18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at’ 8.30. p.m., and read prayers.
– If the Government is Still able to direct oil- research ‘ in Australia, will the Minister representing the
Minister for Supply and Shipping recognize the claims of Tasmania in the drawing up of the oil research programme?
– I understand that there is a section in the Department of Supply and Shipping which deals with exploration for oil in Australia and its territories. I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to ensure that Tasmania is remembered when investigations are being made.
Alleged Destruction - Inspectors
– “Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether there is any truth in a report that, following the. Government’s recent announcement of an increase of wholesale meat prices, meat glutted Sydney abattoirs in such quantities that much of it had to be burned? If this report is correct, will’ the Minister say how much meat was destroyed, whether the glut was due not so much to seasonal conditions as to the desire of producers to take advantage of the higher price obtainable, and whether .the public was afforded an opportunity to purchase the meat before it was destroyed!
– I know nothing of the report referred to. The statement that meat was burned appears, on the face of it, to be fantastic. However, I will make inquiries, and ascertain the facts. *
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of the unbalanced ratio at present existing in relation to the employment of temporary and permanent meat inspectors in .the Commonwealth Public Service? At present, the Victorian staff numbers 133 inspectors. Of this total, 105 are temporary employees, and 64 of them have had more than five years’ continuous service. Is the Minister aware that this unsatisfactory state of affairs has been criticized by two duly authorized arbitrators, who urged that the Public Service. Board should rectify the anomaly? Will the Minister give special consideration to this matter so that men who are at present classified as temporary employees shall be given- permanent classification?
-The Government inherited this problem from its predecessors. Over a long period of years, this group of .meat inspectors, apparently because they were outside workers, were overlooked when the determination of a reasonable ratio of permanent to temporary employees was under consideration. As the result of a deputation which waited on me about six weeks ago
– I also raised- the matter with the Minister.
– As the result of ray conversation with the deputation and the representations of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I discussed . the matter with the Public Service Commissioner, and recommended that additional meat inspectors should be appointed permanent officers of the Public Service.. . Recently, a ‘Public Service inspector informed me that he had approved the appointment of an additional 75 inspectors as permanent officers of the department.
– The section of the Australian-New Zealand Agreement dealing with “ the welfare and advancement of native peoples of the Pacific “ provides for international collaboration in health and medical services and education of native peoples*, improvement of standards of native labour in the area; collaboration in economic, social, medical and anthropological research; international action to further missionary work in the South-west Pacific. I ask the Minister for External Affairs: What steps in economic, social, medical and anthropological research have been taken and with what result? What steps ore being taken in the matter of further research in tropical medicine in Australia and to provide a staff to carry out these .objectives? What step’s have been taken to further missionary enterprise in the area ? What has been done to set up the permanent secretariat envisaged in the agreement? If the. agreement is not yet being implemented, when does the Minister expect it will be implemented?
– As provided for in the Australian-New Zealand Agreement, a South Pacific Regional Commission is being set up under the terms of an agreement signed on the 6th February, 1947, by the Australian, French, Netherlands, New Zealand, United States and United Kingdom Governments. The object of the commission is to advise the member governments on every aspect of the welfareof the dependent native -peoples in the region. An interim organization has been formed and commenced preparatory work on the 14th April last for the first meeting of the commission. The Australian Government continues to assist in the financing of the School of Tropical Medicine at Sydney. Furthermore, a special resolution concerning immediate projects adopted at the South Pacific Conference provided for medical research to be undertaken at an early date by the commission. Investigations are to be made urgently of the incidence of diseases in the South Pacific area and methods of combating them, as well as into such matters as infant and maternal welfare, public hygiene and nutrition. The results of this research will be made available to the governments concerned, together with appropriate recommendations. Be-entry of missionaries into Australian controlled territories has been permitted, and there have been several conferences between missionary bodies and the government in the period following upon the end of the Pacific war. It is intended that missionary bodies should have opportunity to participate in the periodical South Pacific Conferences provided for in the South Pacific Commission Agreement. The latter part of the honorable member’s question relates to the secretariat contemplated by the AustralianNew Zealand Agreement. That secretariat was set up immediately after the agreement was made three years ago. It functions in Wellington, New Zealand and Canberra. A’ liaison officer of the New Zealand Government is working in the Department of External Affairs at Canberra and an Australian official is stationed at Wellington. There is a complete exchange of views between the Austraiian and New Zealand Governments on all important aspects of external policy.
Land at Darwin.
– When does the Minister for the Interior anticipate that a Darwin resident may, obtain the lease of a block of land for residential or business purposes? Have the allotments to the banks previously ballotted for, now been withdrawn? Is. there any one in the Solicitor-General’s office engaged solely on the task of drafting the new ordinances, relating to land tenure in Darwin with a view to their promulgation at an early date?
– There are some parts of the honorable member’s question which I cannot answer offhand. Shortterm leases are available to the citizens of Darwin to enable them to carry on over the intervening period until the new ordinances are promulgated. If the honorable member will place his question on the notice-paper, or call at my office, 1 shall supply him with a full answer to his question.
– As rubber manufacturers are still failing to manufacture bicycle tyres, and as it is more than four months since 26-in. tyres were last available, will action be taken immediately to re-introd’uce a sufficient measure of control to compel the manufacture of tyres for children’s bicycles, so that school children in the country districts will not have to continue to walk many miles to and from school during the winter months?
– I am well aware that the shortage of bicycle tyres is inflicting very considerable hardship on many people in the community. The Minister for Supply and Shipping is doing everything possible to induce manufacturers to devote more of their activities to the manufacture of bicycle tyres in order that this situation might be alleviated. Whether or not the Government should re-introduce some measure of control of the rubber industry is a matter of Government policy. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for Supply and Shipping and ascertain whether, in his opinion, it should be brought before the Cabinet for decision.
– The Brisbane Courier-Mail to-day reports the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, as having said that the statement by the Prime Minister in the Commonwealth Parliament that Queensland would not join in a £1 for fi drought relief plan was not true. Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Hanlon stated that Queensland had sought a subsidy for drought relief and was prepared to cooperate fully, but that the Commonwealth had not yet offered any subsidy and that the whole cost df drought relief in Queensland was borne- by the State Government? In view of the desperate position of many people who suffered in the worst drought in the history of that State, will the Prime Minister do what is possible to make a generous offer of a £1 for £1 subsidy to Queensland to be used as a gift to the sufferers from drought iii that State, despite the qualifications stated by the Premier of Queensland for electioneering purposes?
– Order !
– I have not seen the article, but I was told this morning that Mr. Hanlon had made a statement similar to that attributed to him by the honorable member for Wide Bay. I have no recollection of any recent offer by the Queensland Government to accept a subsidy from the Commonwealth for drought relief on a £1 for £1 basis. I do not propose to enter into a long controversy about the matter, but, in case confusion exists, I will re-examine the papers associated with requests made from time to time by the States for financial assistance from the Commonwealth for drought relief purposes. If the Premier of Queensland has made or does make an offer to accept a subsidy for that purpose from the Commonwealth on a £1 for £1 basis, it will receive consideration.
– He has not made any. offer.
– That is my recollection. I do not know of any such offer having been made at any time by the Queensland Government.
– I agree.
– I will examine the matter more fully and let the honorable gentleman know the result.
Mr. J. M. Rawling
– On the 25th March the right honorable member for Cowper asked a question concerning Mr. J. M. Rawling. He alleged that Mr. Rawlings who had been awarded a literary fellowship by the Commonwealth Government, was a member of the Communist party. I understand that Mr. Rawling has publicly stated that he is not a member of the Communist party and that, on the contrary, he is an active opponent of it. In view of the scandalous case of character assassination by the right honorable member for Cowper, and the undemocratic attacks on people outside this House by the honorable member for New England, will the Prime Minister remind honorable members of the Opposition of their responsibilities to the public in this matter ? Further, will the Prime Minister say if any steps can be taken to protect citizens from the savagery of vicious misstatements made on hearsay by the right honorable member for Cowper and the honorable member for New England! Will the Prime Minister consider the desirability of the introduction of a civil liberty bill to protect our citizens,- similar to that proposed by the Premier of New South Wales?
– I am aware that Mr. Rawling was awarded a scholarship, and that, in a question directed to me, the right honorable member for Cowper at least insinuated, if he did not directly say, that Mr. Rawling was a Communist or associated with the Communist party. The Prime Minister’s Department which made inquiries into the allegation reported that on the evidence available there was no justification for the right honorable member’s statements. That statement has also been denied by Mr. Rawling. Departmental . investigations substantiated this denial. It has been said that Mr. Rawling is an active opponent of the Communist party, but I have no direct evidence that he” is associated with any political movement. As I have stated on previous occasions, it is a matter for the Parliament itself to take such action as. it considers desirable to prevent slanderous statements being made in this chamber under the cover of parliamentary privilege.
– Such as the statement contained in the question which the honorable member for Parkes asked yesterday about Mr. E. A. Harrison.
–I shall’ ask the Attorney-General to examine the matter which the honorable .member for Parkes has raised.
– I have received from a chemist at Wahroonga in ray electorate the following telegram : -
Glycerine unobtainable in Sydney. Will Minister for Health assure supplies (or prescriptions and medical necessities?
Will the Prime Minister ensure that supplies shall be made available for the purposes mentioned in the telegram?
– I have not received any intimation of the circumstances mentioned in the telegram, but I shall arrange this afternoon to discuss the matter with the Minister for Health with a view to ascertaining whether the difficulty can be rectified.
– Did the Minister for Commerce and . Agriculture read in yesterday’s Melbourne press the statement of the deputy leader of the Country party in Victoria, Mr. Dodgshun, that the Government’s failure to transport superphosphate to wheatfarmers ‘was likely to cause a loss of more than £20,000,000 in that State? Has the Minister, as promised, communicated with the Premier of Victoria to ascertain whether the transport of superphosphate by road can. be subsidized, as farmers in many districts are paying freight of £2 10s. a ton for superphosphate_ carried by road ?
– I have not read the statement attributed to the deputy leader of the Country party in Victoria, but I assure the honorable member that I am aware of the difficulties confronting some primary producers in that State regarding the delivery of superphosphate. The matter is constantly under review. I do not believe, as stated hy Mr. Dodgshun, that the loss on next season’s wheat harvest will amount to £20,000,000.’ That could occur only if there was no prospect of a settlement of the present unfortunate industrial dispute in that State. There is every prospect of an early settlement and I have no doubt that this will result in full deliveries of superphosphate to the primary producers of Victoria who so urgently need it’. I shall certainly do everything I can to expedite deliveries.
correction ^ 01? report.
– My question relates to a matter of newspaper ethics. I ask the Minister for Information whether he has seen a copy of yesterday’s Sydney Daily Telegraph in which Mr. McNicoll has corrected a mis-statement he made in connexion with a man named Robson, allegedly a British migrant who came to this country in connexion with the Canberra housing project? Has the Minister noted that Mr. McNicoll gave the same amount of space and prominence to the correction as was given to his original mis-statement? As this courageous action is in conformity with the principles laid down by the ethics committee of the Australian Journalists Association, will the Minister see that Mr. McNicoll is suitably thanked for his good trade unionism?
– I have noted that, for once, the Sydney Daily Telegraph has given the same prominence to a correction as it gave to a mis-statement. I have been pleased to note an improvement in that regard. I do not know whether I ought to thank Mr. McNicoll, but I do publicly make the statement that his action is in accordance with the principles laid down by the ethics committee of the Australian Journalists Association. That augers well for the future of journalism. Mr. McNicoll has not always been a friend of mine, so I suppose this is a case to which one might apply the text, “Joy shall be -in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance “.
– This is a perennial question. I have received numerous complaints recently from primary producers who desire to repair their fences or subdivide .their land for the purpose of increasing production, that they have been unable to obtain fencing wire. Will the Minister for Works and Housing state the causes of the shortage, and, particularly, the steps which the Government is taking to remedy the trouble?
– The Government is concerned about the shortage of fencing wire and wire netting, and it fully appreciates the difficulties occasioned to many farmers thereby.
– There are tons of wire at Newcastle.
– The only control this Government has over the matter relates to the allocation of supplies to the respective States. Once the fencing wire and wire-netting has been allocated to a State, the Commonwealth has no further authority. The Controller of Materials is doing everything possible to assist manufacturers who need finance and other help in their approaches to the Industrial Finance- Branch of the Commonwealth Bank. One of the main reasons for the shortage is that this is ft section, of the heavy industries which makes a very strong demand on the men engaged in it. The machinery being used in Australia in the production of the wire is, to considerable degree, old-fashioned, and that adds to the burden of the workers engaged in the industry. Because of these circumstances difficulty is being experienced in securing adequate manpower for the work. Some of the factories are putting in modern wire-drawing machines. When they are in operation at the end of this year, or early next year, I am confident that the full requirement . of primary producers will be met.
– There are many thousands of men serving terms of imprisonment in State gaols throughout Australia. Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that, for the most part, these men are working as gardeners, or manufacturing boots and office furniture? Will, he confer with State Ministers for Justice with a view to having prisoners employed on building homes or on other work that would be of assistance to the national economy?
– The prisoners in many of the large State gaols are employed in making articles needed for government departments. I understand that very useful work is being done in this direction and, apart from that, men in some instances are being trained in occupations’ with which they were not formerly familiar. I am not sure that the State governments would think that this was a matter in which the Commonwealth should interfere. Except in the manufacture of furniture, it would be difficult to use prisoners in house building because work would necessarily have to be done within the precincts of the gaol. However, I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
Victorian Metal Trades Dispute - Statement by Acting Chief Judge Drake-Brockman .
– In view of the increasingly chaotic state of affairs in Victoria, and particularly in view of the report to-day that it is intended to make a 40 per cent, reduction of country train services on Monday next, has the Prime Minister- yet reached a decision, in consultation with his Ministers, regarding the rationing of petrol to Victorian private motorists, the carriage qf petrol by rail to the borders of Victoria, and the use of Commonwealth-owned vehicles to distribute it throughout the States and to maintain essential services?
– The honorable member mentioned this matter yesterday. As I then promised, I have discussed it with the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who is examining all aspects, including petrol rationing. I am hopeful that I shall be able to give the honorable member a full statement on the subject shortly.
– It is very urgent.
– I quite understand that, and the Minister for -Supply and Shipping took it up immediately. The suggestion that Commonwealth vehicles should be used is being examined with a view to seeing what could be done in that direction.
– Does the Prime Minister know that, as a result of the calling out of men from the power stations in Victoria, there will be a dimout in Melbourne to-morrow similar to that which prevailed during the war? Is he aware that it is predicted that early next week there will be a total black-out in Melbourne, so that not only the streets, but also the homes, will be entirely without electric light, and that 1,250,000 people will either have to sit in the dark or go to bed early? Is he aware that it is impossible to get lamp glasses or oil lamps, and that no candles are available because of the shortage of tallow? Has he heard of the proposal to withdraw the pumping engineers from the Melbourne sewerage services? Is he aware that this would cause all the sewage of Melbourne to accumulate in the electorate of the Minister for Labour and National Service in the vicinity of Port Melbourne, and that this would almost certainly result in a most dangerous epidemic? Does the Prime Minister propose to do anything about the matter, or will he give the people of Melbourne fair warning that if they wish to safeguard their jobs, their health and their property, they must organize and take action themselves?
– I am quite aware of all the implications of the situation in Victoria as a result of the unfortunate industrial dispute in that State. I have kept closely in touch with the Premier, Mr. Cain, and have received regular information. I was not aware of the possibility of sewage accumulating in the electorate of the Minister for Labour and National Service, but I can understand how serious such a development would be. A question was asked last week about supplies of candles, and the Minister for Supply and Shipping is doing what he can to meet the need. As for oil lamps, I shall refer the matter to the Minister. I shall be glad if the honorable member will put the last part of his question on the notice-paper.
– According to a newspaper report, Acting Chief Judge Drake-Brockman yesterday made the following statement in the Aribtration Court : -
I want to make it clearly understood that this demand for fi a week-, if paid, would greatly jeopardize the Australian economy-
– I have previously ruled that arguments used by people outside this House cannot be made the basis of a question. No one outside the House, not even Acting Chief Judge DrakeBrockman, can have statements made here by proxy.
– Then I shall frame my question in a different way. In the Commonwealth Arbitration Court yesterday, Acting Chief Judge DrakeBrockman said, according to a newspaper report, that Commonwealth law must prevail-
– Order !
– I am referring to an officer of a Commonwealth court.
– I am not concerned who. he may be. He has no right to have his arguments ventilated here by proxy’.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he proposes to take any action to maintain the authority of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court along the lines enunciated by the Acting Chief Judge of that court; whether Commonwealth law is to prevail, and, if so, what steps has the Government in mind, and what steps can the Government take, to ensure that Commonwealth law shall prevail?
– As the matter raised by the honorable member relates to proceedings before the court I do not propose to comment on it. If the honorable member has any particular sections of Commonwealth laws in mind I shall be glad if he will place a question relating to them on the notice-paper.
– I ask for leave to make a statement on the subject of food for Britain.
– Is leave granted ?
OPPOSITION Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
– Since many people are interested in what is being clone in regard to supplying food for Britain, I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he can give any information to the House on this subject?
– I have prepared a statement which, with the permission of the House, I will make in a few minutes.
– by leave - Since the cessation of hostilities the
Government has been deeply concerned with the difficulties confronting the people of the United Kingdom in respect of adequate food supplies, and although not specifically requested to do so by the United Kingdom, it has continued rationing in Australia on the scale imposed during the most “critical period of the war. In this action the Government believes it has the support of the Parliament and an understanding Australian public. We had all hoped for a more rapidly improving British food situation. Unfortunately, however, the recent blizzards and floods in Great Britain mean an extension of an already acute food situation. The Government considers that there is a desire on the part of the Australian people that every avenue by which additional assistance can be rendered should be explored. With this end in view, a Cabinet subcommittee was recently appointed to examine practical ways and means of rendering further assistance. The subcommittee has submitted for the consideration of Cabinet a comprehensive review of each available and suitable food product, additional, quantities of which could “be made available to supplement existing food export programmes and » commitments. In addition, recommendations for the implementation of Cabinet decisions were submitted.
I am now able to announce Cabinet’s decisions, and acceptance of these recommendations as follows: - Continuation of (lie existing scale of rationing in respect of butter, meat and sugar. While it can be agreed that comparatively large sections of the community can very well reduce their consumption of these vital commodities, there is without question a larger section of lower income and larger family groups not able to sacrifice these essential basic foods and substitute the more costly alternatives such as fish, fruit and dearer vegetable products. It is in respect, therefore, of this particular problem that the Government has decided to launch an appeal to all sections of the community to -
In respect of meat I might state that on the 27th March, 1947, the chairman of the Australian Meat Board, Mr. Shute, outlined to me a practicable plan under which the board, with the co-operation of graziers and exporters, would be prepared to arrange export to Britain of consignments of livestock designated by graziers specifically for that’ purpose. On behalf of the. Government I immediately endorsed the suggestion and authorized the board to devote any necessary funds to the furtherance of the plan. New South Wales graziers are co-operating splendidly and reports indicate that similar co-operation is being extended by Western Australian graziers. I believe that graziers in other States will follow this example. In order to obtain the wholehearted and effective co-operation of the public in these proposals, Cabinet has approved of the expenditure of up to £10,000 to give them publicity.
I come now to proposals to make “available additional quantities of non-rationed foods. Last week, mainly as a means of encouragement to producers and processors of edible oils and fats to conserve for export to Britain the maximum quantity of these fats and oils, the Prices Commissioner substantially - increased price levels. An examination has been made of the possibilities of exporting to Britain additional quantities of canned fruits. It has been decided that for 1947, the quantity of canned fruits for the local market will be limited to 600,000 cases compared with 748,000 cases made available last year, and an allocation proposed by the industry of 1,000,000 cases. Exports to Britain in 1946 amounted to 997,700 cases. The limiting of quantities for local consumption should make 2,000,000 cases available for export - 1,500,000 for Britain and 500,000 for other markets, including New Zealand and Canada. In the event of the estimated production of 2,600,000 cases being exceeded, as we believe it will, the additional quantities are to he made available for Britain. It will be recollected that the Government recently decided to continue the deprivation of rice to local consumers, who have 11ot received locally grown rice since 1942. Appeals will be made to those associated with the poultry and rabbit industries to make available for export increased supplies of these commodities, particularly rabbits in regard to which, it is thought, there may be at present considerable needless waste. The possibilities of increasing dried fruits exports have been examined and, although the industry has suffered an adverse season, the Dried Fruits Export Control Boards have indicated that they contemplate increasing the amount of dried fruits for export by S,500 tons. This will mean some sacrifice by local consumers as well as some additional monetary sacrifice by the industry.
