18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie - Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [10.31].- I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
It is proposed that the House shall meet on next Thursday morning. The Attorney-General will introduce the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill next Wednesday, and it is hoped to go on with the debate of that bill on the Wednesday following. Subject to the Stevedoring Bill being disposed of, time may be allotted next Wednesday, or on the following Tuesday, to a discussion of the statements made by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) on the international situation and by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on the International Conference on Trade and Employment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In view of the fact that a former assistant to the Director- General of Australian War Supplies Procurement in Washington has been fined £60 on charges of evasion of customs duties and in view also of the circumstances surrounding other cases at present under consideration by the Court, which gravely reflect upon officers of the Customs Department, will the Prime Minister immediately appoint a royal commission or committee of inquiry to ascertain the extent of attempts, within the administration of the Customs Department, to defraud the Commonwealth?
– I was not aware of the circumstances connected with the case in which a fine of £60 has been imposed.
I know of no reason why a royal commission should be appointed, but I will make investigations, and a full reply will be furnished later.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie- Prime.
Minister and Treasurer) [10.33]. - I lay on the table the following paper : -
Taxation - Twenty-sixth Report of Commissioner, dated 1st May, 1946, together with Statistical Appendices.
This report is dated the 1st May, 1946, and is made by Mr. L.. S. Jackson, who was the Commissioner of Taxation at that date. The ex-Commissioner desires me to say, in tabling it, that the delay in presenting it to the Parliament is due both to printing difficulties and to litigation that was pending concerning the correctness of the practice adopted . by him and his predecessor in giving in the schedule headed “ questionable returns “, individual names of persons who were regarded as having committed breaches or evasions of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The recent judgment of the Supreme Court in New South Wales has confirmed the validity of the practice mentioned.
Ordered to be printed.
Australians in Japan: Transport for wives and families.
– Has the Minister for the Army seen a report in a section of the press early this week that wives and families of officers and warrantofficers will be permitted to travel firstclass by rail to join the ship which will take them to Japan from Sydney, but the wives and families of other ranks will have to travel second-class? If so, what does he intend to do about it?
– My attention was drawn to that statement which appeared in the press. I immediately took up the matter with the Army authorities and issued an instruction that the wives and families of officers and all other ranks must be enabled to travel first class, and that all should be given the same conveniences and comfort while travelling by train to port. Whilst an officer may have travelling with him only his wife, a private soldier may be accompanied by his wife and two or three children, and the latter, I believe, should be entitled to as much comfort as the former. Consequently, I have issued instructions that the wives and children of both officers and other ranks shall travel first fi iiss.
– Last Wednesday, in the absence of the Minister for the Army, I directed to the Prime Minister a question, about the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan. I sought, from the right honorable gentleman complete details as to how the wives of servicemen in that area could make application, for permission to reside there. I stated my question at some length, and the right honorable gentleman undertook to obtain, the information from the Minister for the Army. What I am particularly anxious, to know is whether the information will be forthcoming to-day? If not, I should like an assurance that the details will be available when the House moots next Wednesday. “I have received ii number of inquiries about this matter, but I have not been able to obtain from the Department of the Army any clear and definite information.
– I can supply the information, immediately. The position i.« that the wife of a member of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan has no say as to whether she may proceed there.
– Who has ?
- Her husband. There was a time when I thought that the wives did have a voice in matters of this kind, but in this instance they have not. The serviceman himself must make a request to the Commander-in-Chief, LieutenantGeneral Robertson, for permission for his wife to proceed to Japan. His name is then placed on the priority list. When his turn comes, he is informed that accommodation will be made available for his wife in. Japan.
– Is the wife, while in Australia, required to obtain any information from the Department of the Army?
– She will receive all the necessary information from the department when to proceed to Japan.
– Will she be notified what articles she may take, and what she may not take?
– She will be informed of precisely what she can take. Presumably, the honorable member wants to know whether she can take her sewing machine or perambulator. I shall obtain for him full information relating to the matter.
– Should Australia now decide to become a member of the International Monetary Fund, will the Prime Minister give the terms on which this nation, will .be admitted? Is it a fact that the terms may be less advantageous now than had Australia become a foundation member within the specified time?
– The understanding under which the Government will agree to the ratification of the Bretton Woods Agreement will ,be that Australia be admitted to membership on the same terms applying to the foundation members.
– If such terms are not extended to Australia, what will happen then?
– In that case we should have to give further consideration to the matter. A condition of ratification is that we be admitted to membership on the terms applying to &n original member. As the right honorable gentleman is aware, certain important issues are associated with admittance to membership as an original member.
Empire Trade Preference
– In view of the statement by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction that it would be possible torn oke concessions at Geneva without involving tariff preference, will he give an. assurance to the House that no concession will be made that will affect our protective tariff? Will a certificate be given by the Tariff Board -to this effect, and’ will he lay such certificate on the table?’
Will he give an assurance that no action will be taken to- abandon the preferences obtained at Ottawa without the consent of the Parliament?
– I can give, at once the assurance that no modification, of our existing tariff protection will be made without the consent of the Parliament. I shall consider the other questions, asked by like honorable member.
– Is. the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and.- Customs’ aware that, in spite of the fact that housewives are unable to obtain sufficient sugar for jam making, there is in many places a shortage of manufactured jam? Will he have prepared a report to ,be laid on the table showing the details of the distribution of all sugar processed in Australia for export, for the retail trade and’ for industrial purposes, with designations of the industries supplied ?
– I shall endeavour to obtain, as soon as possible the information sought by the honorable member.
M’r. WILLIAMS’.- Has the attention of the Minister for Information been drawn to the reports in this morning’s press of statements made by a member of the- Liberal- Association of New South Wales who alleged that certain figures published’ in Facts and Figures, which is issued by the Department of Information, are false and misleading? Will the Minister state whether there is any foundation for that allegation, and will ho give the facts to the House?
– The facts stated in Facts- and. Figures are always unassailable. I have read the statement to which the honorable member has referred. Mr. Bates is either- unable to read, or to understand th© meaning of words-. In- the issue of Facts and Figures to which reference was made- in the> New South Wales- Legislative Assembly the position of Australia’s- export- trade- was stated- accurately. I shall read the paragraph to which Mr. Bates referred and F ask honorable members’ to note whether what, was printed in that- publication- does ot does noi; warrant the stupid or malicious interpretation placed upon it by Mr. Bates. The> paragraph is as follows.: -
In generally the quantity of exports has not yet returned to the 1038-39 level, largely because of the reduced supplies of wheat and other foodstuffs which are available. Export prices, in 1945-46 were about 75 per cent, higher than in 1938-39, as compared with an increased value, of exports of 54 per cent. The rapid rate of increase of exports during 1945-40 indicates, however, that the quantity of exports must now be approaching the 1938-39 level.
Mr. Bates suggested that the increased value of Australian exports was due to inflated values for wheat. The language of the paragraph is surely clear and simple enough to be understood, even by one with Mr. Bates’s obviously limited understanding.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture explain the differential treatment meted out to milk producers ‘in Queensland? For example, north Queensland milk producers have been entirely omitted from the benefit of the recent subsidy, and producers supplying the Ipswich, Toowoomba and Rockhampton districts receive a lesser subsidy than those supplying the metropolitan area. Has the honorable gentleman received protests from the Queensland dairymen’s organization concerning this matter, and if &0j what answer- does he propose to give to the organization ?
– Milk subsidies and milk prices are determined by the Prices Commissioner, who works under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs. In these circumstances I shall ask that Minister to supply the answers to the questions asked by the honorable member. In reply to the second part of the question, whether L have received protests from the dairymen’s organization in Queensland regarding this matter., I ha.ve received some protests; they have been submitted to my colleague for suitable action.
Transport oe Cadets.
– Due to rail delays, the Western Australian cadets at the
Royal Military College, Duntroon, when going home for their six or seven weeks’ Christmas holidays, missed the military Trans-Australian train, and took two weeks to get home. It also took them more than a week to return. So by comparison with cadets from other States they lost three weeks out of their six or seven weeks’ Christmas leave. Will the Minister for the Army give consideration to the issue of air transport vouchers to cadets from distant States in order that so large a proportion of their vacation will not be spent in travelling?
– Consideration has been given to this matter since the honorable member brought it to my notice some time ago. Undoubtedly the Western Australian cadets were at a great disadvantage in regard to transport, and I am pleased to be able to inform the honorable member that he will receive a letter some time to-day informing him that in future air transport will be provided for Duntroon cadets.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether the Minister for Health was correctly reported as having said that many times the number of doctors practising in Australia to-day would be required to establish a national medical scheme? If so, what is the present number of qualified medical practitioners in this country, and what is the number estimated to be required for a national medical scheme? Does the Government propose the early introduction of a national medical scheme and if so, how is it proposed to give adequate training in the universities to the number of doctors required ?
– I am not able to say whether the Minister for Health has been correctly reported, but I do know that some time ago when a survey was made to determine the number of doctors, particularly salaried doctors, that would be required to establish a national medical scheme, it was found the number required would not be very much greater than the number already qualified. Since then, the secretary of the British Medical Association, Dr. Hunter, has expressed the opinion that too many doctors were being trained. As the honorable member for Flinders is aware, quite a number of doctors are being trained with the aid of a Commonwealth subsidy. These men are under a bond to render three years’ service to the Commonwealth after graduation. My own discussions with doctors, particularly in country towns, indicates that if medical practitioners generally are to have reasonable hours of duty, some free weekends, and holidays, a considerable number of additional doctors will be required in nearly all the large centres. I cannot speak of the smaller communities. Therefore, a national medical scheme providing these improved conditions for doctors, and an adequate day and night service to the public, would seem to presage a considerable addition to their ranks, but I am unable to say whether the increase would be as great as that indicated in the reported statement of the Minister for Health.
Sale to New Zealand
– Has the Prime Minister yet reached a decision on the question that I addressed to him in this chamber yesterday, namely, whether he would lay on the table of the House all communications and relevant documents leading to the conclusion of the agreement for the sale of Australian wheat to New Zealand?
– I hope that the honorable member will pardon me for not having had an opportunity to deal with this debatable subject during the brief and busy period between yesterday afternoon and this morning. I shall endeavour to discuss the matter early next week with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and so be in a position to reply to the honorable member’s question when the House meets again.
– Immigrants must have been residents of Australia for twenty years before becoming eligible for the old-age pension. That presses ‘hard on British people who migrated to Australia just after World War I. I ask the Prime Minister to confer with the Minister for Social Services with a view to lessening the period of residential qualification. Many migrants from Great Britain are still working at 70 and 80 years of age because of their ineligibility to receive the pension.
– A few such cases have been brought to my notice. One or two of them are my own constituents, and, naturally, I am interested. I asked the Minister for Social Services to examine the matter in conjunction with other amendments of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act that will have to be made when the bill to consolidate the social services legislation is brought down before the middle of the year.
– In view of the recent statement by the Prime Minister to the effect that he would give further thought to this House meeting in the week in which Anzac Day falls, is he prepared to agree that it shall not sit that week in order that ‘honorable members may attend Anzac Day functions in their own electorates?
– I mentioned before that the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party had discussed that matter with me. Such a large volume of legislation will be before honorable members at that time that the Government could hardly consent to the House not sitting that week. After next week, apart from the period from the 28th March to the 16th April when we will be in recess, the House will sit on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays until our legislative programme has been disposed of. I promise to discuss the matter further with the leaders of the opposition parties, but my mind tends rather to sitting on the Tuesday and Wednesday and finishing early on the Thursday afternoon of the week in which Anzac Day falls than to no sitting at all that week. Perhaps arrangements could be madeby the parties opposite with respect to honorable members wishing to attend Anzac Day functions in their own constituencies. Members in the two adjacent States would , be able to attend such functions. I shall ascertain the views of the
Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party as soon as possible, ‘but I repeat that I would not he prepared to agree to the House not sitting that week because of the large volume of legislation that will then be on the notice-paper.
Shortage in Tasmania.
– I ask the Minis ter representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping what steps are being taken to alleviate the acute shortage of matches in Tasmania?
– I was not aware of a shortage of matches in Tasmania, but I assume that what the honorable gentleman says is true. The shortage may be due to either a shortage of production or shipping difficulties.
– It is much more acute now than formerly.
– I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to make inquiries as to what action may be taken to help the honorable member.
– The Prices Commissioner recently declared Moore’s Silk Store, Queen-street, Brisbane. The management was told that it had not committed a breach of the prices regulations, hut that the declaration by the Prices Commissioner would stand. The position now is that the Prices Branch in Brisbane admits that it cannot cope with the applications submitted by Moore’s Silk Store for the fixing of prices. The branch told the management not to send more applications because it could not handle them. The management then decided to sell stocks without waiting for prices to be fixed by the branch, and it is now threatened with prosecution if it does so. This means that the store must be closed down until such time as the Prices Branch is able to handle the management’s applications for the fixing of prices. In view of the admitted inability of the branch to deal with these applications, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs take immediate action to have the Prices Commissioner’s declaration rescinded, and thus terminate a state of affairs in which a small coterie of incompetent public servants is preventing the store from transacting business.
– Order ! The honorable member must not cast reflections.
-I shall ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to ascertain whether action can be taken along the lines suggested by the honorable member, and I shall supply him with the information as soon as possible.
– Just before Par liament went into recess last December, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping if he could tell me whether the Government had any plans regarding the future use of the power alcohol distillery at Warracknabeal, Victoria. The honorable gentleman said that he would secure the information for me. This year, the big plied adjacent to the distillery is being used to store wheat hut the remainder of the expensive buildings and equipment are not being used, and it has been said in this House that their upkeep is costing £140 a week. As my question has remained unanswered since early December. I now ask the Minister whether he can make a statement regarding the Government’s policy in connexion with this distillery.
