17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr.Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
Mr.HADLEY.- Will the Minister for the Army state the number of Japanese at present in the islands in the Pacific, and the number of Australian troops guarding them ? Will the right honorable gentleman ensure that only the minimum number of Australian troops required shall be retained in the islands, and thus permit the balance of those now there to be returned to Australia for discharge at as early a date as possible?
– The total number of Japanese personnel at present held by the Australians in New Guinea is 1,668. This total is composed of Japanese personnel held as war criminals, or in connexion with the trial of war criminals. The numbers of Australian Army personnel in New Guinea and adjacent areas at the 27th May, 1946, were: Morotai, 750; New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomons, 8,073 ; total,8,823. The number of troops at present in New Guinea, New Britain and the Solomons has been reduced to 3,600. It is anticipated that 2,100 of these will be shipped out by the end of this month, leaving a total of 1,500 members of the Australian Military Forces in that area at the beginning of July, 1946. These personnel, together with the personnel in the Morotai area, will be required for the time being to guard and maintain army equipment, stores and vehicles in the area until evacuation; but it is anticipated that a progressive reduction will be effected until evacuation is complete.
Trial of Japanese - Resignation of Counsel
– Can the Acting Minister for External Affairs state whether it is true, as a report from Tokyo alleges, that seven members of ‘ the War Crimes Defence section have decided to resign? Have the resignations been actuated by dissatisfaction with the conduct of the trial of General Tojo, one-time Japanese War Premier, and the other 25 Japanese war leaders whom they were appointed to defend? In view of Australia’s interest in the prosecution of Japanese war criminals, can the honorable gentleman make a statement on the matter ?
-I have no official knowledge of the circumstances mentioned. I shall seek further knowledge on the subject and, if possible, make a statement on the motion for the adjournment of the House this afternoon.
– At page twelve of the publication, Australian Trade Commissioner Service, issued by the Public Relations Directorate, Export Division, Department of Commerce and Agriculture, this statement appears -
The question of the acreage to be sown in Bengal with jute in 1940 has been recently reviewed in the light of the food situation at present obtaining in the country. As a result of this review, it has been decided that -
an acreage of6 annas of the basic acreage of 1940 should be licensed this year;
The production of jute being of importance to the wheat and wool-growers of Australia, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state what that means? If it applied to any member of the Ministry, I could understand what it meant; but I do not understand its meaning in connexion with acreage.
– I assume that it means what it says.
Supplies for Victoria - Davidson Report
– Has the Prime Minister read the announcement that, unless coal is. supplied to Victoria immediately, gas will be rationed, in Melbourne from Saturday or Sundayof this week-end? Is it. a fact, as reported, that the Prime Minister promised the Premier of. Victoria, Mr.Cain,that 65,000 tons of coal would be sent to- Victoria and that that quantity has not been supplied? Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House why the supplies have not been made available? In view of the grave position offuel supplies in Victoria, and the acute hardships to domesticandindustrial users to be expected from the failure of their supplies in mid-winter, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that immediate emergency steps will be taken torelievethesituation?
– I have not read: the statement to which the honorable member has referred, but I discussed the matter By telephone with the Premier of Victoria when I was in Melbourne recently. I also spoke tohim on the matter by telephone as late as yesterday afternoon. It is true that a week previously, ships proceeding to Melbourne with coal were delayed- by bad weather.Itisalsotrue that the Premier of Victoria told me yesterday afternoon that the coal position in that. State was most serious. I arrangedwiththeMinister for Supply and Shipping, who administers matters relating to coal, to let me have the latest information concerning the position, and the possibility of having supplies of coal forwarded to Victoria. I sent a telephone message to Mr. Cain yesterday afternoon intimating the best that could be done in the circumstances. At our previous discussion he had asked that the quantity of coal being forwarded by train should be increased, and that was done tothe extent of about 300 tons a- day. The House should understand that Victoria is getting more coal from New South Wales now than it was prior to the war, and’ it is receiving a higher percentage of the total output of New South Wales coal than before the war.
– Is it receiving greater supplies than during the war years?
– I shall obtain a statement giving an exact answer to that question. Apart from the difficulties of production, there is an ever-increasing demand for coal, and that applies to Vic toria as elsewhere. Prior to the war.; Victoria was getting less than 900,000 tons of coal, and it is now receiving an average of over 1,000,000 tons.. I am not putting that fact forward in extenuation of the shortage or delays, but there is an increased demand for coal in Victoria. For some time there was a. breakdown of the machinery with which brown coal is produced in Victoria. I shall obtain a precise statement of the coal position, and let the honorable member have it as soon as’ possible.
Mr:RYAN.- Can the Prime Minister say when copies of Mr. JusticeDavidson’s report on the coal-mining industry will be available?
– The magnitude of the report, and the fact that it contains a great many graphs, have created technical difficulties for the printers. For this reason, the Government Printer found thatit would be extremely difficult to do the work, and an endeavour was then made to have the report printed: elsewhere, but without success. I now understand that the Government Printer can undertake the work provided expert assistance is made availablehere. I have not inquired during the last few weeks regarding the progress of the work, but I shall do so, and shall advise the honorable member of’ the result of my inquiries.
– Will the Minister for Post-warReconstruction inform the House whether steps will be taken? to ensure a more even rate of: demobilization than at present as between the various services-? I cite the example of five young men who were apprenticed to process engravers. Two of them joined the Army and now have four aud a half and three years service respectively. They are still serving, whilst: three others; who have had service of three years, three years and two years respectively in the Air Force; have been discharged. It seems unfair that some should serve longer than others because they belong to different arms of the services.
– If would be impossible to ensure that men who’ enlisted in different services shall receive absolutely the same treatment in regard to demobilization. The requirements of the services vary. For instance,I understand that in the Navy certain ships have to be manned, and,therefore, the retention of a contain number of men cannot be avoided. However, I shall see whetheranything can be done on the lines suggested by the honorable member. It would assistme if he would supply me with details of the cases mentioned by him.
– In view of the fact that the Government has agreed to increase the subsidy to Australian woollen manufacturers, on the ground of a problematical rise of the price of wool after the 30th June next, can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the Government proposes to increase the subsidy on wheat for poultry- farmers; alternatively, does it propose, in view of the coming rise of the price of wheat, to increase the price of eggs payable to the producer, and to subsidize the retail price?
– I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– In view of the facts that wheat-growers this season had difficulty in sowing their crops because of the scarcity of tractors of sufficient power - some farmers having to limit their acreage on that account - and that in many districts fallowing will be delayed for the same reason, can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say when tractors of sufficient power will.be available in larger numbers to primary producers.
– It is generally admitted that not enough tractors are available to meet the demand. The Government has -done all that is ‘humanly possible to obtain more. The DirectorGeneral of Agriculture isnow in the United States of America, where he is trying to expedite the delivery of tractors to Australia. Nevertheless, we are still many thousands short of requirements, and I cannothold out much hope that the demandwill be satisfied in the immediate future. Inquiries are being made outside the United States of America with a view to getting tractors of low power for small farms.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture take steps to ensure that there will be better liaison between the State and Common wealth controllers of agricultural machinery, particularly in regard to tractors? I have had experience of a lack of consistency in carrying out the government policy in this connexion, as I have received conflicting reports from State and Com m onweal th con troll er s .
– Recently, the control of agricultural machinery was vested in the States, the Commonwealth doing little more than co-ordinate the controls. Agricultural machinery is allocated on an Australia -wide basis, in order to ensure the most equitable distribution of the machines available. The honorable member’s question to-day is the first indication that I have had of anylack of proper liaison between the Commonwealth and State controllers. I have a fairly intimate knowledge of this subject because numbers of applications for agricultural machinery have pome before me, and my experience of the controller in New South Wales has been most satisfactory. If the honorable member will supply particulars of any instances of conflicting reports, I shall have them investigated.
– When further supplies of tractors are imported into Australia will the Minister forCommerce and Agriculture arrange for them tobe consigned direct to the State in which they are to be used and distribute them to farmers there, instead of holding them up for three months as was done with a consignment of diesel tractors which was left in Melbourne while the Prices Commission, and the Departments of Supply and Shipping and Commerce and Agriculture had aprivate departmental war over their disposal?
– I assure the honorable member that there was no departmental dispute as to the destination of the tractors to which he has referred. The tractors were shipped to Melbourne and the Minister for Agriculture in South Australia made a personal approach to me with .the object of endeavouring to expedite deliveries to his State. Every effort was made to move the tractors to South Australia as quickly as possible, but delays were experienced because of transport difficulties. Generally speaking, South Australia has received equal treatment with the other States in the distribution of imported tracto.rs
– I preface a question to the Acting Minister for External Affairs, by drawing attention to a report in yesterday’s press that Australia is now without political or direct consular representation in the Netherlands East Indies. The report states that the United Spates of America has in that country a consulgeneral, two consuls, and a number of secretaries, and that Great Britain is’ represented there by an accredited consulgeneral with ministerial rank, a viceconsul, and a big staff. It states also that many merchants at Batavia who are anxious to trade with Australia have great difficulty in obtaining import licences from the Dutch Economic Affairs Department. As Australia has appointed diplomatic or trade representatives to many countries with which little trade can be expected, I now ask the Minister why Australia has not appointed a representative to the Netherlands East Indies? Will he say whether the Government’s inaction in this matter is in line with its policy of not having anything to do with the Netherlands East Indies?
– An appointment of a representative to Malaya was made some time ago, and the person appointed was requested to undertake also such duties as may be required to represent Australia in the Netherlands East Indies. Until recently, Australia- had another representative in that, country in the person of Mr. A. D. Brookes, who, owing to illhealth, has had to return to Australia. The question of appointing a direct repre sentative of Australia in the Netherlands East Indies is now receiving consideration.
– In view of the acute shortage of tinned plate in Australia and its serious effect on the production of foodstuffs for export and local consumption, can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping say what action is being taken by the Government to provide adequate supplies of tinned plate in the near future?
– It is true that there is a shortage of tinned plate in Australia and that it vitally affects the canning industry, but that shortage is not confined to Australia ; it is world-wide. In order to ensure that Australia would receive its full share of. the tinned plate that is available in the world a commission was sent abroad with the special object of obtaining increased supplies of this material. Because of the position overseas, however, I doubt that the commission will have been able to achieve very much. I assure the honorable member that everything possible is being done to ensure that supplies, so vitally needed in this country, are brought here as quickly as possible.
– Is ‘ the United States of America sending supplies?
– Some, but not nearly sufficient for our needs.
– As a matter of fact, tinned plate is being rationed in the United State of America at present.
Twenty-seventh Session - Report of Government and Employers’ Delegates.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
International Labour Organization of .the League of Nations - Twenty-seventh Session, Paris, October -November, 1945 - Report of the Australian Government and Employers’ Delegates.
The employees’ representative is absent from Australia and his report has not yet been received.
Ordered to be. printed.
Availability of Shipping
– Has the Prime Minister seen the paragraph in last night’s Melbourne Herald in which Mr. Foggon, Oversea Traffic Manager in Sydney for MacDonald, Hamilton and Company, who recently completed a visit to Britain, is reported to have said that plenty of British ships were now available to carry Australian food to Britain and that he could not understand how Australia was limited by shortage of ships in sending food? In view of the importance of despatching food to Britain at the greatest possible speed, what comment has the Prime Minister to make on Mr. Foggon’s statement?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred.While I was in Great Britain I took the opportunity to meet top-ranking executives in the shipping world and discussed with them the question of shipping generally, with particular reference to the bringing of migrants to this country. They pointed out that shipping was very short of requirements, that a great number of ships had to he docked for refits of various kinds, and that many ships which had been used for the carrying of troops during the war had to be re-converted to cargo carriers. There must be a definite shortage, because the British Government first proposed to take a very large quantity of apples from this country, particularly Tasmania, but finally had to cancel the order because shipping was not available. For that reason, it reduced its original order by more than one-half. Whatever may have appeared in the Melbourne Herald, I know of the difficulties with regard to shipping as the result of my recent discussions with the representative of the various shipping interests of Great Britain. I shall look into the matter in order to see whether there is any substance in the statement.
Tea and Sugar
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether it is a fact that members of the Rationing Commission have made suggestions, if not recommendations, that tea and sugar should be removed from the list of rationed goods ? Whether or not this be correct, can the Minister give any information with regard to present supplies of tea and sugar?
– I am not aware that members of the commission have made a suggestion of that kind. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister, and furnish a reply to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Broadcasting of Proceedings
-I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether, when you are considering the disposal of test recordings of the broadcasting of proceedings in this chamber, you will consider placing some of these records in the Library ? In time to come they will be of historical value.
– I am not sure at the moment whether such records as have been made are the property of the Parliament. I shall have the matter investigated, bearing in mind the honorable member’s suggestion.
– I understand that the present regulations with respect to capital issues provide that companies may be formed with a nominal capital up to £10,000 without approval of the Treasurer. In view of the necessity to expand industry as rapidly as possible in order to provide full employment,, I ask the Prime Minister what is the reason for maintaining any control at all over the formation of companies which would help to achieve that objective ?
– It is true that it is not necessary to obtain approval for the formation of companies with a nominal capital up to £10,000. With regard to capital issues control generally, I have always held the view, which is shared by many people not associated with politics, that such control is needed in peace as well as war. Had such control been exercised in the past, the circumstances in which many companies were formed in this country by people of dubious reputation, and in which great numbers of the public lost money, would have been avoided. However, I shall examine the matter with respect to the limitation of capital up to £10,000. I have been discussing with the States whether capital issues control should be continued after the present controls cease. Some of the States believe as I do that this control should be continued. I shall examine the matter and furnish a detailed reply to the honorable member.
– In view of the future importance of air travel, I ask the Acting Minister for Civil Aviation to state the attitude of the Government regarding country aerodromes? Does the Government intend to retain all the aerodromes it now owns and maintains for its own use? Will any financial assistance be given to local government authorities to construct and maintain aerodromes in order to enable satisfactory services to be established in country areas ?
– That would depend on the localities requiring the service, or on whether the service would be justified. If the honorable gentleman tells me the exact places that he has in mind the matter will be examined by the Department of Civil Aviation, which will supply an answer.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr.Calwell) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The world is witnessing a great struggle for the preservation of democratic ideals and, in this connexion, it will, I think, be agreed that one of the greatest dangers to the form of government favoured by our people is the lack of interest they display in the functioning of their demo cratic institutions. For this reason, the Government welcomes the opportunity of asking the Parliament to consider this bill to authorize the broadcasting of parliamentary debates. The enactment of this measure would, in my opinion, go far towards strengthening the association between the Parliament and the people, which, even though it may be in fact solid and intimate, nevertheless frequently seems to be of an intangible character. Although the step it is proposed to take is novel in the history of the Commonwealth, we are fortunate in being able to draw on the experience of our sister dominion, New Zealand, where since 1936, it has been the practice to broadcast the proceedings of the National Parliament. According to reliable evidence, the debates have become a popular feature of the broadcasting programmes of that country, where it has been found that the broadcasts have stimulated interest in parliamentary affairs, and have enabled the people to be better informed on both sides of public questions, thus ensuring the more effective operation of the democratic system of government.
For some years, there have been occasional suggestions that the proceedings of the Commonwealth Parliament should be broadcast, and in more recent times the proposal has been supported by persons and organizations representing all shades of political thought. The Government, therefore, thought that it was advisable that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting should examine the matter and report to the Parliament whether it considered the broadcasting of debates was desirable and, if so, to what extent and in what manner the broadcasts should be undertaken. The Broadcasting Committee comprehensively investigated the subject and subsequently presented to Parliament a most interesting and valuable report covering all phases of the proposal. The committee consulted the leaders of the various parties in Parliament and others well qualified to advise it on the numerous aspects of the matter. After weighing the evidence which had been submitted to it, the Broadcasting Committee came to the conclusion that the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Commonwealth
Parliament’ would be a desirable innovation and that arrangements for its introduction should be made as soon as circumstances permitted.
In the course of its report the Broadcasting Committee expressed its agreement with the views of those who believe that the effect of these broadcasts would be to raise the standard of debates, enhance the- prestige of Parliament, and contribute to a better informed judgment on matters affecting the common good and the public interest. The committee drew attention to the fact that there is an increasing demand for copies of the printed debates, and, partly because of this evidence of widening interest in Common wealth politics, it considers that the listening public would appreciate the opportunity of hearing members of both Houses expounding their views on measures presented t’o Parliament. The Government has considered carefully the report of the committee and having accepted, in principle, the proposal that the proceedings of Parliament should be broadcast, it -has decided that arrangements should be. made for the broadcasts- to commence during the present session.
In the process of its investigations, the committee considered several alternative methods whereby the broadcasts could be undertaken and, in- this regard, it formed the opinion that the best arrangement would he to utilize the main national broadcasting stations in each State capital city, and all the national regional stations in country districts. ‘ This would, however, involve the use of the main national network, embracing 22. out of a total of 29 national medium-wave broadcasting stations in the Commonwealth, and, in consequence, would necessitate the substitution of parliamentary broadcasts for entertainments, commentaries on current affairs, and other items which are normally broadcast through the network. In this connexion, it is, moreover, important to bear in mind that certain stations of the main national network provide the only reliable service available to listeners in some country districts. There is much to be said in favour of the Broadcasting Committee’s view that the broadcasts should be made available to listeners on the widest practicable scale, but the Go vernment believes that it would be preferable to commence the contemplated service on an experimental basis, the broadcasts being confined at the outset to the second national station in the capital city of each State and in the city of Newcastle. This was one of the alternative proposals considered by the Broadcasting Committee. Whilst the adoption of this plan will not, of course, secure the same extensive audience for the broadcasts as would be the case if the main network were used for the purpose, it will nevertheless enable a great majority of the people to listen to the debates. The primary service-area of the seven stations concerned covers, not less than 60 per cent, of the total population of Australia and during night hours, which, incidentally, are the chief listening periods, this percentage will be very substantially increased by means of the secondary service which then exists. It is difficult to estimate the number of additional listeners to whom the service would bc available at night time, but it can be said that a considerable proportion of those country listeners who may be anxious to hear the debates will be able to do so.
