18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motions (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House will, at the nextsitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Ways and Means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That, unless otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch nf business on each Tuesday at 3 p.m., on each Wednesday and Thursday at 2.30 p.m., and on each Friday at 10.30 a.m.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall, on each day of sitting, have precedence of all other business, except on that Thursday on which, Under the provisions of Standing Order 241, the question is put: “ That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair “. On such Thursday general business shall have precedence of Government business until 9 p.m.
Opening of ABERDARE Central Colliery.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has financed Caledonian Collieries Limited to an amount of £12,000 for the purpose of re-claiming Aberdare Central Colliery, in which a fire had occurred. Since this colliery has been made secure, have the workers been informed that it is to be closed down? Has the company I have mentioned also closed another colliery, despite the existing shortage of coal supplies? If 1 have stated facts, will the right honorable gentleman take action to ensure that Aberdare Central Colliery will remain open, and thus help to provide this country with the coal that it needs?
– The honorable member showed me a telegram which he has received regarding this matter. I have not examined the details, but my recollection is that the Commonwealth Government gave some assistance to the company in order to rehabilitate the mine. Following upon the representations made by the honorable member, I have asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, under whom the Coal Commissioner exercises his functions, to have an examination of the matter immediately, and I shall endeavour to let the honorable member have the information desired by him as soon as possible.
– Has the Prime Minister read the reports in the Sydney press to-day of allegations that electoral rolls to be used in the Ashfield by-election to-morrow bear the names of more than 1,000 persons who do not live in the electorate? As the right honorable gentleman knows, Ashfield is a part of the Commonwealth electorate of Parkes, and at the recent general elections the Labour candidate won that seat by 164 votes. Has the Prime Minister read the charge that many of the 1,000 non-residents on the rolls had never been known to be residents of the district, that some were enrolled as living in non-existent houses, and that others had been dead for five years? If so, will the right honorable gentleman have the closest investigation made into these allegations of irregularities, and if the charges be proved correct, appoint a royal commission to make the fullest inquiry into them? Will he empower the commission to make recommendations to ensure that the election of members of the Commonwealth Parliament shall be effected by a true and proper ballot of persons entitled to vote? Will he also empower the commission to determine the effect which such irregularities had upon the return of candidates for certain federal seats, and make recommendations as to whether the necessary steps should he taken to declare invalid the elections in respect of seats which, in the opinion of the commission, are left in doubt by reason of irregularities or improper practices?
– I have not read the reports containing the allegations referred to by the honorable member. I suppose they were very interesting to those who took part in the election in that locality. I have no knowledge that such a state of affairs as that referred to exists, but I shall ask the Minister for the Interior, who administers the Commonwealth Electoral Act, to have an investigation made as to whether there is any truth in the allegations, and whether any action is warranted.
– In view of the present transport difficulties, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping have consideration given to a proposal to allow the use over the Christmas period of petrol coupons “which normally expire at the end of November? “Will the Government give consideration to making a double coupon issue for the month of December, to enable motorists to have an extra supply of petrol for the Christmas holidays?
– I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to give consideration to the request. I believe that those in charge of petrol rationing have, in the past, adopted the practice of making extra supplies available when required. In the recent emergency in Victoria, additional supplies of petrol were made available to those who needed it.
Right to STRIKE
– In view of the fact that during the recent election campaign the Prime Minister was reported to have advocated the right of every man to strike, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether he intends to propose an amendment of section 66 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which provides a penalty in the case of public servants fomenting or taking part in any strike, so that such officers may exercise the right to strike?
– J! do not know to what particular election statement of mine the honorable member for Bendigo refers. I think I did say something at Burra, in South Australia, when I was asked about strikes and the right of people to strike, and it was on precisely similar lines to what I had said in this House from time to time. I cannot recollect what the Public Service Act provides in regard to strikes, but I shall examine it, and reply later to the honorable member on that point.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services intend to assist State governments in their efforts to encourage more Australian girls to enter the nursing profession? Will the
Minister consider appointing a committee to inquire why there are not enough recruits entering the profession?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services and ask him what he has in mind.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs a question about the contraband tobacco which was recently seized in Brisbane. Why have no charges been made against the owner and occupier of the premises, namely, Thomas Alfred Foley, Secretary to the Department of Health a.n<l Home Affairs in Queensland, regarding the contraband tobacco contained in eight or nine corn-sacks which were stored for about a week, and from which delivery was actually being made when the place was raided by excise officers? Has pressure been brought to bear on excise officers to prevent the laying of charges against Mr. Foley under section 1.17 of the Excise Act, and, if so, by whom ? Were any representations made to excise officers of Brisbane urging the withdrawal of the charges against Albert Henry Pianta and Edward John Goldfinch, and, if so, by whom? Why did the prosecutor on three occasions request the adjournment of charges in the Brisbane Police Court against Albert Henry Pianta and Edward John Goldfinch alleging breaches of section 117 of the Excise Act in connexion with the possession of 545 lb. of contraband tobacco?
– This, I think, is a question which I should answer, because the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs may not have had an opportunity to study the details. As a matter of fact, the matter did not come to my notice until last week, when statements made by some of the officers concerned were placed before me. No action has been taken by any member of the Government to prevent the law from taking its course. Since the appointment of the new Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) he has discussed the subject with me, and I made it clear to him on behalf of the Government that no one, no matter what position he may hold in the country, is to be shielded from penalties to which he may be liable for committing a breach of the law. Therefore, there will be no shielding of any one by the Minister or by the Government. I am not familiar with the details of the case referred to by the honorable member, and I make no attempt to say who is guilty or not guilty. That is a matter for the courts to determine, and the law will take its course.
– Yesterday I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he would make a statement to the House this morning confirming the story of the seizure of alleged contraband goods on the premises of a Minister of the Crown in Queensland, namely, the Honorable T. A. Foley? It is evident from information given to the House this morning by the Prime Minister that the Government is in possession of all the facts; but, although questiontime is nearly over, no statement on the matter has been forthcoming. As the Prime Minister has stated that the Government does not intend to shield anybody, and in view of the urgency of this matter and its importance in Queensland, will he ensure that before the House adjourns to-day, a statement of all the facts “will be made?
– I shall certainly not be prepared at any time to guarantee that a statement will be made on any matter that is subject to consideration by a court, without first ascertaining whether or not the making of such a subject would be possible. I must confess that I am not in possession of all the facts of this matter. As I indicated earlier this morning - I have no doubt that this is the intention of the Ministers concerned - whatever action the customs officers, in the course of their duty, believe should be taken in accordance with the law, will be taken. There will be no shielding of anybody by the Government. I do not know whether it is the duty of a Minister, on demand, to present to this House all the details of a matter such as this. I have read certain statements by customs officers; but I do not know whether or not they represent all the facts of the case; I shall consult the Minister for Trade and Customs to ascertain whether some statements should be made to the House but, in normal circumstances, the matter would be in the hands of the Crown Law authorities, and whatever statements had to be made, I take it, would be made in the court where prosecutions were being conducted. I shall examine the matter, but I shall not make any promises about having a detailed statement prepared whilst the matter is sub judice.
– Does the Minister for Air know that some months ago six French mannequins were flown to Australia to participate in a glamour parade, and were afterwards flown back to Paris? Has the Minister anything to do with the allocation of priorities for air travel? Does he know that, owing to the acute shortage of shipping, many servicemen have been trying unsuccessfully to obtain air passages home for themselves and their wives? Is he also aware that there is a racket in connexion with priorities, and that commercial companies are accepting bookings from Australia of wives and friends of newspaper owners who are masquerading as journalists and travelling overseas on glamour tours, and returning to this country with great facility, whilst soldiers and their wives still wait wearily for transport to their new homes?
– I have read press reports of mannequins having been flown to Australia, but I have not seen any reports announcing their return to Europe. I imagined that they liked Australia so well that they had remained here. The Government has nothing to do with the allocation of priorities to persons who desire to come to Australia ; that is a matter for the overseas companies. Some months ago an announcement was made, with my authority, that the Government had discontinued priorities in respect of air travel from Australia, except for Ministers of the Crown, judges and such persons ; and even in such cases priorities are arranged by request and not by any order from the Government.
I have no knowledge of what has been done in connexion with the air transport of the wives and friends of newspaper owners and others, but I ask the companies to allocate preferences fairly, so that ali classes of citizens may travel to and from Australia in the order in which they lodge their applications.
– Has the Treasurer conducted monthly taxation surveys, as he was reported to have promised towards the end of the recent election campaign? If so, will he make available to all honorable members the result of each survey, including those already conducted, in the same manner as monthly statements relating to Consolidated Revenue are distributed? Will he immediately distribute the surveys already made, which, obviously, must date from the 1st July last?
– It has been my practice, as I assume it was the practice of previous Treasurers, to examine receipts and expenditure from month to month. I do not know of anything that I have said on this subject that was not in accordance with what I should think was the practice of successive Treasurers for many years. Since I have returned to Canberra from the storm, and fury of the election campaign I have examined not only figures of which I had some knowledge, but also those connected with statements made during the election campaign, with a view to ascertaining what degree of accuracy there was in such statements. I am sorry that I cannot promise to give detailed statements from time to time. I have always been willing to give to the right honorable member, or to any other honorable member who has been handling taxation and financial matters generally on behalf of the Opposition, the fullest information available.
– That is so, and we on this side appreciate it.
– I shall ascertain whether there is any further information along the lines sought by the right honorable gentleman which may be helpful to him or other honorable members.
– Has the Attorney-General given consideration to a judgment given in Sydney last week by Mr. Justice Roper concerning National Security Regulations governing land values ? Is he in a position to make a statement to the House as to the intention of the Government arising out of that judgment, and can. he say whether there are in it any implications affecting economic controls in respect of such matters as wage-pegging and prices control ?
– I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member and furnish a reply as soon as possible.
– Does the Commonwealth Film Censor still exercise power to forbid the export of any film which may be detrimental to Australia’s interests or prestige abroad? Did the Commonwealth Film Censor refer the film Indonesia Calling to Cabinet for review? If not, on whose initiative and on what grounds was the film so referred ?
– The circumstances surrounding the film Indonesia Calling have been a matter of a great deal of representation to the Government. As the Minister for External Affairs indicated yesterday, consideration was given to the question -whether the film should be allowed to be exported. The exhibition of the film in Australia is a matter for the State film censors. Some State censors have authorized its exhibition, while others have, I believe, refused approval. As representations had been made to Ministers as to whether or not, because of its propagandist character, the film should be allowed to be exported, I accepted responsibility for arranging for members of the Cabinet to view it. As the film was likely to be the subject of discussion I desired that Ministers be visually informed of the points at issue, and accordingly I requested the Minister for Information, whose department has the necessary screening equipment, to make the film available for snowing to members of the Cabinet.
– Is it not Communist propaganda?
– That is not the question I was asked.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the film Indonesia Calling did, in fact, go before the Commonwealth Film Censor or whether, having gone to Cabinet, the ruling given is the final ruling on the subject? If such be not the case, will this film finally go to the Commonwealth Film Censor?
– Although I should not like to commit myself definitely, my impression is that the film was viewed in the first place by the Commonwealth Film Censor. I shall obtain the necessary information, and let the honorable member know the exact position.
apprenticeship— preference to ex-Servicemen and Women.
– In cases wherea deed of apprenticeship has been entered into betweena serviceman and his employer will the Minister for the Army ensure that the serviceman is given prompt means of resuming his apprenticeship? Will the Minister expedite generally the resumption of civil occupation by such servicemen?
– I can only say that it is my intention to do everything possible to release all servicemen who are being held in the Army compulsorily. I shall have inquiries made into the matter forthwith with a view to ensuring that all men coming within that category shall bo released in the shortest possible time.
– I address a question concerning preference to ex-service men and women in Commonwealth employment to the Minister who can most appropriately answer it. What amendments, if any, does the Government propose to make to existing legislation, in view of the recent High Court decision on the subject of preference to ex-service men and women in the Commonwealth service? Does not the Minister consider that the Government should set an example, by granting preference in Commonwealth employment without any reservation or restriction?
– I shall answer the question. In the case mentioned by the honorable gentleman the High Court held that, although the Commonwealth and its departments are bound by the reinstatement provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act, the procedure involving criminal liability on the part of the Government or its departments is not applicable. There is no decision affirming that the Commonwealth is not bound; on the contrary, it is quite clear that the Commonwealth and its departments are bound. Action can be taken by other procedure. An application may be made against a Commonwealth instrumentality for specific relief. Actually, a case of that character in relation to preference is pending in Sydney. The decision of the High Court has no relation whatever to the general principle that Commonwealth departments are bound.
