17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10. 30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr.SPEAKER.- I desire to inform the house that the Right Honorable Peter Eraser, C.H., Prime Minister of the Dominion of New Zealand, and the Right Honorable Walter Nash, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in the Government of that dominion, are within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite them to take seats on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Mr. Fraser and Mr. Nash thereupon entered the chamber and were sealed accordingly.
Trade with Australia.
– I have received from the Consolidated Export and Import Group of Australia a telegram in which my attention is drawn to the effect on Australian primary and secondary industries of the cancellation of orders of a value of £6,000,000 by the Netherlands East Indies. The group points out that it is concerned not only on its own behalf but also because of the effect on Australian trade generally, and suggests that the rehabilitation of exservicemen may be vitally prejudiced by the cessation of our trade with the Netherlands East Indie?. Can the Prime Minister state what action he proposes to take to ensure that our national economy in relation to trade with the Netherlands East, Indies shall be protected against the disrupting tactics that are employed by the Waterside Workers Federation and otherCnmmunist-controlled unions?
– I do not know the reason which caused the Dutch to cancel orders they had placed in Australia.
– They cannot get the goods away.
– There could be reasons other than that. The Government does not attempt to condone the refusal of the waterside workers to load goods, particularly foodstuffs and mercy cargoes. As honorable members know, this has been a subject of very great difficulty.Ministers have made every effort to reach a solution of the problem, which is related to the very complicated position that has developed in Indonesia. As I have pointed outpreviously, the trouble on the waterfront was due in the first place not to any action by Australian waterside workers, but to the fact that Dutch nationals had walked off Dutch ships and had refused to handle the cargoes that weresought to be placed on them. Had that incident not occurred there would not have been any trouble with the waterside workers.
– Surely the right honorable gentleman has some responsibility in the matter of protecting our trade !
– Of course we have responsibilities,but if the people of another nation refuse to work their own ships, that is something which certainly does not come within our jurisdiction.
– That was only the original cause.
– Yes, that was the original cause.
– There have been other causes since then.
– Of course, there has been no trouble with the waterside workers at all!
– I said that I did not condone the action of the waterside workers, but I have stated what was the original cause of the trouble. All sorts of statements have been made about the quantity of goods which the Dutch authorities hold in Australia, and most of those statements were incorrect. I know approximately the quantity of goods which they hold. I do not propose to say anything which might create international complications. There may be other reasons - I have no doubt there are - why the Dutch cannot buy £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 worth of goods in Australia.
– £6,000,000 worth is the quantity involved now.
– Even that figure may be as much exaggerated as the other The Dutch have only limited resources for the purchase of goods in Australia, and I have no doubt that some of the orders have been cancelled for that reason. During the visit to Australia of Lord Louis Mountbatten, anattempt was made to get the Dutch ships out of Australian ports, not so much so that goods might be carried, but so as to put the ships into use. I am sorry to say that, up to yesterday, those attempts had not been in any way successful. Further conferences are to take place, I think, to-day, and I hope that, at least, the ships will be able to sail. I am sorry that there has been loss of trade. Even if the amount is only £1,000,000 or £300.000, it is still important, and it is unfortunate that circumstances have arisen to cause that loss. In the earlier stages, before there was any labour trouble, we were told that the Dutch had placed large orders in Australia, but it was found that they were not prepared to pay our prices. This, no doubt, was in accordance with sound commercial practice. If they could get the goods cheaper elsewhere they would buy them.
– No doubt they got tired of waiting.
– I am referring to a period before there was any hold-up at all. Wo submitted quotations for goods said to be required by the Dutch. The New Zealand authorities also submitted quotations, which,I understand were somewhat lower, and the orders went there. There is no sentiment in such matters. I repeat that this is a very delicate situation, and I do not propose to go into it any farther.
Inquiry into Working Hours.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say when it is expected that the Arbitration Court will commence to hear the applications by the unions for a40-hour week?.
– I am notable to inform the honorable member of a fixed date for the hearing. I was in touch with the Melbourne office yesterday, when I learned that arrangements were proceeding. I think the parties are meeting each other, but have not yet decided how much more time they need to prepare their cases.
– The Prime Minister recently announced that Cabinet had approved of the construction of sixtytwo freighters. How is it proposed to finance their construction? Will they be operated by the Government or by private enterprise, either by purchase or under charter? How .does the right honorable gentleman reconcile-
– Order! The honorable member must not debate the question. He is inviting the Prime Minister to reconcile one thing with another, which is mere debate
– Does the right honorable gentleman consider that the construction costs of £73 a ton in Australia compared with £44 a ton in Great Britain can permit of reasonable freight charges in the Australian coastal trade?
– The Government has decided that ships used in the Australian coastal trade shall be built in Australia. Necessary arrangements for the construction of the ships will be made by the Shipbuilding Board. Whether they will be sold, leased or chartered to private enterprise or operated entirely by the Government is under consideration. I frankly confess that the construction costs disturb me. I have said that elsewhere. I do not remember the figure of £73 a ton ; I thought it was £64 a ton, which is about the same as the cost of building ships during the war in the United States of America. Doubtless the circumstances were unusual, owing to work at weekends, overtime and other cost-raising factors. Compared with the shipbuilding cost in Canada £64 a ton is high. It is much higher than the cost of shipbuilding on the Clyde. In this country it is not possible to reproduce at once the shipbuilding skill exhibited on the Clyde as the result of hundreds of years of experience, but it is our duty to do the best we can to raise shipbuilding standards here. The men employed on shipbuilding in Australia are not so skilled as are their counterparts on the Clyde. Many of them had to be trained in a hurry.
– Some were fined by their union for putting in too many rivets in a day.
– The honorable member is always defaming his own countrymen.
– It is about their go-slow policy that I complain.
– That is all right. Human nature, here as elsewhere, has defects. The honorable member’s remarks from time to time would lead one to believe that all other peoples are perfect, but the men in this country, who are acknowledged to have produced some of the finest fighting men in the world, are slackers. I repeat that the cost of ship- » building is disturbing. We hope that with more efficient labour, better technique and more opportunity for the executives engaged in the work to study methods overseas it will be possible to reduce the cost. But the one thing that we do believe is that Australia should supply its own requirements of coastal vessels.
DISASTER NEAR hobart.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation any information of value to the public regarding the recent air disaster near Hobart?
– I have received the report of the departmental committee which investigated the accident. The document is very comprehensive, and includes a good deal of technical matter. I have decided that as the result of the submissions made to me, an open court of inquiry should be held at which all the facts will be elicited, and the public mind will be set at rest.
– Statements from America have been published in the press recently that the Government of the United States of America was approaching the Commonwealth Government in regard to the retention of Manus
Island? Will the Minister for External Affairs inform me whether ‘any approaches have been made for this purpose, and, if so, what is their nature?
– This subject in one form or another was raised in the House earlier in the session. There have been informal and unofficial talks about the subject, but as I indicated previously, the view of the Government is that any such matters must be considered in relation to the whole of the defence of this country and the South-West Pacific Other countries, in addition to the United States of America, are closely concerned. They are, first, the United Kingdom and then Kew Zealand and other neighbouring, countries. The subject of Manus Islad, with the other matters which I * have mentioned, will be considered at the forthcoming conference of Prime Ministers in London. ,
Prisoners of Wak Lost in Borneo - Detention Camps: Remission of Sentences - Mail Deliveries to Islands - Occupation Force in JAPAN : Electoral Facilities.
– I have been spoken to by representatives of various parents of Australian troops who were lost while they were prisoners of war in North Borneo. I understand that about 1,200 were thought to have been lost between Sandakan and Ranau. These parents are anxious to know whether any search made since the cessation of hostilities has brought to light any information concerning the fate of these men, the place of their burial, and the prospect of having them re buried in Australian war cemeteries. I mentioned this matter to the secretary to the Minister for the Army last night, in the hope that the Minister might be abbs to indicate this morning whether any search had been or was being made, and with what result. Will the right honorable gentleman make a statement on the matter?
– I have made some inquiries, and can assure the right honorable gentleman that a thorough search was made. Investigations are being continued. A special committee, composed of officers conversant with Borneo, was appointed some time ago to continue the investigations. I appreciate the keen anxiety of pare’nts and other relatives to obtain particulars of the fate of these men. Everything possible will be done to gather additional information, and as soon as any is obtained those concerned will -be notified.
– Will the Minister for the Army consider the advisability of making further remissions of the sentences of service personnel in detention camps, who have been discharged from the -Army. with a view to releasing men who have already served, say. half the period of their original sentence?
– After the cessation df hostilities, certain remissions of the sentences were made of all those service personnel who were serving periods of detention in camps throughout Australia. An examination is now being made of the whole of the personnel now in detention camps, and particular consideration is being given to those who have already been discharged from the services. I hope to he able to make a recommendation to Cabinet on the matter in the near future, with a view to granting further remissions, having due regard to the crimes that were committed and the fact that the war has ended. I assure the honorable member that the matter which he raised will not be overlooked. ‘
– I have received letters to the effect that since the visit of the Minister for the Army to the islands mail deliveries have become very irregular. Sometimes a week elapses between deliveries. Will the Minister for the Army do something to improve deliveries? Can the services of the Beaufort squadron at Torokina be used in this connexion? Aircraft of that squadron were employed some time ago in order to improve mail deliveries. Will the Minister investigate the position?
Mr.- FORDE. - I shall do so, and I shall confer with, the Minister for Air to see whether greater use can be made of aircraft for this purpose. The honorable member will realize that when we had large Army and Air Force establishments and also a substantial number of Dutch servicemen in the islands, it was possible to maintain’ fairly regular mail services, but the demobilization of both Army and Air Force personnel has progressed very rapidly. Because of a shortage of transport planes, and the fact that those that were operating could not pick up a full load of mail to make several trips a week to the comparatively few personnel in some of the outposts, the mail service “was reduced. I realize the great importance of a regular mail service, and will do everything possible to ensure its continuance for as long as is necessary.
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether provision has been made to enable servicemen in Japan to exercise the franchise at the forthcoming federal elections?
– The War-time Electoral Act makes the necessary pro-; vision for servicemen who are outside Australia to record their votes at Commonwealth elections. The necessary facilities will be provided in order that they may do so.
– Before the Prime Minister departs on his mission abroad, from which we hope he will return safely, will he announce the Government’s attitude towards the Bretton Woods International Monetary Agreement? Is the right honorable gentleman likely to commit Australia during his absence overseas?
– The answer to both questions is,. “ No “.
– Prior to the war, we had a tri- weekly shipping service to Launceston. Since the war, we have had only one ship doing the work of two on the run to the north-west coast of Tasmania and Launceston. Will the Minister representing the Minister forSupply and Shipping see that the decision not to provide a triweekly service to Launceston for Easter is reviewed ? In view of the traffic which is now offering, will the honorable gentleman arrange for three trips a week, at least for a week or two to cover the Easter period ?
– As the honorable member is aware, thereis a very great shortage of shipping suitable for the purpose he has mentioned, due, of course, to war conditions. Many small vessels’ suitable for this ‘traffic were required for the services. These are gradually being released, and as they become available they will be employed in services such as that to Tasmania. After the armed services have finished with these ships they require some renovation, and this also causes delay. Other circumstances also contribute to the general difficulties. I shall bring the question to the notice of the Minister for. Supply and Shipping, and the honorable member may rest assured that everything possible will be done to restore thetri-weekly service to Tasmania.
Sale of Vessels to Turkey
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether there is any truth in a report which appeared in the press this week that the Commonwealth Government had sold certain war vessels to the Republic of Turkey? If so, is it the intention of the Government to engage in the international traffic in armaments, and is this due to the fact that the Commonwealth Government is receiving letters from the devil instead of writing them to him?
– The Commonwealth Government has not sold any vesselsto Turkey.
Standardization of Gauges - New Line through Western Queensland.
-Can the Minister for Transport inform me whether any serious delay has occurred in proceeding with the programme for the standardization of the railway gauges of Australia? Has the survey programme been commenced yet? Are any serious obstacles expected in this work?
– A further conference with State authorities is to be held in the third week in May. It is expected that the final draft of the agreement will be submitted to that conference. If the draft is acceptable, .measures will be presented to the various parliaments for the ratification of the agreement. The survey pf the Kalgoorlie-Fremantle rail connexion is proceeding. No serious delay is anticipated.
– Will the Minister for Transport inform me whether the Government intends to adhere to the railway route recommended by Sir Harold Clapp through Bourke, Cunnamulla, Blackall and’’ Mount Isa, thence to Darwin? If not, will the honorable gentleman assure the House that any alteration of the route will be to the eastward, and not to the westward, through the channel country of Cooper’s Creek, south-west Queensland ?
– The esa et route of the rail connexion through western Queensland and on to Darwin has not yet been determined. The route suggested by Sir Harold Clapp was not acceptable to the Queensland authorities, and following a conference with the Commonwealth, a route farther to the west was chosen, [f the honorable gentleman has any suggestions to make when that line is being surveyed, and will submit them to me, they will be fully considered.
– Will the ‘ Minister representing the Minister for Trade, and Customs state whether Australian woollen worsted piece goods are being subsidized, whether the allocation for the export trade falls within that category, and whether English woollen worsted piece goods also receive a subsidy in order that luxury suits may be made from them in this country?
– I am not in a position to say off-hand whether imported woollen materials are being subsidized. Under our prices stabilization scheme many articles, including textiles, are subsidized. The subsidy applies to locally manufactured textiles, but I am fairly certain that it is not paid on textiles that are exported from this country. I shall have the whole matter investigated, and let. the honorable member know the result.
– by leave- On the 3rd April, the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan)’, and on the 9th April, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), asked questions concerning telephone installations in each .State since the cessation of the war with Japan. The following information has been supplied by the PostmasterGeneral : -
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
War Service Homes Bill 1946.
Nationality Bill 1946.
– by leave - I inform the House that, in pursuance of powers conferred by regulation 3 of the National Security (Wheat Acquisition) Regulations,I have appointed Cecil Thomas Chapman, of Moonta, South Australia, as a representative of wheatgrowers on the Australian Wheat Board constituted under those regulations, in place of J. E. Maycock, deceased.
-Ihave received from the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The unjust treatment of wheat-growers, and particularly the failure of the Government to pay to growers the full value of the wheat sold by Government direction from Nos. 5, 6. 7 and 8Pools at concessional prices, and the necessity to pay to growers the full realization value of the No. 9 Pool.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support, of the motion,
– I submit this motion in view of the position of the wheatgrowers of Australia, particularly those of northern Victoria, western and southern Riverina, South Australia and portions of Western Australia. Those are the area’s that have suffered most severely from the effects of drought. The wheat-growers in them have had an extremely hard time during the last seven years, and have been treated very unjustly by this Commonwealth , Government, which gave effect to a policy under which cheap stock food was supplied to stockowners, dairymen, poultrymen and various other sections of primary industry
– Including wheatgrowers.
– Including wheatgrowers who also have stock. With that I find no fault. I believe it to have been a statesmanlike policy, and absolutely essential, not only to our existence, but also to the existence of British people and our allies, that we should produce to our utmost capacity. The Government saw fit to supply cheap stock food at concessional prices to the extent of 52,000,000 bushels from No. 7 pool and 34,700,000 bushels from No. 6 pool. I offer no objection to that. I have, however, a very serious quarrel with the Government when the wheat-growers are expected to carry the whole of the burden. In response to representations on the subject, the Government, I understand, has decided to make a concession to the value of £3,500,000 to the growers; but, according to its own figures, it has taken about £10,000,000 from the wheat-growers, so that it might supply wheat for various purposes at concession prices. Most other industries have been subsidized during the war in one way or another. The wheat farmers have suffered the effects of serious and prolonged droughts, not only in marginal areas, but also in good wheat country with an average rainfall of18 inches. On some of this country the farmers have been able to cut hay only twice in seven years. During that period, they have had two complete crop failures and three partial failures. Even this year, although the Australian wheat crop is about normal, at a figure of 142,910,000 bushels, the crop in the areas to which I have referred has been almost a complete failure. On good land which had been fallowed for two years, crops ranged from two to three bags an acre, and, in odd cases, to as much as five bags. Therefore, it is obvious that the farmers need assistance. From No. 7 pool 3,400,000 bushels was taken for breakfast foods, and 37,200,000 bushels for manufacturing flour for local use. The price paid for wheat for breakfast foods was 4s. 3d. a bushel, for flour for local consumption, 5s. 2d. a bushel, and for stock feed, 3s. 6d. a bushel. At that time, Great Britain was prepared to pay 6s. lid. a bushel f.o.b. for all wheat available.
– That statement is incorrect.
– Great Britain was buying huge quantities of wheat for India at 6s. lid. a bushel, and South American countries were paying even more. 1 do not say that all the wheat could have been sold for that price, but what was left in No. 7 pool could have, been. The department admits that the amount taken from the growers has been approximately £10,000,000. If all the wheat had been, sold at export parity prices it would have realized £19,704,739, whereas the Government proposes to pay the farmers only £9,671,470. It is true that, at one time, the guaranteed price w.as 4d. above the export parity price, but before the Government paid out anything under the guarantee, the export price had risen, and nothing was, in fact, paid by the Government under that provision.
– There has been no export parity price since the beginning of the “war.
M.v. RANKIN.- The export parity price in Canada is equal to 9s. 3d. a bushel in Australian currency.
– I said during the war.
– I admit that there was trouble in regard to shipping, but there was an export parity price. The Government has done another thing which is worthy only of a bushranger - I refer to interest charges. On No. 6 pool interest charges are fixed at £1,239,755. We know that the Government had, to make advances to the growers against their crops ; therefore some interest charge against the growers would be just, but it was not just that the farmers should be debited with interest charges in respect of wheat, held by the Government for stock feed and for the production pf flour for home consumption. The Government had acquired. the wheat for these purposes, and the growers had no longer any say in its disposal. Nevertheless, the farmers have been debited with interest charges on advances in respect of wheat held for stock- feed, breakfast foods, power alcohol, and flour for local consumption. That is in- iquitous. At least 50 per cent, of this charge should have been debited against consolidated revenue. Interest charges against No. 7 pool were considerably more, and out of this pool 57,000,000 bushels was allocated for stock feed, 2,200,000 bushels for export flour, 3,400,000 bushels for breakfast food and 37,200,000 bushels for flour for local consumption. Obviously, the Government had to hold large quantities of wheat for these purposes, and it had to borrow money to finance the enterprise, but there is no justification for debiting interest charges so incurred against the growers. It is most unjust that the wheat-farmers, who have been struggling against adverse circumstances including drought and lack of fertilizers, should be debited with the full charge. The farmers had to carry on in the absence of the young, strong men who went into the Army. The work had to be done by the old and the unfit. Men who had previously retired, or were merely managing the properties for their sons, had to return to an active part in farming operations. In spite of all the disabilities suffered by the farmers, the Government imposes upon them this unjust charge. Therefore, I urge the Minister to make representations to Cabinet in the hope of having it removed. It is utterly unjust that the farmers should have to carry the interest hurden on wheat sold at concessional prices for stock feed and to proprietary companies for the manufacture of breakfast foods. The charge .would more properly be borne by consolidated revenue than by the wheat-growing industry.
When it became obvious that the world faced a wheat famine as the result of war devastation in Europe and Asia, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, on behalf of the Government, asked wheat-growers to step-up production. The Government did not tell them that they would not receive the market price for their wheat. On the contrary, it implied, although it may not have said so straight out, that they would get that price. It said that wheat prices would be good. Now, however, the Government proposes ,to pay them 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.b. on’ a bagged basis, which is about 4s. .3d. a bushel or 4s. 4d., at the most at country stations.
– The price is f.o.r. ports, not f.o.b.
– “Well, the Government has changed its mind.