It is realized, of course, that the public reaction to the broadcasts may be very favorable and that there may be a demand for the use of additional medium-wave stations, even though this may result in listeners having to forgo the reception of other items on days when Parliament is sitting. Accordingly, provision has been made in the bill for the use of such additional stations as may be prescribed from time to time. In this connexion, due consideration would be given to the possibility of using short-wave stations to supplement the service to listeners in remote areas, as was recommended by the Broadcasting Committee.
Honorable members doubtless will agree that the broadcasts of debates should be carefully controlled, especially in the initial experimental stages. In this regard, the Broadcasting Committee recommended that provision should be made in the proposed legislation for the overall control of the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings to be vested in the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, insofar as their respective chambers were concerned. It further suggested that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the parliamentary authorities should be consulted regarding the selection of mutually acceptable periods for broadcasts from both Houses. The Government considers, however, that a joint committee should be established so that , Parliament itself could, in this manner, exercise control over a matter which so intimately affects the rights of members. It will be appreciated that there are a number of details to be settled in connexion with the allocation ‘of time for broadcasts from both Houses of Parliament when they are sitting simultaneously, and in regard to technical and programme arrangements, and other points mentioned by the Broadcasting Committee. . The bill accordingly provides for the appointment of a committee of six members, including the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Government proposes that the suggested Joint Committee should investigate all the matters to which I have referred, and make a recommendation to the Parliament concerning the general principles upon which the broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings should be inaugurated. After the committee’s report has been adopted by both Houses, the Joint Committee will exercise control over the broadcasts in accordance, with the principles ratified by Parliament.
In all probability, situations will arise when it will be necessary for prompt decisions to be given in regard to actual broadcasts from the Parliament, and, therefore, it seems desirable that the Joint Committee should have authority to delegate to a sub-committee its power to determine the days on which, and the periods during which, the proceedings of either House shall be broadcast. Because of the possibility that only one House may be sitting, the bill provides that two members of the sub-committee shall be sufficient to form a quorum.
The Government accepts the view of the Broadcasting Committee that the immunities and, privileges applying to debates within the Parliament shall apply to the broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings. The bill embraces, the views of the Government in regard to’ this matter, and I shall be glad to supply any further information which honorable members may desire concerning the proposals.
In anticipation of the measure being acceptable to the Parliament, arrangements have been made, with the concurrence of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, for the erection of a control booth in both, Houses of Parliament and for the installation of such equipment as i3 necessary to enable the broadcasts to be undertaken. Therefore, it should be practicable, in the, event of the early passage of the bill, to commence the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings during the present session, the actual date being determined by the Joint Committee, which will, of course, be selected as soon as the measure becomes law.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1946-47. Second Reading.
Debate resumed from .the 20th June (vide page 1702), . on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is the first time that I have risen to speak in this House, and I should like to preface my remarks with an expression of appreciation of all the courtesies which I have received both from the Chair and from all honorable members. I realize that that courtesy was extended to me largely because of the warm regard in which my father was held by many honorable members. Of course, one expects a measure of welcome from one’s own political colleagues, but I speak now of the friendly reception which I have had from honorable members opposite, and I hope that, as time passes, I shall show my appreciation of it. in the usual way.
The remarks of previous speakers about the attitude of waterside workers to the Dutch Indonesian dispute, and particularly the observations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) concerning the Dutch ship Bontikoe, reminded me that I may have a more personal and up-to-date knowledge of the participants in this dispute than has any other honorable member. The circumstances of the Bontikoe are these : It is a Dutch vessel, and at the moment is in an Australian port where the waterside workers refuse to load it. They refused to load it either as a Dutch ship sailing to Netherlands East Indies ports, or as a Dutch ship sailing to Singapore with goods for the British forces iri Singapore, even though the Dutch owners had volunteered to remove the crew and replace it with an Australian crew. I remember this ship, because, in October, 1943, I was one of the troops which the Bontikoe carried to New Guinea. The vessel had already taken to New Guinea the troops who fought the successful and vital action at Milne Bay. At the time of which I speak it was carrying troops who went subsequently to Wau, defeated the Japanese there, and then went on to Salamaua, and there destroyed them. In taking us to New Guinea, the Bontikoe had to pass through what were then fairly dangerous waters. I came to know the Dutch crew, and they were all that one could expect of loyal and decent allies. Nearly all of them, at one time or another, had been on ships which had been sunk during the war, and they had fought throughout the war at the side of Great Britain and Australia. Of 130 ships with which the company which owned the Bontikoe entered the war only 40 were still afloat when the war ended, the remainder having been sunk by enemy action. There was also on this ship a Captain Alistair McKenzie, one of the first men to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, who had served in the Western Desert, in Greece, and in Syria, where he was wounded. He went to New Guinea, where he served his country to the best of a not inconsiderable ability. Two months ago, while going about his perfectly peaceful occasions in Java, he was shot down and cut to pieces by the Indonesian rebels. That gives the picture of the Dutch on the one hand and the Indonesians on the other hand. As I have said, my information about the parties to this dispute is, to some degree, up to date. At Christmas, 1944, I had the privilege of serving with the British forces in Holland. The European winter - of 1944-45 was extremely bitter and reminiscent in many respects of the 1917 European winter, which many honorable members will recall. I say to the House and to the people of Australia that had it not been for the loyalty, courage and helpfulness of our Dutch allies in Holland, the British and Allied forces could not have remained in the line. During that winter, which was so severe that men froze to death at night in their pits, the Dutch did everything possible to help us. They took us into their houses and fed us and kept us warm to the best of their ability. When we could not evacuate our wounded through the snow they took them in and eared for them. They also went out on patrols with us as guides, risking, and sometimes losing, their lives. In every respect they were loyal and worthy allies. I am new to this chamber and not conversant with many of the functions of government, but in the names of all those who know something about the loyalty, courage, steadfastness and suffering of the Dutch on the one hand, and the murdering rabble of Indonesians on the other hand, I want to know why this dispute was allowed to arise. I do not believe for a moment that the great majority of even the waterside workers involved in the dispute favour the stand taken by their union leaders in the matter. I mentioned earlier that I belonged during the war to the 17th Brigade. Last month a number of men from that brigade, who are now employed on the waterfront, came to see me in Melbourne to make two complaints. The first was against the boycotting of Dutch ships. They remembered Dutchmen only as decent and loyal allies. Their second complaint was in regard to the strike then in progress as a protest against the handling of double-dumped wool bales. In that connexion, . I .shall merely say that, if ever there was a time when reasonable measures for the conservation of shipping space should be taken, it is now, .when Britain is in such urgent need of it. This strike resulted in hundreds of thousands of tons of shipping space being lost, when it could have been used to send food to Britain. For 40 years at least, double-dumped wool bales have been handled in this country, and never previously has the objection been seriously advanced that the handling of such bales was beyond the capacity of those allotted to that work, and certainly not the number available to handle them. It is well known that thousands of waterside workers are anxious to get on with the job and earn their wages. It is equally well known that the largest proportion of these men were not consulted about the imposition of the boycott on Dutch shipping, and the calling of the strike. The Government has only to place itself behind the decent men in order to bring to an end this state of affairs, and once and for all dissipate the exaggerated fear and respect that’ are held for the Communist leaders -who are now in control of some of the unions.
I wish to deal as broadly as possible with a few aspects of the treatment of ex-service personnel and their dependants, because it appears to me that that matter can well be considered in conjunction with the treatment of our Dutch allies. The principal headings under which the subject may be considered are - soldier land settlement, war service homes, and preference in employment, in obtaining business premises and quotas that will enable them to establish small businesses, in having telephones installed, and in the purchase of vehicles from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. In not one of those matters can the Government point to satisfactory results. The best that it can do is to say that such and such is projected, that so many farms have been cleared, and that so many houses are in course of- construction and merely need a roof, or something of the sort. It cannot cite definite figures, and in no sense can it show results that are ‘ comparable with those that have been achieved by the Government of New Zealand which has to deal with a vastly smaller population. I cite in particular soldier land settlement and preference in employment. In both of those matters the Government has a. fundamentally wrong conception of the principles involved. 13y its disapproval of single unit farms, and its insistence on group leaseholds instead of freeholds, it has clearly shown - and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) admitted as much in this House last “Wednesday - that it regards soldier land settlement not primarily as an end in itself but merely as a means of estab- lishing closer settlement, particularly in large groups which it controls. I emphasize that soldier land settlement, is not - identical with closer settlement. We engage in soldier land settlement because the people of this country believe, and the members of this House profess to believe, that those who have fought for this land have the right to farm it and that the interests of Australia will best be served by putting them on that land. Closer settlement is admirable in itself, and no one quarrels with it, but it is not associated with soldier land settlement. If the Government waits for large-scale schemes to mature, it will wait for ever. Men can be settled quickly only by the purchase of single-unit farms. Within 20 miles of this House there are twenty single-unit farms for sale, and the Government could purchase the majority of them at a reasonable figure. I speak with some knowledge of the matter. At least one-half of those farms would be suitable for. soldier land settlement. That applies also to other rural districts in this country. We do not need to worry about building houses and erecting fences. We have the single-unit farms and the men who want them. All that is needed is that the Government shall acquire’ them and -place men on them.
I believe that the attitude of the Government in regard to preference in employment to ex-servicemen is fundamentally wrong. I take it that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) outlined that attitude in his preface to the pamphlet issued by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, entitled Soldier Preference. In that preface, the honorable gentleman did not once mention the words “ preference, to ex-service personnel “. It was an admirable preface, which dealt in the main with full employment. Full employment is commendable, and has the support of every member of this House, but it is not the point that has to be considered when dealing with preference -to ex-servicemen. Those men were promised’ preference when they went away, and the promise was repeated many times during, the course of the war. They cannot hope to compete successfully with others on the labour market unless they receive a substantial measure of preference. That applies particularly to the younger men. The case before the court in connexion with the dismissal of an ex-serviceman from a munitions establishment will largely determine what is to be the future of preference in this country. We do not know what will be the decision in that case; But we do know what is the attitude of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, because he has said, “ We certainly admit liability to give preference to ex-servicemen when they are applying for jobs, but there is nothing to show that they shall have preference when dismissals are being considered “. That is utterly farcical, and far from being consistent with the statements repeatedly made to servicemen while the war was in progress and their services were highly valued. The treatment of these men now is in many respects similar to the treatment of our Dutch allies. When the conditions were difficult and considerable danger was apprehended, the Government said to the serviceman, as it did to the Dutch, “ Be the first in, and we will give you the front seat right away “. The danger having passed, it says to the Dutch as well as to the servicemen, Thank you very much. You were the first in ; now you can be the first put “.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) upon his maiden speech, because I know the difficulties which a new member experiences when he first addresses the House. I propose to reply to some of the statements made by members of the Opposition. When the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison”) was speaking last night, he. referred to the lack of goods available to this community at present, as compared with the quantity that could be procured during the greater part of the war period. He complained of strikes and lack, of production; but I do not believe that there is any lack of production in Australia to-day. The hundreds of thousands of servicemen who have returned to peacetime occupations are producing goods, in full supply, but the goods are not being distributed to the members of the community who require them. The honorable gentleman spoke of strikes, and continu ally abused the working classes for their occurrence. And yet we are told that manufacturers refuse to put into production the goods that are required by the community because taxes are too high.” A manufacturer named Harley has publicly stated that it is* not profitable to produce the goods that are required by the community, because his taxes are too high. Is there any difference between a strike by workers and a strike by manufacturers who are not prepared to distribute goods to the community because their taxes are too high? I remind manufacturers that if it were not for those who fought in the war they would not have factories in Australia to-day. Whatever the taxes may be at present, the manufacturers should at least know that the efforts of the workers made it possible for them to retain their factories and pay even the taxes which they are now called upon to contribute. They should be pleased to pay them. They should realize that that is their contribution during the war and in the peace period towards the rehabilitation of those who made sacrifices in the war that the manufacturers might live.
It ill becomes the Opposition to criticize the workers continually because they go on strike, when it fails to criticize those who control industry in Australia and also go on strike because of high taxes. The Opposition condemns the coal-miners, the waterside workers, and all other workers in industry in Australia. Only a few weeks ago, when it seemed that there might be another coal upheaval- in this country, the leading daily newspapers of Australia plastered their front pages with accounts of the difficulties that would confront the community if the savage coal-miners again held Australia to ransom. The coal-miners did not go on strike, but continued to produce coal. To-day they are producing millions of tons more than was obtained in the prewar period, but I do not see the front pages of the Australian press plastered with tributes’ to the coal-.miners because they did not hold Australia to ransom. If the Opposition gave to the Australian worker a kindly word now and again, he would have an improved outlook. Since I have been a member of this Parliament the Opposition has consistently criticized the workers. I ask it to change its tactics. It should remember that the workers include hundreds of thousands of ex-servicemen, and when it condemns the Australian workers it condemns large numbers of exservicemen who have made greater sacrifices than have members of the Opposition. The latter should pay tribute to those, who during the war period, produced all of the things required for both the servicemen and the civilian population.
– Is the honorable member satisfied with the coal supply?
– I am not satisfied with the methods adopted by the owners of the coal mines. Mechanized means of coal production should be employed for the purpose of obtaining increased supplies and also providing improved conditions of work for those who have to hew the coal. I regret that the Government has not seen fit to nationalize the coal mines of Australia. I hope that if it is returned to power at the next general elections, it will lose no time in making that desirable change. That would lead to improvement of the methods of production and of the working conditions of the coal-miners. I trust that an opportunity will be given to every honorable member to see the motion picture taken recently showing conditions in the coal-mining industry in the Newcastle district. It will be seen that the same conditions as those which operated in the mines 30 or 40 years ago obtain there to-day.
It is shameful that, while the Opposition condemns the miners, no constructive effort is made by it to improve their conditions of employment. Honorable members should realize that something must be done to improve conditions in the coal mines so that the efficiency of the industry may be increased. I believe that there are manufacturers in Australia who are deliberately withholding supplies so as to irritate the public, in the hope that popular feeling will turn against this Government at the next federal elections. I am convinced that after September or October next, all the goods which the people need will be on the market. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) mentioned the steel house which Bad recently been erected in Melbourne, but he did not say that the house had been constructed for test purposes only. If it proves successful the Government proposes to construct the parts of such houses by mass production. Recently, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) tried to damage the Government by saying that it was doing nothing to relieve the housing shortage, but it is evident from the facts that what he said was incorrect. I remind honorable members opposite that there are slums in all the capital cities of Australia, and that they have been there for many years. They were there when the present Opposition was in power, but nothing wa3 done then to get rid of them. The fact is that the slums should have been abolished long ago. Let it be remembered that, for the last six years, all the available men and materials have been used for the defence- of the country. Now, the Government is using all available resources to relieve the housing shortage. I am confident that this Government will be returned to power by the people at the next election, and that it will continue to prosecute vigorously its housing policy. The Government proposes to ask the people for increased power so that it may embark upon housing schemes of its own. I hope that, before very long, the slums which previous governments tolerated in our cities will be abolished.
– The slums were created as the result of jerry-building for profit.
– That is so. Only recently, in my own electorate, I visited a two-roomed house in which five people had to sleep in one room. That house should have been condemned twenty years ago. It ill becomes those who permitted conditions like that to develop to attack the present Government. I am confident that the Government will be returned to power, and that later we shall be able to look back with pride upon what we have accomplished for the benefit of the people of Australia.
– I wish to refer to the extraordinary reply given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to a question asked by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) about the hold up of Dutch ships in Australian ports, and particularly the refusal of trade unionists to repair the Dutch warship Piet Hein. It is amazing that the Prime Minister, from his place in this House, should make an attack on the diplomatic representatives of a foreign power in Australia. If he cannot work with a foreign representative, and wishes to get rid of him, there is a way of doing it without imperilling further the relations between the Netherlands Government and the Government of Australia. Perhaps the incident would not have occurred* if the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) had been at home attending to matters here instead of busying himself trying to settle the problem of Spain. It wouldhave been better if he had concerned himself wi th Australia’s relations with our near northern neighbours. Who believes for a moment that Spain imperils the peace of the world? However, there is a grave danger that the relations of Australia with the Netherlands may be imperilled by the present attitude of the Australian Government. People overseas must be mystified to know what is the policy of theAustralian Government. Only recently, Mr. Keith Officer, Australia’s representative in the Netherlands, issued a press statement in which he said that the hold-up of Dutch ships in Australia was due to the action of an irresponsible minority. Well, if they constitute only an irresponsible minority they are very powerful, because they are able tobend the Government to their will. When the Dutch ships were first held up the excuse given by the Prime Minister for taking no action was that if he forced the issue there would be a strike of waterside workers in Australia, and supplies of food would not go forward to Great Britain. What a hypocritical excuse that was! During recent weeks, when there has been a complete hold-up of the meat export trade from Queensland because of the strike of meat workers, the Prime Minister has made no attempt to intervene or to settle the dispute. He has sheltered himself behind the excuse that it is a State matter. When the Piet Hein visitedFremantle, all the unionists were prepared to work on the ship except the carpenters. Then the ship went on to Melbourne, and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) said that the dockyard of Puke and Orr Limited was too busy on civilian work to undertake the repair of the warship. The proprietors ofthe dockyard immediately gave the lie direct to the Minister, who was then forced to admit that what he had said was incorrect, and that the firm could do the work if the unionists would permit it. I hope that the Prime Minister will realize that he does his country very poor service by publicly attacking in this House the representative of the Netherlands Government.