– If preference is not granted, what procedure can be adopted, apart from an adjournment motion or a want of confidence motion in this Parliament?
– The procedure is laid down in the statute. There may be an application to court, from which there may be an appeal to the Industrial Court.
Drought Relief - Sales to New Zealand - Stabilization Plan : State Legislation
– With respect to the payment of drought relief to cereal growers who suffered losses through drought in the season 1945-4.6 and who were precluded under the Drought Relief Act 1946 from receiving relief. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Premier of Victoria has requested him to amend this legislation in order to permit of relief being afforded to additional classes of deserving cases? In view of the extreme urgency of these cases, what action has the right honorable gentleman taken, or does he contemplate taking, in this matter?
– The Premierof Victoria has made representations to me on the subject raised by the honorable member, and the matter is now being examined. I understand that only n small number of eases is involved.
– No, a large number ia involved.
– That is contrary tithe impression given to me;, but the honorable gentleman may be correct. I propose to discuss the matter with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in order to ascertain whether something ought (o be done. As this was the subject of a previous decision by Cabinet, and it is usual to give to Cabinet the opportunity to review such matters, I am arranging with the Minister for Commerce, and Agriculture to make a submission to Cabinet with respect to it.
– In view of the grave concern that is felt for wheat-growers^ will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture either confirm or deny the statement by Mr. Sullivan, Minister for Supply in New Zealand, that that dominion has made a contract with the Australian Government for the supply of wheat at 5s. 9d. a bushel for a period of years, and that, in the event of the ruling price falling below that figure, the matter will be reviewed in favour of New Zealand ?
– Any agreements or negotiations in regard to wheat between the Governments of Australia and New Zealand will, be the subject of a full, statement in this House in due course.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and. Agriculture whether any State Labour government has yet passed the complementary legislation rendered necessary by the passage through this Parliament of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act. If not,, will the honorable gentleman endeavour to explain to a. curious House the reason, for the reluctance of State Labour governments to do so?
– My reply to the first portion of the question is that, to- the best of my knowlege, they have not done so. Answering the second portion of the question, I inform the honorable gentleman that the Government of Victoria found itself so overwhelmed by the neces-Si tv to pass legislation which had. been neglected by the previous Liberal’ administration that it could not proceed with the wheat legislation earlier.
– Does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider that the Cain Labour Government in Victoria is justified in leaving consideration of the claims of the wheatgrowers in abeyance until the grievances of all other people have been dealt with ?
– The question is a frivolous one, but for the information of the honorable member I may say that legislation to give effect to the wheat, industry stabilization scheme has been under discussion by the Parliament of Victoria for some time.
– In view of the fact that roads within the boundaries of tha City of Townsville have been rendered almost impassable as the result, chiefly, of the tremendous volume of military traffic during the war years, will the Minister for Defence consider providing financial assistance on at least a £1 for £1 basis to the Townsville City Council to meet the cost of repairing these roads?
– A very large number of claims could be put forward by municipal and local authorities for financial’ assistance to enable them to repair roads which were damaged by military traffic during, the war. On the other hand, the local authorities’ concerned must have gained considerable financial benefit, from, the- presence of large bodies of troops, in their areas.
– Troops do not pay rates.
– It is true that the Army does- not pay rates-; but soldiers spend money in areas in which they- arc stationed, and that money accrues to local business people. I put that point merely as one aspect of the claim that the- Commonwealth Government should subsidize expenditure by local authorities in therepair of roads damaged by militarytraffic during the war. I shall examine the whole matter, and. see whether anything ca,n be done’ along, the: lines’ suggested by the honorable member:
Burials in Japan.
– I have received several complaints from the relatives of deceasedservicemen, particularly of men who had been prisoners of war in the Netherlands East Indies, that they have been advised that the bodies of those men have been exhumed and reburied in other places. The Minister for the Army may have read in the Press of a proposal that ‘the bodies of Australian service personnel who died on Hainan Island shall be buried in Japan. The relatives of those men are most indignant.. Some have received advice that the transfer of the bodies has already been made, and that in some cases the identifications have been lost. Will the Minister inform me whether the proposal for the reinterment of Australian service personnel in. Japan has been abandoned?. Who authorized those transfers? Will the Minister ensure that in future, no such rebu rials shall be carried out without prior consultation with the relatives of the deceased ? In fact, the bodies of some Australian soldiers who died on the mainland have been reburied without the prior knowledge of the relatives.
– It is a fact that, the bodies of some Australian soldiers who died on Hainan Island, have been buried in a Japanese cemetery. This is most unfortunate.
– Of course, it is.
– Cabinet has given careful consideration to the matter, but in the circumstances and’ in view of the fact that Australian members of the Occupation Force who died, in Japan are buried in a cemetery there, the Government considers that it would not now he in the best interests of the relatives of the deceased to re-inter the remains. I can only say that the incident is most regrettable.. Inquiries are being made to ascertain who was responsible for the re-interment of the bodies of Australian soldiers in Japanese cemeteries. If the opportunity occurs at some later date to enable us to re-inter in an Australian cemetery the bodies of all Australian- soldiers who are bui’ied in Japan, I am quite confident that the Australian Government will attend to it.
– Will the relatives be consulted before any bodies are re-interred? At present, they are being notified afterwards. 1 speak now of Australian service personnel who were buried in Australia.
– I shall ensure that wherever possible, the relatives of deceased servicemen shall be notified immediately. dairying-
Cost of Production.
– Has the Minis ter for Commerce and Agriculture appointed a committee to inquire into the cost of producing butter and milk in Australia? If. so, will he instruct the committee to examine the extra costs that have been incurred during the last two years of drought which has affected a large part of the dairying districts in Australia? Will it be possible to make retrospective any increase of payment.? If so, will the Minister make an announcement to that effect so that dairy farmers, who are now suffering severely from the drought and who are paying heavy charges for fodder, shall be encouraged to retain their cattle instead of selling them for beef?
– The Government has decided to appoint a committee to inquire into the costs of production in the dairying industry. An examination is now being made of the personnel available for appointment to that committee, and at an early date, the names will be announced. The practicability of making retrospective any increase ofpayments will be considered in the light of information which the Government has at its disposal from time to time.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform me what is the present position of the dispute at Mort’s Dock, and whether any actionhas been taken to reach a settlement?
– The dispute is still continuing. Some time ago, the matter was referred to Judge Sugerman, who, after examining the case, requested a Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Wellburn, to call the parties together. I have been informed that a Mr. Fowler, one of the officials associated with this company, is endeavouring to induce all other employers of the same type of labour to boycott the men who were previously employed at that dock. It is also stated that the Commonwealth Employment Service is doing the same thing. I wish to make it quite clear to the honorable member and to the House, that the Commonwealth EmploymentService will employ any man who can do a job that is available to him, without asking any questions about his history.
– -When the Commonwealth child endowment scheme was introduced, income tax deductions formerly allowed for dependent children, other than the first, were abolished. It has now been represented to me that people coming to Australia from Great Britain find that as the child endowment legislation provides for a residential qualification of twelve months before payments can be made, they are in the position of being unable to secure child endowment or rebates of income tax. That, I believe, was not the intention of the Parliament, and I ask the Prime Minister to have this anomaly examined with a view to introducing amending legislation.
– My recollection is that, when the child endowment scheme was introduced, income tax was being levied separately by the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. The honorable member for Fawkner himself introduced the child endowment legislation, which excluded from taxation concessions all children in a family other that the first child. Later, when I brought down the provisions relating to uniform taxation, the concession in respect of the first child in a family was retained and additional concessions were allowed in respect of other children in an endeavour to compensate for the loss of the concessions which had been given under State taxation laws. I must confess that the matter which the honorable gentleman has mentioned has not previously come under my notice. However, I shall take steps to have it examined immediately. I understand that he claims that people with children who come to Australia from Great Britain receive neither the endowment nor the benefit of the tax concession.
– That is so.
– I shall have the matter examined at once.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
Report on Motor Vehicle Parts -
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Parts for Motor Vehicles, Tractors and Cycles - Question of cancellation of by -laws. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Archie Cameron) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Tariff Board - Annual Report for year 1945-46, together with summary of recommendations. and move -
That the report be printed.
The report is accompanied by an annexure which summarizes recommendations made by the Tariff Board, and sets out the action taken in respect thereof. It is not proposed to print the annexure.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Sugar Agreement - -Fifteenth Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for the year ended 31st August, 1946 and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Anthony) adjourned.
Appointments of ex-Servicemen.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question relating to the recently announced appointments of five men to positions as trade representatives overseas. In view of the fact that a large number of very competent ex-servicemen applied for those jobs, was the principle of preference to exservicemen applied to the selection of the appointees and what were the war service records, if any, of those who were appointed ?
– All five appointees were ex-servicemen with excellent war records. They were selected after a very thorough sifting of the applications that were made to the Minister.
– Yesterday, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs a question, upon notice, relative to the seizure by the customs authorities of certain parcels bearing the name of the wife of a former Minister for Trade and Customs. I asked for information regarding the interrogation of a Miss Rosetta Kelly and for the names of the persons involved. I received an answer that the Government proposed to submit the matter to the Crown Solicitor for advice as to whether a breach of the law had been committed. I now ask the AttorneyGeneral to tell me when the matter was submitted to the Crown Law authorities and what action he has taken with regard to the matter. Does he propose to file charges immediately relative to the cases that have been presented to him? If not, when can we expect to receive some information regarding this matter?
– In the normal departmental course, this matter may have gone to the Crown Law Department for advice.
This is the first that I have heard of it. I shall ascertain the facts, and furnish a reply to the honorable gentleman.
– Does the Minister for Works and Housing approve of the policy that is being adopted by his department, with particular reference to Queensland, under which the allocation of roofing material is made on the basis of the nature of the soil on which the house is being erected rather than on the merits of the application? In other words, is material supplied for buildings that are being erected on black soil? Can he say whether one landlord is able to have dozens of houses built .for renting purposes whilst urgent cases are being neglected ? Does the Government intend to pursue such a policy, and not have regard to the merits of each case?
– The function of my department is to allocate supplies of galvanized iron to each State. The distribution of it, and the granting of priorities to applicants, are matters for the State concerned.
– In view of the discussions that are reported to be now taking place in London in respect of Empire reciprocal tariffs, is the Prime Minister able to give the undertaking that appropriate representatives of certain great Australian primary industries - for example, canned fruits, dried fruits, sugar, dairying and meat - which would be very gravely affected were there to be an alteration of the system of reciprocal tariffs which has prevailed for some years, will be consulted before the Government finally determines what attitude it will adopt towards any proposed variation of preferential duties within the Empire ?
– Before the Australian delegation went abroad, I spoke to its leader, Dr. Coombs, as did also the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), in whose department he is employed, and asked that arrangements be made prior to the departure of the delegation for discussions to be held with representatives of those interests which might be affected by any decisions at the gathering in London. That course was adopted, and the secretaries of two organizations have thanked me personally for having given them that opportunity to place their views before the delegation. I think that I can safely say that when the delegation returns, and there is an opportunity to place all the facts before the interests concerned, the Government will be prepared to give to their representatives an opportunity to state their views.
importation of syndicated matterProtection of Australian Journalists.
– Has the Prime Minister read a booklet published by the Australian Journalists Association entitled The Case for the Australian Writer? If not, I draw his attention to a paragraph in which reference is made to the importation from overseas of syndicated press matter. The allegation is made that, despite the prohibition applied during the war years in respect of comic strips, the importation of that material continued, and even new comic strips were introduced. Why did. not the Government enforce the prohibition? How did the newspaper proprietors obtain the dollars required for the purchase of that press material, which included not only comic strips, but also other articles of an inferior quality?
– I read the pamphlet to which the honorable member has referred. It was brought to my notice by representatives of the Australian Journalists Association. They also made certain representations to me regarding the importation of comic strips and syndicated material of various kinds, and they have left several samples with me for examination. Six or seven months ago I met a deputation representing the association in Sydney, and quite recently Mr. Geoffrey James, representing the deputation, saw me again about the matter. I have asked him to set out in writing what is considered to be the grievance of the journalists regarding the importation of this syndicated material. When he does that I shall have the matter examined, and perhaps I shall ask Cabinet to consider the policy generally with regard to importations of that character. I cannot for the moment recall the amount in dollars made available for the importation of this material, but dollars have been provided to a limited extent for quite a number of matters associated with newspaper work. This aspect will be investigated, and the honorable member will be supplied with the information for which he has asked.