– Is the price to lie f.o.r. or f.o.b. ?
– F.o.r. ports. It makes !i difference of about Jd. a bushel.
– Anyway, the price is on a bagged basis. The price difference between f.o.r. ports and f.o.b. is about lid. a - bushel, which is a very small amount.
– The honorable member has not added “ plus 50 per cent, of realizations “.
– The Government was going to grab 60 per cent, of realizations. However, that is neither here nor there. The difference between f.o.r. ports and f.o.b. does give some slight assistance, but the fact remains that the price t.o be paid is below the cost of production. Machinery costs to-day are at least 100 per cent, higher than they were ten years ago. It is only a few years ago since I bought a new binder for £31 15s.
– The honorable member means 25 or 30 years ago..
– I bought that binder in J 928- or 1929.
– The honorable gentleman has not bought a binder for less than £300 since 1920.
– I have.
– The honorable member might have bought a second-hand binder for £31 15s., but not a new one.
– Order !
– Other costs have risen. Superphosphate costs £5 ls. a ton to-day, compared with £3 10s. a few years ago, and the .quality has deteriorated, being 18 per cent, as against 22 per cent. The cost of wheat bags has risen from 30s. to 36s. The farmers, who have been saddled with all these increased charges on production, are to get only 4s. 3d. a bushel at country stations, and the Government proposed to take 60 per cent, of realizations above that amount, and to pay that into a stabilization fund, which is only an equalization fund, after all. In view of the fact that other industries are subsidized, I consider that the Government should also contribute to the equalization fund.
– I think it will have to.
– There, is no possibility of its having to do so for many years.
– The honorable gentleman is an optimist.
– 1 may be. History demonstrates that after a great war, when the world faces a wheat, famine the like of that to-day there is no likelihood of the Government having to contribute to the equalization fund for at least five years. In common justice, the 1945-46 wheat crop should be exempt from this stabilization plan. I agree with the Government and the- wheat-growers’ organizations that a wheat stabilization plan is essential, because no one wants to go back to the old days when, with a world shortage of wheat, a return of 7s. or Ss. a bushel, with consequential land booms, was followed in two, three, four or five years by a world glut, with the price dropping to the ruinously low level of half-a-crown a bushel. The boom-and- burst cycle is disastrous, not only to the industry in general, but to men engaged hi it. The wheat-farmers are so badly in need of a stabilization scheme that they are ready to submit to a great deal in return for it, but we do not think it fair that the 1945-46 crop should be included in the scheme, iri view of the straitened financial circumstances of the men engaged in the industry, particularly the men in the lighter rainfall areas, and the marginal areas, whose only chance of getting on to their feet again, so that, they shall be able to go ahead with renewed hope, lies in their being allowed to get the full price for their wheat this year. The people, who will be able to buy bread at a reasonable cost., ought to be prepared to subsidize this industry, as they are subsidizing other industries, to keep down the cost of production. I do not think anybody doubts that the wheat-growers have been badly treated in being forced to carry on their industry under almost impossible conditions, including shortages of labour, fertilizer and machinery. During theN war the policy of the Government was that men engaged in the manufacture of farming machinery had to be diverted to the production of armaments. I have no complaint about that because the necessities of war demanded it, but the farmers suffered as the result. I think it is just that they should be compensated as far as possible. , [Extension of time granted.] 1 urge on the Minister, whom i thank for having moved that I be given an extension of time, that there are certain things that, in common justice, the Government must do. It must pay the wheat-growers a just price for the wheat sold at concessional prices. Otherwise, it will be deliberately robbing them of their due. It must transfer the burden of interest on the concessional wheat from the industry to the Consolidated Revenue. It must allow the wheatfarmers to get the full amount of the realization on the 1945-46 crop if it wants the industry to carry on in solvency as the great pillar of the political economy of this country.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) on the temperate manner in which he approached this subject. I agree with his view that for many years the wheat-grower has experienced great hardships, but I find it interesting to note that only at this juncture does the heart of the Opposition begin to bleed for the wheat-grower. For many years, members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party had an opportunity to relieve that distress, but they omitted to do so. Never in . the history of wheat-growing in Australia have the producers experienced such a devastating period as in the few years when the Australian Country party held the balance of power in this chamber. At. that time, honorable members opposite had an excellent opportunity to relieve the plight of the wheat-grower, but they sadly neglected him. Now, when wheat-growers generally, with the exception of those in drought-stricken areas, are more prosperous than ever before, honorable members opposite are taking a keen interest in their welfare. No doubt that interest is. prompted by the approaching election.
I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo about interest charges. I have always had my own opinion about them, and I assure the House that I shall examine the honorable member’s submissions, and discuss them with Cabinet. One contention which I refuse to accept is that wheat which has been acquired and distributed at concessional prices was not paid for on just terms. The quantity of wheat .for stock ‘ feed used from the various pools was 32,500,000 bushels from No. 5 pool, 34,750,000 bushels from No. 6 pool, and 51,500,000 bushels from No. 7 pool. Subsidies have been paid on this wheat. From No. 5 pool, where the rise of price did not occur until towards the end of the pool, the payment was 6d. a bushel, or £S00,000.
In Nos. 6 and 7 pools the subsidy on feed wheat brought the return on this grain to the average of other sales in the same pool. Under this arrangement the subsidy for No. 6 pool was £2,200,000. No. 7 pool presented a difficulty. On the same basis, the subsidy on this pool would be over £3,000,000. However, the Government has decided to increase this by £3,500^000, making the total subsidy £6,500,000.
The drought is the real reason for the extra payment for No. 7 pool. Normally, the basis of payment was fair, but the drought created such a big demand for wheat from No. 7 pool that it was necessary to make of it a special case. During the worst year of the drought, no wheat from No. 8 pool was sold at concession prices.
– Then no wheat was provided from .that pool for the manufacture of breakfast foods?
– I am glad that the honorable member has reminded me of breakfast foods. Some years’ ago, a government of the United Australia and Australian Country parties introduced legislation fixing the home-consumption price of wheat. The Labour party, which was then in opposition, supported it. Some honorable members opposite have since declared that we opposed the bill, but that contention is not correct. I challenge any honorable member to show in Hansard that the Labour party divided the House on. the measure. Under that legislation, wheat for breakfast foods was not provided at the home-consumption price. In fact, wheat used for breakfast foods and the like was to be made available at the ruling price. “When the Labour Government took office, we provided wheat for the manufacture of breakfast foods at the concessional prices, and we have paid to the “Wheat Board the amount of the difference between the concessional price and the home-consumption price. Those payments totalled about £500,000. Under the legislation introduced by the administration of the non-Labour parties, wheat-growers were not entitled 10 that money.
The concessional price has been trenchantly criticized in debates in this House. “When I attended the annual conference of the “Wheat-growers Union at Gunnedah, I made my first declaration that we would take concessional feed wheats at the basic rate of 4s. a bushel and pay in respect of them a subsidy of 6d. a bushel. Then the price of wheat for export gradually rose. That of wheat for export in No. 5 pool slightly exceeded 4s. a bushel and an amount of £S00,000 was paid as a subsidy. I informed the conference of wheat-growers at Gunnedah, and the delegates there agreed, that an average would be struck on the export price and other sales, and th’at would be the concessional price. The conference regarded that decision as being quite fair and endorsed it.
– The delegates to the conference did not realize that the more wheat that was sold- at the concessional price, the lower would be the over-all return.
– No? the concessional prices were not taken into consideration. The average was struck on the home price and the export price, and that amount was applied to the whole of the concessional sales. I realized that an injustice could occur there, and, therefore, I made another offer, which the wheatgrowers of Australia accepted. After the conference at Gunnedah, I had discussions in Sydney with the representatives of the Farmers and Settlers Association. Among those present were a former member for Riverina, Mr. Nock, and Mr. Cambridge, who is the general secretary of the association. We discussed this matter at length in my office, and Mr. Nock said definitely, and Mr. ‘ Cambridge agreed, that the decision was fair. Later, honorable members opposite moved the adjournof the House on several occasions to discuss this price, and many misstatements were made “throughout the country. Subsequently, I met the repre-o sentatives of the Wheat Growers Association at Canberra. Mr. Nock, who waspresent on that occasion, and some of the other, representatives were a little alarmed at some of the statements in the press. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was- not backward in making such statements, because he considered that, they would create unrest among wheat-growers. When I repeated my assurance, Mr. Nock and the other representatives of the Wheat-growers Union declared that the decision was perfectly fair and they were satisfied. Then murmurings arose in the Australian Wheat Board. I know that the honorable member for Indi has a particular friend there and when they have a cup of morning tea together they probably do not talk about the weather. I met representatives of the wheat-growers organization and the Australian Wheat Board in Sydney and discussed this subject and, with the exception of one man, they declared that the decision that had been reached was absolutely fair. Moreover they asked me to confer with Mr. McPherson, a representative of the Treasury, and the Australian Wheat Board, with the object of determining the price that should be paid. That was done. At, that stage, however, the most disastrous drought that Australia has known overtook us, with the result that, instead of requiring 30,000,000 bushels of wheat for stock feed 51,500,000 bushels was taken from the No. 7 pool .for that purpose. I met representatives of the Wheat Growers Federation and the Australian Wheat Board in Sydney recently and discussed concessional prices with them, at considerable length. The conference placed on record its satisfaction with the price that had been paid for the stock feed taken from No. 5 and
No. 0 pools, but expressed the opinion that in view of the extraordinary circumstances which- had arisen,- and the very large amount of wheat taken from the No. 7 pool for stock feed, the concessional price should be reviewed. I agreed with that decision, notwithstanding that a definite decision had been reached sometime previously at a similar conference. Reconsideration was justified in view of the fact that such a large quantity of wheat had been taken from No. 7 pool. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) was present at that conference. Tt was suggested, on that occasion, that it would be fair to pay the export price for the wheat that was taken for stock feed and that .adjustments should be made accordingly. It is practicable to ascertain the export price in monthly periods, fairly accurately.
It became apparent early in 1945 that Australia would need every bushel of its wheat in order to counter the worst effects of a disastrous drought, and it was due to the decision of the Government that wheat was available at that time for stock feed. A decision by the Prime Minister was conveyed to the Australian Wheat Board through me that no more wheat was to be exported for the time being. The Board had, of course, already approached the Prime Minister for permission to export wheat. I consider that the agreement to pay 6s 5-^d. a. bushel for the wheat taken from No. 7 pool for stock feed was, in all the circumstances, entirely just because it represented the then ruling export price. That meant that an additional amount of £3,500,000 was made available for distribution to the growers of the wheat.
– The Government was pushed into every decision that it made.
– The previous Government could not be pushed into making any decisions in the interests of the wheat-growers, but this Government has done a great deal for the benefit of the industry. The previous Government acquired wheat for the. No. 1 pool at the lowest price ever paid to our wheatgrowers. I protested to the then Minister for Commerce that it was most unfair that wheat should have been acquired, at that time, for less than 2s. a bushel. The wheat-growers did not receive any benefit from that Government due to the increased price at which the wheat was ultimately sold. But now we are hearing a great deal about “-just compensation “. The fact is that this Government has treated the wheat-growers most sympathetically, and has done a great deal to stabilize their industry. That the wheat-growers appreciate ‘ what the Government has done was shown by the fact that not One wheat-growing constituency in Australia returned an Aus- - tralian Country party candidate to this Parliament at the last general elections.
Another important fact that should be remembered is that about 50 per cent, of the wheat that was sold at the concessional price from the No. 7 pool was purchased by wheat-growers for pig, poultry, and stock feed. I represent, one of the biggest wheat-growing areas in Australia, and I know that many wheat-growers in my district who delivered their wheat to the No. 7 pool later received large quantities of it back at the concessional price for use as stock feed. I have never heard any complaints from wheat-growers about the treatment they have received from the Government in this connexion. Recently, I addressed, at Parkes, one of the largest meetings of wheat-growers I have ever attended, and not one question was asked about the concessional price. The meeting applauded the statements that I made about repayments. Honorable members of the Australian Country party may attempt to tickle the ears of the wheat-growers, but the farmers are well aware of the benefits they have received through the administration of this’ Government. [Extension of time granted.] The wheat stabilization plan that has been applied by this Government has been of immense value to the industry. We all are well aware of the serious shortage of fertilizers and the heavy increase of fertilizer prices in- Australia. The Government has accepted financial responsibility for many millions of pounds in respect of fertilizer costs which otherwise would have fallen on the wheat-farmers. Last year, also, the Government provided a subsidy of 5s. a dozen for wheat sacks. It has also provided subsidies, under its stabilization plan, for many other basic materials required for wheat-growing.
The wheat-growers, in common with every other section of producers, as well as the workers, must come within the scope of that stabilization plan. If it were not retained for home use, hide producers could perhaps obtain double the price they have been paid for their hides. We did not hear any complaint on that score, because they realized that there must be stabilization; otherwise, inflation would be rampant, and that would be a national disaster, the full blast of which would be felt by the wheat-growers more than any other section of the community.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) 1 11. 46]. - I want to make some references to the acquisition of wheat ‘at the outbreak of the war. I have not heard that subject debated in this House previously. The price of wheat at that time was not1 so low as it had been some years previously. I sold thousands of bushels of wheat at ls. 2 5/8d. a bushel. I mention for the information of the Minister that when wheat was acquired in 1939 I was not sitting behind the Menzies Government but occupied a seat on the cross benches. Had there been any argument to raise, it would have been raised, but that did not occur.
– The honorable gentleman in 1939 led a deputation to the Prime Minister asking for 2s. 6d. a bushel.
– Not 2s. 6d., but 2s. 9£d. That -was on the 2nd November, in Sydney. The 2s. 9 1/2d a bushel was conceded by the Menzies Government on the 29th November, in this House, in answer to a ‘question by the then honorable member for Wannon. Later, the Menzies Government became seised with the belief that certain injustices had been done in the acquisition of the wheat that had been grown in the 1938-39 season. It appointed Judge Payne, of South Australia, to sit as an adjudicator and to assess the damage that, had been done. Judge Payne submitted his report to the Curtin Government after its assumption of office. The recommendations that it contained have never been given effect. “I brought the matter to the notice of the Prime Minister late last year. The Chifley Government says in its defence that it will not pay the compensation recommended by Judge Payne to .the owners of that wheat, because they are merchants and not growers. Let the Minister contradict that if he can. He cannot stand on both pieces of ground at the one time. A few minutes ago he said that the Menzies Government had paid too low a price to the growers of wheat in 1939; yet on his recommendation the Chifley Government refused to pay the compensation recommended by Judge Payne because the owners of the wheat were merchants and not growers.
– I have spoken only of growers. I know that the honorable gentleman is considerate of the merchants.
– The matter has been before the honorable gentleman time and again. He knows perfectly well that certain merchants lost heavily. One Sydney merchant lost thousands of pounds because he was not allowed ‘ to complete a contract he had signed. Because of the sense of justice which permeates this Government, that owner, who happens to be a merchant, is not to get what a judge recommended that he should receive. I did not introduce this element into the debate; that was done by the Minister. I do not think he expected the “ comeback “. I- have some knowledge of this matter. I was not Minister for Commerce twice without learning a few facts. I have not forgotten certain things that happened, but the subject of the debate to-day is npt what happened to merchants in 1939 or to growers up to a little while ago, but whether the present scheme, which is to operate for the forthcoming five years, is one that ought to be supported by this Parliament. That is the purpose of the motion of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). The speech in answer to it by the Minister dealt with anything except the question that had been raised. The honorable gentleman was perfectly wise in refusing to face up to the case that had been presented by the honorable member for Bendigo; that is the best course he could have adopted. Let us consider .some of the facts. It. is perfectly true, as the Minister said, that the Labour party never voted against the flour tax. I cannot recall its. having done so. But the Minister ought to reread speeches which he made on it as a private member. It is a marvel to me that the honorable gentleman could have torn to pieces a proposal which was so strongly objected to by ..the Labour party on that occasion, and then failed to “ face the barrier “ by calling for a division. Neither he nor the party which sits behind him has yet been game to bring in a bill to repeal the flour tax, which lIlli remains on the statute-book. If a party, when assuming office, finds on the statute-book legislation to which it is politically opposed on principle, the honest course is to repeal it. That is something which I believe the present Government is not likely to do in connexion with the flour tax. It talks and squeal? a lot, but is singularly inactive.
As history seems to be the big subject this morn ing. I shall refer to the Scully plan. That plan was condemned by every member who sits on this side of the House as one of the must wicked and inintiitous schemes ever foisted on the producers of Austraia. Under the. new wheat scheme, the Scully plan has been .murdered. The Minister has committed infanticide ; he has strangled his own child. Not one word, not one syllable, can be found in 11 C new wheat scheme which refers to the Scully plan. There is nothing in it that even looks like the Scully plan.
– Does not the honorable member ever buy his baby a new frock?
– 1 have seen in a grocer’s shop a commodity that contains about one lemon to one melon, which are about the right proportions. I shall leave it to my friends of the Australian Country party to answer the Minister’s speech on the wheat scheme. Where does he stand in respect of stock feed? There have been debates on that subject in this chamber, but the honorable gentleman has not been able to explain the basis on which the price was arrived at. Were all the sales grouped together, and was the price granted to the farmer the average of them all, or were the export sales grouped and was the price granted to the farmer the average of the export sales? Up to date, that has not been answered.
– It has been answered plainly. I have said that the price of concessional wheat is the average of the price obtained- for wheat exported and the heme consumption price of 5s. 2d. a bushel.
– This ls the first occasion on which we have been given the information. I thought that it might be left to my grandson to obtain it, when lit took his seat in this House; and he is not yet born.
The next matter to be considered is the Government’s attitude towards d’rought relief. No previous Government has treated the growers in a drought area, so callously as has the present Government. Consider the legislation that, was passed at a special session of the Parliament of South Australia.
– For the first time in history, drought relief has been given and the recipients have not been asked to make repayment of it.
– They have not been given anything this year. A bill has just been passed through the Parliament of South Australia. Any -ember of the Labour, party from that State can confirm what I say. I am the only non-Labour member of this House from South Australia. [Extension of time granted.] There are only three wheat electorates in that State. The Government of .South Australia has passed a drought relief bill. The onus is now on the Commonwealth Government to pay its half of the amount involved. Lt receives all the income taxes from the wheat-growers in South Australia and from- every other taxpayer. The State Government is npt reimbursed one-half of the revenue thus obtained, vet it is standing up to one-ha’.f of the cost of drought relief. I want to know, and so will the wheat-growers of South Australia, whether the Commonwealth Government is prepared to find the other half. I do not think that it will. Distilleries for the distillation of wheat are scattered all over Australia.; yet in Western Australia the wheat-growers were paid about 12.». an acre not to grow wheat. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has stated in this House time and again that the first munition of war is food. Early in the war, science produced methods whereby the weevil menace was overcome; therefore, the Government did not have to worry about that. lt stands to reason that it would be far better to store wheat and have it available for consumt1011 when required, than to pay to wheatgrowers 12s. an acre not to grow wheat.
– -The honorable gentleman’s friend suggested to me and to a previous government that the wheatgrowers should have “ a wheat holiday “. The honorable gentleman cites him as one of the best authorities on the subject.
– We are now talking about present facts. Judged in every way, this Government’s record in respect of wheat has been a sorry one. The present scheme is one of the sorriest that has ever been propounded, although it is not quite so bad as the Scully .wheat plan, under which grower was set against grower, and the attempt was made to divide all growers into two lots. Now all growers are treated alike. One of the first rules of law in a democratic community is that everybody shall stand equal in the eyes of the law, whether lip. be a small man or a big man. It is pleasing to note that the Government is exhibiting some semblance of a sense of justice on this occasion. “But it is quite easy to guarantee a price when the information in the possession of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture must prove that for some years ahead the price of wheat will be very much higher than 5s. 2d. a bushel. Not much political courage is needed, no great financial risk is taken, in guaranteeing 5s. 2d. a bushel, when one knows that wheat is going to be worth from 8s. to 12s. a bushel. That is not politics ; it is getting down to ‘a fairly low level. The Minister “put his foot right in it “ this morning. If he considers that he can convince the wheat-growers of the justice of the scheme that he has placed before them, he will find that he is backing another loser, as he did in connexion with the Scully wheat plan.
