17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair -at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
The Parliament: BROADCASTING Proceedings ; Re-plat or Recording.
.- I rise to a question of privilege, which I believe will be of interest to the. House, and upon which there should be a determination. The1 broadcasting of the proceedings’ of the Parliament has created several novel problems .for honorable members, and many of them remain undetermined. I -understand that yesterday you, Mr. Speaker, arranged for. a re-broadcast of the recording of certain portions of yesterday’s proceedings in the House. I desire to know by what authority that rebroadcast was made, since the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act places on the Joint Parliamentary Committee appointed under it the obligation of authorizing a re-broadcast, which should not be made under any other conditions. I also ask why, if such a re-broadcast was made, even to a limited number of listeners, an opportunity was not extended to other members of the Parliament involved in incidents covered by it, to attend and hear the matter re-broadcast?
– That would have been impartial.
– The honorable member for Parramatta had better guard his language. A certain incident took place yesterday. I wanted to be perfectly acquainted of exactly what had occurred. It was not that I altogether doubted my recollection of it. I wanted to be absolutely certain that I had done no injustice to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). From what I heard re-broadcast, I am satisfied that no injustice was done to that honorable member. Had I discovered by means of the re-broadcast that some injustice had been dona, I would have been the first to admit and make amends. The honorable member has asked by what authority the re-broadcast was made. I acted under the authority, not of the chairman of the Parliamentary Proceedings ‘Broadcasting Committee but of the Speaker ofthis House. I want to be at all times in a position to know that no injustice has been done to any honorable member.
– What are the rights of private members in regard to the hearing of re-broadcasts ?
– That questiondoes not arise. There may be an impression that this re-broadcast went over the air. That is not correct.
– I did not suggest that it did.
– All that occurred was that the recording was re-played in private for the special purposes I have mentioned. I do not offer any further explanation in regard to it.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That so . much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Notice of Motion’ No. 1, General Business, taking precedence of all other business until disposed of.
– I move -
That Mr. Speaker does not possess’ the confidence of this House.
To move a declaration of no-confidence in the Speaker of the House isto take a serious step. It has not been undertaken lightly by honorable members on this side of the House. The last incident which produced the motion occurred yesterday, in connexion with the suspension of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mt. Holt). But the naming and suspension of that honorable member was not an isolated case, though I intend to submit to the House that it is not only the most recent but also the most glaring.
– Why does not the right honorable gentleman make his party behave?
– In order that the true nature of this problem may appear, it is necessary to consider thefunction and responsibility of the Speaker of this House. He is not only the presiding officer in and about the House ; he is not only the channel of communication between the ‘ Governor-General and this House; he is also - and I believe this to be his prime responsibility - responsible for the due enforcement of the rules, rights and privileges of the Honse. When I use that expression I am quoting from May’s Parliamentary Practice, 10th’ edition. I take leave to emphasize that these are not only the rules, . rights and privileges of the presiding officer of the House, but also of every member of the House. It is the prime responsibility of the Speaker to see that the rights and privileges of members - which, after all, they exercise on behalf of the people - are not whittled away, and most of all that they are not whittled away by himself.
Standing Order 284 provides -
All questions of order and matter’s of privilege at any time arising shall, until decided, suspend the consideration and decision of every other question.
In other words, honorable members are entitled to raise questions in order, and when that has been done, the raising of such questions suspends the consideration and decision of every other question. The first standing order which deals with the matter is No . 283, which says this -
Any member may rise to speak “ to order “, or upon a’ matter of privilege suddenly arising.
Thus, the right is conferred by the Standing Orders “ to rise to speak to order “, and Standing order 284 provides that a question of order which an honorable member has raised shall, until decided, suspend the consideration and decision of every other question. Standing Order 286 provides -
That after a question of order has been stated to the Speaker by the member rising to the question of order the Speaker shall give his ruling or decision thereon.
Those rules make it clear that there are certain rights and obligations; first, that a member has the right to raise a point of order and, secondly, when he raises a point of order, he has the right to be heard.
– Only when called by the Speaker.
– The standing order provides that when a member has raised a point of order he, has the right to state his point of order to the Speaker, and the duty of the Speaker is to give his ruling upon it; and, until the point of order is disposed of by the ruling of the Speaker, all other business of the House shall be suspended. There you have in short terms - and they are not to be argued about in reality - the relative positions of members of this House and the Speaker in relation to a point of order. The right which is conferred upon members is most important, because it enables them to put in motion the enforcement of the Standing Orders themselves. There is no order and no practice which enables the Speaker to deprive a member of a right conferred upon him in this fashion by the Standing Orders. In yesterday’s incident, which is not alone - we all remember earlier incidents which concerned the honorable members forRichmond (Mr. Anthony) and Warringah (Mr. Spender) - the honorable member for Fawkner rose to a point of order. It is quite true that a previous point of order raised by another honorable member had been overruled. The Speaker, without hearing the point of order raised by the honorable member for Fawkner - who spoke in courteous and dignified terms - abruptly ordered him to resume his seat. The previous point of order had arisen in relation to a long question of a highly argumentative kind, asked by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan). The honorable member for Warringah objected on the ground that the question was not one of urgency. What the honorable member for Fawkner was desiring to raise was not the matter of urgency but of the form in which’ the question had been put, because the questioner had asked the Minister to comment on the facts alleged by him.” Thatwas an entirely distinct point of order, and the honorable member for Fawkner had a clear right to state it. He was denied that right. ‘ At that time he had two possible courses open to him. Having been ordered to sit down he could have done so, which would have meant abandoning the right conferred upon him in common with us by the Standing Orders. On the other hand he could have insisted in respectful language upon his right to be heard. He pursued the second course, and he did so with quietness and dignity and to the great satisfaction of a large number of honorable members in this House. Standing Order 287 provides-
If any objection is taken to the ruling or decision of the Speaker, such objection must be taken at once, and in writing, and motion made, which, if seconded, shall be proposed to House, and debate thereon forthwith adjourned to the next sitting day.
That standing order, as honorable members will see, refers to the taking of objection to the ruling or decision of the Speaker. What is the ruling or decision of the Speaker? It is referred to in the Standing Order 286, which reads -
Upon a question of order being raised the member called to order shall resume his seat, and after the question of order has been stated to the Speaker by the member rising to the question of order, the Speaker shall give his ruling or decision thereon.
The only ruling or decision that could have been challenged by motion would be a ruling or decision made upon the question of order if that question had been stated by the , honorable member for Fawkner. In point of fact he was never allowed to state it. It is not to the point for anyone to endeavour to answer that he had another remedy, that he could have moved that the Speaker’s decision be disagreed with. There had been no decision given on his point of order, consequently, when he, realizing that, persisted that he was desiring- to exercise his right as a member of this House, he was named and suspended from the service of the House. The naming of a member may arise under Standing Order 56, which deals with a member using objectionable words, which is certainly not this .case, because the honorable member behaved with marked ‘dignity throughout the whole episode. ‘ It may arise under Standing Order 58, which deals with noise or disturbance, which certainly is not this case. Or it may arise under Standing Order 59, -which deals with the offence of disregarding the authority of the Chair or of disobeying the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstruction the business of the House, or of disorderly conduct, or of otherwise disregarding the authority of the- Chair. The only words that could possibly be seized upon would be “or otherwise disregarding the authority of the Chair “-. It may be said that by not at once resuming his seat and abandoning his right, he disregarded or disobeyed the authority of the Chair, but the authority of the Chair in this House cannot be considered independently of the responsibilities and duties of the Chair. The Speaker has no authority to overrule the Standing Orders, and a member, on the contrary, has the right to insist upon them, and, in my opinion, the duty to defend them. Now, when the Speaker abuses the authority of his office, it becomes a farcical thing that an honorable member should be ignominiously suspended from the service of the House because he has sought to rely on those very privileges that it is the supreme duty of the Speaker .to. defend. In my eighteen years’ experience of Parliament, not ali in this Parliament, I have never seen’ such a gratuitous abuse of power on the part of any presiding officer. I have said that the incident was not isolated. Unfortunately we have had instances before. I have reminded the House of two of them, when the Speaker roughly overruled points of order or privilege before they had even been stated. Indeed, there is very strong feeling on this side, and it may as well be declared at once, that there is discrimination- in the treatment accorded the members on one side of the House, and the treatment accorded members on this side of the House.” Only two days ago an honorable member on the Government side rose at question time to put a long question, which was obviously designed to possess propaganda value, about Senator Foll and his non-inclusion in the LiberalCountry party Senate team for the next general elections. The Speaker ruled the question out of order when . it had been completed, but he added in a distinctly jeering fashion that the political demise of Senator Foll was. not a matter of public importance or interest. I do not mince words. That was an uncouth and grossly improper statement for a presiding officer to make about a man who has been in the Senate for 30 years and has held high office under the Crown.
– The right honorable member gave him the kiss of death.
– I read that laborious jest in the newspaper. I am- still trying to understand it.
To sum up this matter, it is the responsibility of the Speaker to be completely impartial when he is in the Chair. It is his duty to regard his first responsbility as that of upholding the rules, rights and privileges of the Parliament, arid in doing all those things he must not exhibit bias of any kind. A Speaker should not fall into the error of believing that his powers in the Chair are to be exercised for his own benefit or in his own defence. There is hardly one of the Standing Orders of this House which is not really designed for the protection of honorable members, so that each individual member may have the right to- take part in debate in an orderly fashion, he protected, against vulgar abuse, and have his reasonable share of the time of debate. When my mind goes back over the fact .that in this Parliament I have repeatedly heard grossly offensive and abusive language engaged in without any protest from the Chair except when some wounded member subsequently objected, when I recall that yesterday a notably intelligent and courteous member, the honorable member for Fawkner, was removed from the House for venturing to stand firmly for the rights of all of us, I am driven to the conclusion that the public should be made aware that the authority of the Speakership of this House is being abused and that, as the result,’ the efficiency and . standing of the Parliament are seriously diminished.
– I second the motion, and reserve the right to speak at a later hour.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), with his customary eloquence, has sought to-persuade the House that Mr. Speaker no longer possesses its confidence, but I believe, with respect, that his contentions were most unconvincing. It is quite evident that the right, honorable gentleman would not have submitted this motion if. the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) had not been suspended yesterday. Therefore, this motion must be judged from the conduct of the honorable member for Fawkner, because his suspension was the culminating point in the circumstances which led to the submission of it. If the Leader of the Opposition had had any grievance regarding any other ruling of Mr. Speaker or his administration of the high office that he occupies, he had a right and a duty to this House to raise the matter at the time when he considered the incident occurred. But the right honorable gentleman took no such action, and remained silent until this morning, when he sought to justify wilful disobedience of the Chair. The Leader of the Opposition is embarrassed by the recent repeated acts of misbehaviour of hi3 own supporters. He must excuse in some way to the listening public the recent unruly conduct of members of the Liberal party. Therefore, he has endeavoured to transfer the responsibility ‘from them to the Speaker. That attempt is as un- gracious as it is ungenerous, and . those who have listened to the proceedings of this House recently will agree with me that the right honorable gentleman is behaving ungraciously and ungenerously in accusing the Speaker of some act contrary to the best parliamentary practice. I bring to the recollection of the right honorable gentleman the occurrence of yesterday which has led to this debate The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked the Minister for Works and Housing a question dealing with an aspect of the administration of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), formerly a Minister of the. Crown and now sitting on the Opposition -benches. Possibly it would have been’ somewhat embarrassing for that honorable gentleman if the Minister for Works and Housing had answered the question. With the customary astuteness of an experienced parliamentarian, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), recognizing the possible embarrassment to his colleague, raised a point of order in an endeavour to shield the honorable member for Moreton from the answer that the Minister could have given. Mr. Speaker, having heard the point of order raised by the honorable member for Warringah, ruled that the question of the honorable member for Griffith was in order. It was at that stage that the honorable member for Fawkner rose to take a point of order. I remind the House that no honorable member may address the House until he has received* a call from the Chair. It is absolutely essential that an honorable- member shall receive a call from the Chair before he may address the House on any matter. The honorable member for Fawkner did not receive a call from the Chair. T am therefore surprised that the right honorable member for Kooyong, who occupies the high and honorable office of Leader of the Opposition, should now seek to justify and condone the wilful disobedience of the honorable member for Fawkner, when he was directed by the Chair to resume his seat. That was inexcusable. Unless there is compliance with the directions of the Chair, there can be no orderly parliamentary procedure. If honorable gentlemen opposite desire to observe British parliamentary practice they must acknowledge the authority of Mr. Speaker, who is charged with the duty of conducting the business of the House. My statement regarding the responsibilities of the Speaker can be supported by many authorities. I remind honorable members that while the House itself may determine finally all questions of order, the Speaker is the authority who is .required to interpret the Standing Orders, and his interpretation must be regarded as final unless it be challenged in the manner- provided in the Standing Orders for honorable gentlemen to make a motion of objection to a ruling. In my opinion, the motion of want of confidence in Mr. Speaker, which the Leader of the Opposition has moved, is totally unwarranted. If the right honorable gentleman considered that he had a grievance in respect of the . interpretation of the Standing Orders by the Speaker he had his remedy under the Standing Orders, and could have made a motion of objection to the ruling. The right honorable gentleman . did not take’ that course.
– Mr. Speaker did not give a ruling.
– Mr. Speaker did give a ruling The records of the House will prove that he did.
– He refused to give one.