– For the sake of Australia’s good name, and to salvage some of Australia’s trade with the Netherlands East Indies, will the Minister for External Affairs intervene in the unfortunate boycott of Dutch ships, before the matter reaches such dimensions that it will probably be brought before the United Nations Assembly? How does the matter stand, and does the Government intend to take any action?
– I propose later in the morning to ask the House for leave to open a general discussion on international affairs. Therefore, I hope that the honorable member will not expect me to answer his question offhand.
– In view of the desperate need for more hospital accommodation in northern Victoria, will the Minister for Air inform the House whether the Royal Australian Air Force hospital at Lake Boga has been made available for disposal? If not, can the Minister say when its disposal will be authorized ?
– I shall endeavour to ascertain whether that hospital has yet been made available to the Australian Disposals Commission, and, if not, when it will become available, and I shall furnish a reply later. If the building has already been declared available for disposal, I take it that the honorable member’s question will have to be directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, under whose direction the Australian Disposals Commission operates.
Mr.SPEAKER (Hon. J. S.Rosevear). - I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Royal Highness the Governor-General to receive the AddressinReply which was agreed to at the previous sitting, and honorable members will be informed accordingly.
– by leave - I take this opportunity to report to the House on four international matters in which Australia is particularly concerned. First, I shall refer to the progress achieved in the making of the peace settlements. The first group of the settlement deals with the enemy countries of Italy, Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary and’ Finland. Secondly, I shall deal with the main business now before the United Nations Assembly, and the operations of the bodies associated with the United Nations organization, so far as they relate to the business now before the Assembly. I shall then refer to certain matters of primary importance to Australia in connexionwith the Pacific area first, the administration of Japan; and secondly, our security and welfare in relation to the southwest Pacific. In the course of my remarks I hope to reply adequately to the question asked by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) regarding Manus Island to which he referred yesterday. Finally, I shall suggest to the House some general trends and principles which can be discussed by it for the assistance of the Government and of Australia.
The first matter to which I shall refer is the making of the peace settlement. The background of that is of some importance and. I invite the attention of honorable members for a few moments to an analysis of what that background and history have been. During the war, the control of the strategy of the United Nations was almost exclusively in the hands of the three big powers - Britain, United States of America and Russia. In the course of the war, as. was discovered in piecemeal fashion, and on one or two occasions belatedly, commitments were made which related, not to the control and supervision of the war effort, but to the peace settlement. One example is the declaration made by the leaders of the three nations at Cairo, which laid down certain broad settlements which were to be made affecting Japan, and, to some extent, other Pacific countries. As is well known, that declaration was made without reference to other active belligerents against Japan, but the situation had to be accepted at the time because of the war position. There are other examples of the same kind. Towards the end of the war, an arrangement was made under which Soviet Russia obtained important territorial concessions in the Far East. This is another illustration of the kind of arrangement which did not relate solely to the war effort of the United Nations as a whole, but to the final peace settlement, and it was entered into without prior consultation with other countries concerned, such as Australia and New Zealand.
The opinion of the Government is - and in this I do not think it differs materially from that of parties not represented in the Government - that whatever was done in the actual management and control of strategy, and in the direction of the war, it is essential that belligerents which took an. active and sustained part in the fighting should participate effectively in the making of peace settlements. The war effort of Australia was not confined to the Pacific. In the early part of the war Australia was one of the few countries which took a prominent part in the fighting against Germany, and we have consistently contended for the principle that this fact gives us the right to participate in the framing of peace terms.
The first positive step taken by the nations towards the actual making of peace treaties was the establishment of the Council of Foreign Ministers by the Potsdam Agreement. This agreement was entered into, not by the representatives of the Big Three only, but also by the representatives of China and France. The procedure laid down under the Potsdam Agreement wasthis: The Council of Foreign Ministers was to draft peace treaties; in the first instance with Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland, and afterwards the drafts would be submitted for consideration by the representatives of other countries which had been at war with those five nations. This, it will be understood, represented a departure from the principle that countries which had taken an active and sustained part in the war were to participate in the peace-making. Therefore, when the Council of Foreign Ministers assembled in London for the first time last year, we suggested that countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa should be associated with the Council of Foreign Ministers for the purpose of drafting treaties; alternatively, that whatever decisions were reached by the council should be submitted to a free and open conference of all belligerents, which would have power to modify the decisions of the Foreign Ministers. As a result of this request, it was decided by the Council of Foreign Ministers that there should be a meeting of the representatives of nations which had been belligerents against the satellite enemy countries, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, Rumania and Finland. However, the proposed procedure was regarded by the Commonwealth Government as open to grave objections. The conference which met at Paris consisted of the representatives of Great Britain, the United States of America, Russia and France - China being omitted from the Council of Foreign Ministers for the drafting of these peace treaties - and seventeen other countries, including Australia. This conference of 21 powers was to consider the draft treaties, and to make recommendations regarding them to the Council of four Foreign Ministers, which would make the final draft. Thus, there was no certainty that the conference would have any effective authority whatever in the making of treaties. Indeed, it was to be an advisory body rather than a peace conference with full power to settle the terms of peace. We realized, of course, that what was to be aimed at was unanimity.
– How did the representatives at the conference vote?
– I am coming to that. On that particular point, there was much controversy. The Council of Foreign Min isters proposed to the conference at Paris a certain procedure regarding voting,, namely, that only if the conference decided by a two-thirds majority to amend any clause in a draft treaty would that decision, in the form of a recommendation, gobefore the Council of Foreign Ministers. In other words, it was necessary to get fourteen of the nations out of 21 to agreeto a recommendation before it could even be submitted to the Council of Foreign Ministers.
Honorable members will agree that, although our interest in the European settlement is not so close as is our interest in the settlement with Japan, Australia nevertheless has a definite interest in the European settlement. In any case, it waspossible that the same procedure might be applied in the preparation of the Japanese treaties. It was important that the interests of Australia, and of other countries in a similar position, should be protected. Therefore, we objected strongly to the procedure. Australia proposed that a decision reached by a simple majority of the conference should be sufficient to send a recommendation back to the Council of Foreign Ministers. In other words, that eleven out of the 21 nations represented at the conference should have power, not to alter a treaty in any vital way, but to recommend an amendment for consideration by the Council of Foreign Ministers.
– Irrespective of the size of the nations concerned?
– That did not enter into the matter.
– They were to have power merely to make a recommendation.
– As the right honorable member for Yarra remarks, we asked that a majority of the conference should have power to make a recommendation for a variation of the treaties, not that they should have power to decide upon a variation. The value of the recommendation would depend in part on the strength of the nations which made it and their war effort. We objected to the two-thirds rule on the ground that, in respect of any clause of the five treaties to which, for instance, Soviet Russia objected, it was impossible to get a two-thirds majority because certain countries, at the Peace Conference would vote together on most issues. Instead of a statement of obvious facts being the basis of discussion, there was a tremendous objection to the facts being pointed out. My own belief was that the only way to proceed was to point out the position, not with a view to altering the treaty in any specific way, but in order to get a procedure which would give to the belligerent countries at least the right to have their views considered by their co-belligerents. In respect of Italy it can truthfully be said that the contribution to victory made by some British Dominions was probably equal to that of two of the four principal powers. There is no doubt about that. It is my viewthat not much progress can be made by burking facte. The fact is that the efforts made by countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in the days before Soviet Russia was at war with Italy and after Prance had ceased to be in the war nt all, were of crucial importance.
– Australia’s contribution was made under the direction of the Menzies Government.
– At the beginning of the war the Menzies Government directed Australia’s war effort; later, the task was undertaken by the Curtin Government. J arn sure that the honorable member for New England- does not wish to divert me from the main point. We proposed that a simple majority of the 21 nations should be sufficient to carry a particular recommendation back to the Council of Foreign Ministers. That proposal led to a tremendous lot of discussion because it was strongly objected to. Finally, by a two-thirds majority, the conference agreed that a simple majority recommendation would be sufficient to carry a. matter back to the Council of Foreign Ministers. But here another difficulty of procedure, or pre-arrangement, arose which it is most important to bear in mind. It had been agreed by the four powers that if any one of them objected to any clause in a draft treaty the four of them would oppose any recommendation being sent back for modification. I hope that the House realizes the implications of that arrange ment. I repeat that prior to the conference it was agreed by the Governments of the United Kingdom, Russia, France and the United States of America that all of them would oppose any recommendation at the Paris Conference unless all of them agreed to the proposed modification. Thus, the rule of unanimity applied not only at the last stage of final drafting; it applied also at the stage of the Paris Peace Conference.
– Obviously, there was solidarity. 1 Dr. EVATT.- That was their decision, and it is important because it may affect subsequent, peace treaties also. That decision meant, in effect, that although a simple majority might decide to carry a recommendation to the four powers, it became inoperative because of this agreement.
– Did that agreement apply to all matters, both great and small ?
– It extended to all matters, great and small, as to which they had agreed, in respect of any of the five draft treaties. It, did not, extent to certain clauses, such as the clause affecting Trieste in respect of which there had not been any agreement, but it did extend to 90 per cent, of the matters to be considered. The effect of that agreement was that it was impossible, for all practicable purposes, to get, a recommendation through the Paris Peace Conference. I shall use the same illustration in order to make the position clear. I do so not to cause offence to any nation but in order to state the facts fairly. If, for instance, Soviet Russia objected to any modification whatever, Britain, the United States of America and France were bound to oppose that modification, not only at, the final stage, but also at. the Peace Conference. It meant, in effect, what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) described yesterday as a veto exercisable by any of the four powers, not at the final point, but at the preliminary point of recommendation.
– It was a case of “ one out, al] out
– I would put it more strongly than that. Let us consider it in relation to reparations. The proposal brought forward by the Council -of Foreign Ministers in the draft treaty, and agreed to by the four nations, was that Soviet Russia would receive from Italy 1.00,000,000 dollars, from ‘Rumania 300,000,000 dollars’, from Hungary 200.000,000 dollars, and from Finland ;500,!000,000 dollars. Our view was that, before reparations could be determined, there should be an assessment of damage and also .of assets, and that there should be an apportionment of those assets to the belligerents which had suffered. Soviet Russia had suffered because of depredations by two Italian divisions which at -one stage of the war had ta.ken part in the fight against Russia at Stalingrad. The war effort of Soviet Russia was magnificent, but it was directed mainly against Germany, not Italy. Our view, based on what we regarded as elementary justice, was that there should not bt a guessing at figures hut a thorough investigation and a proper allocation. Accordingly, we put that view forward. We obtained support for it from four or five nations, but Britain, United States of America and France, as well as Soviet Russia, opposed it in the conference and in the committees. They were bound to do so. They were not free to review their own recommendation. I shall state frankly the justification for that attitude. 1 1; was said that it had taken so long to get draft treaties that unless a solid front were presented there was no certainty of any final treaty at all. That argument is not easily answerable, but it seemed to the Australian delegation at Paris, to the members of which I pay a high tribute, that such an attitude at the Peace Conference was not good enough for those countries which had participated in the war. It would have been better in some respects if the big nations had said : “ We will stick to the draft treaties. You are free to accept them and sign them “. They did not do that in form, but it is fair to say that that is in effect what did happen. We contested that issue strongly in the belief that a similar position might arise in connexion with a settlement with Japan, where Australia’s interests are more directly concerned. I shall refer shortly to the proposals we made. I do not propose to elaborate them because a full report on the Peace Treaty will be presented to the House, and the subject will be considered in detail before the treaty is ratified.
– Would it be ‘correct to say that only a very limited portion of the Peace Treaty was reviewable in any sense at the Peace Conference?