– The Prime Minister did not attack him.
– He did. If ever there has been “shilly-shallying” by a government it has been in the attitude of this Government to the Bretton Woods Agreement, which was accepted by the United Kingdom Government some time ago. Recently, in answer to a question by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) the Prime Minister said that if the proposed loan to Great Britain by the United States of America was not authorized, Australia would be faced with an acute shortage of dollars. One of the essential features of the proposed loan to Great Britain is that that country must subscribe to the Bretton Woods Agreement. Under clause 11 of the agreement, a country which subscribes to it is forbidden to trade with, or have economic relations with, any other country that is not a signatory to the agreement, if such country is not carrying out the terms of the agreement. The Commonwealth Government is afraid to affirm either its acceptance or rejection of the agreement before the forthcoming general elections. It knows well that eventually Australia must sign the agreement unless it is prepared to shatter its export trade by failing to share in the dollar pool which the authorizing of the loan to Britain by the United States of America would create. From day to day we hear of an acute shortage of tractors, which are imported mainly from the United States of America, and of other materials and commodities, including tinned plate, which are necessary for the development of Australian primary and secondary industries, but because the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has vigorously attacked the Bretton “Woods Agreement, the Government is prepared to imperil Australia’s economic future. It will do nothing which it thinks will lower its prospects of winning the elec- tions. The policy of the Government contains only one plank, namely, that, whatever happens, nothing must be done which will imperil the solidarity of the Labour movement. Regardless of whether the maintenance of that solidarity causes distress in the Commonwealth or endangers Australia’s future trade relations with other countries, the Government, remembering that the Scullin Government failed because of the defection from its ranks of supporters of the Lang group, has at the instance of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) laid down that, at all costs, division within the Labour party must be avoided. Declarations that the Labour party will have no relations with Communists are merely examples of the hypocrisy of the Government’ and the Labour party generally. The Government is prepared to attack vigorously such bodies of young people as the Eureka Youth Movement, yet it does nothing to curb the activities of unions whose leading officials are avowed Communists and members of the Communist party of Australia. I refer particularly to Messrs. Healy, Elliott, Wells and Roach. The Government is insincere in its protestations, and has no desire to get rid of these Communists. It hopes to work with them, and at the same time to bluff the people of Australia into believing that an attempt is being made to get rid of Communists. Probably the fact that the Eureka YouthMovement consists of persons who, as yet, have no votes is the explanation of the attack on that movement, whilst the “tall poppies” in the Communist movement go free.
I was interested in a speech made yesterday by the honorable member for Frementle (Mr. Beazley) referring to employment in Australia. He said that, although 435,000 men from the fighting forces and another 137,000 who had been engaged on war work in Australia had been demobilized since the end of the war, only 10,000 persons were registered as unemployed in the Commonwealth. I shall not attempt to test the accuracy of the honorable member’s figures, but shall accept them for the purpose of argument. The honorable member went on to say that at the present time there is practcally full employment throughoutAustralia. If that be so, Australian manpower is stretched to the limit to cope with the problems which face this country in regard to both its internal development and the maintenance of its export trade.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) had a good deal to say about the Government’s housing achievements and its programme for the future. In this connexion, I refer to an interesting article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 2nd August,. 1945, in which attention was drawn to the shortage of houses in the Commonwealth . The article stated that in December, 1943, the Commonwealth Housing Commission had estimated that 273,000 houses were required, and that 40,000 houses were needed- annually to replace dilapidated dwellings and provide for the normal increase of the population. The greatest number of houses ever built in Australia, in any peace year was 40,000. The official programme for the year ended the 30th Jiune, 1945, was 24,000 houses, and for the first post-war year, 50,000. According to Facts and Figures the target for the current financial year is now 15,000 houses. It is easy toreach an objective if it be brought into conformity with achievement.
– The Sydney MorningHerald lied:
– Surely the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) does not say that the Commonwealth Housing Commission lied? The target for 1945-46 was originally 24,000 houses, of which 12,000 were to have been biiilt by the Government and 12,000 by private enterprise. Later, when it was realized that that number would not be built thetarget was reduced by 9,000, making a total of only 15,000 houses for the year.
Mr.Lazzarini.That is not true.
-I greatly fear that by the end of the year not even 15,000 houses will have been completed. During theninemonthsendedMarch,1946,only 2,650houseshadbeencompletedbythe Government.Atthesamerateofpro- gressatotalof3,533houseswillbe constructedbytheGovernmentbythe endoftheyear.Duringthesameperiod privateenterprisewasresponsiblefor erecting6,300houses,andshouldthe samerateofprogressbemaintained,its outputfortheyearwillbe8,400houses. Thetotalnumberofhouseswhichwill bebuiltbythe30thJunewillbeinthe neibourhoodof12,000oronly50per cent.ofthebargetwhichtheMinisterset outtoachieve.
-Thatis not true.
Mr.ABBOTT.- It isa pity thatthe Ministercannot showsomeorigin- alityinhisreplies. The target fornext yearis50,000houses,butifonlyone half of the number isbuiltthe Minister willbedoing very well indeedonhis presentshowing. The housing programme is lagging all the time,and even if the targetof50,000housesisreachednext yearthesolutionofthehousingproblem willtakeabout27yearsunlessmuch highertargetsareestablished.Yester- daythe Minister forImmigration (Mr. Calwell) informedthe House that he had madean urgent request that1,000 bricklayersbe sent from GreatBritain to this country to assist intheconstruction of houses andof factories required forthe production of builders’ requisites..Right throughout thebuilding and allied trades,and in industry generally, there is a shortage of materialsofallkinds which has been brought about largely by industrial disturbances.
Production of food in Australia is hampered because there are insufficient supplies of agricultural implements and spare parts, barbed wire, wire-netting, cartridges for the eradication of pests, and the host of other things which primary producers require to enable them to work their properties. In a most interesting article, published intheSydney Morning Herald of the18th June, the writer pointedoutthat the president of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, Mr. Roberton,who had made a tour ofthe major agricultural areasofthatState,indicated that everywhere : he went he found shortages of skilled labourand mechanical equipment required for agriculturalproduction. He saidthatduring his tour hehad seen thousandsofmiles of broken-down fences, hundredsof homes and outbuildings in disrepair, machinerylying idle because ofthe lackof spare parts., and vehicles unusable becausetherewere no tyres for them.themostdesperatepositionexisted as theresult ofthe shortageoftractors. Arepresentative of the Sydney Morning Herald interviewedwholesale merchants andsuppliers in Sydneyandreported as follows: -
FencingWire. -Manyoutstanding orders. Demand increased by flood andfire damage. Situation aggravated by big strikes last year.
Galvanized Iron. - Only available for repair jobs. ShortagecratedduringthewarserioutslyaggravatedbystrikeatLysaghts,New castle,thisyear.
SteelFencing Posts. -Lack of adequateman- power among manufacturers making it impossible to overcome the position.
BoreGasing Piping, Tanks. - Lag notbeing overtaken becauseof industrialStoppages and shortage of man-power.
Industrial stoppages and the shortage of man-power are also causing an acute shortageoftimber.
A similar stateofaffairsexists in the clothing trade. In aletter dated the 6th June, 1946, the . secreta.ry of the Merchant Tailors Association of New South Wales stated -
We wish to express our appreciation of the assistancegiven by you to our president and vice-president, Messrs. M. Craig and A. Cleary, as a deputation to the Honorable J. J. Dedman and the Honorable SenatorW.P. Ashley in March last, relating to tbe shortage of materials.
This deputation was arranged by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan). The representatives of the merchant tailors stressed the desperate position of ex-servicemen and the general publicbecause of their inability to obtain suiting material. The letter continued -
The position since that time has become progressively worse, and now the shortage of materials is move acute than ever.
Some time ago I obtained some interesting figures from woollentextile manufacturersshowing the tremendous shortages qf raw materials that existed in that industry. The British White Paper on Food Supplies, which was issued in April, 1946, shows acute world shortages of cereals,meat and fats ; yet many farmers in the Commonwealth are unable to produce milk for the production of butter and fats because they are unable to obtain sufficient agricultural implements and fencing wire, or building materials for the construction of houses and outbuildings on properties that have been subdivided. On the Trevallyn estate in my electorate, which had been used for cattle fattening up to the beginning of this year, the . farmers cannot get wire to fence in their properties or building materials to enable them to erect houses, yet that land is capable of producing milk and fats in large volume. The British White Paper on Food Supplies states -
World exports of fats for 1946 represent only 50 per cent, of the pre-war figure. World supplies of meat may be expected to continue short of world requirements for some time.
Yet the Government is doing nothing whatever to attempt to overcome shortages in this country by settling industrial disputes which are causing such havoc to Australian economy and production to-day.
The same position exists in respect of railway transport to-day in New South Wales, and I assume in other States where drought conditions exist. It is impossible to move store stock ‘ from drought-stricken areas because of the shortage of railway transport. Recently the whole of the inwards traffic to country districts in New South Wales was disrupted because of coal shortages and the lack of sufficient rolling.-stock. We are short of steel because of coal shortages; we are short of the products of steel because of man-power shortages; yet at this very time the Minister for Transport brings down proposals to standardize the Australian railway gauges. All of this bears out what I said earlier, namely, that any energetic person with a few followers behind him in the Government ranks, whether they be Communists or men of the type of the Minister for Transport, who is able to bring pressure on Ministers, finds the Government only too willing to bend to that pressure if it believes that failure to do so might reduce its chances of success in the coming elections. The honorable member for Fremantle has said that we are reaching a state of full employment in Australia to-day. Yet this country is desperately short of most of the things needed for the comfort of its people and the preservation of its economy. Let us consider the position of the coal industry. The figures published in this morning’s press show that the number of men employed in the coalmining industry in New South Wales in 1945 was 17,427, or more than 1,000 greater than the number employed in 1939, and that the production of coal in that State amounted to 10,237,000 tons. In his report on the coal-mining industry, Mr. Justice Davidson estimated the capacity for coal mines in New South Wales working on1 a single’ shift basis at 12,750,000 tons. He also said that that figure could be lifted a good deal if there were more discipline in the industry and better output from the miners. I was astonished at the reply given by the Prime Minister yesterday with regard to the development of open-cut mines in New South Wales. The right honorable gentleman said that open-cut mining is capable of only limited production, and that there is a shortage of mechanical equipment for work of that type. He stated that ray suggestion that double shifts be worked on all open-cut minus in New South Wales had never been thought of. It is very curious that Mr. Justice Davidson saw the position in an entirely different light. He said that consideration must be given to the quantum of open-cut mining in New South Wales because it might interfere with the ordinary shaft and tunnel mining being carried on in that State; it might interfere with the miners employed in that class of work, because open-cut mining is done by men who are not miners. Mr. Justice Davidson does not think there is a shortage of seams that could be worked. Any one who knows the coal-bearing country, particularly the Hunter and Gloucester areas, has seen seams that appear capable of development. They may not be like the Greta seam, or the best- seams, but it is better to develop them than not to work any fresh seams at all. The Prime Minister claimed that there was a shortage of machinery to enable this to be done. Some time ago I inspected the open-cut operations at Muswellbrook.
There, the overburden was being shifted by three 80-horse-power Holt caterpillar tractors, which were pulling the Le Tournepull earth movers of a capacity of 5 tons. After filling, these earth movers operated under their own power. A steam shovel which had. been brought from the Kiama quarry was used in lifting the coal; and about twenty men were employed in transporting the coal to the railway siding by lorry. I was informed that there were about 34 men employed on. the whole undertaking, which at that time had an output of 1,000 tons a day. Further, there is nothing to prevent those operations from being flood-lit with electricity as has been done in the Tingha tin-field area where the dredges work double shifts. The present capacity of the works at Muswellbrook is about 1,600 tons a day, which could be doubled if the operations were flood-lit. In view of the present acute shortage of coal it is extraordinary that the Government has decided to proceed with work on the standardization of railway gauges. Excluding conversions which will be necessary in respect of the Queensland and Western Australian railway systems, recommendations Nos. 3 and 4 made by Sir Harold Clapp in his report are to be proceeded with at an estimated expenditure of £35,976,000. These items are the conversion to standard guage of the entire South Australian 5-ft. 3-in. guage and the 3-ft. 6-in. guage line of the South-East Division, which it is estimated will take six and one-quarter years, and the conversion to standard guage of the .entire Victorian 5-ft. 3-in. guage system which will take seven years. Late in his reports, Sir Harold says -
Speaking generally, the plan of standardization falls within two periods, firstly the initial or preparatory period (estimated, at four years in the case of Victoria) during which all preparatory works are undertaken, including the construction of new lines, workshops, locomotive and other depots, goods and live stock transfer yards, new rolling stock and locomotives, conversion of portion of the existing rolling stock, assembling of materials and equipment, strengthening lines, and preparing trucks and structures for actual conversion;
Al! that work, which is to be proceeded with during the first four years,- will re quire additional carpenters, tradesmen and labourers, and . place extra- strain on . our timber resources at a time when thousands of our citizens are denied the right of getting into a home because of the shortage of building materials. The standardization of railway gauges will also require more coal .. for the smelting of iron ore and the production of steel as well as bricks for the construction of -railway stations. These demands will place an enormous additional strain upon the man-power resources of the country. All this is to be done at a time when the world is calling cut for food supplies from Australia. The White Paper issued by ‘the British Government has stressed the gravity of the world food shortage. It emphasizes the seriousness of the problem in India whose population is increasing at the rate of 5,000,000 a year. That means that 40,000,000 have been added to India’s population since 1938. All these problems involve increased demands . for food from the . Commonwealth which experiences from time to time very serious droughts, and must, therefore, undertake urgent extensive irrigation projects in addition to the construction of houses and the provision of other essentials for our people. Al] of these requirements are to be made subservient to the Government’s project for the standardization of railway gauges which could very well be spread over a period of 60 years. No hardship would be caused if that plan were delayed, and for a few years longer travellers must continue to change trains at Albury. That hardship is incomparable with the hardship which they will be obliged to suffer through shortage of houses. Yet, the Government has decided to proceed with this plan in order to appease the vanity of the Minister for Transport and enable him to build up his ministry and his political stature, even should this mean denying homes. to thousands of our people and essential irrigation schemes to our primary producers.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) upon his maiden speech. The honorable member will be an acquisition to the debating strength of this chamber. I wish to refer briefly to some of the criticisms levelled against the Government with regard to its attitude towards ex-service men and women. “We all agree that in order to give the exservice manand womanafair deal and ensure that they shall obtain the rewards to which they are entitled there must be a common approach by all parties to this problem in , a spirit of co-operation and in a desire to give service personnel in every sphere the very best assistance we can give to them. However, we find in the communtity many “knockers’” who do not desire to give , any consideration to the ex-service men and women, but prefer to play at party politics in order to iavjure the Government. The record of the Australian Labour party, and particularly this Government, in its provision for exservice personnel is second to none. That claim is supported by the expresident of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, SirGilbert Dyett, who paid a great tribute to this Government for what it has already done for the exserviceman. He isreported tohave said that so far as the ex-serviceman wasconcerned, this Government had proved itself to be themost sympathetic yet to hold office in this Parliament. On the other hand, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party criticize every action of theGovernment in carrying out its rehabilitationand re-establishment programme. They complain about the preference given to ex-servicepersonnel, but governments ofthe political ilk of honorable members opposite did not enforce preference until twenty years after the conclusionof the war of 1914-18, and there only applied it to Government employment. Those governments simply gave ex-servicepersonnel preference to stand at the head of dole queues. The ex-servicemanof this war owes no thanks to honorable members opposite.Men who fought in defence of this nation in the war of 1914-18 were too old at 20 and30 years of age, although many of them were skilled technicians, tobe givenemployment. Ex-servicemen were evicted from their homes andlittlewas done by govern ments at that time to safeguard their future, with the result that thousands of our best men were obliged to walk the streets unemployed at a time when materials and man-power were available in abundance to enable governments to do what they should have beendoing for the community by building homes and undertaking national works. Those governments merely said that they could not find the money required. They did not care how many ex-servicemen ware unemployed when the financial interests which the non-Labour parties represent said that Money could not be foundto provide work. I could not help but listen with interest to the views expressed by the honorable member for Henty about what this ‘Government has done for servicemen. No onecan deny that the Labour Governliiiient has an outstanding war record. Its list of achievements is unsurpassed by that of any other government. On behalf of service men and women it has -(1) considerably increased the payto service men and women and their dependants; (2)amended the Repatriation Act to give increasedpayments and improve the other provisionsof theold act;(3) granteda war gratuity which is much more -generous than that granted after the 1914-18 war.; . (4) granted taxation concessions.; (5)provided protection for soldiers and their dependants under the War Service Moratorium Regulations.; (6)inauguratedascheme for settlement of soldierson the land, the provisions of whichare such as to ensure tha.t soldiers shall haveevery chance of success; (7) set up legal aid bureaux for soldiers and dependants.; (8.) enacted special regulations to ensure that soldiers’ dependants shall not he evicted from their homes; and (9) passed the Reestablishment and Employment Act. Amongst other things this actprovides for -(a) preference toreturned soldiers (b) reemployment allowance;(c) ensurance of re-employment in positionheld priortowar; (d) giving every assistance to place soldiers insuitable employment ; (e) loans up to . £250 for establishment or. re-establishment of a business or profession; (f) agriculturalloans up to £1,000; and (g) technical and educational training. Naturally, after the disorganization of civillifecaused by the greatest war in history everything cannot be run like clockwork, but many of the difficulties that the Government has experienced in carrying out theRe-establishment and Employment Act, which is so comprehensive as to cover every field of activity in which it is necessary to re-establish servicemen, have resulted from the shortsightedness and the neglect of the parties opposite, when they were in power, to lay the foundation for housing and other schemes so that they could be readily put underway when the need arose. Honorable members opposite do not truly have the interests of members of the forces at heart. They are merely using them as a political football in the hope that they will win a few more seats in this Parliament at the general elections. They should give the Government credit for what it has done to re-establish ex-service men and women in civil life, instead of continually seeking to “ knock “ it. I am sick and tired of listening to honorable gentlemen opposite engage in these “knocking” tactics instead of giving credit where credit is due. Between the end of the war and the 15th June last, 454,411 men and women have been demobilized. With the consent of the House I shall incorporate in Hansard the following table, setting out the details: -
Only about 1 per cent. of those demobilized has not been placed in employment.. Many of them are, as is their right, awaiting the right type of job, and they could be placed without’ difficulty in other jobs if they liked. That record is a great tribute to this Government. In this Parliament I represent about 70,000 electors. Of the complaints that I handle on their behalf few come from exservicemen. So I think honorable gentlemen opposite must manufacture a lot of the complaints that they voice in this House, allegedly on behalf of ex-servicemen. Demobilized men, have told me that they have been given a fair deal by this Govern ment in its approach to their problems. Naturally, isolated cases of dissatisfaction exist among ex-servicemen on account of misfortunes that they have experienced. They are entitled to the sympathetic consideration that they get, but they are far from numerous, although honorable gentlemen opposite would have the country believe the contrary. The trade unions have been attacked on the ground of alleged hostility to the interests of returned men, but let me tell the’ House, and through it, the country, that the trade unions movement has been particularly co-operative in their re-establishment. The Trades and
Labour Council of New South Wales has set up a re-establishment committee, presided over by a man with an outstanding record in both ware, Mr. J. Hooke, who is making a full-time job of ensuring the re-establishment in industry of men who enlisted in the forces. The following statement, supplied by Mr. Hooke, shows the number of men from the various unions in New South Wales, who enlisted in the armed forces, and the general position in regard to them -
Survey of Various Industries Covered by Affiliated Unions in Reference to Members in Armed Forces.