.The speech delivered by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was irrelevant to the motion, but it showed clearly enough that the merchants still have among the Opposition some very strong advocates. A method for the control of wheat marketing was instituted during the two periods of crises in our history, the 1914-18 war, and the war just concluded. During both those periods it was necessary to organize wheat pools in order to give the industry stability. After the last war, the pool system was broken down by the representatives of the merchants, and the representatives of the same interests are trying to-day to destroy the system of organized wheat marketing which has been established. The honorable member for Indi interjected that the Government had to be pushed into every move in the direction of establishing a concessional price system. In order to understand the situation, it is necessary to be familiar with the background. On the 15th November, 1939, Mr. Menzies, who was then Prime Minister, said’ that the Government intended to acquire the whole of the wheat crop at an average price of 2s. 9d. per bushel bagged, and 2s. 7d. a. bushel bulk, less freight. This meant ls. 8d. to ls. 9d. bagged, and ls. 5d. to ls. 7d. bulk, with the possibility of another dividend to be paid in April. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) was incorrect when he said that the Government proposed to pay only 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. at ports. He did not add that we ,proposed to pay also to the farmers 50 per cent, of the amount by which the export price exceeded 5s. 2d. Thus, 5s. 2d. is the minimum price, but under the scheme introduced by the previous Government, the maximum price was an average of 2s. 2d. a bushel. Members of the Australian Country party are now weeping crocodile tears over the concessional price issuer but let me quote a statement by the honorable member for Indi on the 17th September, 1940 -
In these matters the Country party members took a prominent part, but they had to reconcile what they wanted to give with what was available. The first advance was 2s. lid., less rail freight, and with a subsequent advance involved the Government in £34,000.000.
That was some months after Labour representatives in the Senate had moved a motion directing attention to the - . . parlous position of the wheat industry, and need for immediate action by the Government to grant the request of the wheat-growers for an initial payment of 2s. (icl. a bushel, exclusive of railway freights and handling charges
It is clear, therefore, that if any one was pushed into making- concessions it was the then government. At that time, representatives of the Australian Country party in this House were more concerned with getting positions for themselves in the Cabinet than with protecting the interests of the wheat-growers. It was then very hard to dispose of wheat, and the wheat-growers themselves suggested that production should be reduced. *Some members of the Australian Country party even went so far as to suggest that there’ should be a complete -“ wheat, holiday “ in some States. Thechief adviser of the honorable member for Indi, the man who was nominated to the Wheat Board by the Australian Country party, complained that the Government was piling up surplus wheat stocks.
– That is a figment of the honorable.member’s imagination. No Country party man ever advocated a wheat holiday.
– Tes he did.
– Who did?
– My predecessor in this Parliament advocated it.
– The honorable member picks on a dead man who cannot refute his charges.
– It was also advocated by Mr. Teasdale..
– No Australian Country party member in this House ever advocated a wheat holiday.
– They were Australian Country party representatives who approached the Government on the matter. The Government refused a complete wheat holiday, but, because stocks were rising, it consented to a reduction of production for one year. Then, on the request of the wheat-growers themselves, we continued that .scheme for three years. Recently, the Australian manager of the Wheat Board, Mr. Thompson, made an important statement about wheat at a conference in Sydney. This man was appointed to hia position by a previous government at a salary of £5,000 a year. I do not complain of the size of the salary, he has shown himself to be worth it. However, it was a very high salary, and the fact that it was paid shows that the Opposition, when in power, thought i great deal of this man. [Extension of time granted.] This is what he said -
As I atn leaving the Wheat Board shortly it will be a happy thing for me to know this particular matter is cleaned up. So far J have had to put the growers case to the Minister and the Minister’s case to the growers, and it is just as well I have now to toe the straight and narrow line and tell you where I do stand on this matter. Throughout my connexion with the Australian Wheat Board, at no time has any government asked the board to do something which was unfair to the growers and on the other hand I must also say at no time have requests been made from growers which were unfair. In fact, they have been most lenient to the board and overlooked such mistakes as the board has made and instead of picking on details have taken the broad results of the work done and I can assure you it is highly appreciated. On this particular matter the same good feeling will eventually find a solution which will be accepted by everybody. Now. in August. 1943, we intimated, as a Wheat Board, that the price of export wheat was now getting out of line with the price at which stock feed was being bought and asked to meet you and discuss the matter. At that meeting you readily agreed with the board and- yourself suggested the formula that the price for stock feed should be the average of the rest of the pool. That was accepted by the board ami subsequently notified tn the conference st Gunnedah and to deputations to the federation awl on several other occasions ir has been substantiated by yourself.
We cannot ignore the fact, we all three bodies agreed upon this particular move. If there is any responsibility to-day, we can share in it. On the other hand, certain things took place subsequent to that time which demanded we should reconsider it because it is not our affair but the affair of the wheat-growers. I refer to the tremendous increase in the use of stock feed which was still more aggravated by thu drought. At the time we met you in conference we were using about 15,000.000 bushels nf wheat a year for stock feed. At one stage it went up to something like fiO.000,000 bushels. Therefore, it does seem there is some justification for asking that we should have a frank talk on this subject. I am pleased at the frank way in which you put the matter before the conference this morning. I am sure if we are to speak equally frankly you will be satisfied. Tt seems because of this, change that took place we can put before the Government for their consideration. The Wheat Board has considered this on several occasions, but it is not a body that can say what price ought to be. 1 1. run say what it could have sold the wheat at, and the letter which was sent to you gave you the price which, within very narrow limits, shows what the Board could have obtained for the wheat had it been selling it on the open market. There’ are some growers and members of the Wheat Board who think that no matter what else takes place that should Vie the price. On the other hand there are some growers and members of the Wheat Board who believe that the price laid down by the regulations covering the price fixing, that price should be paid because growers benefit by the holding of the price at something within a reasonable rate instead of allowing them to sky rocket, and, therefore, become onerous on the wheat-growers as well as on the rest of the community.
The formula upon which we all agreed has paid in just over £5,800,000, which is a substantial sum. We would’ like your Government to realize that Canada is to be the basis of an international wheat agreement upon which all wheat prices are to revolve. The International Wheat Agreement provides prices to be fixed which will meet the reasonable costs of production and give a reasonable price to consumers and Canada’s prices are those which are fixed as a basis. Canada has enjoyed prices up to quite recently which were not fixed: from which there ‘was no reduction, and this Canadian growers have obtained the benefit of the high prices ruling from the war. They have been able to reduce their capital commitments, their interest, and so on, and in the post-war period will find their costs in that connexion should be materially reduced, a? they are the- basis that puts our Australian farmer in ;i difficult position because apart from the other disabilities duo to our geographical position, we have to meet those disabilities which the wheat-growers of Canada have been able to gain. I would like you to have that in mind because sometimes it has been overlooked. The pools that are particularly affected are Nos. fi and 7. So far as No. 5 is concerned, in view of the agreement made it will he recognized by everybody as reasonable at the time it was made. No. (1 pool comes into it to a slight extent but in my own view there is not any material discrepancy in No. 0 pool. No. 8 pool has had no wheat for stock feed. 1 tin not think any one here wants to try and work points on the Government, and I am sure the Government does not want to work points on the wheat-growers. No. 7 pool has not been fairly treated for reasons beyond your control and beyond our control, and I do not think there should be an adjustment there on a frank statement made. I have heard; the treasury officials have been frank, the wheatgrower is not the only man involved in this sort of thing. There is this difference. The wheat-growers went into this under regulations which were practically a bargain between the Government and the wheat-grower and provided for certain methods being carried out, and that is a little different from those of the other industries. The position of No. 7 pool in particular might be given further consideration by your Government.
That was discussed by a conference of the Australia “Wheat. Growers Federation with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, representatives of the
Department of Commerce and Agriculture., the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, the Commonwealth Treasury, and the Pi-ices Branch, and executive officers of the Australian Wheat Board. Subsequently the conference carried the following motion: -
The Australian Wheat Growers Federation accepts thu present arrangement of No. 5 and No. (i pools in respect to concessional prices on the understanding that the Minister reviews the position on No. 7 pool with the president, secretary and one other of the Federation.
A meeting was held to reconsider the case. Because of that reconsideration there has been ‘an increase of the grant by £3,500,000. That, in my opinion, is a fair statement of the position. As Mr. Thompson stated, the wheatgrowers are not the only people affected by maximum prices. Nearly every one in Australia has been, caught up by the economic policy adopted by the Government to save Australia from the inflation that has overtaken other countries. As Mr. Thompson also pointed out, the wheat-growers .joined in this agreement, which has been broken by only one party, the Commonwealth Government, which broke it by giving an extra grant of nearly £10,000,000 to the wheat-growers.
The only other point made by the honorable member for Bendigo was that the 1945-46 crop, which will be, of course, sold during 1946 and 1947, should be paid for at its full value. Consideration was given to that matter also at the conference of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, and I am more inclined to accept its view than the view of a politician who will soon be on the hustings defending his seat in this Parliament. That matter was discussed in a calm atmosphere, and the following resolution was reached : -
Subject to the Government accepting (c) (guaranteed price) we raise no objection to
In) (time of plan and seasons it applies to).
The Government has met that request. The minutes of the conference show that the delegates agreed to the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop in the stabilization scheme.
Mr. TURNBULL (Wimmera) [18.18.1 . - As member for Wimmera, the greatest and best wheat-growing constituency in the Commonwealth, I say that our duty in this House, when dealing with the wheat industry, is to get down to fundamentals. The real questions are (1.) Is the industry worth saving?; (2) does the Government consider that 4s. 2d. a bushel at country sidings covers the cost of production and a fair margin of profit?; (3) should the producers be called upon to bear the brunt of the concessional prices for wheat?; (4) should not the 1945-4’6 crop he kept out of the pool and the growers be allowed the full price for that wheat on account of the years and years of drought that they have had to put up with, about which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has expressed sympathy to-day? Too much . time has. been taken up in this debate by honorable gentlemen opposite saying what other governments have or have not. done, but the past has nothing to do with the question of what is to be done for the wheat industry now. Wheat-growers throughout ‘ my constituency are protesting against the policy of the Government, which deprives them of the full price that will be paid for their wheat. Meetings of protest have been held at Culgoa, Warracknabeal, Ouyen, Hopetoun, Kerang, Swan Hill, Sea Lake, Rainbow and other centres. Protests were also made at meetings held at, Melbourne and Perth. Another has. just concluded in Perth. The producers claim that the price that they are offered is wholly inadequate. A day or so ago, one Minister admitted to me that the wheat-grower was entitled to the cost of production plus a fair profit.
– That is something he never received when the Opposition parties were in office.
– The honorable member wastes time in harking back to bygone days when he should be centreing his attention on the conditions that apply now. Another offender in that respect is the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), who said, “We want to look at the conditions that confronted the wheat-growing industry at the outset of the war “. Nonsense ! What we have to examine is the condition that confronts the industry to-day. We want to ascertain what is causing the drift from the farms to the cities. We want to discover what will curb that drift and give the greatest impetus to decentralization: A glance at the position will disclose that the wheat-growers have been excluded from schemes designed to stabilize industry. Mr. Tonkin, at the dinner tendered by the Primary Producers Association and the Wheat and Wool Growers Union to delegates to the conference of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation in Perth on the 4th April, said -
I cannot believe that the wheat-grower does not want a price upon which the farmer can budget and not be left to the mercy of the law of supply and demand.
Neither can I believe it, but I do know that the farmer is not getting that price. I cannot understand why Mr. Tonkin did not go to the core of the matter and discuss the question whether 4s. 2d. a bushel at country sidings equals the cost of production, plus a fair profit. The wheat industry is languishing, and, if it is to be restored to the position of being a great Australian asset, some tonic must be administered to it that will help it back onto its feet. People were first attracted to Australia by the lure of gold, but, when the pursuit of gold became unprofitable, people turned their bands to the land; thereafter, Australian prosperity was built on the foundation of the products of the soil and the pastures. Upon the wheat industry, as well as the wool industry, Australia’s future depends.
The export price of wheat from December, 1944. to March, 1945, was 6s. 5£d. a bushel, and, in April and May,. 1945, 7,722,850 bushels of wheat was sold for stock feed when the export value was 7s. 4id. a bushel. In June, July and August, 12,269,169 bushels was sold when the export price was 8s. 8d., leaving 12,111,000 bushels to be sold after August. Why was the price to be paid to growers for export wheat fixed at the lowest level wheat had reached that year, namely 6s. 5-Jd. ? The export price of wheat0 now was revealed in an answer to a question asked in this House on the 27th March -
What price, or prices, is at present being charged by the Australian Wheat Board t.o.b. for wheat for export or for the manufacture of flour for export, bagged basis?
The answer was - 10s. 4Jd. per bushel trucks, bagged basis.
Yet the Government, under the stabilization plan, cannot offer the wheat-grower more than 4s. 2d. a bushel at country sidings. However, the right approach to this matter is not the price that wheat is fetching, but the cost of production. So let us start at that end and ask ourselves whether the producer is not entitled to the cost of production, plus a fair profit. All fair-minded people will agree that he is.
I have received dozens of letters from wheat-farmers, who lost their crops through drought, saying that they want to sow their land with wheat, but have not the money to carry on satisfactorily in the industry. “ We want drought relief”, they say, but the Commonwealth Government has handed that matter over to the States, and nothing has been done. There must be close cooperation between the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments on the matter of drought relief.
– Order! Drought relief is outside the question before the House, which relates to -
The failure of the Government to pay the growers the full value of the wheat sold by Government direction from Numbers4,6, 7 and 8 Pools at concessional prices, and the necessity to pay to growers the full realization value of theNo.9 Pool.
– I raised the matter of drought relief because it is causing embarrassment to so many of my const ituents.
M r. SPEAKER. - Order !
– On the other question, the Government must take action. I invite the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to come to my electorate to learn at first hand the position of the producers. This remote control system is useless. If the waterside workers go on strike or do not like the conditions they work under, Ministers meet themand discuss things with them. Let the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture meet the growers and discuss with them the conditions in the industry.
– They might give the same answer as the farmersat Parkes gave, namely that they are satisfied.
– They certainly will not, pay that they are satisfied, because they are intensely dissatisfied and are holding meetings of protest everywhere. The only people who do favour ‘ the present set-up are those dependent on the Government for jobs. They are part-time farmers, relying on governmental positions for the bulk of their means of livelihood. The wheat-farmers have always battled for stabilized prices, because no one knows better than they do how price vagaries affect their economic position and cause their industry to languish. But wheat to-day is selling at 10s. 4¾d. a bushel in the world markets, and, on that basis, many years will elapse before the Government will be called upon to contribute one penny to the wheat stabilization fund. It would not be too much to expect the Government to pay 5s.2d. a bushel for wheat at country sidings. If it did so it would be acting in the best interests of the country, because it would thereby foster the production of a grain for which the world is crying out.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Sheehan) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.30 to2.25 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to establish and incorporate a university in the Australian Capital Territory.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 10th April (vide page 1300), on motion by Dr.
That the bill be now reada second time.
.- This bill will terminate the National Security Act as from the 31st December next. As honorable members know, some doubt, has existed in the public mind as to when the National Security Act, in its terms, would come to an end. Section 19 of the original act, which was passed on the 9 th September, 1939, provided-
This Act shall continue in operation during the present state of war and for a period of six months thereafter, and no longer. “ The present state of war “ was defined in these terms - “ The present state of war “ means the state of war existing between His Majesty the King and Germany during the’ period commencing on the third day of September, 1939
. and terminating on the date of the issue of a proclamation that the war between His Majesty the King and Germany has ceased.
According to the terms of the original act, there could be no doubt that the termination of the war for the purposes of the National Security Act and regulations thereunder, would be marked by the issue of a proclamation. In 1940, an amending act was passed, in which the definition of “ the present state of war “ was repealed, and a new section 19 was substituted therefor. I cannot say that I either personally recall or have been able to discover the precise reason for the abolition of the definition ofthe present state of war “. I do not know whether the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has been able to discover why the amendment was made.
– It was thought that that definition was limited to the war with Germany, and a new position was created when Italy entered the war.
– I realize that changes had to be made because of the entry of Italy into the war, but I have not been able to satisfy myself as to why that useful definition of “ the present state of war “ was not carried on in some manner. No doubt it was my own responsibility, as I was Prime Minister at the time; but I frankly admit that I cannot recall or discover why the change was made.
During the last few months in particular, a good deal of discussion has occurred as to whether the war ended with the surrender of Japan, or would end only with the issue of a proclamation of peace. Consequently,there has been considerable uncertainty in the mind of the outside business community in particular as to how long the regulations under the National Security Act would operate.
My own view has been in conformity with that of the Crown Law authorities, namely, that the war would end when a proclamation was issued, but, admittedly, that is a matter upon which some doubt has existed. What this bill does is to produce a terminating point for the National Security Act.From the standpoint of those who said that VP-Day was the end of the war, and, consequently, that the act terminated six months thereafter, this bill represents an extension of the time of the operation of the National Security Act.From the standpoint of those who believe that the war would end when a proclamation was issued, this act represents a curtailment of the operation of the National Security Act. As my own view has been, and is, that the issue of a proclamation of peace was the normal time, this bill, to me, represents a provision for terminating the National Security Act at a date earlier than it might otherwise have come to an end.
I do not desire to occupy the time of the House unduly at this stage of the sittings by discussing the legalities that are involved in this matter, but it may be useful if I were to say to honorable members a few sentences on the broad legal questions involved in it. In making this statement, I have little doubt that my own view is shared by the Attorney-General. In the determination of the constitutional validity or statutory validity of a National Security regulation, two questions always arise. The first is whether the regulation is within the terms of the National Security Act. Once this bill is passed, that problem, so far as it involves consideration of time, will be cleared up. But the second question is not whether a regulation is within the terms of the National Security Act, but whether, assuming that to be so, the regulation is one which may be made properly under the constitutional power. In other words, at this moment, on this day, in this month, does the Constitution authorize the Government, under the National Security Act, to pass a certain regulation? That is a matter which, in spite of certain remarks made outside the Parliament, cannot be answered in any broad simple proposition. It can be answered only by considering the intrinsic nature of each regulation which is concerned.
For example, under the National Security Act, a. ‘censorship regulation could be made quite validly up to the 31st December next. I am now taking the present bill into account. But the question which the court would have to ask itself would be : Once the actual war ends and the fighting finishes, is the imposition of censorship related to the defence of Australia? Does it come within the naval and military defence of Australia? It may very well be that three or six months ago the High Court would have said that a censorship regulation was invalid, not because it was not within the terms of the National” Security Act, but because it was not within the Constitution.’ On the other hand, certain regulaions which the Government introduced would undoubtedly continue for a substantial period after the war. The court would say that, just as it is within the defence power to impose certain economic and financial restrictions in war-time, so
Chey may be maintained in time of peace so long as they are related directly to the war economy. The. result is that, in regard to every different subject-matter, there may be a different point of time at which regulations cease to be related to the defence power of the Commonwealth. I say that, not because I desire to occupy the time of the House with these technical legal matters, but in order to make it clear to people who are interested that this bill will provide a terminal point for all National Security regulations, but makes no provision, in the meantime, regarding the validity of National Security regulations. I for one, as the member of this House who was initially responsible for the introduction of the National Security Bill in 1939, welcome a definite statement and a definite legislative proposal regarding the termination of the , act. I welcome also the announcement that, after the termination of this act, those regulations which the Government desires to continue will take ordinary statutory form, so that they may he discussed in the Parliament, and, if they become law, their validity will have to stand examination in the light of established legal principles. They will be just as open to legal examination as are ordinary regulations, but the great advantage will be that the Parliament will have had an opportunity to discuss them,, and their form and principles, so that they will represent the will of the Parliament and not merely the will of theExecutive.
