-war period as it now is in the post-war period. This Government realizes that and, in consequence, in conjunction with the State governments, is doing its utmost to alleviate the position as -rapidly as possible. The problems that confront us will be solved only by facing the facts, not by trying to besmirch an opposing political party. I assure honorable members opposite that South Australia is not now under any illusions as to which authority has been responsible for the issuing of permits for house construction and the pro- vision of the necessary materials. We shall prove that we have endeavoured to do everything possible to alleviate the position.
. ‘ - I have listened with interest to the apology of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) for the complete failure of the Government to achieve anything in regard to housing in the Commonwealth. According to him, the responsibility for the present position rests not on the Common wealth but on the States. This afternoon, we were treated to an amusing spectacle by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini), who cannot get any houses built. The former Leader of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales, the Honorable J. T. Lang, has pointed out- that the Government of that State is bringing down what he has described as “ brick bills’” ; but there areno bricks. That is the position, in which the Commonwealth Government stands. It brought down legislation to grant aid to the States for the purpose of house construction, and laid down certain conditions that had to be observed. It is not my intention to discuss the failure of the Government to build houses. I merely point out that the housing scandal embraces not only. its. failure to build houses but also its failure “to police the administration of the States in respect of the manner in which prospective tenants of houses that have been built are being treated. I have before me the case of Mrs. Kilgour, of Murrurundi, who about eighteen months ago made application for one of the houses that had been built by the New SouthWales Housing Commission. In her application, she stated her circumstance in plain terms, indicating the amount of income that was coming into the home, and said that she would not be able to pay a high rent. On two occasions in the last eighteen months, while in Sydney, she called on and interviewed the assistant secretary of the Housing Commission who informed her that, on account of her circumstances, she would not have to pay a rent of more than about 8s. or 10s. a week. On the 19th November last, she drew one of the houses in a ballot, and three months later, on the 26th February of this year, received telegraphic advice that she could sign. a lease and take possession of the house. When her representative went to Sydney he was informed that the rent of the house would be £1 13s. a week.
– The rent is fixed under the terms of an agreement for which the honorable member voted in this Parliament.
– Possibly the honorable member will recollect that when the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) brought down that legislation one of his strongest arguments was that the rent to be charged for the?e houses would be fixed according to the income of those who occupied them.
– I invite the honorable member to read the letter which he received from me to-day. He is not game to do so.
– I shall do so later. It will reveal the Minister as the pitiless, heartless creature that he is. Mrs. Kilgour was told that the rent would be £1 13s. a week, that it would have to be paid a week in advance, and that there would be a charge of 2s. 6cl. for a duty stamp. The income of this woman at that time was £2 19s. a week, on which she had to maintain herself and three daughters. There was also in the house n. boarder who received a pension of £2 a week. From a house income of £4 19s. on which she had to keep six persons, the commission proposed to charge a rent of £1 13s. a week. The writer of the letter that I have received goes on to say -
It appears to me that the Housing Commission are only catering for men who receive £7 or £8 a week. Mrs. Kilgour’s circumstances were known and it must have been apparent that she could not meet such a high rent.
The Minister has said that I am not game to read the letter that he sent to me. I propose to do so now. It reads -
I refer to your letter of 12th March, 1946, enclosing a copy of a communication dated 2nd Mardi, received by you from Mr. W. B. Hickson of Haydon-street, . Murrurundi, concerning the rate of rent charged to Mrs. Kilgour in respect of a house allocated to her . by the New South Wales Housing Commission.
I have made inquiries in regard to the matter and I am now informed that Mrs. Kilgour took up tenancyof the house at Granville on 11th March at the economic rental of £1 13s. per week.
She lodged application for a rental rebate on 18th March, and her statement of income is being verified in accordance with the usual procedure.
If the figures of income supplied by your correspondent are correct, it is thought that Mrs. Kilgour should receive a substantial rebate.
– She will receive a
– In what position was this woman to keep on paying £1 13s. a week rent until the department saw fit to make a rebate? What have the Minister and his officers been doing during the last eighteen months? The Minister sits in his place and does nothing; yet he wonders why people are becoming infuriated because of their inability to get houses.
I now desire to bring before the House the case of Mrs. Gladys Henrietta Loveday Baker, of Langu
Plantation, Witu, New Guinea, which is an island in the Bismarck Archipelago to the north of New Britain. 1 have made representations for almost nine months that this woman should be allowed to ‘return to her plantation. I have had a good deal of correspondence on this subject with the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), and although at times I have said strong things about him, and he has said strong things about me, he has treated me courteously in this matter and has done all that he could do.
– The Minister will lose 1,000 votes because of what the honorable member has said about him.
– I should like to see him lose 20,000 votes if that would put him out of this Parliament. I first raised this subject with the Minister on the 21st June, 1945. At that time he said that Mrs. Baker’s property had not become accessible to the Australia New Guinea Production Control Board and that it was regretted that her re-entry into Witu could not be permitted. I made further representations later, and on the 4th October, 1945, the Minister replied - “… Although the Production Control Board has the necessary stores and European personnel available, it has not been able to proceed with the opening o£ plantations at Witu owing to the loss of shipping and the non-availability of native labour ‘.
I continued my representations, and on the 22nd November, the Minister informed me -
As you were advised previously, this area is still under military control, and I have asked my colleague, the Minister for the Army, for information as to whether the desired permission can be granted.
On the 29th December, 1945, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) wrote an extraordinary letter to his colleague the Minister for External Territories in which he said - “… I now advise that the Army authorities controlling that area have noobjec tion to Mrs. Baker’s return. It is pointed out by the Army authorities, however, that the shipping shortage precludes the maintenance of .regular supplies, and that the housing and labour conditions in the Witu area are such to make conditions unsuitable for the return of females at the present time “.
I shall inform the House of the kind of woman Mrs. Baker is in order to show how ridiculous is the statement in the Ministers’ letter and that the army authorities are not dealing with the case on its merits. The plantation of which she is the owner was purchased by Mr. William Baker in January, 1926, and was worked by him until March, 1934, when he died. The property was then managed by Mrs. Baker until the outbreak of war with Japan. Mr. Keith McCarthy, Assistant District Officer, reported that it was a model plantation, and that Mrs. Baker was a model employer who paid the natives more than award wages and provided them with more food than was required under the Native Labour Ordinance. Mrs. Baker stayed at Witu until the fall of Rabaul on the 23rd January, 1942. She then sailed her own boat to the Tala sea coast of New Britain in order to assist in the evacuation of Australian Imperial Force troops. She left there about the 20th March of that year, using her own boat and five others in which they went to Witu where she knew that the MY. Lakatoi had been hiding. That vessel was then taken over in the name of the Navy. Mrs. Baker supplied a quantity of food arid all the medical requirements for the troops to be evacuated. She was responsible for, and carried out all the medical work during ‘ the evacuation : there was no medical officer to help her. For her work during that period she was awarded the M.B.E. She and the troops reached Cairns about the 2nd April, 1942. Mrs. Baker is now most anxious to return to her plantation. One of the excuses offered by the Minister for the Army was that there was a scarcity of transport facilities, but I understand that she is a qualified navigator and has certificates for navigation, and that out of her war damage insurance money, she is prepared to purchase a second-hand ketch in Sydney and to sail it to the North coast of New Britain in order that she may take over her property again. Although applications on her behalf have been made to the Minister for the Army I can get no satisfaction from him. On the 4th February, 1946, the Minister advised me -
I now wish to .advise you that the conditions which Mrs. Baker would encounter on her return - to Witu have been carefully considered by the Army authorities who state that as the problems of supplies, housing and labour detailed in my letter of the 29th December, . 1945 still exist, present conditions are still considered unsuitable for the return of women to that area.
I repeat that Mrs. Baker is a woman of great courage, as was shown clearly by her work in rescuing Australian Imperial Eorce troops and the award to her of the M.B.E. However, because a backboneless Minister for the Army refuses to take any action to assist her, she is denied the right to return to her plantation in order to make a living. Ina letter to me Mrs. Baker says -
I can’t express my concern and disgust.I know that the manager of Ningau Plantation in Witu group has been back on the job for some tiihe now, yet I am not permitted to return just because I happen to be a woman.
The Government was not interested in the safety of this woman when soldiers had to be evacuated from New Guinea; she was good enough to navigate her own vessel then, but, to-day, because she is a woman, she is not allowed to return to her plantation. Her letter continues -
I have already stated that I am prepared co take whatever conditions are offering. 1 know the hardships I’ll have to face. Isn’t there anything I can do to make’ this crazy person see reason ? I must get back, and soon.