– I regret very much that I have not provided the honorable member with the information for which he asked before Christmas. The position is that there are four power alcohol distilleries, and that the Government entered into an agreement with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited under which the company agreed to operate the distilleries, if required to do so, during the war. One of the conditions of the agreement is that the company has an option of purchase over any or all of the plants for a period of twelve months after the war, should the Government decide to dispose of them. In view of certain developments in connexion with jetpropelled aircraft and the defence pro gramme generally, it is not yet clear how many, if any, of the distilleries will be required for defence purposes in the postwar period. Discussions are now taking place with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited to ascertain whether it will forgo its option of purchase or agree to reduce the period of the option from twelve months to three months. Investigations are also proceeding in an endeavour to estimate Australia’s post-war requirements of power alcohol. Until these two matters are decided, finality cannot be reached regarding the disposal of the distilleries.
Trunk Telephone Priorities
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Fawkner asked me a question regarding the allotment of priority to telephone calls made from this building. I assume that the question relates to trunk-line calls and not local calls, which would be made through the Canberra automatic exchange. If this is correct, the matter is not one which comes under the control of the presiding officers. The granting of priority rights to persons making trunk-line calls is administered by the Postmaster-General’s Department ; but if the honorable member will give me further particulars by letter, I shall take up the matter with the PostmasterGeneral on behalf of all honorable members.
– Throughout the country areas, bicycle tyres are in very short supply, and school children, office workers and persons engaged in, various industries are experiencing the greatest difficulty in reaching their schools, or their places of employment. Will’ the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping discuss this matter with the authorities who control rubber supplies with a view to easing the position?
– I was under the impression that all controls governing the production and distribution of rubber . goods have passed entirely from the Commonwealth Government to the hands of private enterprise. If the Minister for Supply and Shipping can take any action to induce the rubber manufacturing companies to make more bicycle tyres available, I am quite sure that he will be glad to do so. I shall ask him to inquire into the matter with a view to achieving a better balance between the various forms of production in the rubber industry.
I asked the Prime Minister a question regarding the allocation of money to local governing bodies for arterial roads, as well as for aerodrome sites and boat harbours, under the new agreement which is being prepared with the States. I asked whether the Government would provide assistance to local governing bodies to cover the cost of providing and maintaining arterial roads, the cost of which is now borne entirely by the taxpayers. Can the right honorable gentleman say what assistance the Government proposes to give them under the new agreement?
– Although my department has communicated with the State governments, the proposal which will be brought before this House will not take the form of an agreement. It was thought that the conclusion of a formal agreement might take some considerable time. The proposal which willbe brought before the Parliament willbe a decision of the Government and not an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States and will cover a number of matters. Different terms are employed in the several States for the same class of road. The proposal will include a provision for a grant to assist local governing bodies in their expenditure on highways. However, I think it would be preferable if I were to inform the honorable member by letter of the main proposals, and I shall see that this is done.
– I have received from the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The necessity for taking adequate precautions against the leakage of secret information to any foreign power in connexion with rocket projectile experiments about to be undertaken in Australia in view of the experience in Canada, the similar conditions existing in Australia and the findings of the CanadianRoyal Commission on espionage appointed under Order in Council P.C. 411 of the 5th February, 1946.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in supportof the motion,
– This motion deals with a matter of vital importance to the safety of not only Australia but also the free democracies of the world. The Commonwealth Government has come to an arrangement with the Government of Great Britain whereby it will carry out experiments with guided weapons in the desert country of Australia, and will erect factories in the Commonwealth. These factories and ranges for the experiments are estimated to cost approximately £6,000,000 and the United Kingdom Government is also committed to the expenditure of a large sum of money. For the security of the free peoples of the world it is essential that they keep their armaments ahead of any nation which may become their enemy, and, consequently, it is vital that there shall be no leakage of information concerning these experiments. The guided weapon is the complement of the atomic bomb, and is one of the methods by which the atomic bomb could be placed in the territory of another nation. I take it that, in addition to experiments as to the use of guided projectiles for offensive warfare, efforts will be made to find means of dealing effectively with any such projectiles which might be launched against the democratic nations, thereby providing a means of defence against this kind of weapon. Obviously, there must be the greatest secrecy and no possibility of information leakages. I am aware that the Government has said that all possible steps will be taken lo prevent information from getting out, and we can rest assured that the technical officers in charge of the experiments will do all that they can to prevent this. There are, however, some disquieting aspects of the internal situation. 3 shall mention what happened in Canada, as disclosed by the royal commission on Soviet espionage in that dominion. Honorable members will recollect that some time ago great prominence was given to the disclosures made on the 5th September, 1945, by Igor Gouzenko, who was a cipher clerk in the Soviet Embassy, to the Canadian North West Mounted Police. As the statement made by Gouzenko before the royal commission appointed by the Canadian Government shows the activities of the Soviet Government and the Communist parties in other countries, I shall read a portion of it. He said -
Holding forth at international conferences with voluble statements about peace and security, the Soviet Government is simultaneously preparing secretly for the third World War. To meet this war, the Soviet Government is creating in democratic countries, including Canada, a fifth column, in the organization of which even diplomatic representatives of the Soviet Government take part. The announcement of the dissolution of the Comintern was probably the greatest farce of the Communists in recent years. Only the name was liquidated, with the object of reassuring public opinion in the democratic countries. Actually, the Comintern exists and continues its work, because the Soviet leaders have never relinquished the idea of establishing a communist dictatorship throughout the world.
To many Soviet people here and abroad, it is clear that the Communist party in democratic countries has changed long ago from a political party into an agency net of the Soviet Government, into a fifth column in these countries to meet a war, into an instrument in the hands of the Soviet Government for creating artificial unrest, provocation, &c.
In their report the royal commissioners said that they regarded Gouzenko as a thoroughly reliable witness and that the documents and statements submitted which he had brought from the Soviet Legation after investigation by the royal commission had been authenticated by evidence given by other witnesses. The system of espionage which Gouzenko said existed in Canada was only one form of espionage conducted by members of the Soviet legation there. This man was cipher clerk to Colonel Zabotin, the military attache of the Soviet legation at Ottawa. Gouzenko had to translate documents and his translations were then sent to military head-quarters in Moscow. There were other Soviet rings in the embassy, each with its own chief, but there was no contact between the various rings. In fact, it was stated in evidence that the- Soviet Ambassador himself did not know what was going on. The system had been in operation in Canada for several years, but the work was intensified during the war, when the strength of the legation was greatly increased. It should be remembered that when the Soviet legation was set up in Canberra 63 Russians were brought here and, so far as I know, that number has not been reduced. We are justified in arguing that what took place in Canada was the pattern of Soviet activities in its legations throughout the world. Soviet espionage in Canada concentrated on atomic bomb secrets, radar, asdic, and certain explosives. Among the documents siezed from one agent were found particulars of the wiring secrets for the V.T. fuse which, it was claimed, was responsible for blowing Japanese aircraft out of the air. Discussing the value of the information obtained by the spying in Canada, the royal commission stated -
However, much valuable and secret information was handed over. Some of it is so secret still that it can be referred to only obliquely and with the greatest care . . . Dr. Alan Nurn May obtained samples of uranium 235 enriched and uranium 233, which he delivered to Lieutenant Angelov, of the staff of the Military Attach^. The Russians regarded these as of such importance that Motinov Assistant Military Attach^, flew to Moscow With them.
The Soviet legation never hesitated to use diplomatic channels of communication in order to send spy information out of Canada The commission continued -
The most important thing is the agreement of certain Canadian Communists to work under foreign orders in a conspiracy directed against their own country.
The commission stated that practically every one of the Canadian agents was cither a member of the Communist party, or had Communist sympathies’. This should be a warning to us that, in regard to our research work in Australia, we must be particularly careful to ensure that no Communist or person with Communist sympathies is given access to the findings. The persons arrested in Canada all bore distinguished names, and included Dr. Raymond Boyer, Ph.D. and B.Sc., McGill University, David Shugar McGill University graduate in science, and Israel Halperin, professor of mathematics, Queen’s University, Kingstown. The Canadian royal commission took evidence from many witnesses, and included in its findings the following paragraph : -
There exists in Canada a fifth column organized and directed by Russian agents in Canada and Russia.
One of the methods employed by the spy-ring to collect its information in Canada was to use pseudo-scientific bodies such as the Canadian Association of Scientific Workers. It also made use of study groups and secret cells within and without the association. It was stated in evidence that many Communists did not disclose that they were Communists, and were encouraged by the authorities in Russia to keep the fact a secret. It was stated in the evidence of Norman Veall that the chief executive officers of the Canadian Association of Scientific Workers were agents in . the espionage plot. He added that there existed the closest liaison with similar bodies throughout the Empire, including the Australian Association of Scientific Workers. It is essential that there should be an inquiry in Australia in order to find out whether those associated with such bodies here are Soviet agents. If they are not, their names will bc cleared. If they are, they ought to be dealt with as they deserve. I do not accuse the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) of bending to the will of Communist agents, nor do I accuse the Government of putting Communists agents into positions where they should not be. I do say, however, that some Ministers are so influenced by their friendship for persons who have been members of this Parliament that they have allowed themselves to be carried away by their feelings, and to ignore the fact that such persons may be dangerous to the security of Australia, in view of the experiments which are to take place in Western Australia. The first name that comes to my mind is that of Mr. Donald Mountjoy, who was appointed to the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. He may be a loyal subject, but his actions do not justify such a belief. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has said that Mr. Mountjoy is not a Communist, but we should remember that many of the persons found guilty in Canada were secret Communists, who worked hard in the interests of the Communist party and of the Soviet spy ring. It would be possible for Mr. Mountjoy to play the same part as did Mr. Fred Rose, M.P., in Canada, who was the right-hand man for the Soviet espionage system. Not the least dangerous of the Communists are those like Dr. Alan Nunn May, whom the Canadian royal commission described as an “ ardent but secret Communist “. Mr. Mountjoy’s name is tainted. Every speech which he made in this House showed sympathy with the Soviet system, and the description of Dr. Alan Nunn May by the Canadian commission probably aptly describes Mr. Mountjoy also; yet, he has been put into a position where he will be capable of doing the greatest possible harm. There should be an inquiry into the antecedents of Mr. Mountjoy, his connexion with officers of the Soviet Legation, whether he sought the position to which he was appointed and, if not, who recommended him to the Minister for the position. It seems to be easy for Communists to obtain privileges from this Government. This is demonstrated by the ease with which Mr. Jack Henry and Mr. Gerald Peel, Australian delegates, obtained passages to attend the Empire Communist party’s conference in London, and by the way in which Mr. Elliott, secretary of the Seamen’s Union, obtained a passage to New Zealand. Jean Devanny, one of the most notorious Communists in Australia, was given permission in 1943 to visit forward areas in northern Queensland in order, so she said, to write a book about the Australian soldiers. She is a novelist, two of whose books, The Butcher’s Shop and The Virtuous Courtesan, are under ban in Australia as obscene publications. She was given permission at a time when ordinary journalists had the greatest difficulty in getting to forward training areas. In addition, she has been given a grant of £150 from the Commonwealth Literary Fund which is controlled by the the Prime Minister’s Department. Facts of this kind make the people very worried. 1 turn now to the Australian Association of Scientific Workers, which I find is in close liaison with the Canadian body. In a letter to the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 12th July, 1946, Mr. L. U. Hibbard, federal secretary of the association, who, incidentally is employed in the Radio Physics Laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Sydney, wrote -
It might interest your readers to know that the Australian Association of Scientific Workers has developed close relations with similar organizations in Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, France and China . . The Association of Scientific Workers, far from infiltrating the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has on the contrary drawn heavily on that body for its active membership in the past and in the present.
Let us look at some of the leading members of the Australian Association of Scientific Workers. Dr. Makinson, who is lecturer in physics at the University of Sydney, and is associated with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, stated in a letter to the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 13th September, 1946, that he is a Communist.- Then we have Mr. Callaghan, who is bio-chemist at the Royal North Shore Hospital and the Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. He has been described in the Tribune as the principal scientific officer of the Communist party in New South Wales. He is an executive officer of this association. He was the gentleman who, at a public meeting, held in Sydney on the 12th September last, proposed the motion of protest that Dr. Alan Nunn May should be acquitted and should not be forced to serve his sentence of ten years penal servitude which was passed upon him as the result of treachery disclosed in the Canadian espionage inquiry. Other members of the association who are Communists are Mr. Sid Conway, Mr. McD. Richardson, who is employed by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and Mr. Henry who, I am informed, is employed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
I urge the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into (1) The whole of the Communist activities in Australia; (2) to ascertain the connexion, if any, between the Communist party and officials of the Soviet Legation; (3) to ascertain whether there is any evidence of spy rings operating in Australia in collaboration with officials of the Soviet Legation; and, (4) to inquire into the activities of the personnel, particularly members of the executive, of the Australian Association of Scientific Workers, who have associations with the Communist party, and the activities of employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research who are known to be members or associates of the Communist party. Dangerous activities are being permitted in Australia to-day, and the Government must deal with these matters with a strong hand. It is useless for it to wilt under the pressure of Communists who are prepared to sacrifice the freedom of this country and of all democracies in their efforts to get a chance to betray secret information to the Soviet and its spies in Australia.