At this stage I shall say no more exceptto add a retrospective remark. This Parliament, throughout the war, entrusted the Executive with vast authority. That was, I believe; the proper course. It hasundoubtedly proved a very useful thing todo, but it has involved an abandonment to a substantial degree of parliamentary authority. During the years of crisis the Parliament delegated its authority to the Executive. This bill marks the return tothe Parliament of its ordinary legislative authority, and, to that extent, it marks the resumption of the ordinary democratic processes as opposed to the necessarily more autocratic processes which occur in war-time and in time of emergency. Many unusual things have been done. Under these regulations many citizens have been brought into the service of the Commonwealth. The nation, in fact, has received remarkable service, from the most highly placed individuals exercising the widest possible authority downto the humblest private citizens who have worked in the war effort. This occasion, should not be allowed to pass without an expression from the members of this House of its profound gratitude for the work that has been done by many citizens under the authority of this legislation. I suppose there is not a single department of the Commonwealth Service in which great authority has not been exercised by citizens who, in many instances served in a voluntary capacity in the cause of the nation. Many citizens’ completely abandoned their private’ pursuits and surrendered their usual emoluments in order to do some notable piece of work. Other citizens, who may not have been able to go so far as that, have substantially sacrificed their private interests. Many others have willingly accepted great personal inconvenience in order to undertake work which was necessary for the maintenance of the stability of the country. The Attorney-General is familiar with trie names of citizens who in munitions establishments, in the various service and public departments, and on boards of business administration and the like, have done magnificent work throughout the war. 1 take the opportunity provided hy the introduction of this measure to terminate I he operation of emergency regulations to meet emergency circumstances, to say, not only as Leader of the Opposition, but alSo as Prime Minister for the first two years of the war, that we are profoundly grateful, in this Parliament, for all the work that has been so well done.
– in reply - I endorse fully the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) regarding the service that has been rendered to Australia by its citizens during the great crisis of the war,’ to a large degree under the authority of the act which is to be terminated on the 31st December next. Their service has been of inestimable value to the country and I make full acknowledgment of it. I endorse also the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that, although the National Security Act will continue in force until the 31st December, it will be competent for any citizen to challenge the validity pf any regulation made thereunder on the ground that it was not covered by the defence power. I can add nothing on that aspect of the subject to what I said in my secondreading speech. The termination of the National Security Act will mark tha. reinstitution of normal peace-time democratic parliamentary government in this country, and I am happy to he associated willi that occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt)- i by leave - proposed -
That tl,e bill be now read a third time.
– I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on the motion for the second reading of the bill. This is a momentous occasion. The passage of this bill will fix the date for the termination of our war-time emergency legislation. Mention has been made of the splendid service that has been rendered the country by many citizens. It is also well known that the Government had submitted to it a long list of recommendations for honours to leaders of the three fighting services.
-Order ! The honorable member may not discuss that subject on this motion.
– What the Leader of the Opposition has said concerning the work of civilians will be approved by every one, but there is justification also for acknowledging the .work of the leaders of our fighting services who, to a great degree, bore the ‘ burden and heat of the days of war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– by leave - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1013-1980, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, namely : - The erection of the Batman automatic telephone exchange in Flinderslane, Melbourne.
It is proposed to erect a building on a site which has been acquired on the north side of ‘Flinders-lane, Melbourne, between Queen-street and Market-street,- and for the establishment of an automatic telephone exchange which is to be known as Batman Telephone Exchange. The building will also accommodate administrative staff for the Postmaster-General’s Department. The work is required for the reason that the automatic exchange which serves the City West area, Melbourne, is already nearly fully allocated, and the manual exchange which also serves that area, and which was placed in service in 1911, is worn out. The projected building will be a steel-frame structure with reinforced concrete floors. The building will contain a basement, mezzanine and seven other floors. The basement, ground and second floors are to be used for telephone equipment. The estimated cost is -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
REPORT of Public Works Committee.
).- by h ave- - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1930, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigations, namely: - The erection of an automatic exchange and postal building in Russell-street, Melbourne, and the establishment of the Russell Automatic Telephone Exchange.
I explained this proposal to the House on the 12th September, 194.5, when I moved that it be referred to the Public Works Committee (vide pages 530S and 5309).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
SUPPLY. (Grievance Day.)
NEW Guinea : Insubordination of Native TROOPS - Netherlands East Indies: Trade with Australia; FOODSHIPS - Industrial Unrest on the Waterfront - Food for Britain - Roy al Australian Navy: Demobilization - Sale of Vessels to Turkey - Meat Industry : Commonwealth Inspectors - Constitution A lteration : 1944 Referendum Expenditure.. Criticism by AuditorGen era l - Armed Forces: Detention Camps; Remission of Sentences - Fate of Australian Garrisons in Pact/ic and East Indies - National
Security Regulations : Prices ; Land lord and Tenant Real Estate Transactions; Capital Issues -
Australian Prisoners of War : Re- _ fund OF Allotments to Relatives - Tobacco-growing : Prices of Leaf -
Senator Donald Grant: Early Political Record ; Tasmanian Ship ping Services - India : Markets for Australian Products - Arbitration Court: Inquiry into Working Hours; Representation of Consumers - Peace Conference: Australian Delegation - Reestablishment: Land Settlement; Grants for Tools - Broadcasting : Australian Broadcasting Commission ComMENTARIES ; Audience ; Station 2WL; Political Talks - War Service Homes - Volunteer Defence Corps : Discharges - Norfolk Island : Appointment of Administrator - Central Wool Committee : Utilization of Funds.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
– I bring two subjects of considerable importance to the notice of the Government. The first relates to a form
Last Saturday week, 1]th inst., a party of N.G.I.B. boys went by truck to Kokopo and entered areas out of bounds. When Lieutenant Dean tried to remove them they threatened him and called him “a bloody Angau bastard”, &c; &c, and said that they had ,won the war here and elsewhere, and that the Australians always ran awa)’, and so on.
The A.D.O. at Kokopo, Captain Johnson, went with Lieutenant Dean to the N.G.T.B. Head-quarters to complain to the officer in command in the absence of Colonel Allen in New Ireland, but only non-New Guinea officers were there who had no idea of dealing with the situation.
The N.G.T.B. boys surrounded their car and tried to prevent them from seeing the O.C., threatening them with tommy guns, axes, bayonets, &c.. and again called them various so-and-sos. They also stole Lieutenant Dean’s revolver out of the Jeep.
This Saturday the performance was repeated at Kokopo, whore they released N.G.I.B. prisoners and demonstrated threateningly against the A.D.O. and officers whose lives 1 consider to be in grave danger unless strong action is taken.
In Rabaul, on the same night, the N.G.I.B’. guard on the Japanese prison compound left their posts with their Bren guns, &c, and demonstrated against the O.C. Native Police, Major Eon Hicks, using similar bad language, threats and boasts. They then released N.G.I.B. and other native prisoners from the calaboose.
This morning there was a conference be- . tween the G.O.C., General Eather, Brigadier Graham (just arrived from Lae), the District Officer, Major Bates, and others. I have not heard’ what transpired, but I believe they are awaiting the return of Colonel Allen before taking action.
This N.G.I.B. business seems to be entirely unnecessary and undesirable, and I think that, in view of the happenings, it should be disbanded and the Native Police Force should be built up to sufficient strength for police purposes and other activities not performed by the Australian garrison troops. If drastic action be not taken there will be serious trouble and possible loss of life, and general disaffection of the native population. If the Government were trying to create an “ Indonesian situation “ here they could not be doing better towards that? end.
Those are very serious statements from a reputable source. In the light of information I had received, I asked the Prime Minister to inquire as to how far the mutiny had spread, and what disciplinary action had been taken; but I have not received any advice from him. The Pacific Territories Association wrote to the Minister for External Territories on the 4th February, and on’ the 6th February that honorable gentleman promised to take up the matter with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). On the 12th February, the association again wrote to the Minister for External Territories, stating that, as the result of nets of insubordination, senior officers of Angau had suggested the disba.nd.ment of the native unit, which constituted a threat to the lives of officers, and possibly to those of returning civilians. Angau stressed that this was not merely a passing phase, but a movement that might grow, because the native troops were armed. The Minister replied on the 14th February that, he had forwarded the additional information to the Minister for the Army. On the 21st February, the association received a copy of a letter from the Minister for the Army to the Minister for External Territories, acknowledging his letter of the 14t,h February, and stating that an endeavour would be made to furnish an early reply. This incident occurred in January. The Government has ignored -the questions that have been asked in this House, and the representations of the Pacific Territories Association and Angau. The
House and the country are still waiting to learn what disciplinary action has. been taken, and what the Minister intends to do to preserve the peace of the community. The Minister might now be able to tell the House whether the trouble has passed. Was disciplinary .action taken ? Has full control of the natives been restored to the officers who were insulted? Have the theft of the revolver of a responsible military officer, and many other acts of violence, been investigated and dealt with in accordance with military law? Coloured peoples who have learned of the uprising in Indonesia must be in a state of unrest. What steps does the Minister propose to take for the disarming of the natives, with a view to preserving the peace that has always been observed in the territories held under mandate by Australia?
This morning I questioned the Prime Minister in connexion with the cancellation of orders for Australian goods of a value of more than £6,000,000 that had been placed by the Dutch Government, because of the failure to secure their delivery in the Netherlands East Indies. I know it will be said that shortage of shipping has been one of the causes of this failure. But the trouble goes deeper than that. It had its origin in the refusal of members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation to load all Dutch ships, including mercy ships that were intended to carry food and medical supplies to the Netherlands East Indies. Those ships might have been used in a shuttle service for the carriage of the goods that had been ordered from Australia by the Dutch. The Prime Minister has said that goods to a value of not more than £2,000,000 have been kept in Australia by reason of the failure of the ships to leave our ports. The more recent advice we have received proves that orders to a. value of £6,000,000 have been cancelled by the Netherlands East In dic8 Government export and import organization, under the authority of the director, Mr. Jan Van der Noordaa, ‘ Dutch ships have been held up in Australia since last September, due to the black ban imposed on them by Aus.tralian waterside workers and seamen.
It is natural to expect the Dutch authori-lies to be bewildered .and disgusted by the attitude of the waterside workers, and the failure of the Government to enforce the law. Dutch nationals, in the persons of Indonesian seamen, may have originated the trouble by walking off the ships. Had that shipping been available, food and manufactured articles of an estimated value of £20,000,000 would have been sent from Australia to the Netherlands East Indies during 1946. That statement has been made by one of the Dutch authorities. The Prime Minister, in reply to me this morning, said that factors other than those that I had mentioned might be involved; for example, . the Dutch authorities might not have sufficient purchasing power to obtain goods from Australia. I have no knowledge of that. But I do know that the statement by Mr. Jan Van der Noordaa leaves no doubt in .the minds of those who have read it that these orders were cancelled, not because the Dutch were not able to purchase the goods, but because shipping was not available for their carriage. Honorable members will recall that Lord Louis Mountbatten, while in Australia, played an active part in this matter, and spoke in strong terms. He had come straight . from Java, and was acquainted with the sufferings of both the white and the coloured peoples. He realized the urgency of their being supplied immediately with food and other essentials. Notwithstanding his representations, the position remains where it was before he intervened. Last February, a D’utch official said -
Surely the Australian Government realizes the grave damage being done throughout the East to Australia’s political prestige and to her trade relations! It would seem that the best thing we can do is to cease trying tn do business with Australia. We have suffered a succession of disappointments and humiliations.
Australia has developed a very big manufacturing capacity, and requires overseas markets for what it produces. If we do not’ wish to revert to unemployment and depression, we should endeavour to produce more in order that we may take advantage of the markets that are open to us. Some persons, regard the Netherlands East Indies as our best prospective market. Last January, the Netherlands Government announced the cancellation of orders for flour that had been placed with Australia. The orders were then placed in America, which is a competitor of Australia in eastern markets. Before the war, Australia supplied 99 per cent, of the flour imported by the Netherlands East Indies, totalling approximately 100,000 tons, of a value of from £1,500,000 to £2,000,000. Honorable members who have - studied the trade statistics in relation to eastern markets know that America is the largest supplier of . the Netherlands East Indies and other eastern countries, because it knows how to ensure the transport of the goods to their destinations. Australia is closer to those markets, and has not the long haulage which America has to undertake. We do not need to approach the Dutch for orders, because they are taking the initiative. Yet all that we say is, “We are very sorry. Because the. waterside workers have’ boasted that the ships will not go to you, we cannot do business with you “. I pleaded with the Prims Minister to preserve the national economy in relation to our trade with the Netherlands East Indies, and was left completely confused by his answer. On the 16th January, Mr. Van der Noordaa said that Australia was losing an export trade to the Indies of a value of £11,000,000. He went on to say that we would have lost the whole of that trade by the end of February, and added, “ It is even possible that some of this trade may be lost permanently “. Large orders for salted fish, rice, dried fruits, tinned vegetables, butter, tinned milk, biscuits, cheese and animal fats which had been placed in Australia would have to be placed elsewhere, according to a Dutch authority, who added that all purchasing in Australia had ceased. The Netherlands East Indies requires industrial produce, and would have, purchased from Australia machine and hand tools, rice cultivating implements, blankets and woollens. All this trade has been lost to ns, and the loss is due almost entirely to industrial unrest, which the Government seems powerless to combat. Not only the great strike which occurred during the Christmas period and lost to Australia, production and wages worth millions of pounds, but also successive strikes on the coal-fields, have been the means of creating an industrial situation which must immediately react to Australia’s disadvantage. The failure of the Government to take action must have encouraged the waterside workers in their recalcitrance. An indication of the loss of trade from which Australia is suffering because, of dislocation resulting from industrial trouble is contained in the statement of Mr. W. S. Wong, the leader of the Hong Kong trade mission, which came to Australia in February last. The Hong Kong traders wanted to pay cash and provide shipping for a wide range of Australian products, but the goods were not available, and the disappointed mission had to return to Hong Kong. Dr. Wong said -
The shortage of goods in Australia will force us to buy in America, where goods are more plentiful. Even a. token shipment would have kept Australia’s name-before Hong Kong retailers.
Thus, industrial trouble is preventing, us from, filling orders and is destroying our commercial goodwill with the islands and nations to the north. Industrial stoppages have also prevented the manufacture of goods for the use of our own people, apart from the building up of reserves for export. The more recent action of the waterside workers in preventing the sailing of mercy ships with food and medical supplies for the unfortunate people of Indonesia has kept those ships idle, so that they have not been able to lift £6,000,000 worth of goods ordered by the Dutch. When the Prime Minister was answering my question this morning, it appeared that he completely failed to recognize that we had any obligation whatever to the Dutch. He did not saythat action would be taken to enable the Dutch ships now in Australian ports to carry goods to the Netherlands East Indies. Evidently, he failed to realize that the Dutch had placed their fleet between us and the Japanese in the battles which took place to the north of Australia when Japan was casting covetous eyes on this country. The Dutch have been good allies to us. Indeed, there has been developed a blood brotherhood between us, and we owe them something more than mere lip service. During the war, Holland lost. 200,000 of its people as the result of German action. Nearly 140,000 persons were deliberately murdered in concentration camps, and a further 20,000 were shot or starved to death. The total war casualties amongst the Dutch amounted to 22 per 1,000 inhabitants, whereas, even in the United Kingdom, the rate was only 7 per 1,000. It is the duty of the Government to see that the law is observed and that the waterside workers load the Dutch ships so that relief may be sent to the people suffering in the Netherlands East Indies. Now the Dutch have said, in effect, “ If you cannot make the waterside workers obey the law and work our ships, we shall place th err at your disposal to bring to Australia the British brides of your servicemen “. There is a subtle irony in that gesture which the Government seems unable to appreciate.
In conclusion, I again urge the Government to give attention to the two matters which I have raised, the mutiny of armed native troops in New Guinea, and the need to take some action to enable trade with the Dutch to.be carried on, so that the economy of the country may lien efi t.
– I have here a circular letter from the Brighton City Council on the subject of food for Great Britain. I quote the following extract: -
In spite of the admirable voluntary efforts by so many of the public, the council feels that voluntary effort alone is not the best way to deal with so pressing a problem . . . Therefore, it has been decided to press for national action by the Commonwealth Government with the ‘request that they urge the Government to make a contribution in food and/or money proportionate to the need, and compatible with Australia’s ability, to give generously fur the relief of our British kinsmen.
This is a subject about which -some of us feel deeply.
– This is a subject which happens to be listed as No. 4 on i he notice-paper. The honorable membur may not debate it now.
– I do not know when the item on the notice-paper will be debated, and in the meantime the people of Great Britain are hungry. Last week, I asked whether the Government had at ,1 11 r time made a gift of food to Great Britain, and the answer was “ No “.
– The honorable member cannot get around my ruling in that way. He has been long enough in the House to appreciate what the ruling means. Item No. 4 on the noticepaper is “ Food supplies to the United Kingdom “, and the debate was adjourned on the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Therefore, the matter cannot be proceeded with until the Leader of the Opposition re-opens the debate.
– Do you think that it will be discussed before the general elections ?
– I think it will.
– I have discussed the matter with representatives from New Zealand, and I have found that that country has been very generous. I hope that Australia will emulate Now Zealand, and will make a contribution to the food supplies of Great Britain, if necessary by imposing further rationing on our people. 1 ask the Minister for- the Navy (Mr. Makin) to give his attention to the demobilization of men in the Navy. I have been informed that demobilization is not being carried out on the same terms as in the Army and the Air Force. There is a points system, but instead of making it apply generally over the whole service, each branch and mustering has its own system of points. Consequently, some men who have served throughout the whole of the war are still retained. I have already taken up with the Minister the case of a man. who was called up some weeks before the war, but who has been refused discharge on the grounds that he has not yet enough points. The same thing, I understand, applies to many of the permanent ratings. Even though they have points well in excess of what would be necessary to release men from the other service.?, they are unable to get their discharge from the Navy. I think it is true that not one permanent petty officer has been promoted to commissioned rank during the whole of the war. Justice is due to these men, who have borne much of the brunt of war service, and have received so few of the rewards. It may be that men are being kept in the Navy because recruits are not forthcoming to take their places. If that he so, the Government should call up recruits now, rather than wait until after the elections. Those who have given years of service should be allowed to return to civilian life. The Man Power Department decided that one man who has served in the Navy for six years was not needed in his previous occupation, and he was retained, although he had spent every one of his last six birthdays at sea. Other men, with fewer points, have obtained their discharges, and are taking the jobs of those who cannot get out. The men of the Navy do not go on strike or hold up ships. They fought loyally for their country, and now expect to receive justice.