I have raised this matter in an attempt to get justice for this woman, and I appeal to the Minister for the Army to take the steps necessary to enable her to return to her plantation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sheehan) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 20th March (vide page 462), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the following paper be printed: -
– It is evident from this debate’ that the Opposition finds it impossible this year to deal with any subject without introducing party politics. Realizing that there is to be an election this year, one can understand the anxiety of honorable members opposite to turn every subject to their own political advantage. Even the foreign policy of their own country is not exempt from their despicable tactics in an endeavour to gain a party political advantage. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) is to be commended on the work that he did overseas in establishing Australia’s right to have its voice heard in the counsels of the nations. But evidently that does not please the members of the Opposition, because they have never put their own country first. They are trying to make the next election a khaki election, and make it appear that the Labour Government is anti-British. In their view, to be pro-Australian is to be anti-British, but that is a proposition to which I will not subscribe. The Minister for External Affairs secured representation for Australia on various international bodies, but the Opposition, while admitting that the Minister enabled the voice of Australia to be heard in the councils of the world, chose to doubt that this would be to the advantage of Australia. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made this statement -
These principles will not provoke controversy unless they contain on assumption that Australia is a completely separate nation . . . We must not contract out of the British Empire.
Perhaps it may be necessary, even at the risk of evoking adverse criticism from -the Opposition, to correct a false historical assumption. To-day, Australia is not regarded, as part of the British Empire, but it is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Ever ‘ since the Balfour declaration of 1926, and since the ‘ passing of the Statute of Westminster, Australia has the power to make decisions in respect of external affairs. Therefore, honorable members opposite who continually refer to Australia as if it were still a colony subservient to some authority overseas, are doing a disservice to this country.
The Leader of the Opposition said that there ought to be prior consultation between members of the British Commonwealth of Nations before the holding of international conferences so that a measure of agreement might be reached. That proposal is quite satisfactory, and the practice is, in fact, followed by the Government. We endeavour to consult with other members of the British Commonwealth in order to see if there is a common basis upon which to approach international bodies, but if Australia finds itself unable to accept the British viewpoint it is not bound to do so. Australia has the right to express its own opinion, and thus it is well for Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition divided his speech into two parts. He first tried to belittle the efforts of the Minister for External Affairs, and he then availed himself of the opportunity, as have conservative interests in other parts of the world, to whip up the fervour of the people in order to get them ready for another war. In view of the dreadful consequences of another war, all the peace-loving elements in the community and all democrats ought to be alive to what is happening. They should warn the people of the danger confronting them because, without the support of the people, no war is possible. The ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill, recently made a speech, and immediately the Leader of the Opposition rushed in and said that Mr. Churchill had spoken for Australia. Mr. Churchill cannot speak for Australia any more than, can the Leader of the Opposition. What both those gentlemen have to learn is that they were defeated at the polls, though it seems to be extraordinarily difficult to make them understand it. The Leader of the Opposition lost his Prime Ministership away back in 1941, but he cannot realize that he is not still speaking for Australia. The only man who can speak for Australia to-day is the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who is also the leader of the Labour party. Mr. Churchill spoke for the old tories of Great Britain, but honorable members opposite have tried to make it appear that we cannot criticize the actions or utterances of a public man in Great Britain without being anti-British. That is ridiculous. If some one in Great Britain were to criticize the Leader of the Opposition in Australia we should not regard that as being anti-Australian. We should regard it as good common sense. The old tory section in Great Britain has a good deal to answer for, not only in regard to world conditions generally, but also in regard to the responsibility for the last war. There were elements in Australia as well as in Great Britain who were anxious to strengthen the dictators in Europe, to give them support and to finance them, even while they were breaking treaties, because they believed that, at all costs, the Russians should be kept down. The Leader of the Opposition said that the Minister for External Affairs was seeking to appease the Soviet Union simply because he is not prepared to play the game of the Conservatives; because, in fact, he is anxious to preserve world peace. We know that it is the people who make the sacrifices in time of war, and we are more concerned about the wellbeing of the people than about the commercial interests represented by honorable members opposite. I deny that there is any justification for the accusation against the Minister for External Affairs that he is seeking to appease the Soviet Union, or that he has a bias against Great Britain. However, it is evident from an examination of the facts that the Conservative element, both before and during the war, was not prepared to cooperate with the Soviet, even when we were in desperate need of its help. In order to show that the Leader of the Opposition has always -been opposed to the Soviet Union, I quote the following paragraph published in the Melbourne Argus of the -31st January, 1944: -
Mr. Menzies said we must continue our struggle towards collective security. We must start with Anglo-American co-operation if we were to provide for the League of Nations that real core of genuine alliance which would ultimately give it both reality and power.
It woud be mere fleeting sentimentality to pretend that as yet there was an instinctive feeling of community of interest between the Russians and ourselves. Many old prejudices would need to be overcome.
That was not so very long ago, and the right honorable gentleman still entertains a prejudice against the Soviet form of government. The statement which I have just quoted has a very similar ring to the recent speech of the ex-Prime. Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Churchill. In order to illustrate the attitude of the Conservatives in Great Britain during the period between the two wars, I quote the words of Sir Arthur Balfour, chairman atd’ managing-director- of Arthur- Balfour and Company Limited, Capital Steel Works; Sheffield, as follows
Either they were to have communism- or something else: Hitler had produced Hitlerism as they saw it to-day, and of the two he thought it was preferable. Will tlie Germans go to war’ again? I don’t think there is any doubt about it and the curious’ thing about it is that I am almost persuaded that we shall hav6 to let- the Germans arm or we shall have to arm them. With the Russians armed- to the teeth and the’ tremendous menace in the East, Germany unarmed in the middle is always going to be a plum waiting for the Russians to1 take, and which we would have to defend if the- Germans- could not defend themselves. One of the greatest menaces to peace in Europe to-day is the totally unarmed condition of Germany.
Lloyd George, an ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain,- said-
If the powers succeed in overthrowing Naziism in Germany what would follow? Not a conservative, socialist or liberal regime but extreme communism. Surely that could not 6’e their objective. He would entreat the Go.vernment to proceed cautiously
Iri another speech he said-
In a very short time, perhaps hi a year or two, the conservative elements in this country will be looking to Germany as the bulwark against communism in Europe. Do not let us be in a hurry to condemn Germany. We shall be welcoming Germany as our friend.
So it can he seen that when the Minister for External Affairs said that in the period between the two wars bias against the Soviet had disturbed world peace he was stating the facts as we know them from the utterances of conservative- elements overseas. Here is another statement -
The openly expressed antagonism ranges from the statement attributed to. and never denied by, a British Minister (of the hope that “ the Russian and German armies will exterminate each other, and while this is taking place we will so develop our Air Force and other armed forces that if Russia, and Germany do destroy each other we shall have tha* dominating power in Europe”) to the statement of a Conservative member of parliament who said -
I cannot forsee the military result of the German attack on Russia, but of this I aril certainthe war of 1914 brought Bolshevism to Russia, the war of 1939 will drive it out. Russia has proved greater than any dogma. The Bear walks like a mail again.
A British newspaper said-
The military alliance with Russia was forced on us by necessity. A large section of our people, including the Prime Minister, regarded it as an unpleasant necessity . . . perhaps the disasters which have overtaken the cause of the Allied Nations in Russia may not be, in the long run, the unmitigated evil they may seem.
That’ was when our gallant Russian allies were battling for us as well as themselves. The Review of Foreign .Affairs, with which several Conservative politicians are associated, said -
We* must remember that large numbers of the Russian people would regret it if we moved a . single inch from our position : for many observers believe that, whatever the outcome of the war, Mr. Stalin will not survive it . . . The great calamity in which Russia finds itself is largely due to his disastrous policy. From every point of view, therefore, it is of supreme importance that by no means should we give the impression that we are in alliance with the Bolsheviks.
So what our opponents are afraid of is not so much that Russia is gaining territory, but that capitalism is failing fast. They will permit any sacrifice, provided it is made by some one else, to preserve capitalism, but I have a clear recollection of the Leader of the Opposition saying, while the last war was raging and we were i-n a desperate position, but he was prepared to admit that there ought to be great changes in our economic and social structure. There was to be a new order, he said. All honorable gentlemen opposite talk about new orders as long as they do not interfere with the old order. The Leader of the Opposition said’, while the war just ended was at its height -
When the war ended there will have to be a fresh start, with no return to old privileges and the status quo. For myself, I have not the faintest, interest in the restoration of the old order. People who measure their own interests above those of their country, subtract something from Australia’s war effort, and add something to Hitler’s. A few years ago when I was in Britain I was struck by the extraordinary disparity between riches and poverty.
What a hypocrite he is! In order to show how commercial interests and profits always come first with the Opposition I turn to some references that he made to our gallant Chinese allies when they were battling for their very existence. The right honorable gentleman said -
The temporary interruption of the happy relationship which has existed for many years between Great Britain and Japan can only be regretted. The , serious nature of the issues which arose cannot lightly be dismissed, but there is good reason for believing that the dispute has passed its worst stage. I think we may reasonably anticipate a satisfactory settlement. The preliminary agreement signed by representatives of Great Britain and Japan took a practical view of the position in China. Great Britain had commercial interestsin China and could not allow those interests to be destroyed by the course of hostilities.