Blacksmiths. - Sydney sub-branch - twelve members to armed forces, nine returned to date. Newcastle sub-branch - eight members to armed forces. Union expects all discharged skilled tradesmen to return to the industry.
Boilermakers. - Commonwealth figures - 540 to armed forces. Sixty-five returned to date. Majority of members who went to armed forces were skilled tradesmen; union advises that they expect a high percentage of returns tc> the industry.
Boot Trades. - Approximately 550 males, 200 females to armed forces. Three hundred and eighty males and 150 females are either still not discharged or have not . returned to the industry. Seventy-five per cent, of balance have returned to the industry. Mainly . apprentices who are finishing their time.
Building Workers. - Union advises: percentage of bricklayers to armed forces was very high; about two-thirds of these members have returned to the trade, but union advises that approximately one-third will probably not return. Carpenters and joiners: low percentage to armed forces, about two-thirds have already returned, but union expects in this ease also that approximately one-third will leave industry, possibly to ‘start as independent builders. Re-absorption has been smooth.
Clerks. - Approximately 800 to armed forces. Sixty-eight returned to date. Union has knowledge of 130 members who have been discharged and who have not yet returned to industry.
Clothing Trades. - Not a large number of members to armed forces. Returns -have been fairly steady to date. All members who enlisted were skilled tradesmen and union expects a high percentage return to the industry. No noticeable displacements because of reinstatement of ex-service members.
Confectioners. - Example figures from big industries - Sweetacres: 180 enlisted. 140 returned to date. Nestle’s: 350 enlisted, 200 returned to date. White’s: 140 enlisted, 80 returned to date. Union advises that position is that in chocolate industry two women to every man are required; confectionery, three women to every man. Shortage of female labour is intense, and unless this can be obtained, no guarantee that ex-servicemen will be completely re-absorbed or will continue to be employed in the industry. Industry is steadily losing female labour.
Electrical Trades. - Members to armed forces, 727. Union has been notified of return of 218 to date. Majority of 727 were skilled tradesmen and union expects all of these (discharged) skilled workers to return to their trade.
Engineering. - Amalgamated Engineering Union - no figures available. Australasian Society of Engineers - only figure available is 250 skilled tradesmen taken from railway workshops and mainly used for training purposes in the armed forces. The union advises that the ‘majority of skilled tradesmen will return to their trade.
Enginedrivers and Firemen. - Members to armed forces at the 24th April, 1940, 233; 156 returned. Reinstatement has been smooth, with no displacements. Union advises that majority of 233 were skilled tradesmen and expects all discharged skilled tradesmen to return to the industry.
Food Preservers. - Permanent members to armed forces, 335. Returned to date, 170. Of these returned -men 40 have since left the industry. Work in this industry is mainly seasonal, from 1st December to 30th April, and it is during this period that most casual labour is engaged.
Furnishing Trades. - Approximately 1,500 to armed forces. Forty per cent, returned to date. Union estimates that quite a number will not return to the trade at present, but will probably drift back later on.
Cas Employees. - No definite figures available, but union advises that 90 per cent, of discharged members so far have returned to the industry. Because of good conditions obtaining in the industry the union feels that practically all its members who joined the armed forces will return.
Hotel, Club and Restaurant. - Members to armed forces, 420: 190 have returned to date. No noticeable displacement, and new ex-service members are coining in steadily and seem to be settling down. A small number of both new members and returned members have become unsettled and left. Union expects a 50 per cent, to 00 per cent, return, and advises that the majority of the balance would have acquired some skill or training in other industries and trades while in the forces.
Ironworkers. - No figures available. Union advises that a large number of members went into the armed forces and not being skilled tradesmen, they may drift to other trades and industries when discharged.
Hairdressers. - Members to armed forces 4.00 to 500: 90 per cent, of discharged members are back in the trade and all working.
Hospital Employees. - No figures available, but union advises that a large number of members joined the armed forces. Members already discharged seem to be returning to the industry in fairly large proportion.
Glass Workers. - Approximately 300 members to armed forces (eight killed). Members are returning steadily to the industry and seem to be settling down reasonably well. No noticeable increase in membership because of new ex-service members. Union expects a high percentage of members discharged to return to the industry.
Leather Trades. - Approximately 123 not returned us yet to the industry. Sixty members have returned. Majority of members to armed forces were skilled workers so union advises that they are expecting a high percentage of returns. Tanners: No records, but union advises that there have been no displacements because of reinstatement of exservicemen.
Milk and Ice Carters.- Joined the armed forces, 480; 273 received call-up notices (750 total) ; 101 of first lot returned to date; 47 of second lot returned to date. Court evidence before De Ba.un J. on 25th April, 1940, was that two out of every three returned men to date have been unable to settle in the industry mid lasted’ at the job only up to a fortnight. Approximately 50 new ex-service members.
Liquor Trades. - Approximately 375 to armed forces; 300 returned to date; union expects a small percentage of the 375 members not to return to the industry. Reports that ex-members are settling back into the trade, but that of 130 new ex-service members quite a few have been unable to settle and have left the trade after a short while. Quite a number of displacements have taken place and union reports that these displaced members are finding it difficult to find other openings in tha trade.
Meat Employees. - No figures available but a very good percentage are returning to the industry - in fact the union reports that at’ the present time more than the industry can cope with.
Mill Employees. - No figures available, but union reports that members are returning to the industry n.nd there has been some displacement among older (as regards age) members when ex-servicemen claim reinstatement rights. Apparently these older members were taken on as war emergency labour and were not permanent workers in the industry.
Municipal Employees. - About 30 per cent, of members to armed forces. To date 95 per cent, of these have returned to the industry. This figure covers all sections - City Council, County Council, Shire and Country Councils. Reabsorption has been smooth and no displacements to any extent have occurred. New entrants to the industry are in the main ex-service personnel .
Painters and Decorators. - Union records show approximately 400 members to armed forces, but advise that quite a number more than this are likely .to have joined up. All workers are skilled tradesmen and mostly casual (job to job) workers. ‘ One hundred members have notified union of return to dato. Union advises that a high percentage of discharged members is expected to return to the trade.
Miscellaneous Workers. - Members to armed forces approximately 750. Members returned to date 100. New ex-service members of the union, 300. Displacements have been nil and the union expects a high percentage of members discharged to return to the industry. With regard to returned members settling down union advises that after a period of three months or so they seem to settle down fairly well.
Plasterers. - Between 400 and 500 members to armed forces. All skilled workers. Up to date a fairly high percentage of the discharged members have returned to the trade. Union estimates that a probable 100 members will leave the trade. No noticeable ‘ displacement has taken place. Union has between 50 and 00 new ex-service members.
Plumbers. - Approximately 205 members to armed forces. Forty-three discharged members back -in the trade so far. Union advises that majority of enlisted men were skilled tradesmen and expects that there will be 100 per rent, return to the trade when discharged.
Printing Industry. - Approximately 1,400 . members to armed forces. Approximately 50 per (rent., returned to industry to date. Majority to armed forces were skilled tradesmen and union expects a. 90 per cent, at least return of discharged members. Re-absorption has been smooth with no noticeable displacement!!. About twenty new ex-service members (some Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme trainees).
Postal Workers. - 4,200 members to armed forces from Postmaster-General’s Department (337 line staff). Two thousand six hundred and fifty returned to date. Union expects a high percentage of discharged members to return to the industry.
Printing Trades. - Approximately 700 members to armed forces. Three hundred returned to date. All members who joined up were skilled workers. Twenty to 30 new ex-service members. These new members are men who were working at the trade in the forces.
Road Transport Workers. - Members to armed forces approximately 3,000 (a high percentage of these were classified as being skilled transport workers). .Returned to date, 1,000 approximately. New ex-servicemen members. 350. Displacements have reached approximately 500. Returned men who have become unsettled and left the industry, approximately 100. Union expects a fairly high percentage of discharged members to rejoin- the industry and eventually settle down.
Rubber Workers. - No figures available, but union advises that industry was protected and a rather small percentage of members went to armed forces. Fair percentage of discharged members are returning to the industry but quite a number of these are npt settling down again and are leaving the industry. No noticeable displacement because of reinstatement, in fact the trade requires rubber workers. Some semi-skilled workers among number to armed forces, but union expects majority of skilled workers to return to the industry.
Australian Railways Union. - Union advises that approximately 2,000 members left railways to join the armed forces, prior to the railways being declared protected, 1942. Of this number approximately 500 members have already returned to the service, and it is expected by the union that 50 per cent. of those enlisted members will be resuming with the Railway Department. It is estimated that 10 per cent. of those members who have returned have become unsettled and left the service. About 2,000 new ex-service personnel, covering all sections of the service and not necessarily members of the Australian Railways Union have entered the service, and it is estimated that approximately 1,000 of these have become unsettled and left within a short period.
School Teachers. - To armed forces 1,500 members, 1,000 returned to date. Federation advises that only a very small percentage, possibly 5 per cent. will not return to the profession. Sydney Teachers College - 176 trainees have resumed interrupted training. Armidale Teachers College - 97 have resumed interrupted training. New trainees from forces - in training 94. Scholarships awarded, but members not yet discharged - 75. Members of forces selected by the department for training but not yet discharged - 41.
Sheet Metal. - No figures, but union advises that a large number of members went to armed forces. Small return so far. Large percentage of semi-skilled workers in the number of members to the forces. Union expects all skilled workers to return to the industry.
Shop Assistants. - Approximately 1,500 to armed forces. About 25 per cent. returned to trade so far. No indication as to what percentage will return eventually. Some displacements because of re-instatement of exservicemen.
Storemen and Packers. - No figures available, but union advises that re-absorption has been smooth and no displacements have occurred because of reinstatement claims.
Sugar Workers. - To armed forces, 195. Twenty-five returned to date. These members have settled back into their old jobs. Seventy new ex-service members have settled down into this industry, but a considerable number of new ex-service members have taken jobs in’ the industry and have been unable to settle down and have left. Union expects a very low percentage of members who went into the forces to return to the industry.
Textile Workers. - A very small number of members affected either by joining the armed forces or re-entering the industry.
Timber Workers. - Approximately 1,000 members to armed forces. Up to date 90 per cent, of skilled workers out of this 1,000 have returned to the trade. Nine hundred new members enrolled since 1st January, but no indication as to what percentage of this figure represents ex-servicemen.
Tramway and Omnibus: Transport Department’s figures. - Members to armed forces, 2:340. Returned to date (30th April, 1946)., 1,434; 1,376 resumed work. Analysis of figure 1,376: 779 conductors. 84 drivers, 240 clerks, 112 labourers, 55 cleaners, 56 fitter-mechanics, 16 apprentices, 5engineers, 21 painters. Department advises that estimated 98 per cent. will return to industry. Still to be discharged - 227 clerks, 2 engineers, 152 drivers and conductors, 358 mechanics.
Vehicle Builders. - To armed forces, 247 members. One hundred and twenty returned to date. Twelve new ex-service members. Majority of members to armed forces were skilled tradesmen. Union advises that they expect these men to return when discharged 100 per cent. to the trade.
Water and Sewerage Board workers. - Approximate number of members to armed forces 1,300. New ex-service men engaged 500 of which only 200 still remain, the others not settling down. Of the 1,300 members who went into the armed forces 75 per cent. have returned to date and the union expects that the majority of these will settle down. Displacements have been confined to temporary clerks, married women and over-age members.
Waterside Workers. - Approximately 800 to armed forces. To date 100 have returned. Union expects a 90 per cent. to 95 per cent. return of members discharged to the industry.
Australian Workers Union. - Commonwealth figures, approximately 30,000 to armed forces. New South Wales figures approximately 7,000 to armed forces. Approximately 4,000 returned to date. Quite a considerable number of new ex-service members are joining up. Generally the ex-service workers are settling down, especially in the factory section. Any noticeable trouble in regard to the exservicemen becoming unsettled has been in the construction section (that is pick and shovel work in the main). There has been practically no displacements.
Wool and Basil Workers. - No figures avail ablebut union advises that re-absorption has been smooth and no displacements have occurred. Members are coming back to the industry steadily and union expects a fairly high percentage return.
Undertakers Assistants and Cemetery Employees. - To armed forces,69 members. (18 skilled workers - coffin makers) ; 42 to date returned to industry and union has knowledge of six being discharged and leaving the industry. Union expects a fair percentage of enlisted members to eventually return to the industry.
It is useless to argue that the Government is not doing everything possible for ex-service personnel. The latest available figures show that up to the 26th April, 1946, the number of ex-servicemen and women selected forfull-time training under the Commonwealth reconstruction training schemewas 29,532, comprising 26,806 males and 2,726 females. For part-time training, the number accepted was 60,134, comprising 53,732 males and 6,402 females, making a grand total of 89,666. The number actually in fulltime training on the 26th April was 13;300, and in part-time training 40,585. Despite many drawbacks and disabilities, the Government’s employment and reestablishment plans are well under way. A certain amount of dislocation has been inseparable from the quick release of such large numbers of members of the armed forces, but the Government has not fallen down on its job.
The Government has been severely criticized also for its handling ofthe housing problem. In 1935 or 1936, if a person had asked the NewSouth Wales or the Commonwealth Government for a house, he would have been told not to be silly. These governments did not build bouses at thai time, and any one seeking a home had to build one privately, pay an exorbitant rent to a landlord, or live in a shack in “ Happy Valley “. To-day, so good is the housing record of this Administration that people desiring homes no longer go to estate agents, but ask how the various government housing schemes are progressing. In a small section of my electorate alone more houses have been built and occupied under the Commonwealth and State Governments’ housing scheme than were constructed -during all the years that the present Opposition parties were in ‘office in this Parliament. This Government has also made provision for rebates of rent, a concession unheard of when housing was handled solely by private estate agents. The housing problem to-day is due in the main to the fact that private builders and financiers who constructed homes in prewar days as an investment were more concerned with getting a high return for their money than with the welfare of the people.
Mr.Turnbull. - How many houses have been built in the honorable member’s electorate during the last few years? Not one has been built in my electorate.
– Even if only ten had been built that would be more than the number constructed when the parties now in opposition occupied the treasury bench in this Parliament. Actually between 200 and 300 houses have been built in my electorate.
– Where are they?I know the honorable member’s electorate well, and I have not seen them.