This statement is intended to indicate only the additional steps to bo taken to provide increased supplies of foodstuffs, that ‘ is, other than those already anticipated, ( and in regard to which repeated outlines have been given to the House. I express the hope that all parties and all sections of the community will co-operate in making a success of the plans outlined.”
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction state how many new industries have been started in New South Wales since 1941, and the number of persons employed in them?
– I cannot give the exact figures, but it is an undoubted fact that there has been an enormous expansion of secondary industries in New South Wales, particularly since the end of the war. Fifteen munitions factories have been converted to civilian purposes. Many Australian firms have expanded their enterprises, and many overseas firms have shown interest in Australia, and have established branches throughout this country, including New South Wales. In the munitions factory at St. Mary’s, eighteen new companies have started operations, and these will provide employment for 5,500 people. New enterprises begun in New South Wales since the end of the war will provide employment for 18,000 persons.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction received from the Tasmanian Timber Association a statement of its views on the possible reduction of the tariff on imported timbers ? Can the Minister give an assurance that the Australian delegates to that Preparatory Committee now sitting at Geneva are fully cognizant of the views of the association and that its representations have been given the fullest consideration ?
– With regard to the first part of the honorable member’s question, as far as I am aware, I have not received any indication of the views of the association mentioned by the honorable member. The second part of the honorable member’s question therefore does not arise. .
.- I move -
That a Joint Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the following: - («) the inadequacy of the administration which has been set up under the New Guinea Act; (!>) thu failure of the administration to maintain production of essential commodities;
the lack of a policy for the economic development of the Territories which could proceed hand in hand with a progressive native policy;
the unbalanced native policy and its adverse effect upon the natives and upon economic development: and (e . the unrest which exists in the Public Service in the Territories clue to unsettled conditions and the failure of the Government to provide suit-, able living conditions, adequate classification, and to deal with the high cost of living.
I consider that the motion is justified because of the conditions of the rich territory of New Guinea that is Australia’s responsibility. An inquiry into the unsatisfactory position would reveal much. The best inquiry would be made, not by the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) making another visit to the Territory, or by his sending a party of officials there, but by a joint select committee of members of the Commonwealth Parliament. After I placed this motion on the notice-paper the Government set up a committee of officers to advise the Minister for External Territories, and I regard that as a confession of failings in the administration of the Territory. It would be wrong to send to the Territory a team of officials to whitewash the administration. A. joint select committee, consisting of members of all the political parties, could go there in the winter recess. That is done frequently in the House of Commons, which despatches parliamentary committees to distant places to discover the facts and return with advice of value not only to the Parliament but also to the country. New Guinea might be Tibet or Greenland, or a region behind the iron curtain for all the Australian people know.
– Or Siberia.
– Yes, or Siberia. In 1945, the Minister for External Territories brought down the Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Bill, which was passed into law. It provides, in section 17 -
This Act shall continue in operation until a date to be fixed by proclamation and no longer, but in any event not longer than six months after His Majesty ceases to be engaged in war.
That was’ in 1945. Here we are in 1947, with the war- well over. The Minister probably thinks that repudiation of that promise does not greatly matter, but it does matter to the white settlers and the natives because, under the Lyons and Menzies Administrations, there wa.s a legislative council of prominent citizens comprising representatives of commerce, industry, the law and the Public Service. That council was able to Set in a useful advisory capacity to the Administrator and to the Commonwealth Government. But to-day the system is that the Minister issues fiats from. Canberra. What he says must be obeyed. He has a’ complacent Administrator, who carries out his orders. I do not desire to be offensive towards the Minister, but his interests lie in socialism and he is opposed to capitalism. He regards as capitalists the men who struggle to make a living in the Territory and they matter less to him than anything else in his mind. His so-called new deal in the Territory is an absolute failure. So a visit to the Territory by the proposed joint select committee must be made. There is an immense responsibility upon us, in New Guinea, the second largest island in the world, which is rich in all nature’s resources. It occupies a highly important .strategical position, as we learnt with bitterness during the war. We learnt that it was not only an outpost, but also a stepping-stone for the invasion of Australia. Labour men were not interested from the defence point of view. We must be interested because it may be important in regional or empire defence again. We must keep it under our control. We should have to do that even if we had a Minister for External Territories who had the right ideas about defence, but the present
Minister has not. We have a responsibility to the natives to ensure that the scheme that we bring down for them shall be fair and progressive and offer adequate medical and educational help to them. We must ensure the develop- ment of that Territory which can supply a great deal of our tropical wants. I propose to quote from the remarks of a prominent planter about what he believes is possible in -New Guinea, where he has spent almost all his life. I know a little about the Territory too. When I was there ten years ago I went all over it - north, south, east and west, and I introduced the bounties that kept white men in New Guinea growing coffee and cocoa and expanding the production of rubber. During that period some important defensive measures were taken. I agree with the planter whose remarks I am about to read to honorable members that New Guinea presents possibilities of great development. If we do not develop that vast, rich Territory, other nations will be entitled to challenge our right to hold it. Do not forget that the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has thrown the northern half of the Territory of New Guinea, as a trusteeship, under international supervision. For many years Papua has been a Territory of the Commonwealth and it will remain so. Yet there is one administrator for the whole Territory and no form of local government for 2,000,000 natives and more whites than there were in the Northern Territory before the war. That is unfair to them, and it is wrong to ourselves that we should allow this form of administration to continue. The man I refer to says -
New Guinea is so situated in its strategic relation to Australia that something more than an idealistic plan for its future population must be conceived, as it will be found that to educate the native to the higher standard aimed at will really take generations. The war proved that Australia can easily be cut off from the many tropical products necessary to her existence when she is dependent on foreign countries for supplies. New Guinea could supply most of those products, thus existing industries must be preserved, encouragement given to their future development and to the establishment of other cultures on waste and vacant lands, -without interfering with the development of the native population, especially when it is considered that of the total area of the islands concerned, some 00 per cent, of the land is still owned by natives, which, it is said, do not exceed approximated 1,000,000 souls.
He refers to Papua of course. There has never been a census, but it is estimated that, there are 2,000,000 natives in the whole New Guinea area. He proceeds -
If the present policy of unnecessary high wages and cost of commodities is to carry on, then without artificial and preferential prices for produce, any large exports to Australia or other countries will be doomed. The small man in New Guinea is already the most affected. The natives of New Guinea, after contact with peoples of the outside world and the forced relaxation of law and order during the war period, will require very careful government for years to come if they are to be restored to responsible, law abiding and useful citizens to fit them for a higher standard of living. Therefore, a long range policy must be adopted, and the people taught to earn the right to higher wages by giving service commensurate with the wages they are demanding.
That is a fair statement from a man who has spent almost a lifetime there.
Some of us voiced the fear when the Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Bill was introduced that the Minister for External Territories would not carry out his promise’ and that there would he set up a form of government control which would be exercised from Canberra. We quoted from the report of Mr. J. Y. Barry, now Mr. Justice Barry, against continuance of control from Canberra. He said that it created chaos. During the war many valuable public servants as well as soldiers and airmen in New Guinea lost their lives. Therefore, some form of local government is essential. Yet honorable members have not obtained any information from the Minister, although he promised to make statements from time to time about this matter. A departmental committee will not suffice. I know that the Minister will strongly defend his administration. I am not criticizing his officers or himself, but in his characteristic style, he will reply to my contentions with a great deal of abuse. However, I have raised this matter in the national interest, and the honorable gentleman may say what he likes about it.
Not- long ago, he paid a visit to the Territories, but saw only certain parts of them. Whilst he did not see some of the areas which are now affected, no doubt he thought that he was improving the welfare of the natives. For instance, be authorized the construction of a model native village of Hanaubada. Soon the natives there will have superior homes or dwellings equivalent to what homeless Australians hope to get in the near future. Yet in some areas, such as in the vicinity of Rabaul, the natives run wild. Some of them, through lack of medical attention, are pathetic sights. In addition, the education system is only in the embryo stage. Yet the honorable gentleman from time to time attempts to convince the House that previous governments were responsible for many of these difficulties. Foi years, Sir Hubert Murray, who was one of, the greatest administrators of all time, and a. practical anthropologist, controlled the destiny of the Territory of New Guinea. Now, the area is overloaded with academic anthropologists, some of whom during the war, were members of the farcical army research section. Of a staff of about 25, 18 were colonels, and the remainder were majors or captains. They received a little perfunctory training to fit them to take charge of certain activities in the Territory.’ Some of them are now in the service, and may be satisfactory, but, because of mismanagement, we have lost the services of many valuable public servants and others. I propose to cite specific instances of what is wrong. “First, I shall deal with the inadequacy of the administration. I have already referred to the Minister’s failure to honour promises, and his repudiation of his undertaking to constitute local government. I shall read extracts from an article contained in Mufti, the journal of the Victorian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The author was, until recently, in the Territory. He wrote -
All Territorians - Administration employees, planters, merchants and miners alike - are experiencing the repercussions of Mr. Ward’s “ new order “ in New Guinea. What this “ new order “ is designed to accomplish has not yet been made clear, but ‘ what is clear - abundantly so - is that the Ward Administration is not only hindering the rehabilitation of New Guinea but threatens to stifle private enterprise altogether. “New Guinea” for the “ native “ has become a party catch cry; a catch cry for which the Australian taxpayer will eventually have to pay something like £1,500,000 a year this for a Territory of abundant wealth in gold and copra which before this war was self-supporting arid could again be so but for the Government muddling.
The article contains abundant material which the Minister could profitably read. The author wrote of the spasmodic nature of the labour available. Whilst the model native village is being built, the wives of white settlers are living in tents in some areas. White people, who have returned to Rabaul for the purpose of reestablishing their properties, find that Japanese prisoner-of-war gangs, in charge of natives, robbed their plantations. In addition, white people are inadequately housed as the result of this misguided policy from Canberra. He described the’
Production Board as -
Another Government body with a large staff serving no useful purpose, a further burden on the taxpayer. And so the circle becomes more vicious. It is a gloomy picture of a country which before the war produced 71,583 tons of copra annually, and gold worth millions.
I propose now to cite the opinions of another authority, Monsignor Hannan, a Catholic missionary of repute. I describe these persons as authorities, because they know more than the Minister or I do about conditions in these Territories. Monsignor Hannan was a member of the Pacific islands missions. He is reported in the press as having stated -
The present Government seems to accept the fact that United Nations, has entrusted us with these territories (Papua, New Guinea and the northern Solomons) not as an investment, but as a responsibility. Yet I talked with a senior member of the. Cabinet in Canberra a few days ago, who said: “Northern Solomons - Oh yes, the Yanks have got them “. The missionary said the Government was allocating huge sums from the taxpayers’ pockets to. accept its responsibilities in these islands, but all it seemed able to give -was money.
When an honorable member referred that statement to the Minister, he claimed that it was not in accordance with the facts. Unfortunately, he knows too little about the conditions in the islands. The method of control is wrong. Monsignor Hannan expressed the following opinions : -
Either we .lacked men of a calibre fit to administer ‘these territories with an overall population of 2,000,000 natives, or we did not think it worth while sending them. The situation was probably worst in the Solomons because they were furthest away, and had- the bitterest fighting. But lie had discovered, on recent visits, that the situation was much the same in New Ireland an(1 parts of New Guinea. What he was stressing was that they had always had meat and fats before the war. They were suffering from malnutrition now, because they’ had been without them so long - and they would continue to die off in certain areas, until they got them. The Administration of Papua and’ New Guinea admitted this, when it bought up pigs, goats and fowls for the Bougainville natives last December. They have been at Cairns since. The Government cannot get thom across because there are no ships. It should fly them across instead of expecting the natives to try to exist on substitute foods - and sending them coco-nuts.
Recently, special supplies of- food were taken to Cairns, but only seeds and coconuts were sent to the islands. That was absurd ‘because the natives have an abundance of coco-nuts, and they wanted more staple food. I know that the Minister has had conversations with Monsignor Hannan, and perhaps promised to ameliorate the conditions there; but the fact remains that natives are dying from malnutrition, at the rate of seven a day. Monsignor Hannan has made some very forthright statements. He had nothing to gain from them other than the satisfaction of knowing that his humanitarian work would not be wasted by government mismanagement. I could cite other instances of this, but I must deal with other points. Therefore, I turn now to the failure to maintain the production of essential commodities. Earlier, I mentioned that the wrong kinds of food are being sent to the island. I shall inform the House how the white settlers are faring. To-day, the food prices, which are considerably higher than those in Australia, would stagger honorable members. For example, the price of rice in Sydney before the outbreak of “World “War II. was £14 a ton; to-day it is £34 a ton. The price of meat has risen from 6s. 3d. for a dozen tins to 12s.; and flour from £9 7s. 6d. to £36 10s. a ton. The price of bread is 2s. 2d. a 4-lb. loaf, butter 3s. Id. per lb., eggs 3s. 4d. a dozen and tea 4s. 6d. per lb. To some honorable members, these may seem only minor matters, but they are vital to Australians who live in the territories of Australia and who must get other than native foods.
Two factors are operating to increase prices. The first is the 35 per cent, surcharge on freight rates, including pre-
ferential freight rates, on ships operating in New Guinea under Commonwealth charter. The second is the withdrawal by the Government of food subsidies. Honorable members read in the Estimates that millions of pounds have been expended on subsidies for the purpose of keeping down the price of food. Unfortunately, Australians living in the Territories do not derive any advantage from that expenditure. A recent order issued by the Department of Trade and Customs contains a list of articles on which the subsidies have been’ withdrawn. Did honorable members know that the department was subjecting Australian settlers and public servants in the Territories to this disadvantageous treatment? The list includes all sorts of commodities, such as leather and leather goods, manufactured goods, stockings, boots and shoes, twine, cordage, ropes, tyres, and the general requirements of a civilized community. Other government charges, under the heading of “ levies “, include an export charge of £25 18s. lOd. a ton on self-raising flour, £66 8s. a ton on fats, £85 a ton on soap and so on, all of which show serious discrimination against the white population. If the Minister were trying to liquidate white people altogether from the Territory he could hardly be more thorough in his methods. His treatment is partial, in the -worse sense against the white community. Honorable members of the Australian Country party will probably be surprised to know that although the Government agreed to sell wheat at 5s. 9d. a bushel to New “Zealand it is charging 14s. a bushel to settlers in New Guinea and Papua. Members of the Australian Country party, who exposed the New Zealand ramp, will probably be surprised to know that at a time when the British Government is reported to be paying £1 a bushel to Argentina for wheat and 14s. a bushel to Australia, this ‘Government, which is charging only 5s. 9d. a bushel to New Zealand, is obliging our own citizens in the islands to pay 14s. a bushel for what they require. In other words, it is demanding the full export parity. Is thatfair treatment? I could quote passages from many other letters which have reached me, but time will not permit. me to do so.
The Production Control Board is not assisting the white population in any way. It is a notorious fact that the price of copra, has been £5 a ton less in the islands than in other territories. Our producers are getting only £2S a ton for their copra although world parity is £33 a ton. No official publication has .been given to the facts that I am placing before honorable members. The general public does not know that although the war has been over for so long, not an ounce of gold has been produced in New Guinea since the cessation of hostilities. The companies are making gallant efforts to rehabilitate their enterprises, but they are getting no assistance from the Government. Surely it is time that we had news of some economic development there. Gold and copra production in the territories in the pre-war years was valued at more than £3,000,000 per annum, but nothing is being done by the Government to revive this industry. The planters, like the mining companies, are receiving a raw deal. It is time that the facts were made known. The pioneers who are working in these areas should” be encouraged and not handicapped. In the past the natives were fairly treated by the white population. “We have been told a lot .about the new deal that the natives are receiving, but the fact is that they have always had good treatment. Dietary scales were laid down and we know that in the days gone by breaches’ of the ordinances by white people were severely punished. There was little to complain about in those days, but because an undertaking was given on behalf of the Government to some international conference that Australia would abolish the indenture system of labour in the islands the whole economic basis of life there has been disorganized. Here is a report that I have received from another reliable authority in regard to the recruitment of labour -
Difficulties have been greatly accentuated by Mr. Ward’s insistence on one-year contracts for recruited labour. The chief recruiting area is Sepik River. It takes two months to transport labour from there to some of the most productive plantations, another three months to train the labour recruited and a further two months to transport the recruited natives back to their home territory.
The result of this .policy is therefore that, under a contract of one year, the em- ployers of native labour receive the equivalent of only about five months’ effective work. Contracts should be of at least two years’ duration’. There are many natives in the islands who would be .quite willing to undertake continuous work, but the Government will not allow a contract of more than one year. This may suit the big companies which are able to go out and get their labour, but it is a real hardship to the small planters who cannot afford to adopt the measures employed by the big companies.
I mention again the natives of Hanuabada near Port Moresby. Honorable members know that the Government has undertaken the rebuilding of the village in that locality at a cost of £118,000,- yet the natives there are the most sophisticated of all the natives of Papua. The money would have built 118 houses in Australia. It would have been far wiser had the Government expended that large amount of money in medical and other services for the general welfare of native peoples in outlying areas. In pre-war years the number of casual and indentured labourers in Papua, including government employees and police, was 12,500. About 850 of those, including the police, were employed by the Government. To-day, in Papua, the casual and indentured labour totals only 9,300, of whom about 4,000, including police, are employed by the Government, which leaves only about 5,300 in private employment. The number of natives now employed by the administration in Papua is draining the supply available for plantation purposes. It appears to be quite evident that, in the main, the majority of the 4,000 natives in government employment are not efficiently employed. It would seem,, therefore, that the Public Service of Papua is growing in practically the same ratio as the Public Service of Australia. Although the war has been over so long the growth of the Public Service goes on apace. That appears to be inevitable under our present government.
There is unrest to-day in the Public Service in Papua.. I- brought this to the notice of the Minister for External Territories recently when I read to him a telegram which I had received. I admit that the telegram was somewhat formal and disjointed, but it was not necessary for the Minister to ridicule it. In his reply he read statements from ‘some of the. individuals - I was going to say under his command, but they are at least. under his thrall - indicating that conditions were satisfactory. I have received information from the secretaries of the two Public Service associations of Papua and New Guinea which indicates that the members of those organizations are in favour of the appointment of a select committee to investigate conditions under the provisional administration there. The Minister took pride in a telegram allegedly sent from Hananbada village, telling him in “pidgin-English” what a fine fellow he is. From the same source a native of consequence who met him also said : “ Number one Government him Kanaka belong a Sydney “. So. there are two points of view even among natives of the same village. “We have always had some very fine young men in our service in the islands, and the administration there has been highly successful. These young Australians have lived up to the hest traditions of British colonial policy. During the war they gave of their best in the service of the Allies, and many of them who are still in the islands are anxious to serve the best interests of its people. I hope that everything possible will be done to help them to continue their splendid work. The Minister seems to be quite Unperturbed about the present situation,, and it seems to me that he will never carry out his promises and that matters will grow worse.
The housing conditions at Moresby, lae and Rabaul are shocking, and, in my opinion, it would be advisable for the Minister to take a party of honorable members to the islands to investigate the whole situation. Here are some points from the telegram from the Public Service Associations -
Patronage favouritism displayed by Administrator prevents contented service. Minister asked May 1045 grant arbitration without results. High cost of living coupled low Salaries means bankruptcy many public servants. Meagre superannuation pensions prevents officer retiring. Minister ignored representations from associations May 1945 new Superannuation scheme. Promised public service ordinance regulations not promulgated.
Administrator refused receive deputation wives public servants but keeps open door native deputations.
That seems to fit in with the Government’s idea of a new deal. The Government has set out with the idea of exalting the’ natives, but is entirely forgetting its obligations to its own people. Native education and proper treatment for the natives must go hand in hand with economic development. You cannot suddenly transform the natives into citizens of a civilized democracy. They must he treated scientifically by those who understand them. I have here also an invitation to the Minister, which was published in the Pacific Islands Monthly, issued this month. It is as follows : -
I again invite the present Minister’ for External Territories to come to Papua incognito and stay with me for one month, to come alone, and not armed with stenographers and political secretaries and hangers-on.
I dare him publicly to visit his Territories as plain Bill Smith, to talk to the natives themselves, and nien who know the ropes, ami. find out for himself what goes on in Papua. lt is high time this political back-scratching and leg-pulling came to an end, and the millions being wasted in Papua put to a more profitable use in Australia.
That comes from one of his former officers who left the service in disgust. Now, in order to conclude constructively, let rae read the comments and recommendations of one who spent many years of his life in the north, but who now feels that conditions there are so unsatisfactory that they will prevent development and for Australians to return to the mainland. He says -
I think every employer in Papua would be behind the Administration if it was making a serious effort to give the native better medical services and technical and other education.