Lately we have heard our friends opposite appealing on behalf of our Dutch allies, but when it will profit them they will sacrifice any allies and friends, so, when the Chinese were holding the fort for democracy throughout the world, the Leader of the Opposition was prepared to sacrifice them so long as British commercial interests were preserved. That sort of thing does not appeal to me. Then the honorable member for Barker (Mr.’ Archie Cameron) had something to sayabout our Russian allies. He said -
Certain principles ought to be observed by any Government when considering an alliance with another power, especially if the alliance is likely to lead us into hostilities after a short period. I think that the first of them should be that there is a community of interest between the two powers affected … I should like to know where exactly is the community of interest between Great Britain and Russia.
A friendly attitude to adopt to one of our allies! But he excelled himself a little later when he said -
I have some misgivings as to whether the gentleman with the big moustache will fight for very long-
I take it that he was referring to “ Uncle Joe “-
Lee us not be deluded that winter will come to our assistance, and that the German armies will dissolve while the Russian forces remain intact. I deprecate every word that has been said to-day for sending assistance to Russia. Personally, my attitude to the Russo-German war is that it was an act of mercy or of providence for two great thieves to fall out. From our point of view it does not matter who wins the Russo-German war because the British Empire is committed to fight the winner. Let us get very clearly into our heads that whichever side wins, we fight.
– Hear, hear!
Mr.WARD. - The honorable gentleman says “ Hear, hear ! “ so it should be very clear to ‘Government’ supporters that the Opposition is endeavouring to engineer us into a position where we shall have to join other powers in conflict against the Soviet. In my opinion that would- be disastrous to this country, and I do not share the opinion of the honorable member. Probably his sympathies lie in a different direction, because I have a clear recollection that before the war he was accustomed to making broadcasts in the German language in which, I understand, he is proficient.
– That is an infernal lie !
Mr.WARD. - I was informed that he was doing that. To show exactly where the Opposition’s sympathies lie the Leader of the Opposition, in an address to the Constitutional Association in 1938, just before the war, said -
Why was Hitler able to tear up the Treaty of Versailles, absorb Austria and the Sudetenland without firing a shot? The dominating reason why he was able to do it all is that he gives the German people a leadership to which they render unquestioning obedience. If you and I were Germans, sitting beside our fires in Berlin, we would not be critical of the leadership that has produced such results.
There are so many statements of a similar sort that I cannot spare the time to read them all. I place those that I have read on record, however, because, when the Minister for External Affairs was speaking, the Leader of the Opposition challenged him to produce any evidence of any statements of his that could be regarded as favorable to the dictatorship against which we were recently fighting. There are so many instances where he did this, that it is only necessary to quote a few. In the Melbourne Argus of the 15th November, 1.938, the following paragraph appeared : -
In his recent visit to Germany Mr. Menzies had been impressed with German industrial efficiency and with the attitude of responsibility of the big industrial enterprises to the welfare of their employees and their children. Italy was fundamentally more prosperous’ and better governed now than it was ten or fifteen years ago. As for Germany, the majority of the people there were satisfied with their Government.
So, the right honorable gentleman was not always against the dictators. And I remember honorable members opposite condemning trade unionists in this country when they tried to prevent the German spy, Von Luckner, from landing in Australia. All sorts of threats were levelled against trade . unionists because of the action they took at that time. It was then stated, as it has been in this debate, “ They , are not the people to determine the foreign policy of the government “. I am glad to realize that on occasions in the past we have had trade unionists’ and groups of workers who -had a better conception of this nation’s responsibilities than antiLabour governments of the day; otherwise certain acts would have been perpetrated in the name of Australia that would have been to the standing disgrace of this nation. On another occasion Mr. Menzies is reported as saying -
We must get out of the cheap, easy-going habit of mind which causes people to say whatever Germany may do is wrong. . . . I think there is a great deal to be said for Germany re-arming.”
I wonder what Australian mothers and fathers who lost sons in the recent conflict think about that. Will they agree /that there was a case for Germany re-arming ? But for German re-armament there could not have been any threat to world security, and without any such threats there would not to-day be thousands upon thousands of families in this country grieving for son3 who sacrificed their lives in the war. On another occasion the Leader of the Opposition is reported as saying -
He was constantly astounded to realize how difficult it was for some people to realize two sides to every question. From talks with leaders in Britain and Germany he had concluded that Germany had some real grievances against Czechoslovakia, which was also the view of the British Government.
Surely honorable members have not forgotten what happened to Czechoslovakia. The Leader of the Opposition says that the Soviet Union has torn up the Atlantic Charter, and that it is not conforming to what has been laid down by the United Nations; but whilst he protests against the course being taken by the Soviet Union he does not say one word about what happened when the British Conservative government agreed to the exclusion of Czechoslavakia from the Munich conference. Czechoslovakia was sacrificed by the major’ powers at Munich in conference with the representatives of the dictator countries. Therefore, when honorable members opposite charge this Government with adopting a policy of appeasement they should examine the activities of their friends. -It can be said to Churchill’s credit that he did not consider that Britain should expect the Soviet Union to be friendly disposed towards Britain. He said -
Why should we expect Soviet Russia to be willing to work with us? Certainly, we have no special claim upon her goodwill.
Mr. Churchill spoke honestly when he said that, because ever since the Russians changed their form of government, and decided to establish a different social economy in their country, they have met with growing hostility from antidemocratic forces from one end of the world to the other. The Leader of the Opposition asked why the Soviet Union is extending its frontiers, and, if, as the Minister for External Affairs says, the Soviet is following such a policy for defensive reasons, against whom is the Soviet preparing to defend itself. ‘ That is a pertinent question; but we might also ask why Prance, Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Belgium entered into the Locarno Pact in 1925. It was called a peace pact; but it was a pact among those nations against the Soviet Republics. I also remind honorable members of our experience of the League of Nations. The League of Nations was established after the war of 1914-18. Why did it fail? I have never had any great faith in international bodies composed of representatives of nations representing different ideologies. I am not optimistic about them, whether they be termed United Nations, or a League of Nations. I know that the great majority of the nations which formed the League of Nations never sincerely desired peace. They failed to prevent aggression. When Japan broke the League Covenant and the Nine Power Pact, what action did the League take to protect the Chinese? The Chinese were left to their own resources to defend themselves. 1 remind the honorable member for Barker that, to be neutral in the Sino- Japanese conflict was the least we could have expected of an Australian government, but a government of which he was a member was responsible for the action taken by the British Conservative government in closing the Burma Road to prevent supplies being sent to the Chinese. Those conservative governments did that in order to appease the Japanese. Those whom they represented were more concerned about their commercial interests in China, and they did not care whether the Chinese people were sacrificed in the process of protecting their investments. Then, we come to the Abyssinian war. We were told that at last the League of Nations was going to make a a stand against aggression, that sanctions were to be imposed, and that the league was going to help the unfortunate Abyssinians. Sanctions were applied, but some one had the “ audacity “ to say that sanctions should extend to oil. Undoubtedly, sanctions in respect of supplies of oil would have brought that war to a swift conclusion ; but those interested in the oil traffic protested with the result that no sanctions were applied in respect of oil. Then came the Hoare-Laval pact. Italy had been declared by the League of Nations to be the aggressor, but Great Britain and France gave way to Italy and recognized Italian conquests in Abyssinia. Then we come to the Spanish war. It is very interesting to hear some honorable members opposite talk about the Atlantic Charter. What is the Charter and to whom are its provisions to extend? Is it to apply to all nations? What do honorable members opposite say with regard to the rights of the Spanish people to determine their own form of government. Not one honorable member opposite has said one word against the Franco Government which is just as much a dictatorship, as the governments which have been deposed in Germany and Italy. Let us see what happened in the Spanish conflict. There was a non-intervention pact, which many honorable members thought would bring that war to a conclusion; but whilst Great Britain and France observed that pact, Germany and Italy were pumping supplies into the forces opposed to the democratically elected Government in Spain. The British and French Governments persisted in denying supplies to the Government forces. Franco let loose 150,000 Moors against the unfortunate Spanish people, but not one word of protest against Franco was voiced by governments which honorable members opposite supported. Honorable members opposite who are now very concerned about a few Formosans being crowded on to a vessel, did not say one word on behalf of the Spanish people when the dictators were preparing for world war by trying out war equipment in Spain. Appeasers in this country and abroad were afraid to take action against them. The same thing applied in regard to Sudetenland, yet this “ old Briton “, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) talked about the “ role that they have always played “. I have the greatest admiration for the British people, and a deep sense of gratitude for the sacrifices that they have made, hut I have the greatest hatred and contempt for the old Tories and Conservatives of England, because I know that they financed and assisted Hitler to re-arm. In 1935, unknown to their ally France, they allowed the Germans to tear up the Treaty of Versailles under the Anglo-German naval treaty, thereby allowing the Nazis to get ready for war. Yet because we criticize those actions we are accused of being anti-British. I remember when Mr. Chamberlain, whom the honorable member for Balaclava applauded, was negotiating with Hitler. In an effort to prevent war, he made a personal visit to Hitler. I believe that if wars can he prevented by negotiation, they should be prevented. But what I object to is not that Mr. Chamberlain went to confer with Hitler but that while he was prepared to confer with Hitler, he sneered when a suggestion was made in the House of Commons that he should confer also with Stalin. That was a deliberate affront to a country to which we eventually owed so much for having saved us from German aggression. During this debate, members of the Opposition have stated that the Russo-German pact was actually signed while British representatives were in Moscow negotiating an agreement with the Soviet. .The fact is that the British were prepared to negotiate on the highest ministerial level with the Nazis, but sent to Moscow the equivalent of a second-rate clerk to negotiate with the Soviet. So we can see that Russia had every reason to feel that’ a studied insult had been inflicted upon her.