– All the clauses were reviewable in the formal sense. Each clause was considered carefully, and every country was entitled to set down amendments to every clause. But in effect and in substance what happened was that it was impossible in practice to secure agreement in respect of some clauses requiring the consent of the four hig nations. Difficulty was also experienced in connexion with boundary problems. Agreement upon certain boundaries had been reached by the Council of Foreign Ministers. However, if a disputed boundary, that is, a boundary to which one adjoining country objected, came before the Peace Conference, we proposed that there should be an investigation of the facts in relation to it. We regarded as the dominating factor the desire of the peoples concerned. In my limited observation, the tragedy of Europe is the old trend of thought that some adjustment of boundaries here and there means the settlement of Europe. The view put forward by some countries that there should be wholesale taking up and shifting of people from one place to another, ignoring the human side of the problem, struck all of us very forcibly. The proposal we made in regard to the solution of that problem was the first submitted by us. We also made :i proposal regarding Trieste. That has a bearing upon the point dealt with by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in another connexion yesterday. Trieste is a port of great importance ; the Yugoslavs wanted it but Italy wished to retain it. It was suggested that there should he a form of internationalization of Trieste and its hinterland ; to that principle we gave our support. We thought that a genuine attempt to govern it internationally in the interests of the people, without giving control to either the Italians or the Yugoslavs, might :be successful; but the agreed clause provided that the territory should be guaranteed by the
Security Council of the United Nations, and that the governor should be appointed by the Security Council, In the Security Council, however, on all matters, not merely enforcement matters, but also matters of peaceful adjustment - with the one exception referred to by the Header of the Opposition yesterday - the right of veto may be exercised by each one of the five countries. It was impossible for the Council to ensure the integrity of the territory. In lieu of the agreed clause we proposed that a clause agreed to at San Francisco and inserted in the United Nations Charter should be incorporated in the treaty, namely, that all parties to the treaty should undertake to respect the integrity of Trieste. In our view a governor may never be appointed, or the candidates may be so dealt with that finally an unsatisfactory governor may be appointed. The treatment of enemy colonies was another vital matter from our point of view. The draft treaty considered that the method of government, and the administration of I talian colonies should be determined by the same four principal nations in the Council of Foreign Ministers. Their view was that if they did not agree within twelve months the problem should be referred, not to the countries which had been in the war against Italy, but to the General Assembly of the United Nations, consisting at present of 50 nations, but totalling, perhaps, 60 nations by the time iiic disposition of the colonies will be referred to it for settlement. We thought that no country had a greater right to ii voice at the preliminary point of consideration - which might be the final point - than countries like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. We put that view forward, and we at least obtained the result that it was agreed that we should be consulted. As everybody knows, consultation may vary from something perfunctory to something which means real participation. When we put that proposal forward, the rule of the foul- was again operative and we were met with an impossible position in our attempt to obtain even a bare majority recommendation. Another matter on which we suggested amendments to the draft was the problem of human rights. As to that I should like to make quite clear to the House just what is involved in the proposal which we made. The proposal was simple in principle. Each of the treaties with the five countries had a clause similar to that inserted in the treaty dealing with Rumania, which reads -
Rumania shall take all measures to secure to all persons under Rumanian jurisdiction, without distinction as to race, ses, language or religion, the enjoyment of human rights and of the fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, of press and publication, of religious worship, of political opinion and of public meeting.
These are great rights which are recognized >as fundamental in the Charter of United Nations and which are referred to in the Atlantic Charter. They are actually embodied in each of the five treaties. We held the view - and everybody in this country will understand it - that it is of no use making declarations of rights unless there is also the requisite machinery to enforce them.
– Does the right honorable gentleman think it operates in Russia ?
– That is a different point. These rights were to operate in the countries which were parties to the treaty, such as Italy and other enemy countries. We put forward two proposals. We said, first, that these were human rights and that they should also operate in territories which were ceded from enemy countries, and that, consequently, some tribunal should be established to enforce them against nations which infringed them. In this country we are familiar with orders made by courts in respect of such matters.
– How would the tribunal enforce them?
– That would depend upon the agreement between the countries responsible for the establishment of the tribunal. I admit that, in the last resort, we would have to depend upon the public opinion of the world. There was never a case where a demand of the International Court made during the period between the two wars was not given effect by the defeated litigant. At any rate, there was some basis for the view that if agreement were reached for the establishment of such a tribunal, the agreement would be effective.
– The decisions of the International Court between the two wars were not of a character comparable with those which the right honorable gentleman was proposing in the Charter of Human Rights.
– They would not be quite of that character, but they dealt with minority rights under the Treaty of Versailles. They dealt with problems of government. Problems arising out of treaties did come before the court and its decisions were accepted.
– The court never attempted to deal with Danzig, or questions arising in respect of Czechoslovakia.
– It did not deal with political action, or movements of forces, or threats to move forces, because such matters were not clearly legal matters; but in all matters susceptible to legal decision the court had jurisdiction, and it still has under the San Francisco Charter. Finally, admitting all these difficulties, and the need to provide machinery to get stabilized treaties, we said, in effect, “ If you cannot agree to this because of your arrangements, we think it is desirable to make provision in the treaty for a review of it under certain conditions and safeguards “. That was a reasonable proposal, but itmet with the fate of other proposals. We got the conference to accept the establishment of a Reparations Commission, but without interference with the precise amounts to which I have referred, because they were agreed to; and certain minor modifications were made. The importance of the position from the point of view of Australia is that what looked to be a question of procedure became a question of vital importance. The majority rule did not mean that a mere majority could effect, a modification of the treaty. Ultimately, such a treaty must be made either separately or unanimously ; but it was the procedure that affected us greatly, because of the possible repercussions upon the Pacific settlement.
– Was any arrangement made by which Dominion Ministers might consult with the British Govern ment’s representatives on the Council of Foreign Ministers to put forward the Empire view? That would overcome most of the difficulties.
– Theoretically, that appears to be sound, but in practice it is difficult.
– Has it ever been tried?
– Yes; however, the machinery for trying it may be improved. But is was impossible to do that in the fullest sense at the stage when the Council decided to call a conference. The view put forward by the British Government was that unless the major powers agreed to support each other there i ould be no conference at all. The broadest answer to that is that it is better not to have a conference at all than to have a conference which cannot be effective.
– This all sounds like a debate in Parliament after there has been a prior decision in caucus.
– Even that procedure has been known to produce change, regardless of party. The difficulties can well be understood by the House; but there are also rights to be considered. That is the view which we put, having in mind Australia’s contribution to the Allied victory, and those are the proposals I have summarized, which I submit were quite reasonable. The position now is that the treaties have not been signed. They are back before the Council of Foreign Ministers which is dealing on a inly, almost exclusively, with claims which had not been agreed to by the council before the conference. The council is now sitting at New York for that purpose.
– What progress is being made with the treaties with Germany and Japan?
– With regard to the treaty with Germany also, conversations are expected to take place at New York between the four countries I have mentioned ; and we have again represented to them - as I notice Holland and Belgium have also done in relation to Europe - that it is important that our view should he put at the earliest moment.
– Has Australia put any view to the British Empire representative?
– Australia is continually in touch with the United Kingdom representative, but it is not quite practicable to deal with the matter in that way. We discussed these matters, for instance, at the conference attended by the Prime Minister when he was in London. Certain aspects of Italian colonial questions were raised there, and no difficulties were found. The difficulty in the way of the British Government is that unless it accepts certain things which we do not like, we shall not he able to get the things which we prefer. It becomes a compromise, which is inevitable in a peace treaty, but in a discussion positive suggestions to overcome difficulties would be of value.
– Has any estimate been made as to how long it will take to finalize the major treaties with Germany and Japan?
– I would not give an estimate on that point. We have not yet got the treaties with the five satellite countries. One of the difficulties in respect of Germany is to devise a treaty for only a portion of Europe which in some regards must be treated as a whole.
The second matter with which I propose to deal is the business before the United Nations Assembly now sitting at New York. Australia is represented there, and one of the main proposals wc have brought forward is to reconsider the application of the veto. I have shown that the veto was incorporated in the proceedings at Paris; but in the Charter of the United Nations there is express provision for the exercise of individual veto by any one of the five powers, not upon enforcement action, but upon conciliation action to settle a dispute - conciliation action not by an order operating against the parties, but by recommendations. The view we put forward at San Francisco has previously been stated publicly. Undertakings were given that there would not be a capricious use of the veto power. Of course, turning it around, the veto principle means the principle of unanimity of the powers, and it is always so described by its advocates. It is said th at the veto means, in effect, that the five countries which have the right to exercise the power of veto have to agree; but to say that five people have to agree is not to tell us anything about the way in which they are to agree.
– War is seldom produced by unanimity.
– Exactly. When there are differing points of view, the dispute is submitted to the Security Council, and I believe that it is fair to say that, in some respects, the Security Council ought to exercise a quasi-judicial authority and ensure a. fair settlement of the dispute. The object of the veto power is that the Security Council should not order some thing to be done, but should suggest solutions to the parties. That attitude is not unreasonable. The proposal that we put forward at San Francisco that, for conciliation and peaceful settlement, there should be no veto, is absolutely reasonable. If necessary, in the emergency that has arisen, because we must avoid the breaking up of the organization, we should retain the veto in relation to enforcement action. Otherwise, the organization might be completely destroyed in the early stages of its life. But what is the point of the veto in relation to conciliation? Conciliation should not be the right of the Security Council to exercise as it thinks fit. It should be the duty of the Security Council to conciliate, and suggest ways of settling disputes.
– What are the arguments which are advanced by the proponents of the veto ?
– The view is that it means, in effect, that the five nations have got to agree and that, therefore, the veto will encourage them to ‘agree. I have 11Ot found any evidence of that. On important questions which have arisen in the last ten months, I have not found any indication of a prior attempt even among, the five nations themselves, to suggest how the matter should be settled : I do not like the idea of attempts to reach agreement among themselves for this reason. The Council consists of five big countries that are the permanent members and have the right of veto, and six other countries which are elected. Australia is one of latter. These six countries have their rights on the Security Council, and they have a duty to the countries which have elected them to put their points of view.
– Has any country, other than Russia, exercised the power of veto?
– Soviet Russia is the only country which has exercised the power of veto.
– That is minority rule by one power.
– Not exactly, because the result is not to rule but simply to block. Nothing can be done. Any one of the five powers has the right to block any proposal. The result is that the Security Council is in this appalling position that nothing may be done about a dispute which has come before the organization. From the beginning, you know that nothing can be done about it. Bitter speeches are made, this way or that way, and you are always conscious of the threat that, at the end, the next business will be called and no recommendation or suggestion can be made by the Council.
– The Opposition in this Parliament is accustomed to that. The Government should have sent some of us there.
– That may be useful at certain periods of the year. We might consider it.
I come now to the next point. The nations cannot remove the veto from the Charter, except with the consent of each country which possesses the veto.
– That is worse than the Australian Constitution.
– The Australian Constitution can be altered.
– There is no doubt that, but for the existence of the veto, and the provision that it shall not be amended without the consent of the countries that may exercise it, the Charter would never have been signed in its present form. All the nations would not have become members of the organization.
– The Leader of the Opposition has stated that certain countries made their demands upon that basis when the Charter was formulated. That is true up to a point. I do not think that, had the veto been restricted to enforcement action, the Charter would not have been signed. I think that was outside the question.
– Does the Minister for External Affairs believe that all the great powers would have been parties to the Charter ?
– Provided the veto applied to enforcement action, I think it is quite probable, but that is speculation. Certainly at San Francisco, the nations were extremely anxious to sign the charter. Some feared that if particular proposals were put forward, such as Australia’s proposal to give the Assembly wider powers of discussion and recommendation, a particular country would leave the conference. However, I believe that that view did not really represent the intentions of the countries concerned. As I stated, the power of veto may not be removed unless each country possessing the right to exercise it consents. Cuba has put forward a proposal to amend it. What Australia has done has been to raise the question in an endeavour to get a resolution expressing the opinion of the nations that the veto should not be used in respect of matters relating to peaceful settlement and adjustment.
The next matter which is before the Assembly, is the report, of the Atomic Energy Commission. As to that, the question of the veto again arose, but in a somewhat different form. The United States of America has been criticized for its attitude towards atomic energy and the possession of the atomic bomb. Three countries contributed to the development of atomic energy for the purposes of war, namely, the United States of America, Great Britain and Canada. When matters relating to atomic energy are being considered, the Security Council of eleven members, and Canada, constitute the Atomic Energy Commission. The United States of America has submitted a proposal which I may explain in this way: “ We .are prepared to give up the use of atomic energy entirely for the purposes of war. and destroy our stock piles, provided it is done in an orderly way and with proper timing, and provided, above all, that every nation agrees not only that it will not use atomic energy for purposes of destruction, hut also that it will submit to an international system of inspection and control for the purpose of ensuring that atomic energy shall not be so misused “. This relates to the particular problem of disarmament, and I do not consider that the attitude of the United States of America is unreasonable. Seldom in the history of the world has an attitude of that kind been adopted by a country which, like the United States of America, possesses a monopoly of a particular weapon. It is not as if this particular weapon alone is the likely cause of war. Many weapons of tremendous power were invented during World War II., and the atomic bomb is only one part of the supreme problem of preventing war. However, this was a step forward, and the Assembly, when it met in London, asked the Security Council, with the addition of Canada, to investigate this matter.