It is easy to criticize, no doubt, but, so far as is known, not one nian of the many with long experience and knowledge of the natives in Papua has been seriously asked for advice or any opinion.
Mcn with valuable knowledge, gained after long years ‘in the Territories, have attempted to give advice, but, ‘whether bc be civil servant or engaged in private enterprise, his opinions nave been ignored by the present Administration.
I maintain, therefore, that a joint select committee representing all parties should visit New Guinea. It is not a question of whether such a committee should be appointed but, in view of the great need, how soon it can be done.
– Once again, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has constituted himself the mouthpiece of vested interests which are opposed to the present progressive policy of the Government for the development of our external Territories. He mentioned the appointment of a departmental committee to devise a long-term plan of development for the Territory, and suggested that this was the outcome of his giving notice that he would submit the present motion. It may be of interest to the honorable member to know that this matter had been under consideration for some time, and was finally approved by the Government on my recommendation. I believe that there should be long-term planning of developmental work in these important Territories.
The honorable member said that the present administration was inadequate. 1 remind him that the present administration is a provisional one. It was impossible for the Government to work out immediately the details of a permanent administration. For one thing, the terms of the mandate for the government of New Guinea had to be worked out at international conferences. The trusteeship agreement for New Guinea was only recently approved by the Commonwealth Government, and by the Trusteeship Council, and a bill to ratify the agree: ment will be shortly presented to the Parliament. After that, a bill will be introduced to establish a permanent administration. Having regard to the difficulties confronting the Government, it is clear that the honorable member has failed to establish his charge that the present administration is inadequate.
Honorable members should - keep in mind the fact that civil control was restored only in October, 1945, to part of the territories and the civil administration was not established in respect to the whole of ‘the Territories of New Guinea and Papua, until June of last year, less than twelve months ago. The honorable member said that in the trusteeship agreement Australia had undertaken to allow supervision to be exercised over the Mandated Territory. As a matter of fact, the Government welcomes supervision, so that the outside world may know what we are doing. We are not ashamed- of it. We are proud to announce to the world what we .are doing to develop the Territories,, and to improve the condition of the native races.
The honorable member made a great point of the fact that Mr. Justice Barry had been asked to report on one phase of the administration during’ the period just before the Japanese invasion. The honorable member pointed to what he called weaknesses in the administration, hut he failed to mention that Mr. Justice Barry, in his report, was referring to the administration as it existed under a succession of anti-Labour governments. Mr. Justice Barry had no opportunity to report on the administration of the present Government.
I coane now to. the charge that the Government is retarding production. What the honorable member meant, but did not say on this occasion, although he said it previously, was that the Territories should be developed as cheap-labour areas.
– The old story !
– Let me quote the honorable member’s own words spoken in this Parliament on the 18th July, 1945, when lie was discussing the bill to restore civil administration. This is what he said : -
No reference is made in the title of the bill to the fact that the measure- deals with the industries of the territories, and I consider that the Government has spoilt the bill by reason of the industrial provisions. The food and housing of the natives and town planning are among the matters with which the bill deals. The legislatures of these territories being in suspense, the control will be exercised entirely from Canberra. There will be remote control from the Federal Capital of every activity of the miners, planters and merchants. .
In Now Guinea and Papua wo have allowed the local legislatures to make the ordinances. In every way the native has been safeguarded against exploitation. His dietary scale has been laid down, his hours of work have been fixed, and labour contracts have to be signed by his employer. . . .
If wc suddenly enforce labour laws which might bc applicable to a completely civilized democratic community, over-pay the natives for their work, and give to them too much leisure, we shall be spoiling them instead of raising them gradually to the stage which we desire them to attain. 1 ask honorable members to note that lie declared that the intention of the Government was to over-pay natives for their work. When the honorable member’s party was in office, natives in New Guinea were being paid 5s. and those in Papua 10s. a month, and a proposal to raise the minimum -rate of pay to 15s. per month is what the honorable member for Balaclava called overpaying the natives. What he was concerned, about was preserving the right of vested interests in the Territories to exploit native labour. This Government wishes the Territories to be developed on different lines. Therefore, we have set out to improve the condition of the natives, and to develop the country in such a way that Australia may he proud of its administration.
I come now to the matter of production. As I have said, civil administration has been restored to the whole of the Territories for only ten months. During the Japanese occupation, many of the plantations were destroyed, either by bombing or by the Japanese forces. Even in the areas which had not been occupied by the Japanese, plantations had to be destroyed in order to construct landing strips for our. own aircraft. Those who have studied the situation say that, even if all undamaged plantations were immediately restored to full production, it would amount to only about_60 per cent, of what was produced before the war. It is clear that the destruction of plantation properties has been responsible for reduced production, rather than any action or inaction of the Government. As a matter of fact, the Government has done everything possible to increase production. The first thing was to restore the plantations, and to clear away the rubbish and undergrowth which had choked them during the years of occupation by the Japanese. In order to assist the planters in this work, the Commonwealth Government made available £2S0,000 without cost to them. Although civil administration has been restored for ten months, production is steadily increasing. One of our great difficulties has been the question of transport. Even articles that have appeared in the press criticizing the administration of New Guinea have admitted that the difficulties there have been mainly due to lack of transport. That, difficulty is not peculiar to the external territories of Australia; it is world-wide. It was the result of damage effected in New Guinea or Australian waters during the war period to Australian shipping and the huge loss of shipping during the war in all parts of the world. Having regard to all the circumstances, we have done remarkably well in providing transport services in the Territories. At the moment there are twelve vessels attending to inter-island communications, each of a tonnage of about 300, and an additional nine vessels are already being constructed in Australian ports, each of approximately 100 tons, to supplement the steamer service in the Territory. We are now in the happy position of knowing that, as the result of the return to civil use of one vessel damaged at Port Moresby in 1942 - we are now able to indicate that there is a possibility of a regular three- weekly service being instituted between Australia and New Guinea. Only this week two vessels left Australia for that Territory. That does not seem to indicate that there has been any failure on the part of the Government to attend to the important matter of sea transport.
It is true that there has been some diminution of the volume of native labour available for work in the Territories. That however, is only a temporary feature. Already the number of natives offering for work, both for the Administration and for private employers, is increasing. Prior to the war the natives employed, including both free and indentured labour, numbered between 50,000 and 55,000. To-day the figure has reached approximately 23;000. The honorable’ member for Balaclava has charged the Government with having drained the native labour market. He claimed, that the natives want to work under contract, and that even under the Government’s policy of abolishing indentured labour the natives are not satisfied. Accepting the honorable member’s argument at its face value, one would believe that all the natives wanted to work under contract for private employers. The Government does not use indentured labour ; it has complete confidence in its policy of using only free labour. Natives are voluntarily offering to work for the Government, and consequently it has no difficulty in securing all the labour it needs. The honorable member claims that because the natives are willing to volunteer for work with the Government others are experiencing difficulty in securing adequate labour. That argument certainly does not support his contention that the natives desire to retain the indenture system. Let rae remind him of another difficulty. It is true that planters in New Ireland and New Britain are encountering greater obstacles in securing labour than are planters on . the mainland of New Guinea. There is, however, a reason for that. The natives have not forgotten that many of their people from the Sepik district, the main recruiting centre, were sent, before the war, to New Ireland and New Britain, and that when the Japanese landed there they were captured and illtreated by the Japanese. This has created a natural desire to stay on the mainland, and not to go to places about which they have bitter memories or have heard unpleasant stories. Thus, the difficulties of planters in New Ireland and New Britain have been accentuated. They may be overcome, however, by offering the natives greater inducements to work in those places.
The honorable member for Balaclava also said that before the war the hours of labour of the natives were regulated; but he did not specifically state what those hours were. In New Guinea, under very trying tropical conditions , they were formerly working 55 hours a week, and in Papua 50 hours a week. The Government decided to reduce the hours of labour of all native workers to a. maximum of 44 a week. The honorable member finds something objectionable in that. He also said that before the war the natives were provided with a balanced diet scale. The Government discovered that the Army had been giving to the natives employed by it during the war a much more adequate diet than had been provided pre-war by the administration or by private employers. It was not satisfied to continue the Army dietary scale without examination and accordingly the matter was referred to the Commonwealth health authorities who evolved a balanced diet scale better than any which had previously been adopted. According to the honorable member all of these, things have created difficulties for the producers in ihe territory. The House will recall that, during an earlier debate on this subject, the honorable member said he had no objection to the Government improving the conditions of the natives but that he believed it was improving them too rapidly. Does he seriously suggest that we should go back to conditions of the past? After more than 50 years of white settlement, first by the Germans, then by the British and Australians, the natives reached a stage at which they were paid 5s. per month. That rate of progress should have been gradual enough to satisfy even the honorable member. He also said that the Government was not doing anything to assist the cultural development . of the natives. As a matter of fact the Government is .providing, and is planning to provide a better education service than has ever before been made available for native peoples. While the honorable member was reading letters from individuals without quoting the names of ‘ his informants, and reading extracts from the Pacific Islands Monthly - the mouthpiece of vested interests in the territory, including Burns
Philp and Company Limited - he failed to mention one word about a very important section of the community in the islands who are interested in the welfare of-the natives. I refer to the missionaries. When the Government decided to plan a. better education service for the natives it recognized at once the valuable work performed by the missions, and before any decision was made upon the subject of native education, and immediately following the appointment of a Director of Education for ‘the Territory, T directed that officer to call conferences in Australia and at. Port Moresby of representatives of all missionary bodies undertaking educational work in the Territories. We recognized the valuable work done by missionaries in the past, and we did not want to eliminate them from the field of education. We sought in every way to co-operate with them, so that governmental officers and missionaries could work together and so cover the whole field. 1 have received letters from missionaries thanking me for the co-operation of the Government in this direction. The honorable member for Balaclava has referred to missionaries and anthropologists as mere visionaries, who have no practical experience in the territories. I have a very high opinion of the value of their work. When I took over the portfolio of Minister for External Territories I did not claim to .know everything about these Territories, and accordingly I sought the advice and opinion of people who had had practical experience in the islands. However, I was not foolish enough to accept all the advice tendered to me, because I knew that certain people would have their own interests to serve. I sought to achieve a reasonable balance between the conflicting views of different interests, realizing at all times that the best advice came from those who had no personal axe to grind.
I turn now to the subject of housing. In order to show how irresponsible is the honorable member for Balaclava, I refer to the extraordinary statements he made with regard to the construction of the new native village at Hanuabada. Let us examine the position and let us have the facts quite clearly. The people of that village were removed from their homes as the result of the exigencies of war. Their village was later destroyed and it became an obligation on the Government to restore it, just as much as it was an obligation on the Government to restore war damage in Australia. We decided to rebuild the village as a model village, not a show place, but one which would indicate to the natives what could be done for them in the way of providing a new village on hygienic lines. The honorable member said that, instead of expending £118,000 on that project, the Government should have expended the money on the provision of homes for the administrative staffs in the Territory. I wonder if he appreciates the vast difference between providing huts for natives who want to live under their own more or less primitive conditions, and building houses for the administrative staff. The honorable member claimed that that money should have been utilized for the construction of 118 homes for members of the administrative staff. It is obvious, that he knows nothing of the facts of the situation. Some time ago the Government built 24 homes for the administrative staff in Port Moresby: they cost £50,000. If the- honorable member believes that the Government is providing the administrative staff with far too lavish accommodation - and evidently he intends us to believe that, because he says that 118 homes could have been built for £118,000 - does he contend that the administrative staff should be housed in accommodation no better than that provided for the natives? I do not say. that the natives are not entitled to the best accommodation that can be provided; I merely point out that the natives are being provided with accommodation most suited to their needs and the state in which they live. The honorable member referred to a telegram of protest he had received from certain members of the administrative staff, stating that there was widespread unrest among their numbers. If there be unrest, it exists only in the minds of certain disappointed people in that Territory. Let us now consider the rents charged for accommodation provided for the administrative staff. Under the old administration, . before the war commenced, the rents of staff houses were fixed by the administration. When the civil administration returned to the Territory in October, T945, because of the conditions obtaining there, we thought it would be unjust to ask these people to resume the payment of rent immediately and accordingly I directed that no rents would be charged from October, 1945, to the end of December, 1946. From the latter date the maximum rent charged has been 13s. lOd. a week. Would the workers of Australia regard that as excessive? It is obvious that there are a few disgruntled people in the Territory, who, having enjoyed the benefits of a rentfree house for fifteen months, would like that position to continue. Without knowing anything of the facts, the honor- able member has unfairly charged the Government with having exploited these people by rendering them liable to the payment of exorbitant rents. Single men, and nien compelled to leave their families in Australia, temporarily are provided with board and lodging at 35s. a week. We realize that the men compelled to leave their families are not responsible for the lack of adequate accommodation for their .families in the Territories and, without the need for a motion in this Parliament by an Opposition member, the Government approached their problem reasonably and decided that all such men who were not receiving more than £500 a year should receive a “living away from home “ allowance of £120 a year. Does that appear ungenerous? I wonder what other governments would have done in similar circumstances. After £500 a year the allowance is paid on a sliding scale until it disappears at £900 a year. We needed no prompting from the Opposition to do that.
When we restored civil control there were two administrative bodies - the New Guinea aud the Papua. Members of the New Guinea service were paid on a higher scale than the Papuan, but we took the New Guinea service salary scale as the basis on which to determine future salaries. So the members of the Papuan service automatically received increased pay. The honorable member asked why we had not classified the service and carried out the promise to provide arbitration machinery. We have carried out the classification -of the service. It was done on our behalf by Mr. Buttsworth, of the
New South Wales Public Service. The department is now considering his recommendations. Showing that some real progress has been made in that direction I direct attention to the fact that the recommendation that the minimum salary should be raised from £300 to £372 a year, an increase of £72, operates from the 1st March last. As other grades are dealt with and salary rates are increased, the increases likewise operate from the 1st March.
– What about the tribunal ?
– We favour arbitration and propose at the earliest opportunity to provide machinery whereby members of the administrative service will be able te submit claims and have them determined after the hearing of evidence- for and against the submissions. We have made great progress. As every honorable member knows, we lost a considerable number of members of the administrative staff when they were taken prisoners by the Japanese and later lost their lives when the transport Montevideo Maru was sunk. For the dependants of men whose lives were then lost, whether they were members, of the administrative service or ordinary civilians, we provide a pension equal to that paid to dependants of a private in the armed forces who lost his life in the war. Dependants of former administrative officers who lost their lives on that vessel are also receiving the superannuation benefits that they became entitled to as the result of their deaths. No reduction of the civil pension is made in consequence of their receiving superannuation payments. These are things that the Government has done. I thank the honorable gentleman for his having given me the opportunity of telling the world these facts. The honorable member made much of the present cost of living in the Territory. We realize that it is high. We have been doing’ our best to reduce it. The last .cost-of-living figures that came to me indicated that the cost of living in the territory was 35 per cent, greater than in Australia. The honorable member referred particularly to the price of rice and flour to indicate that people living in the Territory had to pay more for commodities than do people living in Australia. New Guinea is treated as an export market, and, -as the honorable member knows, an export charge is levied on flour. That also applies to rice. I do not know whether eventually it would be the best thing to do, but if the honorable member wants people in the Territory to be placed- on the same footing as the people in Australia, he may find that the people of the Territory might not be of the same mind, because, as he failed to mention, they do not pay Commonwealth income tax, which is a considerable saving. If he wants the cost of certain commodities in New Guinea to be brought down to the Australian level, which is maintained only by means of subsidies paid from money provided by the Australian taxpayers, it would be only reasonable that residents of the Territory should pay the same rates of income tax as do people in Australia. I wonder if that is what the honorable gentleman wants. He did not say. He did not mention taxation.
I now desire to make some reference to our native policy generally. To that the honorable gentleman has raised great objection.
– If I may interrupt the Minister, what is the position of payment of war damage compensation to planters to enable them to re-establish themselves?
– I am pleased the honor.abl member for. Bendigo asked that question. Planters in New Guinea whose property suffered war damage are being compensated in the same way as are people similarly placed on the mainland of Australia.
– But are they receiving the money?
– In many instances they have already received it. In others claims which have to be properly verified may have been delayed. All claims thai have been established have been met. Not only have we extended payment of war damage compensation to white settlers but Ave have also done something to which the honorable member for Balaclava, no doubt, would object: we have paid - and I believe that this is the only example in the history of colonial government - compensation to natives who suffered war damage. Moreover, Ave are .providing them or their dependants compensation for injury or death in the course of territorial industrial work. According to the honorable member that is spoiling the natives. He thinks Ave are doing, too much for them.
At Port Moresby Ave had appointed by the Department of Trade and Customs a prices commissioner who keeps a close watch on prices in the territory. The departmental committee, to which I have referred, . will likewise examine these problems. We realize the great potentialities of our external territories. We believe in developing in those territories industries that Will not be competitive with Australian industries. We have obtained the services of a tea expert, who will visit the Territory and advice the Government in respect of the areas suitable for the production of tea. We hope eventually, by the development of tea-growing, to relieve Australia of the need to seek supplies from other parts of the world. We have also established a Department of Agriculture which proposes to give to the natives the opportunity of developing a native economy by the development of production on their own behalf. The natives will be encouraged to grow products that will be marketable in Australia. The Government will assist them in marketing those commodities and ensure a proper return for the labour they put into the soil. [Extension of time granted.] We intend to assist the natives to work on their own behalf in producing the crops for which there is a ready sale in Australia. Eventually we hope to educate them sufficiently to share in the government of their country. Those are things that the honorable member objects to.
The honorable gentleman also said that the price paid to producers of copra in the Territory was too low. It is true that the price of £28 a ton is less than in some other markets, but the honorable member did not say that the cost of production varies from £12 to” £18 a ton, according to locality and the necessity for. transport, which leaves the producer with a margin of profit ranging from £16 to £10 a ton. In any case, the Prices Commissioner in Australia determines the price that should be paid, and not the Minister. He fixes the price in accordance with conditions in the Territory and on the Australianmarket. The honorable member is opposed, as are all his colleagues, to not only the fixing of the price of copra, but also the fixing of the prices of all commodities when, as the result of a shortage there is an opportunity to exploit the community. The price fixed for copra ensures a reasonable return to the producer and at the same time prevents any exploitation of the Australian consumer. Because there is a shortage of copra, the honorable member believes that the producers ought to be able to receive the maximum possible price from the community. I remind him that the price of copra in the past has been unstable. Before the war its production was unprofitable for many long periods. Included in the £28 a ton is a levy of £l, which is paid into a stabilization fund to protect the planters against rapid price fluctuations. We aim at regulating the industry to ensure that those engaged in it shall have some degree of security.
An authority cited by the honorable member for Balaclava was the Pacific Islands Monthly, the mouthpiece of Burns Philp and Company Limited, the shipowners, who have been the chief exploiters in the past of the white producers in the islands. The honorable member does not call on the Government to break the grip of vested interests on the Territory in order that the producers may receive justice. The honorable member read a couple of letters without stating the authors, but I could supply the honorable member with dozens and dozens of letters from white settlers thanking us for what we have done and what we are doing. They state that for the first time they have the opportunity of viewing the futurewith confidence. In the years ahead we shall be able to develop the Territory on sane lines. One recent criticism was that the roads in the Territory are in a bad condition.
– Order ! This debate must now be interrupted under Standing Order 119. Does the Minister desire to continue his remarks at a later date?
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 6th March (vide page 440), on motion by Mrs. Blackburn -
That in the opinion ofthis House -
.- Some weeks have elapsed since I submitted this motion.
By the word “ action “, mentioned in the second paragraph, I mean the action of committing an injustice to a weaker people, a betrayal of our responsibility, the violation of treaties and the breaking of our promises. By such actions we lower our moral standards. To-day is a most appropriate occasion on which to discuss this subject. This is May Day - a day of celebration and review for labour peoples all over the world. It is also a day when we decide on what we should do and should have for greater freedom, liberty, and justice for the people. On May Day throughout the world plans for the future are made. In the past, many honorable members on this side of the House have taken part in May Day processions, celebrations and demonstrations for the liberty and freedom of the individual . Therefore, this is an appropriate day on which to remind honorable members that there are still oppressions and injustices to be overcome, that here in Australia we have a voiceless minority, and that so far we have failed to achieve any measure of justice for those who comprise it. We should remember this when we take part in our May Day rejoicings.