Let us be fair about this question .of responsibility for the present distrust which exists. Three great nations - Russia, Great Britain and the United
States of America - fought as allies. Their three great war leaders conferred on a number of occasions. All three shared in the struggle, and bore common sacrifices. I ask honorable gentlemen opposite, would not it tend to create suspicion if one party to the agreement suddenly’ discovered that the two other partners were -withholding from it some vital information about, atomic energy? Some honorable members contend that the encroachment by the Soviet Union upon other territories ‘can be construed only as a threat against the United States of America and Britain. Is it not only right to assume that if America and Great Britain withheld the very important information concerning the atomic bomb from the Soviet, they did so simply because they believed that at some time in the future, somewhere, they would have to use this great- instrument of destruction against the Soviet? Would not that lead to suspicion? And that is exactly what has happened !
– A very good idea, too.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) said that it is a very good idea. I am very pleased, as this debate proceeds, that the Australian people have an. opportunity to see how these swashbucklers on the Opposition side are trying to embroil this country in another wa’r. It is all very well for the honorable member for Bendigo, who controls a squad of Saturday afternoon soldiers, but who never goes out of this country; to speak in those terms. But to those who have, to make the real sacrifice in any future war, it will make a different appeal.
I return, now to the remarks of the Header of the Opposition. On one occasion when Hitler made a speech in the Reichstag. Mr. Lyons, who was then Prime Minister of Australia, tried to ban. the comments of the right honorable member for Kooyong upon it. But the text had already been sent to a section of the Australian press and the Leader of the Opposition was reported as saying-
I thought on the whole Hitler’s speech was as satisfactory from our point . of view as we could very well hope. … I thought the general atmosphere of the speech went to show that Mr. Chamberlain’s achievements at
Munich were a. great deal more substantial than pessimists would have had us believe. . . For myself, I repeat what I said when I came back from England iast September - It is imperative that we should get to understand the German point of view and so help to destroy the German delusion that the democratic countries do not understand her and have no sympathy with any of her ambitions. ([Extension of time granted.] The right honorable gentleman also said-
It is quite wrong to imagine that the dispute about the position of . the Sudeten Germans was a dispute in which all the merits were one way.
– I rise to order. I understood that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) agreed that no extensions of time should be granted in this debate.
– That is not a point of order. The Minister may proceed.
– It can be shown that wherever the Germans moved and whatever form their aggression took when they were extending their territories, they could always depend upon the support of the Leader of the Opposition. Lest it may be suggested that the Opposition is a one-man band, I shall refer to several other decrepit members opposite. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), when he was Minister for External Affairs, said -
Australia desired only mutual understanding and peace with Japan.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said -
Russia made an unprovoked and brutal attack on Finland, which shocked and angered the whole world.
The honorable member for Warringah(Mr. Spender) said -
Australia has no quarrel with Japan. We arc far removed from the theatre of war. We are neighbours, and it would be a disaster of the first magnitude if any conflict arose between us.
That was in January, 1941, only a few months before the outbreak of war with Japan. Now, I shall read what the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, said, because honorable members opposite have tried to show that in criticizing the antagonism of a number of public men to the Soviet an attack has been made upon Great Britain by the Labour movement -
It lias been a very great weakness that throughout there has been this coldshouldering of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Prime Minister cannot bear even .to mention them. They were never brought into consultation except on one occasion, and that was when it looked as if things were coming to .the worst, and their help was wanted. Then an approach was made, but when it was a question of negotiation they ‘ were not brought in at all. I do not know whether they will be brought into any future negotiations. But there you get the weakness of this Government and at the same time of France - and I say the weakness of France is even greater. At no time did they make up their minds whether they were going to stand or to tell Czechoslovakia to make its own terms.
That aptly sums up the attitude of the British conservatives at the commencement of the last war. The Opposition is afraid that capitalism is crumbling, and already those who control international finance are moving in ari endeavour to repair the damage that has been done to their cause by the return of Labour governments throughout the world. What is troubling Conservative interests to-day is the fact that the people, as they term it, are “moving to the Left”. They are electing Labour governments, and Labour governments are a real challenge to the right of capitalism to carry on as it did before the waT. So we find that even now, honorable members opposite would be prepared to sell the self-determining rights of this country and its selfgoverning powers, and to agree to the setting-up of a dictatorship if they believed it would serve the vested’ interests which they represent in this Parliament. . I warn the people of this country that they should be mindful of this talk by the Opposition because members of it and its leader believe in dictatorships. As honorable members are aware, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, was a member of the New Guard, and as such was opposed to constitutional government. The very basis upon which that organization was formed was that the use of armed force was justified .when it was necessary to secure the overthrow of Labour governments. It is well known that the New Guard stored up arms in this country, and that this revolutionary organization was on the point of insurrection. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition would not object to a dictatorship so long as it was a dictatorship of the “Right”. The Leader of the Opposition shows conclusively that he resents Labour’s strength in this House. He believes that Labour. men who seek the implementation of Labour’s policy have no right to be here. We think differently. I conclude by affirming that in framing our foreign policy we must ensure that the voice of Australia shall be heard an the councils of the world, and that it shall not be the mere echo of the voice of some other nation. It is true that as a nation we are small in numbers, but the day has long passed when people in any other part of the world can make decisions for this country. If Australia is to go to war. the decision should be made by this Parliament. Australia must assert its right as a nation, and in that regard, the Minister for External Affairs is to be complimented upon the work he has done overseas. These puny Australians who sit opposite are anti-Australian in outlook, and it is unfortunate for this country that some of them were born here. They are so narrow in their international outlook that they believe that Australians should bow their heads when they appear in the councils of the world. ‘ I am quite satisfied that when the people of Australia have an opportunity to pass judgment upon the foreign policy enunciated by this Government, they will approve in such an overwhelming manner that even the ignorant and stupid members of the Opposition will be able to understand it.
.- In opening this debate, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) placed’ the discussion upon a very high plane. He began with a report of his stewardship of Australia’s interests whilst he was abroad, and of the negotiations that Australia had entered into with other countries. That excellent speech was followed by an equally fine address by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who also did his utmost to keep the debate upon a high plane. After the speech of the Minister far Transport (Mr; Ward) to-night, the debate is still on a “ high “ plane - the high plane of the Yarra Bank and the Sydney Domain. I shall not follow the lead of the Minister for Transport, who read large slabs of matter from periodicals, books and newspapers dating so far back as 1936. In fact, 75 per cent, of the honorable gentleman’s speech consisted of quotations, the remainder being interpolations of his own views. I intend to bring to the notice of honorable members one or two remarks made not by Mr. Neville Chamberlain, Mr. Churchill or Sir Arthur Balfour, but by members of this Parliament. The outstanding features of the speech made by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), who has just returned to this country after presiding over the initial meetings of the Security Council, were misrepresentation and failure to give credit where credit is due. In view of the Minister’s recent experience overseas, one would have expected him to have exhibited a broad international outlook, especially when dealing with matters of such immense moment as the peace and security of the world; but let us examine some of the statements that he made. He quoted a speech made by the late Mr. Lyons, a former Prime Minister, on the 28th September, 1938.’ in which he supported the British government of the day in its efforts to avoid the war which at that time appeared inevitable. He did not mention, however, a speech made by the then Leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. Curtin, on the following day. Thisis what Mr. Curtin had to say -
Iwould regard it as improper to say anything on behalf of the Opposition other than to wish the negotiations complete success. I feel that I ought not to confine myself merely to saying that,but that I should add thatI concur wholeheartedly in that portion of the Prime Minister’s statement in which he said that members of the House will he united in their appreciation of the notable services which Mr. Chamberlain has rendered in thecause of peace.
Surely the action of the Minister for the Navy in extracting from Hansard portion of a speech by the late Mr. Lyons and making; no reference to what followed it, is political hypocrisy of the worst type.
I come now to “the speech of the Minister for Transport. As I have said, that honorable gentleman quoted long extracts from speeches of some notable, and other not so notable men, made before the war. It is all very well to be wise after the event. Despite the Minister’s criticism of Great Britain, and his sneering reference to the remarks made by Mr. Churchill when Russia was attacked on ‘ the 22nd June, 1941, the fact remains that on the 23rd June, the British Prime Minister announced that Britain was with Russia to the last. That is the answer to the Minister’s jeers at the Tory party of Great Britain, and its alleged desire to see Russia go under. But this is the important, point. When the war was still being waged, when Poland was conquered and lying desolate at the feet of the conqueror, when Europe was virtually in the hands of Hitler, there were a few people in the world, including the British Empire, who said that the time had come to call a halt and to negotiate a peace with Hitler. Among them were Mosley and his Fascist crew in Britain, and they were promptly and rightly interned. But there were others in Australia, too. . In November, 1939, the Minister for Transport, who has just walked out of the chamber and will not listen to what I have to say, declaring himself in favour of virtual surrender to Hitler, said -
Instead of carrying on this stupid conflict an effort should be made at the earliest moment to summon a conference of the major . nations for the purpose of ending it.