– I am in accord with the broad proposition put forward by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) who has emphasized the necessity to take adequate precautions against the leakage of secret information to any foreign power in connexion with the guided projectile experiments about to be undertaken in Australia. One can state the position briefly and frankly. The aim of this project is solely defensive; it has no aggressive aspect whatever. It has been commenced in Australia in conjunction with the British Government and other Empire governments for one reason only, namely, that in view of the tremendous destructive power of atomic and other weapons of mass destruction, it is absolutely essential that the security of Australia and other parts of the British Commonwealth shall not be prejudiced, and that everything that science can do must be done to defend this country and the British Commonwealth of Nations. The honorable member has referred, as he is entitled to do, to the revelations by the Canadian Royal Commission of Inquiry.
In some respects he could have gone a little further than he did. When the particular employee at the Soviet Embassy at Ottawa was handed over to the Canadian police, the way in which he was treated by other employees of the embassy shows, in my opinion, a -ruthlessness and almost a desperation which are very striking. A great warning is involved in that. What is the background of that incident? It is the discovery of the use of atomic energy for the purposes of destruction, and, following that discovery, the efforts of scientists in not only the United States of America but also Great Britain and Canada, helped, of course, by some scientists in this country, which led to the invention of the atomic bomb. In the arrangements made between the United States of America and Great Britain in connexion with the atomic bomb, great secrecy had to be observed. There was a very great fear in both London and Washington that the secret would be revealed and used first by the enemy; and it was due to the scientific genius and technological skill of the scientists of those countries, and of the United States of America particularly in connexion with its industrial development, that our forces were enabled to get in first. Had they not done so one could not say what the result would have been ; but, as it was, so far as projectile weapons were concerned, the enemy was the first to use them. It is a matter of history that had the rocket projectile attacks upon Great Britain been commenced six months earlier than they were, the whole course of the war would have been altered. All this shows, as a matter of common sense, the absolute necessity for countries to be prepared against weapons of mass destruction which, according to Professor Oliphant and other scientists who have contributed to their development, may result in the destruction of great cities without warning and without a declaration of war. Parallel with that we have to develop the machinery for peace. We have had too bitter an experience in two great wars to remain unprepared. This project is being carried out in Australia in co-operation with the British Government solely for purposes of defence. The experiments may result in providing means of diverting attacks upon great cities. Australia has been selected for these experiments, because there is no other part of the British Empire where the same sparsely populated distance can be . covered. Personally, I regret that that aspect of the experiments is not more fully appreciated. I can sympathize with those who would veto this proposal, because it may involve some interference with the lives of aborigines; but that aspect can be safeguarded. As the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has said, adequate precautions are being taken to safeguard the lives and welfare of the aborigines in the area concerned. The sudden interest of certain people in the welfare of the aborigines of this country is rather extraordinary.
– Order! The Attorney-General must not digress in that way.
– The main point of the proposal contained in the motion is that proper precautions should be taken in relation to this project. It is a project for defence the results of which might, in an emergency, be the salvation of Australia and other peace-loving countries. Therefore, absolute precautions must be taken to ensure secrecy in respect of everything done in connexion with it. That, in turn, involves other consequences. It involves local protection and the making of general security arrangements to ensure that it shall not be possible for secret information in connexion with the project to be divulged to other than those who must possess it for purposes of defence. That aspect of the problem has been, and will .be, taken care of by the Investigation Branch, of which the Security Service is a part, and by military intelligence. I agree with the honorable member for New England that nothing should be left to chance, and I assure him that nothing will be left to chance. Of the individuals whose names he mentioned none is known to me except Mr. Mountjoy, whose qualifications for the post he holds in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research were discussed in this House on another occasion. I have no desire to go into details in regard to this matter except to say that the warning note struck by the honorable member for New England was, I think, very proper. Pointing to the example of Canada, the honorable member said that a special menace may confront this country because of the activities of the Communist organization here. There is a danger that the Communist party is not merely a political party; but that is a matter for the Parliament to deal with. The danger that the members of that party, as in the case of Canada, may disclose secrets to a foreign power, namely, Soviet Russia, is a circumstance which cannot be overlooked. Yesterday, however, the officers of the Security Service assured me that nothing untoward has occurred, but they agree with the necessity for redoubling precautions. The Canadian revelations were profoundly disturbing. They seem to indicate that there was a tremendous determination on the part of some people at all costs to get hold of secret information in connexion with atomic energy. Guided projectiles and atomic energy have this much in common ; both are designed for mass destruction, and both may be used for the prevention of mass destruction. Before the House met to-day I discussed the subject-matter of the motion with the Prime Minister. We are resolved to take every possible precaution to ensure that no leakage of information occurs. Already the Defence Department and the Government’s legal advisers are looking into the question of strengthening the secrecy provisions of the law.
– That will not prevent espionage.
– It may not. There may be, however, some aspects of the secrecy provisions of the law which should he reviewed. The Government is fully alive to the serious danger involved in this project and to the necessity for the preservation of military secrets. Honorable members well know the attitude of the Government towards the Communist party and the ideology of communism. During the war I expressed publicly the opinion, and I say again, that after Soviet Russia came into the war the Communist party in Australia did assist in maintaining production.
– It assisted not Australia but Russia.
– I am not going into motives; I am dealing with facte. I admit that there have been serious developments in connexion with industrial disputes which have been given a tinge of political demand. I am afraid that those developments may reach intolerable proportions. Trade union organizations registered for industrial purposes cannot be permitted to make political demands, because if they do so the real issues do not lie between employers and employees, but between employees and the Government. The main point is, are the Communists, or those associated with them, so treacherous that they would disclose our defence secrets to a foreign power t
– We know from what took place in Canada that some persons were held by the royal commission to have done so, and that they were subsequently convicted of disclosing secret information, to foreign countries. Therefore we must take extreme precautions against that kind of thing happening in Australia. The position of Canada is somewhat different from our own because in Canada atomic research development has reached an advanced stage, whereas we are merely at the beginning of this project. However, if we are to profit by the experience of Canada we must take the greatest precautions. Yesterday the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) referred to the Communist party. After questions had been asked yesterday I discovered that there was in existence a very important document which had been prepared for the Australian Advisory War Council some two years ago. I was not in Australia when the document wa3 prepared, but I have now seen and read it. Its nature is such that its contents should not be disclosed because it gives the sources of information and contains material the publication of which would constitute a grave danger to our security. It showed, too, that the Commonwealth was alive to the danger of subversive activities an<l was watching the position closely. As I informed the House recently when dealing with general practices, investigators have complete discretion in these matters. They are trained men. In connexion with this project they will work in the closest liaison with military intelligence officers.
– Are there any women workers in the Security Service.
– I do not think so. There are, of course, female clerks and typists, but I do not think there are any female investigators.
In conclusion, I wish to make two points : The first is that if our security work is to be continued effectively there must not be any suggestion of improper interference with the liberties of the people. This job has to be done in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth. It must not be condemned and decried as unnecessary. There is always a tendency, of course, when an organization of this kind performs its work properly, to condemn it as a gestapo; but we are only doing what is being done in other countries including Great Britain and the Dominions. The Security Service must be properly manned. When the estimates for this department were before the House, criticism was voiced because it was alleged that too many people were employed. My view is that too few are employed. During the war, we had a very big organization, and the present state of world affairs is such that we cannot afford to permit that organization to fold up completely. We have lost the services of valuable employees who were with us for the war period only. The Security Service was a vital part of our war effort. Upon the recommendation of the Public Service Board, additional positions are to be created to strengthen the present service - not to bring it up to its war-time establishment or anything like it, but to equip the service with additional skilled assistance. My second point is that in carrying on these activities, there is no need for us to apologize or explain to any foreign power. We are not contemplating aggressive action, but simply seeking to ensure the security of our country. Parallel with these activities is our attempt to ensure that the machinery for maintaining and protecting international security shall be developed. We trust that our endeavours in this direction will he successful, and wo are bending all our efforts towards success. But, it would be a dereliction of our duty to the people of this country and of the British Commonwealth of Nations, if we were to permit the lessening of precautions in connexion with this important project.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- It is good to know that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is interested in this matter ; but I believe that more than mere interest is required. We have been given an assurance that adequate security precautions are being taken, but I believe, with the propounder of this motion, that side by side with such measures, there should be an investigation by a royal commission so that we may appreciate the full extent of Communist activities generally. Probably such an inquiry would involve some important people, but it would show how many Australian trade unions - 22 in New South Wale3 alone - have been captured by individuals who do not acknowledge allegiance to this country. A guided projectile range is to be built at immense expense, and upon the experiments conducted on it may depend the security of this country and of the Empire. Britain is considerably weakened after the major part it played in securing victory. It has not. sufficient space to devote to largescale experiments, and a. site has been chosen in Australia for this purpose. So, we have a responsibility not only to ourselves but also to the whole Empire, and we would be letting Britain down badly if we did not take the utmost precautions. The world outlook is such that we cannot be complacent about our defence. There would be a substantial measure of peace throughout the world were it not for Russia’s imperialistic policy - more imperialistic even than in the days of Peter the Great. Pursuing a policy of expansion from the Arctic to the Mediterranean and from Western Europe to the Pacific, Russia has pushed its borders out by threatening small neighbouring nations. Despite Russia’s twenty-year treaty with Great Britain, promising to forsake territorial aggrandizement, the danger from Russia to-day in this connexion is greater than that from any self-centred empire. We all know the size of the British
Empire, and we knew the size of the former German empire, but the Russian empire cannot be measured by geographical boundaries. Its representatives are carrying out their nefarious work in every country. If there are amongst us individuals who admire the ideology of Russia, let them go to Russia. Let them read Lenin’s own book about the aims of communism. The Communist goal is not to live in harmony with people who hold other political opinions, but to eliminate them - to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat, and to exterminate the bourgeoisie. Hitler learned his technique from the Communists. These are not merely the views of individuals who have studied the Soviet system, or who, like myself, have visited Russia, because in the report of the Canadian royal commission on Russian espionage in that country we have ample evidence of Russia’s methods. The following is a statement by Igor Gouzenko, a member of the staff of the Russian embassy in Canada : -
The set-up of this organization in Canada is t he result of a long preparation by trained and experienced men. who have come here for the express purpose of carrying on spying activities, and who have employed all the resources nt their disposal, with or without corruption, to fulfil the tasks assigned to them.
I am not making charges against any individuals in this country or against any legation, but the fact remains that the Russian legation in Canberra is almost as big as all the others put together. Undoubtedly, it has its own legitimate work to do, and its activities may be quite pacific, but it is for us to establish whether or not that is so. Here is another statement by Gouzenko -
The announcement of the dissolution of the Comintern was probably the greatest farce of the Communists in recent years. Only the mime was liquidated, with the object of reassuring public opinion in the democratic countries. Actually the Comintern exists and continues its work . . .
The aim of the Comintern was world revolution and a world dictatorship of the proletariat. Russia announced during the war that the Comintern had been dissolved, but here is evidence that it has not. The report further states -
One of Zabotin’s main objects when he started his operations, was to recruit persons willing to supply secret information.
Zabotin was the Red Army intelligence officer in Canada. He could get many recruits in Australia. We have Thornton of the ironworkers, Thompson in the building trade, Brown in the railways, Wells who, until recently, was associated with the coal-miners, and many other leaders of militant unions who are avowed Communists, and there are thousands of secret Communists. He goes on -
A belief in, or a sympathy with, or a susceptibility .to the Communist ideology was a primary requirement in the persons to be recruited. The ingenuity that is shown in the method employed to get prospective agents into the “ net “ indicates that .the system has been thoroughly worked out to cover all eventualities. The way in which persons who were in a position to furnish secret information, or who might be used as contacts, and who had some inherent weakness which might be exploited, were selected and studied, clearly establishes this. The methods of approach varied with the person and with the position.
Any frustrated person, any failure, finds a welcome and a haven in the Communist party. Many so-called Australian Communists do not know what communism is all about, but they are the willing dupes of the real Communists. We must have a royal commission to find who those real Communists are and what they are doing.. The report proceeds -
The evidence also discloses that secret members of the Communist party played an important part in placing other secret Communistsin various positions in the public service.
Would any member of the Government say that there ‘ are not Communists inprominent positions in the Public Service ? It is wrong that that should be so,, because the Public Service is something; to be proud of, but the Communists know how to recruit. The report proceeds -
It seems to ‘be general policy of the Communist party to discourage certain selected sympathizers among certain categories of the population from joining that political party openly. Instead, these sympathizers are invited .to join secret “ cells “ or study groups, and to take pains to keep their adherence to the party from the knowledge of their acquaintances who are not also members of the Communist party.
That is apparent in the schools. In prominent schools in Melbourne veiled communism is taught. We know the Australian-Soviet House set up in Victoria and what pseudo-cultural means are used to lead professorial staffs and teachers to believe that communism is not a matter of wild and woolly men in trade unions who want to disrupt the country but something with a general appeal. The report continues -
One objective, we conclude, is that this technique facilitates the achievement of a basie policy of the Communist party, viz., to get control, through the election of secret members to the directing committees, of as many types of functional organizations as possible, including trade unions.
How embarrassed government members have been when we have so often in this House pointed to the machinations of Communists in the trade unions and asked that the penalty clauses of the Arbitration Act be invoked to prosecute men who incite strikes. Australia’s industrial troubles in the mines, on the waterfront and elsewhere are the work -of Communists. I have not the time to expound that, but we can follow up the’ “Communists as we followed up the Japanese when the Yampi Sound matter was being investigated. I agree with the Attorney-General that we have an efficient Security Service. It could be enlarged. There are many men who could do the work. There is an obligation on the Commonwealth Parliament to ensure that the Communists shall be tracked down. We must not let the Empire down. To allow the Communists to continue their subversiveness unhampered might* be suicidal. I strongly _ support the motion for a royal commission. I exhort the Government to arrange for the mostthorough inquiries to be made. By all means give the Security Service every facility to investigate every one associated with communism in Australia; but, side by side with that investigation, let us have a royal commission, which will make a report such as that made by the Canadian royal commission so that we shall know where we stand in order that we may prevent our future from being jeopardized.