.- I direct attention to the lack of appreciation by the Public Service Board and the Government of the magnificent service rendered during the war by meat inspectors in Queensland, where they were engaged in examining food for the use of our own forces and those of our allies. This branch has been in existence for over 30 years, and the men have striven persistently for their rights. A long time c lapsed before they could obtain benefit from the Arbitration Court. Eventually Mr. Justice Powers heard their ease and decided that 55.5 per cent: of them should be made permanent, which meant that 40 were appointed permanently, leaving 34 on a temporary basis. Since then the percentage has been reduced from 55.5 to as low as17.7. The States treat their employees much better. Queensland officers become permanent after six months of temporary employment, and the period of qualification for permanency in New South Wales is twelve months. But, in the Commonwealth Public Service, men with up to seventeen years temporary employment are still deniedpermanency, notwithstanding that the Superannuation Act was amended recently to enable temporary public servants with five years in the service to qualify for benefits. The Meat Inspectors Association asks that its members who qualify under the Superannuation Act for benefits should also be entitled under the Commonwealth Public Service Act to permanent appointment. During the war the meat inspectors performed splendidly in ensuring the quality of the food Supplied to our troops and the troops of allied forces. They will be called upon, with the advent of peace, to continue that service until the occupation of enemy countries ends. It beyond comprehension that the Public Service Board should deny permanency to these men. I know that the Minister for Commerce - and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is sympathetic, because he has expressed his sympathy with them to deputations of honorable members on both sides of the House representing Queensland constituencies.
– Why then does he not do something about them ?
– The honorable member for Barker knows that the Public Service Board is beyond the control of the Minister.
– Well, when I was in office, I had 225 temporary officers placed on the permanent list at the one time.
– Then, I am glad to have the honorable member on my side for once. The onerous responsibilities borne by meat inspectors are shown by the following list of duties that they have to do when supervising the loading of products into ships : -
I ask the Government to give this matter its close attention with a view to ensuring that meat inspectors who have been employed temporarily for five years shall be placed on the permanent list.
– In view of the approaching referendum I wish to draw attention to certain unsatisfactory features connected with the 1944 referendum, in an endeavour to avoid a recurrence of them. The Audit Act is a statute of this Parliament, and no Minister, whether he is the Minister for Information or the Prime Minister and Treasurer, is exempt from its provisions. Section 31 of the Audit Act reads -
No money shall be drawn from the Commonwealth Public -Account except in the manner provided by this Act”.
Section 41 is as follows: -
The Auditor-General shall audit the returns, cash sheet statements, accountable receipts, accounts and receipts received by him, and shall -
ascertain whether the moneys shown therein to have been disbursed were legally available, for, and applicable to, the service or purpose to which they have been applied or charged; and
ascertain whether the provisions of the Constitution and of this and any other Act and the regulations relating to public moneys have been in all respects complied with “.
In accordance with his statutory duties as laid down in the Audit Act, the Auditor-General said this in his report for 1943-44:-
AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS EXPENDED ONTHE REFERENDUM.
An expenditure of £5,256 was charged to Division 164c, Item 2 - Post-war Educational Campaign - and from the information available was incurred in informing the electors of the affirmative case for constitutional amendments embodied in the referendum. Correspondence has taken place with the Treasurer regarding this expenditure and also the expenditure of £43,050 to the end of January in the present financial year.
In the examination of expenditure accounts the Auditor-General is required by the provisions of the Audit Act to “ ascertain whether the moneys shown therein to have been disbursed were legally available for and applicable to the service or purpose to which they have been applied or charged “. The opinion was expressed to the Treasurer that the vote under notice (Division 164c, item 2, in 1943-44 and Division 1 97c, item 1, in 1944-45 - Post-war Educational Campaign) is not clearly related to the purpose for which it hasbeen used and was not legally available, and applicable, to meet the expenditure referred to. Supplementary appropriation was therefore considered necessary under a clearer and unquestionable description.
In. a reply from the Treasurer the view was given that for reasons stated “ the amount involved has, in accordance with section 83 of the Constitution, been drawn under appropriation made by law “.
The following is an extract from my reply to the Treasurer: - “ The views held by me … . are that the factors mentioned by you, viz. : -
that the whole of this expenditure had been incurred by direction of the Treasurer;
Minister’s explanation to the House;
presentation to Parliament of a statement of expenditure;
the parliamentary debate; do not in themselves constitute an appropriation by Parliament and make moneys available, and applicable, for the purpose in question. I regret therefore I am unable to accept that sufficient parliamentary authority exists to charge the appropriation for postwar educational campaign with expenses relating to the referendum.
In view of these statements by a most responsible and capable officer, I should like to point out two. more sections of Commonwealth acts which put a more serious aspect on these matters.
Section 63 of the Audit Act says - (1.) Any accounting officer or person subject to the provisions of this Act who -
Finally, there is section86 of the Crimes
Act, as follows : -
Any person who conspires with any other person -
to commit any offence against the law of the Commonwealth, or
to prevent or defeat the execution or enforcement of any Commonwealth . Act or any regulation thereunder, or
to effect any purpose which is unlawful under the law of the Commonwealth, or
to effect any lawful purpose by any means which are unlawful under the law of the Commonwealth, or
to defraud the Commonwealth shall be guilty of an indictable offence.
Penalty: Imprisonment for three years. “Whilst there may have been a defence against criminal liability in connexion with expenditure on the last referendum, I submit that the position with respect to the impending referendum is somewhat different. We now have the Auditor-General’s opinion that the moneys were not legally available for the purpose to which they were applied. No one is more qualified to make such a statement th.an the Auditor-General. A repetition of such expenditure in a similar manner later this year is liable to have serious consequences for those concerned, whether they be Ministers or public servants, and I ask the Prime Minister for an assurance that he will instruct both his Ministers and the heads of departments to that effect. I am pleased to see the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Forde) at the table, because I know that he will be seised of the importance of this matter and will make sure that both the Government and its officers shall be made conversant with their responsibilities in handling public funds.
.- Early in March I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) certain questions about the Dutch ships that are held up in Australian ports. Amongst other things, I asked the right honorable gentleman as to the terms that the wharf labourers bad laid down for allowing the ships to sail. He told me that a reply was being prepared, but that, as a conference was being held on the matter, it had been delayed, and that, he thought, it was better to wait until he could supply full information. I waited a little while before repeating my 7-equest for information. His reply then was that none would be forthcoming. About six weeks have passed since then and the right honorable gentleman has had ample opportunity to get the full information. If he has it, as he should, he refuses to give any. This is a matter of great public importance, affecting not, only this Parliament, but also the prestige of Australia. Honorable members should be supplied with full information regarding the occurrences, the prospects, if any, of an early settlement, and the. action which the Government proposes to take to ensure the departure of the ships. But the Government is unwilling to give the facts, and is hiding any information that mav be available. Earlier the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) pointed out. that lame quantities of stores were being withheld from the Netherlands East Indies, and large orders given to
Australian manufacturers and primary producers were being withdrawn by the Dutch authorities. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) referred to that danger during the motion of want of confidence a few weeks ago. He showed that very unfortunate results to Australia, would accrue if our” trade relations with the Netherlands East Indies were disturbed. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in reply said, “ This is a materialistic approach. I do not approach the problem in that way. I think it far more important to work with higher motives “. What are those higher motives? No indication has been given that the Government is actuated by any motives at all, since nothing has been done for four months to settle the problem. What higher motives are there than the motives to help suffering humanity? As the result of the Government’s inaction, the health of thousands of refugees in Java has been affected. Because of the refusal of waterside workers to load the Dutch ships, urgently required relief has been withheld from those unfortunate refugees. Amongst the goods to be sent in those ships were watercarts and motor trucks. The water supplies of many towns in Java, including Batavia and Sourabaya, have been destroyed, and water carts are urgently needed. In addition, motor trucks are required to carry necessary stores and provisions. The mere fact that those ships. could not sail with the goods, and, therefore, those supplies could not be delivered, has caused the death of a. number of refugees and a great deterioration of the health of thousands of others. That is not the only consideration which should actuate the Government in this matter. Surely we still have some loyalty to our Dutch Allies, who did so much for us in the war. Hundreds of Australian servicemen, who were prisoners in the Far East, were helped materially by Dutch citizens at the risk of their own lives- Now, when we are called upon to repay some of $hat debt, we are not doing anything.
The withdrawal of these ships from the general, shipping pool available to the Allies at this time calls for comment. At one period, sixteen ships were laid up at ports in Australia. Most of theIr have now departed, but seven have been tied up in harbours for seven months. A few days ago, the Prime Minister stated that General MacArthur was allotting to Australia certain ships for the repatriation of Japanese at Rabaul. Those vessels will be drawn from the general shipping pool. Yet, seven ships are lying idle in Australian ports ! How does the Government explain that?
I come finally to the trade consideration. The honorable member for Wenthworth said that, large orders had been cancelled by the Dutch authorities because of the shipping hold-up. In addition, stores acquired by the Dutch authorities are now filled with their purchases, and the Dutch have been asked to vacate the premises. Those goods cannot be exported. About a month ago, Australian millers had orders from the Netherlands East Indies for £2,000,000 worth of flour. Those orders have been cancelled. Another important consideration is backloading. Ships which took Australian flour to the Netherlands East Indies would naturally return with ‘ pepper, which is unobtainable here, tea and other goods which we require in large quantities. In March, the Dutch cancelled orders for large quantities of agricultural machinery and tools. When I referred these matters to the Prime Minister he brushed them aside, as if they were of no importance. He stated that the Dutch in Australia had not sufficient credits to enable them to buy large quantities of goods, and that they had not been satisfied with the prices quoted. But the fact remains that the prices must have satisfied the Dutch, because they placed large orders with Australian exporters. Finally, the Prime Minister said that Australia was not in a position to sell large quantities of goods. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the quantity of goods which we sell is not of great importance. Even token sales are of great value. We in Australia need to build up goodwill in trade, and in the final analysis goodwill is the factor that counts. For seven months Dutch ships have been held up in Australian ports, and the Government does not seem to have taken any action. Numerous conferences which have been held have not solved the difficulty. Honorable members have not even been told what took place at those discussions. The Supreme Allied Commander in SouthEast Asia, Lord Louis Mountbatten, talked to the representatives of the waterside workers, no doubt at the request of the Government, to see what could be done. Again, nothing happened. For a time it seemed as if the ships would sail, and the Government made some hopeful statements. To-day the Prime Minister said that a conference was taking place, and he hoped that something would eventuate. I am becoming tired of hopeful statements, when no action is taken. What action should the Government take? The only thing that it can do is to direct numbers of servicemen who, for the most part, are not doing anything, to load the ships. These ships must sail so that the stain on our honour may be erased. But the matter goes even 9 deeper than that. A principle is involved. If the Government considers that these ships should be loaded and sail with their cargoes, let the Prime Minister, say so in a definite statement. Most of the statements by Ministers regarding this hold-up have been very lukewarm, in spite of the fact that the Government has a lot of support from industrial organizations, including the Sydney Trades and Labour Council and the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. Although the Government has said from time to time that it disapproves of the hold-up, it has not shown any signs of its disapproval by action. Of course, action might entail risks. Speaking on the motion of want of confidence, the Prime Minister said that he would not risk a general strike on the Australian waterfront merely to settle thi3 dispute. Of course there is a risk to be run ! There is a risk to be taken in almost everything we do in life, particularly in industrial matters; but surely the risks which the Government is running to-day by not taking action in the waterside, coalmining and electricity disputes, and a hundred other disputes, are less dangerous than this continual submission to industrial blackmail. If we are to govern this country, the Prime Minister’ and his Ministers must show authority. In this particular instance the Government should assert its authority and say, “ We consider that these ships should be loaded, and they will be loaded”. I ask ‘ the Government to act promply to settle this dispute, which is a disgrace to the name of Australia.
.- A development which has taken place recently concerning Army defaulters is reaching very serious proportions. We shall have to do something about it soon, and I should like the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to make a dramatic announcement or order a swift inquiry relating ‘to servicemen who, so long after the end of the war, are still confined a3 defaulters in various prisons throughout the country. No plan has been made for their future. In war-time the sentences of courts-martial were reasonably sound, but, in the light of peace-time conditions, what are we to do with these defaulters? If they defaulted in service alongside their comrades, perhaps they caused loss of blood and treasure. But if we keep them in prison so long after the end of the war they continue to cost us money for their own upkeep and that of their families. The treatment of these men must be drastically changed. Although they did not serve as they should have done, we should apply common sense to the problem when man-power is so scarce. I should like to know how many thousands of these men are involved, and how much man-power and money is being run down the sink every week in maintaining them. Many servicemen returning from overseas may consider that these defaulters should serve sentences. Obviously we cannot present them with a reward for not having served; but we shall have to direct our minds to -solving the problem. There must surely be a quick and effective way of returning these men to the manpower stream. Every key industry in this country requires man-power, and many of the defaulters are skilled men who enlisted or were called up for military service. We are waiting for that collection of skilled men to start operations which will provide employment for unskilled men. So long as key men do not resume their occupations, . just so long will there be a fear of unemployment in the unskilled section. With our limited man-power in Australia in peace and war, we cannot afford to have idle units. Perhaps sentences for absence without leave or desertion could be revised dramatically in the light of present-day circumstances. We may be doing greater injury to these people and to ourselves by continuing their incarceration, which must result in a loss of morale. The early release, under proper conditions, of many of those now being held in prison camp* may be ‘advisable. They could, perhaps be placed in useful jobs in industry. T know that I may be treading on someone’s corns in making these suggestions.. but we must remember that many soldiersare waiting for homes and it may be a good plan to allow persons who evaded their duty during the war to undertake now work of a kind which, to a degree, might repair the damage done by their earlier conduct. It certainly will be of no advantage to drive these people to the verge of lunacy. Much can be said for changing their conditions of living. The problem should be attacked in three ways. First, we must take steps to put an end to the savage sentences that are still 1 being imposed by , courtsmaartial, which seem to consider that wartime conditions still obtain. Secondly, these prison camps must be examined to ascertain whether they contain any highly skilled people who could be released on parole to do useful and necessary work. I do not mean that anything in the nature of labour corps should be created, but we must do something to enable these people to rehabilitate themselves. They should not be left to languish. Thirdly, we must face the situation created by neurotics, who absented themselves without leave from Army life and who are doing considerable damage to their own morale while they are in their present position. Many of these individuals should be placed under treatment by first-class psychiatrists. The savagery of commandants and staffs of prisoner of war camps has been ex- / plained to us by the ex-prisoner of war members of this House. We have learned a good deal about the savagery of conditions in Malaya. It is a fact that many military men have shown genius and initiative in war operations, but sometimes these very qualities lead to abuses in other directions. We should do something to help the people still in these camps to reorientate themselves. They should not be allowed to become human driftwood; and they certainly should not be forgotten.
.- The poor calibre of this Government has been shockingly reflected in the offhand manner in which it regards the disastrous blow that Australian trade in the East lias suffered. I do not desire to traverse the ground that my colleagues have already covered concerning the merits of the dispute which is holding in Australian ports ships containing foodstuffs and materials that are urgently required by the Dutch Government for use ill the Netherlands East Indies. I shall confine my remarks to the trade aspect of the subject. It cannot be denied that honorable gentlemen opposite have been very slow in realizing the damage that is being done to Australian trade in the East by the dispute that is continuing on the Australian waterfront; but I am surprised that they have not realized the damage that this dispute is undoubted -. doing to industries in their own electorates. I can imagine the political storm that would have broken over the heads of honorable members on this side of the chamber had they been in office at’ the time such a dispute occurred. We would have been told that industries were being destroyed, and homes blasted by the curtailment of employment which is inevitable in such circumstances. Not so long ago the people of the Netherlands East Indies were regarded as our greatest potential export customers apart from our leith and kin in Great Britain. We went to a good deal of trouble some years ago to open markets in the Netherlands East Indies. The first Australian overseas trade commissioner ever appointed was sent to that area. In the “ ‘thirties “ Australian industrialists chartered a special boat to take Australian produce to the Dutch East Indies, and strong efforts were made to lay the foundations of a first-class export trade. We had realized prior to the outbreak of the war that a valuable market existed there, and that the productive capacity of the East Indies could supply useful goods. for Australia. Yet the Government has indicated that it regards this dispute as being outside of its jurisdiction. Ministers and also officers of the Australasian Council of Trades Unions have admitted that, more humbug and chicanery is observable’ in this dispute than has been manifest in possibly any other that has occurred in Australia. It is admitted . also that the dispute has been fomented, and is being maintained, by the Communist elements in certain trade unions. Why then has the Government done nothing, in the last seven months, to force the issue?
To-day the Netherlands East Indies authorities have intimated that they have found it necessary to cancel certain orders that have been placed for Australian goods. That means, of course, that a nasty stain has been placed on Australia, because of its unsatisfactory dealings with an old and tried ally. The fact has been established that more than 250 Australian firms have been preparing orders for despatch to the Netherlands East Indies. Undoubtedly, those firms will incur heavy financial loss through the cancellation of orders, and this is specially serious at a time when they are endeavouring to convert their operations from a war basis to a peace basis. Any one who has had practical experience in business will know how adversely both small and large firms can be affected by the cancellation of orders in this way. A severe blow will also be inflicted upon the employees of those firms, for the workers will be deprived of prospects of continuous employment due to expanding industry.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to-day made the utterly unwarranted and unworthy statement that one of the principal reasons why the Netherlands East Indies authorities had cancelled certain orders was lack of finance. I am astonished that such an argument should have been advanced. If that is the true state of affairs, Australia should havebeen prepared to grant liberal credit tothe Netherlands East Indies as an acknowledgment of .services rendered during the war. It must be remembered,, too, that the vessels which are being held up in Australian ports have been described by the Prime Minister as “ mercy ships “. It would be to the everlasting discredit’ of Australia, therefore, if it allowed financial considerations to prevent the despatch of these ships. Questions of financial accommodation should not be allowed to hinder the development of this trade. As the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) has said, the Australian people will not accept the policy of the Government in this connexion. This dispute could undoubtedly have been settled quickly in its. early stages had the Government taken a firm stand against (he waterside workers. This is said to be a trade union government, and Ministers certainly could have taken disciplinary action in the matter, but apparently they were not prepared to engage in a really first-class brawl with the waterside workers on the eve of a general election. However, if the dispute is allowed to continue, chaos must eventually occur on the waterfront. and the Government will, in consequence, be incontinently turned out of office. ‘I hope, therefore, that Ministers will display a little more courage in this matter.
I wish now to refer to the decision of the Government to terminate the operation of National Security regulations on the 31st December. A bill designed to achieve that object was passed by the House earlier this afternoon. The Prime Minister, however, has indicated that certain controls will be continued after the act ceases to operate, and that legislation to this end will be introduced, though not at an early date. In fact, the right honorable gentleman has told me, and has stated publicly, that such legislation will not be introduced until after the elections. Australian trade and commerce, therefore, is to be left in a state of suspense as to the form that the legislation will take. “We know that the Government intends to continue some control over prices, capital issues, rents, and real estate transactions. Thepeople are entitled to information about the nature of the controls that will operate. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Manufactures have submitted to the Government certain views on this subject, and they have also indicated their dissatisfaction with existing controls. The need for some measure of prices control has been, admitted., but the manner and extent of it requires careful consideration. The war-time prices control regulations were designed to restrict competition and to divert the resources of the nation to war purposes. That policy is now in reverse, and certain inflationary tendencies are already observable in this country. The reason for this is that insufficient goods are being manufactured and marketed to meet the demands of people with money to spend. The answer to an inflationary situation of that kind is the production of the necessary goods ‘ in sufficient volume to meet the demand. Production in that volume cannot be achieved if the incentives which make it possible are stifled. Prices control is one of the impediments to reconstruction in Australia. It is not a popular subject to debate, because there is always the easy and cheap political argument about profiteering and so forth. Properly understood, profit, at a time when competition is in full force, merely represents the difference between efficiency and inefficiency in the conduct of a business. In Australia, ‘businesses with a virtual monopoly of production so far as the local scene is concerned have had merely tariff protection against the production of other countries. Consequently, such profits as they were able to make represented the efficiency of their businesses compared with the relative inefficiency of others. Therefore, rather than condemn them for making a profit, we should welcome it as a sign of efficiency in Australian industry. But so much of prices control in the hands of this Government has become profit control that we have the thoroughly anomalous situation of one class of goods, produced by one manufacturer, carrying a different price from that of the same goods produced by another manufacturer; because, by limiting the profit of the one you place a premium on the inefficiency of the other. That is not a way in which to encourage production. If profits are made, tax is paid on them. It has been estimated that SO per cent, of all the profits earned by companies goes back to the Treasury in the form of tax on the companies or on the incomes of the individuals when the dividends have been distributed. ‘ Five months ago, the Associated Chambers of ‘Commerce of Australia placed their story before the
Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who promised to supply an answer to the case they had made out. They have not yet had that answer. It would appear from the Government’s official announcement that we are not to learn what its policy on prices is until some time after the next general elections. Answering me at question time, the Prime Minister admitted that if goods were in adequate supply in a competitive field prices control would be unnecessary. Yet to-day those goods that are in the most highly competitive field are carrying the greatest burden in regard to prices control; because in the competitive field, normally, businesses producing a multiplicity of articles of many varieties, and having to contend with all the paraphernalia and rigmarole of the prices control machinery, are placed at a much greater disadvantage than a firm which manufactures one or two standard lines. I hope that the Government will not defer until after the elections the hopes that have been entertained in regard to the modification of prices control. I urge the Prime Minister to instruct the. officers of the prices administration to put into effect the policy that he enunciated when he said that if goods are in adequate supply in a competitive field, -prices control is no longer necessary.