That appeasement statement, that rotten surrender to Hitler, was made two months after the war had- started, by a man who has walked out of the chamber rather than listen to what I have to say. Though we have had enough of these recriminations, ithas been necessary for me as one of the spokesman of the Opposition to lay by the heels the foul charges made by the honorable gentleman who is a responsible member of the Cabinet only a few moments ago. During the whole of his speech the Minister said not one word in favour of Great Britain or of the British Empire; from beginning to end his speech was an apologia for “Stalinist” Russia, and for all that Russia is doing to-day. The honorable gentleman accused the democratic powers of having incited Russia to aggression. I say that the issue before the House is very clear following the notable speech of the Minister for External Affairs, and it is this: “What is the policy of Australia in fulfilling its obligations to the United Nations? We find ourselves in a position very similar to that which confronted this country and. the democratic powers in September, 1939. At that time we found increasing encroachment by Hitler, notwithstanding his repeated declaration that he had no more territorial ambitions in Europe, and that Czechoslovakia was his last annexation. We find to-day, if not a parallel position, one at least somewhat similar. We find Russia defying the Security Council of the United Nations in respect of its relations with Persia. Persia is only a small country; but I point out that Abyssinia, too, was only a small country. There were beginnings from the occupation of Abyssinia which may very well be repeated as the outcome of the occupation of portion of Persia by Russia. I hope that as a result of the United Nations using its moral voice, not because of armed force, but because of the weight of world opinion, Russia may be halted in its imperialisticand expansionist programme. We, as one of the signatories of the United Nations Charter, are bound to take some action to bait an aggressor, whether it be Russia, the United States of America, or any other power. Unfortunately the Security Council is unable to halt a great power. It .could halt a small one, but it can do very little when it comes to one of the five big nations. The veto power of the Security Council could be exercised by any of the five big nations to prevent military operations being taken against it. We must accord- ingly depend upon mobilizing world opinion and the moral forces of the world against a would-be aggressor. But it might happen as perhaps the greatest and final tragedy of civilization that we may have again to go to war. That possibility is always in the background. We hoped in 193S that war would not be necessary, and we hope just as fervently in 1946 that it will not be necessary; but if it is necessary to take up arms against Russia where would the Minister for Transport stand? The speech which the honorable gentleman has delivered to-night- leaves us in no doubt on that question. If ever it were possible .for a man to be a Communist without having a ticket in the Communist party, I should say that man stands before us in the person of the Minister for Transport.
I wish now to draw particular attention to a matter which was raised by the Minister for External Affairs, namely, the proposal to hand over to the Trusteeship Council our mandate over New Guinea. What is the necessity for Australia to place its only vital mandated territory under the control of anybody but ourselves? It has been stated by the Minister for External Affairs that certain safeguards will be taken before this is done. The right honorable gentleman has described the council as an expert body. I do not know how it will be constituted.
– It will be constituted almost exactly as is the permanent Mandates Commission. The Australian Government will be the sole administering authority. I have stated that clearly in my speech. The position will be exactly analagous to what it has been under the mandate.
– I have also read in the speech of the right honorable gentleman the statement that we shall have to ask for the right to establish bases in these areas. He has pointed out that the difference between the old mandate and the new trusteeship system is, that the right of fortification will . be, granted. Are we to ask for this right,,’ which has been won for us with the blood and sacrifices of our soldiers in New Guinea? Shall we have1 to* go to the representatives of some nation which has not the slightest interest in New Guinea, and suggest that we be given permission to establish bases there for our own protection? The proposition is so utterly out of step with Australian public opinion and sacrifices that it ought not to be entertained for a moment. We do not know of whom the Trusteeship Council may be composed. The whole of the terms and conditions in connexion with the handing over of New Guinea, if that be the intention of the Government, should be placed before and be approved by this Parliament before, such a step is taken.
– I propose to move an amendment to provide that before any transfer of any Australian mandate is made the whole of the relevant matter shall be tabled in and be approved by both Houses of the Parliament, so that nothing will be done which has not been fully debated, even though the. Opposition may not have, the strength to prevent its. being done.
We have heard a lot about the Burma Road’ from the Minister for Transport, who said that the Chinese had been sacrificed because British imperialism and commercial interests would have it so. What was the attitude of the Minister and his Government when the British Government wanted Australia to send troops to help to reopen and defend the Burma Road? He adopted a craven attitude. If words could have opened the Burma Road, and the Minister had been instrumental in its opening, there would’ have been a highway there as broad as the Alaska Highway: The last persons who ought to talk about the Burma Road are those who did not have the courage to face up to its opening.
There are three points of foreign policy which this country has to keep in mind, despite the contribution to the debate- of the Minister for Transport. They are these : First, we must maintain solidarity in the British Commonwealth of Nations. We must maintain our membership of it and, if necessary, be prepared to play our part in defending any other member of it against aggression. That is the best security we could have at the present, juncture in a world in which might is still right. The second point is that we must be prepared’ to exert every effort to hold that portion of New Guinea over which we hold a mandate and to establish bases in it. We must also provide our American allies with satisfactory bases in the areas with respect to which we have mandates. There is a further point which has not been elucidated by the Minister for External Affairs. If Australia holds a mandate in respect of New Guinea, and has conferred on it by the- Trusteeship Council, which it must approach for the purpose, the right to establish bases, can it in turn confer on the United States of America the right to establish bases which, from the standpoint of our security, would be equally as important as the bases we had established, or would both countries have to apply to the Trusteeship Council for permission to establish bases ?
– Bases will be governed by the Security Council. If the United States of America wished to fortify any trusteeship territories, it also would have to obtain the. consent of the Security Council.
– Then Australia could not grant permission to the United States of America . to establish bases to the- north of Australia for the purpose of its protection!, without obtaining the consent of the Security Council. It will surrender these rights without’ any compulsion,, or any requirement other than the desire of the Minister to do so.
– We shall surrender nothing, yet we shall secure our future.
– No matter how many words may have been uttered in respect of our status as a nation, or what our rights may be in the councils of the world, our voice will be- heard and respected only to the degree to which it has relation to our ability to. back it up -with fighting strength. Therefore, the third, and possibly the most crucial, point of international policy is that we should maintain an adequate defence force of our own. Yet not one word has been said as to how we are going to follow up our obligations to the Security Council; to raise troops, if necessary, to’ police a country, or to discipline a country that is defying the Security Council. . These things will have to be done.
– What would the honorable member do?
– I would raise a force by means of compulsory training throughout Australia. Then, every man would have to play his part. That is the only way in which Australia will bo able to play its part in the Security Council, and only by such means will it have a real voice in the direction of the affairs of the world. Failing that, Australia will be no stronger than Haiti, Cuba, or any other country which has population but is without power. We must be prepared to back up our words, as Russia is prepared to support -its policy. The Minister -for Russia in Australia in a recent public statement in this country, said that Russian foreign policy is based on the strength of the Red Army. He could not have spoken more truthfully. That is why Russia can draw an iron curtain across the whole of central Europe, march into Persia,’ and defy the United Nations. The democratic powers, in turn, instead of singing “ Johnny must come home from the wars “, and dissipating the military strength which it has taken so long to assemble, will have to be prepared to meet aggression should it come. Despite anything that ‘might be said in this debate, I repeat that there are three salient, points, namely, that we must maintain our connexion with the British Commonwealth of Nations and keep it united; that we must retain control of New Guinea at all costs; and that we must revive and strengthenour defence policy in order that ‘we may have an effective voice in the councils of the nations of the world.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Burke) adjourned.
Fruit Industry-Primary Production: Financial Assistance : - Unemployment - Stud Farms - Commonwealth Plywood Factory, Alexandria. - Broadcasting: Short-wave Service - Poultry Industry - Microscopes - Re-establishment: University Studies.
Motion (by Mr. Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. –I regret that the limited time allowed for the “ Grievance Day “ debate this afternoon did not allow some honorable members to participate in it, and therefore, I take this . opportunity to support the plea of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) that the Government should continue the potato control for another year. I do so because of the insufficient time allowed for the various State governments to implement legislation for the orderly marketing of the coming year’s crop. As pointed ‘out by the honorable member for Darwin, the sowing of potatoes in Tasmania will commence in June, and earlier in the other States. It is regettable that hundreds of tons of potatoes are rotting in the ground in Tasmania because of the inability to secure shipping to supply the interstate markets. Unfortunately, those potatoes are deteriorating rapidly because of second growth. I urge the Government to -make every endeavour to secure shipping to enable potatoes to be sent to the mainland markets. Although we cannot secure ships to convey much needed produce to markets, Dutch ships are held . up because of the desire of the waterside workers to dictate the foreign policy of Australia.