. - The gravity of the issue raised by the honorable member for New England (Mr, Abbott) is conceded by the Government. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has made plain that he sees in the findings of the Canadian royal commission a lesson for Australia. The question is whether that lesson will be properly learnt by the Government. I join in this debate because I am not prepared to believe that the Government will really deal with the problem. When I was Minister_ for the Army I had something to do with the internment of Australians who were members of the Communist party. Yesterday I indicated to the AttorneyGeneral the existence of an important, document that he, as ministerial head of the Security Service, has never seen. I am not at liberty to say what it contains, but when it was placed before the Australian Advisory War Council some of its members were shocked at its revelations. It is a symbol of what I discovered when I examined the ramifications of the Communist party in Australia and directed the internment of certain members of it early in 1941. I doubt that the AttorneyGeneral or the Government will deal with the problem effectively as the AttorneyGeneral attacked me most bitterly because I had interned mcn guilty of subversive action against this country. Yesterday, in a question, I raised the need for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into Communist activities in Australia. The time for a royal commission is long overdue. We know from the report of the Canadian royal commission that the Comintern was ostensibly disbanded in order that ‘ the Communists might deliberately engage in subversive activities in every country where the Communist party operated. Any one with any. knowledge knows that the Communist party is not a separate political organization in this country but a part of a world organization. That that is so is revealed, if revelation be needed, in the report of the Canadian royal commission. The Communist party here is one integer of a vast organization which, in a sinister and ruthless manner, is ready to use any means open to it, even in countries that fought with it, to advance its international needs. The activities of the Communist party throughout the world in fomenting industrial troubles and in challenging the foreign policy of Great Britain fit into one pattern. It is obvious to any one with even half an eye that the Communist party is the agent of nothing but a foreign power. I do not hesitate to say, no matter how unpleasant it is to say it, that that foreign power is using a so-called political organize tion for its own ends. One cannot escape from coming to that conclusion. That it is so has been revealed in the United States of America, Canada and South Africa. No one with any sense could imagine other than that what has happened in those countries is also happening here. The experiments with guided projectiles that are to take place in Australia will have vast significance in the future world security, while Russia is unprepared to join with the other countries in seeking to achieve world peace on the basis of a real community of nations. In view of the experiments to be undertaken, I do not believe that it will be sufficient merely to watch the activities of Communists in Australia through the instrumentality of the Security Service. We shall best deal with the Communist menace to our security if we call the well-known Communists into the witness box, and, under penalities if they refuse to answer, get right down to the ramifications of the Communist party in Australia. Then we can examine the entire scope of their activities in Australia. I believe that such an examination would reveal a story, the details of which we on this side of the House have anticipated for a long time, but which the Government has persistently ignored. Since the end of the war it has been obvious that the Communist party, which aided our cause only after Russia became involved in the war, has been doing its utmost to destroy our democratic principles and form of government. Throughout the world, Communists are doing everything in their power to damage British prestige and weaken the Empire. This is a very grave matter. Communist agents of another power have been engaged for too long in their treacherous activities in Australia without hindrance from the Government. The Labour party has even allowed them to “white-ant” its own movement. The time has come for the Labour party and the parties represented on this side of the House to combine to expose the nefarious activities of these people and throw them out of Australia. The Government should take much more definite action than has been foreshadowed by the Attorney-General. I believe that nothing short of an inquiry by a royal commission can secure the safety of Australia from the activities of Communists ,and preserve the secrecy of the experiments with guided projectiles which are to be conducted in Central Australia.
.- The motion submitted by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) calls for a” royal commission to investigate the activities of .a foreign power: Last year, a member of the Opposition asked what steps were being taken by the Government to place under surveillance the activities of the staff of the Russian legation in Canberra. I shall not name the honorable member who asked the question, because it could be characterized as the question of a fool. Obviously, if the Government seriously intended to place anybody under surveillance it would not announce the fact openly in this House. The royal commission in Canada which established the facts concerning Communist activities in that country was able to complete its inquiry only because documents taken from the Russian embassy in Canada were placed in its hands. Those documents were delivered to the Canadian security police by an official of the Russian embassy, who, feeling that he was in a free country, and wishing to cut himself off from contact with Russia, walked out of the embassy taking with him evidence which was vital to the functioning of the royal commission that was later appointed. It is obvious that the royal commission proposed by the honorable member for New England would not have such vital evidence in its possession. Therefore, the correct approach would be through the ordinary methods of investigation of the Security Service. The motion was clearly intended to give the honorable member for New England the utmost publicity. He knows as well as any other honorable member that the Government could not make a pronouncement regarding investigations of Communist activities, for the simple reason that such a statement would defeat the purpose of theinvestigations. The statement by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that Communists should be put in the dock and made to state-
– I did not say that. I said that there could be a penalty for refusing to answer questions.
– Well, what would happen if Communists were put in the dock and cross-questioned? Obviously they would deny that they had engaged in any activities on behalf of Russia. The honorable member must realize that the situation in Canada was unique. The nature of the documents which came into the possession of the Canadian Government made possible the appointment- of a royal commission to conduct a thorough inquiry. Since no such documents have come into hands of the Commonwealth Government, it cannot be expected to appoint a royal commission.
– “What about South Africa?
– South Africa is riddled with treachery of a Fascist variety, treachery inspired by natives who are grievously oppressed, and therefore engage in all forms of anarchic activities, and treachery which arises from inter-racial tension. There is no analogy in Australia. South Africa must have a highly organized system of security because of the serious internal conflicts in that country. Apart from being mischievous in its diplomatic implications, the motion before the House is foolish, because no royal commission could uncover the facts of Communist activities in Australia, and it should be treated with contempt by every honorable member.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) considers that a royal commission would be helpless because he says that it could not obtain evidence on which to base its investigations. Had he used any imagination, or exercised his memory, he would have realized that many facts known to members of this House would form a very good basis for an investigation by a royal commission of the activities of Communists in Australia.
– Does the honorable member regard a royal commission as an instrument of counter-espionage?
– No, but a royal commission could evaluate the facts which have been uncovered by our counterespionage service. I do not believe that the Commonwealth Security Service, which has been working for many years, could have failed to obtain many facts regarding the Communist movement. If it has failed to do so, then it is a useless organization. I shall not deal further with the remarks of the honorable member.
I refer now to what was said by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). I am glad that he agrees that the issue raised by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) is of very great importance. Obviously, it is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the need for secrecy in the experiments with guided weapons which will soon be carried out in Central Australia. These experiments will be important, first, because the British Empire must not fall behind the rest of the world in the development of modern methods of defence. The newspapers to-day quoted the following statement by Captain Falls, who is professor of military history at Cambridge University: -
In regard to atomic weapons, the best weapon is the weapon of retaliation.
That means that unless we, who are likely to be exposed to attack, develop modern weapons for our own defence we shall be helpless. Guided weapons will be the. most effective weapon of defence against pilotless bombers loaded with atomic bombs. Unless we continue with experiments with these weapons, not merely for our own good but also for the good of the Empire and, I believe, the rest of the world, we shall fail to preserve our security. Therefore, the matter raised by the honorable member for New England is of great importance to us, and anything that is important to us is important to the rest of the world, and to the British Empire in particular. We have heard a great deal about espionage in Canada. Espionage is not new. It has been carried on ever since nations became nations. I know a great deal about its past and its present history. The fact that espionage is being carried out in Australia is not greatly disturbing in itself. The disturbing fact, is the enormous scope of the espionage that is being carried out by modern nations. These matters give one cause for great anxiety. We know what the experience of Canada has been. We know also that the Communist movement in that dominion is not nearly so widespread and well organized as it is in Australia. Therefore, if Canada has been exposed to these dangers, surely Australia will be faced with danger to an even greater degree.
What is the position in this country? The Communist movement here is strong and virile. Its objects are well-known to us, as they are to the rest of the world. Honorable members opposite do not seem to realize the dangers of that movement. In a statement, not before the royal commission, hut to the Canadian Government itself, a Russian said -
It is clear that the Communist party in democratic countries has changed long ago from a political party into an agency net of the Soviet Government, into a fifth column in these countries to meet a war, into an instrument in the hands of the Soviet Government for creating unrest and provocation.
Any person who reads those words will know exactly what has been taking place in the Communist party in Australia. The Australian Communists do not owe their allegiance to the British Crown, or to the country in which they were born and live. They receive their instructions from the country in which this movement originated, namely, Russia. They are pledged irrevocably to Russia itself. We should take extensive security measures at once. The Attorney-General said that he himself was in favour of increasing the staff of the Security Service. I agree with him. I have never criticized the size of our Security Service as being unduly large. I have always believed, and my opinion is reinforced now, that we should have a strong security system. Our hope of adequate and effective defence depends very largely upon it. I refer specifically to the proposed range in Central Australia, where the guided projectiles will be tested. If the Attorney-General desires to increase the strength of the Security Service, I shall not oppose it.
A royal commission must be appointed to inquire into these matters. Unless we have a royal commission, we shall not he able to delve into all the facts, and ascertain exactly the ramifications of the
Communists in Australia and what mechanical means they have of putting their plans into operation. That information can be elicited only by a royal commission. Our own security agents must have collected a mass of evidence dealing with the activities of Communists, and that is suitable matter to be submitted to a royal commission. I hope that such a body will he appointed at an early date.
– The reasons which the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) advanced in support of the motion contained no reference to the appointment of a royal commission, or the Communist party, yet a great deal of the debate has centred upon those two matters. The motion deals with the necessity for taking adequate precautions against a leakage to any foreign power of secret information relating to experiments with guided weapons in Australia. As Minister for Defence, under whose jurisdiction in the main these experiments will be undertaken on the range in Central Australia, I desire to assure the House that adequate precautions are being taken to ensure that no leakage of information shall occur.
– Did not the Minister appoint Mr. Mount joy to the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research?
– Order ! The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has already spoken, and is not entitled to make a second speech at this stage.
– A leakage of information may occur in a variety of ways. First, it may occur through persons having access to the range, who should not he in the vicinity when certain experiments are being undertaken. Secondly, it may result from the transfer of documents from persons who have possession of them to persons who are not authorized tosee them: Thirdly, it could happen as the result of persons entering Australia from abroad who should not, perhaps, be allowed to come into this country.
Security arrangements in the Commonwealth fall under three headings. There is a Security Service within the Department of Defence itself; security arrangements under the jurisdiction of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) through the Commonwealth Investigation Branch; and a security staff under the administration of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), who makes inquiries into the bona fides of immigrants before they are permitted to enter Australia. I cannot speak with any authority about the security service under the jurisdiction of my two colleagues, other than to say that I have consulted them about the matter, and I know that they are doing everything possible in their particular fields to ensure that security matters shall receive adequate attention. I deprecate the fact that this debate has been turned into an attack -purely on the Communist party. There are other spies operating, perhaps in this country, and in other countries, apart from those who are Communists. Indeed, much of the espionage work undertaken in various -countries is carried out by individuals who have no political affiliations. If they were known to be prominent Communists or antiCommunists or fascists, they would not be able to do a good job as spies in any country.
– The honorable gentleman has a communist bias in his mind.
– I have no time for the Communist party. On two occasions, I have been opposed by Communist candidates in my electorate and everyone knows what my political ideology is. However, that does not alter the fact that we should not confine our attention to the activities of the Communists in this matter.
– Who suggested that we should ?
– Honorable members opposite have suggested that a royal commission should be appointed to inquire into the activities of the Communist party in this country. In the first place, the motion does not contain any reference either to the Communist party or to a royal commission. A royal commission would not uncover completely the espionage activities being undertaken in this country. By far the best method of dealing with this problem is to put aside the question of who is engaging in espionage activities - whether it be the Communists or somebody else - and inquire whether the Government has made adequate arrangements to ensure that security matters shall receive proper attention. I have already stated that the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister for Immigration are taking certain precautions. On the defence side, let me say that only this week I have had discussions with the head of the Defence Department, who has been in close consultation with Mr. Evetts, the leader of the mission to establish in Australia the range for testing guided weapons. He has set out the requirements in regard to security. I am not at liberty to say what these requirements are, but I can assure honorable members that the matter has been investigated thoroughly and that every precaution that Mr. Evetts asks shall be taken will be taken.
– But has not yet been taken.
– The guided weapon range itself has not yet been started, and certain work in connexion with it has not yet begun. Obviously, it is impossible to take adequate security measures in respect of all aspects of the range until the work gets under “way. Whatever safeguards have been required up to date have been taken, and as time goes on these arrangements will be perfected so that as the scheme develops and further security measures have to be adopted, they will be taken.
The honorable member for New England selected this occasion to make another attack on Mr. Mountjoy, who was formerly a member of this Parliament, and is now a member of the Executive Committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Mr. Mountjoy is not connected in any way with the Communist party. The honorable member for New England has made unfair attacks on Mr. Mountjoy on other occasions but, in my opinion, he does not really believe that there are substantial grounds for them.
– What rot!
– The honorable member would not dare to make similar attacks on Mr. Mountjoy outside this House. He shelters under the privilege afforded to him as a member of this House and knows that he is safe.
The maintenance of secrecy in respect of scientific developments is a difficult problem because it has to be recognized that many of the world’s scientific experts have, to say the least of it, Communist leanings.
– There are plenty who have not.