– Mr. Speaker not only gave a ruling, but, furthermore, said to the honorable member for Fawkner, “ The honorable member has his remedy “. That remedy was to move for disagreement with the ruling that had been given. The right honorable gentleman cannot escape from his responsibility for the position in which he has placed himself in condoning misbehaviour and wilful disrespect of the Chair by a member of his party.
– The honorable member” for Fawkner comported himself with great dignity.
– Dignity cannot be associated with disrespectful conduct in relation to the Chair.’ I shall not rely upon my own view of the rights of Mr. Speaker in this matter, but shall cite a man who was a member, and an ardent supporter, of the Liberal party in his day; He was elevated to the high and honorable office of Mr. Speaker, and occupied that position for a considerable period. He was universally respected for the manner in which he discharged his duties. I speak of the Honorable Sir Elliot Johnson. Surely honorable members opposite will not dispute the impartiality or fairness of any ruling he gave. I quote from Hansard of the 23rd September, 1913, at page 1372-
Mr. Higgs. ; I rise to a point of order.
– The honorable member cannot take a point of order in this connexion.
Mr. Higgs ; I submit that I can take a point of order at any time. .
– In regard to other matters, the honorable member could do so, but I would remind him that the Speaker is the sole judge of what questions are in order, and no point of order nor question of privilege can arise in connexion with his decision.
– Charles I. said that.
– The honorable member for Balaclava is out of order.
– The ruling then given by Sir Elliot Johnson is a complete and effective answer to anything that has been said by the Leader of the Opposition this morning. Unless proper regard were had for the authority of the Chair. the conduct of parliamentary government would be impossible. - 1 quote from Hansard of the 31st October, 1913, at page 2827. Mr. Speaker MacDonald then said -
It is also laid down that the Speaker, until the House otherwise decides, is the sole judge as to what questions should be put.
Mr. Speaker yesterday, in the exercise of his rights and authority, ruled that a question which had been asked was in order. On numerous occasions I, as a member of the Opposition in this House, have risen to a point of order, but Mr. Speaker has intimated that he did not wish to hear my point of order stated. Although his decision might have been a wise one, I, nevertheless, naturally was somewhat concerned at being denied the opportunity to present my view. Mr: Speaker, however, was convinced that he was capable of giving a ruling without any aid that I might have been able to offer to him ; and he was acting perfectly within his rights and -was exercising, his unchallengeable prerogative. Having stated that he had heard quite sufficient, he gave his ruling. Had any honorable member felt so disposed, he could have moved to dissent from the ruling. That is the proper procedure under the Standing Orders. Honorable members opposite did not adopt th’at course yesterday. The action taken by the Leader of the Opposition this morning is not “ cricket “. Questioning the decision of the umpire can be justified only when a most grievous wrong has been done. That is the spirit which animates all Australians. I shall cite an authority, the impartiality of who I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will not impugn. I quote from Redlich’s The Procedure of the House of Commons, a passage that is singularly appropriate to the present situation. It refers to the submission of a motion of censure on Mr. Speaker, and reads - ft need hardly be said that such an event ii abnormal and happens but rarely, and that such ft motion would only be acceded to by the House if the circumstances fully justified it. To an Englishman it would appear seriously to undermine the exalted position and dignity of the Speaker if, in addition to his application of the rules being open to challenge upon special and important occasions, it was competent for every, member to call in question the Speaker’s authority whenever he chose, and if he was liable at all times to be called upon to defend the correctness of his decisions, ft is true that the House is the supreme Court of Appeal, to which the Speaker, like all others, is subordinate, but the authority of the . Chair is equally firmly established as against the individual members. Until the judgment of the House is appealed to in the prescribed form the authority of the Speaker must override the doubts of a single member and be final.
According to English ways of looking at things the parliamentary umpire would be as much lowered by a dispute with a member about his ruling as a judge would be in a court of law, if, after giving his decision, he allowed himself to be drawn into an argument with the parties whose case he had disposed of, or with the public, about the correctness of his judgment or the grounds upon which it was based.
The right honorable gentleman has npt sustained his charge. He found himself in. a difficult and embarrassing position because of the conduct of one of his supporters, and he has sought to excuse an action that cannot be justified according to the practices of any parliament in the British Empire. We must recognize that the prestige of the Chair is the symbol and embodiment of the authority of Par liament itself. We should not lightly allow to be challenged the authority which Parliament has vested in its chief executive officer, an authority which he is bound to exercise to preserve order in the House. In this instance, the Speaker has upheld the. highest traditions of his office, and has proved himself to be entitled to the confidence of the House. He has followed the precedents which have been recorded for the guidance of those holding the office of Speaker, and he was protecting the privileges of this House when he dealt with an honorable member who refused to obey an order of the Chair.
– Members of the Australian Country party desire to be associated with the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), because we feel that a grave injustice has been done to one of the most polite and tactful members of this House. I should like to know in what circumstances an honorable member is to be allowed to raise a point of order? According to the Standing Orders, an honorable member has the right to raise a point of order at any time. Therefore, we cannot understand your interpretation of the Standing Orders, Mr. Speaker. The House had to listen to the arrant humbug of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin), who has just concluded his speech.
– For one who is questioning the ruling of the Chair, the right honorable member is using very unparliamentary language.
– I simply said that we had had to listen to the arrant humbug of the Minister for the Navy.
– I repeat that the language is unparliamentary.
– The expression used by the Leader of the Australian Country party is personally offensive to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I did not even know that the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) was in the House. I am convinced that the Minister for the Navy did not mean what he said. He quoted rulings given by Speakers years ago, and we are asked to believe that no variation in the interpretation of the Standing Orders had occurred in the intervening period. Let me draw attention to one of your own recent actions, Mr. Speaker, when you descended from your lofty place and took part in a debate in committee in order to extricate your party from the difficult position in which it had placed itself. Every one knows that you are a very competent debater, but on this occasion you were unjust to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) by quoting only a part of a speech he had made, even by beginning in the middle of a sentence.
– Order ! The right honorable member will resume his seat. We shall now hear another Standing Order, 266, which is as .follows: -
No member shall allude to any debate of the same session upon a question or bill not being then under discussion, nor to any speech made in committee, except by the indulgence of the House for personal explanations.
– I can quite understand that you do not wish me to draw attention to the. incident.
– I rise to a point of order. When a motion of want of confidence in the Chair is moved, is it not the practice that those rules which prevent reference to previous debates cease to apply? If the Speaker is himself under censure regarding his present or past conduct, is it not open to any honorable member, when speaking in support of the motion, to refer to any event that has taken place?
– I have never been greatly impressed by the honorable member’s knowledge of the Standing Orders or of (parliamentary procedure. The Standing Orders must be obeyed in all circumstances.
– .Since you have ruled as you have done, I cannot proceed on the lines which I proposed to follow. However, I desire to emphasize the fact that you quoted only a part of a statement made by .the honorable member for Barker.
– The honorable member is now defying the ruling of the Chair.
– I have no desire to do so.
– For the guidance of the right honorable .member let me point out that at the present time it- is my decision as Speaker that is under consideration, not anything which was said in the course of a previous debate.
– I associate the Aus-“ tralian Country party with the protest of the Leader of the Opposition. The Minister for the Navy asked honorable members to play cricket, and he said that it was a tradition in cricket to accept the ruling of the umpire. However, if the umpire wears the blazer of one of the competing teams it makes it more difficult for members of the other team to accept his rulings with confidence.
– This issue has been fully dealt with by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Makin). Two things stand out clearly among the events’ of yesterday: The first is that a question was asked by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr: Conelan), and the decision of the Chair is final as to whether the subject-matter of any question asked in the House is of urgent and public importance, and whether it is couched in proper terms. Similarly, the Speaker must exercise his judgment as to when any point of order is raised. Yesterday, a point of order was raised as to whether the question asked by the honorable member for Griffith was in order. The Speaker declared that it was, and no further ruling on that point of order was called for. Had no point of order been taken the Speaker’s judgment as to whether the question related to a matter of urgent public importance and was couched in parliamentary language would have been accepted. The fact that the Speaker had allowed the question was a clear indication that he considered it to be in order. The deliberate refusal of the honorable member for Fawkner to obey the directions given by the Chair on two occasions to resume his seat is the really outstanding event in the incident. If the Speaker’s directions were permitted to be flouted in that way there would be absolute chaos in the House. Honorable members should zealously guard the authority vested in the Speaker to preserve order. As this matter has been dealt with fully, I now move -
That the question be now put.
– I rise to a point of order.
– There can be no point of order on the motion that the question be put.
– On a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker. As the seconder of the motion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I obtained your permission to reserve my right to speak to the motion later. Is it competent for the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to move that the question be put without giving me an opportunity to exercise my right to speak?
– It is true that, in seconding the motion, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) obtained permission of the Chair to reserve his right to speak later. At that time the honorable gentleman could have spoken immediately, but he did not choose to do so. The House will determine by the vote now to be taken whether or not he should be given an opportunity to speak to the original motion.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S.Rosevear.)
Majority . . 13
Question so. resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
ThatMr. Speaker does not possess the confidence of this House.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Earlier, Mr. Speaker, you asked me to withdraw certain words that I had used, on the ground that they were unparliamentary. L direct your attention to your use of those very words in the committee of this House on Tuesday last, the 23rd July. I ask you, in what circumstances may the words “ humbug and hypocrisy “ be used by an honorable member other than yourself?
– If the right honorable gentleman will see me in my office, I 3hall explain the matter to him.
Illness of Relatives : Transport - ex-Private Neale EDWARDS
– It was recently reported in the press that an exservicemanwhose wife is seriously ill in - England had had to pay £300 of his deferred pay to obtain an air passage in order to be with her. An ex-serviceman ought not to have to exhaust his deferred pay in that way. I understand that the Australian Soldiers’ .Repatriation Act provides that in like circumstances the cost of a sea passage is met by the Repatriation Commission, but a sea voyage is too slow a means of travel when the life of one’s wife is at stake. Accordingly, I ask the Minister for Repatriation to examine this matter with a view to introducing amending legislation to provide for the payment by the commission pf the cost of air transport of ex-servicemen hastening to the bedside of wives and other near relatives stricken with serious illness.
– I shall see what can be done. Few wives of ex-servicemen are still in England. Most are either in Australia or on their way. The case mentioned by the honorable member’ seems to be a serious one and I shall take it up immediately.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation have an immediate impartial inquiry made into the allegations in yesterday’s Sydney Sun concerning the case of ex-Private Neale Edwards, of Lidcombe, who is’ a disabled returned soldier inmate of the Yaralla Hospital? The Sun carried the heading “Digger
Won’t Go Back To Yaralla Nightmare “, under which it . reported - “ Serving in the Middle East, he contracted encephalomyelitis - inflammation of the spinal cord”. In an interview with the reporter, he said that he had been so affected by electric shock treatment that he was a nervous wreck. Will the Minister inquire whether it is true, as alleged, that army doctors told him that he would lose his pension unless he returned to the hospital for more electric shock treatment? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that he shall not be deprived of his pension because of his refusal to submit to treatment which is apparently both futile and harmful in his case? Will he have him transferred to the Prince of Wales Repatriation Hospital, Randwick, for massage and treatment as requested? Will the Minister indicate whether progress is being made in the provision of proper hostels and sanatoriums for nerve cases? Will he also have trained manipulators, osteopaths, and chiropractors attached to the Prince of Wales Hospital and take steps to ensure that patients shall not against their will be used by medical experimenters as human “ guinea pigs “.
– I have not seen the report, but I shall have the matter investigated.
– Now that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has conferred with the Premier of Tasmania, the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, and the representatives of the Tasmanian and Western Australian fruitgrowers and has the advice of his own officers, is he able to tell us something of the future of the apple and pear acquisition scheme? If he cannot make a full statement, will he at least give us a progress report?
– I am not yet in a position to make any announcement.
Queensland Coastal Service
– Recently the Government chartered the ship Delamere to John Burke Limited, South Brisbane. I ask the Minister representing the
Minister for Supply and Shipping how soon that ship can be placed on the Queensland coastal run?
– I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to make the necessary inquiries and provide the honorable member with an answer as soon as possible.
– It is reported that loans are available to agricultural contractors for the purchase of equipment. If that is so, I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture: - 1. What is the limit of the amount available? 2. What qualifications must the applicant possess? 3. Have any of the loans been granted?
– That is an important and reasonable question and, knowing the honorable gentleman’s concern in this matter, I shall give him a full answer on the next sitting day.
Negotiations with United Kingdom.
– Will the Treasurer inform me whether the Commonwealth Government has completed negotiations with the Government of the United Kingdom on the subject of double taxation? If so, can the right honorable gentleman give to the House any information about the decisions reached?
– The main principles of the agreement were determined when I discussed the matter with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Dr. Dalton. As the treaty involved a considerable amount of drafting of a highly technical character, the Government sent the Crown Solicitor, Mr. Whitlam, to London to join Mr. Mair, the Second Commissioner of Taxation. As is natural in the drafting of such complicated documents, a number of difficult points arose, one or two of which have not yet been entirely settled. They deal not with the main principles but ‘ with certain technical details as to how the treaty should be applied. Although the work is almost completed, it will not be possible to present the treaty to this Parliament for ratification. I have asked whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer will agree to making public the main points of the agreement, and I am hopeful that, before this session concludes, it will be possible to do so.
Payment of Prize-money - Schnapper Island Training Scheme.