Since I submitted this motion I have achieved considerable encouragement. Increasing numbers of people from all parts of Australia are becoming interested in this subject. A dignitary of one of our leading churches said that never in his entire experience of travelling in Australia had he known of a matter which aroused such widespread concern as this one has. He told the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and me that this concern is increasing, not .only because Australians object to the proposal to establish the testing range for guided weapons in Central Australia,’ but also because they are . opposed to inconsistency on the part of this Government. The people believe there is inconsistency when the Government, through the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), supports charters and signs documents at home and abroad in respect of trusteeship plans for the welfare of our native races. When it suits us to use fine and fair words about trusteeship we do so; but we do not consider ourselves to be bound by those words when matters which, we think, are of greater interest take pride of place. Some people claim, that this testing range for guided weapons is for defence purposes, and that those persons who object to ‘it are uttering mere sentimentality. This view has been expressed in many quarters and in some newspapers. My answer to that criticism is that if this protest is sentimentality, the whole basis of the Charter of the United Nations is sentimentality. Whenever this House assembles we profess to deliberate for the true welfare of the people of Australia.- This means, 1 assume, for the whole of the people of Australia. The question lias been asked : What is the attitude of the people of Australia to the proposal to establish a testing range for guided weapons in Central Australia? The. people have not been consulted, and I do not believe that they would be in favour of the project if they were consulted. Recently, a meeting was held in the Melbourne Town Hall for the purpose of discussing this proposal, and from the vote which was taken on the two motions submitted, I have no hesitation in saying . that the people of Australia do not approve of the establishment of this range, either because of the danger that it constitutes to aboriginals, or because of the danger to Australia itself of proceeding with military measures on this enlarged scale.
– What is the danger to Australia?
– The danger to Australia is in expending more money on defence measures than is reasonable in peace-time. Probably, all honorable members will have received from overseas a pamphlet on international conciliation, containing the proposed Bill of Human Rights. When we speak of the defence of this country, and the need for establishing this testing range to conduct researches in defence weapons - so called, because I do not concede that the guided projectiles are defence weapons- we should look again at the subject of human rights. In article 3 of the proposed Bill of Human Rights these words are used -
The exercise of a person’s rights is limited by the rights of others, and by the just requirements of the democratic state.
When we are considering the establishment of a range for testing guided weapons our ideas of our own defence had better be limited by our feelings for the rights of others - the rights of the black men and women who live in Aus- tralia and from whom we took this country. The best defence of Australia Ls wise expenditure on defence measures, and not in an inflated expenditure on further preparations for war. Some people contend that sacrifices must be made for the protection of our people, including the coloured people. The law of civilization is not the law of the sacrifice of the weak, but the law of sacrifice in order to protect the weak. It was a Nazi principle to sacrifice a weak minority for the preservation of a stronger majority. We can defend Australia only by making it civilized, and we have not shown, by our treatment of the native peoples “here, that we have the right to call ourselves a civilized nation. We have degraded the dark-skinned people wherever we have come in contact with them. The aboriginal women have been subjected to much offence by the white man. It is worth emphasizing that when a child is born of a native woman it is most difficult to get the white man responsible to .pay anything towards the training and upkeep of his half -white offspring. This kind of thing has happened in the past. It cannot be denied that when white people have come into contact with the natives disaster has overtaken the latter. 1 believe that if the proposed guided weapons range is constructed the same thing will happen again.. It has been contended by some people that an alternative range should be provided. I should not be honest or sincere if I did not say that I do not believe that these tests should be conducted in this country at all. If such tests must be made - though I do not agree that they are needed - they should be conducted where people are not likely to be’ injured. I suggest that there is probably no locality which would fall within that description, except Antarctica.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I presume that there is no honorable member who would feel that he could support the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) on this subject without seeming to don the mantle of Saint Francis of Assisi and we should all be reluctant even to attempt to do so. The one honorable member of this Parliament who might possibly have fittingly filled that role, so far as my experience of the Parliament is concerned at any rate, would have been a former honorable member for Bourke, Mr. Maurice Blackburn, whose widow has submitted this motion. He was one of the most delightful personalities it would be possible to meet. He was full of infinite compassion. But much as I admired his sentiments - I do not say sentimentality, for there is all the difference in the world between sentiment and sentimentality - I must . confess that I was rarely able to agree with the honorable gentleman. I did not hear of his untimely death until after I returned from war service. I say in all sincerity that this country could ill afford to lose such a lovable character. He departed from us all too soon.
We must consider the practical issues on the subject before us. As the member representing the Northern Territory in this Parliament, I am of the opinion that there is no place in the British Empire, except possibly the polar regions, where these guided weapon experiments could more appropriately be conducted. I believe that the fears of the honorable member for Bourke in relation to possible risk of injury to the native peoples are unfounded. I know the area in which the range is to be constructed, and I believe that the very few aborigines there who might be affected could be’ removed to a place where they would not be likely to suffer any interference. The Minister has told us that every precaution will be taken to protect the native people. I have no doubt that the Government will do its utmost to ensure that the natives will not be subjected to the risk of injury. The opposition to the carrying out of these guided weapon tests has come mainly from people with high religious or humanitarian ideals who arc concerned about the welfare of the lowly and the weak, but I do not believe that they have fully considered >the subject. They have been swayed, not by sentiment, but by sentimentality. As Elbert Hubbard said - “ The first is to be admired and the second to be despised”. They not only have their heads in the air, but they have not even one foot on the ground. If we were to carry their views to their logical conclusion we would be forced to decide that all the white people in Australia should be transported, so that the aboriginal race could once again have the country to itself. The argument basically is, that we took the country from the aborigines and we should return it to them. I suppose that the ancestors of the honorable member for Bourke, like my own ancestors, may have been cruel to the aborigines in days gone by, though I must say that in my infancy I was nursed by a native woman. In fact, I owe my life to an old “ gin “ who saved me from fatal injury while I was still at the crawling stage. I lived among these people for many years and did not even see a train until I was fourteen years of age. It will be appreciated, therefore, that I have the highest respect for native women.
However, we must, as I have already said, look at practical issues. I welcome what the Government is doing, little enough as it is, for the defence of this country. The Government will not agree to reintroduce universal military training so that we may equip ourselves to meet the hordes of Asiatic people who, if not in our own time assuredly in that of our children, will come south against us. As the Government will not accept the advice of Mr. Hanlon, the Premier of Queensland, in regard to defence, I am glad that it will undertake certain scientific investigations which have for their objective the more adequate defence of the- country. This project cannot be described as a votecatching project, and. it is, on that account, the more commendable. I am glad that the Government has agreed- to c-o-operate with the United Kingdom authorities in undertaking these experiments with guided weapons. In this way it will do something to assist in the survival of our Anglo-Saxon way of living, and equip us to resist, the onward march of ideologies which threaten to sweep across Europe and south-eastern Asia, and may possibly result in us finding ourselves in an amorphous mass.
– “We all. appreciate the purpose of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) in introducing this discussion. She feels the utmost sympathy towards the aboriginal peoples, of this country. But I am afraid that her logic was somewhat astray because, after dealing exhaustively with the possible effect of these guided weapon experiments on the aborigines, she concluded her speech by saying that she was not favorable to the carrying >out of these tests anywhere at all. It is obvious, therefore, that the honorable member was influenced by more than the welfare of the aborigines. The criticism of this project, has been relatively weak. During the years that I have held ministerial office, I have had to d’o many unpopular things, and I have had to recommend policies to the Government on- many matters which have involved me in a great deal of adverse criticism. I have received many critical letters in respect of some of those matters, but fewer letters of that description have reached me on this subject than on any of the others to which I have- referred. Therefore, I do not believe that this, subject is agitating the minds of the public to the degree suggested by some people.
Irrespective of party politics, all the members of this Parliament are concerned about the welfare, of the aborigines. The mere fact that public meetings have been, held in Melbourne and Sydney to express opposition to the proposed guided weapons experiments cannot be taken as a true criterion of. the attitude- of the people on the subject. Much, of the criticism, is based on a complete misunderstanding, first, of what the project means, and, secondly, of its effect on the welfare of tie aborigines. In order, to inform the House and the public of the real purpose of these experiments, it will be necessary for me to refer to defence policy. I believe that every ‘ one will agree that the people of this country are not sufficiently numerous to defend themselves successfully against aggression. We must, therefore, act in co-operation, with other nations, among whom the most important are those which constitute the British Commonwealth. If we could, get international agreement in regard to:, defence it would be a fine thing; if we could get agreement among English - speaking people- it would be- excellent; but, in the absence of these desirable objectives, we must seek collaboration and co-operation with the other members of the British Commonwealth in relation to our defence projects. With that in mind, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), during his visit to London last year, discussed with United Kingdom and’ Dominion Ministers means by which the Australian people could take a bigger part in ‘providing for the defence of the British Commonwealth. When the Commonwealth Government examined this subject, subsequently, it decided that the best contribution we- could’ make would be >to assist in developments along scientific lines, so that,, if another war should overtake the world, we should be better prepared with new- scientific weapons and new techniques than we were at the beginning of the last war. I believe that the vast majority of the people of Australia would agree that that was- a wise decision. Consultations took place on the subject later, and it was eventually agreed that the proposed guided weapons testing range should be constructed in Central Australia. That decision was not made without a great, deal of discussion- and a complete, examination of the possible effects of such a project on our aboriginal peoples’ in- the- areas that were suitable for the purpose. The whole matter was very carefully investigated. The honorable member for Bourke has said that possibly the only other area in the world in which such experiments co’uld be undertaken was in the polar regions, but climatic conditions there would make it impossible to test guided weapons in any effective way. Central Australia, in fact, is the only area in the British Commonwealth .of Nations suitable for the tests that have to be made. Something has been said about the possibility of finding an alternative site in Australia. That suggestion has also been closely examined. This is a difficult subject to .speak on because, in one’s capacity as Minister, one obtains information which may be of a secret character. Later on, when one is about to .<?.av something, one is not sure whether he learned it under requirements of secrecy, or whether.it can bb made public. Therefore, to be on the safe side, it is sometimes better not to mention certain facts, although if they were made known, they would completely refute the arguments of critics.
– The matter . is fully examined in the report, which I presume is a public document.
– That is so, but I was relating this difficulty to the site of the range, and to the suggestion that an alternative site might be obtained. The fact is that the proposed site is the only suitable one in Australia or indeed, in the whole of the British Commonwealth of Nations, which meets all the requirements of a testing range. I do not mean that the limits of the site are definitely fixed within a mile or so. It may be that the firing point will have. to be moved a fe* miles one way or the other but, generally speaking, it is the only site available, and the direction of the range is the only one possible. The first 300 miles of the range will be in South Australian territory, and up to that point the range wil not touch the central aboriginal reserve. In the early stages of the tests only, those first 300 miles of range will be used. During those early tests, so much will be discovered about the technique of controlling guided weapons that when, at a later stage, it is found necessary to increase the range; the accuracy with which the weapons can be delivered to a par ticular point will be developed to a high degree. On the subject of the site of the range, and the direction of fire, there are ‘ certain matters which I am not at liberty to make public, but I can assure honorable members that full consideration has been given to the suggestion that an alternative site might be found. Some one mentioned Eucla, on the Great Australian; Bight. This proposal has been closely examined, but the conclusion was reached that the site ultimately chosen was the only one that met all requirements.
It has been suggested that there are natives in the area concerned whose tribal life may be disturbed. Actually, the number of natives in the area covered by the range is comparatively small. In the report of the committee of investigation, the number is estimated at 1,800. Taking the whole area into account, that means that the density of the native population is about one to every 50 square miles. It is true that at times the natives may congregate in one spot, and it is suggested that they do. in fact, congregate at places where mission stations have been established. The mission’ station.;, are situated- right on the fringe of the testing range, and are not anywhere near the point from which the. guided weapons will be fired. The committee, after examining the matter very carefully, has come to the conclusion that, there is only a very remote, possibility of natives being injured.
– “What is the distance between the edge of the range and the place where the natives congregate?
– I am sure that it is at least 50 miles.’ When I spoke on this subject in November last year, I promised that the Government would get a committee to go into all questions concerning the welfare of the aborigines, and to ensure that nothing would be done detrimental te their welfare. That committee was duly set up, and included the following persons : -
Lieutenant-General J. F. Evetts, representing the British Long -Range Weapons Organization in Australia.
Professor A. P. Elkin, Professor of Anthropology, Sydney University, representing the Australian National Research Council.
The members of the committee were asked to consider the whole project, and to examine measures proposed to be taken to ensure that the natives would not be interfered with. I suggested that the committee should ask Dr. Thompson and Dr. Duguid to attend meetings so as to make known their views. The report of the. committee has been tabled in this House, and I presume that honorable members have read it. However, it is necessary to refer to the report in order to answer completely the case put f orward by the honorable member for Bourke.
Part I. deals with the range itself, and discusses the question of an alternative site, as I have already mentioned. It also deals with the various stages in the construction and use of the range. It points out that only the first 300 miles of the range will be used in the early stages of the tests, and mentions that, during that period, considerable experience will be gained in the guiding of the weapons, so that when the range is increased, the weapons can be guided with almost complete accuracy. It is also pointed out in this part of the report that it is not proposed to set up permanent observation posts within the central reserve ; and that it is not proposed to build roads through the reserve, or to use native labour for any purpose. It is further stated that contacts between those engaged in the tests and the natives will be very slight. In fact, it may be that there will be no contact at all between them.
– Is it not true, also, that the persons engaged in the tests will be very carefully selected?
– Yes, that is true.
– There was a careful selection in previous instances also.
– That may be so ; but previous expeditions had to travel overland, and thus could not very well avoid contact with the natives. In this instance, the members of the expedition will travel by aeroplane, and they will be set down at a particular spot, unknown to any one in the near vicinity. Thus, it will be . much easier to prevent contact with the natives than in the case of earlier expeditions.
– Is it not also true that the Government’s conscience, and the public conscience, on this matter have been awakened more in recent years than was the case formerly?
– I believe that that is true. I think I am correct, in saying that the attitude of all members in this House towards the welfare of aborigines is one of deep sympathy, and that anything that can be done to prevent harm coming to them will be done. I am sure that members of the Opposition would protest strongly against any action likely to be harmful to the aborigines.
– We have writings to that effect dated as long ago as 1840.
– The honorable member for Bourke made out what she thought was a good case, and everybody recognizes that she is deeply concerned for the welfare, of the aborigines. However, I do not agree that her concern is greater than mine, or that of any other member of the Government. As a matter of fact, she gave her case away when she said that she did not want a range to be set up anywhere at all. Part 3 of the report of the committee deals with the views presented by Dr. Charles Duguid and Dr. Donald Thomson, and since I believe that those views represent the opinion of most of those who have written to me on this subject, as well as those of the honorable member for Bourke, I propose to ‘ read from this part of the report. Paragraph 19 is as follows: -
Dr. Duguid. appeared before the Committee, and was invited to make known his views for consideration. After examination of a map showing the lay-out of the proposed range, he expressed the opinion that, as it was apparent that the range passed- through the Central Aboriginal Reserves, he knew of no welfare methods that could save the aborigines.
At this stage, Dr. Duguid was given the following information on the understanding that- he would not divulge it to the public before a statement was made by the Government: -
An approximation of the size and purpose of an observation post.
No roads are to be constructed in the Central Reserves.
Personnel to man the observation posts will be flown in and out.
Aborigines are notto be used for labour.
The intention to appoint patrol officers.
After further discussion, Dr. Duguid requested that he should not be provided with any additional details.
It is evident that Dr. Duguid was not prepared to consider the case on its merits. He said he did not want to he given any further details. His objections are set out on page 9 of the report. The report contains this paragraph -
Dr. Thomson (who had been present while Dr. Duguid expressed his views) stated that he supported Dr. Duguid’s statement regarding the effect of the project upon the life of the aborigine. He thought that it would be impossible to carry out the intentions of the Government, however good, and that the ultimate results could be revealed only by the future.
The conclusions of the committee are set out in paragraph 23, which appears in Part IV. of the report. That paragraph reads -
Interference with the aborigine by reason of -
The final paragraph of the report reads -
After hearing the views expressed by Dr. Charles Duguid and Dr. Donald Thomson, the committee confirmed its conclusions as above. It was of the opinion that neither of these gentlemen had advanced any reason which precluded the making of satisfactory arrangements to ensure the safety and welfare of the aborigines in the proposed range area.
Since this report was presented to me I have received a letter from Professor Elkin, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sydney and a co-opted member of the committee, whose interest in the safety and the welfare of the aborigines will not be challenged by anybody. In his letter Professor Elkin said -
I have read your statement and know that it represents the facts and possibilities to the best of our knowledge. I, personally, am satisfied that the welfare of the aborigines is not jeopardized by the experimental work that is to be undertaken and that most of the opposition is emotional and unenlightened. I am forced to the conclusion that those who go on protesting after the release of the Committee’s findings and your Statement, are being unreasonable. At any rate, it is the duty, not only of the Government, but those of us who are experienced in these matters of contact, to see that by positive measures no harm comes to aborigines, either directly or indirectly.
There are four thoughts expressed in the motion moved by the honorable member for Bourke. First, the honorable member suggested that the proposal to establish a guided weapons testing range in central Australia is an act of injustice to a weaker people who have no voice in the ordering of their own lives. I have shown, that the measures that will be taken to protect their welfare are such that no injustice is involved. The honorable member laid stress on the fact that the aborigines are a weaker people. In taking measures for the protection of all of the people of Australia we are in fact taking measures to protect this weaker section of our people.’ The second point made by the honorable member was that this act is a betrayal of our responsibility to guard the human rights -of those who cannot defend themselves. But since there is no injustice involved there can be no betrayal of human rights. We have a responsibility to these people and it would be a betrayal of that responsibility if we did not collaborate with the other components of the British Commonwealth of Nations in taking such measures as are necessary to protect Australia and to assist in the protection of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The third point made by the honorable member was that this proposal constitutes a violation of the various charters that have sought to bring about world peace. That, of course, is a subject upon which a good deal could he said. Among the nations which have been represented at various world conferences none has been more insistent than Australia on the question of measures being taken .for the maintenance of peace. Our representatives have done their utmost in the councils of the world, at San Francisco and elsewhere, to ensure that positive measures will be taken. These measures are being pursued almost daily in various world conferences held in relation not only to security matters but to economic matters as well. No one will deny that Australia has played, and is continuing to play, a leading part in ensuring “that what measures can be taken will be taken to ensure that another disastrous war does not overtake the world. We have, however, no guarantee that these measures will meet with complete success. The argument that this testing range in Central Australia is an aggressive measure, and not one for our own protection, which should not be undertaken merely because certain discussions are taking place on an international plane regarding security measures for the world at large, could be used against all measures for the defence of Australia. If it be wrong, to set up a guided weapons testing range in Central Australia, it is also wrong to make any plans for the post-war defence of Australia. Our postwar plans must be formulated on the basis of making the best possible use of our resources, so that whatever we do will be for our protection and benefit should war again break out. It is not logical to say that because discussions are taking place in regard to security measures - we all hope they will be successful and will result in a long period of peace for the world - each individual nation should not take whatever measures it regards as necessary to ensure its own protection and defence in the event of another war. And, in fact, that is expressly recognized in the Charter of the United Nations itself. Nothing that is happening at these ‘international conferences will prevent individual nations taking such measures in their defence as they think fit. The honorable member’s motion goes on to state that the establishment of the range is “ against the interests of the whole people of this Commonwealth”. I have shown that these measures are being taken because it is necessary for us to have a positive post-war defence policy. If international discussions are not successful in preventing the outbreak of another war we shall at least have made some defensive preparations. Furthermore, it is in the best interests, not only of the white people of this country, but also of the aborigines themselves, that such security measures should be taken. Our preparations will enable us to provide a defence in war-time which will involve less strain on’ our resources than any other method of defence. It i» the best way in which this country can secure its safety and the most practical manner in which we can equip ourselves to support Great Britain and the other nations of the British Commonwealth should Ave become involved in another
– After considering carefully the great mass of correspondence I have received on this matter, the report made by the committee, to which reference has been made, and the speech of the Minister for Defence (Mr.