I turn to another matter which I believe to be hindering the supply of housing for the people of the Commonwealth. The protracted continuance of a war-time control is having repercussions, r refer first to what is palpably an injustice against one section of the community, namely rent control. I realize that votes are not won by advocating increased rents for property-holders. But we should not be concerned merely with vote-catching; we should have some regard for fair play and equity in the application of Commonwealth regulations or legislation. The rents pegged at the 1940 level are still continuing. This is an utterly unwarranted discrimination against one class of holder, which is not shared by holders of many other kinds of assets. From time to time, adjustments have been made in respect of wages, with a view to counter-balancing increases of the cost of living.’ But there has been no adjustment ill respect of the ‘property-holder, who pays tax at property rates on the income that he derives in that way. The return from his property is based on the utterly false premise of the 1940 valuation. Tenants have had their wages secured by cost of living adjustments; therefore, these have not been pegged in the same manner. In order to reveal clearly the absurdity of the position, let us take a return of 8 per cent, in 1940 on a house valued at £1,000, namely £S0. To-day, the same house would certainly cost at least £1,500 to construct. A return of S per cent, on that amount would be £120. That is a gross return, from which rates, depreciation and other outgoings have to be met. Consider also the sale prices of properties to-day, which reveal an equally absurd anomaly. Prices of property are pegged at the 1942 level. A home that could be built for £1,000 in 1.942 could not be built for less than £1,500 to-day. Probably the 1942 construction would be the more valuable, because it would contain better materials. This would more than counterbalance the depreciation that would have taken place during the last four years. Yet, under the regulation -, the treasury must refuse consent to th. sale of the 1942 home at more than the then value of £1,000, but must allow the 1946 house to be sold at £1.500. The Government may not feel very greatly concerned at the effect on the property-holder. I suggest that it might feel concerned at the effect on those who desire to purchase homes, because undoubtedly a direct consequence of this policy is a freezing of the supply of homes throughout every State. Thousands of owners of properties to-day will not sell them, even though they could do so, because they know that the present cost of a new home, or one bought on the black market if they were obliged to purchase in that quarter would be very much higher. In existing circumstances, two blackmarket transactions are involved. The owner of a house sells it at the black market price, and if he has to acquire another home he has to pay the black market price for it. Those who fall within this category must represent only a small fraction of those wishing to sell and purchase homes, because the majority of the people desire to abide by the law. Therefore, it is not sufficient for the Government to tell Australia that these controls are to be continued indefinitely, and that the future form of control will not be disclosed until after the general elections. I am certain that some of the controls that I have mentioned - prices, rents, land sales, capital issues - and others which to-day are having a restrictive effect on the Australian economy, could be modified with great advantage to the community as a whole. The essential principle could be maintained, and they could be applied where they could be -shown to be still essential. Every one engaged in industry to-day is convinced that they are being applied where they are not merely unessential, but are also having a harmful effect on the Australian economy. I hope that the Minister who represents in this House the department which administers so many of these controls, will , be able to reply satisfactorily to my comments.
.- -I -direct, attention to the demand that is being made upon the relatives of servicemen who died in captivity in Malaya and Siam two years or more ago, for the return of the allotments that have been paid in the intervening period.. I have personal “knowledge of several cases of the kind. A widow whose only asset is a home is being caused a great deal .of ‘ mental worry. This action is most unjust, and it would be a graceful gesture if the Government were immediately to relieve the minds of these people by assuring them that they will no longer be worried. “There must be thousands of eases of the kind throughout Australia.
Recently, a Mr. Massey made a statement in regard to the quality of Australian tobacco leaf, and the Minister, in -a half-hearted reply, attempted to defend it. The Government lost a golden opportunity to establish the tobacco industry in Australia during the war. It had men appraising leaf who were associated with the British-American Tobacco Company Limited, one of the monopolies which it criticizes publicly but supports privately. These persons set out deliberately to ensure that the Australian tobacco industry would have been destroyed when the war was over. Their method was to appraise the poorer class mahogany leaf at almost the same price as the first class lemon coloured leaf which can be produced in Australia, particularly in the Gunbower district. I took a deputation to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), to whom samples of leaf were shown and drew from him the admission that it was equal to any he had seen in Australia. Experts said that it was quite suitable for the manufacture of cigarettes and even cigars. The growers were deliberately crushed out. It was impossible for them to survive when they received the same price as the man who produced mahogany leaf, because the better class leaf is a much lighter crop. The growth of mahogany leaf was encouraged because it was known that the demand was for lighter tobacco, which alone would be purchased when the wai’ was over. I hope that the Government will get some men who understand the industry - not those who are associated with the British- American Tobacco Company Limited, but those who really belong to the industry and have its interests -at heart - to see whether something can be clone to place the industry on its feet before it is too late.
In this morning’s press, it is reported that Senator Donald’ Grant has been invited by the Government to accompany the Australian delegation to the Peace Conference, where he will act as adviser to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt).
– On matters of law I presume.
– That is not stated in the report. This news will be heard with amazement by the patriotic people of Australia.
– Because of his record.
– What is his record?
– I shall give it. In the Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st November, 1916, the following report appeared : -
At the Central Criminal Court, Sydney, the hearing was commenced of the charges of conspiracy preferred against twelve members of the I.W.W. Organization.
The .accused included Donald Grant, 27, Scotland. The indictment was that between March 1st and October 1st, 1910, they conspired, combined., confederated and agreed together maliciously to set fire to certain warehouses, store-houses, shops, &c. ; that between March 28th and August 4th, 1910, they conspired to pervert the course of justice by unlawful means to procure the release from gaol of Tom Barker before the termination nf his sentence. The third charge was one of conspiring to incite sedition.
The following is from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 24th November, 1916 :-
Frederick Philip Brown, who said he was present at a public meeting in Broken Hill, gave evidence that Grant declared he was a rebel and objected to £2 10s. a week while King George got £40,000. Grant, according to Brown, said also, ‘‘that passing conscription is one thing and putting a gun1’ on your shoulder is another. I shall never carry arms as long v.s I live. I would not shoot a capitalist, and would rather go to gaol than give my carcase to the enemy “. On 1st December, 1916. Grant, with six others, was convicted on all .three charges.
Grant, in a statement, said he may have been guilty of sedition, but he had never in any way acted in such a manner as would lead the jury to believe he had been guilty of seditious conspiracy.
I invite the House to note Grant’s admission that he may have been guilty of sedition. I also invite the House to take particular notice of the remarks of Mr. Justice Pring, when sentencing the man. He said -
You are members of an association which T do not hesitate to .state, after the revelations in this case, is an association of criminals of the very worst type and a hot-bed of crime.
Yet one of the men whom the judge castigated in this way is to go to the Peace Conference as adviser to the Australian delegation. Five years later, in May, 1921, the Sydney press reported a May Day meeting held in the Sydney Domain. According to the Sydney Morning Herald -
A portion of the Union Jack was placed on the end of a pole and burned; the rest of it was torn to shreds, strewn on the ground and trampled on. Mr. Donald Grant made an appeal for funds’ for the Brookfield Memorial.
On the same evening,’ a meeting of socialists was held in the Sydney Town Hall, and the Sydney Morning Herald published the following reference to the incident : -
Mr. Donald Grant, one of the released twelve I.W.W. men, referred to1 the scene in the
Domain and expressed pleasure at what had occurred.
The Daily Telegraph report described what had happened at both meetings, and went on to say -
Donald Grant declared that 00,000 Australian soldiers had died in the war. He was glad they had died. They went away to the war and died : they should have known better.
It is imperative that men who go abroad as members of Australian delegations - -
– I rise to a point of order. I doubt whether we have any right to discuss the personal record of a member of the Senate.
– There is a provision for discussing charges against members of this House, and there, are precedents in connexion with the matter; but I am afraid that the Standing Orders are a little weak on the point of discussing such matters in relation to a member of the Senate. However, I put it to. the honorable member for Bendigo, that although there does not appear to be any power to prevent him from making the statement he is making, lie ought to refrain from doing so. Whatever charge may have been proved against a man in the past, he has expiated the offence by virtue of the sentence passed upon him by the court. . It is bad taste for an honorable member from his place in this House to attack such a .man. If I had power to stop the honorable member for Bendigo, I would do so, and I say that, in the interests of the House, I think he ought himself to refrain from saying anything further on the subject.
– I am criticizing the selection of a man with the disloyal record of this man to accompany an Australian delegation to the Peace Conference as adviser to the AttorneyGeneral, who. is representing Australia.
– The people elected him to the Senate as their representative.
– Well, it is an amazing thing to me.
– He is not disloyal.
– His record is there for anyone to read, and it is extraordinary that the Government should, in the circumstances, have chosen such a ‘man.
.- We have just listened to an extraordinary statement by the honorable member’ for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). After all, whatever faults a man may have committed in the past, he has paid for them now as the result of a sentence of the court, or in some other way. We should not forget that Peter Lalor, who figured in the only armed revolt which ever occurred in Australia, was afterwards exonerated, and became one of the legislators of his State. No matter what the history of a man may be, once he is elected by the people as their representative, in this Parliament, it is improper for anyone, under parliamentary privilege, to attack him. It is a cowardly thing to do.
– That, among other things, is what we are elected to do - if we have the “ guts “ to do it.
-The. honorable member must moderate his language.
– The attack was made with the knowledge that- it was being made under parliamentary privilege. As you pointed out, Mr. Speaker, it came very near to being a breach of the Standing Orders, and whatever else it may be, it was certainly in very bad taste. Only a day or two ago, it was reported in the press that an Indian statesman was released from gaol to become a Minister of the Crown. Senator Donald Grant is the elected representative of the people, and has taken the oath of allegiance. What more could anyone ask of him in a democratic country? Apparently, the attack was pre-meditated, because the honorable member for Bendigo read from notes which had been carefully prepared for him. The attack was cowardly and uncalled for.
– The honorable member for Bass: (Mr. Barnard) has attacked me unfairly..
– I have not attacked the honorable member. I have the greatest admiration for him. He served his country well, and as a result of that service suffers a disability which he will parry with him for the rest of his life. I have said nothing against him, and do not propose to do so.
Earlier to-day, I asked a question about the running of the ship which now serves the northern part of Tasmania. Before the war there were two ships on the Tasmanian service, the Nairana and the Taroona, which served the northern and western ports. When war broke out, the -people of Tasmania gladly agreed that the Taroona should be withdrawn for military service. Now the Taroona has returned, and after making a few trips, has gone into dock for overhaul. I urge that the schedule of the Nairana should be altered to provide for the making of three trips a week in order to meet the heavy traffic at this time of the year. In the past, it was customary for a ship to make two trips a week to the north-west coast, while another made three trips a week from Melbourne to Launceston, for several months during the summer. There is a good deal of resentment in Tasmania about the shipping service. I do not even suggest that all our shipping difficulties are over. They will not be over for a. long time, but, when the Taroona returns to the normal run, the position will be considerably improved, because there will be four crossings weekly instead of two. In view of the great loyalty shown by Tasmanians in willingly surrendering the Taroona during the war, I think that my request might easily be granted. It may be said that the air service between the mainland and Tasmania is more frequent now than it was when the Taroona was on the run, but an air service does not cater for heavy cargo or people unable to afford costly air travel. “ -
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the immobilized Dutch ships. I think it has been stated on numerous occasions that those ships were held up in the first place by Dutch nationals walking off them. That is the basis of the trouble. While the honorable gentleman was speaking it occurred to me that he was taking another opportunity to make a slap at the Government rather than to say something about a matter of which he had a reasonable knowledge.
– What is the honorable member’s idea about the case?
– I do not profess to know anything about the dispute over the Dutch ships, and, therefore, I will not attempt to discuss the subject. Even if T. knew anything about it, I should probably be inclined Hot to talk about it, because it is a matter that can be dealt with only on a government level. The situation is so delicate that speeches in this House do not help. If it could be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties concerned, I am sure the Government would be thankful.
In the last few. months trade with the East has been discussed on many occasions in this House and elsewhere. Yesterday, I read a. very interesting article in the Sydney Sim on trade with China. It was sent from Singapore by a British press representative. Apparently, he wrote with a full knowledge of the subject, because he made some excellent suggestions that might well be acted upon by the Government. I do not mean to imply that the ‘trade with the East is unknown to, or has been overlooked by the Government. Indeed, government publications have’ been issued on the subject; but I do not think we have had an up-to-date statement of the Government’s policy. Earlier in this sessional period, I’ suggested that the Government might be prepared to make a statement, to the House as to what was being done and proposed to develop this trade. It is quite apparent to honorable members that in eastern countries we have a potential market of millions of people in close proximity to us. Their standard of living is low. It is hardly a living standard at all. In fact, the Indian delegates to the International Labour Conference claimed that while other delegates were talking about raising living standards for mankind, India had no standard on which to build. Could we but raise the standards of the Indians and Chinese by as little as one or two per cent., our trade worries would be over. The article mentioned the commodities in short supply in China - refrigerators and tyres, for instance. We have not sufficient of those for ourselves at the moment, I concede, but the article suggested a token shipment in order that we might get our products on to the market and well advertised, so that we should have something on which to build. I do not know what has been done about the development “ of this trade, but I hope that in’ the Department of .Commerce and Agriculture, which is concerned with our export trade, a capable officer is specializing on this matter, because it presents tremendous possibilities. I understand that a trade delegation is to go to India to study the Indian market. That is an excellent plan, because it will be a departure from purely governmental action. The captains of industry, who are used to dealing with commercial problems, ought to be able to assess the opportunities of this market. I am particularly interested in the development of trade with India, because people who have first-hand knowledge of the possibilities have discussed it with me, and, although I personally know very little about the potentialities of the Indian market, I accept what they have told me. One man, who was in India for thirty years, but is living in retirement in Australia, told me that India presented a vast market for our woollen goods. Many people, have the idea that India is eternally hot, but that is a mistake, and, there are parts of, the country where people need blankets at night and woollen textiles in the day. I do not claim that we ought to concentrate entirely on the development of markets in those countries, because we do owe something to the Mother Country, and it presents a market for many of our commodities. Nevertheless, it will not bc able to- take all our surplus production. Even if it were so, there are other Britishdominions with which trade with the United Kingdom has to be shared. Indeed, to-day because of the shortage of shipping we are not sending so much to Great Britain as we might in other times. Empire countries closer to the United Kingdom are supplying goods with which our goods might otherwise have competed, and we are supplying to markets closer to us. That arrangement is under the control of the British Minis- . try of Food.
Like the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) I am concerned about the detention of offenders against military law. For some time I have, been in communication with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) on that subject.
Men who have served overseas and returned to Australia have found themselves in detention camps for military offences, and, although’ some of them have been discharged, they have been compelled to serve their sentences. I believe that there is some justification for disciplinary penalties, but, because of some information that has reached me; I have come to the conclusion that some sentences imposed by courts martial are vicious and quite disproportionate to the offences committed. Consider the case of a man who, on returning from overseas service, is forced to cool his heels in camp. Bored, or perhaps because he has been refused leave to deal with some family matter, he might absent himself without leave. When he returns or is apprehended he is court-martialled. A monetary penalty might be imposed. He goes from bad to worse, and commits other offences, and, finally, he has a vicious penalty imposed on him, notwithstanding that in battle, when his services were needed outside this country, he was a gallant soldier. That is wrong. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Parkes is highly commendable. These sentences should be reviewed. One man, who is in a detention camp, has a. job in civil life to which he can return.
– A royal com- < mission has already inquired into these matters, and not very much was collected out of the cases examined.
– Royal commissions have investigated many subjects, but because a royal commission has investigated detention camps and, in the words of the honorable member, “ has not collected very much out of the cases examined “-
– An inquiry into detention camps is being held now.
– I do not know how far the inquiry has gone, but I do know that the detention camp in Tasmania has been closed, and the few inmates transferred to the mainland. That detention camp was top-heavy and wasteful. Between twenty and thirty men were guarding half a dozen prisoners. ‘ If the men in detention have not committed serious offences, their sentences should be reviewed, and the men should be allowed to return to civil life so that they may become economic and productive units in the community. If they are not good citizens, the civil law will deal with them in the civil courts. The honorable member for Parkes made practical suggestions, and I agree with them. I hope that the Minister will examine them, and review sympathetically the sentences which have been imposed upon the prisoners.
– Regarding the forthcoming inquiry by the Full Arbi’tra-. tion Court into the working week, I assume from what has appeared in the press that the parties will be represented in the usual way, that is to say, there will be counsel for the employers or certain groups of employers, and counsel for the unions, either groups or individuals. I also gather that the Commonwealth Government itself is intervening, through counsel, in those proceedings with a view to supporting the claim for a shorter working week. Whilst I have no official information on the matter, I have seen ‘ references to it in the press. It has been put to me from various sources that consumers should be represented, through counsel, because of the very great importance of the issues which will be decided. When I say “ consumers “, I mean organized bodies of consumers, such as’ the Housewives Association. I know that in the ordinary course, one treats the court as representing the general public interest outside the interests of the disputants, and, as a general rule, I have no quarrel with that; but having regard to the fact that the Commonwealth itself is intervening, and, I presume, intervening on one side, I suggest, to the Minister- for Labour and National Service that the suggestion that counsel should be provided for a representative body of consumers is one which deserves consideration. I ask the Minister whether he will examine the matter, and arrive at a conclusion as soon as he reasonably can.
– It is true that a test case on the proposal for a 40-hour working week will soon come before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Applications have been made, and claims have been lodged. Both parties have been notified, and are now preparing their cases. The date of the hearing has not yet been fixed. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) stated, the Commonwealth has notified its intention to intervene, through counsel, to inform the mind of the court. The right honorable gentleman knows better than most in en the meaning of the words “ inform the mind of the court “. I do not suggest that the Government is intervening on one side. What the Commonwealth will do will be to present figures dealing with productivity, past and present, and forecasts of the future, and inform the mind of the court as to what effect the introduction of a shorter working week may have on the national economy.
The question whether we should give some assistance or make it possible for other bodies to be represented in the court has not .arisen previously. A good deal of misunderstanding exists about what is called “ neglecting the consumers “. In this case, quite obviously, the employers on one side and the employees on the other are the parties to the case, and if we subtract those two big bodies from the population of Australia, very few people remain.
– Still, the Minister will remember that an eminent American once used the expression about “ the party of tha third part “.