– Is the Minister for the Navy yet in a position to state whether any prize-money has been paid to, personnel of the Royal Australian Navy for the capture of enemy ships?
– At the moment, the Department of the Navy is examining this matter. The honorable member will realize that before .a decision can be reached the subject must be discussed with the British Admiralty to determine whether it may be affected. I may be able to give some information to the honorable member shortly.
– Has the Minister for the Navy yet decided whether a ship can be made available for the training of lads at Schnapper ‘Island in Sydney Harbour ? I am sure that the Minister is aware of the valuable work that is done by this training scheme.
– A few days ‘ ago, the honorable member discussed this matter with me, and emphasized the excellent work that is being performed in training lads in marine and naval studies. I then indicated that I was sympathetic with his request. I have asked the Naval Board to inform ‘me whether a suitable boat can be provided.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to use government instrumentalities for the purpose of furthering the political propaganda of the Australian Labour party during the forthcoming campaign? If go, does the right honorable gentleman consider that such a practice is right and proper? I ask those questions because a large advertisement is appearing in newspapers throughout Australia, depicting the Prime Minister, as usual, smoking his pipe, and modestly praising his own leadership and disparaging that of the Opposition. At the foo.t of the advertisement the following words appear: -
The Australian Labour party seeks your support in presenting the truth about its policy to the Australian people. Donations addressed to the campaign trustees, j. B. Chifley or H. V. Evatt, Ms.P., Commonwealth Offices, Sydney, will be acknowledged and constructively applied.
Does the Prime Minister consider that the Commonwealth Offices, Sydney, should be used for this purpose ? Are Commonwealth officials engaged in acknowledging those donations? If io, will the. right honorable gentleman inform the House how much has been received to date?
– Government instrumentalities have not been used, and will not be used, for the purposes indicated by the honorable member.
– Does not the advertisements say that government instrumentalities are so being used?
– The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) and I have the right, which any citizen of Australia, has, to insert an advertisement in the newspapers, provided it is not paid for out of government funds. Although I happen to bethe Prime Minister and a politician, I am still entitled to my rights as a citizen. The Attorney-General and I are exercising our rights. It is perfectly true that the address of the Attorney-General and myself is given as the Commonwealth Offices, Sydney. In other words, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is asked to “forward our correspondence to that particular address. But there is nothing unusual in that request. Honorable members generally have a considerable volume of private correspondence, probably including bills, 3ent to them at Parliament House.
– Honorable members also’ attend to their private business here, and use the telephones of Parliament House.
– The AttorneyGeneral and I are doing only what every honorable member* does who, uses the address of an establishment of the Commonwealth Government, where he normally works, for the purpose of receiving correspondence or interviewing people. We are not receiving any more privileges than those which the honorable member for Richmond himself enjoys here when he asks a private individual to write to him at Parliament House.
Broadcasting of Proceedings : Citizens’ Right of Reply
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact, as reported in the press, that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has decided that it has no discretionary power to allow to persons aggrieved by statements made during the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings the right of reply, and that the commission has not been able to devise a practical plan to meet the position ? If so, has this decision been conveyed to the right honorable gentleman ? Recently, the Prime Minister informed me that he would discuss with the Australian Broadcasting Commission the matter of allowing these aggrieved persons the right to make their replies over the air. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he has conferred with the Australian Broadcasting Commission on this subject, and, if so, did any helpful suggestions emanate from the discussion?
– I do not recollect having seen that statement by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Recently, the honorable member asked me to consider the advisability of allowing to persons, who felt- aggrieved by statements made during the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings, the right of reply. I promised to consider the request, and probably to discuss it with the PostmasterGeneral. I do not remember whether I had any intention at the time of discussing it with the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Since then, I have had discussions with Mr. Boyer on certain other subjects. I shall take an opportunity to discuss the subject with the Minister, and possibly also with the Chairman of the Broadcasting Commission.
– Arising out of a number of questions asked in the House concerning alleged attacks in parliamentary broadcasts on individuals and the suggestion that aggrieved persons be given ‘ some means of reply, I, as chairman of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee made inquiry of the New Zealand Government as to whether the question had ever been raised . there of providing some means by which a member of the public may reply to statements made in and broadcast from the New Zealand Parliament. The New Zealand Government has replied in the following terms: -
No special provision is made for means of reply by persons attacked in parliamentary proceedings and no situation nas .arisen in New Zealand which has made this an issue.
The committee, at a meeting this morning, considered the matter and decided that no . action be taken at this stage and that the matter be deferred for consideration by the joint committee to bo appointed by the next Parliament. I make this statement on behalf of the committee.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether it is correct that a duty has been imposed on penicillin imported from Britain. Has this been done because imported penicillin was selling at almost one-third of the price of the local product? If this is so, what is the reason for the high cost of locally manufactured penicillin, and is there any prospect of a reduction of the price of the local product? Is. penicillin being manufactured commercially in Australia outside the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, and, if so, where ?
– Penicillin is not being manufactured in the Commonwealth except in the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. I have not seen the figures recently, but there is no serious shortage of penicillin in Australia, although every one would be happier if supplies were larger. Progress in the manufacture of penicillin in Australia has been very gratifying. I cannot answer the honorable gentleman’s question in regard to a duty. I doubt whether a duty has been imposed, but, in order to make certain on the point, I shall consult the Minister for Health. -
– The Minister has missed one point. Why is British penicillin selling at. almost one-third of the price of the local product ?
– If that were the case, it would be a serious anomaly. I do not think it is so; but I shall consult the Minister for Health on that point also.
Petrol - Motor Cylinder Oil
– I have noticed this week that the prices of motor spirit and of several other petroleum products have been reduced. In the last fe, months, motor spirit has been reduced in price by about 4½d. a gallon. Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that the price of motor cylinder oil has been increased 50 per cent, above pre-war rates? Will the honorable gentleman cause investigation to be made to ascertain why motor cylinder oil has not been reduced in price correspondingly with other petroleum products ?
– It seems peculiar that at the time when the price of petrol is being reduced in Australia the price of motor cylinder oil should be increased. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and ask him to have an investigation made and furnish a reply to the honorable member.
Sales to United Kingdom Government
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a statement regarding negotiations with the United Kigdom Government concerning the prices of meat, butter and other primary products? As the peak of the season is rapidly approaching, producers are interested and anxious to know what prices are in prospect.
– I am not in a position to make a statement on the subject, but I shall consult the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to ascertain whether any information can. he made available.
– Arising out of’ the statement of the Minister for Immigration in Sydney recently, that immigration visas had been prepared for some 2,000 alien immigrants to Australia, and in view of the shortage of shipping and of other considerations, including the obvious question of preference, I ask the Minister whether these alien immigrants will receive preference over British subjects who wish to come here? Will they, in fact, be .permitted to enter this country before all those who wish to come here from Britain have arrived. In view of the anti-British activities of members of the Zionist organization, will the Minister see that no members of that organization, who have no intention of becoming good Australians and no intention of becoming loyal British subjects, are included in the quota?
– I wish the honorable member would read ministerialstate.ments in regard to immigration. He would not then ask questions of this kind. I have been at great pains to make it clear, even to the dullest of intellects, that the issue of landing permits confers no right of priority in respect of shipping facilities. I said on the 2nd August last, or it may have been subsequently, that landing permits for aliens would be issued only to the closest relatives of Australian ‘citizens who were prepared to guarantee the maintenance of the persons concerned for a period of five years. In every case the persons to be admitted to Australia under such permits must have been victims of Nazi religious, racial or political persecution, must have endured a period in an internment camp, * or have been members of slave gang3 or compelled in other ways to suffer for# their particular religious, racial or” political views. That statement should have cleared away any idea that any persons predisposed to Nazi views would’ be admitted. The people who have made applications for admittance of their friends to the Commonwealth are good Australian citizens, many of whom have served in the armed forces of this country. But no matter to whom persons overseas are related in Australia, they will not he admitted to this country unless the
British Consul in the country from which they desire to come is satisfied that they are persons who would become good Australian citizens. The persons involved are not at present resident in Palestine. They are nearly all still living in Europe in displaced persons’ camps, and they have been told by their relatives in Australia that they have no claims to shipping accommodation under the control of either the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth Government, and that there is an absolute preference for the brides and fiancees of Australian servicemen and ex-servicemen, and for Australian personnel stranded abroad. I have made that clear time and again. I am not responsible for the comments of newspapers which are engaging in political propaganda. The honorable gentleman is a young man and, as yet, a very impressionable one. He has not, so far, developed any cynical tendencies. But he ought to realize that we are within, measurable distance of a general election campaign, a-nd that certain persons in control of newspaper offices are prone to publish propaganda against the Government. The Government always gives preference to people who are inside the British Commonwealth, before extending it to those who are outside the British Commonwealth.
– In view of the .many inquiries and complaints that I have received in regard to the distribution of tobacco, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether any authoritative information is available concerning the destination of that . tobacco which is represented by the difference between the ration received by servicemen as such, and the supplies that they can obtain as civilians after their discharge? In particular, have the officers examining black-market activities given specific attention to this point? Has the Government made any representations, to the Tobacco Manufacturers Distribution Committee on the need for allocating supplies tq newly-established retail businesses ?
– Research will be needed upon certain aspects of the question. I shall obtain the information from the Minister for Trade and Customs. The Government has not exercised any control over tobacco rationing since the 1st April last. The tobacco trade has been continuing a form of rationing since then, and has established a tobacco advisory committee in each State. The Department of Trade and Customs has made some investigation of the , distribution of tobacco and the causes of the shortage of supplies. The tobacco companies have advised it that the shortage is due to the difficulty of obtaining sufficient female labour. At least one company has decided to establish a branch factory in a country town in New South Wales, where, it is said, there is sufficient female labour, in order to augment supplies for the smoking public. I shall examine the difference between the quantity of tobacco allotted to members of the forces and that which ex-servicemen can obtain as civilians. Although the industry has been completely decontrolled, and ‘there is no government rationing of tobacco, the honorable member may rest assured that the Minister will use every influence by taking up the matter with the tobacco companies to ensure that causes of complaints shall be removed.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As at the 30th September, 1945, there remained in Australian internment camps 557 aliens, excluding Japanese, who prior to their detention were residents of the Commonwealth. These consisted of 509 Germans and 48 Italians. On the 25th October, 1945, Mr. Justice Simpson, of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, was appointed a commissioner under the National Security (Inquiries) Regulations, to inquire into and report upon the cases of all local civilian internees, in accordance with the following terms of reference: -
Whetherin the interests of the. public safety and defence of. the Commonwealth, it is necessary or advisable to deport from Australia any persons and, if so, what persons -
Whether in the interests of the public safety and defence of the Commonwealth it is necessary or advisable -
The recommendations of Mr. Justice Simpson have been accepted by the Government and, as a result, 289 Germans and twelve Italians have been listed for deportation. These fall into two categories - (a) those to remain interned pending deportation; and (b) those released pending deportation.
In group (a) there are 245 Germans, composed of 114 males, 46 females and 85 children, and one male Italian. It will be appreciated that all the children referred to, and a number of the wives, are included on compassionate grounds, and in accordance with their natural desire not to be separated from husbands and fathers. In group (£) there are 44 Germans - 38 males, four females and two children - and eleven male Italians. All of the aliens released pending deportation are under restrictions, with the exception of twelve aged men who have no Australian affiliations and are being included, not for security reasons, but on compassionate grounds, in view of their strong desire to return to their homelands. His Honour’s report reveals that the majority of the persons recommended for deportation do not. wish to remain in Australia and have expressed a definite desire to return to their countries of origin.
The balance of the local alien internees were recommended foi5 release’ to reside in Australia, with or without restrictions, and these recommendations have been carried out. The numbers so released are 217 German men, women and children, , and 36 Italian men. Three cases of local internees were not dealt with by Mr. Justice Simpson. One man was an escapee at the time of the inquiry, one was serving a gaol sentence, and the other was in hospital.
On the 31st May, 1946, Mr. Justice Hutchins, of the Supreme Court of Tasmania, was appointed a Commissioner under the National Security (Inquiries) Regulations, with terms of reference similar to those given to Mr. Justice Simpson, to investigate the cases of certain overseas internees. These are persons who were detained by another Government outside the Commonwealth and sent to this country for safe custody. As well as examining certain overseas internees, Mr. Justice Hutchins will inquire into the cases of merchant seamen who were formerly interned as civilians and later classified as prisoners of war. The number of cases referred to Mr. Justice Hutchins is approximately 1,500. As this inquiry is still proceeding, it is not possible at the moment to indicate how many additional deportations will result. It can be. stated, however, that the Government proposes to give effect to the Commissioner’s recommendations when received, whatever they may be. In other words we” shall act in respect of these overseas internees in exactly the same way as in the case of local internees.
The purpose of this bill is to empower the Minister for Immigration to give effect to recommendations made by Mr. Justice Simpson and Mr. Justice Hutchins, and the provisions of the bill will be confined to cases of aliens examined and reported upon by the two Commissioners . named. As well as empowering the Minister to make an order for the deportation of any aliens specified in the bill, provision is made for the Minister to impose safeguards in the form “of restrictions upon any alien who has been released from internment until deportation can be arranged. If reliance is placed entirely upon the regulations made under the National Security Act, it will not be possible to give effect to the recommendations of the two Commissioners unless shipping facilities are available before the expiry of the National Security Act on the 31st December, 1946. Owing to the acute shortage of shipping, and in order to meet the desire of the allied occupation authorities to restrict the entry of persons to former enemy territory for the present, it may not be possible to deport all or any of the aliens in question before that date. The bill at present before the House leaves no doubt as to the Government’s intentions and powers to deport those aliens who have been found by. judicial inquiry to be a menace to the security of the Commonwealth. The. deportations or repatriations will take place as soon as the necessary shipping accommodation is available and satisfactory arrangements have been made for the reception of these people by the allied authorities.