Dedman), I think that I should state my own conclusions quite publicly. I entirely agree .with the view expressed by the Minister. It is quite true that there has been a good deal’ of agitation concerning the guided weapons testing range. Considerable discussion has taken place amongst members of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, no doubt because one of the great aboriginal missions in Central Australia is the Presbyterian Mission at Ernabella. But I am satisfied that most of the criticism offered has arisen from an imperfect knowledge of the. proposal and of the facts relating to it. The report to which reference has been made in this debate ought to be read by any one who feels sceptical of the wisdom of establishing this range. , The report was made by. a committee comprised of standing and co-opted members. The members of the committee, properly so-called, were Major-General Beavis, representing the Department of Defence, Commander Calder, Brigadier Coffey, “Wing Commander Pither, Mr. Brodribb, of the Munitions Department, and Mr. White, of the Council for Scientific) and Industrial Research. Obviously, from the description of its members, that was a technical committee; but, in order, that this proposal might be thoroughly examined the co-opted members mentioned by the Minister were attached to it. Of the co-opted members, at least four are qualified to speak .for the aborigines as perhaps few people in Australia are. They possess a keen knowledge of Australian aboriginal problems, and have not only a personal but also a professional interest in their well-being. The four members to whom I refer are Mr. Moy, Director of Native Affairs for the Northern Territory, Mr. Penhall, secretary of the Aborigines Protection Board of South Australia, Mr. Neville, representing the Western Australian Government and associated with the protection of aborigines in that State, and Professor Elkin, Professor of Anthropology of the Sydney University. The committee made, a report, in sober terms, which entirely disposed of the criticisms made and of the alternatives suggested. Furthermore, it gave Dr. Duguid and Dr. Thompson an opportunity to be heard. It is quite clear, as everybody who has listened to this discussion knows, that most of the criticism offered by some very good people in Australia was based on the reported views of Dr. Duguid and Dr. Thompson. Yet when Dr. Duguid was called before the committee - after the stage mentioned by the Minister had been reached - he said he did not want to be told any further details, but, instead, summarized his views. The Minister did not have time to read those views to the House, but I think I should read them because they . qualify very considerably his original position. The report stated -
He objected definitely to the range passing through the central reserves, as these areas were set aside for the .aborigines some 25 years ago, and he saw no reason to encroach upon them now.
He did not think it would do much harm to fire rockets over the reserves. He thought that an occasional .bomb dropping, in the reserves would not do much damage.
He considered that the danger to the aborigines would be occasioned by the introduction into the reserve of the .personnel required to man the observation posts. The fact that these personnel would be flown in’ and out would tend to minimize their effect. In this connexion, he referred to the half-caste problem.’
He was very glad to know the Government was taking steps to protect the aborigines, but was of the opinion that, irrespective of the action taken, the life of aborigines in the reserves’ would be interfered with by contact, which must of necessity take place if observation posts were established within the reserves. He was fearful of the effect of the range.
The objection of Dr. Duguid, whose views were confirmed by Dr. Thompson, was that if observation posts were established over this vast tract of land, with personnel being flown in and out, he was afraid that there might be contact with the native population, and that such contact might cause injury to them. Surely the answer to that contention is that if the work to be done is of paramount national importance we must guard against possible evils by a careful selection of the people who are to man the observation posts ; and I should have only to remind honorable members that the men chosen will inevitably possess scientific knowledge and “outlook
– That is not always a guarantee.
– No, but I think it goes a long way towards suggesting that there is going to be some observation of the decencies of life and some restraint exhibited by them in the presence of sparse, nomadic populations. However, these difficulties may be resolved by a careful selection of personnel. If the objection to the range can be sustained it can only be Sustained on the ground that however careful the selection may be observation posts should not be established in the reservation at all. If that is the objection, there should be no range at all. On that practical problem I summarize my thoughts by putting four questions. The first is, is provision for the defence of Australia and the British Empire still necessary? The answer must be, “ Yes “. If that view needs emphasis it is to be found in the recently recognized fact that the United Nations cannot provide, of itself, military forces that would be adequate to protect us against a great war, because the existence of. the veto means that there never can be any coercive action by the United Nations against one of the great powers holding a permanent seat on the Security Council. Therefore, as I pointed out in a question recently, it is becoming well known that the opinion of the Security Council on the size and quality of a military force is being adjusted to the notion of dealing with a small country, a «mall incident, or a small war. Therefore, the British Empire must continue in a real world to make adequate provision for its own defence. So the answer to the first question is, “ Yes “. If the answer to that question is “ Yes “, the second question is, do we need research into the use of guided weapons? Who can doubt that the answer must be “Yes”. The whole of World War IT. showed quite plainly that future international combat, should such a tragedy again occur, will be in the direction of either the use of guided weapons or the application of atomic energy. Those are the two great new. developments. If we are to talk about our own defence .in real terms, I entirely agree with the Minister that we must, be prepared to conduct research into this matter so that in this department we may be ahead of the rest of the world and not behind it, and certainly not behind potential enemies. The next question is, if we do need research into guided weapons, is there any area in the British Empire more suitable than the one in Australia. The answer to that is “ No “. The Minister has stated that, and we do not need much imagination to realize bow unanswerably correct that statement is. We have only to run our eyes around the British Empire and, indeed, the North American continent as a whole, to realize that there is no place in the world that so lends itself to research of this kind as does Central Australia. I have received printed letters on this matter.
– We have all received them.
– I did not think that I had been picked out. In those letters there is a suggestion of an alternative site. The committee investigated that alternative site and rejected it, and said that the site chosen was the only one possible in the British Empire.
– But the committee did not give any reason.
– The committee could hardly give its reasons for its findings in a public document, because reasons for that finding would inevitably involve examination ‘ of technical considerations, and I am one who does not want it to publish technical considerations that bear on the range project. The committee has said what it thinks and I say with very great respect that its members know more about the matter than do all the people who object to the proposal put together. They represent between them all the scientific knowledge available in this country on this point, and, when they say “ That for technical reasons, is not a suitable position and this is, “ I accept their judgment. I am not in a position to sit in judgment on them or to criticize them. No one outside their ranks can criticize them for, because of their position, they know more than all their critics. The technical view must necessarily be based on secret information that ought to be secret, particularly’ at this stage.
My fourth question is, if the first two questions are to be answered affirmatively and the third negatively - and I do not think we will find more than one person in a hundred in Australia who would say that those answers are not perfectly sound - the fourth question is, does this proposal involve danger to the aboriginal race so substantial that it ought to outweigh the general consideration of national safety that underlies the whole scheme? The answer to that must be in the negative. Theoretically, some injury may be inflicted, [ agree; but it is certain that, unless we of the British world are to be right up to the minute in our research on the lines of defending ourselves, a far greater calamity will fall on millions of people of all colours in the world who love their freedom and look forward with hope to a peaceful future. Consequently I do not believe that there is any question that can be put sensibly in relation to this matter which should not be answered .unhesitatingly in the direction advocated by the Minister, that is, by going on with the proposal as laid down and recommended .by the Committee.
– I have had a lot of correspondence sent to me by people in South Australia.
– The honorable member is not the only one.-
– No; but a lot of letters have been sent to me asking my views about this matter and urging that I oppose proceeding with the work of establishing a range in Central Australia for research into guided weapons. It appears to me that the people who object can be placed in two categories. In the first category are those who have spent their life in trying to improve the conditions of the Australian aborigines. Their one concern is the welfare of the aborigines, and they look with hostility upon anything that may affect aboriginal reserves or bring the aborigines into contact with our race as detrimental. I respect them for their good work and I contend that the Commonwealth Parliament should commend them for devoting their time and energy to the cause of the Australian aborigines. In the second category are those whom I would term “ the pacifists of the country “ who, are so totally opposed to anything that savours of war that they dp not want to see any development that might one day be used as a means of making war. Their objection to the proposal is its link with warfare. No one objects to war more than I do, hut I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the first question -we must address to ourselves is. whether it is necessary to provide for the defence of this country and the rest of the British Empire. I agree that we must make that provision. If we must, we must ask ourselves what is the best way of providing for our defence. Between the two World Wars we tried to bind down our enemies of the first war, and to prevent them from making further war, but in the second war they produced awesome weapons of destruction. If we are to defend this country, we must be ready to do so in the best manner possible. Australia’s future may depend on our knowledge and control of weapons of destruction, and, therefore, it is necessary that a testing range for guided weapons shall be constructed somewhere. That being so, I cannot support the motion of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn). Many people for whom I have a high regard, among them some of my supporters, have signed a petition against the construction of this range. I have given much thought to this matter, and have come’ to the conclusion that the Government is justified in seeking all the information possible regarding various methods of warfare, with a view to protecting the people of this country in the event of an emergency. Therefore, much as I appreciate the work of those who have the interests of the aborigines at heart, I believe that we must have regard to the welfare of the people generally rather than of any one section. In saying that, I refer not only to the people of South Australia, or even of Australia, but to the people of all nations, especially those who believe in our way of life. We must be in a position to defend our civilization if called upon to do so. For that reason, I should not be doing my duty if I did anything which might weaken our defences. I commend the honorable member for Bourke for her humane outlook. She is opposed to war, as I am; but we differ as to the means by which war may be prevented. The honorable member for Bourke believes that if there were no armaments there would be no war. That view would be sound if disarmament were general and all nations were prepared to disarm. In my opinion, the proposed testing range, far from leading to war, will make war less, likely.
I did not hear all the Minister’s quotations from the report of the special committee, hut I am acquainted with Dr. Duguid and his work for the aborigines. He has devoted much time, money and knowledge to improving; their conditions.. [ value the work which he and others are doing, but I fear that there is: danger that we may let our feelings so influence us that we shall not develop a world outlook. I do not want to be regarded as a. warmonger. I am not a warmonger; I believe that if mankind had the proper outlook there would be no need for any testing range for guided weapons. But I also realize that the world has not yet reached that stage. Indeed, the rattlings and rumblings that we hear in the world to-day force me to the conclusion that we must be prepared to support the Governments of the Commonwealth and the United Kingdom in the conduct of these tests, which may have a big influence on our future defence.
Had it been possible to get a totally uninhabited area in which to carry out the tests I should have been happier, but I do not know of any place where such tests would interfere less with human beings than the area which has been selected. In the circumstances, although I commend the honorable member for Bourke for her interest in the aborigines and for bringing this motion forward, my sense of responsibility to Australia and. the British race impels me to oppose the motion.
. - I compliment the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) on bringing this matter before the House, and, even though her motion may not receive the support of a majority of honorable members, it has provided an opportunity to debate a matter of interest, and cannot do other than benefit the aborigines in the area in which the tests of guided weapons will take place and elsewhere. The motion has drawn attention to the necessity to do more for the aborigines of Australia, and therefore it will serve a good purpose. In the report,, to which reference has been made, it is stated that Dr. Thompson had said that he supported Dr. Duguid’s views as to the effect of this project upon aboriginal life in the area: He thought that it would be. impossible to give effect to the intentions of the Government as expressed in the report. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that the scientists associated with the’ project will be men of high moral character, from whom the natives have nothing to fear, but it must be remembered that, just as a general in an army is surrounded by officers and other ranks, so these scientists, will have associated with them many hundreds of other persons, the observation posts will have to be constructed by workmen, and many people will be employed on the range to assist and care for the scientists. But the real issue is whether- any other area suitable for testing guided weapons is available in Australia or elsewhere. If there is not, the projected range in Centra! Australia must be used. Guided weapons must be thoroughly tested if we are to safeguard future generations against aggression. Whilst commending the honorable member for Bourke for providing an opportunity to discuss this subject, I emphasize that when you cannot get exactly what you require, you must make the best use of what you get. The Government has resolved to construct the range in Central Australia, and therefore, I direct attention to the necessity for policing the conduct of people within the area. For example, the behaviour of the workmen towards the aborigines must he carefully watched. Only by so doing shall we fulfil our obligations to these natives, whose ancestors were the sole inhabitants of this country. Only by such methods can we carry out the principle which has been so excellently expounded by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson). I am in complete agreement with the honorable member’s remarks. I believe that only by treating the aborigines in accordance with Christian teaching shall we, as a people, be. able to hold our heads high in the world. It is only by directing attention to such matters, as the honorable member for Bourke has done, that the public will be made aware of their responsibilities to the aborigines, who have every right to live happily in this land.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
.- I am sure that whatever our opinions on this matter may be all of us are grateful to the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) for raising in the House the subject of the establishment of a guided weapons testing range in Central Australia.. I suppose that most of us, deep down in our hearts, share with the honorable member many of her sentiments, particularly at a time so soon after the greatest wai- in history. We may ‘not agree with all that she has said in support of her case. Personally, I would, perhaps, go further than most honorable members on this side of the House. All of us realize the tremendous amount of work put into missionary enterprise among the aborigines. We are also conscious of our own had treatment of these people over the years. It was not until recently that the Commonwealth Government began to take a really sympathetic view of the problem of the aborigines; but the missionaries have been working among them for years, and it is obvious that they would be concerned at such a gigantic undertaking being undertaken in areas inhabited by aborigines.
I am glad that the honorable member raised this matter for two main reasons: First, the motion has given the opportunity to all honorable members to air their opinions on the subject, and to hear from the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Dr. Dedman) an able reply supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Mi-. Menzies). Secondly, this debate has impressed upon our authorities the necessity for care and wisdom in carrying out the safeguards provided by the committee. If only for those two reasons this debate has been well worth while. But the fact that a guided weapons testing range is to be established in Australia at all is a terrible indictment of our civilization, as is the atomic bomb. To think that, after all these centuries of struggle by millions of people for a better order of society, we should now even in Australia be testing guided weapons should fill every one of us with embarrassment, and even contempt for the human species. I am reminded of two cartoons which I noticed in the press just before the last war when the Sino-Japanese conflict was at its height. One showed, an old gorilla sitting at the foot of a tree reading the Shanghai News’.. Near the gorilla were two cubs going at each other “ hammer and tongs “ with twoclubs; and noticing them, the old gorilla called out, “Quit that; don’t get actinglike a couple of human beings “. The other cartoon depicted a very harassed missionary standing in front of a signpost on an island. The post had twoarms. One pointing to the right bore the notice, “ To civilization “, and the other spar pointing to the left bore the sign, “ Back to the jungle “. ‘ To the right of the cartoon, “ civilization “ was represented by a city being devastated by bombs. The scene showed ships sinking, and generally depicted death, starvation and all the misery attaching to civilization in the modern age. The missionary wore a very worried look ; and the cartoon showed his charges, who had been converted, disappearing in the direction of the jungle, saying, “We want to go back “. “ Those cartoons showed to me where we are heading through war and economic depressions. It seems to me that very soon when we speak of the black people as natives we shall have to alter the meaning of the term, because the day is coming, if we continue as we are, when- Ave shall be the natives and probably be re-educated to the ways of peace by some of the peoples whom Ave have converted in the Pacific islands and elsewhere. The fact that aguided weapons testing range is to he set up in Australia at all is” a frightful indictment, because all of us know that it is designed for destruction and not for reconstruction. It can be linked with the atomic bomb and the research that, is going on in all countries at present, secretly in some cases, and not so secretly in others, with the object of perfecting the destructiveness of the atomic bomb. We are now about to establish a range with a view to perfecting guided weapons for what purposes Ave are not at the moment sure, perhaps; but we know that fundamentally the purpose of guided weapons is destruction. So, Ave come back to the conclusion that human life is becoming less valuable in the eyes of the scientists of the world, for in spite of the fact that scientists have given us so many wonderful inventions they have also made possible the atomic bomb, and, perhaps, even more frightful methods of destruction within the next few years. It seems that we shall have to guide our scientists as well as our weapons. If we could do so, we might be able to avoid’ war in the future. I ‘believe that “ if a Gallup poll of the peoples of the world could be taken when war was looming, 90 per cent, of them would vote against war. This may sound idealistic; but we have not had enough idealism. To-day, we advocate a practical business world. That has dominated our thoughts for most of this century; and to-day we have a hard business world; we want businessmen to control this and that. The idealism which was characteristic of life in this country in years gone by i& fast fading out in the mad atomic age we have now entered upon.
We may wonder why there is a protest against the establishment of this range in Australia. Two reasons suggest themselves to me. One is that there is a deep abhorrence- of war in the hearts of all Australians, particularly in those who have to fight and die in battle. My brother hated war as much as any man, but he went a way to fight, and died on the death railway in Thailand. Yet he hated war just as much as most of us do. That is the terrible predicament we get into; we have to go out and defend ourselves although we hate war as much as we hate cancer, or any other disease. So, deep down in the hearts of these people for whom the honorable member for Bourke has spoken, and for whom, in part, I am speaking, there is a deep abhorrence of war. .Secondly, th’ere is a revolt against preparations for another war so soon after the frightful struggle from which we have just emerged. This is only natural. We’re the experiments to be undertaken ten years from now, the feeling perhaps would not have been so pronounced ; but less than two years has elapsed since the conclusion of World War II., and we are already making ‘ preparations to test bigger and better methods of destroying human life. That just does not make sense to many people in this country. It is argued that we must take a realistic view of these things, and admittedly, most other nations do take such a view ; but where will this realism end ? It must end in another conflict. Are these experiments eventually to be controlled by the United Nations? It has been said that there must be control of atomic energy otherwise we shall be destroyed; but the Minister did not say whether the guided weapons experiments were eventually to be placed under the guidance of the United Nations. However, that is another aspect of the matter. I have given the main reasons underlying most of the opposition to the construction of a guided weapons testing range in this country. Probably some people who object to these experiments would not mind if they were carried out somewhere else, but .that is a very poor attitude. The choice of Australia for this purpose is, in one way, an indictment of this land. Empty spaces are required so that the guided weapons will not be a danger to human life. Therefore, our great continent has been chosen. That emphasizes in my mind the extent of our open spaces. There is not very much likelihood, of course, of the interior of this country ever being settled, but the fact remains that nowhere else in the British Commonwealth of Nations’ is there sufficient- uninhabited land to ensure a sufficient degree of safety for human life when the tests are being carried out.
I come now to the actual site that has been selected. What I have said so far may have sounded idealistic; I shall deal now with the practical side of the matter. All the talking in the world will not alter the decision to establish this range. The project has been decided upon by the British Government and the Australian Government. We shall never deter them, so let- us look at the proposal in a practical way. The site that has been chosen is a deserted -arid area of central Australia embracing about 1,000,000 square miles. We trust that the missiles will be confined to that area; but in the early stages of the experiments some may land in Tasmania or Queensland. The weapons may be “ misguided “ rather than guided at first. Perhaps I should describe this area of 1,000,000 square miles to show just how suitable- it is for this purpose. Captain Holden, who flew over it, said this -
Forests of dead timber, areas of red sandhills and parched scrub scorched brown and even black by the sun, passed monotonously under the ‘plane. In my opinion, the country is hopeless.
That opinion has been borne out by the fact that much of this area has defied exploration. Warburton, Giles, and John Forrest crossed part of it, but in other parts explorers perished. There is no white population at all. Professor 0. T. Madigan, m a book entitled Central Australia, writes of Giles who in 1875 crossed the continent from east to west on a route just north of that on which the Trans-Australian railway has been built. He says -
Unhappily his work was in useless country as settlement has never followed up Giles’ tracks. He is almost forgotten, but the inhospitable nature of the country should make his deeds the greater..
Professor Madigan says also that there are roving bands of aborigines in that area. That has since been confirmed, of course, by missionaries and others. It is a. desolate parched land apart from two or three mission areas where a certain amount of agriculture has been carried out. Probably no better site could be found for these experiments. The population of the area is probably 99.75 per cent, black. Virtually, the aborigines are the only inhabitants. It has been alleged that the experiments will endanger the lives of the aborigines. I have read recently that the original site is to be changed, but the Minister did not mention that to-day. The original site was from Mount Eba, and included portion of the Central Aboriginal Reserve, west of the Musgrave Ranges. People who protested against the. establishment of- the range claim that “misguided “ weapons could -land in that reserve and endanger the lives of the natives. Actually, the population of the areas over which the missiles will travel is constituted as follows : approximately 2,000 in the South Australian section - only a very small portion of the South Australian section is included - 1,700 in the Western Australian section, and 60 in the Northern Territory section, making approximately 3,760 altogether. All these of course might not be in the area at one time, because many of them are nomads and travel great distances. Conceivably only half of them would be in the area on some occasions, but at other times all of them might he there. In my opinion, the danger to the aboriginal life is very small indeed. The first experiments, I understand, will be over a distance of 300 miles. That will carry the missiles almost out of the reserve. The range will then be increased in 300-mile stages, so that the landing areas will get farther and farther away from the aboriginal population. Therefore, only in the early stages will there be any likelihood of danger when some of the missiles may travel in directions not intended by the scientists.
The purpose of the range is to test the mechanism and control of guided weapons,- and to examine the possibility of wireless control of the weapons. It is said that the war heads of the rockets will not contain destructive material. That may be so in the early stages, but one cannot foretell what will happen as the experiments develop. There are one or two criticisms of the proposal which appear to me to have some merit, apart from the moral aspect to which I referred earlier in my speech. First, it seems fantastic to be experimenting with rockets in the atomic age when relatively, rockets will be as ineffective as a water pistol. Admittedly, scientists are contemplating the possibility of fitting V2 rockets with atomic war-heads, which would enormously increase their destructive power. Whether or not this will be done, only the future can reveal. Certainly, unless something of the kind is done, it seems a waste of time to be experimenting with rocket bombs at this stage of scientific development.