– The right of inspection is vital. That is where we fell down in rega.rd to the mandates under the control of Japan.
– Yes. In the mandated territories which Japan controlled, no right of inspection was permitted for the purpose of seeing whether the Japanese were fortifying them. In any case, what objection could there be? At this stage, I should like to pay tribute to the scientists, particularly Dr. Briggs and Dr. Oliphant, who were advising us at New York. Dr. Oliphant, who is an Australian, is now a professor at Birmingham. He was one of the inventors of the radar system, which was so important in World War II. The scientists say that, if the raw materials, uranium and thorium, from which atomic energy is derived, are controlled, it is practicable to have a system of control and inspection which will effectively prevent the misuse of atomic energy and enable the energy to be used for the purposes of peaceful development, particularly in connexion with power. Mr. Lilienthal, who is associated with the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States of America, was closely connected with this problem. The scientists believe that, for the expenditure of the amount of human energy that took place. during World War II. it will be possible, within four or five years, to have atomic energy for commercial purposes.
– Did the Minister for External Affairs imply that the United States of America has a monopoly of the stocks of atomic bombs?
– The United States of America has the “ know how “. It is the only country that has the knowledge, and of course it is the only country that has a stock-pile of bombs.
– The point that troubles me then, is how that state of affairs has come about, in view of the fact that three countries co-operated in producing the atomic bomb.
– That is a question that I have endeavoured to have answered. One reason is the contribution made by the United States of America to the development of the atomic bomb. However, the right honorable gentleman can take it as a fact that the United States of America has a monopoly of this information. It will have that monopoly for only a limited period, of course, because scientists of other countries will be busy on atomic research.
– What has been the effect of America’s attitude on this matter?
– The view which I have put is that expressed by the United States of America to the Atomic Energy Commission, and, broadly speaking, that view was supported by all countries represented on the Commission, with the exception of Soviet Russia and Poland. Russia’s view was that we should start off by having an agreement between nations never to use atomic energy for warfare. Such an agreement, of course, would operate immediately against the interests of the United States of America, because of the monopoly of atomic energy knowledge to which I have referred. The United States would not accept that proposal, and considerable criticism of America has been voiced because of that refusal. However, America’s attitude that any agreement in regard to a weapon of this character should be negotiated in conjunction with the establishment of a system of impartial, international control, seems to be reasonable. The United States of
America looks to an independent commission, established by an agreement, and having a fair basis of representation, as the administering authority, not only to inspect countries and prevent the production of atomic weapons, but also to develop atomic energy for peaceful uses.
– There would be no right of veto on such a body?
– That is so. But if the Security Council deals with the matter it will be possible for any permanent member to decide that there shall be no enforcement of a decision in any particular case. That is strongly objected to by America.
– If atomic energy is to be used for peaceful purposes, what form of control could prevent rapid conversion for war purposes?
– That is a problem that has to be faced. The point is that atomic energy, whether used for war or peace, is derived from, the one source. Policing could be carried out only by controlling raw materials.
– That would be effective only so long as scientists did not discover alternative materials.
– That is possible, but I am dealing with the situation as it exists. . There are other aspects of the matter, too. I have dealt with the Atomic Energy Commission and I have selected two important matters relating to the functions of the Assembly.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say something of the proposals of Soviet Russia in regard to general disarmament?
– I am glad that the honorable member has raised that point. At the Paris conference, Russia also raised the question of disarmament, and one of the matters discussed was the disposal of the Italian fleet, some of the vessels of which were divided amongst the four great powers. Australia suggested that the question of the disposal of the Italian fleet, over and above that portion of it to be retained by Italy, should go to the United Nations for determination in accordance “with the Charter, but that proposal was rejected. Russia has supported, and is supporting, any step that will lead to disarmament on a basis that will give security - real security - and lessen the enormous burden that the people of the world have to hear. That matter has actually been considered by the Assembly, and will be submitted to the Security Council for determination.
I shall not delay the House further in connexion with that important meeting. Our views on that subject are generally known and appreciated. Our sole object has been to make the Charter workable. It is useless to have the Security Council debating matters publicly at great length without reaching any result. Nothing could be worse than to permit speech after speech on a particular issue, and then to allow the matter to be dropped without obtaining the considered judgment of the Council, or some precedent or guidance for the future activities of that body. That view is gaining ground throughout the world. Most nations are in favour of some modification such as we have suggested.
I shall now describe the form of control operating in Japan. There are two controlling bodies. One is the Far Eastern Commission, which sits in Washington. At first, ten nations were represented on it, and in December last Soviet Russia came in as the result of a decision reached in Moscow by the Council of Foreign Ministers. There again the veto intrudes. No policy decision can be reached at Washington except by agreement of the four great powers. Any one of the four can prevent a decision hy exercising its right of veto. In this case France is excluded, but China is included. What happens in practice, of course, is that the veto is not exercised. Agreement may be reached amongst ten of the eleven members of the Far Eastern Commission, but the eleventh, may say, “ We cannot accept the proposal at present”. In these circumstances, the threat of the veto hangs over the deliberations of the commission, and a country possessing the right of veto can always have a matter adjourned for a considerable time because the commission does not wish to see the veto power exercised. I attended meetings of that body last year when it agreed upon the general policy for Japan, which I endeavoured to sum up before the previous Parliament. I think the commission aimed at the establishment of a really democratic Japan, and its proposals were, in fact, accepted in a preliminary way by all who ‘attended the meetings. However, although that policy came before the commission after it was reconstituted in January - ten months ago - it has not yet been issued to General MacArthur, who, as Supreme Commander, administers the occupation of Japan. General MacArthur is bound by the policy decisions issued from Washington, which, in my opinion, are not issued frequently enough. The general policy is not yet fixed. That places a special burden on the Advisory Council at Tokyo, which can do no more than advise General MacArthur. The council consists of a representative each of America, Russia, China and Australia. The Australian delegate also represents Great Britain, New Zealand and India.
– General MacArthur ir virtually a dictator.
– I shall put it this way : General MacArthur, as Supreme Commander, must have tremendous power. He is enforcing the terms of the armistice.
– Surrender, not armistice.
– That is so, but I am not dealing with the technical distinction between the two. These are the facts. The absence of policy direction from Washington, or the delay in it resulting from the system which I have mentioned, is embarrassing to the administrative body in Japan, which is supposed to deal with the detailed execution of policy. That policy should be settled by the Far Eastern Commission at Washington.
– Does General MacArthur consider himself to be bound by the advice of the Advisory Council?
– No. It is solely an advisory body. However, under the Moscow Agreement, he is bound by the decisions of the Far Eastern Commission, which are subject to veto. ‘Some policy directives have issued from the Commission, and they have been binding on him.
– What countries have the power of veto?
– The United States of America, Russia, China and the United Kingdom.
– Why has Russia the same veto power as the other three nations in relation to Japan’s affairs when it was at war with Japan for only a few days?
– That was agreed upon by the Council of Foreign Ministers. It was the only basis on which Russia would accept membership of the Commission.
– What is the relationship between the Advisory Council in Japan and the Far Eastern Commission?
– The policy governing the occupation of Japan, which is binding on General MacArthur, is determinable by the Commission at Washington. The advisory body at Tokyo is merely there to advise the Supreme Commander as to the details of the policy, which should be settled, and settled fairly promptly, at Washington. Therefore, delay in the determination of that policy means that the advisory body has much less to do than it would otherwise. It deals with administrative and executive matters, as distinct from policy matters.
– Was the framing of the new Japanese Constitution dealt with by both the Far Eastern Commission and the advisory body at Tokyo?
– The answer to that question will be an excellent illustration of the position. The constitution was not referred to the Japanese people; it was made by the Japanese Diet. Certain aspects of it were objected to by countries represented on the Far Eastern Commission, but the United States representatives said very strongly, in effect: “ Well, we must make a start in this business. Let the constitution operate.” Other countries, including Australia, said : “ Yes, but let there be a provision in the constitution that the Japanese people may review it after some years of operation.” The fact is that the constitution has been formally promulgated in Japan without the additional provision for a review having yet become operative. However, we hope that it will be made operative. In other words, the machinery which I have mentioned causes delay, which tends to prevent the full operation of the decisions of the overwhelming majority of members of the Ear Eastern Commission at Washington.
Sitting suspended from 12.89 to 2.15 p.m.
– I propose to deal now with three matters relating particularly to the South-West Pacific: first, the matter of regional security, with particular reference to Manus Island; secondly, the welfare of the native peoples of that area ; and thirdly, the particular problem of the administration of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea.
With regard to the general problem of Pacific security: Having regard to the experiences of the war, it has been the policy of the Government - the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has announced it, and the late Mr. Curtin did so previously - to secure some satisfactory regional system which would not exclude the system of security to be provided for by. the United Nations Organization, but would be supplementary to it. Manus Island furnishes an illustration of the problem, and I shall therefore refer shortly to it. Manus Island is in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. A base was established on it by our allies, the United States of America, during the war, and that base was of great importance. With regard to the use of the base in these post-war years, two extreme views have been put. One is the extreme view, expressed in some quarters, that the war is over ; the United States of America did this as a part of its war effort in the Pacific; the island is under Australian control, and there is no further function for the United States of America to perform. The other view is equally extreme, namely, that although the security of this Admiralty group of islands, of which Manus Island is the main territory in question, has been gained in part by the efforts of Australian troops - and not this island only, but also the whole area of New Guinea, is sacred soil to Australians - Australia should say that if the United States of America wants to have control of Manus Island, it may have that control. That would be an impossible position in point of international law and practice, because Australia is a trustee or mandatory over it, and the matter could not be settled in that way. The Government has taken neither view. We have had consultations with the British Government and the New Zealand Government, in relation not to Manus Island only but to the whole matter of Pacific regional security. We have said, in substance, that we should like to continue, in time of peace, that co-operation with the United States of America in the security of this region for defensive purposes which we enjoyed during the war, and that therefore we would be prepared, in conjunction with the other British countries concerned, to enter into an honorable, self-respecting arrangement which would provide, among other things, for - by way of illustration - the reciprocal use of bases in that area. Under such an arrangement - again by way of illustration - it would be possible for the American Navy to use facilities at Manus Island, but not control them. In the same way, our Navy and Air Force would be able to use facilities that are controlled directly by the United States of America, the matter of finance and of the proper places to be selected to be determined after the principle had been agreed upon.” I submit that, if that intermediate view found acceptance, it would do justice to the tremendous effort of the United States of America in the Pacific, and would also maintain the position of Australia in the SouthWest Pacific. Much has been published in the newspapers, proceeding from some committee or other which does not speak with the authority of the Government of the United .States of America. But broadly, this view commended itself to the British Government, to the New Zealand Government, and to those American authorities with whom I discussed the matter. I do not want to say much more about it, because, so far as I know, negotiations are still in train; I have no reason to think otherwise.
– Has not the American Navy “walked out”?
– I do not think so. There may have been a withdrawal of some of the forces that had been there. The honorable member surely would not support the proposition that, although this territory is under Australian control, and although Australian forces have contributed unstintingly to its security in their efforts for the common defence of these parts against Japanese aggression, we should relinquish control at the dictate of another country! The United States of America, I am certain, would not wish that Jo be done; and I am sure that the Australian people would not tolerate it. That involves no criticism of the United States of America, but it is a frank statement of our position.
– Is there not power under the- Charter of the United Nations to transfer a trusteeship?
– We have never been a trustee of the territory. The mandate system remains until a new trustee system is established. I would not regard a unilateral entry of any country as a satisfactory solution of a problem which is not confined to Manus Island as a base. This is only a part of the Pacific picture, and it cannot be isolated from the other areas in the Pacific. The two extreme views that I have mentioned are always cropping up. One has been expressed in this House by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who played such an important part in Australia’s obtaining control of New Guinea. He would not tolerate any mutual agreement. On the other hand there is the view, which seems to me to be equally extreme and wrong, that we should say to the United States of America, “ Here it is. Incidentally, it is not ours ; we are only a trustee or mandatory over it. Do what you like “. Prom the conversations that I had with Mr. Byrnes, Admiral Nimitz, and others, I had every reason to suppose that a satisfactory arrangement would be come to, not aimed against any country but with a view to sharing the necessary expense and the heavy obligation imposed by the defence of such a vast area of the Pacific. I have no reason to suppose that some such arrangement will not be come to. Perhaps it has been postponed because of the tremendous concentration of the American State Department on the other international problems to which I made reference this morning. Manus Island is only one of the places that are involved in a proper regional plan for the reciprocal use of bases. Also involved is the use of other bases, including British possessions such as Fiji, possessions held jointly such as Canton, and New Zealand possessions. I believe that to be the way in which the burden of defence can bie shared by peace-loving nations, not aimed against any country but for defence purposes only.