– If the honorable member forParramatta cares to take a trip around myelectorate by car anyday he will see them. -Undoubtedly the housing situation throughout the Commonwealth to-day is ‘bad. There is a tremendous demand for better homes, and many people are living- under conditions which we as Australians are not prepared to tolerate; but the responsibility for that does not rest, with this Government. In cooperation with the States, the Commonwealth Government has inaugurated housing schemes under which at least 50 per cent. of all new homes constructed must be made available to ex-servicemen. In New South Wales, the most progressive State so far as housing is concerned, more than 60 per cent. of all new homes erected under the scheme have been occupied by ex-servicemen and their dependants. Therefore, to say that weon this side of the chamber are not doing our utmost to provide home’s for ex-servicemen is completely false. Figures already quoted in the course of this debate show that thousands of former members of our armed forces have secured homes under the Commonwealth and State housing schemes. Like every other building organization, the War Service Homes Commission suffered during the war years because of the lack of skilled labour and the shortage of building materials. In the face of the many technical disabilities then existing, the inauguration of a large-scale housing programme was impossible. To-day, the Commonwealth is doing its best to secure labour. Years ago, when non-Labour administrations had an opportunity to build for exservicemen, they offered the lame excuse that money could not be provided for this purpose. Those who criticize the Commonwealth Government’s handling of the housing problem should bear in mind the fact that this Administration has inaugurated a housing programme unparalleled in our history. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) has been faced with a colossal task, and the Government has endeavoured to overcome the many problems that have arisen, with satisfaction not only to exservicemen, but also to every section of the community. The Government is doing its job well. There has been too rauch “ knocking “ of legislation sponsored by this Government, and too much talk by honorable members opposite of what, allegedly, the Government has failed to do. I claim that the Government has met with success in every sphere of its activities and that ex-service men and women can look forward confidently to social security and employment. The Labour majorities of three or four to one in recent byelections are eloquent evidence of the place that this Administration holds in the eyes of the general public and of the ex-servicemen. If honorable members opposite wish to do the right thing for Australia, and for our exse’rvice men and women who deserve the very best that we can provide for them, they will refrain in f future from “ knocking” this Government’s legislative programme, and be more impartial in their judgments. The Government has done its utmost to safeguard the interests of servicemen, and I suggest that members of the Opposition should be generous enough to admit it, and to co-operate with us in an endeavour to ensure a fair deal for the men and women who played such a noble part in our victory.
Sitting suspended from 12.S9 to 2.15 p.m.
– So far as I have been able to hear during the course of this debate - unfortunately I have been absent for a considerable portion of it - the chief complaint that has been raised by honorable members opposite against speeches by honorable members on this side of the chamber is that they constitute continual criticism of the worker. Nothing could be further from the truth. We criticize, in season and out of season, not the worker, but the non-worker of whom there is a growing army, not confined to any one section of the community. There appears to have spread over the whole face of the Commonwealth, and possibly over the whole face of the world, a feeling that work in itself is inimical-, that work is the one thing to be avoided if every one would lead a happy life. As a matter of fact, most of us know that work is life, and the sooner we return to a sound basis of talk about the whole subject of work, the better it will be for us all. On Victory Day, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) spoke about the future. He said that sacrifices would still be demanded of all of us; that victory did not in any way solve the problems of the future. With that view, I cordially agree; but I suggest to the right honorable gentleman that it is not enough merely to talk of sacrifices to be made. He must enumerate the kind of sacrifices which are expected from us. He should tell the people that hard work is required of every section, of the community. When we all realize that, we shall come to the point where we can hope to bridge the gap between our spending power and the goods upon which the money Gan be spent. It is futile to talk vaguely to people about inflation. They do not think in terms of economics, and have difficulty in detecting any danger in the present situation. We must explain it to them in practical terms, and show them what is necessary to bridge the gap. AH appeals will be entirely useless unless we support them with action.
This morning, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) made a vigorous defence of the Government. I was really delighted to hear him inject so much enthusiasm into his speech, because speakers become a little tired at this stage of a debate. The honorable member declared that the’ employment of exservicemen was being “ pushed ahead “ at a great rate, ,and that everywhere ex-servicemen were being employed. According to the honorable member, only one ex-serviceman in every 100 was not placed in employment. From my personal experience, those figures seem to’ me to be very highly coloured. The number of ex-servicemen who, I know, have not obtained work to date, is much larger than I would have imagined. I shall tell the House one thing. There is work assured for every ex-serviceman who cares to call at an employment bureau. Indeed, he may even devote the first 40-hour week, once it is established, to filling in the form that is presented to him. The process starts with the card which must be filled in when the exserviceman applies for employment. It is a large square of cardboard, with spaces thereon for the applicant to supply the following particulars : -
Christian name, surname, address, employment Bought, remuneration sought, educational qualifications (refer to availability of school leavers’ card, school certificates, trades certificates, diplomas and degrees) ; means of contact, occupationally registered as; code number, employed, unemployed will be employed on ; ex-service de tails; demobilization details; v.g. report, previous employment history (including, if relevant, while in the services), with occupation, previous employer, industry, period, during what years, and reason for termination; reference to apprenticeship, details of trade training, and any special experience bearing on occupational potential; personal details, including date of birth, conjugal state, dependants, nationality, height, weight, health, physical capacity, personal type, occupation suitable, with reference to any handicaps occupationally .restrictive or to any other matters requiring special comment - e.g., relating to ability or inability to liv<! away from home.
The card does not require the information whether the applicant is still in possession of his appendix.
– Why does the honorable member object to the card ?
– If the applicant went to a private employment agency, his interview would last no longer than five minutes. The private employment agency would not require to know how much he weighed, his height, what he ate, and details about his appearance. The procedure adopted by the Commonwealth Employment Service, about which I complain, consumes time and man-power, and, in total, entails enormous waste. We must abolish waste of all kinds. Waste is being experienced everywhere and wemust avoid it if we are to attain an economically sound basis. Every one is well aware of the growing demand for a reduction of taxes. That, I think, is equally well known to honorable members on this side of the chamber as it is to honorable members opposite, but I doubt whether the reasons for it are as fully and carefully considered by them as they are by us. I desire to speak, however, not so much upon a general reduction of taxes as upon certain features of taxation which require overhaul and which will not involve the Treasury in any serious loss of revenue. I refer particularly to sales tax. From the day that sales tax was introduced, it has been the target for a great deal of criticism, and, strangely enough, the incidence of this tax always hits the small business man more severely than the large. I cite particularly the case of a retail trader who is registered also for wholesale trade, but whose wholesale business is less than 50 per cent, of the whole. When this tax was first introduced, this trader was assessed on the stock he held, which was likely to be sold wholesale, and was charged sales tax upon it. A regular wholesale trader paid sales tax only as his business was done. As sales tax1 was increased, the same principle applied, but when reductions were made and exemptions were granted, no redress was given to the retailer. Some time ago, when it became evident that housing costs were atrociously high, the Government very wisely decided to exempt certain building materials from sales tax.
– It has not reduced the cost of erecting homes.
– Exactly. Before the exemptions were granted, sales tax payable on a house-costing £1,200 was £75. To encourage home-builders, such items as galvanized iron, spouting, piping, reinforcing cement, sand, bricks, wood fuel stove’s, doors, glass, timber and a few other items were exempted from sale.? tax, but all those traders who had already paid sales tax on such stocks as they held for wholesale_ distribution later received no redress. They were told that there was no provision in the act to enable them to secure a refund. Regular wholesale dealers operating in a large way do ‘not pay the tax until they sell their goods, and therefore they were able to take full advantage of the exemption. -I ask the Government to investigate this anomaly, which is a distinct injustice to small traders. I am sure that the Government will be anxious to correct the position. The same thing occurs when goods are transferred from the luxury class to another class, thus effecting a reduction of the sales tax rate. Many items have been reduced from the 25 per cent, class to the 12-J per cent, class. In such cases, small traders once again have no redress. and, having paid tax in advance, are unable to secure refunds. There are many other things in connexion with sales taxation to which attention should be drawn. They areusually referred to as anomalies ; they would be much more wisely termed absurdities. For instance, doors are exempt from sales tax, but locks and hinges are not. Weatherboards are exempt, but the paint necessary to preserve and protect them is not. Axes are exempt, but saws are not. Having lived in a timber district for most of my life, I cannot understand why a man who uses a crosscut saw should be compelled to pay sales tax for his tools, whilst a man who does his work with an axe should be free. Roofing also is exempt from sales tax, but the fixings for it are not. Personal brushware, which means hair brushes, tooth brushes, nail brushes and so forth, is taxed as a luxury at 25 per cent., whereas scrubbing brushes, dog brushes and horse brushes are treated as necessities and taxed at the rate of 12i per cent. Toilet soap is classed as a luxury and taxed at the higher rate, but dog soap is treated as a necessity and taxed at the lower rate. As somebody has said, the Government apparently considers that it should be cheaper to wash a dog than to wash a baby. These anomalies should be reviewed, because they are causing a groat deal of inconvenience and complaint. I ask the Treasurer to give earnest consideration to my suggestions.
Some time ago in this House I referred to the Gift Duty Act, and to-day I return to the attack because I consider that the act should be revised from the beginning to the end. In fact, if I had my way, I would abolish it. With the exception of New Zealand, Australia is the only country that has such legislation. I communicated with the Treasurer on another taxation matter some time ago, and, in the course of a letter to me, the right honorable gentleman stated -
A very grave responsibility rests upon the Commissioner to interpret the act as it stands.
I agree completely with that statement. However, on another occasion, when writing to one of my constituents, the right honorable gentleman stated -
The admitted severity ofthis taxation will be mitigated by sympathetic administration.
Obviously, if the Commissioner is required to carry out the grave responsibility of administering the. act in detail, he has little opportunity to exercise his discretion. The responsibility should rest upon this Parliament to put the act in order, and prevent occurrences that are constantly causing a great deal of trouble within families. The family is the very basis of community life, and we ought to attempt to build it up in every way and refrain from doing anything that would tend to disrupt it.. I have before me details of a number of cases illustrating the effect of the act. A farmer had an agreement with his two sons to work on his farm. The sons drew onlysufficient money to cover their immediate requirements. The remainder of their wages accumulated and was held by the farmer in his banking account on their behalf. With this accumulated money, a farm was purchased for the sons at a cost of £550, plus improvements costing £350. On this amount, the farmer paid £27 as gift duty. There was a mortgage on the homestead of £1,200 at4½ per cent. While serving with the armed forces, the sons accumulated more money and decided to lift the mortgage, the father agreeing to pay 4 per cent. An amount of £600 was withdrawn by the father from the Commonwealth Bank and paid directly to the Agricultural Bank without going through any otherbanking account. The father has now been advised that the sons are responsible for £36 gift duty, which will bc refunded to them if the loan is repaid in full within five years. As a representative of women, I am particularly interested in another case. A married woman had saved £700 out of her housekeeping allowance from her husband over a period of twenty years, and recently bought a property for- £1,000. Her husband made her a gift of £300 to complete the purchase and, in accordance with the Gift Duty Act, a return was lodged disclosing this gift. The Commissioner of Taxation inquired as to the source of the £700, and, on being informed of the facts, stated that the money saved by the woman did not. belong to her, but must be treated as a gift from her husband. The result was the. issue of an assessment for £30 duty, plus a penalty of £30 for lodging an incorrect return in the first place.
The comment made to me by a legal man who brought the case to my notice was this -
This docs not appear a fair assessment to us, as according to the Gift Duty Act, the gift must have been made within a statutory period of three years, and we understand in this case the matter extends over about twenty years.
I point out that if any married person applies for an old-age pension, the joint incomes of husband and wife are treated as being equally divisible between them. In other words, it is recognized that the wife has a right to half of the family income. If that is so in the administration of one act, surely it should be. so in the administration of another. The Gift Duty Act is, in essence, an agent to drive a wedge between husband and wife in their financial relations, which is an utter disgrace.
– Was the case cited by the honorable member brought to the notice of the taxation officials?
– What was their answer?
– I believe the matter is still in the air, but the point is that such a position should not be possible. I want anomalies such as this to be fully’ understood by honorable members so that they may be cleared up. Under the Gift Duty Act, miscarriages of justice are not uncommon. I have details of at least a dozen different cases. I believe that these injustices were not intended by the Government which framed the legislation or by the Parliament which passed it, and fie sooner the faults are removed the better it will be for all concerned.
– The act was introduced to prevent tax evasion.
– Yes, but it was intended to prevent evasion of a tax of which I do not approve at all, namely the death duty. Probably my opposition to the death duty puts me beyond the pale in the eyes of some honorable members, but I am not dealing with that point to-day. The point is that not only is the prevention of evasion of tax under the act accomplished, but a thousand other things have come into being which have imposed a most grievous injustice, and the amount involved, as money goes to-day, is to the Treasury a mere bagatelle.
There is only one other matter- on which I wish to speak. I am glad that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is in the House. Recently, I asked a question concerning the possibility of making available motor vehicles and spare parts directly through the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to traders who are willing to make deliveries to householders. I make it a point on almost every occasion when asking a question so to phrase it as either to gain immediate information or to make a suggestion to the Government which I think is a good one, and I am surprised when any such suggestion is treated with a degree of hostility. On the occasion to which I have referred, the Minister immediately made the remark that to do what I had suggested would be to do something against, which all honorable .members on this side of the House are continually fighting. He said that it’ would mean an extension of controls. I failed to follow his argument, and asked a second question so as to try to get hin to elucidate it a little. What new control would be necessary ? We have a certain number of things on our hands; they are our property - used cars and the like - which are no longer necessary for the carrying on of a war. Merely to change the basis on which such things are disposed of does not seem to me to involve any great extension of control, and certainly nothing that would be irksome to the general public. I am making an appeal on behalf of people for whom little is ever done - housewives. I said quite recently that they had carried the greatest burden of civilian sacrifices in Australia during the war. What have any honorable gentlemen in this House done? They have gone without a few pounds of butter, and have eaten a little less meat. How many of them have stood for hours and hours in a queue? How many of them have racked their brains trying to prepare meals that will suit the palates of others? I have never raised what might be called the “ feminist banner “ in this House; nevertheless., it remains true that women, and their rights and interests, are frequently overlooked. The matter of the delivery of supplies to householders is a serious one at the present time. Ask any doctor, particularly in any city, where the burden falls most heavily, and what at present is the cause of the greatest attention he pays to women, and he will say that it is disability as the result of women, not physically capable of doing so, carrying burdens and standing in queues for hours on end. This is a matter to which some attention must be paid. I admit that it is very difficult to deal with. I have cast about in my mind for various ways of encouraging people to make deliveries, and realize how difficult is the problem. Many retailers have told me that they would make deliveries if they could get vehicles. In my district at the present time there is a baker who, during the whole of the war, delivered bread to my house, because I happened to be sufficiently far outside the town to be in the zone in which deliveries were permitted. At the present time, that man sometimes comes to my house at 10 o’clock at night; and he is up at 5 o’clock the next morning to assist in the bakery. The reason for his late arrival at my place is that his motor vehicle is worn Out, and because of the lack of certain parts he is held up all along the road. Through local dealers he has made numerous requests for the necessary parts, but has not had any success. I got in touch with the Transport Commissioner, although I knew that he had no authority to do anything, seeking his advice and help in the matter. His reply was, “ The only thing I can tell you is to go Commission deals through him “. The to the local dealer, because the Disposals Government has a large quantity of stuff on hand. If the dealers are not releasing it in such a way as to promote the interests of the housewives of this country, the Government should ‘ step in on behalf of those people, who are uncomplainingly carrying the greatest part of the hurden, and deserve at least that much to help them. I believe that that would really be of some assistance to housewives at the present time. The whole matter of disposals, it would seem, is being bungled very badly indeed at the moment. To destroy by fire or other means implements and equipment of any kind which could be used by any citizen of this country is a crime against God and man. The Royal Australian Air Force is being rapidly dispersed. Wherever there were large air force establishments, there are masses of equipment. Much of this is being destroyed, and, I suggest, by the most wasteful method, because it is all transported to and gathered together at one spot for destruction. Could anything more ridiculous be imagined? Wherever these establishments are, there is certain equipment which would be of great advantage to householders. There are, for instance, huts which could be sold to local business people, or to persons who want a garage, for £10 or £15 each. Yet that kind of thing is not done. The point is, that these things have to be transported 500, 600,. 700 or 1,000 miles to the locality in which they are to be disposed of.” Some of the people in the locality could use much of what is being burnt.
– Where is it?
– In many places throughout Australia, including Queensland. The name of one place that I had in mind has escaped me for the moment. T do not speak at random. Ask any Minister whether or not equipment is being destroyed to-day; for example, certain cooking equipment. I realize that it would be impossible to bring a small quantity of equipment from Bourke to, say, Melbourne, for distribution. But I do consider that as much of it as can be used on the spot should be used there. What is there at this moment to prevent the issuing of a regulation by the Department of Air or the Department of the Army, empowering officers on the spot to dispose of certain small articles of equipment at fixed prices, the prices having been fixed and the goods examined by a competent official?
– If the honorable member has had knowledge of specific cases, why has she not made representations to the appropriate Minister?
– Representations were made to me, in the first place, by servicemen returning from Rabaul, and I realized that in that instance certain difficulties would have to be overcome. But this is something which was brought tomy notice two days ago by a man who had just been discharged from theRoyal Australian Air Force and has personal knowledge of it. He discussed the matter from thestandpoint of what could best be done in the disposal of the property. What astounds me is, that no one can suggest a method for disposing of something without being accused of making a bitter attack, or being suspected of doing so. I wish something helpful could be done in this matter.
– The honorable member has not said what articles were destroyed or what condition they were in.