So far as local Japanese internees are concerned, the Government decided some time ago that all Japanese aliens should br- returned to Japan with the least possible delay. On the 21st February, 1946, 304 Japanese aliens were repatriated on the Koei Maru in accordance with an . order signed by me as Minister for Immigration. The small group of
Japanese aliens remaining in internment consists of Japanese with either Australianborn wives or Australian-born children or both, and some sick and aged Japanese unable to travel.
It is the intention of the Government to close internment camps with the least possible delay. Any outstanding cases will be referred to Mr. Justice Simpson or Mr. Justice Hutchins for investigation and report in accordance with their original terms of reference.
Debate (on motion of Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 25th July (vide page 3173), on motion by Mr. Chifley - financial Statement by theRight Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., Treasurer.
– in reply - Having regard to the fact that honorable members have been indulgent enough not to prolong unduly the debate on the Financial Statement presented by me as Treasurer, I would not now prolong the debate, did I not consider it necessary to reply to some points raised, particularly by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). Time and time again he reverted to the investment by savings banks in public loans. So frequently did he stress the subject, that it seemed to be an obsession with him. Indeed, in less polite circles, it would probably be said that he had a “ bug “ about it.
It ought to be placed on record, that during the time the Labour party has been in office, a total of £1,006,000,000 has been raised by loans, and of this total no less than 46 per cent. was subscribed by companies other than life offices, firms and persons. While previous war-time governments were in office a total of £115,000,000 was raised, but of this only 41 per cent. was subscribed by companies, firms and persons. Of the £1,006,000,000 raised during the term of office of the Labour Government, not any represented central bank credit, and not any was subscribed by the trading banks. However, during the ‘ raising of the amount of £115,000,000 by previous war-time governments, the trading banks were free to subscribe and, indeed, did subscribe. Moreover, in connexion with the raising of £1,006,000,000 by the Labour Government, the making of advances by the trading banks to persons for investment in the loan was severely limited, thus avoiding the danger of secondary inflation.
During the earlier loan raisings by this Government the Leader of the Australian Country party gave generous assistance, but. he suddenly decided that he would no longer help, his stated reason being that he objected to the Government’s financial policy. Later, I regret to say, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) also decided that he would not be able to give any more active assistance in loan-raising. However, after the Leader of the Australian Country party withdrew his support, we did rather better than before, and it is an amazing fact that in the principal towns of his own electorate public subscriptions to the loans which he refused to support constituted a record.
I have read criticisms in the press of the Government’s financial policy, and it is evident to me that some of the critics lack even, a rudimentary knowledge of finance and national economy. There seems to be a suggestion that the savings banks, whether Commonwealth or State, should not contribute to Commonwealth loans. Could a safer investment for their funds be imagined? Subscriptions have always been made to the loans, not only by the Commonwealth Savings Bank, but also by the State savings banks which are in no way subject to Commonwealth influence. It is interesting to read some of the observations of a former Treasurer, Mr. Casey, on this subject. In 1938, the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, who was then sitting in opposition, asked whether the Commonwealth Bank had subscribed substantially to internal loans. Mr. Casey, who was then Treasurer in a government supported by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), replied -
It is normally the habit of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth SavingsBank to make quite substantial contributions towards public loans they underwrite.It is true that, on this occasion, they also made substantial contributions.
Not only did the Commonwealth Savings Bank make contributions to loans raised by .governments supported -by honorable members opposite; the Commonwealth Bank also did so ; but during the regime of the present Government, there have been no contributions to Commonwealth loans by- the central bank. However, I see nothing wrong in the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the State savings banks investing the people’s savings in Commonwealth loans.
– Except that the Treasurer has used their contributions to deceive the people into believing that the loans were invariably a great success.
– No attempt was made to deceive the people. The Government floated loans and invited subscriptions. . It denied to the trading banks and the ‘Commonwealth Bank the right to subscribe to them, but it left the savings banks, both Commonwealth and State, completely free to invest in them if they wished. Internal loans raised by this Government totalled £1,006,000,000 of which -46 per cent, was subscribed by persons, firms and companies. The previous governments raised loans totalling £115,000,000, of which 41 per cent, came from the same source.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) said that the tax reductions proposed in the Financial Statement would give no benefit to other than wage and salary earners until after the 30th June, 1947. That statement is ‘grossly inaccurate. The provisional assessments being sent out this year under the pay-as-you-earn system will be based on the income received last year, and provisional tax will be assessed at the reduced rate. That “ debunks “ the statement made by the honorable member.
The Leader of the Opposition complained that I did not supply sufficient information relating to goods which Australia received under the lend-lease settlement. I offer him my apology for not having furnished to him the additional information supplied to the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) at his request. As was pointed out by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), most of the American war material remaining in Australia at the cessation of hostilities was of no value, but there was a residue of durable goods suitable for peace-time use, and it was decided that this should be purchased for use in this country.
– The right honorable gentleman is referring to items such as heavy equipment.
– Yes. The settlement provided for the purchase from the United States of lend lease capital equipment suitable for civilian purposes for $20,500,000. A large portion of the equipment taken over’ consisted of machine tools, non-combat aircraft, mining plant, locomotives, motor vehicles of civilian type, tractors, steam wrecking cranes, and cargo handling plant. In addition, surplus property held by the Americans in Australia, including earth moving equipment, warehouse handling equipment and radio and signal equipment, valued at $6,500,000, most of it of durable quality suitable for peacetime purposes, was taken over. The bulk of the goods supplied by Australia to the American Forces consisted of consumable goods. Apart from these payments, the lend-lease settlement washed out all other transactions.
– How much was received from disposals last year? To what accounts were the proceeds credited, apart from the £15,000,000 mentioned in the right honorable gentleman’s statement?
– The Estimates included £40,000,000 as the amount expected to be received from disposals. Of that, £28,000,000 was to have been credited to war expenditure and £12,000,000 to trust accounts. The right honorable gentleman will remember that some of the articles disposed of or to be disposed of were or are the property of departments other than service departments - the Department of Munitions, for instance - and, of course, when they are disposed of, the money received for them must be credited to those departments. Only £16,000,000 was credited to war expenditure and only £9,000,000 to trust accounts. Instead of receiving £40,000,000, we received only £25,000,000. Delivery to purchasers has not yet been made of a great number of goods recently sold by the Disposals Commission. There were also large amount outstanding from overseas . administrations. So, we are considerably behind in actual collections.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) interjected during this debate that Australians were the most heavily taxed people in the world. Only a few weeks ago, when I saw similar statements appearing in the press, I distributed to the newspapers a comparison of income tax at the rates then payable in Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand, but, as far as I know, only two published it. To a great degree it contradicted the claim made by them and echoed by the honorable member for Fawkner, that Australians are more heavily taxed than any other people. The statement showed that, at the existing rates, the taxes payable on an income of £150 were £9 in Australia, £19 in New Zealand and £16 in the United Kingdom. On an income of £300, the Australian taxes were £46, whereas the New Zealand taxes amounted to £54 and the United Kingdom levies to £55. In the case of a taxpayer earning £400, the statement showed that the taxes payable were £82 in Australia, £85 in’ New Zealand, and £95 in the United Kingdom. The comparative table contained in that statement is: -
It is in the higher incomes that the half-truth on which the newspapers have based their assertions becomes apparent. It is true that persons with incomes of £1,500 a year or more are more highly taxed in Australia than in Great Britain or New Zealand.
– Has the right honorable gentleman made a similar analysis of indirect taxes?
– No, because the charge was that income tax was heavier in Australia than elsewhere, and it was to that I was replying.
A lot has been said about extravagance and wasteful expenditure. I take this opportunity to place on record some cold, hard facts. A couple of years ago, honorable gentlemen opposite declared that excessive use of treasury-bills would lead to inflation because they inflated the purchasing power of the people and thereby created a false economy and a false sense of prosperity. They claimed that unless the issue of- treasury-bills were checked dire financial chaos would result. In the last two years, not one- additional treasury-bill has been outstanding at the end of the financial year, although treasury-bills may have’ been used temporarily during the year. No central bank credit has been, used, and no subscriptions from private banks have been received for loans.
– Do not say that!
– I am saying it.
– Then why have the holdings of securities of the trading banks increased from £56,000,000 to £122,000,000? How did that arise?
– I could give the honorable gentleman a lengthy explanation, but I do not think that the trading banks would appreciate that. .Since the Labour party has been in office, not one public loan has been subscribed to by the private banks.
– “Where does this security movement come from, then?
– It is perfectly true that at their request the trading banks have been permitted to purchase sonia securities that have been available in the market. That is the answer. They were permitted to do so because otherwise they would not have been able to maintain a reasonable profit rate. Unless they had been allowed to operate on the market in the same way as other institutions are allowed, their profits would have fallen very low. I should have been grossly unfair if I had withheld that permission.
Since hostilities ended, 480,000 service personnel have been demobilized, and 200,000 persons have been diverted from the manufacture of war materials to civil production. In other words, approximately 680,000 persons have been transferred in twelve months from activities associated with the conduct of the war to the production of civil goods. Despite that unprecedented change-over, less than one-half of 1 per cent. of Australian workers is unemployed. No other country bas a better record regarding demobilization and the placement of ex-service personnel in civil employment than has Australia.
I desire now to expose a fallacious argument which the Leader of the Australian Country party used in reply to a statement by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). The honorable member had pointed out that since the end of the war the production of civil goods had greatly increased. In an endeavour to refute that statement, the Leader of the Australian Country party declared that receipts from the pay-roll tax, which were the real guide to increased production, had not increased. Of course, the explanation is that salaries and wages are being paid to increase the production of civil goods, whereas they were previously paid for the manufacture of war materials. Civil production did substantially increase after the end of the war.
– Then why is not the increase of civil production reflected in larger collections from the pay-roll tax?
– Instead of being engaged in” the production of arms and munitions, which are not profitable to the national economy, whatever their value may be from a security stand point, large numbers ofpeople are now producing civil goods. Although receipts from the pay-roll tax may not be greater, the civil goods that the workers are now producing have increased.
– The Prime Minister stated that, since the end of the war, 680,000 persons have returned to the production of civil goods. Surely that fact must be reflected in increased receipts from the pay-roll tax.
– A big proportion of the people demobilized became employers, or workers on their own account. A lot more went to jobs in rural industry. Of the balance, a big proportion found jobs with small employers from whom no pay-rail tax would be collected, whilst of those in respect of whom payroll tax would be collected, few, if any, worked for more than a part of the financial year. I remind honorable members that never before in the history of Australia has there been so much economic activity in the community as there is to-day. We have heard complaints about the Tasmanian shipping service. Are honorable members aware that the shipment of goods from Tasmania has increased by 50 per cent., compared with the quantities before the outbreak of World War II. ? We also hear complaints about the shortage of coal causing industry in Victoria to stagnate. I do not propose to deal at length with that subject now, but I point out that, although Victoria has substantially built up its production of light and power from brown coal, it is getting an additional 350,000 or 400,000 tons of coal, compared with the quantity received before the outbreak of World WarII. Despite those demands, so great is the economic activity in the community that production cannot overtake the demand for consumer-goods. Every businessman in Australia will agree that, despite many difficulties, production has increased enormously. Never before has the economic activity in Australia been so great as it is to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed form the 12th July (vide page 2464), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That a tax be imposed upon incomes at the following rates: -
.(vide page 2461 ) .
– The Opposition cannot allow the tables associated with this motion to be agreed to without criticism and review. I move -
That paragraph I. be postponed, as an instruction to the Government to substitute more equitable scales of tax to provide more adequately for the family man. One has only to examine the tables to realize the extent to which the claims of the taxpayer with family responsibilities have been totally overlooked. A crying need of the nation is increased population. Indeed. the Government will place - on the Estimates for the current year a vast sum of money in order to encourage immigrants, but its first duty is to give just and equitable treatment to men who are already in this country and have family responsibilities. The best contribution ‘ the Government can make towards an increase of the population is to encourage the family man. I have never seen a more unjust scale than that now introduced, in order to bring about what the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is pleased to call- a reduction of tax to the amount of £17,500,000. Nobody will be deceived into believing that this reduction of tax will impose on the budget for the year ending the 30th June, 1947, the burden stated by the Treasurer. It would be ridiculous to accept that as the figure showing the extent to which the .revenue will be affected.
Take the position of a taxpayer in receipt of an income of £250 a year. .If he is single, with no dependants, his net saving under these tables is ls. 4d. a week. If the man is married and has no children, his weekly saving is ls. 2d., or 2d. a week less than that of a single man. The man with a similar income, but having a wife and one child, is let off only 6d. a week, and if he has two children he gets a benefit of only 2d. a week. Has one to proceed further to show how unjust and inequitable is the treatment meted out, having regard to the basic desirability of encouraging family responsibilities? Having regard to the fact that the Government alleges that it has a vigorous immigration policy, the first essential is to give practical encouragement to people with family responsibilities. Now take the £400 a year group. A single man’s tax is to be 5s.’ Id. a week lighter than previously. A married man with no children gets a benefit of only 3s. lOd. a week, compared with 5s. Id. a week for a single man. A taxpayer with a wife and one child saves 2s. lid. a week compared with 5s. Id. a week for a single man. If he happens to have a wife and two children, which is the average size of Australian families, he is let off with a saving of only 2s. 6d. a week. These examples point to discouragement, rather than encouragement, of family responsibilities and increase of population.