The second matter to which I want to refer is the welfare of the peoples of this vast area. I only want to point out that, in accordance with an agreement that had been made with New Zealand, the Prime Minister and I, at the Conference of Prime Ministers, sought the co-operation of the British Government in the establishment of a permanent advisory commission for the South Seas which, dealing not with political or boundary matters, but with the most important matter of all - the welfare of the native peoples of Melanesian and Polynesian areas throughout the region - would endeavour to meet regularly and have a permanent organization for the exchange of information, and whose members would afford help . to one another. The idea of such a commission has been approved by the Government of Great Britain, and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand conjointly have invited the United States of America, Great Britain, France and the Netherlands to a conference to be held in Canberra in January. I am sure that those countries will participate in that important part of the south-west Pacific welfare work.
On the 7th August last, reference was made in this Parliament to the trusteeship proposal in relation to New Guinea. The Government is committed to the principle of international trusteeship of dependent territories, by which a country in control of an area subject to a trusteeship is bound to give an account of its stewardship to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations. The draft agreement which we have put before the Assembly of the United Nations in New York was set out in the statement made in this chamber by the Prime Minister on the 7th August. The substance of the statement was that Australia, as the sole mandatory power, would continue to be the sole trustee, and that the furtherance of the welfare of the natives of New Guinea would be the main purpose of the trust. It was provided that Australia should have control over New Guinea in conjunction with Papua, and have greater power in respect of the defence of those territories than was given under the original mandate. Under the proposed Article 7 of the trusteeship agreement, Australia would have authority to take nil measures considered desirable for the defence of the territory and for the maintenance of international peace and security in that area.
Some criticism has been heard in New York that countries have been loth to carry out the principles of the. Charter of the United Nations in relation to trusteeships. That is not correct as far us British countries are concerned. It cannot truthfully be said concerning Australia and its administration of New Guinea, of New Zealand with regard to Samoa, or of Great Britain in respect of its Pacific possessions. The administration of New Guinea will continue to bc vested in Australia, as though this territory were part of the Commonwealth itself, but we shall be bound year by year to supply answers to relevant questions as to whether we are carrying out he terms of the trust. Some countries ure setting out dozens of obligations in their draft agreements which would be impracticable with regard to New Guinea. If Australia is to be entrusted with .the administration of New Guinea, it must be trusted to administer it in accordance with the spirit and letter of the Charter.
– In what way have the Marshall and Caroline Islands been disposed of?
– They are among the C “ class mandates which were administered by Japan, and which, contrary to the terms of the mandate, were fortified by Japan long before World War IT. Although two charges were made to that effect, the Japanese Government, denied the allegation and the denials were readily accepted. It was stated recently that the United States of America intended to put a proposal to the United Nations Assembly that that country should have sole trusteeship of those two areas. Without the matter having been dealt with in particular by the Commonwealth Government, I would say, broadly, that it would welcome the granting of the trusteeship of those islands to the United States of America.
– That power would have the right to erect fortifications.
– The very basis of the trusteeship would be that those islands should be security areas.
Mi-. Archie Cameron. - Under the old mandate that right was not given.
– That is so. That is why, under the proposed trusteeship in respect of New Guinea, we desire to have the right to fortify that territory in the interests of international peace. I have no doubt that the United States of America will expect a similar right in the Marshall and Caroline Islands. This matter of security areas cannot be dealt with by the United Nations Assembly.
– In the peace treaty negotiations with Japan, one power will have the right of veto.
– I do not think so, unless it is given as a result of control by the Security Council. In the proposal which Australia puts forward for a trusteeship in respect of New Guinea, Australia asks for the right of defence. The proposal in respect of the Marshall and Caroline Islands has been published in the press only within the last 48 hours. I do not think the procedure can be determined until the Peace Treaty is made.
– Would those islands be under an international trusteeship ?
– Only in the loose sense of the term. I understand that the proposal is that the United States of America should he the sole administrative authority, and would have to give an account of its stewardship year by year, as Australia does with regard to New Guinea. Having accepted an international obligation in respect of New Guinea, I consider that there is a great deal of good in the idea of giving a report from year to year to an international body as to what is taking place in those territories. Had that been done more directly with regard to the Japanese mandated territories, the facts would have been discovered much earlier than they were, and the conditions of the native peoples in those areas would have been better than they have been.
– In the event of the natives being dissatisfied with the administration, would they have power to obtain relief?
– There are limited powers to send to the trust territories under conditions to be agreed upon, visitors consisting of an equal number of administrative authorities and nontrustee authorities. They would have no power to take away trusteeship, but the force of public opinion and discussion would be relied upon to improve the conditions of the native peoples, if they were dissatisfied. So the position of Australia with regard to New Guinea is important. This agreement is a contribution which it has been proper to make in accordance with the spirit of the mandate, which 1 claim Australia has carried out faithfully and well over a long period of years. I have endeavoured to cover a vast field, and I am much indebted to honorable members for their patience. To sum up, let me say that we shall continue to make the fullest contribution possible to the work of the United Nations according to the principles laid down in its Charter and in the Atlantic Charter. Emphasis on security alone is not enough. W e must take our place with others in an attempt to deal with economic problems. Australia is not a member of the Economic and ‘Social Council, but it is a member of the principal commissions established by that council. However, we believe that it is wrong to multiply unduly the number of international organizations. One by one they have come into existence, and ‘ there is a danger that there will be eventually too many of them. They should be brought into close association with the United Nations organization itself.
The primary interest of Australia is in the Pacific. Indeed, Australia and New Zealand may be regarded as trustees for British democracy, particularly in the western Pacific. That is not to say that we should not, or cannot, play a part in other regions, as in promoting a Euro pean settlement. The principles laid down in one set of treaties tend to be accepted in the formulation of other treaties. We have had an eye to the Japanese treaty even when treaties with European countries were under consideration. All this does not mean that we do not intend to maintain the closest consultation with the Government of Great Britain. That suggestion has sometimes been put forward, but there is no basis foi it. The relations between the Governments of Great Britain and the Commonwealth are as close, if not closer, to-day that at any time in our history. That is not to say that we are necessarily in agreement on every point. The characteristic feature of the British Commonwealth of Nations is that it is possible for its members to disagree, “but that there Ls certainty of agreement on all major issues. We have been working in particularly close association with New Zealand. Anything which Australia has been able to achieve at the various international conferences has been due, not only to the hard work of our own delegations, but also to the unfailing assistance received from the representatives of New Zealand.
It should be understood that when I criticized the exercise of the power of veto, I did not wish to indicate that an impasse had been reached in international affairs. I have stated my own viewsfrankly, and although members of the Opposition may not always agree with them - particularly with those I expressed in regard to Soviet Russia early in the§ year - I believe that it would be a mistake to proceed on the assumption that the United Nations will not, and cannot, succeed. It has been in existence only since last January, and the first meeting of the Assembly took place in London. In San Francisco, we struggled very hard to obtain, as a counter-balance to the veto, recognition of the principle that the Assembly should have full power to discuss every point raised. I believe that the discussions now taking place will help to remove many of the causes of ill will. As Soviet Russia has exercised the veto, and is the only permanent member of the Council to do so, the tendency is to concentrate criticism upon the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, it would be wrong not to recognize the enormous contribution which Russia made to the victory of the Allies in the war.
– Is the Minister now trying to qualify what he said this morning?
– I am not trying to qualify it; I am trying to present a fair picture of the situation. A country which lost between 5,000,000 and 7,000,000 people killed during the war must necessarily have proved itself a great ally. Various phrases have been coined in discussions on this problem. There are those who would say, “ Don’t get tough with Russia “. I suggest that there is an equally important principle which Russia must, observe, namely, not to get tough with the democracies. We have stated openly our views on the veto. Those expressions of opinion have sometimes been received with a resentment which is difficult to understand. However, the proper thing is simply to point out that the retention of the power of veto will simply result in making the Security
I deprecate a pessimistic attitude at this early stage in the life of the United Nations; but I insist that we should not lightly give up certain principles which we regard as vital. The worst policy is to state that certain principles must be adhered to, and then, after the lapse of a few weeks, to give them up. Such action merely causes suspicion and misunderstanding. It has been truly said, of course, that a country like Australia cannot expect to have an organization of its own choosing, but I have always kept firmly in mind the contribution which our servicemen made in both world wars. We must do everything to preserve peace. Reference was made this morning to the regulation of armaments. It is not a matter of regulating armaments. The atomic bomb is one thing which must be considered, but we do not want just a new set of Marquess of Queensberry rules for the conduct of war. If the atomic bomb is outlawed, what about the 12-ton block buster? The real enemy is not the atomic bomb, but war itself. It might be said that the real enemy is not even war, but the economic and social injustices which lead to war. We are now doing our best to achieve, after victory in war, something that is even harder to obtain, namely, peace associated with political, social and economic, justice. Let us remember always that peace hath her victories no less renowned than war. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Foreign Affairs - Ministerial Statement, 8th November, 1946, and move-
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take this opportunity to refer to alleged irregularities reported in the press in connexion with the electoral rolls to be used for the Ashfield byelection in New South Wales, which is to take place to-morrow. In addition to the overall allegations, a final allegation has been made which casts some reflection upon myself in relation to my occupancy of a seat in this chamber as the representative of the electors of the division of Parkes, which includes the Ashfield sub-division. In order to illustrate what reliance can be placed on statements on this subject published in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph, I point out that I had an awareness of what was taking place, and accordingly submitted to those two newspapers what I believe was a fair and honest explanation of the situation, but neither of them published it. In the circumstances, I feel justified in asking the House to hear what I consider to be a fair statement in relation to what, to my mind, appears to he the widely exaggerated testimony of the Liberal party organizer who is trying to establish an alibi in connexion with the death of liberalism in the Ashfield district to-morrow. Mr. F. R. Burton, who is organizing secretary of the Liberal party, has alleged that more than 1,000 namesare on the electoral roll for the Ashfield constituency by some trick or mischance. He is reported to have said that -
Many of the 1,000 non-residents on the rolls had never been known to residents of the district, some were enrolled at non-existent Chouses, and others had been dead five years.
The statement is full of incidents and coincidences. The death of those people five years ago occurred .about the same time as the death of the party now known as the Liberal party, when the Labour party, led hy the late John Curtin, came into power in the Commonwealth sphere. Their weak ghosts still haunt this chamber, but the Liberal party is dead. There is nothing new in a charge that 1,000 electors .are enrolled for a district in which they do not reside, lt is easy for that number of electors not to live in the district for which they are enrolled; but that does not necessarily mean that they are fictitious. Owing to the absence of men with the fighting services it was -difficult to maintain an adequate staff to deal with the rolls. Moreover, it must be remembered that many of the rolls for the recent federal elections were sent to the printers as early >as May of this year. There is a continuous revision of the rolls by the electoral authorities. This Liberal party organizer, who was brought in possibly because he was a good salesman of soft soap, is not an authority on the compilation of rolls; he does not know anything about the job. He has given a gratuitous insult to the electoral officers, who are both efficient and impartial. There is no doubt a simple explanation of the matter to which such prominence has been given.
– The question is, did they vote?
– It appears that no check has been made of this ridiculous statement. There has been no intention to check it. The Liberal candidate for the Ashfield by-election to-morrow is the same man whom I defeated in the recent election for the Federal Division of Parkes. This accusation of wholesale irregularities looks like a last-minute attempt to explain why after to-morrow’s by-election he will again be left out in the cold. No charge against either the political morality of the people of the Division of Parkes or the efficiency and impartiality of the electoral officers for that constituency can be sustained. That charges of this nature should be given such wide publicity is only a part of a campaign against me by two newspapers for whom I have had the distinction of working and the common sense to leave their employment. It may be that I have a sense of martyrdom in this matter because I cannot get any rebuttal of these charges published. That is due to the censorship exercised by those two newspapers of any statement submitted by me on behalf of the 60,000 electors whom I represent. Mr. Burton went on to say that -
After the Ashfield by-election a further check would be made to discover if any of the 1,000 non-residents who were on the Ashfield roll had voted in the Parkes division at the federal elections.