– I have mentioned certain things that were destroyed, including cooking equipment and huts. I suggest that it would be better to dispose of the goods on the spot rather than collect them and transport them to a centre hundreds of miles away for disposal. In that way they could be bought by people who need them and could make use of them. Under the present system, persons of small means cannot travel to the disposal centre to take advantage of the big auctions. The result is that dealers buy everything, and those to whom the goods eventually go for use have to pay more than would otherwise be the case. I know that there are difficultiessuch as labour shortages, congestion of transport &c, but I cannot understand why people who are near the spot where the goods are situated should be denied an opportunity to buy them. To me it is no argument at all to say that because a certain thing cannot be obtained by a housewife in Melbourne, therefore a housewife at Bourke shall not have it. I prefer to look at these matters from the standpoint of the individual citizen, as well as keeping in mind the overall policy of the disposal of goods in the most economical method. This matter goes beyond mere business methods. I am not a great exponent of business methods, but I believe in giving consideration to human needs as well as to business efficiency. I am convinced that what I have suggested could be done to the benefit of the people concerned.
– The measure before the House is a bill for an act to grant and apply a sum out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the service of the year ending the 30th June, 1947, an amount of £44,826,000. The debate on this bill affords honorable members an opportunity to make some observations on the Government’s financial policy, and to criticize it if necessary. It has been said that finance is the test of government. By applying this test to the Government’s record we can see how it has served the country. The only information available from which to make a survey of the situation is to be gleaned from the monthly financial statement of Consolidated Revenue issued over the signature of the Secretary to the Treasury. The last of these is for the month of May, and it contains a general survey of the position over the previous eleven months. The information is meagre, but so far as it goes, it demonstrates that the present administration lacks the ability to make Government expenditure reproductive. It has not the courage to eliminate waste and extravagance in the use of public funds, nor to increase national production in accordance with the country’s economic possibilities and the requirements of the people. The Government may legitimately be criticized on the following grounds: - (a) Concealment of the true position regarding loan raisings; (b) wasteful expenditure, with the result that high taxation is maintained; (c) lack of frankness in compilation of public financial statements; (d) administrative ineptitude; (e) failure to use Government assets, apart from money, to the best advantage for increased productivity. It cannot be denied that the basis of our economy is production. It is from production that the revenue must be obtained with which to finance social services and other forms of Government expenditure. Therefore, it follows that, in order to reduce taxes while maintaining living standards and social services, production must be increased to the limit. However, the figures show that production has declined rather than increased.
In regard to loan raisings, the Government has deliberately applied a policy of concealing the true position. On the 26th March the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that £47,000,000 had been subscribed to the Security Loan of £70,000,000 by 70,000 subscribers. The loan closed on the 16th April, 21 days later, and we were told by the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.. Forde) that it lad been ‘oversubscribed by £S,000,000. Evidently, therefore, £31,000,000 had been put into the loan in the last 21 days. The fact is that the number of subscribers was the lowest .of all the war loans, only 179,102 persons contributing.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party ‘(Mr. Fadden) boycotted the loan.
– It was not a matter of boycotting the loan. I refused to be associated with the loan raisings, and I now propose to state my reasons to the House. On behalf of my party, I ref used to be associated with a financial policy so diametrically opposed to the basic principles for which my party stands. I refused to aid and abet the Government in its wasteful expenditure. I was opposed to the raising of money which would .be expended in applying the Government’s socialistic policy, a policy at variance with the principles which I supported. Those are the reasons why I dissociated myself from’ the loan campaign. However, I remind honorable members that I cooperated with the Government in the raising of all loans during the war, and my assistance was accepted by the Government as something of value. I make no apology for refusing to be associated with the last loan campaign, and I will refuse to be associated with the raising of any other Joan if the money is to be used for financing a policy which T believe to be disastrous to the country. When the loan closed the blatant and .arrogant Minister, who was then Acting Treasurer (Mr. Dedman), came out with this jibe in the public press -
Subscriptions indicated that in spite of the action of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Menzies, and the Leader of the Australian Country party, Mr. Fadden, in dissociating themselves from the loan, the people of Australia still had great confidence in the future of their country.
The Minister went farther than that in a broadcast statement, because he asserted that, despite the ‘non-association of the Leader, of the Opposition (Mr.
Menzies) and myself with the loan, it had produced a record. How he arrived at that conclusion I do not ‘know, unless he meant that it was a record in the sense that less money was used from Commonwealth banking instrumentalities than had been taken on former occasions. He could not possibly have meant truthfully that the number of subscribers was a record, because the number proved to be the record, low of 179,102. I was asked to comment on that statement, and ‘ I endeavour-ed to be -as fair as I could, although I realized that I was placed in an invidious position in that I represent at least a section of the Australian community. I addressed the following question to the Acting Treasurer on the ‘30th’ April :-
By how many -millions would the loan have failed, if subscriptions had not been accommodatingly pumped / in by the ‘Commonwealth Bank and its various departments?
The .Acting Treasurer was suddenly struck dumb - an .extraordinary .thing for him. But not so the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde).. He suggested that I was “peeved “, because the loan had been over-subscribed, and that I was playing the .game of party politics. What else-.am I here f or ? I lead a -political party. As long as the financial policy of the Government .is ‘opposed to that of the -principles I am sent here to expound,. I shall continue ito play the game of party politics. But neither I nor my party played that game during the war. We then gave whole-hearted support and -.co-operation to the Government, and that was acknowledged respectfully on more than one occasion by leading -members of the Ministry. My party will not -associate itself with a financial policy which has as its foundational requirement the socialization of the -means of production, distribution and exchange. Instead of hearing cold facts, all that the public got from the Acting Prime Minister was hot air. Here is an extract from a reputable journal with :an Australia-wide circulation “The truth about these public loans is that they are being mainly financed by subscriptions from the savings banks - not directly by depositors in savings banks, , but (by *he -managements of these institutions, leaving -the right .with the depositors still to withdraw and spend their money whenever the opportunity arises.
This possible double-spendingof the one lot of moneyhas obvious inflationary implications, and the amount involved runs into some hundreds of millions:
The over-taxed community of Australia is entitled’ to the truth with regard to the financial policy being pursued. The obvious lesson to be learned is that the present Government is not cutting its coat according to its cloth. Trustees of the public purse shouldrealize that the public has not the faith in these loans that the Government suggests. For these reasons I have refused to continue to associate myself with the loans raised by the present Government. It has not beenfrank and fair with the community generally,orwith those who usually subscribe to the loans. The Government would have the people believe that each loan has been overwhelm ingly oversubscribed, and that, as a consequence, confirmation has therefore been given to its financial policy. Yet every loan has shown definitely that the people are not prepared to endorse the squandering and extravagant financial methods of the Government. There can be no justification for the “ hush-hush “ policy of the Government. All the information necessary to enable the public to arrive at a proper assessment of the country’s financial position should be made available. A few days ago I addressed the following question to the Treasurer -
The reply that I received was that, as no record was kept of applications by individuals, as distinct from companies, it was regretted that the information asked for could not be supplied. I do not accept that as a frank and straightforward answer to my question. No one will deceive me into believing that a government with the huge and expensive loan organization that the present Government has had in connexion with its loan raising programme, is not in a position to dissect the classes of subscribers to its loans. This House is entitled to know how many individuals, as distinct from companies, and how many companies have subscribed voluntarily to the loans that have been floated. I demand that that information be given, and refuse to believe that it is not available. Even if itbe not available at the moment it should be obtained and supplied to this House. Unless the war loan organization possessed the information that I seek, I do not see how it could have planned its campaigns effectively. In what other way would the Government know how different sections of the community were responding to its loan appeals? I shall not allow things to rest where they are. This House is entitled to a full and frank statement, free from camouflage or concealment, showing the details of the loan contributions by individuals, companies, and others. I repeat that the facts show indisputably that the loans have not been so successful nor the confidence of the people in the administration so great as the Government would have us believe. Anexamination even of the meagre financial information placed before us reveals that Australia is drifting towards disaster, and it is timethat responsible Australians took notice ofthat fact, particularly as it is true that the test of a government is its ability to control its finances wisely.
The financial position of Australia has been presented to us in the form of a statement headed “Receipts and Expenditure “. Every accountant knows that there is no such thing. The statement should show on one side the income of the Government and on the other side payments made by it, but I shall let that technicality pass. Whether it be called a statement of receipts and’ expenditure, or a statement of receipts and payments, it should be a summarized statement of the national cash-book. In other words, it should show on the revenue side all receipts and on the payments side all amounts paid out. However, the statement before us is the only official one that has been presented to honorable members, and from it we must endeavour to arrive at sound conclusions as to the financial position of Australia, pending the presentation of the budget. Over the signature of the Secretary of the Treasury, under date of the 11th June, 1946, we have had presented to us a statement which on the expenditure side contains only seventeen headings. The expenditure for the eleven months ended the 31st May, 1946, is given as £329,319,000 from Consolidated Revenue and £182,618,000 from loans, a total of approximately . £512,000,000. Of that sum, £365,000,000 constitutes war expenditure, but despite the magnitude of the amount, there is no detail ; the whole sum is grouped under the heading “Defence and War 1939-45”. There may have been some justification for bulking defence and war expenditure during the war; that would be done for security reasons, and I found no fault with the practice at the time. Obviously, the detailed items which went to make up that total ought not to have been made available to all and sundry. But the war is over, and it is time that a frank disclosure of the various items of expenditure in detail should be presented to the people. The statement before us is not one showing receipts and payments; it is a compilation arrived at by deduction. There is no information as to the treatment of cash credits from disposals, import procurement, and so on. Government accounts should be presented to the people in the same way as a co-operative movement presents to its members details of the year’s transactions. The taxpayers are entitled to the fullest information regarding the finances of the country. What would be the position of a public company whose directors presented to the shareholders a financial statement which showed in threelines the expenditure for the year, with 70 per cent. of the total payments set down in one line? Any directors who attempted that sort of thing would soon find themselves out of office. The statement before us shows that of an expenditure of £329,319,000 from Consolidated Revenue for the eleven months ended the 31st May last £17,931,000 is shown under the heading “ Invalid and Old-age Pensions “. There is a notation that, in addition, £6,895,000 was available from the balance existing in the fund at the30th June, 1945. Why was not that sum brought into the account as a credit to show the source from which it came and also included in the debits to show where it went? We are forced to add that amount if we would arrive at a proper understanding of the expenditure under that heading. The vote for 1945-46 in connexion with the National Welfare Fund was £46,000,000. The accounts before us disclose an expenditure of £42,061,000 under that heading. But to that sum must be added approximately £7,000,000, making the total amount disbursed for the eleven months approximately £49,000,000. In other words, the total estimated expenditure under this heading alone for the whole of the financial year has been exceeded by approximately £3,000,000 in eleven months. The greatest example of attempted camouflage is to be found under the heading “ Defence and War “. For the eleven months covered by the statement the revenue is set down as being £182,209,000 from revenue and £182,618,000 from loan, a total of approximately £365,000,000. I draw attention to the fact that the estimated expenditure from the loan fund for the year is £152,106,000 but that, for the eleven months ended the 31st May, £182,618,000 had been paid from the fund. In other words, the loan fund has been over-expended by more than £30,000,000. In order to ascertain the true position we have to look deeper than the figures presented to us. An expenditure of £182,209,000 on defence and war, including interest and sinking fund, has also to be taken into consideration to give a clue to the actual expenditure on war for the eleven months just passed.. In his statement for the month of March the Treasurer said that the gross war expenditure during that month was £49,700,000. The statement, however, shows the amount assumed to have been expended on defence and war for that month to be £10,483,000. The Treasurer was dealing with net amounts. The actual amount which should have been disclosed in order to enable us to obtain an accurate estimate of the quantum of war expenditure in that month was £49,700,000. The amount of £10,483,000 was arrived at, not by utilizing proper accounting methods, but by a mathematical dodge. The Treasurer’s statement showed the amount as £49,700,000, which included a payment to the British Government of £12,500,000 in respect of claims recently received, but abnormally large credits, totalling £44,000,000, had reduced the expenditure for the month to £5,292,000.’ The net expenditure of £5,292,000 was brought to account in the monthly statement by charging revenue with £10,483,000 to absorb the balance of revenue available and crediting the war loan fund with £5,191,000. The net expenditure was reduced to £5,292,000 and .the Treasurer juggled between the loan fund and revenue for another £5,191,000, and thus the amount of £10,483,000 was arrived at. Credits amounting to £27,600,000 were received from the British Government as the result of .the finalization of many transactions before the close of the United Kingdom financial year on the 31st March. Other credits in Australia totalled approximately £16,800,000, which included large transfers from trust funds in repayment of advances and proceeds of sales by the Division of Import Procurement and sales by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. The amount of £10,483,000 was arrived at by taking into account credits that have no relation whatever to the expenditure for the eleven months in question. Credits raising from the war period and those receivable from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission and from other sources were credited to war expenditure in order to reduce it to the greatest possible minimum with a view to deceiving the people as to the true quantum of war expenditure by this Government in the first eleven months of the non-war period which ended the 31st May, 1946. The Treasurer’s statement proceeds to state that the net war expenditure for the nine months to the 31st March, was £309,724,000 compared with £347,873,000 for the corresponding period of last year. On the face of it, discerning people are asked to believe that there has been a reduction of net war expenditure from £347,873,000 to £309,724,000. But what is the true position? The amount of £309,724,000 was arrived at by taking disposals and other credits coming in, and crediting them improperly, to the war expenditure account by way of camouflage. These credits should have been frankly . disclosed as such in order to allow the people to arrive at a true estimate of the war- expenditure maintained by this Government in the year following the cessation of hostilities. Let us arrive at the true position as best we can with the meagre information at our disposal. The amount of £309,724,000, the Treasurer says, was the net war expenditure for the nine months. Included in that amount, however, was an item for war expenditure for the month of March amounting to £10,483,000. . The Treasurer’s statement showed that the gross war expenditure for March was £49,700,000. Therefore, in order to arrive at a proper basis of comparison we should include an extra £39,300,000. If we add that £39,300,000 to the £309,724,000 we are asked to accept as the war expenditure for the nine months to the 31st March, we find that the actual net war expenditure for that period is £349,024,000, compared with the figure for the same period in the previous year of £347,024,000. In other words, there hap been an expenditure of £2,000,000 more in the non-war year than in the year while the war was still being waged.
Mr.Menzies. - Is that comparing nine months in this year with twelve months in the previous year?
– No, I am comparing two periods of nine months. I have had to piece the figures together like a jig-saw puzzle from the information available in the Treasurer’s statement. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) yesterday asked the Treasurer what was the destination of the moneys being received from disposals? In reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) the Treasurer had stated curlier that an amount of £45,000,000 had already been received from disposals and it was natural for the honorable member for Parramatta to inquire as to what became of this money, and what method of accounting was adopted in connexion with it. The Treasurer replied that he would look into the matter and have a statement prepared for the information of the honorable member. The right honorable gentleman knew very well that that amount had been taken into consideration by crediting it to war expenditure accounts in order to reduce the figures relating to war expenditure to the lowest possible minimum. That is the sort of financial juggling in which the Government is indulging. Yet it expects the public to accept statements which it places before this House at their face value. The position is appalling. The time has come to disclose the exact position in order to reveal the financial drift in this country as the result of the Government’s policy. Last evening the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), in an endeavour to justify the Government’s employment policy, claimed that production was increasing. In reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), he declared that 500,000 men and women had been transferred from the armed forces and war industries to peace occupations; and he argued that that could not be effected without a corresponding increase of productivity in industry. Obviously, the most sensitive and accurate barometer of the volume of employment in this country is the pay-roll tax. A study of this barometer shows that production has not increased. No one can dispute the reliability of the payroll tax as a barometer in this respect, because the tax is assessed on wages paid in every industry in Australia and its rate and incidence have not altered. Of coarse, honorable members opposite refuse to accept the pay-roll tax as a barometer in this matter. Let us have a look at the pay-roll tax. Collections of pay-roll tax for the full financial year was estimated in the last budget at £11,000,000. Honorable members will recall that during the debate on the budget I pointed out that, apparently, the Government lacked confidence in its ability to provide full employment because the estimate of £11,000,000 in respect of the current financial year was £88,000 less than actual pay-roll tax collections in the preceding twelve months, which amounted to £11,000,000.Up to the 31st May last, collections of pay-roll tax totalled £10,394,000, whilst collections last month totalled £1,017,000. From these figures it is clear that total collections for the year will be very little in excess of the estimate of £11,000,000. In May, 1945, collections of pay-roll tax totalled £954,000, or only £150,000 less than collections in May of this year. No one can say that these results are evidence of any improvement in the production field; nor are they evidence of the implementation of a sound employment policy. The payroll tax collections tell a clear story. They show that the Government isnot effecting the transfer of employees from war occupations to peace-time occupations to the degree that is claimed. The Government, in order to substantiate its claim that this transfer is being effected, must explain what has happened to payroll tax collected from the additional pay envelopes, because pay-roll tax cannot be evaded. But, as I have shown, total collections of pay-roll tax remained practically static this year compared with total collections for the preceding financial year. In view of this fact, is it any wonder that honorable members on this side of the chamber are concerned about the Governments inability to grapple with this grave problem? Is it any wonder that the people of
Australia want to be told the truth about the matter? We must make clear the degree to which the Government has failed to solve the employment problem or to implement its so-called full employment policy. Ex-service personnel will not be satisfied with mere assertions that everything is all right when the facts reveal a very sorry picture indeed. The position is most unsatisfactory from whatever viewpoint we study it. Therefore we demand a full and frank statement on the subject.