I am also critical of the expense involved in conducting the experiments. I understand that the mission headed by Lieutenant-General Evatts, in 1945, estimated that the cost would be £8,000,000 or £10,000,000. That is a lot of money, even if it is spent over a period of years. Over and above that expenditure, the Australian Government, we have- been informed, is to bear the cost of erecting buildings and doing necessary ground work, and this is estimated at about £6,000,000. Seeing that this is primarily a British experiment, and that scientists from all parts of the Empire will probably participate in it, Australia’s proportion of the expense seems to he out of all proportion to our population, or even to our importance in, the Empire. I believe that the money would be better spent on conducting research into cancer and tuberculosis. Of course, I. recognize that the experiments will go on no matter what we may say about them. I merely urge that we should not lose our sense of proportion, and even though so much money is being expended on this experiment in the use of new and dangerous weapons, I will continue to press for more and more grants for research into tuberculosis and cancer.
The honorable member for Bourke pointed out that, although we were all talking peace, we were, in fact, preparing for war. While Mr. Henry Wallace is touring various countries at great risk to his popularity, and even to his life, and -facing criticism and abuse in an attempt to call the nations to a sense of their moral duty to mankind, many of the nations are talking of war. Whenever I hear men talking of the need for peace I will remember that here in Australia we are spending a great deal of money experimenting with new weapons of destruction. It may be argued that this is the only way to ensure peace; that we must frighten other nations into the belief that we are strongly armed. That is, apparently, the policy of the United States of America. It is seeking to give the impression of tremendous strength so as- to deter any other nations which may be contemplating attack.
War is an effect of something else. The building of a range in Australia for testing new and highly destructive weapons will not stop war. The causes of war lie very deep. They lie in the mind and the heart of man himself. Thinking evil thoughts, he will eventually find a way of .giving those thoughts effect, and he will use force for that purpose. We must not cease to fight the causes of war, whether they be economic or moral.
I appreciate the fact that the honorable member for Bourke has raised this question, and afforded honorable members an opportunity to comment on this important military project. Let me emphasize some of the safeguards which are being provided. Many of the people for whom the honorable member for Bourke spoke did not know ‘that the committee which has been set up to arrange safeguards had gone so thoroughly into the matter. I am opposed to the whole business, but I am convinced that the safeguards are adequate. For instance, no aborigines will be allowed to work on the construction of the range. That is very important.
– We do not want the aborigines to be involved in this affair at all. The farther we can keep them away from what is going on the better.
– We took their country from them. Should we not give them work to do?
– Not this kind of work. Another important safeguard is that the patrol officers will be picked with great care’ by organizations inter’ested in the welfare of the aborigine, and the Commonwealth will provide the necessary funds. It is said that a number of patrol officers are being trained, some of whom will be assigned to this work. If they are carefully chosen and well trained they will be able to minimize the possibility of danger. It is. proposed that white persons working on the experiment will be kept separate from the aborigines, and this is also important. It is not intended to move the aborigines to other areas. That would be disastrous. They are to be left on their own lands, and those persons who are to man the control station’s along the line of fire are to keep away from the aborigines as much as possible. I commend the committee for its thoroughness and, I think, its absolute sincerity in endeavouring to minimize the effects of the experiments on the aborigines of Central Australia.
It is fantastic that our missionaries will be teaching peace to these darkskinned people while we are preparing for war in their midst. It has been very difficult for missionaries, both in the islands of the Pacific and in Australia, to preach and teach the gospel of Christ in its social applications while, at the same time, other members of the white races have been blasting people to pieces. The task of the missionaries involves a very difficult psychological problem. I mention it because, having been’ engaged in the same kind of work myself , I understand the psychological set-up. The establishment of the testing range will make infinitely harder the task of the missionaries, who are trying to convince the aborigines that white men are a peaceful people and are following out in every respect the commandments which the missionaries teach. So, many aspects of this proposal cause us embarrassment and, perhaps, shame. However, I cannot doubt the sincerity of the officers in charge of the investigation in their desire to minimize the danger to the aborigines. I am sure that the honorable member for Bourke would admit their sincerity if she studied their report. I commend them for their work and I hope that, in carrying out their duties, they will be able to bring into actuality the programme that they envisage in the report.
.- Briefly, the motion submitted by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) is in two parts. First, the honorable, member protests against the establishment of a guided weapons testing range in Australia, as being a betrayal of our responsibility to a weaker people. Secondly, she protests that such action is against the interests of the people of the Commonwealth. There has been a great deal of indignation and agitation against the establishment of the range, and much of it undoubtedly has been on the part of people with good intentions. We should be the last to agree that any injury to the aborigines should be permitted. Our record in regard to their care is not good ; in fact, it is not as good as the record of our achievements on behalf of natives of some of our dependencies. The time is ripe, as I have frequently said, for the formulation of a proper native affairs policy. If an aborigine is able to understand the meaning of the franchise he should be entitled to a vote. Aborigines should be educated if possible, but those who are not detribalized should be interfered with as little as can be helped. Missionaries have done good work amongst the aborigines, but. by and large, our treatment of them in this regard has been bad. Therefore, anything that might injure them or make their conditions worse should not be encouraged. I have discussed this subject with many people who have studied the location of the range, and the consensus of opinion seems to’ be that, if the base were moved slightly west to Eucla, the danger to the aborigines would he eliminated. I do not know whether that is so or not. I leave that to. the experts, who have made a very good report.
As to the second part of the honorable . member’s protest, I believe that there is much behind it that is detrimental to Australia. Pacifists of all kinds range themselves behind it. I am not sure yet whether the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) was for or against the protest. He commended the experts who prepared the report, but he deplored war. He said that he hates wars. Every body hates wars, especially the men who take part in them. One way to encourage war is to be unarmed; another way is to be overarmed, as was Germany under Hitler, who mobilized the whole nation and thought of armaments only. It is significant that the trouble-makers in our midst who oppose any defence policy for Australia, but approve of a defence, policy for Russia. - the most heavily armed country in the world, which has 25 air-borne divisions as against America’s one airborne division - should be opposed to this testing range. Two weeks ago in Melbourne, during the Security Loan campaign, a real German V2 rocket “bomb was on exhibition. It was one of the supersonic weapons that were used against Britain. Buildings would fall in clouds of dust under the impact of their explosions before the- sound of their approach could be heard. This specimen of the V2 weapon was on show to crowds to whom an Australian military officer was explaining how it worked and what tremendous havoc it could create. Mingling with the bystanders, I found individuals selling copies of a little booklet which, .one would be inclined to think, would have had something to do with the loan campaign. However, the inscrip- tion on the cover was - “Rocket Range Threatens Australia “. Honorable members can guess at once who had sponsored it. The author was Alf Watt, South Australian secretary and central commit-‘ tee member of the Australian Communist party! The pamphlet contained illustrations ridiculing our form of government, and any idea of defence for Australia. There was an illustration captioned “ German Imperialism - 1936 : Guns before Butter ‘ “, and another one with the caption “British Imperialism -1946: ‘Rockets before Pockets’”. The second caption is rather feeble, but nevertheless it shows that the Communists do not want any kind of defence preparations in Australia. The measure of defence represented by the tests in Central Australia is essential not only to our welfare, but also to that of the rest of the British Empire. But for the fact that Great Britain was the spear-head of defence against, Nazi tyranny we might not have been in our present happy state - though, when I think of conditions in Victoria, I cannot refer honestly to our happy state. At any rate, civilization, if it can be so called, would not have been saved. Great Britain was in the forefront, of the fight and was the only nation, apart from France which was quickly overwhelmed, which entered the war against Germany on its own account. Great Britain has asked for the establishment of the testing range in our territory. If we hinder this scheme in any way we hinder also the safety of the nation that defied aggression and, incidentally, helped other nations which are not now showing the gratitude that they ought to show. The tests should be associated with a strong air force. Guided missiles will be used in the wars of the future. This does not imply that we shall not need trained man-power. We must have trained men, but aircraft will soon be able to fly faster than sound, and they will carry atomic bombs in future wars. The next war will not be just a matter of pushing buttons and launching guided missiles. Nevertheless, we must encourage research into the potentialities of these weapons. What we learn from such research may be the means of assuring victory if war unfortunately should come again to the world. Whilst I believe that the protests are supported by patriotic people who believe in giving the aborigines a better deal than they have been given, I believe also that they are supported by Communists with other intentions. These gentry, who offer no loyalty to the Empire and who are, in fact, doing their best to wreck it, are also causing great havoc in the industrial field. This is what their repre sentative said in the pamphlet which I have mentioned -
Here, in Australia, the friends of peace - meaning the Communists - must carry their fight into every trade union, into every organization, factory and place where people gather, rousing them to the dangers that confront the nation, and organizing an Australian-wide demand for the reversal of our foreign policy.
We cannot fight for peace by preparing for war. To light against American Imperialist domination, we must refuse to ratify the Bretton Woods Agreement, and refuse to accept U.S. domination in the sphere of foreign policy and armaments, as well. We must light against the rocket range, against the whole armaments program, and against every aspect of the foreign policy of which the rocket range is a part .
These people would disarm Australia while giving the greatest support to the most heavily armed nation in the world to-day. While we can understand and applaud a humanitarian resolve to do everything possible to prevent injury to our Australian natives, we cannot overlook the sinister support behind the protests against the establishment of the range. The range will be proceeded with because it is a measure of defence, not only for ourselves, but also for the British Empire to which we belong.
. - in reply - Nothing has been said during this debate which hasin any way altered my attitude to this subject. In submitting the motion I made it quite clear to the House that there were two distinct matters to be discussed; first, the establishment of a guided weapons range over and through territory which we have considered to be a sanctuary for our aborigines, and, secondly, preparations for war in time of peace to the amount of millions of pounds. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) said that by objecting to war-like preparations I had given my case away; but there were two distinct and separate facets of my case, as the honorable gentleman would have seen had he given my motion even slight consideration and analysis. In fact the whole of the defence of the proposal made by the Minister was not only thoroughly unconvincing, but also delightfully vague. The honorable gentleman said, “ We must make the best use of all our resources in order to secure peace “, and that the arrangements for ( he construction of the range had already been made. We gathered that the plan had been inspired by the British Government and that the Australian Government had joined in it because of the vital need for preparedness in case of a future war. However, I recall that, earlier to-day, when the Minister was asked a question relating to the defence plans of this country he answered that the information could not be given yet as it was not yet known ‘what would arise as the result of our commitments to the United Nations. If honorable members consider these two statements of the Minister in conjunction they maybe able to arrive at the final answer to their own satisfaction. The Minister maintains that he is as concerned as I am that our aborigines shall be protected, but he was completely vague about what the Government has in mind. We have not been told how they are to he protected; we have been given no details of the Government’s plans to afford such protection. There is, I agree, little chance of physical injury to the aborigines from falling weapons, because I understand that comparatively few will actually fall. Before they are permitted to fall within the land areas of the range accuracy of direction, we are told, will be assured. That is satisfactory as far as it goes. The Minister has also assured us that no roads will be constructed through the aboriginal reservations, that no native labour will be employed on the project and that no injustice to natives is involved in the venture. However, observation posts, landing strips and patrol offices of different kinds arc to be constructed, and, presumably, telephone lines will be required to connect these buildings. How many men will be needed for this construction? What qualifications will be required of the workmen and technicians responsible for this construction? The statement that all the men required will be, as it were, hand-picked, is simply childish. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) spoke of defence secrets which could not be revealed to the Australian people. What are these secrets? Is it a secret that the objective at the western end of the range is to be Christmas Island? Is that a defence secret? If so, it is only a secret to the ‘people of- Australia, for details of the whole of this project, including the objective at Christmas Island, were published many months ago in the newspapers of the United States of America. Why should information be freely given to the people of the United States of America about an Australian project and kept secret from the people of Australia ? The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), in a flight of fancy said, “Perhaps the idea in the minds of those who oppose the project is that we should give back this country to the people from whom we originally took it “. There is no such idea in our minds. If we are a civilized people and behave as such we should be able to walk into any - new country without injuring or contaminating the natives. White men unfortunately are prone to forget that they are civilized people. Another honorable member has just asserted that this area is a parched desert. That is a mistake; the area over which the tests are to be made and where these tribal natives live is not desert, but, on the contrary, some of it is fine, fertile country yielding water and food for the natives, who are . a healthy, nomadic people. ‘ The argument cannot be sustained that it will not matter if the projectiles fall over this area because it is a desert. Whilst it is true that the country to the south of the testing range is desert, that is not the country where these tribal natives live. I emphasize, however, that the real danger to the natives will not be the’ falling projectiles but their probable contamination by the white people who will go into that area. The opposition to this proposal does not come solely from religious or missionary groups, pacifists, or Communist groups. Admittedly, members of those groups are opposed to it, but no one of those groups is solely responsible for this protest, and it would be entirely wrong to think that any one or more of them are the only people in the community anxious to see justice done to- our aborigines. These are humanitarians who have probably nothing to do with any one of those groups.
In answer to the argument advanced, of the need for preparation in case of future war, I say that if we are to be involved in another war the weapons with which it is proposed to experiment will be absolutely worthless. In the next war the first nation to strike with an atomic weapon will presumably be the victor; and unless we propose to use an atomic warhead on these projectiles and make them a weapon of aggression the proposal is meaningless. We have been assured that there is no intention to use atomic warheads on these projectiles. Well, that may be so, but the point is that while we may perfect the projectile without using an atomic warhead some other country may use the weapon which we perfect to carry an atomic warhead. Scientists, not only in Australia, but in other countries, are not anxious to allow the results of their experiments to be used for purposes of destruction, and there is great agitation amongst them because they fear that their efforts may be used for this very purpose. We know that is the view of scientists both in this country and in America and quite recently we heard Sir David Rivett say the same thing. This objection has been publicized throughout the United States of America, but there is considerable suppression of that fact in this country.
– But purely scientific discoveries may not necessarily be used for war purposes. Why does the honorable member presume that the fruit of research to be carried out in the desert will be turned to destruction? Supposing there are no more wars, may we not expect that the new methods of propulsion discovered may well be assimilated in industry. Why does the honorable member confine her remarks towar?
– Because these experiments are being undertaken by militarists, and the conduct of the research to be made is in the hands of the Defence Department, and it isbeing handled by defence departments in other countries. So far there has not been the slightest indication that the fruits of this work are intended for peace-time use. The millions of pounds to be spent on this project are intended tobe spent for purposes of destruction.
– But there is no indication that atomic energy may not be used at some subsequent stage for peaceful purposes.
– We are not discussing the future of atomic energy; we are discussing guided weapons. Those weapons are intended for mass destruction, and I am opposed totheir development in Australia in time of peace. Furthermore, I object to the proposal because of the harm it will do to our aborigines. I am not concerned with the development of these weapons in Russia, nor is any other honorable member concerned with it in this debate. The real issue is: Must the welfare of the individual be swamped in that of the mass? Must the wishes of the minority always be subordinated to those of the majority? And in regard to the subject under discussion, namely the welfare of subject peoples, must they be swamped by the will of the dominant nations? That is a question being asked by scientists and people in other countries to-day.
There are two separate questions. The first is, what is to happen to the aborigines? The second is, should Australia, at any time or under any condition, allow itself to be used as an accomplice in the development of guided weapons? The whole issue may be stated in the question : Is preparation for war the best means of preserving peace? We appear to be dominated by the military machine - and that is a hideous admission to make after we have fought two great wars toend war. I maintain that we have committed, or propose to commit, an offence on a weaker people who cannot speak for themselves, and I maintain that in the spending of millions of pounds for war in time of peace we are doing a great disservice to the Australian people.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Dedman) read a first time.
SUPPLY. (Grievance Day.)
Royal Australian Air Force : Dentists - Shipping: Services to Great Britain - Food for Britain - Industrial Unrest: Victorian Metal Trades Dispute : Shortage of Supplies in Queensland - Food Control. - Transport Services - New South Wales Elections.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolveitself into a Committee of Supply.
.- I refer to a problem concerning remnants of the medical personnel of the Royal Australian Air Force. I have mentioned this on previous occasions, but the position is becoming more acute. Perhaps if I state the position briefly, the Ministry “will understand how urgent the position has become in the last two years. Of course, the demobilization of the Air Force has been extensive, but in the Sydney areas there remain some half a dozen men, to whom I particularly refer, engaged on dental duties. . No matter how much they protest and seek from, the Air Board and the Minister for Air some indication of their ultimate destiny and how long they are to remain in the Air Force, they are thrown back on frustration. They are to]d that nothing can be done. They enlisted for the duration of the war and, I assume, twelve months thereafter. They have been in service in various parts of Australia. On their return to headquarters they were sent to depots to provide dental care for recruits. I am not sure that it is within the authority of the Air Board to take a firm stand on the matter of their retention. They have repeatedly asked for some consideration of their future. We are justly proud of the Commonwealth re-establishment scheme and have stood up to criticism of some of its anomalies, but in this case I fear we have not attempted to give these men the opportunity of rehabilitation.
One man is Flying Officer Barnes, who is in my electorate. He was confronted with a position that practically involved his whole future. While not on a roster for discharge, he understood that he was within reasonable striking distance of leaving the Air Force and returning to civil life. He had the opportunity of starting a practice in a country town. Suddenly the . town of Bombala was left without a dentist. This young man was able to obtain an option on the purchase of the practice. He returned to his commanding officer and pointed out the difficulties of the situation and his opportunities, but he was turned down point blank. Had there been service considerations behind that decision, one could have understood it, but so far the. replies. I have had are unsatisfactory.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) knows these facts and will support me. We approached the Minister and the Air Board. First, we asked was it necessary to have a team of dentists at Richmond aerodrome looking after the thin trickle of recruits and whether the young men concerned were not entitled to immediate discharge and re-establishment. The suggestion made to the Minister was that the dental care of recruits could be well attended to by dentists in civilian practice outside the station. Our second question was whether, if that was not so, the twelve or thirteen officers, who look after the dental care of recruits, a job at which they complain because they enlisted for the duration of the war and twelve months thereafter, could be placed on a roster for discharge in order that they might know reasonably accurately the dates on which they would be discharged and enabled to take advantage of the limited opportunities that exist in their profession outside the service. That was also refused. The point was then made to the Department of Air that the position of these men ought to be considered in the light of their re-establishment. The answer that I and other honorable members received was that they were wartime students and that their reestablishment had therefore been taken care of as members of the service, the attitude being, apparently, that, they were jolly lucky to get training and should be extremely grateful -to the Air Board.
I do not think the problem is so serious that it cannot be surmounted. Imagine the frustration suffered by a young man who loses the chance of setting up as a dentist in a thriving country centre and of another who is suffering serious domestic problems and is anxious to resume practice in a Sydney suburb. The housing problem is involved in the matter as well. One man will lose the prospect of housing his family adequately if he cannot, now his duty is done, leave the service. There are many similar cases. I have discussed with four or five men in my constituency their problems and I find that they are similar. Flying Officer Barnes, whose case has been raised on more than one occasion, has met a blank wall. It seems to me that the Air Board has mistimed affairs and thinks the war is still on. It has struck an attitude and has not the courage to recede. There is justice in the men’s claim. In the department there is a file almost as high as the Speaker’s chair about them. They are being kept in a service from which they think they have earned the right of discharge, having done their duty. They cannot get a roster to inform them when they will be able to leave the service and set up in civil life. Therefore they cannot plan for the future. They ask that further consideration be given to them, but their requests are ignored.
I regret that the Acting Minister for Air (Mr. Barnard) is not present, but I think the matter should be approached f rom a different point. Twelve weeks have passed since this matter was raised’ first and nothing has been done. It seems to mc that when honorable members refer to such injustices in this House the members of the Air Board become agitated into an attitude of some sort of defiance. I believe that it is sound logic that these men should be allowed to leave the service and re-establish themselves. I hope something will be done immediately, because time is slipping by.- These men are unhappy at their failure to be given the opportunity of the rehabilitation that they desire. When their service ends, in due course, they will be disgruntled, and filled with a hatred of the Air Force, which they decorated with ‘their deeds.