I should be glad if that investigation did take place, and I say in all seriousness that I would be loath to occupy a seat in this House through any misrepresentation. The campaign in Parkes was hard fought, but it was fair and above-board. I have the distinction of having wrested from the Liberal party one of its blue-ribbon seats. I have held that seat for some years; I hold it now, and I shall hold it in the future. I have no fear of any investigation of this matter. The Liberals are annoyed because the prognostications of their leader, who was so definite that Parkes would fall to the Liberal party, were not fulfilled. They are sore, too, because their leader prophesied that, in addition to losing Parkes, the Labour party would lose Boothby and Lilley. Despite those optimistic predictions, those constituencies are still represented by members of the Labour party. I admit that my majority in the recent election was small - only 164 votes - but the election was won honestly. In all fairness, I think that I ought to say that that majority was contributed to by the presence in the Parkes electorate of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) on two occasions. I invite him there again at the earliest opportunity, because I would like him to strengthen my position in the electorate. I was gratified also to find that the British Medical Association, knowing of my association with the Social Security Committee and of the Government’s intention to introduce certain social service legislation, did me the honour of opposing me. A distinguished, but tired, doctor, who works 865 days a year was impelled by a sense of duty to leave his scalpel, and disregard his duties to the. sick, in order to direct the campaign on behalf of my opponent. That was a splendid effort. I may even call it a noble Christian effort. The statement regarding the 1,000 votes may easily be explained. As f have said, the statement is made and given publicity notwithstanding that its accuracy has not been checked. Even Liberal party canvassers are not infallible. A good deal could be said regarding a number of votes which were not recorded. I refer particularly to the votes of ex-servicemen who were told by Liberal party canvassers that there was no need for any ex-serviceman to fill in any forms because no one could deny a vote to a soldier. I can produce statutory declarations to that effect. In the Parkes electorate as many as 2,000 ex-servicemen were denied the franchise because of the advice given to them by Liberals who knew that most ex-servicemen would vote for Labour candidates. Because of misrepresentation of the facts, many hundreds of ex-servicemen, who of all the citizens of Australia were morally entitled to vote, were denied the franchise and thereby deprived of one of the freedoms for which they fought. They were cheated out of their rights by political chicanery. That was the most serious aspect of the matter. Before I leave the subject of alleged irregularities, may I say that there is a certified list of electors available in all electorates. If the list be examined it will be found that the people who moved out of the electorate did so for only one reason. The electorate is a built-up area and there is little room to build additional houses. The thousand people who left that area, since the rolls were printed vacated accommodation in rooms and occupied houses built by the State Government. They would not have lived in the Parkes electorate but for the misdeeds of past governments of the political complexion of honorable members opposite. This story of irregularities in the Parkas election is hut a figment of the imagination, a good story conjured up in the minds of the campaign director for the Liberals, and as such should have been investigated by conscientious subeditors before publication.
There never has been in this country anything more undemocratic than the way the postal vote has been collected. If one looks at the figures one finds that unless the Labour candidate has been a resident in the electorate for many years he has no chance of securing his due proportion of postal votes. If I never held a seat in Parliament again, I would not allow one of my Campaign workers to put a pen in the palsied hand of a paralytic in order to secure a vote, nor would I do, as has been done in the Parkes electorate, put old ladies sleeping two a bed in order to influence a vote. These practices belong to the “ jiggerypokery “ of a defeated party. Such tactics are contemptuous and I would have nothing to do with them. Since allegations have been made in relation to irregularities at Ashfield, may I point to some irregularities that have occurred in relation to the postal vote.
Mr. Abbott interjecting,
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) knows more about bulls and the wide open spaces than about electoral matters, Perhaps, with the assistance of his campaign director, he would be able to put two and two together. 3 suggest that he listens to what I have to say. If in an electorate of 63,000 people the margin of votes was so close that I or another candidate obtained a majority of only one in 550 electors, one would say that that was a close contest, that it was ideal and democratic where the people indicated by their vote that their elected member would need to keep on his toes and do a good job. If, however, in the counting of the postal votes in my electorate, in which 63,000 people voted closely for myself and my opponent, il were found that the majority against me was 12 to 1, even such an ignorant man as the honorable member for New England would agree that there was something wrong in the state of Ashfield and points west. The whole question of postal voting must be looked into. I gladly accept the verdict of the electorate; I have no complaints to make, no squealing, nr, moaning at the bar. i say to that protagonist of lost causes, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition .(Mr. Harrison), that 1 would be prepared to race on the same course again. The question of the postal vote is a serious one indeed and sooner or later the Government must come to the realization that by the postal vote we get not a democratic vote, but a biased and influenced vote.
We shall also have to come to a decision about the lying reports furnished in statements about election expenses. There has been a recent amendment of the act which allows additional expenses to be incurred, but to-day, because of the extreme pressure exerted in political campaigns thousands instead of hundreds of pounds are expended on election campaigns.
The charges of possible irregularities in the Ashfield by-election to-morrow have not been sustained. Postal voting as we know it to-day is a screaming scandal and we shall have to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act so that our voting may remain democratic in the future.
Mr. HARRISON (Wentworth) [3.0’J.- I would not have intruded into the private fight of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) had he not mentioned my name. When I asked a question this morning relative to the electoral rolls in the subdivision of Ashfield, my sole purpose was to endeavour to elicit information of benefit to the people. The honorable member for Parkes must not believe that his explanation means the end of these inquiries; it is really only the beginning. No doubt he will be placed in the unfortunate position in the future once again of having to make an apology, or of having an apology made on his behalf, for having made statements that cannot be verified. The honorable member has had an unfortunate experience in that regard in the past. What he did not explain was how it came about that dead men were able to vote for him, nor how certain people who were no longer domiciled in his electorate did likewise. With a grand flourish he said, “ We believe that the postal vote is not as it should be. We would not place a pen in the palsied hand of a paralytic “. But he did not explain why the facsimile signature on a vote which is now in the hands of the Criminal Investigation Department has been denied by the person whose signature it purported to be, and that the person who represented himself to be the justice of the peace who witnessed the signature was not in fact a justice of the peace at all. The honorable member surely does not believe that by a mere cursory explanation he can get. away with that. There is considerably more to it than appears on the surface. The voting in Parkes will bear close investigation.
I propose now to say a few words with regard to service votes. In order to enable servicemen to exercise the franchise a form was issued to them and after they had certified that they had been overseas and had previously lived in a certain part of an electorate they were permitted to cast a vote. I discussed the manner in which this exercise of the franchise was administered with the Divisional Returning Officer for Wentworth who informed me that the serviceman’s vote was, in broad terms, an “ open slather “. He said, “ We did not check whether the soldier had been overseas or whether he had actually resided in the electorate he claimed to have resided in prior to going overseas “. I said to him, “ A serviceman may have actually lived in Bondi-road but claimed to have lived in Burwood and by thi3 means have secured a vote in both electorates.” The Divisional Returning Officer said, “ He could do more than that; he could vote in Bondi, Burwood, and even in the electorates of Martin and New England if he liked “. In endeavouring to cover up irregularities, the honorable member for Parkes does nothing for the advancement of democracy and does a disservice both to himself and to the country. Such an attempt is contrary to our great democratic principles. When he seeks to dispose of these irregularities merely by some cursory explanation he reflects no credit on himself. I do not wish to deal further with the matter at this juncture, but I shall have something more to say about it later.
My main purpose in rising is to draw attention to allegations of very great importance. Some time ago I received information which caused me great concern, namely, that in Sydney three trunks had been seized by customs officers, the trunks bearing the name of an ex-Minister of a previous Labour Government. Those trunks contained jewellery, cosmetics and other articles which were dutiable, and some person sought to have them passed through the customs without payment of duty. I pursued my investigations and contacted the Comptroller of Customs, who satisfied me that the facts were as stated. There happened to be employed by Australian War Supplies Procurement at Washington a Miss Rosetta Kelly, who was offered a position in Australia in either the Import Procurement Division or the Customs Department at a salary of something like £600 a year. She came out to Australia and brought with her 30 pieces of personal luggage. Three of those trunks were seized by customs officers. I knew that this woman had been interrogated, and had been sent back on the Marine Falcon whilst the offer of employment to her in Australia was not effected. I also knew that certain high officers within the Division of Import Procurement were suspect in the matter. I immediately made a public statement upon the subject, as I felt it my public duty to do so, challenging the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to deny these allegations. The Prime Minister with an almost friendly gesture replied that I must know that every Minister who returns to Australia must declare his luggage. Of course, I knew that. He said that the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) had to declare his luggage, and also that a certain Labour senator had made a false declaration and the Collector of Customs in Sydney had been told to deal lightly with him. Like the flowers that bloom in the spring, the Prime Minister’s reply had nothing to do with my charges, namely, that certain trunks were seized, that these contained goods which were dutiable, that the trunks bore the name of a very prominent ex-Minister, that an inquiry had been held and that Miss Kelly who would have been a very important witness in any subsequent court proceedings was shipped aboard the Marine Falcon and sent back to the United States of America instead of being kept in Sydney.
– What is her nationality ?
– She is an American.
– Who paid her fare back to America?
– That is something I do not know; and there are other facts which I do not know, but which I believe the House will subsequently demand to be told. Just as the Prime Minister adroitly evaded every reference by me to this matter during the election campaign, he again, in this chamber, through the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) evaded the very pertinent questions which I placed on the noticepaper. I took the first opportunity presented to me to place the following questions upon the notice-paper: -
To those questions the Minister for Trade and Customs supplied the following answers : -
The implications of this matter are very serious indeed. According to the answers supplied, Miss Kelly was employed by Australian War Supplies Procurement, at Washington, which is a section of the Division of Import Procurement. She was brought to Australia. She did not come of her own accord. She musthave been offered some inducement. She was offered the inducement of a secretarial position in a government department. Why was she offered that position? Because she was to be used as a “ stooge “ to bring to Australia certain goods that were dutiable but which certain officers were not prepared to bring out in their own luggage. My information is that the name which appeared on the trunks was not correct. I was told that the name which first appeared on them was that of “R. V. Keane”; whereas now the name appears as “ Mrs. R. V. Keane “. Why ? Mrs. Keane could have brought her own personal luggage; but it appears that Miss Kelly was used to bring out certain luggage, and that she was to be given a job in some department as recompense for bringing that luggage to Australia. Interrogation would reveal whether Miss Kelly was told that the trunks she was bringing out contained departmental documents. I believe that she was guiltless in this matter. I believe that she was told that she was bringing out trunks which contained departmental documents whereas the. trunks contained dutiable goods. Thus, innocent of that fact, she was used in an attempt to smuggle those goods into Australia. I say that some one in the department knew what those trunks contained, and knew that if they had been marked “ Mrs. R. V. Keane “ and were placed with her personal luggage the contents would have been disclosed immediately. I believe that some officer in the department marked those trunks and that Miss Kelly was told that they contained departmental documents; and that the officer concerned thought that he could obtain control of the trunks as they came through to the department. If my suspicions are not correct, why was Miss Kelly, who would be a most important witness if the Crown proposed to take action subsequently, allowed to leave Australia ? The department must answer that charge. Miss Kelly would have been a principal witness in any proceedings. She would have been able to say who placed the trunks in her control, what information she was given as to what the trunks contained, why she was offered a job in the Customs Department in Australia, why she was allowed to come to Australia, and, if she was not offered a job, who paid her fare. I do not believe that she came here for her own personal reasons, bringing goods of that description. The whole case is so involved that it must be subjected to the closest investigation. I should like to know whether the matter is now in the hands of the Crown Law authorities. Although nearly three months have passed since the incident occurred, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) informed me this morning that he did not know anything about it. He admitted that the case may be in the hands of the Crown Law authorities, but that he had no knowledge of it. Does the right honorable gentlemon mean to tell me that this incident has not been discussed by Cabinet? Does he expect us to believe that all the implications associated with it are not realized by the Government? I venture to suggest that the Attorney-General knows the story, and I warn him that legal proofeedings are not likely to suceed if the principal witness cannot be brought into the court, interrogated, and subjected to cross-examination. This incident, happening in a department which peculiarly lends itself to these practices, must be thoroughly investigated. If the department of Trade and Customs is not a “ clean “ department, I must conclude that, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Public Service, the Government is lending itself to the creation of suspicion regarding one of its principal departments.
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- In his usual suspicious manner, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) endeavoured to explain to the House exactly the position regarding postal voting, why dead men vote and all the factors associated with unsubstantiated statements made in two organs of the Liberal party known as the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Daily Telegraph. We in this House are we aware of the fact that, in politics, certain things might happen occasionally which are not above board, but, personally, I am not prepared to put up with the insinuation made by the honorable member for Wentworth that honorable members on this side of the chamber, and those people who support us, are responsible for these tactics. In the opinion of the honorable member for Wentworth, the only political party in Australia today which is infallible is the Liberal party, of which he is a member.