In the £500 a year group, a single man pays 7s. 6d. a week and a married man pays 6s. a week less tax. If he has one child he pays 4s. lid. a week less, and, if two children, 4s. 5d. a week less. What a slovenly and unjust table! Now take the £1,000 a year group, in which exactly the same principle applies. The single man pays 14s. 8d. a week less . tax, whilst the married man gets a benefit of only 13s. 3d. a week, or ls. 5d. a week less than a single man. With one child he pays 12s. 2d. a week less, and with two children only 12s. Id. a .week less. A man with a wife and two children pays 12s. Id. a week less, although a single man with no responsibility whatever has a reduction of 14s. 8d. a week! The table shows grievous anomalies. Only a week ago, Mr. S. H. Lindsay, Deputy Prices Commissioner in Queensland, stated that the commission was greatly concerned that drapery prices had risen 74 per cent, during the war, and that every housewife found it difficult to meet drapery accounts. The taxpayer who has to bear that extra burden is not the single man, but the man with family responsibilities. These tables have been the subject of scant consideration and unwise adjustment. They will do nothing whatever to encourage . family” responsibilities; in fa et, they will have the opposite effect.
.- -My remarks will be brief, as befits the speech just made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and his previous contributions to similar debates. While he was speaking last night, I formed the opinion that he had no knowledge of his subject and therefore was1 incapable of understanding it, or if he understood it, was completely incorrigible. That opinion has been confirmed to-day, because he has demonstrated in no uncertain manner complete dishonesty in relation to this matter. I have no doubt that the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was forewarned by the daily newspapers of the nature of the attack which the Leader of the Australian Country party intended to make on the financial proposals of the Government, and made preparations to repel it. He pointed out that the present reduction will be greater for the single man than for the married man, because the former had previously contributed very much more. He further made this proposal that- the tax reductions which single men will enjoy must be substantially greater than those of married men in a similar salary range with three children, because these latter in the lower wage groups pay no tax at all. No honorable member on this side of the chamber would wish to impose hardship, by means of taxes or in any other way, on the married man with family responsibilities. We all desire that he shall be given the fullest encouragement. The right honorable member for Darling Downs, however, again told half of the story notwithstanding that this trick was previously exposed. I deeply deplore the gross exaggeration and misrepresentation of this former Prime Minister and Treasurer, who has displayed not the slightest vestige of political or personal responsibility. - Mr. FRANCIS (Moreton) [2.27].- The amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) ought to receive the unanimous endorsement of the committee. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) has ignored the fact that for many years the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) was one of the best debaters in this Parliament. It was characteristic of him in the past to utter platitudes and make compassionate appeals to his listeners when he had to support an argu- ment that was not basically sound. On Wednesday night, the greater part of his speech consisted of a tribute to the accomplishments of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) . He said that immediately peace with Japan had been announced Ministers and officials of the Taxation Department were called into conference for the discussion of means whereby taxes could be reduced; yet the relief granted in that connexion has so far been negligible. The honorable member for Perth- may be influenced by the “soft-stuff” from the right honorable member for Yarra. I am not, and I am certain that the country is not. What is needed to-day is so substantial a reduction of taxation as will promote an increase of production. Industry must expand and be developed if employment is to be found for all those who have served this country in the fighting forces. Plant and equipment have been ruined by the constant use to which they were put during six strenuous years of war. No assistance has been given by means of tax reductions to those who are engaged in industry or are producing commodities that are in very short supply. What chance have housewives of purchasing the commodities that the average household needs to-day?
– We are told that the commodities are not procurable.
– The reason is, that taxation on private incomes and industry is so high that they cannot be produced. No organization has been set up by the Government to ensure thatraw materials shall be provided for productive effort. The Government is doing a grave disservice to Australia by its failure to reduce substantially the taxes on private incomes as well as on production. Australia should now be on the crest of the greatest prosperity which any country could enjoy, but instead of being given the opportunity to make progress it is being handicapped and hamstrung by excessive taxation, which the Government has not shown, the slightest disposition to reduce. While the Treasurer was overseas, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) declared time and again that there could bo no reduction of taxation. The present proposals prove that to be the mind of the Government. When the Leader of. the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) enunciated proposals for the reduction of taxation by 40 per cent, in a period of three years, the Treasurer declared that they were impossible of application; yet the Premier of Tasmania has supported them wholeheartedly, and they have been welcomed enthusiastically from one end of the country to the other. The Leader of the Australian Country party lias expressed sentiments which I completely endorse. Married men are to receive scant consideration under these, proposals of the Treasurer. In a previous year, financial provision was made for migration to this country. The best migrant that it could have is the native-born child, for whom no consideration is being shown. Assistance is being denied to those who could reasonably expect it from a balanced and well-considered budget. The married man is bearing the heat and burden of the day. The Leader of the Australian Country party has pointed out that Mr. Lindsay, the Deputy Prices Commissioner in Queensland, has said that the prices of drapery and clothing in that State have increased by 74 per cent. Who are the largest purchasers of those goods? Are they not the married men with families? Yet honorable members opposite do not give even a thought to them. Exservicemen, too, are to ‘ receive a very raw deal under these proposals. Since their demobilization, the Government has been apathetic in regard to their welfare, and has antagonized them by its appeasement policy with respect to. Communistinspired strikes. I hope that the Prime Minister will accede to the request that ex-servicemen shall be completely exempt from taxation for a further twelve months. Under proposals which originated with the parties now in opposition, men who were fighting for their country were ‘ given definite tax concessions. To-day, when they are trying to re-establish themselves in civil life, they find that the problems confronting them are more difficult than they had been led to believe. ‘I remind the committee of the black Christmas which followed the cessation of hostilities. Strikes in New, South Wales threw hundreds of thousands of men out of work.
-. - ‘Order! Strikes in New South Wales have, nothing to do with the motion.
– The severity of the taxes imposed upon industry affects the success of industrial concerns, and, there7 fore their ability to pay taxes and to produce more of the goods and services that are so urgently needed. Similarly, if men cannot obtain work, they cannot earn incomes, and, therefore, they cannot pay taxes. I submit, therefore, that strikes have a definite bearing on taxation. Because of strikes many workers have been able to obtain only intermittent employment. Strikes have retarded the development of industries in which ex-servicemen hoped to obtain employment. The result is that those who fought for their country are being denied the security for which they fought, and to which they are entitled. Up to date, 480,000 men have been discharged from the armed forces. Many of them are looking for work
– Order !
– These men should be exempt from the payment of taxes for a further period.
– Order! I remind the honorable member that the committee is dealing with a message relating to tie imposition of rates of tax upon incomes.
– Ex-servicemen should not be liable to pay income tax during the next twelve months. I submit that I am in order.
– ‘Order! I shall not have the honorable member questioning the ruling of the Chair in that way.
– I am not questioning any ruling, but am submitting, with due respect, that men who fought for their country should be entirely exempt from the payment of taxes for a further, period. They have not been given a fair deal. Many thousands of exservicemen are facing difficult problems. Among them i3 the problem of finding homes for themselves and their families. Taxes are paid to provide homes for them, but where are the homes that they need ? The story of housing is a tragic one.
– Order! The honorable member will not be permitted to proceed along those lines. The Chair has ruled that this is a resolution relating to the rate of tax. The Chair has been tolerant with the honorable member, but he must now confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– There are three forms of taxation in this country. One of them is a direct tax on incomes. There- is also indirect taxation, and there is a social services tax. Combined, those taxes are the -highest in the world. Ex-servicemen are required to pay their share of those taxes. I claim that they should not be called upon to do so for another twelve -months. The basis of these rates of tax is wrong, as no proper consideration has been given to married men with family responsibilities. Moreover, provision is made for a means test before social service benefits provided by a special social service tax, can be paid. Many thousands of persons in the community pay the social service tax, but because they are not in necessitous circumstances, they are not entitled to participate in the fund so provided. I claim also that the rates of tax’ before the committee are ill-founded in that no regard is paid to the development of this country -r the needs of primary and secondary industries. A nation cannot develop when government expenditure in time. of peace is as great as when the nation is at war. The rates of tax in the proposal before us are ill-balanced, because they do not make adequate provision for those who served their country well in its fighting services for periods of up to six years, and because the needs of primary and secondary producers have not been given proper consideration. I remind the committee that the proportion of men in primary industries who enlisted in the armed forces was greater than in any other section of the community. To-day, primary producers are facing many difficulties, among them being a shortage of necessary materials and commodities.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I again remind the honorable member that this is a resolution dealing with the rates of tax, and that his remarks have nothing to do with the subject before the Chair.
– I submit that the rates of tax should have some relationship to production.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– For the reasons that I have given I ask the Treasurer to consider the amendment favorably. It should appeal to the right honorable .gentleman if he wishes Australia to advance instead of remaining stationary, as is the position to-day. Australia is again on the verge of a depression created by the Government, because it will not reduce taxes. Inflation cannot be avoided if taxes are not reduced. Last night the proposed reductions of taxes were shown to be hopelessly inadequate because of the many problems facing this country. I again point out that taxes amounting to £42,000,000 have not been collected and that assessments covering an additional £50,000,000 of taxes were not sent out at the proper time. If this £92,000,000 had been collected a further substantial re’duction of taxation could have been made. I strongly support the amendment.
.- Prior to the war a humorous book entitled A Cliche Expert Testifies of Life was published. To-day, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) has delivered a speech which could be headed “ A cliché expert deals with politics “. He has spoken of the “ heat and burden of -the day” and has told us that “the baby is the best immigrant “. Indeed, he has used all the stock-in-trade of the soapbox orator which we ave accustomed to hear reverberate through this chamber whenever he speaks. I wish to draw attention to the absence from his remarks of any analysis of the financial state of the country.’ Affirming that no consideration had been given to exservicemen in respect of taxes, he confined his remarks to generalities. He did not attempt an analysis of the concessions which are now given, or, in his opinion, should be given, to ex-servicemen. All he said was. that a man who had returned from service overseas should be exempt from the payment of taxes for another twelve months, and that in respect of those who had been on home service in Australia the exemption should be raised. The honorable member was not concerned with making an analysis of the financial position, but only with tub-thumping. Actually, the present level ‘of taxation in Australia is largely due to the concessions that have been .made to exservicemen. The financial statement of the Treasurer showed that the item of deferred pay had increased from £9,720,000 to nearly £73,000,000. The honorable member claimed that no consideration had been given to primary producers, and little encouragement to other producers, and he rightly emphasized that production was the most important thing to-day. I point out to the honorable member, however, that the amount paid in subsidies has increased from £14,280,000 to £19,753,000. Also, war pensions and repatriation costs have risen from £3,872,000 to £8,566,000. In the course of his speech, the honorable member made some astonishing statements. He said that there had been many strikes, which had had the effect of putting people out of employment, thus impeding production.
– The honorable member does not doubt that, surely.
– No ; but one of the fundamental theories advanced by the Opposition is that, because of high taxes there is no incentive to produce. Then why do the employers want to employ the strikers if there is no incentive for them to go on producing? The honorable member’s argument contains a contradiction, and there is a further contradiction, also : he said., that if heavy taxation on income were reduced production would be increased and inflation prevented. Let me point out that the taxation imposed during the last five or six years has had one curious effect; it has increased the savings bank deposits from £234,000,000 to £649,000,000. These savings represent unused spending power in the hands of the community. In March, 1944, the total volume of savings banks deposits’ was “£446,046,000; in March, 1945, it was £539,990,000 ; while in March, 1946, it was £648,852,000.
– That is a reflection on the Government.
– It. may be, but the theory advanced by the honorable member was that high taxation was destroying spending power. How, then, does he explain the increased spending power of the community ?
– Production has declined and consumers cannot purchase the goods they need.-
– The fact is that the money taken in taxes from the higher income groups is distributed among those in the lower income groups. The amount of. £73,000,000 for deferred pay goes straight back to the community, as also does the amount of £65,000,000 paid out on social services.
Inflation is affected not only by the volume of spending power in the hands of the community, but also by the velocity of the circulation of money. If money payments are made to those in the higher income groups, the chances are that the money will be banked, because the people in those groups .have no immediate need to consume. If, however, extra spending power is given to those sections of society which need to consume immediately, the increased velocity of the circulation of money will create pressure on prices. Whatever the defects of means tests, they do at any rate ensure that social service payments are applied.to those most in need of them, and those who will most quickly use them. I suggest that the honorable member was not honest in his advocacy of the abolition of the means test, having regard to his defence of the contributory system for social services.
– I advocate the contributory system.
– Yes, but we must face the fact that the Government which came into office in 1941, when there were 000,000 persons in the services, was not ni the position to introduce a contributory scheme. A primary requirement of such a scheme is that there shall be general stability of employment . among those to whom it applies, which is why contributory schemes have been confined, so far, to the Public Services. During the last five or six years of economic instability, there was no opportunity to introduce a contributory scheme. It is astonishing how many faults are attributed to the pre-war Labour government which was in office for only two years in a period of 25 years. That government is supposed to have been responsible for high tariffs, and for all the faults which have been ascribed to our social services.