I have already made representations to the Commonwealth Government, as well as to the Government of Tasmania, for the establishment of a comprehensive scheme of financial assistance to primary producers who have lost heavily because of adverse climatic conditions. Severe losses have occurred to the stone and berry fruit crops from frost, hail, bush fires, and other causes. , The result is that not more than 50 per cent, of the normal crop is likely to’ be harvested. Many growers have lost80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of their crops, and unless some financial assistance be granted to them they will be obliged to leave their holdings. The value of the fruit industry to Tasmania is estimated at £350,000 a year. The following statement sets out the value placed upon various crops produced in Tasmania : -
Production costs in the stone and berry fruits industry have increased by 150 per cent, since pre-war days, whilst the prices of those fruits have increased by only 50 per cent. The employment provided by the industry is . astounding. In the harvesting of the crops alone approximately 5,000 persons are employed, whilst the processing of the fruit provides employment for an additional 1,000 persons in factories. Upwards of 400 are occupied in providing furnace wood and in driving vehicles. I urge the Government to give favorable consideration to a comprehensive scheme to be controlled and financed jointly by the Commonwealth and the State Government. I admit that the State has a responsibility in this matter. I understand that the Tasmanian Government will approach the Commonwealth Government in relation to this matter in the near future.
The growers of pears and apples in Tasmania are greatly perturbed at the prospect of a big crop of apples- being allowed to rot owing .to the inability of the Government to secure sufficient refrigerated shipping space to export the fruit to the United Kingdom. Whereas in normal ‘years several millions of bushels of apples were exported to the United Kingdom, only a small quantity is likely to be shipped this year. In 1943-44 Tasmania produced 7,500,000 bushels of apples and 590,000 bushels of pears. Unfortunately, the difficulty of providing vessels for the carriage- of fruit makes it impossible for Australian growers to dispose of their produce overseas. There is great difficulty in securing ships to supply even interstate markets. In the circumstances, I urge the Government to continue the apple and pear acquisition scheme for’ another year, or until more normal conditions return. The scheme has been of great value to the fruit-growers of Tasmania.
I pass on to deal with some of the shortcomings of the Government. I suggest that a true test of a Government is its ability to secure the happiness and prosperity of all the people. The three things which the man in the street places above all other interests are happiness and contentment, future security through being assured of employment, and adequate housing. In respect of those three essential items the Government has failed miserably. It promised that there would be employment and security for all, and that houses for both servicemen and civilians would be provided. Although it claimed to have a panacea for all ills, it has failed lamentably to keep its promises. To-day, large numbers of Australians are unemployed, and the unem- ployment figures are increasing almost daily. There .are not sufficient homes for the people, and there is evidence of serious shortages of food, tobacco, beer, tea, sugar and other essential commodities. The inability of the Government to keep the wheels of industry moving has resulted in a shortage of sugar and the loss of fruit valued at many thousands of pounds. There is also, a shortage of clothing, and moreover what is available is of poor quality. Pew, if any, tailors will accept orders for the early delivery of suits. I believe that Australian mills are capable of manufacturing suiting of high quality, but during the war many of them produced poor quality material, not because they wished to do so, but because an incompetent administration, thought that it was more economical and would save man power to produce shoddy material. Some good quality material was produced, but apparently it was too good for Australians, and most of it was sent to New Zealand. But for this stupid policy of manufacturing rubbish, returned soldiers to-day would find if easier to obtain suits.
On the subject of employment, the Government, some time ago, issued a book entitled Back to Civil Life, in which the following principle was laid down: “ Suitable jobs in the right place under the right conditions, and as soon as possible “. Apparently, however, the Go’vernment believes that the right job for returned soldiers is a labouring job, because that is all that is offered to them at the present time, as can be demonstrated by looking up the records for Tasmania. The Government’s policy of preference to unionists complicates the matter. Many unions to-day have closed their books, and refuse to admit returned servicemen. Consequently, there is no job. for the man who fought for his country. He is turned adrift, and in this policy the Government acquiesces. The ideal state is one in which every worker owns his own home, and I say that notwithstanding the opposition of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to the principle of homeownership. The short-sighted policy of the Government regarding man-power is responsible for the housing shortage today. The Government deliberately inflated the number of those in the services, .and paid no regard whatever to the needs of the home front. Manufacturers and farmers appealed for manpower to enable them to produce essential materials and to grow more food. The Government, however, ignored their appeal, although thousands of men were bored stiff in camp, and never even left Australia. This was not the fault of the men, but was due to the stiff-shirt attitude of the Government. Is it any wonder that there is a shortage of building material, house fittings, &c, as well as a shortage of food? As for building materials, the’ housing departments of the State governments are hoarding materials and fittings to the detriment of private enterprise. They hold supplies far in excess of their requirements, while private builders have the greatest difficulty in getting any at all. The same difficulty has arisen in regard to the disposal of surplus army materials. All the best vehicles are being acquired by the State governments. Only recently, out of 24 army vehicles made available for distribution in Tasmania, the Government of Tasmania took 23. Man-power should have been made available during the war for the production of essential building material and for the production of food. I claim that home building should have been given the first priority. The Government, instead of hampering private building, should encourage private enterprise to build homes as the quickest and cheapest way of solving the present housing shortage. The food position has been bungled badly by the administration of befuddled officialdom. The authorities acquired all the lambs in Tasmania, with the result that farmers were obliged to kill or sell breeding ewes, and without breeding ewes it is impossible to produce lambs. As a result of this stupid policy, not a- single lamb is available for export this year.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not intend to make a window-dressing speech, because I believe that the Government is so firmly entrenched that it would take more than dynamite to shift it. I desire to bring to the notice of the Government a matter which I believe is of national urgency, and is certainly one of great importance. It should arouse, not’ only the keen interest of the Government, but should also enlist the support of the members of the Australian Country party: As a representative of a rural constituency, I am concerned with the difficulties which beset the man on the land, and I realize that certain desirable improvements are beyond the financial capacity of the average wool-grower. The woolproducing industry is of primary importance to every man, woman and child in Australia. It is now threatened with the competition of synthetic fibres, and by tlie steadily declining quality of the wool produced. Eighty per cent, of the woolgrowers produce less than 40 bales of wool a year, so that it must be obvious thatmost of them cannot afford to buy the good quality rams necessary to improve the standard of wool. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to operate stud farms for the production of well-bred stock, so as to improve the quality of our wool, of our fat lambs’, and of our beef. I urge that stud stock be sold to legitimate growers only, and not to persons for resale. I also urge that rams be sold at a price within the means of the average farmer, say, from 30s. to £2 a head. I am aware that my proposal will be viciously criticized by interested persons. It will be contended that such a venture will cost the country thousands of pounds, but I contend that, in the course of a ‘few years, the improved quality of our stock, and the increased returns to farmers, will result in an increase of revenue amounting to millions of pounds. At the same time, the quality of our primary products will be improved. In particular, the quality of wool will be improved to such an extent that synthetic fibres will have no chance of competing with it. This matter is of great importance at the present time, when thousands of returned soldiers are about to begin life on grazing and farming properties. The adoption of my proposal would ensure to no small degree their undoubted success, and in consequence. I petition the Government to give the matter its immediate sympathetic considerati on.
– Early in August, 1945, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, Secondary Industries Division, issued a notification to inquirers regarding the Commonwealth plywood factory at Alexandria, New South Wales. This official notification stated that the Commonwealth had erected buildings and installed plant at a” cost of £68,000 at Bowden-street, Alexandria, New South Wales. It proposed to install in the buildings certain plywood fabrication plant including a hot press and dryer and other equipment valued at approximately £62,000 whereby up to 6,000,000 square feet of plywood could he produced per annum, based on one shift working. Alternatively,’ the plant could produce bonded plywood. The notification further stated that the Government, after full consideration, had decided that the buildings and plant should be operated as a plywood factory by way of a contribution to the housing programme. It further stated that the factory was to be available for experimental production of fittings for prefabricated houses as might be ordered by the Commonwealth departments concerned. The notification then proceeded to invite proposals from business interests to operate the factory for the Commonwealth by way of lease management fee or share interest in an operating company. The latest date for the receipt pf such proposals was stated as Saturday, the 11th August, 1945, and the proposals were to be addressed to the Director, Secondary Industries Division, Department of Post-war Reconstruction, Degraves-street, Melbourne.
A copy of .this notification came to the notice of QX48844 Captain M. F. Partridge, who is technically qualified to manage a concern of this nature.. He applied to the department for particulars of the undertaking and on the 10th October. 1945, received a letter from the State Controller of Munitions, Mr. J. W. J. Byrne, containing the following paragraphs : -
As von arc <> doubt aware, the housing problem in the Commonwealth has deteriorated to a critical stage, and as part nf the programme of home construction the Government proposes to establish the factory as an additional source of supply for plywood and bonded timber and for experimental work associated with manufacture of plywood, and this project is made possible by the fact that a large modern factory, constructed in 1941, with an extensive timber stacking yard is available for early conversion.
The letter then gave particulars of the building and of the boiler, pumps, and oven which had already been installed. It went on to say -
During the early stages of the war with Japan a considerable quantity of plywood manufacturing plant was secured overseas and imported for use on another project. This plant, details of which are attached, is available for use in the. plywood project and is at present held in stores. The values of the items of plant indicated on the list referred to are approximate but reliable.