Mr. Athol Richardson, the Liberal candidate in the Ashfield by-election, and other persons, are reported to have made vile, unsubstantiated attacks on the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) after his magnificent victory on the 28th September last, and on the organizers of the Labour party’s campaign. As responsible citizens, they should not make such statements without putting forward facts in support of them. To-day, I received a telegram from one of my supporters who is conducting the campaign on behalf of the official candidate of the
Labour party in the Haberfield subdivision of the Ashfield electorate, which, incidentally, comes within the federal electorate of Martin. On behalf of that gentleman, those associated with him in that campaign, and other supporters of the official Labour party in the Ashfield electorate, I declare that the Labour movement in that constituency Ls not associated with these tactics. This is just one more attempt by the Liberal party to gain votes for a very discredited person, Mr. Richardson, who is the Liberal party’s candidate in the Ashfield byelection to-morrow.
The honorable member for Parkes defended himself so ably that it is hardly necessary for me to speak on his behalf. I point out, however, the low and despicable nature of these tactics, when newspapers, which declared him “ black ‘* for their own personal and biased reasons, endeavour to deprive him of the credit due to him and to the Labour party for holding Parkes, which was formerly a blue-ribbon stronghold of the United Australia party. In my opinion, these allegations represent an attempt by Mr. Richardson to gain a few votes by endeavouring to discredit our candidate and organization. He is attempting to bolster up his falling stocks with a new story. His purpose is to divert attention from the issues involved in the byelection. Prom reports its appears that Mr. Richardson is the moving figure behind the charges that have been made. I hold in my hand a copy of to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, a wellknown supporter of the Liberal party. It reports Mr. Richardson as having said -
I was defeated in Parkes by 104 votes.
The decision to make inquiries in this election was made following information given to me by responsible people that there had been double voting in every subdivision in the Parkes electorate.
When it was discovered that more than 1,000 people were wrongly enrolled in the Ashfield State electorate, the names of these people were entered in a book, a copy of which will be given to each scrutineer.
That statement, which was attributed to Mr. Richardson, shows quite clearly that he is still lamenting the fact that the honorable member for Parkes continues to occupy his seat in this House. To-morrow,
Mr. Richardson will have to fight for his political existence. These charges are one more attempt on his behalf to divert the fire of the Labour party from him and the campaign generally by raising side issues. Let us consider Mr. Richardson’s record of attendance in the State Parliament. By comparison, the coal-miners, waterside workers and other unionists, whom he constantly attacks, have a 100 per cent, record of attendance. While Mr. Richardson was member for Ashfield in the Parliament of New South Wales in 1944-45 and 1945-46 he attended only 18 out of 55 divisions in the House, and 37 divisions out of 68 in committee. Generally speaking, his record throughout his whole parliamentary life, and particularly in recent years in New South Wales, has been one of gross absenteeism. Therefore, I do not wonder that this individual is particularly anxious that the electors of Ashfield shall not have time to read his sorry record of attendance in the State Parliament.
When honorable members opposite ask for an examination of the postal votes in Parkes, they should also ask for a scrutiny of the postal votes in Swan and other electorates, where the anti-Labour candidate had a majority of only 200 votes. The real explanation of these charges is that honorable members opposite cannot “ take it “. At the last elections, they were almost annihilated, and now, they snatch at straws in an effort to “ get away “ with one more seat. They had to rely on a new member of the House to take their fight for them into the Labour party’s camp. When their allegations are answered concisely and clearly, as the honorable member for Parkes and others answered them, they still cannot “ take it “, and their outcry continues. I say to the people of Australia, and to the electors of Ashfield, that the allegations contained in the Sydney press this morning have no foundation. The honorable member for Parkes put up an excellent defence. The Labour party knows the outstanding qualifications of Mr. Peters, who is carrying its banner. Respectable people will not be associated with this deliberate attempt to discredit him. The honorable member for Wentworth demanded inquiries into the various allegations by a royal commission, but the whole of his information rested upon unsubstantiated statements of the organizers of the Liberal party. I am gratified to have had this opportunity to speak in support of the honorable member for Parkes, and to expose the individuals who are supporting the interests of the Liberal party in- the Ashfield by-election. I am pleased to be able to expose Mr. Richardson’s sorry record in the State Parliament, and to place on record my regret that he has to stoop to such tactics in an endeavour to gain the votes of the people.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) to a matter of serious consequence to former members of the Royal Australian Air Force, and particularly the Air Force Association. Correspondence which I have received from a number of branches of this organization in my electorate point out that the Commonwealth Government proposes to take £400,000 from the Royal Australian Air Force Canteens Fund and to place the money into Consolidated Revenue. On behalf of the Air Force Association I protest strongly against that proposal. In the first place, this large sum of money should never have been amassed by a welfare organization. It was built up only by charging high prices for the goods sold in the Air Force canteens. When it became apparent that funds were accumulating, prices should have been reduced so that Australian airmen serving in all parts of the world would havebenefited and increased amenities should have been provided. However, the fund is there, and the question now arising is the manner in which it is to be disbursed. As I have said, the Government proposes to appropriate £400,000 now in the fund and to place it in Consolidated Revenue. I regard that as a most unjust method of dealing with a canteens fund, and I ask the Minister for Air to make a full and prompt statement on this preposterous proposal which is causing great concern. The wishes of members ofl the Air Force Association should be given the fullest consideration. They believe that some of this money at least should be made available to the dependants of deceased airmen who are in necessitous circumstances and that assistance should also be given to men whose disablement on active service has prevented them from resuming their normal avocations, or from earning a reasonable livelihood. To this end a trust should be established in each of the States. This is only the first shot, and I ask that a full statement of the facts be made now or at least as soon as the House resumes next week.
– I support the representations that have been made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) in regard to the Royal Australian Air Force Canteens Fund. I am not aware of the Government’s intentions, and I hope that a full statement will be made. It would be improper and dishonest for the Government to seize this money and place it in Consolidated Revenue-. The honorable member for Moreton believes that the sum involved is £400,000. I have before me a document which was displayed in all Royal Australian Air Force canteens. I shall read a few lines of it to refresh the memory of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) as to what was said during the war about the future of canteen funds. I propose later to- put three questions on the notice-paper with regard to this matter. The document is headed “ Facts about Royal Australian Air Force Canteen Services “. It commences1 - “Who Gets the Canteen Profits?” We know this question is still being asked - but have you the right answer?
Further on it states -
The Need for Profit. - Perhaps you wonder why prices in the canteens are not lower - in fact, why is it necessary to make a’ profit at all?. The Air Board has provided that sufficient profit has been made to -
Pay to each Unit Welfare Committee direct an amount equal to 2 per cent, of the unit canteen sales.
Provide an additional amount equal to 2 per cent, of the total sales of all canteens, to be available for special welfare grants at the discretion of the Central Committee,
Create and maintain a reserve to meet contingencies incidental to the conduct of such, a large undertaking.
– Does the honorable member think that he should table that document?
– I shall certainly use it again later if a satisfactory answer is not forthcoming. I was in the Royal Australian Air Force, and I know that canteen prices were not as low as they could have been. That is generally admitted, but Royal Australian Air Force personnel believed that the accumulating funds would be used to assist families of deceased or injured airmen, and to provide such services as technical training and educational benefits for returned airmen. That was done after the last war with the Army canteen funds in conjunction with the McCaughey bequest. Funds provided under the will of a wealthy grazier, Sir Samuel McCaughey, together with accumulated profits of Army canteens were used to educate thousands of dependants of ex-servicemen, some of whom were given university courses. Here we have a grand opportunity to perform a similar service far the dependants of some of the 180,000 men of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Another paragraph, in “Facts about Royal Australian Air Force Canteen Services “ states-: -
Disposal of Surplus Profits. - The disposal of surplus, canteen funds has received special, consideration, and in this regard it is intended, that undistributed profits not required by Canteen Serviceswill be made available to the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Fund, which, was formed recently to assist former Air Force members and their families who may need financial assistance.
This fund will be used to assist former Air Force members and. their families who may need financial, help..
That is an unequivocal statement and should not be departed from.
– Were the profits not invested in a fund controlled by trustees who have disposed of it ?
– There is a board, but the point I make is that this money was not intended to be put into general revenue or to be used in any way to make up for government losses or extravagance. It was intended to be used for the benefit of the people who subscribed it Do I make that clear?
– My point is-
– The honorable member can make his point later. I hope that the Government will not have the audacity to depart from the terms of the document from which I have quoted. The document states that the fund will be used to assist former Air Force members and their families who may need financial help. It also states -
Already a contribution has been made to the Australian Imperial Force Canteens Fund Trust (Sir Samuel McCaughey bequest) for the year 1945, this .being the initial contribution for the education of dependants of deceased and disabled members of this war.
The objects of the canteen service are then summarized. It states that the profits are to be used to maintain uniform prices, to provide funds necessary for welfare facilities, particularly in operational areas, and to provide a trust fund for the assistance of air force men and their families. That was all sales talk to help to sell the goods in the canteens. The Government must not betray those promises.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has quoted extensively from a document which must have an important bearing on the subject under discussion, in which I am interested. People in South Australia have approached me, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) about the matter. Could the document be tabled so that all honorable members may see its contents?
– I understand that the document is the private property of the honorable member for Balaclava.
– That is so. If the Minister’s reply to the representations of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and myself are not satisfactory, I shall supply the contents of the whole document to the House. However, I want to give the Government the opportunity to reply properly before I take any such action. There are pages of printed matter, and I do not want to clutter up the pages of Hansard with it. I shall show the document to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) later if he wants to read all of it. The questions which I propose to direct to the Minister are as follows : -
Will the Minister reply to those questions now, or will he give a considered reply next week?
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) are not the only members who have raised the matter of the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Fund with me. Within the last two or three days I have received in my office numbers of letters similar to those which have been sent to honorable members on both sides of the House asking for information on this subject, and making statements which are somewhat in line with those made this afternoon. I say to the honorable member for Balaclava now that I would prefer to give detailed answers to his questions next week, after I have had time to consider them, so that he will he satisfied that the matter is being thoroughly investigated. Judging from the letters forwarded to me, there seems to be a misapprehension that the Government has decided to make what is termed a “grab” of funds which do not rightfully belong to it. I do not believe that there is any justification foi that belief.
– Will the Minister make a full statement?
– Yes; but a great deal has been said, apart from the mere request for information, and I should like to consider the matter in detail. Any assumption that the Government intends to misuse funds raised on behalf of members of the Royal Australian Air Force through canteen profits is, in my opinion, without any justification whatever. Further than that, I would say that consideration has been given to the handling of canteen funds on a service basis. Whilst it has been alleged that Royal Australian Air Force members may suffer as a consequence of such action, I consider that they will benefit, because canteen profits obviously must have been greater in a service that was numerically much stronger than the Royal Australian Air Force. The matter has been investigated with a view to determining the best course to follow in the interests of relatives of persons who have been disabled or placed at a disadvantage as the result of their war service.
– Will the Minister consult with the trustees of the Army’s McCaughey bequest fund so that he may evolve a scheme that will be equally beneficial to Air Force members?
– A scheme has been evolved, or is in the process of being evolved. A statement was made some time ago, I think by the Treasurer, that a scheme was either receiving consideration or had already been established. Rather than make a statement now which might lead to misunderstanding, I shall undertake to make a complete reply later to the questions read by the honorable member for Balaclava and in a way that I believe will be satisfactory.
– Will the Minister make a full statement when the House meets next Wednesday? The questions prepared by the honorable member for Balaclava do not cover the whole position.
– I shall answer the questions and, if that does not cover the whole situation-
– Do not shuffle. Make a full statement.
– I do not know what the honorable member means by “shuffling”. If the answers to the ques tions do not cover the position satisfactorily I shall certainly make a statement as well. I have no objection to doing so, but, unlike the honorable member, I do not want to make a statement without a proper warrant for the information which I supply to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Postmaster-General - B. L.O. Trainor.
Works and Housing - B. B. Scobie.
House adjourned 3.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Has the Government agreed to the sale of pigmeats, surplus to Australian domestic requirements, to Great Britain for a period; if so. what is the period, and what is the price ?
d. - The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the right honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Payments to States include contributions to States’ Sinking Funds under the Federal Aid
Roads and Works Agreement 1937, amounting to £68,483 in each year.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 November 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1946/19461108_reps_18_189/>.