– I know that there are organizations like the .Housewives Association which claim that they specially represent the consumers, but that contention, upon examination is not nearly so logical and well founded as it might at first appear. Often in a test case, someone asks “What about the consumer?” When I was discussing industrial matters at the Melbourne University on one occasion, the chairman of the gathering, in reply to a question as to how he would divide the population of Australia, said, - “ About SO per cent, are wage and salary earners, between 10 and 12 per cent, are employers, and the remainder are professional men like, doctors, dentists and professors “. ‘ The employers and employees in total represent a large body of consumers.
Still, I realize that there are groups of people in Australia who directly concentrate their attention upon the protection of the consumer against the claims of employees and the counter-claims probably of employers. Why they think that they can protect the interests of the consuming masses who are represented in the court I do not know, but they have a right to put their case. I shall ask my colleagues to examine the suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition, who has had a great deal of experience of these cases, with a view to seeing whether it is possible to put the view of some independent body representing consumers.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) are about to leave Australia for the purpose of attending a peace conference. To date, honorable members have not had an opportunity to discuss what those delegates should do overseas.
– We have not been consulted.
– Even the Prime Minister may not know what proposals have been formulated. This peace conference will not be conducted in a manner similar to the conference after the conclusion of the war of 1914-18. The proceedings at that conference evidently developed into a debate very similar to a stormy debate in the House of Representatives, but the conference finally arrived at determinations. On this occasion, it appears that the main decisions will be reached by three powers only, and it seems to me to be extremely doubtful whether the other powers will receive any consideration in the matter. Notwithstanding . that, the Commonwealth Government is under an obligation to inform the House regarding the attitude that the delegates will adopt towards the problems which will arise at the peace conference. No doubt we shall receive reports when the delegates return. Whether those reports will be debated before the election remains to be seen.
Yesterday, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) read a very good “ curtain lecture “ to the Government of South Australia on the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land.’
From my knowledge of affairs in South Australia, the State Government purchased land for the settlement of ex-servicemen long before the Commonwealth introduced the Re-establishment and Employment Bill. The first purchase of land to my knowledge was made in the electorate Of Barker in January, 1945. I await with interest the reply of the. Government of South Australia to the Minister’s comments. The honorable gentleman will probably be involved in another wordy controversy similar to that in which he indulged over the Loxton irrigation scheme. Ultimately, . he hoisted a white flag, and agreed to the State’s proposals. If he is engaging in another controversy with the Premier of South Australia, I advise him to keep a few pieces of white calico handy.
I proposed to place upon the noticepaper a question relating to the sale by the Commonwealth of certain naval vessels, but I have since heard that the Government, instead of making a direct sale to a certain power, is selling, donating or trading the ships to the British Admiralty. I am not able to distinguish any great difference between an outright sale and negotiations of that sort. If any deal of that kind is to take place, a direct sale rather than an indirect sale is advisable. Before the outbreak of war in 1939, I delivered a speech about the important part which is played in peacetime by the traffic in armaments, including warships, aircraft, artillery and munitions. On this matter; the Commonwealth electorate will desire a clear and unequivocal statement from the Government, regardless of its political beliefs.
The fate of some Australian garrisons in the Pacific has been the subject of correspondence between the Prime Minister and myself, hut since then, exservicemen’s associations, including the Sth Division Association and the 23rd Brigade Association in Victoria have taken a vigorous interest in the matter. They ask, quite rightly, for an inquiry by the Commonwealth into the fate of these garrisons shortly after Japan entered the war. No satisfactory statement, and certainly no authoritative statement, has been made by the Government. I put it to the Government, as some exservicemen’s associations have put it vigorously to members of this Parliament, that the Government had no hesitation in sending a special court of inquiry to discover whether there were too many Koreans on a Japanese destroyer when it left Sydney a few weeks ago. Surely then, in justice, we should pay the same attention to the feelings of the parents of our lost troops, and endeavour by inquiry to clear up once and for all what really happened to Australian garrisons posted in various parts of the Pacific and the East Indies shortly after Japan entered the war.
– ‘Joes the honorable member refer to Ambon?
– Ambon, Rabaul and Koepang and other places where fighting took place. This is a direct and inescapable obligation of the Parliament, and honorable members will sooner or later have to recognize it.
– Recently I asked that copies of commentaries and news reviews broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be made available for inspection by honorable members. I suggested that perhaps one copy of each script could be laid on the table of the Library. I gave reasons why this should be done and referred to some rather strange conceptions of their functions which some commentators employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission appear to possess. I have since received advice from the commission, through the PostmasterGeneral, that it does not see that any good purpose would be served by complying with my request. No reasons were stated to support that opinion; the mere assertion was made. I am satisfied however that from the point of view of the nation and of this Parliament a very good purpose would be served by making copies of the scripts available for examination of the allegation that some of the commentators give a decided slant to remarks which should be impartial. I hope that the Government will give further consideration to this subject.
The listening audience of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is also a matter of interest. I understand that the commission recently spent about £1,500 in the purchase of .a survey to ascertain the proportion of Australian radio listeners who tuned in to commission programmes. The investigation revealed that less than 20 per cent, of licence-holders do so. About 1,500,000 people in Australia pay fees for listeners’ licences, but apparently SO -per cent, of them do not consider it worthwhile to listen to what they pay for. In this country listeners may tune in to both national and commercial programmes, and it is desirable that both should be available, but I am anxious that the national programmes shall, by their appeal, command the attention of the majority of Australian listeners. To achieve this, ‘ however, considerable changes are necessary in the national programmes and in the administration of the commission. The national programmes must be .brought more into conformity with the desires of the general community.
Another matter to which I must refer relates to broadcast station 2WL “Wollongong, which serves a considerable part of my electorate. The company operating that station has recently notified the Wollongong Trades and Labour Council that it will not permit any further political talks to be broadcast over its station. For several years the Wollongong Trades and Labour Council has broadcast a ten-minute talk over this station every Monday night. Speakers representing the miners’ federation, the Federated Ironworkers Union, the Waterside Workers Federation, the Builders Labourers Industrial Union, and other trade union organizations have participated in these programmes.
– All the Communist unions !
– I understand that the Communist party, which also had a regular -session, has been notified that its time has been cancelled. I am not concerned about the view that is expressed in these sessions. I consider it highly desirable, in a democracy, that every view should be expressed. I will fight as strongly for my opponent’s right to put his case as for my own. Only a limited number of B class stations operate and it is impossible to provide channels for every organization which desires one. For that reason it is essential that the fairest possible distribution be made of the facilities that are available. [ notice that the Liberal party has also been debarred by station 2 WL; even though that party represents a small proportion of the people, I claim for it the right to facilities to express itself. I ask the Government to ascertain why the company operating this station ‘ has adopted this attitude.
.- I am astonished that’ the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser), who asserts that he is one of the “ moderates “ in this Parliament, should espouse the cause of the Builders Labourers Industrial Union, and the waterside workers’ and the ironworkers’ organizations, which, as we all know, are Communist-controlled. He does so, no doubt, because of the powerful financial resources of these organizations. It is astonishing to me that they are able to monopolize the time of the B class stations. Almost at any period during the most favorable broadcasting times ‘it is possible to dial in any State a B class station which is putting Communist propaganda over the air. These Communist organizations are able to “ buy up “ the air. They have more funds for this purpose than the Liberal party, the Labour party and the Australian Country party combined. I do not know where they get the money to pay for their foul propaganda, which is in the interests, not of Australia, but of Moscow.
– I shall continue to urge that all sections be provided with opportunities to broadcast, however much the honorable member may protest against it.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member, during the election campaign, will tell the people how he has spoken in favour of freedom in broadcasting.
– I will say over the air to-night what I have just said.
– I have no’ doubt that the honorable gentleman will have a bit both ways.
I wish to voice several grievances - there are plenty from which I may choose. As the Minister for Works and
Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) is present I shall refer to a matter affecting the War Service Homes Commission, which, I understand, is now under his administration. I bring to the notice of honorable members a letter which I have received from Mr. 0. R. Williams, of Botany, who -was a prisoner of W,El r in the hands of the Japanese. Mr. Williams and his wife are living in a 9 ft. by 9 ft. room in a small cottage occupied by two other families. Although this man, according to his letter, has secured his builder, who owns the land that the cottage is to be built on, and also has all the materials necessary for the job, he has been “stalled” by the War Service Homes Commission f or two months. He’ has been told that everything he had submitted is quite all right but that he needs a surveyor’s certificate that the builder really owns the land. I ask the Minister to investigate this case. I do not wish to convey the impression that I am unduly critical of the honorable gentleman’s administration, for I know that it is extremely difficult to deal with these matters at present, hut I ask him to ascertain whether obstructive tactics are being employed.
– Why did not the honorable member submit the case to me ?
– According to the letter, that was done two months ago.
– It has not .come before me. The honorable gentleman is engaging in political propaganda.
– That is not so. I understand from the letter that this matter was referred to the War Service Homes Commission two months ago, and that it has been held up because a surveyor’s certificate has not been submitted. I hope that the Minister will take steps to expedite the granting of whatever permits may be necessary in this case. I am not alleging that the Minister would condone this kind of thing; but unless such grievances are brought before him in this manner they will continue not only in respect of Mr. C. R. Williams, of Rochester-street, Botany, but also many others who possibly are in a similar situation. There I leave the matter, in the hope that the
Minister will investigate it, with a view to determining whether redress can be afforded, so that men who are now living with their families in rooms no larger than 9 ft. by 9 ft. can get busy when a builder, materials and land are available, and all “ that is lacking is a “ tuppeny ha’penny “ survey.
The Lismore branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia complains in a letter to me that under the terms of the grant of £10 for tools to ex-servicemen who can show that they are qualified to receive it, the Repatriation Department is supplying second-hand tools on which a value of about £6 10s. is placed by competent ex-servicemen in the building trade, and others in the Lismore district.
– New tools are not available.
– Then the department ought not to supply tools worth only £6 10s. and claim that a grant of £10 is being made. Many ex-servicemen in the Lismore district, and presumably elsewhere, consider that they are being given a raw deal, when a grant that is of the value of £10 is reduced to a little more than one-half of that amount. I shall submit to the Government the . details that have been supplied to me. A good deal of indignation is- felt by those who are supposed to be beneficiaries of the generosity of the Government in this respect.
During the war, the Volunteer Defence Corps performed a very useful service to the community. The men composing the corps gave up their weekends to it, and during the worst crisis of the war were prepared’ to drill and make themselves available to the armed forces of the Commonwealth, wherever they might be required. They have been given a deal which may be described as “shabby”. Mr. L. G. Cameron, honorary secretary of the Services Association, of 57 Crownstreet, South Lismore, in a letter to me claims that members of the Volunteer Defence Corps were not automatically given their discharges as are other members of the armed forces, but by advertisement inserted in the Sydney Morning Herald, were. invited to apply if they wish to be discharged. Those who did not make application did not receive a certificate of discharge. The advertisement read -
V.D.C. Discharge Certificates - Ex-members of the V.D.C. desirous of obtaining certificates of discharge should apply, stating army number and regimental particulars, to the Officer-in-Charge, N.S.W. Echelon and Records, Broadway, Sydney …
– A matter of national importance !
– It is not of very ranch importance to the honorable member. These are merely men who were prepared to devote their time, money and effort to the task of defending Australia when it was in danger. The danger having passed, the honorable member, with a sneer in his voice and on his face, says, “A matter of national importance!” The Government has used these men; now they can do what they like, for the Labour party has very little interest in them. By implication, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) says that they are not worth even a certificate of discharge. If they want it they should get it through the ordinary .routine, as does every other member of the armed forces, but they have to apply for it. To avoid any misconception I shall read the letter that I have received from the honorary secretary of the Services Association.
Reverting to our correspondence re your representations requesting the Government to strike a discharge modal to be conferred on ex-service personnel who were prevented, through no fault of their own, from serving in His Majesty’s forces overseas, we believe the House is now in session and this would bc the opportune time to ventilate this matter. It is also the desire of our sub-branch, through yourself, to support the protest of the Australian Services Association against the method of discharging V.D.C. personnel. An advertisement which I am enclosing a copy of appeared in the “ Public Notices “ column of the Sydney Morning Herald, putting the onus on these mcn to make written application for their discharges. As the D.B..O. have a complete copy of the names and numbers of the volunteers, we feel that the least that could be done would be to forward discharge certificates to the local drill hall, and a final parade could then bc called and certificates handed out.
The Government must decide whether to. treat the Volunteer Defence Corps with ordinary decency, or to “wipe them off” as not worthy of further consideration.
I notice that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has returned from Melbourne, where he made a gratuitious reference to the High Court and suggested delicate means for altering the Constitution. I now invite his attention to a matter about which I have questioned him. I refer to the appointment of Mr. Alex Wilson as Administrator of Norfolk Island. There are many distinguished servicemen who served Australia well in Libya, Crete, Greece, Syria, Borneo, New Guinea, Papua, Bougainville, and scores of other places. Many of them have distinguished records, not only as soldiers, but also as administrators. They did a job for Australia in a first-class manner, and established such reputations that they ought to be qualified for appointments to posts such as administrators of island territories. Yet when the Government first had an .opportunity to make a major appointment as an administrator, one of the best “ plum.3 “ that it could give was awarded to Mr. Alex Wilson, the ex-member for Wimmera, an ex-stooge of the Government. So it was a reward, not to a soldier, but to a politician who had rendered a political service to the Ministry. I have asked a number of questions in connexion with this appointment. One read: “Was the position advertised?” to which the answer was “No”. Of course, it was a perfectly confidential appointment. Nobody was to know. that Sir Charles Rosenthal was to be shifted. It was done “ under the lap “. Mr. Alex Wilson sneaked in the back door of the Minister for Transport and said “ Eddie,’ what about that job on Norfolk Island ? “
– The honorable member must not refer to the Minister for Transport as “ Eddie “.
– I am referring to him as the Minister for Transport, and am merely relating what I suspect the ex-member for Wimmera did.
– The honorable member’s suspicions do not interest the Chair.
Mi-. ANTHONY.- I accept the ruling of the Chair on that point. The position was not advertised. It was a sneaking, back-door appointment. No exserviceman was given an opportunity to make an application. I asked further : “ Was any . returned soldier offered the position ? “ and I received what might he described as a straight-forward answer, of which the Minister for Transport is extremely proud. It was this -
The qualifications of all those who were considered suitable and available for the position were considered.
That will not be regarded as an answer by any ex-serviceman. My next question was -
If not, was it considered that no returned soldier was available and suitable for such appointment?
The Minister replied -
Mr. Wilson was considered to hold the best qualifications for the position of those referred to in reply to question No. 5.
Mr. Wilson possessed the qualification of having been a supporter of the Government at a critical time, but no otter possible qualification. I have done the Minister a slight injustice, and always when I find myself in that position I hasten to make a correction. In the third question I asked -
What was the previous administrative experience of Mr. Wilson?
The Minister replied -
Mr. Wilson had long practical experience of agriculture, whilst his administrative ability has been demonstrated over a period of some years when he was assisting the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the difficult tasks of organizing Australia’s food front.
Those are Mr. Wilson’s qualifications’ as an administrator. He was not a member of the Government at the time, and did not hold any official appointment. He was in the same category as some of the other “ administrators “ assisting Ministers. I presume that almost every honorable member on the Government side can now qualify as an .administrator. I doubt very much whether any business firm which wanted a manager would accept such qualifications, or whether any member opposite who had some job to do and wanted a man with administrative experience and ability to do it would be satisfied with the qualifications put forward on behalf of Mr. Alex Wilson. This appointment was a scandal and a shame. It reeks of everything that is undesirable in such appointments. It was a shameless method of paying for political support. In no other way can it be described. It is a payoff, not so much at the expense of the Commonwealth as a whole - although that is a point, also - as at the expense of every decent ex-serviceman who might have a claim. Plenty of men who served through six years of war with great merit are now thrown on the scrap heap. The other day, the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) announced the retirement of certain high-ranking officers of the Air Force. Such men >as Bostock, Williams and Lucas have been given notice of their retirement. Any one of those men would be qualified to fill this job, but they were not given the opportunity to apply. If the returned soldiers expect preference in employment from this Government they have only to look at the appointment of Alex Wilson to know where they stand.
– I submit to the House the following statement on the utilization of funds accumulated by the Central Wool Committee.
During the war, the Central Wool Committee, which was established to administer the wool purchase arrangement entered into between the United Kingdom and Australian Governments, accumulated moneys arising out of activities which were outside the limits of the wool purchase plan itself. The present credit balance resulting from these activities is approximately £7,000,000, and it is anticipated that, by 30th June next, when the activities will in the main be discontinued, the total will be somewhat greater. The funds to which I refer have been derived principally from the following sources: -
Flat-rate Adjustment on Skin Wools - £2,400,000. - When shorn wools have been appraised each year under the wool purchase plan, the suppliers have been paid appropriate prices, according to the table of limits. At the end of each wool year, an adjustment has been made by a pro rata payment to each supplier of shorn wool of an amount sufficient to bring the average price paid in Australia for the whole clip up to the flat rate purchase price paid by the United Kingdom Government. This statement is known as the flat-rate adjustment. No such adjustment has been made in respect of skin wools sent in for appraisement by fellmongers and others. When the wool purchase arrangement commenced in 1939, it was announced by the then Prime Minister that wool derived from sheepskins would not participate in any surplus over and above the appraised price. The
Central Wool Committee, at the end of each season, supplemented Mr. Menzies’ announcement by a press statement and official advice to all wool selling brokers that the suppliers of all wool derived from sheepskins would be paid appraised value only, and that the appraised price would be the final and only price paid for such wool.
The amount of £2,400,000 which has accrued under this item represents, for the seasons 1939-40 to 1944-45, the difference between the appraised price paid to fellmongers and other suppliers of skin wools, and the purchase price paid to the Central Wool Committee by the Government of the United Kingdom.
Deferred Price on the Wool Content of Manufactured Goods Exported from the Commonwealth Pursuant to the Provisions of the National Security (Price of Wool for Manufacture for Export) Regulations - £1,550,000: - In accordance with the arrangement made by the United Kingdom and Australian Governments at the outbreak of war, wool used by Australian manufacturers was excluded from the wool purchase agreement. Australian manufacturers have paid, for wool selected by thom, prices lower than the export issue prices. In respect of this wool, as in the Case of all other shorn wool, Australian growers have received, each year, the appropriate price according to the Table of Limits, related to the flat-rate purchase price. In the event of goods manufactured by Australian woollen and worsted manufacturers being submitted for export, the exporter has not been permitted to take the whole ‘of the profit on export, but has been required to pay to the Central Wool Committee, and recently to the Australian Wool Realization Commission, a deferred payment, so that the total amount paid for the -wool used in the manufacture of those goods has been equivalent to the Export Issue Price.
Surplus on Wool Tops, Noils and Waste, Exported from Australia under the Control of the Central Wool Committee, pursuant to the National Security (Wool Tops) Regulations - £2,700,000 : - Pursuant to its control of the export from Australia of wool tops, noils and waste, the Central Wool Committee allowed to all topmakers the cost of the raw wool used in the manufacture of tops, plus interest and other charges, and a charge for combing which returned to the topmaker a reasonable margin of profit. The difference between these costs as determined by the Central Wool Committee and the price paid by the overseas buyers for the tops, noils, &c, was taken by the Central Wool Committee. Furthermore, in order to increase the production of wool tops, the Central Wool Committee arranged for tops to be combed on a commission basis. When the wool tops control commenced, the United Kingdom authorities agreed that all surplus from the operations referred to herein would be for the account of the Commonwealth Government.
Of the other items responsible for the credit balance of the accumulated funds, the most important is the interest earned on the moneys at credit from time to time.