It also stated that the final date for acceptance of tenders would be extended until Captain Partridge’s proposal had been received.
Partridge was given special leave from the Army. He went to Sydney, inspected the plant and- submitted a tender, dated the 19th October, 1945. He subsequently gave a schedule of costs for the installation of certain items of equipment and indicated that he was desirous of operating fifteen S-hour shifts weekly to ensure maximum output and economy of operation. He was prepared to commence installation work immediately he was informed of the department’s decision. Just prior to my return to Canberra for the present sittings,. Captain Partridge interviewed me. He had been unable to procure any finality from the Commonwealth regarding his tender, except a vague statement that the Commonwealth would probably now use the building ‘as part of its post-war reconstruction programme in the trainingof ex-soldiers. This is despite the fact confirmed by Captain Partridge’s examination that the building is entirely unsuitable for that purpose. Up to that time I am informed that noplywood factory is, in fact, yet in operation in the buildings concerned, and that the machinery which I have mentioned isstill idle. This is the machinery which the Minister for Works and Housingreferred to as “ lend-lease machinery “y and he indicated that it could not be procured for use by the Commonwealth Government.
In these circumstances, I ask -
– The Melbourne Herald to-night reports that the DirectorGeneral of Information, Mr. E. G. Bonney, has, in effect,decided that the people of Australia must not know what the Department of Information broadcastson their behalf to the world through Radio Australia. My department knows from experience that the Melbourne Herald will not publish replies that rebut its silly and dishonest reports, and I am, therefore, making this statement to the House so that honorable members shall know the facts.
The Herald’s report is based on a refusal by the Director-General of Information to supply it with copies of all scripts broadcast by the short-wave division since 1st January, 1946. The DirectorGeneral, when questioned by the Melbourne Herald’s Canberra representative, said that the Department of Information was very busy doing a national work and was not employed to serve any newspaper group. He also stated that if the Herald wished to establish itself as the inquisitor of the short-wave division, there was nothing to prevent it from buying a short-wave set and engaging a special officer to monitor the broadcasts over Radio Australia. He might have added that the Herald has, in fact, recently inspected many of our shortwave radio scripts and has caused the director of the short-wave division to waste precious hours in patiently passing on to other inquiring Herald reporters short-wave information which the newspaper has not used. The Department of Information is anxious that as many Australians as possible should know the type of material it is broadcasting to the world and would welcome newspapers publishing a fair selection ofRadio Australia broadcasts instead of, as some of them have done, high-lighted unrepresentative extracts so as to place a distorted picture before the Australian public. The time of the staff of the short-wave division of the Department of Information will not be wasted in future on any more queries submitted by the Murdoch press monopoly. I have given instructions to that effect.
.- bring. to the notice of the Government the difficult position a great many poultry farmers throughout Australia find themselves in as the result of two facts, first, the ceiling prices on poultry, farm products, such as eggs and poultry for the market which have remained for more than a year completely rigid, the prices having been fixed, of course, by the Prices Commissioner, and, secondly, the rise of the cost of poultry food and material, which has been appreciable over the last eighteen months and, particularly the last six months. The figures that I propose to give will show the Government exactly the position in which poultryraisers find themselves. The most used diet for fowls is wheat. A year ago the poultry-farmer paid for his wheat 3s. l0d. a bushel landed on the farm. Less than a year ago all feed for poultry was brought under control. Supplies were reduced, and this resulted in an appreciable reduction of poultry flocks owing to the fact that poultry-farmers could not obtain the necessary feed. The reduction of flocks amounted to between 20 per cent, and 30 per cent, on an Australianwide basis. The reduction of the wheat quotas led to demands for all sorts of grain, particularly maize. The situation now is that neither wheat nor maize is available in large quantities. The quantity of wheat used by the poultryfarmer throughout Australia is estimated at 20,000,000 bushels annually. Due to the difficulty of obtaining wheat and the general rise in costs throughout the Commonwealth, merchants were forced in December last to raise the price of wheat to the poultry-farmer from 3s. lOd. a bushel to 4s. Id. a bushel. A few months ago the Government itself raised the price by ls. a bushel bringing the total cost of wheat to the poultry-farmer to 5s. 2d. a bushel, which is the present price. Thus, over the last eighteen months the price of wheat to the poultryfarmer has risen by 32 per cent., which, expressed in the cost of production of eggs, amounts to an increased cost of. production of Jd. a dozen. That increase is due to the increased price of wheat alone. It has been suggested that since wheat is in short supply poultry-farmers might use other sorts of grain. That suggestion has come from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). It has been suggested that the poultry-farmer might use oats; but on a nutritional basis the price would work out at 5s. Sd. a bushel, against the price of wheat at 5s. Id. a bushel. On the same basis, the price of barley would work out at 6s. lid. a bushel and the price of maize at 10s. a bushel. Thus, all these suggested alternative foods will be more expensive to the poultry-farmer than wheat. The same observation applies to mash, which is made of bran and pollard; but during the last twelve months it has been impossible for the poultry-farmer to obtain either bran or pollard. The alternative is wheatmeal, but the cost of wheatmeal to the poultry-farmer is £10 a ton, compared with £7 a ton for bran and pollard, representing an increase of cost in respect of mash of 42 per cent. I need hardly mention the rising costs of other essentials required by the poultry-farmer in common with other primary producers, such as wire-netting, corrugated iron and wire. Over the whole range of products, whether fodder or supplies of materials, costs to the poultry-farmer have increased considerably.
– And so has the price of eggs.
– That is the crux of the position. The point I am making is that the price of eggs has remained fixed for a period of eighteen months, the winter price to the producer being 2°. a dozen. Out of that 2s. the producer has to meet the -following charges: - Stabilization price Id., commission £d., candling, grading and accounting Id., and losses in transit, ¼d., leaving a net return to the producer of ls. 9d. a dozen. The contract price to the producer for export eggs in the shell is ls. Sd. a dozen, whilst costs incurred by the producer prior to shipping amount approximately to 4d., giving him a net return of ls. 4d. a dozen for export eggs. My point is that whilst costs have gone up in the way I have indicated by 42 per cent, in the last- eighteen months, the net price of eggs to-day to the producer is ls. 9d. a dozen for the home market, and ls. 4d. a dozen for the export market; and those prices obtained eighteen months ago. That position cannot be allowed to continue. I urge the Government to give the matter further consideration. The ‘internal price should be raised from 2s. to 2s. 3d. a dozen in order to cover increased costs to the producer. That is only fair, if we are to keep the poultry-farmer on his holding. At the same time, it is suggested that the retail margin allowed at present by the Prices Commissioner should be reduced from 4d. a dozen to 2d. a dozen. . With regard to export eggs the present price paid . by the United Kingdom in Australian currency of ls. 8d. a dozen should be increased by 6d. a dozen. I understand that the price of eggs which are being imported into the United Kingdom from Canada is 2s. a dozen, or more, and the price of eggs being imported from the United .States of America is 3s. a dozen. I have not been able to confirm those figures, but from what I know of price levels in the countries mentioned they seem fairly accurate. It is extraordinary that the United Kingdom should be paying a lower price for our eggs than it is paying for eggs imported from other countries.
– The honorable member will admit that the producers are receiving twice the price that they received for eggs before the war.
– Not twice the price ; but my point is that on the basis of the present prices he does not make up his increase of costs. I suggest that the export price might well be increased. Failing that, although I do not particularly like the idea, the Government might consider granting a subsidy of 6d. a dozen on export eggs for a limited period to the poultry-farmer. “Whilst I do not like the principle of . subsidy, I realize that when primary producers are losing money and have no way out of their difficulty, assistance by way of subsidy is better than nothing. I also point out that the price of poultry has remained fixed at ls. Id. a lb. for the last twelve months; and that price does not compensate the producer for increased costs. I ask the Minister to bear that point in mind also when he considers my representations.
.- I desire to raise a non-contentious matter, and I am sure that the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will agree to my representations. The purchase of microscopes by ‘ students at a university is forbidden by some governmental fiat. All microscopes are frozen, except that they may be sold to schools or universities, but not actually to the students. However, many microscopes are held in stock by various firms. The university year has commenced, and medical students are expected to buy their own ‘microscopes. The practice before the outbreak of war was for students to purchase their own microscopes, and take them away with them at the conclusion of their course. I ask that that practice be permitted again. It is only necessary to remove this control, which was introduced by the Department, of Supply and Shipping, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction or another of the multifarious departments that control this democracy.
I have received a protest from the Victorian branch of the Fathers Association. A copy of it was sent to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. The association claims that several aliens, or former aliens have been granted university courses on their release from labour companies in the forces, to the detriment of Australians serving in the forces. I have also a copy of the Minister’s reply, and I cannot agree with his statement that these aliens have not displaced any Australian servicemen who desired to filter a university.
– Where did the aliens come from?