I refer now to the problem of shipping. My records show that in my electorate there are about twenty people of English birth, who, for various reasons, the majority of which are concerned with the health of their aged parents, desire to return to England. We all know that the shipping position is bad and that the Government no longer has direction as to who shall travel in ships; but the whole human spirit of priorities has been lost sight of, and these people, who pester the shipping companies and make importunities to every member of Parliament, Federal or State, that they can, because they are driven by fear that their parents will die before they- get home, appear to be badly done by. During six years of war they were isolated from their people, who suf fered, first, the blitz, and later, privations through shortages of food. Now, when the war is over, and they hope to return to their home land temporarily in order to see their aged parents and then to come back to Australia, they find the door slammed in their faces. The ship-owners are not looking for that kind of passenger. They are not concerned with humanitarian methods. They are after the luxury trade and the money associated with it. In a recent issue o,f the Sydney Daily Telegraph there is a series of pictures under the heading “ Life in the Orion “. As a journalist I cannot understand why so much space should be wasted on the activities of a few “ socialites “ who are going abroad, particularly in these days of a scarcity of newsprint. At the present time there are a number of interstate editors in Canberra seeking an additional few tons of newsprint ; yet the big metropolitan newspapers are able to issue supplements relating to the activities of “ socialites “, as well as imported syndicated comic strips, racing supplements, and so on. However, that is not the point that I stress, but rather the conveyance of people .from Australia to Great Britain. The double page article in the Daily Telegraph of the 17th April, under the heading “ Life in the Orion “ begins -
Last Saturday Orion, loft Sydney for England with the wealthiest shipload of Australians ever to leave here in one ship. Orion is the first peace-time luxury ship to be put back on the England-Australia run. She carries 1.300 pasengers. Of the 550 in the first saloon, 350 arc women.
I suppose that the war-weary, hungry people of Great Britain are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Orion at Southhampton with these wealthy Australians on board, looking their best in marcel waves and bursting with vitamins. I know that Great Britain is anxious to attract tourists, but those interested in the tourist trade prefer tourists from the United States of America because they have the most dollars to spend. Great Britain is encouraging the tourist trade, but the people connected with that trade are not particularly anxious to receive large numbers of tripping Australians. The illustration in the Daily Telegraph reminded me of scenes depicting the fall of Singapore. The first picture shows a passenger unpacking bags in her luxury flat in Orion. Probably she has left a luxury flat in Sydney in charge of one of her friends. Her luxury flat on the vessel would be better used if stored with food for Britain. I do not wish to indulge in a “ wealth versus poverty “ discourse, but I am interested in the claims of starving humanity. Another photograph shows a whisky-agent playing sports on the deck. I was interested to see in the description of the photograph that “ on the sports deck there is a wind deflector which throws wind high over passengers’ heads “. Isn’t it lovely?
– I sometimes wish that there was a wind deflector in this chamber,
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) is the Jesting Pilate of this House. He has the capacity to be something different, but he has never yet risen to the occasion. I am not ashamed of criticizing these people. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition always gets near the microphone when he wishes to make a wise crack. He likes to temper the wind to the shorn lambs of the Opposition. In the lefthand bottom corner of the illustrated page in the Daily Telegraph a number of persons who attended a cocktail party on the first night out are shown. Among them I notice Mr. Percy .Spender, who was smiling happily when the photograph was taken. Isn’t it a wonderful world’? “ Oh, to be in England now that April’s there “. It was reported in the press that Mr. Spender had taken a great number of food parcels into his cabin. I ant sure that they were for the people of Great Britain. Another photograph shows a lady of great social attainments having a shampoo in the salon controlled by Antoine, London. She is looking very chic. The contribution which these people will make towards supplying food for Britain will not be great. They will probably eat a lot of black market food in expensive hotels. I do not mind how many “ socialites “ or wealthy people leave this country, but I do not think that this is the time for them to flaunt their wealth before the world, especially when English people here wish to visit their friends and’ relations; in the Old Country; but cannot do so because they cannot get berths.
In my opinion, such pictures as are published in the Daily Telegraph showing life on hoard Orion are a disgrace, especially when the people of Great Britain are suffering great privations through shortages of food. That luxury passengers in great numbers should be carried instead of food for starving people is a disgrace. I do not know where the fault lies - whether it is the .fault of the administration or of the shipping’ people. Pictures such as those I have mentioned showing luxury life on Orion explain why it will be difficult for Australia to get migrants from Britain. Obviously, the shipping companies have decided that the luxury trade is better than the migrant trade. They will be slow and cautious, and will take considerable. time to recondition the ships to bring migrants to Australia. They are after the luxury trade. It would be a good thing if these Australian “ socialites “ never came back because,, after all, they are only playboys and! girls. The Mr. Percy Spender whose photograph: appears on the illustrated page of the Daily Telegraph is the honorable member for “Warringah in this Par’liament, and, according to newspaper reports, he is making a private trip to Britain. I suppose that that is true, because he is not likely to be making a trip there on behalf of the Government. He is reported to have complained that there is little news from Australia to be obtained on board Orion. Indeed, he has said that there is almost a. complete black-out of Australian news. He regrets that while travelling on this luxury vessel he- cannot hear from his native land. I hope that he is listening on the radio to-night. L hope he gets these greetings from. Canberra.. I shall not labour this point, but I want honorable members to realize that I make it seriously. I pay a tribute to the Leader of the Opposition for not attempting to’ make a political issue of the need of the people of Britain for food. In my opinion, the right honorable gentleman is the only Liberal on the Opposition benches.
– Is the honorable member saying that because he is afraid that the1 Leader of the Opposition- will reply to his remarks?
– I should not mind if the Leader of the Opposition replied, but I should be bored if the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) attempted to reply to me, because I am sure that he would not proceed far without mentioning the buffalo fly. Indeed, it would be a 100 to 1 bet. ‘
I ask the Government whether anything can be done to induce the shipping companies to institute a system of quotas, under which people who have urgent need to travel overseas may obtain berths on ships travelling to Britain. Even if we cannot prevent “ socialites “ from going, overseas, now that the war is over and their little bit of war work has ceased, we should not give such publicity to their activities and cause heartbreak to those people who are anxious to visit their loved ones but cannot be accommodated on ships going to Britain. If Orion, which has been haled as a luxury liner, had been packed to the limit with parcels it would have been better. In a Baptist Church in my electorate there are 10,000 parcels of food awaiting consignment to the people of Great Britain. If those parcels had been stowed on the decks of Orion instead of the space being used for games of deck quoits; if the beauty salon on the vessel had been crammed with food, it would have been a, better advertisement for Australia. I hope that when these people reach Britain they will not eat the meat that we intend to send there by denying ourselves. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) laughs, but, of course, he cannot understand any one denying himself. Does he suggest that any honorable member would stand in his place in this Parliament and make jests about the need of the people of Britain for food?
– The Government gagged the debate.
– The Opposition gagged the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) when he rose to make a statement to-day on food for Britain. He stood at the table and asked for leave to .make a statement. . The Opposition, by refusing to grant him leave, gagged him. However, the tactics of honorable members opposite were ineffectual, because the Government had the requisite num- hers. The question which I rose to ask the Minister is: Is it possible to provide some passages abroad for people who desire to travel for humanitarian reasons? I leave the matter there.
– I desire to direct the attention of the House once more to a very urgent and important problem - the present industrial stoppage in Victoria, and the effect that it is having on Australia generally. There is a disposition on the part of the Government to ‘regard the Victorian dispute as being just a Victorian dispute, or more narrowly, just a Melbourne dispute, and, therefore, as something which is the sole responsibility of the Government of the State of Victoria. The first thing that I want to establish, very briefly, because this matter need not be laboured, is that this dispute is, in all essential particulars, an Australian matter. If there is in the State of Victoria a stoppage in the engineering works, a’ stoppage in the factories, a stoppage wholly or in part in transport, both local and interstate, then other States of Australia will inevitably be deprived of the products of Victorian factories; and that deprivation may very well mean, in its turn, the cessation of a good deal of manufacture and construction in those other States. I propose to refer briefly to the impact of this matter on the State of New South Wales, and I can do so very readily by referring to four or five commodities of first-class, current importance.
Victoria is the largest manufacturer of agricultural implements and of replacement parts for agricultural implements. The, Victorian agricultural implement industry is at a standstill, at a very vital time of the year. As these machines and parts are not being made, they are not available to primary producers in the State of . New South Wales, to say nothing of other States. Consequently, the dispute which prevents this production in Melbourne is a dispute, the direct effect of which is felt in another great and important community. To put it another way, this dispute, which looks on the face of it to be a dispute in Melbourne, is a dispute in Australia which affects thousands of Australian citizens. I cite another example. The Southern Riverina is largely dependent for its supplies on Victoria, because, as honorable members know, railways with the Victorian gauge of 5 ft. 3 in. run into the Riverina, and for a long time Melbourne has been the source of supply and the port of entry for the Southern Riverina. The supply of superphosphate to the Southern Riverina from Melbourne has practically ceased, except for a very small quantity which is carried by road under the rather expensive conditions to which the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) referred today. Machinery for canning and food processing is, in part, derived from the State of Victoria, and that machinery has been held up for. six months as a result of this dispute. Consequently, manufacturing firms in Victoria particularly have not been in proper production during that time, and their products have not been fully available to other States during that period. Victoria supplies to New South Wales large numbers of automotive parts, bicycles and bicycle accessories, and this supply has been interfered with, and, indeed, cut off’, as the result of strike operations. Victoria produces many goods which bear upon housing, including many items of builders’ hardware, so much so that quite recently, a gentleman speaking for the Suburban Master Builders Association of New South Wales, said -
There is no doubt that the Victorian strike has seriously retarded building operations throughout New South Wales.
I mention those instances merely by way of example, because it will be quite obvious to all honorable members that we cannot have a major stoppage in a great manufacturing capital in Australia without .affecting every other State of the Commonwealth. Suppose a stoppage on the same scale and with the same intensity had occurred in Sydney. Its reDer.cussions would be felt in Victoria and Queensland, and, indeed, throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Therefore, this .is an Australian matter.
I shall not go back over the disputes in this chamber during the last few days, because they have been determined and I am bound by the Standing Orders to respect the decisions that have been made. By the will of a majority of members of this Parliament, the Commonwealth arbitration laws are without substantial means of enforcement. We cannot discuss this Victorian problem any longer on the footing that means of enforcement should be created, r Consequently, we are bound to discuss it upon the assumption that, in the absence of means of enforcement and of coercion by Government, the only real problem is, “ Are you going to permit coercion by a handful of men in some industrial organization?”, because in this grave matter, somebody will be coerced. At the present time, it is the housewife who is being coerced. It is the worker trying to go to his job who is being coerced. It is the man who is willing to work but whose factory is closed because it depends on something affected by this strike, who is being coerced. Somebody will be coerced, and unless there is a radical change in the State of Victoria, it follows as night the day that before Ave are more than a few days older, government in Australia must determine whether it will allow the whole thing to slide into chaos and tragedy, or whether it will organize direct action on its own part in order to arrest this state of affairs and cure it. Legal action, it has rejected. Direct action, it cannot reject, unless it is going to deny government to Australia at probably our most crucial moment since the end of World War II.
What do I mean by direct action? I shall state that in a few sentences. If the transport of people to work by normal means is prohibited by what is now admitted to be a lawless minority of men, government in Australia must itself provide transport in an emergency. It must organize that transport. It must be prepared to bring into operation vehicles for the purpose of transporting people; it must be prepared to call for volunteers to man those vehicles, and, when it does, it must be prepared to give protection to those volunteers. That is something which any government of any color whatever, politically speaking, must do if this strike in Victoria goes on more than a few days longer. Is the Government to sit ba ck and say, “ True, unless Ave do those things, the City of Melbourne must go without food ; it must go without supplies from the country because there is no transport. The City of Melbourne must starve ? “ Can it say that ? .Will it say that? And if it does say that, then the responsibility is upon it to arm itself with authority. The responsibility rests upon the Government itself to organize the supply of food to Melbourne and other urban areas in the State of Victoria, it must organize the supply of food; and if it is going to do that, I should like to know what plans has it made for the, organizing of that food supply. Has it made plans at all? Has it the transport, the means of keeping transport going? Is it prepared to protect those who carry on these voluntary, services?
In the third place, it will become vitally important to carry on normal public utilities, such as those supplying water, sewerage, lights and heating; because without these tilings there will be not only a state of complete barbarism and an immense danger established, but we shall also have stalking around Melbourne - and not for the first time under strike conditions - the members of the criminal underworld who see in this a glorious opportunity for looting. People may say that that is extravagant language. It is not. Every Victorian member of this chamber remembers very vividly how, when there was a police strike in Victoria, looting was the order of the day. A community must be protected against that sort of thing; but it cannot be protected against it by a government which thinks nothing and will do nothing until the day comes when this very thing happens. It is the duty of governments to be ready for it and to say, “ We are prepared in these circumstances. We have our plans laid. We have our men recruited. We have our special constables enlisted”; and we shall not only have services carried on, but also give protection to those good citizens who carry them on”. There is only one alternative, and it is an alternative I would deplore most ‘bitterly, lt would be that if these things happen - and I tell you that they can happen within the next ten days - and the Government does nothing, the citizens will organize themselves into irregular bands to do these things. I have heard a great deal of loose talk from time to time “in the political world about “‘new guards “, “ old guards ‘’, and other guards. I have the most violent objection to anything that looks like a private army in a democratic country. If there are to be forces in this community, they must be organized by the government of this country and by nobody else. What I want to know is whether people to-night may go to their beds satisfied that the governments’ in Australia, whatever their political complexion may be, and in particular the Government of this Commonwealth and the Government of the .State of Victoria, have between them concerted their plans 30 that in any circumstances the feeding, clothing, heating and lighting of the community may go on peaceably and in an uninterrupted, decent and civilized fashion.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has certainly shown to-night his real purpose in again raising this very important matter. By directing his whole attention to what he alleges may happen in New South Wales if the strike an Victoria continues he has made it evident that what he is doing to-night is election stunting in the hope of influencing the electors in New South Wales when they go to the polls next Saturday. He laid particular stress upon the great difficulties that are going to be created in New South Wales, particularly in the Riverina, by the interruption of production in Victoria. He laid particular emphasis upon the interruption of production of agricultural implements, but he did not say that the present dispute in Victoria arose in the works of H. V. McKay-Massey Harris Proprietary Limited, because that firm was the first to lock out its employees and thus precipitated the strike. The right honorable gentleman then appealed to the housewives of Australia. He talked about the coercion of the housewives by a handful of men employed in industry, and also about difficulties with regard to home construction. There have been difficulties with regard to bousing extending over many years, and Labour governments have been valiantly endeavouring to overcome those difficulties, which were created by asuccession of anti-Labour governments. They are a legacy handed on to us. Labour governments in Victoria and in the Commonwealth have been exerting all their endeavours lo secure a solution of the present industrial trouble, but the right honorable gentleman ‘does not attempt to suggest any peaceful solution. As a matter of fact, he does not want any settlement, at least until the elections in Kew South “Wales and Queensland are over. “While Labour governments are working day and night to secure a settlement, the right honorable gentleman goes on the air with a speech’ which is designed to incite the workers to further resistance.
What is his suggestion? Honorable members opposite have talked about the dangers of insurrection arising out of the present dispute. Could there be an easier way to cause strife and bloodshed than by the very method suggested by the right honorable gentleman? He wants the c0111.munity divided into irregular armies, private armies organized along the lines of that organization to which he referred, the New Guard. His speech was an invitation to the organized workers, of this country to prepare to resist any attack that might he made upon them, or any attempt to employ what is termed volunteer labour in the present dispute. Labour governments are realistic in their approach to this problem. “We do not want insurrection, strife or bloodshed. Labour governments are working towards the end of restoring and preserving industrial peace. Did any honorable member opposite suggest any drastic action when the master butchers in Victoria refused to send meat, to Newmarket saleyards because they were not satisfied with the price that they were obtaining? Did the Leader of the Opposition then raise any protest in this Parliament when the people of Melbourne were hungry for meat? No; because the people who then acted against the best interest of the nation are the very people who send honorable members opposite to this Parliament. It is only when the workers are asking for some improvement of their conditions that the right honorable gentleman rises in his place and calls for the engagement of non-union labour. And he has repeatedly said that he belives in trade unionism ! “When this Government has endeavoured to do the very thing that the right honorable gentleman has so often asked it to do, namely, enforce the rule of law, he has :never refused to accept lucrative fees to appear for some of the worst lawbreakers in this country. In ‘that way he has endeavoured to thwart the efforts of the Labour Government to ensure that the law shall be equitably enforced. The right honorable gentleman made some mention of the wonderful opportunity that would be given to the criminal element if the present stoppage were to continue. Again he invites the criminal element in the community to resort to violence and unlawful acts as a means of causing further difficulties for this Government. The right honorable gentleman has spoken of the police strike in Melbourne, but I remind him thatthat disturbance occurred under the administration of an anti-Labour government. Apparently what he wants is another Rothbury. He wants to see the workers in this country shot down as a prelude to the smashing of organized labour. He would welcome another disturbance such as that which occurred in Victoria some years ago when workers were shot down on the Melbourne waterfront - again under the regime of an anti-Labour government. But I am satisfied that the workers’ of this country generally have too much good sense to fall into the trap that the right honorable gentleman appears to be setting for them. He invites the public to organize into irregular armies. Probably the right honorable gentleman has already .been endeavouring to organize some such bands among those individuals who are opposed to Labour politically -and industrially. The worst thing that could happen in this country would be for the people to be foolish enough to follow the advice of the right honorable gentleman. -
I -believe. that a solution of this dispute will he reached within the next few days unless agents provocateur like the Leader of the Opposition continue ito make inflammatory speeches and succeed in their endeavour to prolong the trouble, when the Government ‘and union officials are making some progress towards a settlement. Such speeches are deliberately designed to make impossible the settlement of this trouble. The a-nti-Labour parties thrive on industrial unrest, and the right honorable gentleman is aware that, as in the federal arena, the anti-Labour parties in the States have no progressive policy to submit to the people, but depend for their success upon emergency, situations, when there is a tendency .for political issues not to be determined upon their merits. Possibly the Leader of the Opposition thought that this was a good opportunity to make a speech” to the electors of New South Wales who will cast their votes on Sa today. His own leader in that State, knowing the right honorable gentleman’sdiscreditable record in federal politics, advised him that he was not to be invited to take part in the campaign, but apparently he is endeavouring to overcome that ban by this subterfuge. What concerns the right honorable gentleman more than anything else is his precarious hold on the leadership of the Opposition parties m this Parliament. Personally I’ hope that nothing I say will prejudice Iiia chances of retaining- the leadership.
– That is Calwell’s copyright.
– That is quite true, and it is a pretty good one. It must be working rather effectively because since my able colleague from Melbourne, the Minis:ter for Information (Mr. Calwell), made that statement Labour has continued in office, and the right honorable gentleman has continued in opposition. I hope that he remains the Leader of the Opposition for a long time.
The right honorable gentleman made loo obvious what his intention was. Every now and again he remembered that he should he saying, “ This is an Australian problem “ ; but inevitably he would turn back to New South Wales because it was the electors of that State whom he was endeavouring to impress. We have had many anti-Labour governments in office in New South Wales, and the workers know too well the methods that they have used in an endeavour to settle industrial disputes. The workers do not want a repetition of the incidents in which their colleagues were shot down by so-called irregular bands, and by the armed forces. Honorable members opposite plead with the Government to do something to ensure that the city of Melbourne shall not go hungry. We hear the same kind of talk in connexion with food for Britain. The endeavour is made to suggest that the British, people are on the verge of starvation, but recently I read anarticle in the Christian Science Monitor stating that the Minister in the British Government dealing with tourist traffic was appealing for 225,000 tourists in the next twelve months. He. said that it was ridiculous to say that the British people were starving. There might be a lack of variety in their food, but there was ample for everybody. The- same applies to Melbourne to-day. The right honorable gentleman knows full well that there is no possibility of the people of Melbourne starving. They may suffer some inconveniences, but if the Labour governments and the trade union leaders are given an opportunity to handle this difficult situation they can succeed in- bringing about a settlement.
The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) who sits beside him, and who have persistently interjected, are burly young men, but I should hate to depend on any production for which they would be responsible. What they probably will do is to offer as recruits for the basher gangs that will endeavour to baton down the unfortunate workers who are fighting for the right to a reasonable existence in this country.
Mr. Hamilton interjecting,
– Order ! If I hear any further disorderly talk from the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) I shall name him. I have called him to order a number of times. Honorable members who “hand it out” must also be prepared to “take it “.
– - Some honorable members opposite, like the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. .Hutchinson), are too prone to describe as “ industrial criminals “ the many’ thousands of good Australian workers upon whom this country depends. .The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) also referred to them as a “ criminal element in industry “, and no doubt when the Leader of the Opposition - employing a great deal more cunning than his colleagues - referred to the opportunities that would be given to the “ criminal element “, he spoke of the workers of this country. I warn the trade unionists of this country, and my Labour colleagues as well, that they must be careful of what is being organized in this country by antiLabour forces. The people generally too should be warned. Irresponsibles like the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and others have a phobia about Communists and believe that one is hiding behind every post. We can easily imagine what they are trying to do. They are endeavouring to inflame the people - to make them believe that within the next ten days there will, be a complete breakdown of transport in Melbourne; that the people of that city will starve, and that this Government is doing nothing about it. If any trouble does arise as the result of the provocative speeches that the Leader of the Opposition has continued deliberately to make in this Parliament, I hope that he will he one of the very first to suffer.