The tax nates which the people must endure to-day on every level of income are obviously much higher than before the war. That is regrettable, but ,a community which is- facing the task of demobilization must unwind its war effort 3lowly. In Great Britain, from 1914 to 1918, the British Government itself was by far the greatest spender. In time, the whole economy of’ the country was geared to government spending. In 1919, there was a sudden cessation of government spending and a sudden effort at economy. The result was, tha’t while at the beginning of 1919 the number of unemployed was only 128,000, the number at the end of the.year was 2,300,000. The United States ‘ of America and Canada have both adopted the tactic of a. rapid unwinding of the war effort. Canada had 256,000 persons out of work in March of this year, while the United States of America had about 4,000,000 unemployed.
The sudden cessation of government spending, before there has been time to set other forms of enterprise in motion, must create an economic crisis. By tapering-off the war. effort, the Australian Government has ensured that there are fewer than 11,000 persons drawing unemployment relief at the present time. No reference has been made by honorable members opposite to the fact that although £9,500,000 was put aside for unemployment relief, only £1,114,000 has been expended to date. That is a tribute to the Government’s financial policy. Government expenditure is not hoarded by the Treasurer; it is distributed throughout the whole community. It is desirable that the Government should diminish vastly its- share in the economic activities of the nation, but when 700,000 men are to be demobilized within a period of twelve months, their claims for pay, deferred pay, &c., must be met. Thus it is that taxation remains high, but it is being reduced. Concessions have been made to those in the lower income groups, but no greater concessions than have been provided for can be made to the community as a whole. If the Government had failed to meet the money claims of ex-servicemen it would have failed in its trust. If it had met those claims. to a greater extent out of borrowed money it would merely have been putting off the evil day, and the burden of payments on the money borrowed would have had to be met out of future taxation. Anybody can get cheap popularity by standing up and bellowing, “We don’t like these deductions from our wages “. The vital” point is for what purpose is this expenditure to be applied? Every item specified in the Prime Minister’s statement represents inescapable expenditure, and I congratulate the right honorable .gentleman upon the fact that the scientific taperingoff of government expenditure is not creating in this country the unemployment crises that exist in Canada, the United States of America, and to a lesser degree in Great Britain itself.
.- I am afraid that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) rather misstated the position when dealing with subsidies to primary producers. He implied that these subsidies were for the sole benefit of the producers; hut, in fact, they are being paid for the specific purpose of assisting consumers by keeping the prices of essential commodities at reasonable levels. The prices of bread and butter for instance have remained’ almost at pre-war levels. In effect the subsidies are the-equivalent of a reduction of taxes on the lower income groups. That is a point that I should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and particularly the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to bear in mind,, because we on this side of the chamber propose to ask for more substantial subsidies in the future as an incentive to production, and as a means of assisting low income earners whose wages have been pegged for the last four years. The honorable member for Fremantle mentioned the fact that an enormous increase of savings banks deposits had occurred during the war. That was inevitable owing to the shortage of civilian goods. The position that has now arisen is this: The enormous government production of munitions having ceased, if we are to maintain full employment in this country, there must be placed in the hands of con1 sumers, especially those in the lower income groups, a substantially greater amount of money than they have been receiving. I appeal to the Prime Minister to consider carefully the suggestion by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. ‘ Fadden) that further consideration of the motion be postponed in order that the Government may reconsider its proposals. An’ adjustment of taxes on lower incomes, especially family incomes, would not, in my opinion, reduce the total return from taxation, generally. Our experience after the last war was this : When one came to examine the relative contributions in indirect taxes of the various classes of the community, one found that people in the lower income groups were paying a greater share in proportion to their income, of indirect taxes, than people more fortunately placed financially. There is not likely to be any substantial alteration of the rates of indirect taxation within the next few years. For instance, it would be most difficult to reduce customs tariffs and duties whilst the world is in its present disrupted state. There is no certainty as to what costs in this country will be in the future. We must import a great deal of machinery and other essential commodities. I suggest, therefore, that an examination of this matter should be made . to see whether it is possible to take a bigger step than the Government now proposes towards, reducing taxes. For instance, we found that the increase of the statutory exemption from tax from £200 to £300 a year did not lessen the total amount of income tax received because subsequent industrial expansion increased the field of both income tax and indirect taxes. I believe that the next two or three years will’ bring the most difficult times that the wage-earner of this country has ever faced. Recently the Prices Commissioner stated that the price of clothing in this country has increased by 75 per cent. since the pre-war years. Similar increases have occurred, in the prices of many other essential commodities. Within the next few years many young men who have returned from the war will marry and will 3et up house-keeping. We should do everything possible to enable these people to obtain the greatest possible value for their wages. Up to the present, it has not been possible to deal with many items because they are imported or include a proportion of imported material; but the Government could make a practical contribution to the solution of this problem by reducing taxes to the greatest possible degree on all incomes up to, say, £7 or £8 a week. I do not think that this would have any great effect on the total revenue received from taxes. In fact, I believe that the revenue would be no less than that forecast in the Financial Statement, because what was lost on the roundabouts would be made up on the swings. In addition, there would be an important psychological effect on the community which might easily increase production. Apparently it is the intention of the Government to impose a permanent tax on incomes for social services. In these circumstances, it seems to me that other income tax proposals contained in this resolution should ‘be amended to give additional relief in the manner I have suggested. That is not advisable only from a humanitarian point of view, although that in itself is a worthwhile motive; but also it would ‘benefit us from a financial point of view, and certainly from the standpoint of production. Opportunities are ripe for great developments in this country, but private enterprise is being greatly hampered by the excessive burden of taxation. Increases of the cost of consumer goods resulting from high taxes must inevitably bring about an increase of the basic wage, and so we have a pyramidal result. In this way our chances of competing successfully in the markets of the world arc considerably lessened. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of * the Australian Country party, not with a desire to delay the business of the committee, but for the purpose of awakening in the Government a sense of its responsibilities. If the proposals I have advocated to. reduce income taxation on lower incomes are accepted people in the low salaried groups, particularly married men with family responsibilities, will be able to secure the utmost from the expenditure of their incomes.
.- My contribution to this discussion will be limited to reminding the committee of an important statement made in Melbourne less than three months ago emphasizing that the primary war-time control which must be continued in peace-time conditions is high taxation. The statement proceeded to point out that unless high taxes were continued as the most important of a number of war-time controls which must be retained for the present, wild inflation would result. The statement added, further, that there should not be any sudden or sharp reduction of taxes, emphasizing that any reductions made should be gradual and steady. That statement was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies).
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) should take an early opportunity to indicate what real reductions have been effected by the recent tax cuts. Last night I cited some figures which had been compiled by a member of the Victorian’ Parliament showing that in some instances, particularly in the case of taxpayers with dependants, the reductions were insignificant. In some eases they represented less than 2d. a week over a wide- range of taxpayers. If the right honorable gentleman gave’ the information I suggest and at the same time made a forecast of proposed future reductions, it would go a long way towards restoring the optimism of the people. The right honorable gentleman stated that the maximum reduction would be more than 47 per cent. The maximum reduction would, however, be applicable to very few taxpayers.” I trust that this does not represent the final income tax concession which the Government is prepared to extend to . the people this year.
Reductions might also be effected in. the sales tax which is punitive in its incidence. The figures in the financial statement clearly prove that reductions of that tax would not result in re.du.cing the volume of revenue. The tax should be immediately reviewed, particularly as many of our young servicemen now being discharged from the forces who wish to marry find that almost everything they heed is subject to a very heavy impost. Very many household requirements which were exempt before they joined the forces have since been brought into the sales tax schedules.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable” gentleman will have an opportunity to deal with sales tax at a later stage.
– The Government might also give consideration to the need for reviewing its public departments with the object of avoiding, extravagant expenditure, so enabling taxes to be still further reduced.
– The honorable gentleman is not in order in proceeding along those lines.
– We know what happens here when we suggest anything.
– Order !
– There are many ways in which public money is being wasted. As an example of wasteful expenditure I- cite the continuance of the Division of Import Procurement, the need for which might very well- be made the subject of joint investigation by the Treasurer and the Minister for Trade and Customs. Th.e Postmaster-General’s Department, despite its buoyant revenues, is not able to extend telephone services because of shortage of telephones.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in discussing whether taxes generally ‘should be reduced as the result of savings effected in government departments.
– It is obvious that suggestions are not welcome.
– I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. The Chair will not condone imputations of the kind made by the honorable member. He must address himself to the motion before the committee. I have already reminded, him that neither sales tax nor the activities of the government departments are involved in it.
– I bow to the ruling of the Chair. I shall confine my remarks at this stage to citing specific examples of the effects of the most recent income tax reductions. . A taxpayer with dependants who earns from personal exertion an amount of £2 8s.1d. a week, or £125 a year, will receive a reduction of tax amounting to 9d. A similar taxpayer who earns £3 5s. 4d. a week, or £170 a year, will also receive a reduction amounting to 9d. That, I suggest, is a miserable reduction to have made at a time when this country is changing from a war-time to a peace-time economy. Whenthese microscopic reductions are revealed to the people they will take the Government to task for not having been more generous. To-day we have opportunities for the expansion of our export trade, greater than at any other time in our history ; but despite the fact that every reduction of taxes gives an added incentive to private enterprise, the Government comes forward with these miserable proposals. Although servicemen and their dependants have suffered, this country remains unscathed by the avalanche of war; yet, the Government forces it to suffer from whatmight be described as self-inflicted wounds for our difficulties are man-made.’ The Government should do everything possible to “ hasten full employment and assist production by reducing taxes to the greatest possible degree. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; progress reported.
Civil Aviation: Montreal Conference; Dairying Industry - Cigarette Papers - Armed Forces : Tropical Clothing ;. Rabaul Personnel; Occupation Forces in Japan - Australian Prisoners of War: Subsistence Allowances - Real Estate Transactions - Royal Australian Air Force: Pacificbases; Permanent Force; Maintenance of Aircraft - Lake Boga Air Base; Disposal of Buildings.
Mr. DBAKEFORD (MaribyrnongMinister for Air and Minister for Civil
That the House do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity to bring before the House a report on the First Assembly of the Provisional International Civil Aviation Conference held in Montreal from the 21st May to the 7th June of this year, at which consideration of a mul ti -lateral agreement on commercial international civil air transport was probably the most important subject discussed. As Leader of the Australian delegation to this assembly, my foremost task was to present Australia’s very definite opinions on the urgent need for an international conception of civil air transport.
At the Chicago conference in November, 1944, which established the provisional organization, Australia and New Zealand strongly advocated the policy of international ownership and control, framed in advance at conferences between the two dominions. Only France and Afghanistan indicated readiness to support it. Deliberations at Chicago made it clear that, at that stage, it was impossible to achieve general agreement on the political and economic aspects of international civil aviation. Many countries, led by the United Kingdom, were not prepared to grant transport rights without securing that degree of protection which certain other countries, led by the United States of America, were not prepared to concede. This lack of agreement led to the whole subject being referred to the interim council for further study, although an air transport agreement, granting commercial rights - without protective provisions was drawn up and’ left open for acceptance by such States as wished to accept it. When the matter of a multi-lateral agreement was raised at the Montreal Assembly, Australia’s adherence to the view expressed at Chicago was emphasized. As then, it was still a plea that full control and operation of the international trunk air routes and the ownership of the requisite aircraft and ancillary equipment should be vested in an international air transport authority. At Montreal it. was most gratifying to hear the announcement of the leader of the United Kingdom delegation that his government now supported the “ Anzac “ proposal for international ownership and control. The leader of the Belgian delegation also supported it. Despite this, it was clear that there was not sufficient support to justify Australia pressing for the adoption of the “Anzac” proposal at that assembly. The assembly did approve a recommendation from the Interim Council that a special body be established under the council to study and develop the idea. The Australian delegation affirmed its adherence to the opinion “ that a multi-lateral agreement on commercial rights in international civil air transport constitutes the only solution compatible with the character of the International Civil Aviation Organization established at Chicago “. A resolution in these terms was unanimously adopted by the assembly.
In addition to the principles stated in the preamble to the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, Australia considered that certain other principles should be included in the basis of any such multi -lateral agreement. These principles include the fostering of the widest possible distribution of the benefits of air travel at the cheapest rates consistent with sound economic principles; the stimulation of international air travel to promote friendly understanding and goodwill, and to ensure the many indirect benefits of this form of transport for the common welfare of all countries. Air transport facilities should bear a close relationship to the requirements of the public. There should, too, be a fair and equal opportunity for the air carriers of all countries to operate between their own territories and those of other countries by reasonably direct routes. We contended further that all air transport services should - retain, as their primary objective, the provision of capacity adequate to the traffic demands between” the country in which the aircraft is registered and the country of ultimate destination. The handicap under which many States are placed should be recognized, and satisfactory means should be found to enable the airlines of such countries to play their full part in international airline operations when they become able to do so. In our view, satisfactory means should exist to ensure that the rates charged on international airlines are reasonable, taking into consideration all the relevant factors; There should also be satisfactory machinery to determine authoritatively whether in any specific instance the provisions of the agreement are being observed.
Subject to the general acceptance of an agreement giving effect to the principles enumerated, the Australian Governmentwould be prepared to grant multilaterally the first four freedoms, and would be prepared to consider the granting of the fifth freedom if the agreement was otherwise acceptable..