– They were refugees from Germany, and came to Australia just before the outbreak of war. The protest of the Fathers Association reads -
The accelerated discharges given to a number of enemy aliens, mostly Germans, with we are told more to follow - in all at least twenty, in order to take up university courses under post-war reconstruction training, is looked upon by the Dads Association with disgust, and our determination is .to contest the granting, of privileges to aliens with all the strength behind our 25,000 members in Victoria.
The Ee-establishment and Employment Act 1945, No. 11, section 4, defines those eligible and states - “ But docs not include any enemy alien who served during the war as a member of the Army Labour Corps.”
This association challenges the right of the Commonwealth Government to interpret this section in relation to aliens who served in the Sth Employment Battalion as to make them eligible for training under this act.
Further, we are profoundly disturbed that these low-points cx-German nationals should take precedence for discharge over our own active-service Australians who have fought overseas.
That these men, who were able to study in their leisure hours when serving in the employment battalion in Australia, whilst our own boys unable to study because they were fighting men of our own nation is something the fathers of Australia will not tolerate.
Borderline causes exist of Australian men who have been denied post-war training because .they just failed to qualify in some small particular. The public of Australia, will, we know, give their unqualified support for accelerated discharge and training for our own men in preference to these aliens^
Tn our tour of the city yesterday our executive officers found a spirit of deep concern and resentment amongst all sections of the community because of the privilege extended to these ex-German nationals, and we” are fearful of the possible reaction on our own fighting men who have had long and active service.
The nationality of these aliens in our opinion remains enemy aliens. Some of them, probably all. according to our information, ex-internees and” to admit these men to the full privileges granted to our own gallant soldiers under the pretext of their being stateless is i slur on our lads and in direct conflict with the principles for which this association was founded, namely - To watch, guard and forward the interests of our service men and women.
We will continue to work in the service of those who serve, and not pander to the nationals of the country or countries that have plunged us into the horrors of war on two occasions during the last 30 years and have been guilty of all the inhuman acts that were associated with their campaign of hate and lust for power.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction stated in -reply -
The Re-establishment and Employment Act is applicable to all members of the Australian forces except enemy aliens serving in some employment companies in the Army labour units, who were enlisted from volunteer aliens who had taken refuge in Australia, and among them is a number of men considered Stateless by the Department of Immigration. They are men who left central European countries in the years between 1932 and 1939 and sought, and were granted, asylum in British countries.
This is the relevant paragraph -
These Stateless aliens, who are either applying for or have been granted naturalization papers, served in the Australian forces to the best of their ability within thelimits prescribed for their service - that is, they were permitted to serve only on the mainland. We were anxious to take advantage of their services during the war and Cabinet has decided that these Stateless aliens, provided they apply for naturalization, shall be eligible for reconstruction benefits oh the samebasis as other servicemen.
It is absolutely untrue that any of these men had been granted accelerated release to take places in universities that should be reserved for Australians as all are continuing courses commenced before the war.
I do not desire to dispute that statement at this moment, but I ask, where did those aliens commence their university courses ? If any preference is granted, it should be given to ‘Australian soldiers who have served for years. The Minister for the Army . (Mr. Forde) wrote to the Fathers Association as follows : -
With further reference to your telegram of 21st February, 1946, relative to ex-German nationals of the 8th Employment Company, I now wish to advise that inquiries have been made into this matter.
I am advised that enemy aliens are not eligible for benefits under the Commonwealth Reconstruction . Training Scheme. Stateless aliens who have applied for or been granted naturalization papers and who served in the forces are eligible for reconstruction benefits on the same basis as other servicemen.
Every man in the Australian forces who was eligible to enter second-year university classes was given the right to apply for accelerated release. To ‘date 837 members of the forces, including 21 Stateless aliens, have been released for second or subsequent year study at Australian universities.
I would add that none of these men have taken any places that should have been given to an Australian as no applicant who was eligible has been refused his discharge.
It is not correct to say that all men who have completed a year’s study at the university have now been released to com mence their second-year course. For example, a brilliant student of the Melbourne University, who is now serving in the Royal AustralianNavy, studied law before his enlistment. But there is some qualification that if a student failed in a subject, he is not regarded as having completed a year’s study. Consequently, that young man is doomed to remain in the Navy for an indefinite period. At the same time, aliens who never served outside Australia take precedence over him. Doubtless, members of the Australian Country party know of similar cases. A youth in my electorate, who was dux of a. great grammar school in Melbourne, was a brilliant linguist and took an honours course after matriculation. Because he had not commenced his studies at the university when-he enlisted, he is not eligible now for release in order to begin a university course. Yet he has served in the forces for four years, including two years . in New Guinea. His father, in a letter to me to-day, stated that he had sent a registered letter to the Minister three weeks ago, but had not received a reply. That is serious. No one denies that the highesteducation possible should not be given to any one residing in Australia, whether hebe a refugee’- alien or an Australian national, but the best facilities should not be withheld from our own young men. I urge the Minister to re-examine this matter. I also sent to him a letter . on behalf of twenty members of the Royal’ Australian Air Force who are still overseas, and all of whom are qualified to attend the university. But because they had not commenced a university course at the time of enlistment, they have not been granted their discharge.
referred to the price which Great Britain paid for eggs purchased from other countries. I confess that I was not aware that such high prices were being paid.
– I said that I believed that the high prices I mentioned were being paid.
Mr.CHIFLEY. - I understand that. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr.. White) urged that microscopes should be released for use by medical students at universities. I did’ not think that itwas possible to introduce any new subject in this House, but the honorable member has. succeeded in doing so. I shall discuss the matter with the responsible Minister to-morrow.
Last week, I replied to representations regarding the general release of servicemen who desired to enter , universities. The honorable member for Balaclava has raised another aspect, stating that aliens who served in labour companies in the Army have received preference over Australian servicemen who desired to commence university courses. I shall discuss that matter with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to-morrow. However, I point out that some of these questions are the subject of Cabinet decision, and may not be altered by the Minister on his own initiative. Consideration will be given to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Annual Report by the Trustees for year 1944-45.
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulation - Orders -
Bread control (South Australia) - Revocations.
Bread industry (New South Wales), (Tasmania ) - Revocations.
Ice industry (New South Wales) - Revocation.
Milk industry (New South Wales) - Revocation.
Re-estalilishment and Employment Act - Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration- Rules of Court - Dated 12th February, 1946 (Statutory Rules 1946, No. 43).
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister in charge of the . Council. for Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
Wales Department of Agriculture entomologist had reported on a new preparation, benzene hexaehloride, also known as666, claimed to be more powerful than DDT in the- destruction of pests?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :; -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Presuming that the A.P.A. Building. 53 Martin-place, is the building referred to) the answer is “Yes”. With the exception of the two top ‘floors, -which are required for the accommodation of the Attorney-General’s Department, these premises will be vacated immediately alternative accommodation is available.
Re-establishment : Training
een asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
r asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– Permits to enter Australia are not necessary for British subjects of European race. Particulars regarding permits issued to aliens are being prepared and will be furnished in due course.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to6. In conformity with its policy of decentralization, the Government has decided to erect at Rockhampton and Townsville the requisite buildings for the conduct of wool appraisements at those centres, in order to give wool-growers the benefit of shorter rail haul to potential ports of direct oversea shipment and commercial interests at such ports a share in the trade in the wool produced in their respective zones. Consultations were held with all appropriate authorities interested and able to offer facilities and assistance in advancing such form of decentralization, to enable a choice of various sites to be made. 7 and S. The preliminary estimate of the cost of each building is£88,000 (exclusive of the land) to be met from Government funds, subject to amortization on the principle of payment for the use of the buildings by brokers utilizing them for the appraisement and/or sale of wool.
War Gratuity: Use for Purchase of a Home.
asked the Minister’ for the Army, upon notice -
– The following reply has been supplied by the Treasurer: - 1 and 2. Attention is invited to the statement bv the Prime Minister to the House, on the 20th March, 1940.
r asked . the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Yes. The Commissioner of Taxation has, however, recently reviewed the question of the taxation of these allowances and has ruled that the expenses (other than living expenses) incurred by the holder of the scholarship in fulfilment of the terms under which the allowances are paid to him, such as fares in travelling to the university overseas, tuitionfees, text-books, equipment, &c, are deductible from the allowance. (b) Yes, as regards the living allowance paid to trainees under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme to which it is presumed the question primarily relates.
s asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– No appointments of Commonwealth . employment officers in Queensland have yet been made. To the extent to which it is necessary to make any appointments for the purposes of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Queensland, they will be made by the Commonwealth Public Service Board pursuant to the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service (Amendment) Act No. 29 of 1945.
n . asked the Minister for’ Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the . honorable member’s questions are as follows : - ‘ 1. (a.) £876; (b) £1,264; (c) £228; (d) £289; (e)’£428.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1. (a) Kil; (b) entertainment allowance - £l,tiGO; (c) parliamentary allowance £1,000 plus his ministerial allowance. The amount of £2,000 provided for in section 0 (2) of the High Commissioner Act in respect of the official residence of the High Commissioner will also bc payable to Mr. Beasley whilst acting as Resident Minister.
General in Council to exercise -the powers and to perform the functions assigned to the High Commissioner.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 March 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460321_reps_17_186/>.