– We must realize that the work in connexion with guided projectiles and atomic energy is undertaken in a great many places throughout the world. Honorable members who are acquainted with the history of the development of atomic energy know that the final result was the outcome of hundreds of experiments undertaken in widely scattered place in many countries, including Germany, Denmark, England, and the United States of America. Little bits of information gained from places scattered throughout the world were gathered together in the United States of America and finally the problem of the production of atomic bombs was solved. It follows that scientific experts, possibly with Communist leanings, may be engaged on experiments on the fringe of atomic science, associated with the experiments to be carried out in Australia.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired. The honorable member for Henty.
– I rise to order. I submit-
-The honorable member for Henty has the call.
.- It is gratifying to realize that the two Ministers who have spoken to this motion have treated it seriously. They realize that the threat to our security is real and not a matter for contempt, as the remarks of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) would lead us to believe. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) criticized the motion on the ground that it was directed almost solely at the representatives of Russia and members of the Communist party in this country. Against what other power or party could it possibly be directed? We know the aims of the other great powers, and I have no hesitation in saying that there is only one nation to which we could possibly refer when urging that security measures be taken. This measure is not an attempt, as was said by the honorable member for Fremantle, to make a political attack upon the Government. Honorable members will have noticed that no honorable member who has spoken has attempted to discredit the Government by suggesting that there has been collusion between the Australian Labour party and the Communist party. The truth is that the Communist party in this country cannot be regarded as a political party at all. If it were merely a political party there would be no reason for an investigation of the kind proposed by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). The Communist party in Australia today is nothing more or le3s than the intelligence wing of Soviet Russia. Its members in this country, as in every other country where their activities have been brought to light, are engaged in ferretting out defence secrets and in “ fifth column” activities. The revelations in the report of the Canadian royal commission must have come as a considerable shock to honorable members. Indeed, the report, which deals with the cold-blooded and ruthless activities of the Communists in Canada reads more like a work of fiction than a record of facts. Unhappily, it is a record of facts and must be accepted as such. Honorable members must have received a considerable shock when they realized the close parallel between the conditions in Canada at that time and the conditions existing in Australia to-day. We cannot doubt that the aims of the Soviet representatives and of the Communist party are identical in whatever countries they are to be found. They have two objectives, first, to obtain vital information on defence matters - an activity of a most dangerous natures - and, secondly, to infiltrate into key positions in this country persons whose sympathies lie with the Soviet.
There are two types of Communists in this country. There are, first, what might be termed the more intelligent sort - men like Mr. Mountjoy and Mr. Brown and of the half-baked university professor type - who hope that some day they will gain some benefit from their open association with Soviet aims and policy. These are the people who are steadily winning recruits. The suggested inquiry ought to be directed against them. It is idle to say that an inquiry of the nature suggested would be useless because no one would be convicted. The purpose of appointing a royal commission in such cases is to ascertain to what degree suspects are involved. If the attitude of the honorable member for Fremantle had been adopted in Canada we should still be without knowledge of the subversive activities of Communists in that country. There is another type of Communist to whom we may refer as “ dopes “ or “ boobs “. For the alarming growth of this kind of Communist the Government, is partly to blame. I do not accuse it of associating with Communists or fostering the growth of communism in this country; but it has shown too much tolerance towards this sort of thing, particularly during the war. The Army used to publish certain newspapers for the information of the troops. I know from my own knowledge that the newspaper circulated to the troops in Borneo and New Guinea was written and edited largely by a well-known Communist, and, of course, its influence was spread throughout that area. The Army Education Service was just another field of communist activity of this sort. I, myself, attended lectures given by an Army Education Service officer, who was a wellknown Communist. He stood as a Communist candidate for a seat in this Parliament. At lectures to the troops he expounded the virtues of the Soviet system. The Government has been far too weak in dealing with this menace. I urge it to adopt the suggestion made by the honorable member for New England that it appoint a royal commission to inquire into Communist activities- in this country.
– The subject under discussion is most important. What causes me most concern is that so soon after World War II. we should still be thinking of future wars and defence against aggression. But, un fortunately, that is the position. Every honorable member is anxious to ensure that Australia shall play its part in preventing another war, but should we not succeed in that direction we are determined to resist aggression. Thus, this debate has a special significance. The secrets of measures which we develop to combat scientific warfare will not be of any value to us unless they be jealously guarded and held only between us and those associated with us in the organization of projects for their development. Defence, of course, is a form of attack; but we can assure the world that our defence measures will never he used for aggression. We shall use our resources in that respect only in association with the world organization established to maintain peace. Our efforts to develop defence measures and to keep the secrets of them within the councils of the nations with whom we are associated in that task are not assisted by speeches of the kind just made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). Perhaps he has rendered a service to the Parliament by submitting this motion; but his violent, personal abuse of individuals whom he suspects are associated with foreign powers is to be deprecated. Attacks of that kind never redound to the credit of the person who makes them. It is the easiest thing in the world to bandy around names in that fashion, and to call persons by all sorts of unpopular tags. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) asked me whether I had a conscience. I can only say to him that my conscience in this matter is perfectly clear. Right throughout my association with the Australian Labour party, I have been the target of attacks by the Communist party. No one, I believe, can accuse me of ever having been associated with the Communist party. However, I have always objected strenuously to accusations being made against any person who, because of some family association, may not be so completely “ in the clear “. I ask honorable members, as ordinary members of the community, to remember that a stigma lightly placed is not easily erased. Irreparable harm can be done to individuals, or organizations, by loosely associating them with some unpopular movement, or subversive activity. Similarly, l lie honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) endeavoured to smear my colleague, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). All that the latter said was that, whilst admitting the need for secrecy concerning our defence preparations, this matter could not be effectively dealt with by appointing a royal commission of inquiry for the purposes proposed by the honorable member for New England. I agree with that view. The honorable member for New England pointed out that the Government possessed information collected over a long period by the Security Service which could be used as a basis for an investigation of the kind he proposed. However, it is obvious that any such information disclosed before a royal commission would be published to the world. Probably, some disclosures, would be made prematurely, and thus the work of the Security Service would be hindered. The honorable member for Fremantle made an important .point when he reminded us that when the Royal Commission of Inquiry was conducted in Canada the government of that country was in receipt of information which had been given to it freely, and upon which an investigation could be based. No such situation exists in this country. We must consider what is the best, method to deal with these matters which, whilst they are of great importance, are also most delicate. I remember the situation that arose when the Communist party was banned in Australia. The party’s funds were confiscated, and the publication of its newspapers prohibited. Then there appeared throughout the Commonwealth such organizations as the Friends of the Soviet Union, and others whose objects were based on cultural associations with the Soviet Union They were formed under a variety of names implying desirable aims and objectives. But the. Australian Labour party in Western Australia, at any rate, was not deceived by the formation of such organizations. In that State we promptly prohibited members of our party from having any association with those movements because we knew the fount from which they sprang. However, many estimable persons with high ideals and motives, leaders in many spheres of society, were attracted to those movements because, apparently, they were formed for very laudable purposes. It is true that later, when those bodies were shown to be spurious, they rapidly lost members ; but it is also true that the Communist party, through those organizations, was enabled to build up its strength. Some of these organizations attracted people imbued with humanitarian motives, and many withdrew their membership when the real purpose of such organizations was disclosed. Nevertheless, a considerable number of persons retained their membership. We must be extremely careful in dealing with the problem now under discussion. Whilst we must bear in mind the security of this country and its people, we must also do all in our power to ensure that no wrong is done to innocent persons. In addition, we must ensure that no action we take to remedy this evil will encourage, rather, than remove, causes of unrest and subversive activity in the community. I have never had any time for the Communist party. Indeed it is a matter for regret that large numbers of Australians are attracted to that party which is afraid to come out into the light of day, and insists that its members shall not make known the fact of their membership. In view of those facts I do not believe that the Communist party will ever attract a popular following in Australia. Success for the party in that direction would be evidence of decadence of the Australian people. I do not believe that we have anything to fear from the Communist party. I did not believe that the Communist party in countries outside Russia was sponsored by the Soviet until I read the disclosures made before the Royal Commission of inquiry in Canada. I did not believe that the activities of the Communist party were helpful to the Soviet Union, or contributed towards the success of the Soviet in its associations with other countries. I believed that the Communist party blindly followed Russia. Whatever the Soviet did, the Australian Communist party followed as a matter of course. Nevertheless, even if the party were not associated with the Soviet, its activities were subversive. This debate emphasizes the necessity to watch more closely the activities of subversive bodies. However, I believe that the Government is quite capable of combating such activities.
Sitting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– This motion is one of the most important that has been discussed in the Parliament for a very long time, and I am pleased that its importance is realized by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). National security is the concern of the Opposition just as much as it is of the Government. On voting strength in the electorate, the Opposition represents nearly half the population. Therefore, the security of the rocket range cannot be left merely to the Government’s say-so. The security of sites, buildings, apparatus, weapons, and, most particularly, of the results achieved are all involved. If the information which foreign agents might obtain of these operations is to be of any value to the people suspected by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), it must be got out of Australia. The Attorney-General himself was responsible for bringing into this country the people who will see that the straff is got out under diplomatic privilege, if they can. The strength of the Soviet delegation in Australia was discussed in the House this morning. Some time ago, I asked a question on notice on this matter, and an answer was given to it, but we have never been told why it is necessary that Australia, which has no affiliation, no trade and no real contact with Russia worth mentioning, should have sent to it a Soviet delegation greater in number than all the other diplomatic delegations put together, unless the Soviet delegation has been recently reduced.
I know something of what went on before the war. I had my methods of intercepting information that went out of the country, and the Attorney-General knows how I did it. Now that there is a Soviet delegation in Australia, my method cannot be used any longer because all communications can be sent out under diplomatic privilege. Therefore, it is necessary that the closest watch should be kept on those connected with our military experiments. The Communists have been mentioned during this debate. I say without any equivocation - because I have had something to do with this matter - that no person can join the Communist party unless he is prepared to become a traitor to the country to which he owes allegiance. Therefore, in every country where it exists, the Communist party is a traitor party. It is prepared to commit treason on instructions from overseas, instructions the source of which it does not know. Events during the last 30 years prove that Communists are prepared to obey those intructions whenever received.
The Communist party and the Soviet authorities in various countries have been particularly successful in selecting men to occupy key positions - men whose activities, sympathies, commitments and allegiance have not been disclosed until some fortuitous occurrence brings them to light, as happened in Canada when the activities of the Soviet legation were revealed. As I have said, the. Opposition is just as deeply interested in this matter as is the Government, because the experiments in Australia on rocket bombs are an Imperial venture concerning, not Australia alone, but also Great Britain. For that reason, the Commonwealth Government is under a double obligation to ensure that adequate security measures are taken promptly. I do not know what security measures have been taken, but we want something more than just a statement that everything is all right. Certain things taking place in the United Kingdom, and in some of the senior dominions, are looked upon as outside the field of party politics because they involve national security. For that reason, I am more than a little disturbed at some of the things which have been done recently. The name of an exmember of this Parliament was mentioned this morning. I do not want to get into a fight on that issue, but it is interesting to note that, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) may say, a man of the same name as the one mentioned this morning is standing as a Communist for a State seat in “Western Australia. I know that there are instances of brothers taking opposite sides in politics, but they are the exception, not the rule. Therefore, it is all the more necessary that proper safeguards should be employed’, and that the good faith of the person in question be proved.
It may not seem important to the Government, but this sort of thing is disturbing the public mind to-day, and is leading people to ask whether the Commonwealth Government realizes the seriousness of the position with which it is faced as a result of the untramelled activities of the Communist party in Australia. The Attorney-General and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), both gave certain assurances this morning, but I should be much Happier if some evidence were placed before us as to the nature of the security measures being taken. I fully realize that the British Army Department and the Munitions Department are implicated in the experiments to be conducted, because yesterday the Government placed before the House information on the subject when the position of aborigines was being discussed. I do not think that the matter of the aborigines affects the issue at all, except insofar as it may be used overseas as a stick with which to flog the Australian Government. From my knowledge’ of the country in question, I should say that if there was a nigger to every 100 square miles it would be over- populated. There does not seem to be much likelihood of doing damage to the aborigines.
The matter of rocket development is of vital importance to Australia. I disagree with the Attorney-General when he says that the rocket is a weapon of defence. It is nothing of the sort. No weapon of the kind can be a weapon of defence. The best description of it was that given by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) when he said that it was a weapon of retaliation. The experiments which we propose to make in connexion with rockets constitute an offensive operation, and it, is well that we should understand that. For that reason, it is all the more necessary that we should look to our security. It may be said that the Government practically fathered the Communist party in Australia as it exists to-day. Very soon after assuming office, it released it from certain restrictions with the imposition of which I was happy to have been associated. Those restrictions should have been of a permanent character because they were designed to curb the activities of a treacherous organization. Some mention was made of amending the Crimes Act. The English Crimes Actis quite capable of dealing with Communists.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The motion is in several parts, but the only part with which I propose to deal is that which relates to the Department of Immigration and stresses the necessity for “ taking adequate precautions against the leakage of secret information to any power in connexion with rocket projectile experiments undertaken in Australia “. Information could be given to foreign countries by naturalized British subjects, natural-born British subjects, aliens temporarily resident in the country, or by those sent here for the purpose of spying m certain areas or for espionage purposes generally. The Department of Immigration does its utmost to ensure that persons issued with landing permits are worthwhile prospective citizens of this country. To date no person who is not a close relative of some Australian citizen has been granted a landing permit. Australian citizens nominating relatives must have been resident here before the war.
– What about recent arrivals ?