If the Government made a frank statement with regard to loan raising it would enable the people to gauge fully the disastrous effects of its financial policy. War expenditure for the first nine months of tins non-war year has in fact exceeded that for the corresponding period of last year. Let me compare our position in this respect with that of other countries. There is no excuse for this Government’s squandering. Great Britain’s last budget indicated that the Estimates of the Service and Supply Departments had been morethan cut in halves. New Zealand has made substantial cuts in war expenditure, and the position in our Sister Dominion is much sounder than it ls in Australia. For instance, war expenditure in New Zealand for the nine months to the 31st December, 1945, was only £52,400,000, whilst expenditure on the fighting services was cut drastically. An amount of £29,700,000 was expended on the Army in 1044-45 compared with only £14,200,000 this year. Both these amounts are exclusive of gratuities. In India, the first victory budget granted the following concessions: - Complete exemption from income tax of persons earning up to 4,000 rupees - during the war the exemption was up to 2,000 rupees; reduction of duty on motor spirit by 20 per cent., and also a reduction of duty on kerosene; special initial depreciation allowance to industry of 20 per cent, on new plant and machinery ; substitution of undistributed profits tax by a dividend tax to encourage the ploughing back of profits into business, which is the direct antithesis to the Australian Government’s policy. These concessions can naturally be expected to restore peace-time productivity in India. Contrast them with the Australian policy of high taxation which is stifling industrial recovery to the degree that the standard of living here is gravely impaired. While our customs and sales tax receipts will be more buoyant by £8,000,000 to £9,000,000 than was anticipated, payroll tax, on the other -hand, will be approximately the same as last year.
Although the cost of government is abnormally high, the taxpayer who provides the money is not receiving -efficient service from the administration. I shall cite several examples of administrative ineptitude which could be multiplied many times. The Minister for Labour and National Service informed me by letter dated the 11th February last, that careful consideration had been given to the release of an airman on occupational grounds. This man’s application had been refused. This letter was sent by me to a correspondent, who in his reply dated the loth February, said -
The Minister would no doubt be much astonished to know that L.A.C. Kidd, F., has been out of the Air Force for some time. He called in at thin office a few days ago and advised us that he secured his discharge some weeks ago. We wonder who it was who was the subject of the Minister’s “‘careful consideration”, or what appears more likely was consideration given to anything or any one.
The second example is that of a naval dischargee. On the 29th January, last, I was informed by the Minister for Labour and National Service that approval had been given for the release of one of two brothers. This man had been released prior to the notification given to me. However, not a fortnight later, the Minister wrote to me. about the two brothers as follows: -
I have to advise that after careful consideration of this matter it is regretted it is not possible to recommend that these servicemen be released before their turn under the points system arrives.
I could cite dozens of similar cases. I have been placed in a ridiculous position more than once when I have made application for the release of men to return to’ farms I have received an adverse reply, only to be told by the farmers concerned that their sons were back on the farms a month or so before their release was refused. I cite these cases to show the lack of co-ordination and defective administration of this Government, whose history is one of monumental bungling and muddling.
The third example relates to tractors and other items of surplus goods which, through Governmental inefficiency, have been held in depots for long periods, instead of being distributed and put into production. At a Royal Australian Air Force depot at Morningside, near Brisbane, a row of wheeled tractors was left standing in the same position, exposed to sun and rain, for months. More than 40 new tractors, were, to my knowledge, kept for a long period at a Royal Australian Engineers depot, at Salisbury, doing absolutely nothing, until I wired the Minister for the Army about them. Some were then declared surplus and released for agricultural purposes. At that very time, many inquiries were being made to me by wheat and other farmers urgently requiring tractors for the sowing season, who had been waiting up to two years for them. [Extension of time granted.’] The same state of affairs arose in regard to nails. At the end of December, 1945, when there was not a pound of nails to be had in Brisbane, 424 tons was held in engineer store depots in Queensland, and 31G tons had been declared surplus but was still held in depots. At the same time, 368 tons of corrugated galvanized iron, was held in those stores, and farmers could not get sheet for roofing milking sheds, and partially completed houses were not habitable for lack of roofs. There were 394 tons of barbed wire, 30 tons of fencing wire, and 194 tons of netting wire held in those stores, some of which were subsequently declared surplus. Total depot stocks of tractors were no fewer than 3S9, of which only 137 were declared surplus in the next three months. My information relates only to Queensland, but if facts were obtained regarding the unnecessary withholding of surplus equipment throughout Australia they would be no less startling. Other examples of governmental ineptitude could be quoted from the report of the Auditor-General for the last financial year, but unfortunately, although it was presented to the Parliament three months ago, it has not yet been printed. Almost every newspaper carries advertisements exhorting the people to be pavers, not spenders, and urging that prices be kept down. A government that makes an appeal like that should be ready to set a good example to those to whom it appeals, but this Government is the greatest spendthrift in the country. It is the most extravagant administration that we have ever had in power. It is time it had a national stocktaking and eliminated waste in the interests of efficiency. The basis of tax reduction is reduction of the need for taxes. That can be achieved only by an efficient administration that eliminates waste, and, in that direction, the Government has fallen down badly. From whatever point the searchlight of investigation is thrown on the Government, it must stand out, even to the least discerning, that its financial policy is a failure and is going from bad to worse. The crying need is to reduce taxes so. that production shall be encouraged, but it is futile even to think of that if expenditure continues to soar, as is shown by the careful analysis that I have made on the meagre information available to me.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Conelan) adjourned.
Cotton - Royal Australian Navy : Absence Without Leave Penalties - Wool : Distribution of Profits - 7 una - Murder, of Servicemen in Java. - Dairying Industry; - Wak Crimes : Resignation of Counsel.
Motion (by Mr. Makin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take this, opportunity to direct the attention of the Government ,to its inordinate delay in reaching a decision on the aid to be given to the Queensland cottongrowing industry. Thirteen months ago, at the request of the Queensland Cotton Board, the Government had an investigation made of the cotton-growing industry. In spite of the many representations made to- it by me and other honorable members on this side of the House, and in spite of the months that have passed since that investigation was made, the Government has neglected to announce its policy. For about twenty years the price of raw cotton has been governed by Commonwealth legislation. Owing to the inroads that the demands of war made on labour supplies, production of cotton has fallen considerably. The unavailability of commodities required for the expansion of the industry has also contributed to the decline of the industry. If the industry is to be stimulated, a.s it must be, positive action must be taken at once by the Government to announce and apply a policy of development. I hope that the new Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J. M. Fraser) will immediately examine the report made as the result of that thirteen-month-old inquiry and let the Parliament know the decision of the Government before we go on the hustings. The cotton-growers are keenly critical of the Government’s dilatoriness. Their crop is one of the few which, like tobacco, offer scope for secondary as well as primary production in Queensland. It was recently stated on behalf of the textile industry of Australia that 40 per cent, of Australia’s requirements of cotton goods could be manufactured locally, and that that would require the annual production of 225,000 bales of raw cotton. Tn the next twelve months the market requirements of Australian cotton mills will be at least 120,000 bales of raw cotton, but, unless the price that the cottongrowers are to receive for their product is announced soon, there will be no possibility of that quantity being grown in Australia. The cotton-producing industry throughout the world is in a difficult position, and manufacturers of cotton textiles in this country -will have great difficulty in obtaining supplies of raw cotton. Production of cotton in the United States of America has fallen to its lowest level for 25 years. During the year just .concluded the output was S,900,000 bales, compared with an average of 12,000,000 bales for the last twenty-five years. Any surplus of American cotton that may be available, for export will be of the poorest quality, and probably only 5 per cent, of it will be of any use in the cotton textile industry. The position in India, too, is serious, and the Indian Government has placed an embargo upon the export from that country of any cotton other than manufactured cotton goods. India is making a great effort to expand its secondary industries, and will require all the raw cotton that it can produce. If we do not develop the cotton-growing industry in Australia our cotton textile industry may go out of existence with resulting wide-spread unemployment. Throughout the world, production of cotton materials for wearing apparel is diminishing, and we should not lose this opportunity to establish the cotton-growing industry in this country on a sound footing. Prior to the war, Australia imported £15,000,000 worth of cotton materials annually. These materials constituted the biggest single item in our tariff schedule, and could be manufactured in this country if adequate supplies of raw cotton were available. During the next twelve .months, Australia will ‘require 120,000 bales of raw cotton, practically all of which will have to be imported, entailing an expenditure outside of Australia, of approximately £5,000,000. Much of that cotton could have been produced by Australian cottongrowers during the last three years had proper attention been paid to the industry in this country. It is imperative that there be no further delay in reaching a decision on the future of the Australian cotton-growing industry. Cotton-growers and manufacturers should be taken into the confidence of the Government, and, with- the least possible delay, legislation should be introduced into this Parliament guaranteeing at least the price that has been paid for locally produced cotton in the past, or the price recommended in the report, whichever is the higher. I understand that this period of the present session of Parliament will be short. If that is so, an announcement of the Government’s policy - if it has a policy - towards the cotton industry should be made immediately, so that the cotton interests will have an opportunity to confer with the Government, or make representations in this House, before legislation implementing the Government’s policy is prepared. It is unfair to toy with this big industry as the Government is doing at present. Again I appeal for a prompt examination of the report, and for an early announcement of a guaranteed price for raw cotton.
Tn addition to the production of raw cotton, cotton-growers in this country provide large quantities of edible’ oils and stock feed of high protein content for the dairying industry. In droughtaffected areas of Queensland to-day by-products of the cotton-growing industry are proving of great value in helping to keep stock alive. This industry is essential to the development of other primary industries, and consequently, to the expansion of secondary industries. Cotton is also a most important product in time of war. I make a final appeal to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to ensure, without further delay, that this very important industry shall be given the fullest information on the Government’s policy towards it.
.- I bring to the notice of the House ari injustice suffered by a young former naval rating. I have chosen to raise this matter in the Parliament rather than with the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin) privately, because the injustice arises, not out of an administrative act, but out of a set of regulations. If it be agreed that this young man has suffered an injustice, it may well be that many others similarly situated have suffered the same injustice, and I propose to ask that if the case, as I. shall present it, be correct, there should be an alteration of the regulations, and a change of government policy to eliminate what I am sure honorable members will agree with me is an intolerable state of affairs. I shall not mention now the name of the young man concerned, but I shall supply it later to the Minister for the Navy. The man enlisted in the Navy at the age of seventeen years, and served for a period of three years, returning to Sydney last December from service in enemy waters north of Australia. That, of course, was some time after the war had ended. He was then twenty years of age. He states that he applied for leave to visit his home, not having had leave for this purpose for eighteen months. His application was refused, so he absented himself without leave and visited his home which is situated in a country town in my electorate. After about fourteen days he rejoined his ship which had moved to Melbourne - a fact of which he was aware. He returned voluntarily and reported to his ship. He was apprehended and held for eight days pending the hearing of charges laid against him. Upon conviction he was fined £1 a pay for the ensuing six months - I am not quite sure what the pay period is. In addition, he was informed that he would be granted no further leave during that six months. He received his discharge from the Navy in April last and he informs me that his discharge certificate bears no record of bad character, his conduct sheet being marked “ V.G.” and “ G “, which I assume, mean “ very good “ and “ good “. But he found that all of the deferred pay which had accrued to him prior to his going absent without leave had been cancelled. He forfeited £75. That was the penalty which was imposed upon him for having gone fourteen days absent without leave after the war had ended. In my opinion the penalty was outrageously severe, but apparently provision for the imposition of such a fine is made in certain regulations of the Royal Australian Navy. So far as I am able to discover, this kind of penalty is not imposed upon Army and Air Force personnel for a similar offence.
– It would have been better for him had he been one of the Minister for the Army’s “ deserters “.
– Yes. A few days ago the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) stated that he believed that a .serviceman was entitled to his deferred pay for the service which he had performed, and I assume that the right honorable gentleman was speaking as Minister for the Army, and not as’ ‘Minister for Defence. To illustrate how harshly such a regulation can bear upon a serviceman I shall inform the Minister for the Navy of some of the family history of the lad. I have here a letter written to me. by the president of the branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in the country town in which this lad’s home is situated. The official wrote -
The following personal particulars about - might help you. His father was accidentally killed, leaving a widow and seven children. Four children were put into a home. Victor was then under five years of age and at twelve and a half years was boarded out to work at- farm at- , near
Ballarat. He milked thirteen cows night and morning. His wages for the first year were L2s. (id. a week, second year 15s. and third year 17s. (id. The pocket money allowed was is. (id. a week. At sixteen he left the farm and joined the Navy voluntarily. Victor had not seen his brothers since they parted and were sent to various homes. We can vouch for the foregoing statement as the family were close neighbours.
The official proceeded to give the history of other members of the family. Four or five of the lads joined the services. One, who was taken prisoner at Tobruk, escaped from Italy into Switzerland and returned to service here. Two other brothers were taken prisoner by the Japanese. One died in captivity, and the other was a prisoner in Changi camp. Two other step-brothers joined the services. This lad stated that he had not seen his brothers since they all went into the services. Months after the cessation of hostilities, three years after he commenced his active service and eighteen months after he had had any home leave lie asked for leave so that he could see those of his brothers who had been released from imprisonment. When his application was refused he decided to take leave. At first, he took one week’s leave, but as one of his brothers had not then returned the lad waited for a few more days until the brother returned. As soon as he had seen him he returned voluntarily to his ship, and reported within an hour of the vessel berthing at Melbourne.
That is a very human story. The lad has forfeited the only money that he has ever had the chance to retain. I know that the Minister for the Navy bears none of the responsibility for this penalty, which was imposed under the regulations, but I submit to the honorable gentleman, who is a very human person, that this is a very sad story. The penalty which has been inflicted on the lad should be corrected. In addition, the regulations should be reviewed because a common policy should pertain to servicemen regardless of the uniform that they wore during’ r he war. It is the policy of the Government and the wish pf this Parliament that deferred pay shall be paid to servicemen. Service offences should be punished by service penalties, and not by such an alteration of government policy as will bear harshly on a man who served in one branch of the forces whilst leaving unaffected a man who offended in a similar or even worse manner but who wore a different uniform. I shall hand to the Minister the name and number of this lad, and hope that the honorable gentleman will see that the penalty is removed.
.- I direct attention to a matter of unusual importance. It relates to an amount of £7,000,000, which has accumulated in the Central Wool Committee’s hands to date. That sum, it is expected, will be somewhat greater by the end of June next. To explain this matter, I must first point out that these moneys have no relation to moneys that arose out of the war-time wool agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia. When war broke put, the price of Australian wool was substantially below the cost of production. Knowing that wool would be an important war commodity, the Menzies government approached the British Government to enter into a scheme which would mean that the entire Australian wool clip would be lifted at a certain price. The British Government at the time offered a price somewhat higher than the ruling Australian level of prices, but still an unpayable price. Undoubtedly the idea behind_ the British Government’s offer was that, being engaged in a war which it knew would be very costly, it did not desire to buy commodities at too high a price, as a portion of the price would be subject to war-time inflation of values.
Lengthy discussions took place between the two governments. Eventually, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, cabled direct to the Prime Minister of Great Britain pointing out that Australia could not embark upon a major war while the commodity most responsible for its economy was on an unpayable basis. The result was that the British Government gave to Australia a price representing an increase of approximately 35 per cent, on the levels of values, then ruling. In that agreement, there were also two other factors. First, the agreement was open to further adjustment, and prices would be increased if that became necessary. Secondly, any profits derived from the sale of these wools to foreign countries would be shared between the Australian and British governments. I emphasize the word “governments”. Later the price was raised to approximately 15½d. per lb. - the average for the entire Australian clip. Although the profits arising from the sales of wool to foreign countries were to be shared between the British and Australian Governments, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Menzies Government made it plain on the 22nd November, 1939 thatthe Commonwealth’s share would be paid to the Australian wool-growers in proportion to their contributions to the wool scheme during its operation. Again on the 17th November, 1942 the then Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, stated that it would not be possible to take an account of the profits until the purchase arrangement was wound up, but in reply to a question, he said, that the Australian share of the profits would be distributed among the growers in proportion to their contributions to the whole scheme during its operations. Therefore, a definite assurance was given by both the Menzies Government and the Curtin Government that a share of the profits arising from sales to foreign countries would be handed over to Australian wool-growers on a proportional basis. The old appraisement scheme has been terminated and a new method of marketing has begun. This new method entails a joint organization with subsidiaries in the Dominions, the subsidiary body in, Australia being the Austraiian Wool Realization Committee. Because of certain factors which are well known to honorable members, there was a total profit of about £20,000,000 in hand at the time when the old appraisement scheme was terminated. This profit arose from sales of wool by Great Britain to foreign coUn-‘ tries, and Australia’s share amounted to £10,000,000. A distribution could not be made at that time, because the final profit could not be determined until the last bale of accumulated stocks had been sold. Under the new scheme, Australia bought into the £100,000,000 stock-pile with its share of the profits and with £30,000,000 advanced by the Commonwealth Government. This represented a half-share in the accumulated stock-pile of between 10,000,000 and 11,000,000 bales. By this means, the £10,000,000 accrued profit was merged into the new scheme. Under this scheme, the Commonwealth Government and the British Government will share any resultant loss or profit. However, the cost of any interest charges involved in buying into the stock-pile or of any wool bought in by the joint organization, or its subsidiary in Australia, to preserve a reserve price will be borne by Australian wool-growers, who also will be required to pay one-half of the administration costs.