The Government has carefully considered the disposal of these moneys, which have accrued outside the administration of the wool purchase arrange^ ment, and are the result of good and careful management by the Central Wool Committee. The moneys will not be taken by the Government into Consolidated Revenue, and will not be used for any individual distribution to woolgrowers, nor to the fellmongers, topmakers, and manufacturers concerned The Government has decided, however, that these accumulated moneys, shall b» used for the benefit of the wool industry in connexion with research and promotion of the use of wool. The Government has drawn up proposals for the use of the fund in these directions, and will take an early opportunity to discuss them with representatives -of wool-growers. As J indicated above, the basis of our discussions will be that the money will not be paid into Consolidated Revenue, and will not be distributed to any section of the wool industry, but will be used in the interests of the wool industry, particularly for research and promotion of the use of wool.
This is the only Government statement that has been made in explanation of the sources of this particular fund and of the prospective use of it. The moneys involved have no relation to the possible profits arising out of the Wool Purchase Arrangement, which provided that the United Kingdom Government would pay to the Commonwealth Government 50 per cent, of profits made by the United Kingdom Government on Australian wool sold for use outside the United Kingdom. The late Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. John Curtin, pointed out on the 17th September, 1942, that it would not be possible to take an account of the profits until the purchase arrangement was wound up. On that occasion, Mr. Curtin said, in reply to a question in this House, that the Australian share of profits would be distributed amongst the growers in proportion to their contributions of wool to the whole scheme during its operation.
Honorable members are aware that the war-time wool purchase agreement was not completely wound up, but was incorporated in the long-term plan which is now in operation. As a part of the longterm plan which was unanimously accepted hy the wool-growers organizations and by this Parliament, the accrued credits in the divisible profits account have been taken into account in the transfer of assets from the British Government to the joint ownership of the British and Australian Governments. As is now well known, the British and Australian Governments will, throughout the period required to dispose of the present large stocks of wool, fix annually appropriate reserve prices for wool, jointly provide any money required to buy in wool which does not realize the reserve price at auction, and share equally any profit or loss resulting from the undertaking.
I consider that it would be unwise at this stage to make any predictions as to what will happen to any profit or loss, realized as a result of the long-term plan, which goes much further than the wartime wool purchase agreement, and entails considerable financial outlay and liability to the Commonwealth. .
Debate (on motion by Mr. Sheehan) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Sugar Agreement Bill 1946. Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1946.
Sales Tax Assessment Bill (No. 9) 1946. Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1946.
National Security Bill 1946.
– by’ leave - On the 26th March, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) stated in Parliament that, in the period since July, 193S, Australia had accumulated gold holdings amounting to £42,500,000. He suggested that, by not making these gold holdings available to the sterling area dollar pool, Australia was leading a non-co-operative movement within the British Empire. These statements are not only inaccurate, but are also seriously misleading, particularly in regard to Australia’s participation in the sterling area dollar pool arrangement. It will be recalled that, in the past, the policy has been followed of holding some quantity of gold in Australia. On the 30th June, 1929, for- example, gold to the .value of £45,000,000 sterling was held by the banking system, a part of this gold, constituting the note issue reserve. During the period 1929-32, this gold was mobilized and exported to meet the deficiency in Australia’s balance of payments, thus avoiding default on the part of Australia in its international commitments. From 1933 until quite recently the amount of gold held in Australia was quite insignificant, since it was necessary to realize on all gold produced so as to enable Australia to meet its oversea obligations and to pay .for essential imports. However, during the last year or two, the Commonwealth Bank has been accumulating a small gold reserve by purchasing gold currently produced in Australia.
The estimate of £42,500,000, quoted by the honorable member for New” England, represents the difference between the total value of Australia’s gold production and gold imports, and the total value of gold exported from Australia during the period from the 1st July, 1938, to the 31st January, 1946. An estimate of the Commonwealth Bank’s gold reserve cannot be derived in this way, since, at the end of this period, a considerable quantity of gold, which had been sold, had, for security reasons, not been exported from Australia, but was held temporarily in Australia on behalf of the Bank of England. This gold has since been exported.. The estimate made by the honorable member for New England is, therefore, inaccurate. Present holdings are approximately £18,000,000 Australian. .
I have no hesitation in refuting- the suggestion that Australia is adopting a non-co-operative attitude regarding the sterling area dollar pool. In this connexion, I remind the honorable member that the whole of the net United States of America dollar receipts, which accrued to Australia as a result of spendings by the United States forces in Australia, and from other sources in recent, years, has been made available to the sterling area dollar pool.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at itsrising, adjourn to a date and an hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to answer criticism of the appointment of Mr. Alex Wilson, formerly honorable member for Wimmera in this House, as Administrator of Norfolk. Island.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, is it in order for a member speaking on the adjournment to revive an earlier debate in the House?
– It is not in order for a member to revive a previous debate. I have not yet learned whether the Minister is referring to the debate that has just taken place or to other criticism of the appointment. If the Minister will tell me, I shall be able to know how to rule.
– I propose to answer earlier criticism of the appointment of Mr. Wilson.
– That will be in order.
– In doing so, I intend to give reasons why the Government considers the appointment appropriate. Sir Charles Rosenthal, former Administrator of Norfolk Island, was granted several extensions of his term in order that I, as Minister for External Territories, and the Government, . should have the opportunity to examine the field of those available for appointment. After considering the field, we determined that Mr. Wilson was most suitable for the position, first, because of his great experience as an agriculturist and, secondly, because of the ability he had shown in assisting the Government.
– That is right !
– That is quite true. In reviewing the field, we kept in mind the various members of the Opposition who might have considered themselves qualified, but I assure them that it did not take long to make a decision on their qualifications. It seems to me that some Opposition members are, as usual, trying to use the principle of preference to returned soldiers for their own political advantage. All who protested against the appointment suggested, as men who ought to have been chosen instead of Mr. Wilson, generals, major-generals, lieutenantgenerals and brigadiers, but no one holding lower rank. So all that honorable members opposite have tried to do is to obtain good jobs for “brass hats “ who evidently find it difficult from their own efforts to re-establish themselves in civil life. The fact is that this Government has appointed many returned soldiers to posts that it thought the applicants were fitted to occupy. The Opposition’s protests against the appointment of Mr. Wilson will be laughed at by the people when they know the facts. When in power, they did not religiously adhere to the principle of preference to returned soldiers when making appointments to lucrative posts. For instance, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), who attained the rank of major-general in the Commonwealth Military Forces and served overseas in World War I., was passed over in favour of thethen honorable member for Perth, Mr. Nairn, a non-soldier, when the Speakership was being filled. Other returned soldier supporters of the then Government similarly passed over included Major Marr, the then honorable member for Parkes, and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), a major in the Army. Sir John Latham, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, was appointed to a position in Japan. I understand that his service in the war of 1914-18 was on the legal side, and that, although he claimed some naval rank, the only vessel he ever boarded was probably a launch in Sydney Harbour. He got that diplomatic job when men who saw active service could have filled it. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who led the attack on the appointment of Mr. Wilson, is a member of a party led by a man who is not a returned soldier. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) “whom I should describe, I suppose, as the leader of the combined Opposition, because I understand that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have an agreement for election purposes, is not a returned soldier. I recall that when he was attacked in this House by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) for not having served in World War I. he said that he had had. very sound reasons for not having gone to that war, and a man’s decision whether to serve his country at home or overseas was his own concern. I agree with the right honorable gentleman that it is a matter for personal determination. But the honorable member for Richmond who protested vehemently against the appointment of Mr. Wilson on one occasion, during the course of World War II., bought a property on the north coast of New South Wales. While this country was in urgent need of butter, the honorable gentleman, who claims to have given great service to this country, sold the dairy herd on that property in order to convert it into a banana plantation, because of the greater profits in bananas than in dairying. In his constituency he is notorious as an’ employer of cheap labour. I told once before in this House, and I repeat it now for the edification of those who did not hear me then, that once, as Christmas came near, he asked the wife of one of his workers where she intended to spend her Christmas holidays, which consisted of a fortnight off without pay! This is the gentleman who takes it upon himself to criticize the service given to this country by Mr. Wilson. On another occasion, he, with an air of “ patriotism “, designed to fortify himself among his constituents, decided to give his parliamentary allowance to charity, but he misguidedly confided in someone that he was not making any real sacrifice because he was taxed at such a high rate that he preferred to give the money away for his own personal advantage rather than pay it back to the Treasury. Mr. Wilson tried to enlist but was rejected. He did not wear any badge to advertise to the world that he was a rejected volunteer. At the very time when his appointment was under the fire of criticism, Mr. Wilson had two sons serving in Borneo” and risking their lives in the defence of this country. They would not regard as a fitting reward for their services and their father’s service the vile attacks that have been made upon him. When matters like this are raised by honorable gentlemen, they should be honest enough to place all the facts before the House and the people. . Mr. Wilson rendered fine and honorable service to this country during the difficult days of the war. He did not wear a uniform as a liaison officer between Victoria Barracks and other equally safe places in Australia, but he did notable work. That is all I need to say. The Government has nothing to apologize for over the appointment. In the short space of time in which Mr. Wilson has been administrator of Norfolk Island, he has shown outstanding ability. As time goes on the excellent choice that was made when he was appointed to the position will become more evident to the Australian people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented: -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for
Commonwealth purposes -
Denman, New South Wales.
Newcastle, New South’ Wales.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Evacuation of area - Revocation.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 67.
Superannuation Act - Superannuation Board - Twenty-third Annual Report, for year 1944-45.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 66.
House adjourned at 6 p.m., to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Public Service : Retirements.
Mr.Fadden asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that for some years immediately prior to the war the practice was to retire Commonwealth public servants when they reached 64 years of age?
Is it a fact that during the war when the man-power position became acute such persons were retired at 65 or later?
With a view to assisting qualified returned soldiers in obtaining permanent employment, will he indicate whether the Government intends to revert to the pre-war practice ?
n asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The following information has been supplied by my colleague, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction : - 1. (a) No separate tender was invited for the installation of machinery at Slazenger’s Annexe at Alexandria, New South Wales. The advertisement specified “the completion and operation of the plywood factory at Alexandria as a going concern “. Some plant both of overseas and Australian manufacture although delivered had not been installed, the war need having passed. An additional but minor quantity of equipment still needs to be ordered fully to equip the factory. (b) Tenderers were left free to indicate the method preferred whether by lease or other means.
All tenderers have now been advised that the annexe and the equipment is no longer available, for the following reasons: -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice-^-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Security Loan : Broadcast.
y. - On the 3rd April, 1946, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) asked me a question relating to a wireless broadcast in connexion with the Security Loan now open for subscription.
The broadcast referred to by the honorable member is evidently a radio story entitled “ When You Come Home “. The script has been submitted to me and I can find nothing in it which could in the least be described as misleading. The broadcast seems .to have been well received in radio circles, if published comment can be taken as a guide. The Radio Times stated that the script was unquestionably the- finest, most polished, workmanlike, and effective piece of radio writing that has come out of this country. The show had its faults, but they were not of a nature serious enough to mar this fine contribution to both the loan and the library of Australian radio writing. The Listener In said that the play must rank as one of the best of its kind. The message of the play was a powerful appeal to give the men who have come back not sympathy but a man’s chance.
y. - On the 28th March, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked me whether tractors and bulldozers in the possession of the services could be made available to local governing bodies who require them to repair damage caused by a succession of floods in the northern districts of New South “Wales and southern Queensland.
The matter has been investigated by the Minister for Works and Housing, who advises that a large number of bulldozers and other earth-moving plant has been made available to State Government departments and local government bodies in recent weeks. The service departments are- co-operating with the Department of Works and Housing and making earth-moving plant available to rehabilitate States and assist with national works. Committees of State Government representatives have been set up in most States to allocate all available plant to the various State authorities in accordance with the urgency of their demands. If, as represented by the honorable member for Richmond, plant made available recently is insufficient to meet demands of shires for flood relief immediate attention will be given by the Sydney or Brisbane officers of the Department of works and Housing to any requests received from Shire councils, provided such demands have the support of the State committee.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he have prepared for the information of honorable members a statment showing the number of persons on the staff of each of the following as at the (a) 30th June, 1939, (6) 30th. June, 1945, and (c) 28th February, 1946 - Director-General of Agriculture, Commonwealth Analyst, Attorney-General, AuditorGeneral, Inspector-General of Bankruptcy, Board of Business Administration, Departments of Air and Civil Aviation, Department of Commerce and Agriculture, Crown Solicitor, Department of Trade and Customs, Department of Defence, Commonwealth Electoral Office, Department of External Affairs, Department of External Territories, Film Censorship, Forestry Bureau, Department of Health, High Court of Australia, Immigration Department, Department of the Interior, Land Tax Valuations Board, Meteorological Bureau, Department of the Navy, Commonwealth Observatory, Commissioner of Patents, Postmaster-General’s Department, Government Printer, Public
Service Board, Commonwealth Railways, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, River Murray Commission, Department of Supply and Shipping, Census and Statistics, Stores Supply arid Tender Board, Superannuation Board, Tariff Board, Taxation Department, Department of Transport, Treasury, War Pensions Tribunals, War Service Homes Commission, Wheat Board, Wool Board, Department of Aircraft Production, Apple and Pear Board, Barley Board, Canned Fruits Board, Capital Issues Committee, Dairy Produce Board, Commonwealth Disposals Commission, Dried Fruits Control Board, ControllerGeneral of Food, Commonwealth Grants Commission, Hide and Leather Industries Board, Department of Home Security, Division of Import Procurement, Department of Information, Man-power and Employment Section, Marine War Risks Board, Meat Board, Controller of Meat Supplies, Department df Munitions, Field Peas Board, Potato Committee, Rabbit Skins Board, Rationing Commission, Department of Post-war Reconstruc- tion, Repatriation Department, Requisitioned Cargoes Committee, Security Service, Superphosphate Industry Commission, Canning and Tinplate Board, Commonwealth Clothing Factories, Flax Production Committee, Tea Control Board, Tobacco Board, Vegetable Seeds Committee, War Damage Commission, War-time (Company) Tax Board, Wool Realization Commission, Department of Works and Housing (Allied Works Council), Commonwealth Salvage Board, Department of the 1 Army, Commonwealth Coal Commission, Controller of Egg Supplies, Commonwealth Investigation Branch, Liquid Fuel Control Board, Marine Branch Maritime Industry Commission, Australian Ship-building Board, Timber Control and Universities Commission?
– The compilation of the information sought by the honorable member in respect of all the instrumentalities mentioned would involve expenditure of public money that would not seem to be justified. The particulars will be supplied for the various Commonwealth departments but not separately for each of the individual branches comprising departments.
s asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the need for improved collections of famous paintings in Australian art galleries, will he remove the customs duty on works of art coming into Australia and thus facilitate this cultural improvement?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Oil or water-colour paintings imported by or presented to public art galleries or other public institutions, cathedrals or churches are admitted free of duty. In addition, the following are also admitted duty-free: - (o) Oil or water-colour paintings by Australian students or artists resident abroad for a period not exceeding seven years; (6) oil or water-colour paintings presented or bequeathed to the owner and not imported for sale; (c) paintings produced at least 100 years prior to the date of importation, classed as antiques and, as such, admitted duty-free. Oil or water-colour paintings other than those mentioned above are dutiable at the rates ‘shown in the Tariff Schedule. These duties were originally imposed as a measure of protection for the work of local artists, and an inquiry conducted shortly before the outbreak of war indicated that the consensus of opinion among artists was that the duties should be retained, as it was feared that otherwise this country might be flooded with inferior productions, to the detriment of local talent. Whilst no objection was shown by artists to the admission duty-free of works of high artistic merit, there appeared to be no practicable method of assessing such merit.
Office Accommodation in Brisbane.
s asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and .2. Representatives of the dairying industry met me in Canberra on Tuesday, the 9th April, 1946, to discuss certain measures connected with the stabilization of the industry. Queensland producers were represented.
International Affairs: RussoDanish Relations.
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Dr. EVATT.–The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. According to available information the evacuation of Bornholm by Russian forces has been completed.
l. - The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) has inquired as to whether immediate relief might beexpected by applicants for telephone services. The Postmaster-general has furnished me with the following information : -
There are 60,000 outstanding applications for telephone services in the Commonwealth and the difficulties experienced by the public in securing the facilities are fully appreciated by the Postal Department, which is taking all possible steps to meet the position. Due entirely to war conditions, it was necessary to impose restrictions on the provision of new services excepting those required for essential purposes. In consequence, it was inevitable that heavy arrears of applications should be accumulated. Since hostilities ceased approximately 32,000 new telephone services have been connected. Despite the fact that the number of new installations is now approximating the pre-war standard the continued demands for facilities and the difficulties with which the department is still confronted in regard to supplies of materials and building accommodation render it impossible to comply with all orders at present and some considerable time must necessarily elapse before the department can overtake the outstanding orders. Largo stocks of telephone equipment have been on order for a long period, and a considerable quantity has already been delivered, whilst further progressive supplies are expected. The main difficulty is to secure new buildings to accommodate the additional equipment whilst major cable projects and the shortage of skilled man-power are other factors which are contributing to the present acute position. The comprehensive programme of workswhich has been planned to overtake the arrears and cater for telephone development includes the provision of many new automatic exchanges in the metropolitan areas and country dis- t ricts and the matter is being proceeded with as expeditiously as practicable.
Housing : Occupation of Private Dwellings by Armed Forces and Foreign Troops.
– On the 22nd March, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr.Fadden), asked the following questions, upon notice : -
In my answer I stated that the information required under No. 3 (a) and (b) was being collated, and would be supplied as soon as possible. I now desire to advise that the information required is as under -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
When may the honorable member for Wilmot expect a reply to his written representations addressed , to the Minister on the 6th December, 1945, relative to the case of the late V187447, Private K. H. Fraser?
– Unavoidable delay has occurred in dealing with this and other similar cases, for the reason that the DeceasedSoldiers’ Estates Act made provision for the exercise by the Minister of certain powers regarding the distribution of such estates, and action was in course for the exercise of those powers when legal questions were raised which resulted in the deferment of the exercise of authority under the Act until the question was determined. It is expected that finality will be achieved at an early date, which will permit of the administration of outstanding estates, including that of the late Private Fraser, to be proceeded with. A reply to this effect was forwarded to the honorable member to-day.
e. - On the 4th April, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked the following question : -
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence furnishme with particulars of the total personnel taken into the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and the women’s services, and also the total number of Australian casualties, during the recent war?
I now furnish the honorable member with the following information supplied by the service departments: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When may the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy) expect a reply to his written representations made to the Prime Minister on the 21st January, relative to the question of the repayment of certain moneys allotted to next-of-kin in respect of deceased members of the 8th Division, Australian Imperial Force ?
y. - I received and acknowledged the receipt of letters sent to me by the honorable member on this matter and am endeavouring to have a decision reached at the earliest possible date.
Royal Australian Air Force: Empire Radio Training School - Mail Services to Troops.
d. - On the 9th April, 1946, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following question : -
I ask the Minister for Air whether it is true, as reported in the press, that no member of the Royal Australian Air Force has been nominated to attend the radio training school at Debden, near Saffron Walden, in the United Kingdom? If that is so, and as we have no equivalent school here, I ask the Minister to rectify this omission, in view of the importance of ensuring that Air Force specialists should bo up to date in radar and radio work generally.
I am now in a position to answer the honorable member as follows : -
The proposal to establish an Empire radio school in England has been the subject of communications between the United Kingdom and the Australian Governments. Negotiations for Australian representation, both on the directing staff of the school and for attendance of trainees, have been in progress for some . time. When the commencing date of the first course is known, nominations of personnel to attend the course will be made, and it is hoped by that time that satisfactory arrangements for Australian representation on the staff will be completed.
asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 April 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460411_reps_17_186/>.