The “ five freedoms as defined by the Chicago conference, and as they affect each contracting State, are -
the privilege to fly across its territory without landing;
the privilege to land for non-traffic purposes ;
the privilege to put down passengers, mail and cargo taken on in the territory of the State whose nationality the aircraft possesses;
the privilege to take on passengers, mail and cargo destined for the territory of the State whose nationality the aircraft possesses;
the privilege to take on passengers, mail and cargo destined for the territory of any other contracting State, and the privilegeto put down passengers, mail andcargo coming from any such territory.
The representatives of the United States of America, whose Government assumed responsibility for initiating the Air Transport Agreement, whichcovers the “ five freedoms “ admitted that, owing to the small extent to which the agreement had been accepted, it could no longer be considered as the basis “of a world-wide scheme for international civil aviation. Eventually the assembly resolved unanimously that, whereas it desired to establish a programme for the development of a multi-lateral agreement which would be acceptable to member States as rapidly as possible, and whereas it was in accord that a final multi-lateral agreement on commercial rights should not be completedor presented at the assembly, the appropriate commission should proceed immediately with a frank and open discussion of all the problems involved in developing a multi-lateral agreement. The result of such discussion is to be incorporated in a document which, it was agreed, would serve as abasis for further study. It was further resolved that in the coming year each member State should furnish any additional views on the subject, and that the council should circulate these views so that a document embodying the experience of nations with operations under existing or future agreements might be presented to the next annual assembly. The views expressed by most of the delegations, with the exception of the United States of America and the Netherlands, indicated readiness to grant commercial rights in a multilateral agreement, only if such agreement contained reasonable safeguards to protect their interests. Many States obviously had it in mind to protect the interests of their airlines from uncontrolled competition from airlines of more powerful States.
Apart from this vital matter of international agreement on control and operation, much other work of great value was accomplished by the assembly. Deliberations were extremely thorough. All the 44 member States were represented, and observers comprised representatives of ten non-member States and eight international organizations, who were present by invitation. The leader of the Belgian delegation^ M. Louis de Brouckere, was unanimously elected president, and, as leader of the Australian delegation, I was elected second vice-president. The work of the conference was divided into five commissions, each of which was entrusted with the duty of considering certain items of the agenda and presenting a report and recommendations to the full assembly. Australia was represented on each of these commissions. At the instance of the” Australian . delegation it was resolved that the interim council of the organization should be authorized to make such arrangements with the United Nations as might be necessary for the effective co-operation of the two organizations during the coming year. Any agreement made or co-operation arranged, should preserve the autonomy of the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization with respect to the purpose for which it was created. The resolution achieved Australia’s main objective which was that, in order to reach the maximum measure of international co-operation and security, the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization should be closely related to the United Nations.
After debating problems relating to international airmail, the assembly requested the interim council to establish close liaison with the International Bureau of the Universal Postal Union, especially for the exchange of information of mutual interest. When dealing with finance, the assembly adopted the Finance Commission’s recommendation concerning units of contributions by each member State. This was on a scale that gives 289 units from all member States. Australia, like Argentina, Brazil, India and the Netherlands, is allocated ten units - a contribution for 1945-46 of approximately £A10,500. For 1946-47, Australia’s allocation will remain at ten units, but the amount of contributions’ will rise to approximately £A19,500. It is interesting to note that, in the 1946-47 financial year, while other countries’ contributions will remain on the same scale of unit allocation, that of the .United States of America will be increased from 30 to 45 units. In the technical field of air navigation, meteorology and ground organization, progress was made in the formulation of standards, practices and procedures for the safe and efficient operation of international air services. The ultimate objective is that the most vital of these shall become legally binding on all member States. Experts in international air law drew up modifications of existing rules for the settlement of differences between member States. This alone represented a vast amount of intense study. Outstanding in the work of the Legal Commission was an investigation of means by which the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization should deal with legal problems affecting such subjects as aerial mortgages and real securities, ownership of aircraft and an aeronautic register, assistance and rescue of aircraft on land, and amendment and’ replacement of the Warsaw Convention on International Carriage by Air. The assembly decided that provision should be made within the permanent organization for a committee on international air law. The principal functions of this committee will be the preparation of draft conventions for the unification of international air law, and the submission of expert advice on all international legal matters. It is expected that ultimately this committee will absorb Comité Internationale Technique Expertes Juridique Aeriens, the existing and independent expert international committee on air law.
The assembly agreed that non-member States should have the right to take part in all the discussions of the’ assembly, and that the council might invite exenemy States to take part, without the right to vote, when the council considered such attendance would he of use for the furtherance of the objectives of the- meetings. On the question of filling the vacant seat on the council, the Australian delegation opposed action at this stage, feeling that the vacancy might well he left until the next assembly in the hope that universal membership of the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization might be achieved by the inclusion of Russia, the only major nation not yet a member “of the organization, and for which the Chicago conference tacitly held the twenty-first seat open. The decision to fill the seat wa3 carried by a vote of 20 to 18, and Eire was elected to it by secret ballot with 32 votes. Argentina was the only other candidate declared before the poll was taken. That country joined the conference only in the last few days. When 26 States have ratified the Convention on International Civil Aviation drawn up at Chicago in 1944, the organization will cease to be provisional. Early ratification by all member States was recommended by the assembly, and the interim council was requested to recommend a procedure so that all States which had not yet done so might simultaneously deposit their ratifications on the. 1st March, 1947.
– The Parliament will he asked to ratify it. It is largely a formality and there is nothing controversial about it. However, the Parlia ment will be asked to give a decision. Montreal, Canada, was selected as the permanent seat of the organization. Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization is now firmly set on a sound foundation, ready to delete the word “ provisional “ from its title. I cannot conclude this report without expressing my deep appreciation of the work of every member of the delegation which I had the honour to lead. This work has enhanced the Commonwealth’s already high reputation in the field of international civil aviation. My object in making the report has been to inform honorable members of what has been done so far. When subjects related to international civil aviation are introduced in this House in future, honorable members will be in a position to debate them intelligently.
– I bring to the attention of the House a matter which I raised during the first session of this Parliament. One- of the things which create considerable unrest in the minds of the people is the amount of waste that occurs under schemes of government control. I believe that a certain amount of waste is inescapable, but much of it could” be avoided by the introduction of a little more flexibility into the systems of control that are exercised. The waste which I have particularly in mind relates to certain dairy products of the district which I represent in this House. The circumstances obtaining there may well be unique in the Commonwealth, but I do not know that they are. The average farm in my electorate has an area of between 100 and 1-50 acres. Most farmers carry on mixed farming; few of them are dairy farmers as such. Many of them, of course, keep sufficient cows to justify them sending cream ‘ to the butter factories, and there are fairly large sales of factory butter from the area. In the past, many of the farmers kept only sufficient cows for their own immediate use, perhaps two or three, and occasionally a few more. This meant that they had a. sufficiency of milk, butter and cream for their own use, but in flush seasons there was always a considerable surplus. Most of these people regularly kept one or two- more cows than were then necessary for their own use. The farmer’s wife made up the cream into dairy butter, and disposed of it at the local store each week-end when she went, into the township to do her shopping. The return from the sale was regarded as her “ pin money “. The aggregate output of butter was quite considerable, but, at present, practically the whole of the cream is thrown to the pigs. This is a very serious matter. .
My suggestion to the Government, when first I raised this matter, and 1 repeat it now, was that a permit should be granted to these farmers to produce 7 lb. or 8 lb. of butter a week for disposal to local storekeepers. Some people will say that the adoption of my proposal will mean that certain quantities of cream will not be available for export, but, as I have pointed out, this cream is not now being used for export, but is being thrown to the pigs. It would even be possible to increase the quantity of butter available for export by the quantity thus disposed of through local storekeepers, because I assure honorable members that the market for that dairy butter was a steady one. There were people who always preferred that good farm butter to the factory product. In the particular area of which I speak, most of the storekeepers would be prepared to accept a reduced quantity of factory butter, and substitute for it some of the farm butter. They would have a ready demand from the public for the good farm butter. I commend that proposal to the Government, because this is a subject which arouses a good deal of feeling amongst the farming community on the north-west coast of Tasmania. It has already resulted in the destruction of a large number of cows, because farmers who formerly kept three, four or five cows have now reduced their numbers to one or two. They considered that it was not worth their while to register as producers with a butter factory. The present position has two bad features: First, the waste of cream, and, secondly, the destruction of cows. Perhaps it is rather late now to deal with the second problem, but a start could be made in this way to rebuild the dairy herds, which will mean a great deal to us in the future.
.- I ask the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to inform me, when he replies to this debate, whether’ an agreement has been reached between Australia and the United States of America regarding the use of Honolulu and other American islands in the Pacific for a reciprocal service between America and 4his country. Before the war, the United States of America was not willing to allow Australia to use Honolulu. If we were permitted to utilize that base, we should bo able to’ establish a very “ satisfactory trans-Pacific service.
I direct the attention of the Government to the very serious condition of affairs in the dairying industry as I found them to exist during the last fortnight from Gympie, in Queensland, to Newcastle, in New South “Wales, especially from Kempsey north. I wa’s informed that the conditions which I saw were general along the whole north coast of Queensland. This area is affected by . one of the worst droughts on record. Last February and March, heavy floods occurred throughout the area, with the result that the entire fodder crop was destroyed, and the pastures for this year were ruined. Since then, no rain has fallen. All the feed is so dry that, according to the managers of butter factories, the quantity of butter produced in their establishments in May and June of this year was only one-third of the output in the corresponding months of last year; and last year’s production in those months was the lowest for twenty years. In addition, the dairy-farmers and their organization have informed me that they have submitted to the Government, as the result of the Dairy Advisory Committee’s inquiry which extended over a year, a closely reasoned set of costs for the industry. This calculation shows that they must receive at least ls. Hid. per lb. for butter to enable them to meet their costs in normal times. At present, they are receiving about ls. 7.3d. per lb. If this amount could be increased immediately as the result of an investigation which, I understand, the Prices Branch has been undertaking, the dairy-farmers would be given new heart, and could establish credit to enable them to buy the fodder which is essential if their stock is to be saved.
Earlier this week, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) about the relative number of dairy cattle and calves in Australia. He replied that since the outbreak of war, the number of dairy milking cattle had diminished by about 250,000, and, at present, there were 120,000 fewer heifer calves under- one-year old than at the corresponding period last year. From what I saw, I consider that between 200,000 and* 300,000 dairy cows will die during the next . few months unless immediate relief is given. Last February, because of drought conditions in New South Wales, especially around Sydney, the Prices Commissioner examined the “costs of the dairying industry supplying whole milk in that area and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), on behalf of the Government, made a grant of a special subsidy of 3d. a gallon during January, and also certain payments to those who were compelled to purchase feed. I emphasize that the plight . of those dairy-farmers who are supplying the butter factories is really much more desperate than that of those who market their milk. Undoubtedly, the producers of milk require assistance, but the needs of those who supply the butter factories is even more urgent. I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J. M. Fraser), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Prices Commissioner will examine this matter, and that the Government will announce an immediate increase of price so that dairy-farmers shall be able to pay for fodder the high prices now ruling because of the shortage of feed caused by the drought.
– Many young men who served in the Royal Australian Air Force and who are applicants for appointment to the Permanent Air Force, believe that if their names are mentioned in the Parliament, they will be immediately “scrubbed”. Therefore, without mentioning the names of individuals, I direct the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to the fact that one young man, for whose family and service record I can vouch, and who is now in civil life, has applied for appointment to the Permanent Air Force. In company with many other young men, he has been examined and re-examined, interviewed and re-interviewed. At his own expense, he travelled from Adelaide to Melbourne some time ago for his final interview, and. was informed that, within a fortnight, he would be notified whether he had been appointed. That occurred weeks ago, and he has not received the intimation. These young men do not know what the future holds for them. Some of them were decorated for their service in World War II., but evidently the Department of Air has so little regard for their future that it has not advised these men whether they will be appointed to the Permanent “Air Force. I hope that the Minister will ensure that such delays shall not be repeated.- I- am using the facts with regard to one man as indicative of the position of many others. The time is ripe to make a statement as to the future of the interim air force and of the force which the Government proposes to employ eventually. These young men should be told whether they will be required. If they knew that they will not be needed, they would take steps to obtain employment in civil life.
A few weeks- ago I asked a question in the - House, and was subsequently assured by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in writing that a statement made by Mr. John Fletcher, the honor: able member for Mount Gambier, in the South Australian House of Assembly, about the use of cigare’tte papers in the paper mills at Snuggery, was incorrect, and that only 8 cwt. of that class of paper had inadvertently reached the mills. I have a telegram which states that a whole truck load of this paper passed through Mount Gambier, consigned to Snuggery. It would appear that somebody received instructions and did not carry them out.
I have had cause to complain about the treatment of ex-servicemen coming home from tropical areas. I have been assured that instructions have been given that they ‘shall be provided with clothing of a suitable character when leaving a tropical climate and entering a zone in which winter conditions prevail. But many of them are arriving from the north . and are not receiving suitable dotting. This matter should be investigated.