– It is true that some people have arrived here recently, but in all cases they were related to people who either came here at some time before the war or who had been resident in Australia for many years. Those who have arrived in Australia recently will not be given an opportunity to nominate close relatives for some years to come. Through the agency of the British Consular Corps or the British Diplomatic Service, we endeavour to arrange for as effective a check in respect of all those who seek visas to their landing permits as the British Foreign Office and its intelligence officers can apply. If anybody in Australia who is suspected in any way applies for a landing permit we take extra precautions. I have had no reason to believe that anybody in Australia has so far been desirous of introducing to this country any close relatives who may reasonably be regarded with suspicion. It is always possible, however, that malevolently disposed people will attempt to enter Australia, and I assure honorable members that if we find any such people here we shall not have the slightest hesitation in deporting them. Under the Immigration Act any person who has not completed five years residence in Australia may be deported. If I have reasonable grounds to suspect the bona fides of a newcomer I shall not fail to exercise my authority to send such a person back to the place from which he or she came. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that the guided projectile experiment about to - be conducted in Western Australia is intended to develop weapons for offensive purposes. I entirely disagree with the honorable member.
– The honorable gentleman always disagrees with common sense.
– I frequently have reason to disagree with the honorable member, because I rarely hear him say anything that could be regarded as commonsense. In taking that view, the honorable member disagrees with the British chiefs of staff and the governments of all countries in the British Commonwealth of Nations, who desire these experiments to be made in order that, for defence purposes, the British Empire may acquire the fullest possible knowledge of scientific development in the realm of guided projectiles and rocket-propelled missiles. When the technique of utilizing weapons of this type is perfected sufficient launching platforms will lie erected round the coast of Great Britain to enable the Mother Country to defend itself against a hostile attack. The sole purpose of the experiments is to ensure that the British Empire shall not be placed at a disadvantage in the event of another war. Australia is the only part of the British Commonwealth* where such experiments can be undertaken. We, having the requisite empty spaces, are simply playing our part inEmpire defence in placing that land at the disposal of Empire countries for experiments in this new, form of defensive warfare. It is essential to take every possible step to see that no persons other than trusted members of the British Commonwealth of Nations obtain any information as to the nature of the experiments. We have suitable areas of land and an equable climate. Because of its climate Canada would not be suitable for these experiments. South Africa may have been rejected because of the greater chance of information leaking out to a prospective enemy. We have no need to tighten up our immigration practices. If it be found necessary to do more than we are doing, we shall not hesitate to instruct our officers abroad to apply the requisite additional tests. The “motion stresses the necessity for taking adequate precautions to prevent the leakage of information. I assure honorable members that as far as the Department of Immigration is concerned there is no necessity to emphasize that, because we are already taking reasonable precautions and shall take such added precautions as may be found necessary. I do not believe that any department in the Commonwealth Service is remiss in its responsibilities in this respect. Through the Security Service and the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) is watching the activities of persons upon whom a watchful eye should be kept. The Department of Post-war Reconstruction, which is conducting the experiments as agent for all the governments of the British Commonwealth, is also taking all precautions.
I deprecate the attack which has been made on the former honorable member for Swan. Mr. Mountjoy, now an officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It may be true that his relatives are Communists or have Communist sympathies or that people in his own family circle hold views different from his own. In my association with him I have never found reason to doubt his loyalty to this country. In my opinion he is as loyal as any one could be. I am certain that information which reaches him in his official capacity as a member of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will not be used detrimentally to this nation, and that he will give loyal service to the council and do everything he can to promote the common good of Australia. This discussion has at times taken an unfortunate turn. Some honorable members seem to have become rather hysterical about certain phases of our national activity. If the honorable member for Barker were voicing the views of his party in regard to Communists and communism we should probably take more notice of him than we do. But the leader of his party holds views entirely different from those which he has expressed. He should at least have said, J’ Speaking for myself, and believing that I express the views of only a very small minority of the party on this question . . .” Then we should have known precisely what he meant. The honorable member asked for concrete evidence ;hat effective steps were being taken. I do not know how we could provide further evidence than has already been given.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257n.
Debate resumed from the 5th March (vide page 395), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the hil) be now read a second time.
– In recent years - certainly since the war and also in the latter years of the war - Australia has suffered seriously from troubles on the waterfront which apparently the Government is unable to arrest and has done little to reduce. This bill Ls the result of an endeavour to restore continuity in the handling of vessels at Australian ports, lack of which has caused great loss and inconvenience to this country. The holdup on the waterfront is nothing less than industrial and political rebellion by “ stooges “ of a foreign-controlled coterie of traitors. The result has been that the people of this country have been deprived of many essential commodities such as coal, and both primary and secondary industries have not been able to operate at full capacity because they have been unable to obtain their requirements or market their products. The Government has done little by way of legislation to improve industrial conditions and eliminate strikes and “ goslow “ tactics until the indignation of the people has forced some supposed action. The object of this bill is to continue the Stevedoring Industry Commission on a permanent basis, and to ensure to waterside workers a monopoly in their industry. During the war, at many ports the waterside workers refused to work, and their places were taken by volunteers of the Australian Imperial Force many of whom had seen service overseas. These men, however, will be debarred from engaging in the waterside industry to-day by the provisions of this measure.
The whole purport of the bill indicates that the Government has sold out to the Communist-controlled Waterside Workers Federation of Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle. For instance, wage-pegging which is in force throughout the community to-day is not a principle of this hill. Also the measure takes the waterside industry out of the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. It is to be controlled by a special body that, has no relation to the Arbitration Court, and will not be bound by economic considerations as the Arbitration Court is. The Communist bodies demand these releases. The Arbitration Court is a charge on the people of Australia, but the .Stevedoring Industry Commission will be a charge on primary and secondary industries producing goods for export. Under the taxing measure introduced this week, a charge of 4-Jd. a man-hour is to be imposed upon employers of waterside labour, namely, the shipowners and stevedoring companies. We are not simple enough to believe that that charge will not be passed on. The levy is estimated to produce £500,000 a year, and this money, of course, will be subscribed by our primary and secondary industries for the. promotion of Communist-controlled industrial mediation. The charge is to be imposed because the Government is giving way in every detail to the Communists. As in the past, the Government, like Nero, fiddles while Rome burns.
– Why did Nero fiddle?
– Probably because he was an Orangeman and did not give a damn whether Rome burned 01 not. 1 am not exaggerating the effect of this legislation. The title of the taxing measure is “ a bill for an act relating to the imposition assessment and collection of a charge in respect of the employment of waterside workers “. Its short title is the “ Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill 1947 “. It3 purpose, as I have said, is to impose upon the employers of waterfront labour a charge which eventually must be passed on to the secondary and primary producers. The Government is giving way because it is not prepared to stand up to the Communists who have Australian industry and Australia by the throat, and are seriously impairing our trade with other countries. Commerce Ls the life-‘blood of this country, but to-day it is being impeded by 9,000 Communist-controlled operatives on the waterfront, who are delaying the sending of foodstuffs to Great Britain, thus hindering the movement of essential goods such as building material between Australian ports and delaying the marketing of goods. But the Government is not doing anything to ease the position.
A most curious and interesting aspect of this debate was the speech of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), a former Labour AttorneyGeneral, than whom no other honorable member is more conversant with the waterfront industry. He was the author of the famous “Brennan waterside workers regulations”. He asked “Why this bill? In what way is the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act ineffective or inefficient? Why cannot it operate in respect of these chosen people on the waterfront? “ Yes, why is it not possible to preserve arbitration for ali sections of the industrial community? That is the policy of both the Labour Government and ourselves. Why sell out the
Arbitration Court because of a Communistdirected rebellion on the waterfront? The Government ought to make a stand against the Communists. It will he assured of the full support of the Opposition if it does. The honorable member for Batman wanted to know all those things, but he has not yet received a reply. I am confident that his suspicion that this bill will be detrimental to the interests of arbitration and therefore the country is well based.
The new Stevedoring Industry Commission will have no more power than the old to enforce its decisions. It will be required no more than the old was to receive the authority of the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court to make important alterations of pay and conditions, but in other industries no such alterations may be made without the authority of the chief judge. The payment of attendance money to the waterside workers, whether they attend or not, on days on which they are not required was ordered by the Stevedoring Industry Commission without reference to the chief judge. That action added £400,000 a year to the waterside workers’ pay envelopes. We do not deny the right of the waterside workers to a good standard of living, but the time has come when some attention ought to be paid to the needs of the struggling settlers in the outback. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. O’Connor) deplored that waterside workers at Gladstone had to wash in salt water. When they had to do that they were lucky to have water to wash in at all, because Queensland was droughtstricken. Fresh water is abundant on tho Gladstone wharfs in normal times. While the waterside workers had salt water to wash in brought to them in basins, men, women and children to the north, south and west of Gladstone were hard-pressed to get water at all, not only for themselves but also to keep their stock alive.
The discontent on tho waterfront does not arise from any genuine complaint. It is political in origin and like the disputes of a political character that tho Attorney-General referred to in another debate. My remarks, I make perfectly clear, relate to the wharf labourers in Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle. I make no reference to the waterside workers in many of the small ports around the coast who have done their job in the war and since. I direct my attention to the Communist-driven thugs ou the waterfronts of those three cities. No need exists for me to impress on honorable gentlemen the determination of the Communists to overthrow democracy. That is the reason for the strikes, and nothing that this bill may do when it is passed into the law will stop, or is designed to’ stop, the Communists on the waterfront of our three principal ports from doing what they like, when they like and as they like. Excuses have been offered for the behaviour of the waterside workers by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) showed a pathetic lack of knowledge of the stevedoring industry in the multiplicity of excuses that she offered. For instance, she referred to the parttime nature of the work. That has already been compensated for by seasonal benefits and also by the recent addition of £400,000 a year in attendance money to the waterside workers’ pay-roll. Then she referred to some time when no work was offering at the Port of Melbourne. But that port has never been idle except when thrown idle ! There has always, been ample shipping in it to provide the waterside- workers with all the work that they need.
As another excuse for the waterside workers’ tantrums reference was made to the need for first-aid’ equipment on the wharfs. Any one with any knowledge of the stevedoring industry would know that the stevedores and the harbour trusts have provided first-aid equipment on the wharfs for years. Another excuse offered by a. Government supporter for the decline of the speed with which cargoes are. handled - a fact, which all. admit - was that safety devices- were lacking and gear was. inefficient. More than two years ago a safety code in accordance with what was; demanded by the workers was provided. It was also claimed that boards of reference were needed to deal with claims that safety measures were absent; but if there is a dispute about safety measures a board of reference is available on call and is on the scene within ten minutes to settle it. Navigation surveyors and inspectors are also provided to ensure that gear shall be in full working order, and the producer pays for these and all other sops of the Communist-driven man of the waterfront. No dispute has arisen on the waterfront on safety grounds to warrant the present unrest. Not even the Communistcontrolled Waterside Workers Federation has the temerity to make any complaint on that score.
The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) deplored the lack of canteens on the wharfs. Elaborate canteens were provided at great cost when Australia was in the midst of a war that threatened its existence and killed and maimed thousands of its young men. Those canteens are conducted by the Government, which has tried to get rid of them to private caterers. Many’ of them are closed to-day because the waterside workers have refused to patronize them. The Government arranged for scientifically planned meals to be served in them so that the men would be adequately fed. The meals were supposed to be energy-giving, but the men would not eat them. The ration provided was the same as that available to other citizens,, but the men demanded more food and got it. At each meal they were given a choice of three varieties of meat and three different sweet dishes, but still they were not satisfied. The result is that the canteens are conducted at a heavy financial loss. In case Government supporters deny this fact, I urge the Government to lay on the table of the House all reports dealing with the operations “ of the canteens.
These men have been pampered, but the welfare of primary producers, who have been struggling against adverse seasonal conditions, has been neglected by the Government. Some farmers in my electorate are not able to earn more than £2 a month under present conditions. They are increasing their debts in an effort to save perhaps 50 per cent, of their cattle which were starving because of the drought. In addition, they are incurring debts in order to feed themselves and their families. While these people suffer, the Government indulges the waterside workers who, instead of working hard, show their ingratitude by causing delay? on the wharfs when the primary producers are fortunate enough to have goods to export. The hourly rates of pay of waterside workers have been increased. Government supporters say that this is fair compensation for the intermittent nature of waterside labour. But the Government now provides an attendance fee of 12s. a day on days when a man is not picked up for work. Compensation for broken working time is provided in many industries, hut in this respect no industry receives more favorable treatment, than the stevedoring industry.
In recent years, the average earnings of waterside workers have been greatly increased. For instance, in Melbourne recently, a gang of wharf labourers received £911s. 5d. each for a working week of 39.68 hours. In Newcastle, a gang of men received £9 2s. 2d. each for a working week of 37.71 hours. What a contrast with the remuneration of primary producers! Pick-up centres with adequate shelter and other amenities, and increased rates of pay for overtime work, have been provided for waterside workers, but still they will not work. This bill will not work, and neither will the waterside workers. We have proved that they are doing less work now than they did a few years ago, in spite of improved conditions, increased pay, and an increase of the number of men in gangs. Government supporters excuse them by saying that they are obliged , to use obsolete loading and unloading machinery. That is not true. Nearly all ships which oper- ate in Australian waters to-day are under government control. The Government has commandeered the ships, and the law requires them to have efficient equipment. Ships which come from overseas are mostly new vessels which are provided with the latest machinery devised by science for the handling of cargoes. American ships with modern equipment which have visited Australia recently on their maiden voyages have been unloaded at an exceptionally slow rate by large gangs. Figures are available to prove that the waterside workers are deliberately “ going slow “ on their jobs. For instance, in 1938, gangs of nineteen or twenty men handled 22 tons of cargo in an hour, whereas, in 1946, gangs of 23to 25 men handled only 18½ tons an hour. Timber isbadly needed in Australia to-day,but the rate of handling timber on the wharfs has fallen off seriously since before the war. In 1938, using the out-of-date machinery employed in those days, a gang of thirteen men could load 10,000 superficial feet of timber an hour. In 1946, gangs of fifteen to sixteen men loaded only 6,255 superficial feet of timber hourly. None of the excuses made by honorable members opposite for this slowing down of work can hold water. The men are determined to strike and cause delays because they want to break down democratic conditions in this country. It is futile for honorable members opposite to deny that fact. The activities of the Communist party in this respect were publicized at a Communist party conference in London on the 27th February. An official circular distributed at the conference contained the following statement : -
The Australian Labour party feels a threat to its supremacy, because the Communist party leads the most important trade unions and is exercising an increasingly significant influence on political life.