I come now to the fund of approximately £7,000,000 that has been accumulated by the Central Wool Committee, which will be replaced by the Australian Wool Realization Committee. This fund has accumulated under different headings. The first heading is the flat rate adjustment on skin wools, and the amount that has accumulated on this account is £2,400,000. Under the war-time appraisement scheme, there was a table of limits according to which wools were appraised. If, at the end of the vear, the average wool price received by a grower was not equivalent to the flat rate paid by the British Government an adjustment was made to increase his. cheque to that amount. With skin wools there was no flat rate adjustment. They were sold according to the table of limits only. Therefore there was a difference between the price paid according to the table of limits and . the ultimate flat rate price paid by the British Government, which to-day amounts to £2,400,000. The next heading under which money has been accumulated is the deferred price paid in respect of the wool content of manufactured goods exported from Australia. The total under this heading is £1,550,000. Wool sold to the Australian manufacturers was not covered by the agreement. It was sold to the manufacturers at a price somewhat lower than the agreement price. The grower was paid according to the table of limits, as distinct from the flat rate adjustment. When the manufacturers made that wool into cloth and exported the cloth, they made a deferred payment to the Central Wool Committee. By this means the total price paid for the wool was brought up to the equivalent of the export issue price. The third heading is the surplus derived from wool tops, noils and waste. When the agreement was entered into, wool tops, noils and waste were subject to control iri Australia, and the Central Wool Committee allowed to top-makers the cost of raw wool used to manufacture tops, plus interest and other charges, including a charge for combing, which returned to the top-makers a reasonable margin of profit. In other words, the wool was made available to the top-makers, their costs were considered, and they were allowed a charge for combing and a reasonable margin of profit. If these wools were exported, any surplus was again paid into the Central Wool Committee’s fund. This has accumulated over the years into a surplus of approximately £2,700,000. Thus, the moneys accumulated in the Central- Wool Committee’s fund are approximately £2,400,000 for skin-wools, £1,550,000 in respect of the deferred price on the wool content of goods exported, and £2,700,000, which is the surplus arising out of the control of tops, noils and waste, making a grand total of about £7,000,000. The balance of the £7,000,000 is made up of interest payments in respect of funds invested by the Central Wool Committee. This large amount may be substantially increased by the end of June next. The Government recently stated that this money would not go into Consolidated Revenue. It represents profits derived from Australian wool produced during the war, as apart from wool appraised under the appraisement scheme that existed between the Australian Government and the British Government. The Government has decided that this money shall be used for promotion of the use of wool and research into the wool industry, so that the industry will benefit in’ the long run. A statement to that effect was made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in this House in* April of this year. However, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture recently said that no definite decision has been made as to the use of the money and that woolgrowers’ organizations would be taken into consultation ‘ before means of expending the fund were decided upon. There is a substantial difference between the two statements. A difference of opinion between the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is not unusual. I trust that a great deal of consideration will be given to this matter before any definite decision is made, and I certainly hope that every major wool-growers’ organization in Australia will be asked to express an opinion before any distribution of the fund is made. The money rightly belongs to the wool-growers of Australia. It represents approximately one-tenth of the value of a very large Australian clip. The forthcoming clip is expected to yield between £70,000,000 ‘and £80,000,000. This money would be very welcome to Australian wool-growers, in view of the fact that costs rose alarmingly during the war years, that they are still producing on the basis of the values that existed during the 1st World War– a basis on which no other industry in this country is conducting its operations; nor could it - and that .the most calamitous drought in Australian history has occurred during the last two years. [Extension of time granted.’] If. it is to be expended on research, the question arises: How quickly could it be spent? Persons having some knowledge of the technical processes of wool production, and possessing other necessary qualifications, would have to be engaged and trained. Therefore, a great deal of delay would occur. Another point arises. Last year, this House passed a bill dealing with wool use promotion and research. Under that legislation, the wool-grower voluntarily taxed himself to provide approximately £350,000 per annum for that purpose, and the Government contributed an equal amount. The money was to be raised , on the basis of a fixed amount a bale. Therefore, the amount raised would rise or fall according to the size of the clip. The total amount to be derived by. this means, together with the Government contribution, was approximately £650,0.00 a year. That is a large expenditure on wool use promotion and research by a country like Australia. Is the £7,000,000 previously mentioned also te be devoted to that purpose; if so, is 1752 Adjournment.[RE PRESENT ATI V ES.] Adjournment. the present collection of funds to be continued concurrently with the expenditure of it? I suggest that this £7,000,000 be not used for the purpose of wool use promotionand research. The moneys raised under the provisions of the Wool Use Promotion Act are sufficient for that purpose. If they are not, the matter can be re-examined by the Government and the wool-growing interests. A satisfactory agreement could be made. This £7,000,000 should be distributed among wool-growers on a pro rata basis. That is the basis which the Menzies and Curtin Governments had in mind, with profits arising out of the appraisement scheme, and is the right method to adopt. The expenditure of such a huge amount on wool use promotion and research would occupy a lengthy period, because of the lack of trained personnel. After all, the wool-growers have upheld the war economy of this country as they previously upheld its economy in times of peace.
– I rise to bring before the House, and particularly the Government, the necessity for placing cotton-growing on an economic basis in this country. I speak particularly for North Australia, because of the suitability of its soil and the fact that it has been neglected for so long. Honorable members must realize that in 1938 the Tariff Board more or less killed the cotton industry in Queensland, and prevented its development in the Northern Territory, because the subsidy paid to it was not sufficient to place it on an economic basis. In 1941, the cotton-growers received a guaranteed price of about 4½d. per lb. for ordinary seed cotton, which was equivalent to about 12½d. per lb. for raw cotton. During 1943 and 1944, world parity was such that no subsidy was paid. It would appear that in 1945 the Commonwealth again came to the rescue in a small measure. But the agreement then made terminated at the end of last December. The cotton-growers of Queensland have not a guaranteedprice, and are in the dark as to what is the policy of the Government in regard to the industry. Iunderstand that when they made representations the Government foolishly asked the Tariff Board, which had killed the industry in 1938, to make a further report. All that I am now asking is that the Government shall let us know what is to be its policy, and in what terms the Tariff Board has reported. We can guess what they will be. That body will naturally restate the opinions that it expressed in 1938. It is time the Government made a decision on its own account, and discarded the reportof the Tariff Board. The neglect of the northern part of Australia, and particularly the Northern Territory, for so long, is a serious matter. Gibes have been hurled at, the territory in the past. Those days have now departed, because I have 60,000 ambassadors in the persons of exservicemen who have been there and know that it possesses something that is worth while, not only in the mining and cattle industries, but also in the agricultural industry. In the growing of cotton lies the secret of the development of the north of Australia, provided an irrigation policy he pursued. . At the present time, the waters of its rivers run away to the ocean. I am pleased to have gained in Queensland keen supporters whom I have met only recently. A fortnight ago’ I had a long conversation with the Queensland Minister for Lands, Mr. Jones, who is very keen on the adoption of an irrigation policy for that State. I nominated certain rivers, about which those who live in the south seem to have very little knowledge. At the headwaters of the Bowen, which flows into the Burdekin, there is excellent soil, and a site for dams which I surveyed when I was serving my articles in 1920. Parts of the north are almost unexplored, and little is known about them from an agricultural stand-point. Engineering investigations are to be made immediately on that river. I urge particularly the advantages of the Katherine River. I know that the Minister for the Interior (Mr: Johnson) is interested in the Ord River. If on those three rivers great weirs were built to bestride the far north from west to east,we should have something there which would be worth while for the growing of cotton for our country. We should not then need to import it. I admit that there is at present a surplus of 11,000,000 bales of cotton in the world-throughout
India, in some parts of Africa, and in Kenya colony. On the 9th May last the Indian Government prohibited the export of cotton. Previously, they had exported only the best cotton, -which had been grown under irrigation condition’s. They have now prohibited the export of inferior cotton. Australian manufacturers’ do not want any of this 11,000,000 bales of surplus cotton, and will not use it. Our production in 1940 was only about 16,000 bales, but there is a market in this country for 120,000 bales, and the north is waiting to be developed. It seems most desirable that the industry should be placed on an economic basis. Our tropical areas which we have despised far too long should be used for the development of the industry. The Government should immediately irrigate country for cotton growing by the erection of dams across the northern rivers to which I have referred, and consult the Government of Queensland regarding its policy in that matter. I hope that the Minister for the Interior will be able to give a guarantee that the new Administrator of the Northern Territory, who goes to Darwin on the 1st July next, will consider the irrigation scheme to which I have referred an undertaking entitled to a No. 1 priority.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [4.27 . - This morning I pointed out that the subject of jute supplies is of the utmost importance to the wheat, wool and sugar industries, and that according to a report furnished to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) from our Trade Commissioner in India., an average of six annas of the basic acreage in Bengal in 1940 is likely to be licensed this year for jute-growing. That statement is unintelligible to anybody having no knowledge of Indian affairs. If it means that the acreage to be sown is to bear the same ratio to the 1940 crop as six annas bears to one rupee, I have a suspicion that the outlook for the industries dependent on jute supplies is poor indeed.
Two Australian officers, one associated with the Army and one with the Royal Australian Air Force, engaged on a mission in Java, were shot by some of the rebels up there, although it is generous to describe them merely as rebels. So far as I can gather, there is complete lack of information on the part of the Government as to what is proposed to be done about the matter. I do not know whether it is part. of the new order in governmental relations that Australian citizens on government duty in another country can be shot down or hacked to pieces without - the Government worrying about them. One of the fundamental features of the foreign policy of a government is that at least it should exercise its power to protect its own citizens when they are in foreign countries. The names of the men to .whom I refer are McDonald and McKenzie. 1 shall be glad to hear what the Government has to say regarding them, and after that we can decide what other steps may be necessary.
– Primary producers suffered during the war through the fixation of prices of many commodities including butter, and cheese. Instead of getting a reasonable price for their butter they received a sum much below the cost of production, in order to provide cheap butter for the people of Australia. Later, the Government, on being asked for an increased price, gave a subsidy to the butter industry, and since that time it has asked the Government of Great Britain to pay an increased price for the butter received by it from Australia. The Government of the Mother Country . acceded to that request. The last budget showed £1,000,000 as receipts from this source for the ensuing year. I drew. attention to this item during the debate and claimed that the amount would be at least £2,000,000. Now I believe that the Government is in receipt of- £2,500,000 from the Government of Great Britain as the result of extra payments for butter over a period of two years, and ‘ that this amount has been paid into, consolidated revenue. The Government should reconsider the matter and decide whether this money should not be paid to the producers of the butter who are struggling in the hope that the Government will provide them with a return a little nearer the cost of production than the present price. If the present drought continues much longer more than half of the dairying districts w ill produce only one-half as much butter as was obtained at this time last year. The Government should send experts, in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, to the drought-stricken dairying and grazing districts of Australia, in order to secure information as to the conditions under which the primary producers are labouring owing to drought and the meat strike. It should adopt an Australian-wide policy in the matter of searching for water supplies, damming small rivers and creeks, and distributing heavy earth-shifting machinery for that purpose. It should also promote the carrying-out of larger irrigation schemes, in order to minimize general drought losses. Under existing conditions, . the Government should arrange for the purchase of stock feed and the transport of stock from one district to another, because ‘ of the . shortage of railway rolling-stock consequent upon the reduced coal supplies. The Government should ascertain the amount of loss it could prevent, and the development that could be induced by a policy of that kind. During the debate on the budget I urged the Government to obtain some of the earth-shifting machinery which had been offered to them by the United States of America and held in the islands, and to make available to. local governing authorities, ex-servicemen and others for the damming of creeks and rivers for irrigation purposes and for watering stock. However, nothing has been done. New Zealand has now bought millions of pounds’ worth of this machinery which was lying in New Guinea and other islands, with the result that productivity of the land where they are now operating in New Zealand will be increased enormously. Land now unproductive will be settled by ex-serVicemen. This is a matter of the very greatest importance, and I ask the Government to have inquiries made now with a view to obtaining some of this machinery if more is available.
. - in reply - At question time - to-day, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) asked me a question relating to the report that certain persons associated with the trial of war criminals in Tokyo had either resigned or had threatened to resign. The present trial which is taking place in Tokyo is based upon the indictment of 26 major Japanese war criminals drawn up by an international board of prosecutors appointed by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers. This prosecuting section, in which Australia has actively participated, consists of wellknown legal advocates of various countries, and their findings are the result of a prolonged and exhaustive inquiry into the available evidence concerning the war guilt of former leaders of military and political life in Japan. The trial is being held before an international tribunal of distinguished judges in accordance with proper standards of international justice and equity. The indictment of the war criminals was lodged with the international tribunal on the 29th April, and the defendants were arraigned before the court on the 3rd May. A month’s adjournment was then granted to enable the preparation of the defence, and the tribunal re-assembled on the 3rd June. I have ho official information concerning the reported resignation of certain of the defence counsel in the trial. However, I have instituted inquiries on this matter, and immediately the information is available the honorable member will be informed.
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) referred to the cot,ton industry in Australia. I shall bring their remarks to the notice of the Ministers concerned.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) asked that funds held by the Central Wool Committee should be distributed to wool-growers. I shall bring his suggestion to the- notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) with a view to seeing what can be done.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked for information about the production of jute in India. An effort will be made to obtain the information which he seeks.
The Government has been very much concerned over the murder of members of the Australian mission which was sent to Java. Everything is being done to ensure that the guilty persons are apprehended, and Judge Kirby was sent to the Netherlands East Indies to make inquiries, and to collect information which would lead to the conviction of the persons responsible for this dastardly act.
The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) can beassured that I shall bring his remarks on the dairying industry to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I shall also have inquiries made regarding the possibility of obtaining earth-shifting machinery as he suggested, and he will be informed of the result of the inquiry.
I appreciate that any one possessing human sympathies must be filled with compassion upon hearing particulars of the case presented this afternoon by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). However, as the honorable member himself pointed out, procedure in these matters is governed by statutory regulations which have been confirmed by the Parliament.Careful consideration must be given to the matter by those responsible for naval discipline. Personally, 1 think that the case mentioned is one which might be further reviewed. I point out, however, that I would not on any account interfere in. time of war with any regulation dealing with discipline. Those who would go absent without leave and desert from their posts when their country is in peril fail gravely in their duty. I recognize that the incident mentioned did not occur during the war, but it is not practicable to make one set of regulations dealing with war-time conditions and another for peace-time conditions. I understand that the position in regard to deferred pay is different in the Navy from that in the other services in that, in the Navy, the deferred pay was incorporated in the actual pay. Actually, there is a graduated scale, and the system of payment is entirely different from deferred pay. The payment is really in the nature of a recognition of good conduct, and is wrongly expressed in the regulations as “ deferred pay “. I have indicated to the Naval Board that the designation might well be altered with a view to making it perfectly clear that instead of this payment being regarded as a right it shall in future be known for what it really is - a payment for good conduct.
– Did the men get deferred pay before the war ?
– I understand so; but, as I have had supplied to me two sets of figures which do not appear to agree, I wish to have further information on the subject before giving a definite reply. I shall give further consideration to the matter in order that I may check certain aspects which at the moment are not clear. I repeat that for a man to desert his ship or be absent from it without leave is an extremely serious matter. When a nation is at war such action might render a vessel immobile and endanger the lives of all on board. The naval authorities say that there are fewer such cases in the navy than in the other two fighting services. Men who are giving good service in the navy, would, I think, be perturbed if the present method of payment were altered. They are most jealous of their rights and privileges. But there may be good reasons for compassionate treatment in some cases. As this matter has been brought to my notice at different times by the honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Francis), Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), Balaclava (Mr. White), and Indi (Mr. McEwen), I shall certainly give further consideration to it. with a view tomaking an adjustment should it be found that there has been unduly harsh treatment.
– The naval regulations provide that a seaman may have his misdemeanour expunged from the records if he serves for a further period of five years, three years of which are regarded as good service. Obviously that regulation is designed to apply to permanent naval men, and possibly men who served only for the duration of the war might not qualify under it. The point is however, worthy of consideration.
– Certain discretionary powers are vested in the Naval Board, and I shall ask that body to recognize that in some instances they should be exercised to show leniency. Naval regulation 51 (4) provides - (4.) No person who is -
That regulation has been in existence for about 35 years, but, of course, that does not mean that like the laws of the Medes and Persians, it cannot be altered. The various matters which have been raised on the adjournment will be given careful consideration, and I hope that the result will be satisfactory to the honorable members concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.32 p.m.’
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Have applications been made this season by Queensland growers for seed rice?
– The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Others handed over or in process of handing over to Commonwealth Disposals Commission. A number of plants will be taken over by the operating company when government orders cease.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following answers : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice - 1.What organization requested the building of wool stores atRockhampton and Townsville?
Mr.Scully. - The determination to construct woolstores atRockhampton and Townsville was based upon considerations of government policy as set out in a reply to the right honorable member on the 21st March, 1946. to which his attention is invited.
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
y. - The war-time arrangement for theacquirement of Australian wool by the United Kingdom Government on appraisement has been merged in the post-war wool disposals plan embracing “war-time surplus stocks” and future current clips as set . out in a statement to Parliament, made by the Minister for
Post-war Reconstruction on behalf of the Prime Minister on the 11th April, 1946.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the yardage and value of woollen textiles exported from Australia during the financial years 1943-44, 1944-45, 1945-46 to 31st May?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2. -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Acting Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
y asked the Acting Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s, questions are as follows : -
s asked the Acting Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the nonorable . member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 June 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460621_reps_17_187/>.