I have received a letter from a reputable resident of my electorate who says that for ten years he has been the tenant of a house in the metropolitan area. He rents the property from the Government Savings Bank of South Australia, which is presumably the owner of the premises. The second mortgagee recently offered the property for sale, and the second mortgage was taken over by another man who already owns a house. The man who has now purchased the house has ordered the present tenant to vacate it, as apparently he desires two houses in which to live. While there is a serious shortage of houses, some Commonwealth authority should have power to say that nobody shall occupy two dwellinghouses in any circumstances. My correspondent complains of the method by which this house was put up for auction. The bidding went to a certain price, and then the auctioneer said it was obvious that there were several bidders, -and that the Treasury valuation would be exceeded. Tt was finally arranged that 1 offers inincreasing at £5 a bid should be made, and that when a certain undisclosed figure was reached, the lucky bidder would receive the property. Under that method the man to whom I have referred is reported to have secured a second ho.use. That is a method of acquiring property which should not be tolerated by any government. If that were to be the rule more than one. person could bid on behalf of an. interested party, who would obviously increase his chances of securing additional property by that means. No Minister would attempt to justify the way in which property sales are sometimes conducted. The whole subject of price restrictions and valuations needs to be overhauled, but I have a fairly good idea of what is happening with regard to some sales. When it is found that the Treasury delegate has announced that the limit is a certain sum, the wouldbe purchaser offers perhaps £1,000 for some paltry article of furniture and secures the house. Those . who are prepared to break the law are “ getting away with it “ constantly. It is unthinkable that a person who already owns a dwelling house should be able to purchase a second one, and turn out the occupant.
– I recently asked the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) when the Lake Boga depot of the Royal Australian Air Force would be ready for disposal, ‘and he promised to look into the matter and speed it up as much as possible, so that the buildings could be sold. I desire to know what will become of them when the department no longer requires them. 1 have made representations on behalf of the Swan Hill Hospital authorities, who require nurses quarters and ask that the hospital at the Lake Boga depot and some of the other buildings be made available to that institution. A request has also been made that some of the workshops be handed over for the purposes of a scheme contemplated by the Government of Victoria for the decentralization of secondary industries. I am concerned about the provision of homes for exservicemen in the Lake Boga district, who are urgently in need of accommodation. I have a list before me of ex-servicemen in that district whose plight is deplorable. The first man on the list is an orchardist at Tresco. He is a married man with two children, and is living at present in a three-roomed house. He desires to makefurther sleeping accommodation for his family who are at present sleeping with their mother. ‘ Another case on the list is that of a returned prisoner of war from Germany. He was married while in England, .and his bride has arrived in Australia. At present he is residing with his parents in a four-roomed house, in which his two sisters also live. There are about twenty such cases, and with the permission of the House I shall incorporate the remainder of the details in Hansard. Each of the following paragraphs furnishes particulars of the circumstances of individual ex-servicemen : -
Married with family. Has obtained at present make-shift quarters. Desires to erect his own residence. Is at present working in Tresco district.
Married with boy of thirteen years old. At present renting two-roomed house which he have been given notice to quit.
Is engaged to be married, and cannot obtain house or rooms of any sort.
Married, no family. Living with his parents’ until he can obtain house.
Orchardiet at Tresco. Living in hut 24 feet by 12 feet. Married.
Married with one child. Living with fatherinlaw. Could purchase dairy land which has no house.
Married, desires to erect house for his widowed mother, as she has received notice to quit from present residence. Has returned from prisoner of war (Japan).
Married with two children. Has commenced business as boot repairer. Present arrangements inadequate.
Married, one child. At present residing in concrete house’ which has been declared by his medical adviser as unsatisfactory for his wife and child owing to dampness. No other place obtainable.
Landowner at Winlaton. Present buildings on his land, not suitable for his needs.
Wishes to purchase one of these huts to erect his own dwelling.
Married with no family. At present residing with his parents.
Dairyfarmer at Fishpoint. Desires to erect his own house in place’ of living with his parents.
Single, but is engaged to be married. Could obtain land from his father to erect house on. Present materials for this are unobtainable.
Returned prisoner of war (Germany). Is engaged to be married, and desires to have his own house.
Married withfive children. At present residing with his wife’s people. Has use of two rooms and verandah which are inadequate for his family.
Returned soldiers at Lake Boga and the president of the district council, Mr. , S. Taylor, inform me that the buildings are suitable for conversion to living quarters for these men, all, of whom work in the town or district. Some have blocks of land but no dwellings. If they do not get these houses they will be compelled to leave the district, but they prefer to settle there. They should be given absolute preference in the purchase of these dwellings, and should not be required to compete with contractors at a sale. A local contractor is prepared to remove the buildings to their blocks at a cost of £20 each, and that price might even he reduced if a number of the buildings were to be removed. There are more than 21, but these are those of which I have particulars. As these are local men who urgently need dwellings, and the buildings are on the spot, the authorities should give favorable consideration to the application that I make on their behalf.
On several occasions, beginning with the second day on which I had been a member of this House, I have brought to the notice of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) the need for the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day to men who were captured by the Japanese and held as prisoners of war for 3½ years. I learned that officers who had been prisoners of war had been paid a field allowance of 3s. a day. The Minister for the Army accepted my statement that that field allowance was paid normally to enable an officer to meet social obligations which members of other ranks had not to meet, and to provide for himself additional food in the mess. In a prisoner-of-war camp, an officer has no social obligations. L’espite that fact, the authorities continued the allowance in respect of officers who were prisoners of war. I have stressed that prisoners of war had to sell many personal belongings in order to obtain the food that they required, and that the brunt of the hardships in Malaya and Singapore was borne by themen of other ranks, the officers having a comparatively easy time. In order to obtain exact information, I asked the Minister for the Army this question -
What percentage of (a) commissioned officers and (b ) other ranks of the 8th Division, Australian Imperial Force, lost their lives in Japanese hands after the fallof Singapore ?
The answer that I received was -
That is rather a dramatic revelation, which proves to the hilt that the brunt of the hardships was borne by men of other ranks. The Minister at first refused the application for a subsistence allowance, but upon my raising the matter again he decided to reconsider it. I urge him to take into account this new evidence that’ the percentage of other ranks who lost their lives was very much higher than that of officers. I know that many ministerial supporters favour the payment of a subsistence allowance to these men! If British justice is to be observed, it should be paid.
.- I direct attention to the serious discontent that is caused among members of the fighting forces who are still in Rabaul, by the conflicting advices they receive as to the date on which they are to be returned to Australia. A correspondent of mme has pointed out that .again and again the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has stated that all the troops will have been evacuated from Rabaul, by the end of July. Yet the General Officer Commanding the forces in that area has stated that only a portion of the troops will be able to leave on Westralia at the end of July, and that maybe one or two months, or more, may elapse before the balance oan be relieved. These men are thoroughly exasperated by such conflicting statements. In their correspondence, they say that they have no confidence in the Minister, because he makes statements which appear to be to some degree irresponsible, and are quickly denied by the General Officer Commanding. I urge the Minister to fix as early as possible the date on which these men will be completely evacuated, and to take steps to ensure that they will be evacuated on that date. They have been in Rabaul for a considerable time. As the war is over, it should be possible to make definite arrangements. This is another “ forgotten legion “. Being out of sight, they are out of mind.
In spite of what the Minister for the Army has said in regard to the provision of amenities -for the Australian troops in the occupied areas in Japan, those men are still discontented. The right honorable gentleman has made lengthy statements, after interviewing senior officers, [t is generally known that the Australian Comforts Fund has provided amenities to a value of £45,000. Already profit of £160,000 has been made from the sale of goods by Army canteens in Japan. I ask that a portion of that profit shall be devoted to the provision of amenities for the men who are more or less isolated in that inhospitable country. During the war, the profit made by the Army canteen service was between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000. If the profit of £160,000 made in Japan be not adequate to meet the needs of the occasion, this other fund should be drawn upon. I hope that immediate attention will be given- to the matter. These men are entitled to more consideration than they have received. By their deportment and general con- duct, they have added to the prestige of our fighting forces, which is justifiably high.
I have asked the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) questions concerning the maintenance of aircraft, the property of the Royal Australian Air Force. Recently I asked -
In view of the reported low standard of maintenance of service aircraft, will he supply a statement showing (a) the number of service flights completed successfully this year and (6) the number of flights interrupted for technical reasons?
The Minister replied -
Royal Australian Air Force Head-quarters’ records show that (a) 15,000 service flights by aircraft (other than training types) such as Catalinas, Liberators, Mustangs, Beaufighters and Dakotas, have been successfully completed this year; (6) 29 aircraft were forced to land, due to engine trouble.
There is much anxiety, particularly on the part of relatives of men serving in the Royal Australian Air Force, regarding the maintenance of aircraft. The impression is that too many technical men have been released, and that, as a consequence, sufficient adequately trained men are not available to maintain aircraft in a satisfactory condition; that available technicians are distributed too widely”; and, generally, that the organization of the Royal Australian Air Force is topsy-turvy. I sincerely hope that these fears are without foundation, but I ask the Minister to investigate the matter thoroughly and to make a full statement on the subject as early as possible;
– in reply - Various matters have been raised by a number of honorable members and I shall bring those which do not concern the departments under my control to the notice of the appropriate Ministers. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) referred to the destruction of cows and the wastage of cream. The honorable member’s representations will be referred to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), who, I am sure, will investigate the matter thoroughly. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked a question relating to the operation of air services between Australia and the United States of America. Negotiations are being conducted at present and, in the circumstances, I am sure that the right honorable gentleman will appreciate that, at this stage, no disclosure can be made. The negotiations are proceeding smoothly, and I hope that the results will be satisfactory. I point out that, » in addition to Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand are concerned with the setting up of this service. Whatever I can do to arrive at a satisfactory arrangement as early as possible will be’ done. The right honorable gentleman also referred to dairy herds in the Gympie district of Queensland, and in parts’ of New South Wales, and asked that an investigation be made by the Prices Branch. That matter will be brought to the notice of the Minister Sot Trade and Customs. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) referred to applications for permanent service in the Royal Australian Air Force, and said that men had travelled at their own expense to undergo examination but had not been notified of the results of the examinations. There are difficulties associated with this matter which I am sure the honorable member and ex-servicemen generally will appreciate. The strength of the permanent air force has not been determined. A conference is to take place overseas at which Australia’s share of Empire defence and various technical matters will be considered. A rapid decision cannot be made. The number of applications for appointment to positions in the higher ranks exceeds the number of such positions which are likely to be filled. It may be, for instance, that only half a dozen squadron leaders or flight lieutenants will be required, and there may be 50 applications for such positions, but not so many for lower ranks. I agree with the honorable member that an early decision is -desirable so that these men may know where they stand. The honorable member’s references to property sales will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Minister. I agree with him that, as far as possible, the exploitation of men desiring homes should be avoided. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) spoke of the claims of people at Lake Boga for a share of buildings previously used as hospitals and workshops to be allotted to them. There seems to be a belief that the army or the Air Force controls such disposals, but that is not so. The service departments notify the Commonwealth Disposals Commission of any surplus materials in their charge, arid thereafter, negotiations for the purchase of these materials must be conducted with the commission. However, governmental bodies such as municipal councils, may make application direct to the Royal Australian Air Force or to the Army, in which event, the service department concerned will notify the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. I agree with the honorable member that individuals are also entitled to consideration in these matters, but I point .out that it was to prevent any suggestion of preferential treatment of individuals, or certain sections of the community, that the Commonwealth Disposals Commission was set up. If those who desire to obtain surplus goods would bear in mind that their applications should be made to that body, rather than to the service departments, much correspondence and dissatisfaction would be avoided.
– I thought that the Minister of the service department concerned might make a recommendation to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission.
– I am most anxious to assist in these matters, as are my colleagues in the Ministry, but if each of the service departments is to make an investigation, the work which has been entrusted to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission will be duplicated and the demobilization of servicemen will be delayed. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) suggested that the parents and relatives of men in the. Air Force were fearful that insufficient maintenance work was being done on aeroplanes in use. I point out there have been 15,000 flights this year, and in only 29 instances was it impossible to complete a flight. That information should dispel the anxiety of parents and relatives. There are occasions, as I know from my own experience, when bad weather causes interruptions out of which arises anxiety, but the figures I have supplied should assure honorable members that every precaution is being taken to ensure the safety of aircraft. I trust that the honorable member will convey this information to those who have spoken to him on the matter, so that they will be in possession of the facts, instead of having to rely upon rumours disseminated by irresponsible persons.
– What about the troops stationed atRabaul?
– I shall bring the remarks of the honorable member on that subject to the notice of the Minister for the Army.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented : -
House adjourned at 4.17 p.m.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be f urnished as soon as possible.
Mr.Francis asked the Minister for
Immigration, upon notice -
l. - The number of immigrants, i.e., persons not previously resident in Australia who were admitted for permanent residence, was approximately 360, including 200 British war brides, 150 discharged American servicemen, 4 Dutch ex-servicemen, and a few other foreign nationals whose admission had been authorized. In addition, approximately 2,500 Dutch evacuees were admitted for recuperation purposes, but most of these have since left under arrangements made by the Netherlands Government authorities.
asked the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions ‘ are as follows : -
Royal Australianair Force Aircraft Maintenance.
sasked the Minister for
Air, upon notice -
In view of the reported low standard of maintenance of service aircraft, will he supply a statement showing (a) the number of serviceflights completed successfully this year, and (b) the number of flights interrupted for technical reasons?
– Royal Australian Air Force Head-quarters records show that (a) 15,000 service flights by aircraft (other than training types) such as Cata- linas, Liberators, Mustangs, Beaufighters and Dakotas, have been successfully completed this year; (b) 29 aircraft were forced to land, due to engine trouble. These statistics clearly confirm that there is no foundation for any suggestion that the maintenance of service aircraft in the Royal Australian Air Force is of a low standard.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19460726_reps_17_188/>.