Communists are holding leading positions in a number of unions, including the ironworkers, miners, seamen’s, steelmetal workers, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, wharf labourers and building workers, while influence is exercised in unions such as the clerks, teachers, and hospital employees.
That boastful statement exposed the Communist threat to the Australian Government. The waterside workers are deliberately causing disruption, although everything possible has been done, as in the coal-mining industry, to improve their conditions of work. Every nation to-day wishes to make the utmost use of the ships at its disposal. Great Britain and Australia particularly need to make the best use of their ships. In spite of that, the turn round of ships in Australian ports has been delayed. Before the war, ships trading in Australian waters were in port for one-third of their time; to-day they are in port for twothirds of their time. The nation is suffering as a result. In order to reduce delays in port, American shipping companies installed what is known as the fork lift. This device is designed to speed up loading and unloading operations to a degree that was previously considered impossible. It unloads dumps and bales with great rapidity. But, as the Australian waterside workers object to the use of fork lifts, these operate only in the sheds. The load must be dumped at the shed door, where it is handled by the waterside workers. Obviously, the Government’s excuse that the waterside workers are being hampered by unsatisfactory and obsolete unloading equipment is ridiculous. The hill does not contain any provision to ensure that these faults shall be rectified.
The penalties which are provided for offences are inadequate. One serious feature is the omission to make pilfering an offence. Pilfering on the wharfs has grown to such a degree that Australians have no cause to be proud of the name that they have in other ports of the world. The waterside workers in the three ports to which I refer are not concerned about speeding-up the unloading and loading of ships. Their only object is to keep their jobs for themselves. They are eager to work more days when they feel like work, but they always agitate for more pay and for the employment of more members of the Waterside Workers Federation. These men are sabotaging Australia’s industries, and doing grievous harm to those people of the Commonwealth who desire to work. Approximately 9,000 -waterside workers in Sydney, Newcastle and Melbourne have the people of Australia by the throat, and the Government is not prepared to throw them off the wharfs and replace” them with men who are willing to work - men from the country who have grown the produce that is to be exported. The time will come again when primary producers will go to the ports, as they did at Gladstone years ago, and load their produce on to the ships rather than see it ruined.
Recently, an industrial dispute occurred at the port of Newcastle. The waterside workers declared that they would go on strike because the “ spuds “ in the hold of two ships smelt. Who were responsible for the spuds” being in a rotten condition ? The waterside workers themselves ! They created the conditions which ruined the “ spuds “.
– Were not the potatoes ruined when salt water got into the hold of the ship ?
– I do not think so, because -the waterside workers would not go aboard a ship with a hole in it. Everything must be perfect for the molly-coddled waterside workers. They are not just ordinary workers. Obviously, then, there could not have been anything wrong in the hold of the ship. The waterside workers were responsible for the “ spuds “ being rotten. They were engaged to work two ships at Newcastle. When they were required to work overtime, they were paid a special penalty rate. Honorable members should not think that any hardship is inflicted upon the waterside workers when they are asked to work overtime. They receive more than 6s. an hour for overtime up till midnight, and over Ss. an hour after midnight. In addition, they are provided, free of charge, with supper consisting of meat and sweets. At one period, they stopped work because they complained that the serve of meat was not sufficiently large.
After having worked upon one of the ships for an hour, they were asked to transfer to the other ship. They refused to do so. Then the chairman of the port committee suspended them, as he was perfectly entitled to do. The men had failed to obey the conditions under which they had been engaged. When we provide in legislation for working conditions we expect the law to be obeyed. I remind honorable members opposite at this stage that the chairman of the port committee was not a ship-owner, but the president of the local branch of the Australian Labour party. Following his action, the waterside workers went on strike, and held up shipping in the port for the week. A week later they returned to work for the pur-: pose of unloading the “ spuds “. They found that the “ spuds “ were going rotten. Often on farms and in stores, potatoes go rotten, and they must be picked over by the farmer and the storekeeper, who are not paid so much an hour for the work, as the waterside workers are. Finding that the “ spuds “ were going bad, the men demanded extra pay to compensate them for the “ special circumstances “. They sent for the local medical officer at Newcastle, but he expressed the opinion that working among the “spuds” would not he detrimental to their health. The men then proceeded to work for an additional 4s. 6d. an hour, and an arrangement was made that they should have every alternate half-hour off. While they were working the half-hour off-
– How could they work half an hour off?
– Honorable members may laugh, but there is not much difference. I have watched these waterside workers for hours.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) must have been working hard at that time !
– I was a passenger on the ship and was waiting for it to sail. The men had every alternate half an hour off. Some people might say that they worked for half an hour and that they do not loaf. I do not desire to disparage their efforts. They were doing the work for which they were paid, and therefore it must have been work. While they sat down every alternate half hour, they still received full pay. So did their comrades, who were supposed to be unloading the ship at the time the others were resting. These men were paid special rates for unloading “ spuds “ which they themselves allowed to go ratten. Who tore the extra cost? As the control of the sale and distribution of potatoes is still a Commonwealth responsibility, the loss was borne by the general taxpayer. He had to grin and bear it. When the Commonwealth relinquishes control of this industry, the unfortunate potato-grower will bear the loss arising from similar incidents.
For some years the waterside workers have had a right royal time. Everything, even supper, is provided for them. Sometimes, they are as happy as sand boys. Thenthe Government is spurred to feeble action as the result of protests by the Opposition against the continuation of this system. The only difference between the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and Nero is that Nero had a fiddle. When the waterside workers refused to unload those ships, families had no “ spuds “ to eat ; ma and the kids “went without potatoes, and the old man growled. Those are the conditions that the Communists desire to foster. The more growling theyhear among the people, the nearer they see the destruction of this democracy, in which, they say, no one is happy. They hope that, as the result of continual industrial strife which they foment in all our industries and the inactivity of the Labour Government, we shall offer Australia to them, and let them take the lot. This bill reminds me of the legislation designed to control the coal-mining industry, concerning which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said -
The Government is determined that never again will the industry lapse into the condition in which we find it and from which, while war continued, there was no chance of recovery.
He referred to the condition of continuous strikes and strife. This hill will not provide security against continued strikes. On the contrary, the waterside workers at this moment are “ rubbing commerce in the dirt “. They are proposing a general hold-up in the Port of Sydney, one of the world’s great ports. These irresponsibles, these jackals of foreign countries, are causing industrial upheavals in all parts of the world. The Government will have the assistance of every member of the Opposition in any action it may take - and I hope that it will take action - to ensure that law and order shall be maintained, and awards of the Arbitration Court observed. This bill, which takes the waterside -workers outside the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, should be withdrawn, and another measure, which will demonstrate the Government’s determination to rule, substituted for it.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Gaha) adjourned.
Petrol - Bicycle Tyres - Reestablishment: Vocational Training of Ex-service Personnel - Trade Commissioners - Defeated Parliamentarians : Government Appointments to Public Positions - Greenslopes Military Hospital.
Motion (by Mr. Barnard) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- As the representative of a country electorate I endeavour to represent all the people of that electorate, irrespective of their political views. Yesterday, when I brought to the notice of this House a matter of vital importance to country people, I was astonished to hear derisive laughter from a group of members opposite who claim to represent country interests. They showed themselves in their true colours and by their behaviour they demonstrated their unfitness to continue as members of this Parliament. My representations yesterday should have received the unanimous support of members of the Australian Country party. They complain about the miners dislocating industry, yet they are silent when one of the great combines of this country dislocates transport in country districts by refusing to release petrol supplies stored in the country, thereby throwing men out of work. They ought to hold their heads down in shame. They laughed again this morning when I brought the shortage of cycle tyres before this House. [Quorum, formed.] It is all very well for honorable gentlemen on the Opposition benches to laugh, but inability to obtain tyres for their cycles is no laughing matter to school children living 4 or 5 miles from a school. People can go into bicycle shops and buy as many new bicycles with tyres attached as they please, but when one tries to buy a tyre for replacement there is none to be bought. This is no laughing matter.
As a result of my reference to the shortage of petrol in my electorate yesterday the Department of Supply and Shipping has taken action. The department has informed me as follows : -
Pool Petroleum lias advised that a rail tanker carrying 9,000 gallons of petrol reached Yass last night and that a further tanker should arrive to-day. I have had a long talk with the Sydney manager of “ Pool “ and he has assured me .that while some companies have stocked up their depots to a limited extent with a view to having stocks available for their own distribution should individual trading resume on the 1st April, these stocks are now being transferred over to the pool company -for current distribution in any place where the latter happens to be temporarily out of stock.
The petrol was there, but it was “ frozen “. As I suspected, it was being held until the 1st April next so that the oil companies could send it out to their own depots under their own seals. The derision of honorable members opposite will have no effect on me.
– I was most interested to hear the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) refer to the oil companies. I have said in this House repeatedly that if ever the people want a good, healthy monopoly established they have only to elect a Labour government. There is no better proof of the truth of that statement than the way in which the oil companies are carrying on to-day. Although the present Labour Government has an absolute majority in both Houses, yet the honorable member complains of petrol being unobtainable in country districts. His complaint should be directed, not against the oil companies but against the monopoly-minded Government that he supports. As the representative of a country constituency he has proved quite clearly to the electors of Hume that he has let them down, and that so long as he supports a Labour Government he cannot serve the best interests of the people who elected him.
I remember that the first question asked by the honorable member in this House was about the shortage of wire netting. There is a shortage of wire netting simply because the Government, which he supports, has not the courage to deal with the people responsible. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) complained of the condition of roads in New South Wales, although there has been a Labour Government in office in that State since Mohammed was a boy. Yet honorable members opposite do not go to their electors and tell them that they got into Parliament under false pretences. The honorable member for Hume told the electorate that if he was returned they would get roads and petrol and bicycle tyres and everything else they wanted. If he had the political honesty that is required in this place he would resign from the Labour party and come across here. I say to him that it is a cowardly thing for a member of Parliament, in order to savehis own political skin, to kick the Government he is supposed to be supporting.
He should get out and say to the people, “ The shortages are all right, and must be endured, because they are approved by the Government “. I have stated the facts regarding Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, which made a profit of nearly £.1,000,000 last year. The Government holds a majority of shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and that company also made record profits last year. Indeed, if such profits had been made by a private company, honorable members opposite would have called is an exploiter and blood-usucker. The honorable member for Hume should carry his protest to its logical conclusion by telling his electors that he deceived them at the last election. He should resign and join the Opposition. The only alternative open to him is to hang his head in shame, and t.o keep his tongue quiet inside it.
.-I desire to bring two matters to the notice of the Government. The first concerns the vocational training of exservice.men. Under this scheme, the Government pays university fees, graduation fees, and sustenance allowance, but it does not pay the fee of about £50 which is required before a law graduate can be recognized in the Supreme Court in Victoria. This may be merely an oversight but unless this measure of assistance is forthcoming many brilliant young men who have graduated in law will not be able to practise their profession.
The next matter concerns the appointment of trade commissioners by this Government. Some weeks ago, I put on the notice-paper a question in which I asked whether advertisements had been published in the newspapers calling for applications for the appointment of seven trade commissioners, and whether the closing date for the applications had been extended from the 24th October to the 24th November. The answer to both these questions was “Yes”. I also asked whether Mr. Breen and Mr. Frost, ex-members of this Parliament, had been applicants for appointment, and I received the astounding reply that Mr. Breen had not been an applicant, but that he submitted an application for one of the position.? before the appointments had been finally determined. Why, I ask, should the Government waste the time of the persons from whom it invites applications when it fills the positions with persons whose only qualification is that, they are defeated political supporters? The fact is, of course, that Mr. Breen was a member of Parliament when applications were called for the positions. Five quite good appointments were made, but I understand that two of the positions were reserved for those who might lose the number of their mess at the elections. Since then, we ‘know that Mr. Mountjoy who formerly represented Swan, has been appointed to the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Mr. Martens, the defeated member for Herbert, to the board of directors of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and Mr. Breen and Mr. Frost have been provided for. It would appear that, in order to qualify for such appointments, it is only necessary to have been a candidate for Parliament in the interest of the Labour party, because the young man who opposed the honorable member for Henty in the last election has since been found a joh in Trans-Australia Airlines. In my question I asked how many applications had been received from exservicemen, and I was told that the number was 215 out of 318. I asked, further, whether Mr. Breen or Mr. Frost were exservicemen, and whether the conditions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act had been complied with. The answer was, “ Yes “, and if that is not a lie, it was certainly an evasion. The fact is that the only qualification which either of these men possessed for the position was that they were ex-members of Parliament. They had no qualifications whatever to be trade commissioners, whereas, among the applications received, were several from men who had lived in the Middle East, and who had trade affiliations there. However, they were passed over tor discards from the Federal Parliament. The reply which I received stated that Mr. Frost was not a member of the Trade Commissioner Service. If that is so, I should like to know what took him to Ceylon as Australia’s representative. If he is not there as a trade commissioner, the Government should bring him back. The Government had no right to put him in a position which should have been reserved either for men who had spent years in the Public Service training for such a position, or for qualified persons outside the Service, who were capable of doing the work. It is useless for the Government to deny that it has practised political jobbery. I wish to make a vigorous protest against the action of the Government in regard to these appointments. The men concerned should be dismissed, and the positions filled by others chosen on their merits, instead of by men whose qualifications consist only of their political affiliations.
– in reply - The matters raised by honorable members will he brought to the notice of the appropriate Ministers.
On the 21st February, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) made certain allegations against my department in connexion with the hospital at Greenslopes, in Queensland. I promised at the time to have inquiries made regarding the truth or otherwise of his assertions, and to reply later. The first communication which I received from persons who were affected by the honorable member’s allegations was a letter signed by the secretary of the Queensland branch of the Hospital Employees Federation of Australia. The letter, which was unsolicited, reads -
Dear Sir, i am enclosing a cutting from the Brisbane Telegraph of 22/2/47 and my members would appreciate any action on your part to refute the allegation by Mr. Francis that they show gross neglect in performing their duties, in allowing hospital patients either to sweep and polish floors or make beds. Both these duties arc performed by members of this federation in any wards at Greenslopes Hospital staffed by employees of the Repatriation Commission, and we resent deeply the implied slur, in these published remarks, of a member of the House df Representatives.
We would also deem it a favour, if you would inform Mr. Francis, that, the people whom he now accuses of this alleged neglect, as well as being members of this federation and deeply conscious of the need to help and care for the invalid returned soldiers, are those same people that a few short months ago he and his kind referred to as “ rats of Tobruk “, “ heroes of El Alamein “, and those gallant women who served under the Bed Cross in many theatres of war as nursing sisters “, &c.
In our ranks are men and women, too, who served under fire, and were prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese and Germans, together with patients of this hospital, and any reasonable person would scout the idea that they would be guilty of neglect of their own mates.
In conclusion, you can assure Mr. Francis Unit we, the members of the Hospital Eniployees Federation in Queensland will continue to serve the sick and disabled returned serviceman or woman at the direction of the Repatriation Commission in a manner that will put to shame the treatment meted out by the Government of which he was a member, to invalided returnees from the 1014-18 war.
– I rise to order. The Minister has read what he declares to be a letter. It is a rule of the Parliament that any document from which a quotation is made by a Minister shall be laid on the table. The Minister cannot claim that the letter is a confidential document. Therefore, I ask that the letter be laid on the table.
– As the letter which has just been read by the Minister is not an official document, the point taken by thehonorable member cannot be sustained.
– The letter is addressed to the Minister in his official capacity. Therefore, it is an official document. It will form part of the file which commenced with a speech made by tb> honorable member for Moreton on the 21st February last. Following that speech, the secretary of the Queensland branch of the Hospital Employees Federation of Australia saw fit to write to the Minister. The letter has been written on behalf of a body of ex-soldiers, and has been forwarded to the Minister in his official capacity. The Minister has seen fit to read it in public. Therefore, it is an official document; and 1 submit the Minister must lay it on the table.
– - If the Minister claims that it is a personal letter and not an official document, I must rule against the honorablemember.
– I rise to order. TheMinister is replying to a statement made by the honorable member for Moreton who, himself, is a returned soldier with a distinguished service record. The Minister has replied by reading a slighting reference made by a person who, he alleges, is a returned soldier. Under the rules of debate the Minister should give the name of the person who wrote the letter; and he should in fairness to himself, lay the document on the table.
– I lay on the table the following papers: -
Greenslopes Military Hospital - Letter from the Secretary, Queensland Branch of the Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia, regarding conditions.
The letter is signed by “ Richardson “, secretary of the Queensland Branch of the Hospital Employees Federation of Australia. I have also received a report made on behalf of several patients who were questioned with respect to the allegations made by the honorable member. Those patients state that they had made no complaint whatever. On the contrary, they express high praise of the treatment they have received in the repatriation wards at the institution concerned. The next communication which I received dealing with this matter is from the Assistant Commissioner of the Red Cross Society in Queensland, who expresses the view that the facilities and amenities provided at the Greenslopes Hospital are equal to, if not better, than those provided in any other similar institution in Australia. All of these communications were unsolicited. They are significant by reason of the fact that they were addressed to me by persons who became incensed at the allegations made by the honorable member. The Deputy Commissioner of the Red Cross Society in Queensland also pointed out that his society had provided liberal amenities at the Greenslopes Hospital, . and had expended the sum of £15,000 in providing a recreation centre with full equipment, including billiard tables and a piano. The honorable member for Moreton alleged - I quote his exact words - “that many hospital officials are becoming desperate because of government inaction”. Those allegations reflect upon my administration as the Minister concerned in this matter. Whilst I do not claim to have a thorough knowledge of the ramifications of my department and whilst I have not visited all of the hospitals under my control, I refute those allegations. My refutation is substantiated by the communications which I have mentioned. The Repatriation Department can take justifiable pride in its efforts to provide for the welfare of exservice personnel. It is most regrettable that any honorable member, without knowing the facts, should make allegations of the kind made by the honorable member for Moreton. Unfortunately, in this instance the honorable member also reflected upon ex-servicemen whose records in World War II. are equal to, if they do not excel, that of the honorable member himself as a service man in World War I.
– - I ask leave to make a statement.
– The honorable member is not entitled to make a statement; he may make a personal explanation.
– And a statement, too !
– Order! Standing Order 258 reads -
By the indulgence of the House, a member may explain matters of a personal nature, although there be no question before the House; but such matters may not be debated.
The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has closed the debate on the question “ That the house do now adjourn “. The honorable member may make a personal explanation in respect of the matters upon which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Honorable members have heard the observations made by the Minister for Repatriation. 1 have before me a copy of the speech which I delivered on the occasion in question. If the Minister cares to read it he will find that the only reference which I made to the Greenslopes Military Hospital was contained in eight words. I said : “ Greenslopes Military Hospital, Brisbane, is short of staff.” No other expressions were made by me concerning that institution; yet the Minister said that I made certain allegations against the hospital and its staff. The whole of my speech was directed to conditions existing at Yaralla and Concord, Sydney.
I paid a tribute to the medical officers, sisters and the nursing staff at these institutions and to the officials of the Repatriation Department. I have some knowledge of the splendid work that they have done, because I was, at one time, the Minister in charge of the Repatriation Department. The whole of my observations were directed to the unfortunate state of affairs that existed in these institutions because of the lack of government policy, and general government inaction. I claimed that the medical officers and nursing staffs were entitled to greater consideration, and that everything possible should be done to meet the shortage of hospital personnel. The point which I made was that if it were possible for the Department of the Army, at the peak of the war period, to treat in these hospitals, thousands of unfortunate soldiers, sailors and airmen - the wounded, the sick and the broken-down in health - a better effort should be made to-day to care for those who are still suffering from their war experiences. I repeat that statement to-day.
– I rise to order. The honorable member has claimed his right to make a personal explanation. Under the Standing Orders, he must confine his remarks to the matters about which he claims to have been misrepresented. I point out that the honorable member is going further than that, and is now making a statement.
– Order! I cannot uphold the point of order. The honorable member claimed that he had been misrepresented, and he is now dealing with the matters upon which he claimed to have been misrepresented.
– I have every right to make passing reference to the extraordinary and churlish attitude adopted by the Minister. I have no desire to indulge in personalities, but as a returned soldier-
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the matters about which he claimed to have been misrepresented. He must not deal with his war service.
– I am not referring to my own war service. I never do; it does not need to be referred to. It speaks for itself. It is a pity that we should have such a Minister in charge of a department
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the alleged misrepresentation.
– I have asked the Minister to lay on the table a report on repatriation hospitals, but he has refused to do so.
– I have been lenient with the honorable member, because he said that he had been misrepresented. I ask him not to take advantage of my leniency, otherwise I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
– Replying to my speech on the adjournment of the House on the 21st February last, the Minister said -
There has been great difficulty at the Greenslopes Hospital and the other military hospitals that are now in the stage of transition from the Army to the Repatriation Commission . . . The honorable member knows as well as I do that there is a general shortage of nurses in Australia.
That fully endorses all that I said. I merely pointed out how difficult the task of the medical and nursing staffs at these hospitals had been, because of the Minister’s lack of sympathetic consideration. I admitted that the task confronting the Repatriation Department was extraordinarily difficult. The Minister does the staff of his department no service when he chooses to misrepresent another honorable member in this House, as he has done to-day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Commonwealth garage and storage accommodation purposes - Adelaide, South Australia.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1940 - No. 9 - Motor Vehicles.
Regulations - 1 946 - No. 5 (Motor Vehicles Ordinance).
House adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1.1s. 11. 2d. per lb. choicest and corresponding prices for lower grades.
e asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Repatriation Commission does not keep separate statistics of such cases. To obtain the information desired by the honorable member, a great amount of work and considerable expense would he involved, and I do not think the expense would be justified.
e asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Public Service: Preference to ex-Servicemen.
n. - Speaking on the motion for the adjournment on the 28th February, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked a question concerning the proposed appointment of four railway officers to the Department of Supply and Shipping.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
At the outbreak of the war the Department of Supply and Shipping had a nucleus staff of less than 30 members engaged upon the procurement of defence supplies, and as the demands of the defence services increased so it was necessary that the department increase its procurement staffs. As the war progressed and made still greater demands on Australian production, it was found necessary to expand the functions of the department beyond the purely procurement stage to embrace the organization and expansion of production both for defence and essential civilian needs.
In seeking mcn to augment the staff ot the department from time to time to meet this expansion of activities it was necessary to obtain those with stores, supply and procurement experience wherever possible. A number of permanent Commonwealth public servants were transferred temporarily from other departments, but the numbers required by the Department of Supply and Shipping could not be obtained in this way, consequently it was forced to seek the loan of railway officers.
The four railway officers referred to by the honorable member were amongst those whose services were obtained on loan in the early years of the war and they have remained with the department up to the present time. It is true that the Victorian Railways has been anxious for their return to that department, but if this had been agreed to the ability of the Department of Supply and Shipping to carry out its post-war responsibilities would have been very seriously impaired, consequently the Victorian Railways has approved a continuation of the loan of their services from time to time.
The four railway officers had the general knowledge and experience necessary to fit them into an expanding war-time supply organization in its early stages and since that time they have progressed through the several stages until they now occupy important positions within the supply organization and have acquired specialized knowledge and valuable experience. It is essential that the special knowledge and experience of these and others should be retained to the Commonwealth as part of the post-war departmental organization not only to ensure continuity of activities on an efficient basis but as a trained nucleus on which to build the permanent peace-time, organization and for the purpose of assisting in the training of less experienced permanent staff already within the department and juniors still to be appointed.
If the railway officers had been permitted to return to the Victorian Railways the considerable knowledge and experience which they gained under the unique circumstances and stress of war while in Commonwealth employ and which will prove invaluable in the future, would have been lost to the Commonwealth. In all these unique circumstances their transfer to the Commonwealth Service under the provisions of section 44 of the Public Service Act has been approved with a salary about equal to that which each would receive had he remained in the Railways Department.
The decision to appoint to the Commonwealth Service in the Department of Supply and Shipping some officers from State instrumentalities who had been on loan to the Commonwealth for some years was made by the Public Service Board only after the fullest consideration. In fact, the board agreed to make the appointments only after a special committee representative of the department, the board and the Public Service Association whose members were primarily concerned, had fully gone into the matter.
The appointees are being brought into the Commonwealth Service at classifications approximating those applicable to them in their State positions. Any subsequent advancement to higher position, i.e., those to which officers already in the Commonwealth Service might aspire, must be made under the normal public service procedure which provides full right of appeal to officers to an investigating appeal tribunal on which the Service has representation.
In consideration of officers for promotion the law requires that consideration be given to the relative efficiency, of officers, and in determining relative efficiency in the case of ex-members of the forces the law provides that the efficiency shall be deemed to be that which the officer would have attained but for absence on active service.
It will be seen that, while it has been thought necessary by the board to appoint certain ex-State officers to the Commonwealth Service, the subsequent advancement of those officers to vacant positions can be effected only in competition with all other officers already in the Service who will have full opportunity of submitting their claims for promotion.
Postal Department : Non-official Postmistresses : Australian Stamp Issue.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
l. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– On the 26th February, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), asked a question regarding the overprinting of Australian postage stamps used by members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
Australian postage stamps are issued to the Department of the Army upon requisition in the usual way, and no stamps have been overprinted at the request of the Australian Post Office. Certain postage stamps have been overprinted, however, by the Army authorities in Japan. The Minister for the Army is making full investigations regarding the circumstances under which Australian postage stamps were overprinted and offered for sale to the troops in Japan, and he will supply the honorable member with information on the subject immediately the inquiries have been completed.
Commonwealth Accounts : Amounts Due on Account of Disposals and Works and Services.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) £9,025,500. (b) £39,703.539. 2. (a) £39,633,634. (b) £8,677,316.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Does the Commonwealth propose to collect the tax on wheat levied in December, 1946, since the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has announced that the wheat stabilization scheme will not be operated?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has informed mo that he has not made any statement to the effect that the Wheat Stabilization Scheme will not be operated. Therefore the tax levied will he paid into the Wheat Stabilization Trust Fund.
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470307_reps_18_190/>.