– I congratulate the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) upon having regained his earlier form ; but if I thought he was really serious in regard to some of the statements he made I should be inclined to weep. Personally, I have the greatest sympathy with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the members of the Government in the situation in which they find themselves to-day.’ I should not like to have to undertake the task which faces them. If I were hampered as I would be had 1 made statements such as they have .made in the past concerning the right to strike, the prospect of facing such ti. task would appal me. Honorable members opposite believe fervently in the right to strike, and that if they do anything in this crisis they would be denying workers the right to strike that they so’ strongly support, and so ‘be false to their innermost, convictions. In that respect, they are in a cleft stick. .But if the speech of the Minister for Transport meant anything at all, it meant that the Government does not propose to do anything. At least, we have heard nothing that would suggest that it intended’ to do anything. I say to those who believe in the right to strike that there was a time when I would have supported them ; but I will not support them in these times when there are constitutional means for settling industrial disputes, and. when the organization of industry has changed fundamentally. There was a time when a strike held up one industry only; to-day, it can hold- .up a whole community. A strike in a key industry can plunge the continent into chaos. To-day, the Prime Minister admitted that he was fully aware of all the tragic possibilities inherent in the present situation. He said that he knew just what terrible implications there were in the threat to plunge Melbourne into darkness, and yet he is reduced to” the expedient of promising to see how many candles can be gathered up to keep Melbourne from utter darkness. The situation is pathetic. Already, many necessary items are scarce throughout the whole country. The other day, in view of the fact that the Government boasted that there was 95 per cent, employment in Australia, I asked what all the people were supposed to be doing. They cannot all be bookmakers’ clerks. They cannot all be politicians, -they cannot all he civil servants, even, although, when Ave remember all the form-filling that has to be done, it is evident that a great many persons must be employed as civil servants in unproductive occupations.- Now on top of the existing shortages of goods. Ave have this strike, which immobilizes the people who were working or showing at least some semblance of working. As usual, women are the chief sufferers. It is all very well to make housewives an object of derision, as is done sometimes in this House, and when their plight is mentioned their story is described as “ sob stuff “. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) well knows to what I refer. The chief sufferers in this strike are the strikers’ wives. Were they consulted before the strike was embarked upon? Were they ever considered? What is the chief disability from which the workers suffer, apart altogether from the strike ? It is the struggle to make ends meet in the face of rising prices and a low basic “wage. But to what did the Australasian Council of Trade Unions give priority in its application to the Arbitration Court? It gave priority to the 40-hour week, which had no possible bearing on the bringing down of prices, and could do nothing to help the housewife in her home, or make her task easier. A great deal of time has been wasted on arguing the claim for a 40-hour week, when that time might well have been devoted to pressing a claim- for a higher basic wage. I would dare to suggest, even, that it was not until I talked very loudly about the basic wage that anything was done about it at all. Honorable members opposite may well remain silent.
– I am keeping silence for the honorable, member.
– What is the position of housewives in Melbourne today? For a long -time, they have had to carry food for their families from the shops to their homes. Now they must go on doing this, even though transport services are disorganized. The city is threatened with a black-out, and even with interference with the sewerage and water services. We are told that there are practically no candles obtainable, and no kerosene. I can well believe it, if the experience in King Island, which is in my electorate, is general. There, although no electricity is available, kerosene is practically unobtainable. All over Australia, house-building is being held up. This, is the ease, not only in New South Wales, but also in Tasmania, where no election campaign is in progress. In that State, people are occupying houses although the windows are unglazed, and now glass cannot be manufactured in Melbourne because of the industrial disturbance. Meat is not reaching the market because transport services are disorganized. Baths, electrical cookers and gas cookers cannot be obtained. The shortage has continued for a long time, and the present disturbances are aggravating it. If any honorable member wants to know what has to be endured by people trying to build houses, let him go into any street where house construction is in progress and make inquiries; or, if he likes, and if he wants first-hand information, he may inquire of me. I have had experience of it. There is, we know, a shortage of glass. Not long ago, the manager of the Parliamentary Refresh ment Rooms asked me why he was unable to obtain Cascade beer. I made inquiries, and found that no bottles could be obtained. I am not interested in beer as such, but I am interested in the manufacture of milk bottles, feeding bottles and medicine bottles, and there is a serious shortage of such bottles to-day. Honorable members opposite may sin il-
– The honorable member smiled in 1930 when people were starving in the midst of plenty.
– Such an accusation is, I hope, unworthy of the person who made it. However, such accusations have been made so frequently by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) that I begin to think that they may be typical of him and worthy of him. The lack of transport is doing something else to housewives in other States. It is preventing the carrying of milk products. In Tasmania there are whole districts, believe it or not, where people rely entirely on manufactured milk products because dairy herds cannot be maintained in those areas. There is a very grave shortage of manufactured baby foods in all States, and supplies of these products are being held up because of the lack of transport. Lactogen, Vilactogen, and Lactose are three brands of these important commodities which I call to mind at random. They are very difficult to obtain. We must not allow babies to suffer, even- though adults may. Clothing is in short supply. Tinned plate is scarce - and this again affects food supplies. That is the picture^ at present, and there is no promise- of improvement anywhere. Nevertheless, when we suggest a method of dealing with strikes - a method which was proved to be entirely successful by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), but which has not been used since - we are accused of wishing to coerce the workers. Are we being subjected to anything other than coercion at this moment? We are, in fact, experiencing coercion by the system of hostages, a custom long since regarded as barbarous. The people who suffer most as the result of strikes are those who have least to do with the beginnings and the endings of such troubles. The whole strike system in these days is completely barbarons, and we must find some method of dealing with it. Speaking of coercion, I remind honorable members that a pro-, vision in the bill which was recently discussed in this House dealt with compulsory unionism. What is compulsory unionism but a form of coercion? Those who speak of the struggle of the workers for better conditions and think of the fight they put up must surely agree that the workers have achieved something through the years. They- have achieved, a very great improvement of their conditions, and the machinery to effect further improvements in a constitutional manner. But honorable members opposite forget that all these fruits of the workers’ struggles ultimately rest upon a longer struggle - the long struggle through the centuries for political freedom. That kind of freedom is going by the board to-day. Any kind of tyranny remains tyranny, whether it be of the right or of the left. Coercion from the one hand or from the other is still coercion, whether we be dominated by the mass or by a few, whether by one ruler or by a number of people. I say to honorable members that man does not live by bread alone, but by many other things as well, which, at present, are very lightly held. Unless we maintain political freedom as we have understood it for many years then we shall be throwing away the substance for the shadow and, in the midst of a great deal of unnecessary suffering, we shall be attempting to bring about something which, in the end, can merely defeat its own purpose and render useless the long fight for freedom.
– In a time of crisis members of this Parliament should set an example to the nation. In this time of crisis all speeches made in this House should be made with a sense of responsibility and a regard for the interests of the nation. Nevertheless, the wildest and most provocative, speech that honorable members have listened to . in this House for years has been delivered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I do not believe that the right honorablegentleman himself believed a fraction of what he said. He was making a speech with a view to inflaming opinion in New South Wales in order to try to snatch an electoral victory for the. Liberal party in that State, when it lias failed to impress the electors with the merit of its case as presented on the issues affecting New. South Wales. It is obvious that the forms of this House have been abused tonight by honorable members opposite in their desire to force their opinions down the throats of the people of New South Wales.
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition was heard in complete silence, and I insisted that the honorable member for Darwin be heard in silence. I shall name the next honorable member from the Opposition side of th© House who interjects.
– It is an ironical fact that the members of the Liberal party from States other than New South Wales have been told by the people who lead that party in New South Wales that their presence is not wanted in that State during the election campaign. Their presence is not welcome even to members of their own party in New South Wales. So, we see the revenge of Menzies over Treatt to-night, if I may express it in that way ! We see the Leader of the Opposition in this Parliament trying to inflict himself on the people of New South Wales, although the leaders of his own party in that State have told him that whatever chances they may have of winning the elections on Saturday next will be considerably helped if he does not , appear in person at any time during the campaign. In his desire to try to force his unwelcome presence on the people of ‘ New South Wales, he proceeds to make a wildly provocative and inflammatory speech, and he was not very careful about his facts in that speech. He talks about sewerage and water not being available in Melbourne within the next ten days. He says that there is a likelihood that even these basic’ amenities of civilization will be denied to the people of Melbourne, although he knows very well that there is not a scintilla of truth in that suggestion.
No union involved in the strike in Victoria has suggested that the men responsible for maintaining the water supplies of Victoria should be called out on strike. Nobody has suggested suck ‘ an extension of the dispute. But that does not matter to the Leader of the Opposition! He says that in the police strike of 1923 there was looting and a general condition of disorder. That is true. But an anti-Labour government brought about that state of affairs. It was most deplorable that a body of men like the Victorian Police Force of that period should have been forced out on strike by the actions of non-Labour governments in refusing, time and time again, to listen to any of their requests. The men who went out on strike, strangely enough, had never been addicted to strike action. Many of them were not Labour party sympathizers. Six hundred of them were ex-soldiers .of World War I. It was typical of anti-Labour governments that, when these men went on strike, they were treated extremely harshly, and not one of them ever got back his job in the Victorian Police Force. All ‘the talk by antiLabour governments about preference to returned soldiers was found to be justso much hypocrisy.
– And the Labour party won the next by-election !
– The men who took the places of the police strikers received all the benefits for which their predecessors had gone on strike. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has interjected - and he is in a position to know because at that time he was a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly - the Labour party won the first by-election after that strike, and it formed a government very soon after the unfortunate affair ended. It is useless for the Leader of the Opposition to try to inflame public opinion either in Victoria or in New South Wales, hoping thereby that his party will be returned to office in a State or Commonwealth Parliament. It seems to me that certain people outside of Parliament who have a baneful influence on members of this House want to stir up strife in order that they may destroy Labour governments after they have failed themselves to secure the election of anti-Labour governments. They try to stir up civil disorder, in the hope that the people will be- misled and regard them as the saviours of the nation.
The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) has spoken to the housewives of Australia. There was a depression not many years ago - though it seems many years past to a number of people - when the honorable member sang a different tune. She made broadcasts telling the housewives how to live on £3 a week and how to make soup out of shin bones. She addressed the housewives of Melbourne in the Melbourne Town Hall telling them how to make ends meet - even on the dole. In those days of anti-Labour governments single workers were compelled to keep body and soul together on 6s. a week and to exist in the “ Happy Valleys “ and the “ Dudley Flats “ of this country. There is bitterness in the hearts of the Australian workers to-day because of the conditions they had to endure during the depression years. Now, however, the workers find a situation which in effect is a depression in reverse. During the depression years there were too many workers and too few jobs; to-day we have more jobs than workers to fill them, and because of that some workers say, “ We shall not be ground down into another depression. We want the new order about which everybody talks. It is the function of the Government to provide full employment for everybody, and so order the forces of the community that there will be social security and economic justice for everybody”.
The speech of the Leader of the Opposition to-night indicated that he would destroy all our democratic institutions. The right honorable gentleman said, “If Governments will not act, people outside the Parliament will form their private armies, their New. Guards and other organizations, and if governments will not then act these private armies will take over the functions of government “. If that is the sort of talk indulged in in the National Parliament, is it any wonder that some people in the community hold our democratic institutions in contempt and seek opportunities to overthrow them for their own advancement? As my distinguished and eloquent colleague, the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), said, “ We want industrial peace in this country and we are working to that end “. To listen to honorable members opposite one would think that strikes affected Australia and Australia alone. Industrial disturbance has reached epidemic proportions’ in the world to-day. In Great Britain itself, despite the economic tribulations through which that country is passing, there are grave industrial disputes. At this very moment 10,000 dockers are on strike in London, and 50 food ships are held up as the result. I pass no judgment on that strike, but I know that men will not withhold their labour unless some reason compels them to do so. We want to settle the strike in Victoria and every strike in progress throughout Australia ; but strikes are not settled by denying the right of the worker to strike. The great Labour movement was born as the result of strikes in the ‘90’s when the parliaments of this country would not function in the interests of the community. The Labour party has never denied the worker the right to withhold his labour power when he desires to do so. Honorable members opposite have directed their criticism solely to the workers. Do they criticize doctors, lawyers and other professional and business men when they take off a day or two days a week to play golf, saying, “ If we work as long as we used to we will earn too much and we will fall into a higher taxation group and so work much of our time for nothing5’. There is no condemnation of their action by honorable members opposite, whose attacks are solely directed against the worker who feels he has a just cause to go- on strike.
– A number of people are doing other things just as anti-social.
– That is so, but they are left unscathed. It is interesting to read in. to-night’s Sydney Sun the views of Henry Ford II., the 29-year-old chief of the Ford Company. Asked whether the American Government should intervene to prevent strikes in basic industries,’ Mr. Ford is reported to have said - .
I think our employees should have the right to strike if that is what they want to do. We issued a questionnaire to them recently’ and were badly jolted to find out they did not think we were making an honest effort to look after them. Even allowing for illtemper we got more than expected. It is clear to me that we have been spending too great a proportion of our money on new plant and not enough in keeping in touch with our people.
Much of the industrial trouble in Melbourne to-day is due to the action of extremists on the side of the employers, and the worst extremist of all is Mr. McKay, of H. V. McKay-Massey Harris Proprietary Limited. It was he who started the lockout of the engineers. He said, after the ironworkers had been on strike for some months, “ We will not have any moulders, ironworkers, electricians, or anybody else “, and closed his works against all his workers. When it was decided to throw the works open again the engineers said, “ We shall go back when you settle our claims for the adjustment of our marginal rates “. How oan the Leader of the Opposition, in his castigation and condemnation of the workers of Victoria, overlook the fact that the main, cause of the trouble in that State is attributable primarily to the action of McKay, who is supported in his action by the majority of the manufacturers, in an attempt to smash the unions, to humiliate them and to destroy the bargaining power .of trade unionists? In 1919 no fewer than 5,000,000 man days were lost as the result of strikes in Australia, but in the first year after World War II. - the most dangerous and difficult year, when we were in a. -state of transition from war to peace - only 2,500,000 man days were lost. Let us hear no more provocative speeches from honorable members opposite; let us have no more incitment to civil disorder, encouragement to reactionaries and anti-progressive forces in the community who want to do things under cover of defending the community which, if done in other times, would land the perpetrators in the dock for treasonable activities or conspiracy. This Government will co-operate with the Government of Victoria but it will never be led into emulatingthe Gregory Wade Government of New South Wales which gaoled strikers and put them in leg-irons. Any one who makes war on the community in the manner suggested by the Leader of the Opposition deserves the fate that overtook other governments which acceptedthat dictum in days gone by.
Mr. MoEWEN (Indi) [10.19].- Had there been any reason for the Parliament or the people of this country to doubt why Labour governments have done nothing to fight the great strike in Victoria we need doubt no longer. The speeches of two senior members of the Government leave us in no doubt that that strike, which threatens the very vitals of Australia, is given wholehearted support by the leaders of the Labour governments of this nation. Never has there been a more terrifying revelation to a nation than that which was made to-night, when it was asserted that this strike is justified. This is a strike against governments and the system of democratic government, against the settlement of disputes by arbitration and against every decent principle for which this country stands. Those principles are abhorred by men who are honoured to be Ministers of the Crown. We listened to two born agitators addressing the Parliament of the nation, and now we realize that there is no need to recruit agitators from the rank and file because we have them at the head of affairs. The’ Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) dredged the records of the country in an attempt to inflame further the men on strike: He recalled to our memory the pitiful conditions during the depression of seventeen years ago. He spoke of the police strike in Victoria,- and sought to justify it. Did any member of this House dream that be would live to hear a Minister of the Crown justify such h thing !
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order !
– The honorable member should read the report on the condition of the police at that time-
– And here is a third Minister of the Crown who interjects in defiance of the ruling of Mr. Speaker. Government supporters who have not yet spoken are straining at the leash to support the utterances of the agitators I have mentioned, and to give their aid and support to the strikers. The Minister for Information attempted to bring ridicule and contempt on the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) for what she did in the days of the de pression, because of her experience as a housewife. She advised the people how to live on £3 a week and how to make soup from shin bones. I do not know whether the well-clad and well-covered Ministers have ever had to live on shin bones, but I- have, and it is not so bad. I am authorized by the honorable member for Darwin to say she still cooks shin bones when she can get them - and they are hard to get. If she is to be criticized for advising the workers of this country in 1930 how to live on £3 a week, what do Ministers say of the wife of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who, two years ago, and in very different circumstances, recommended to the people of this country how they should live on £2 10s. a week.
– Some know how to live on threepenyyworth of cat’s meat.
Mi-. McEWEN.- We have often had to listen to speeches from the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who is, as I said, a born agitator; but to-night we heard him at his very lowest. Never before has any member of this House of any party so lowered himself as he did when he attacked two honorable gentlemen, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) to-night. These young men spent five years daily risking their lives for their country. For that they were decorated, and yet the Minister stooped to vilify them. I say, “ Shame upon him ! “ I have been a member of this House for thirteen years, and I could anticipate almost every word of the speech which he made. We heard all the old catch-cries - the workers being shot down, the New Guard, the agent provocateur - and if we search Hansard, we find them dripping from the same lips a thousand times. He is constantly inciting the workers of this country to disorder. For a time he occupied the office of Minister for Labour and National Service under’ a Prime Minister who had a full realization of his responsibilities. No wonder that the Prime Minister availed himself of the earliest opportunity to discipline him and demote him from his high office to the lowest rank, in Cabinet. I think that that action of Mr. Curtin disposes of Mr. Ward, and
I do not propose to waste any more time on him.
The Australian Labour party has so hamstrung itself by speeches of this character, delivered by its -members time and again during the past generation, that to-day it cannot deal effectively with industrial unrest. Speeches have been made on innumerable occasions inciting Australians to hate Australians, preaching the doctrine of class consciousness. Never have they suggested that there should be a national spirit in this country, that although we might have our differences on economic and political matters we should recognize that, after all, we are Australians and that we have a high purpose. On the contrary, they have never let a week go by without making some speech designed to hammer into the minds of the people of this country who are working for wages that they are a class apart, and that they are targets for oppression by another section of this community who spend their whole time plotting harm to the millions of workers of this country. There is no working class in this country; there are workers, but there, are none who are born to remain in the employee class. The lives of 1,000,000 Australians prove and demonstrate conclusively that there is no “ working class “ in this country. But Government supporters continue in this House, and wherever they can find a platform, “to endeavour to hammer into the minds of Australians that they must attack fellow Australians. What else can come of that but distrust, unhappiness and the kind of defiance of authority we see in Victoria and throughout Australia to-da.y? What is the cause of .this strike in Melbourne? It is a strike, not 83 the Minister for Transport said, originating in a lockout of workers, but a strike which originated with moulders, members of the Federated Ironworkers Association. The leader of the Federated Ironworkers Association, Mr. Thornton, in 1940, made a public speech, in which he declared : “ My union has had more strikes than any other union in Australia because we make strikes our business “. There was no reference to any economic origin or justification for the strikes, but simply the defiant declaration, “” We make strikes our busi- ness “. Those are the actual words of Mr. Thornton, the leader of the ironworkers, the leader of the Communists. ‘ Is he completely in tune with ‘the Minister for Transport? Not only was Mr. Thornton able to boast that he “ makes strikes his business “, but he is able to point to a record of continued achievement - he still makes strikes his business. But I say that Mr. Thornton now has a competitor in that arena, one who, in this House, apparently makes strikes his business. It is sufficiently difficult for governments to attempt to grapple with men inflamed by what they imagine to be some injustice, but when those men are incited to defiance of authority from the floor of the National Parliament by Ministers of the Crown, then the future appears hopeless. (
But Ave are not without hope, because we’ realize that Australians are not only sufficiently decent but they are sufficiently intelligent to realize ultimately where their own interests and responsibilities lie. They will, eventually realize that this is a strike, not a lockout, because the Mackay works were not closed until there was a strike of the moulders. The agricultural machinery industry, Labour people ought to recognize, if they know .anything about it, is built around the art of moulding. Until it was no longer possible to keep the other artisans at work they were kept at work. It is now a strike against a decision of a conciliation commissioner, and, in the last few days, .there have been scores of speeches from the Government .side of the House designed to persuade the people of Australia that only in the establishment of more conciliation commissioners can there be found any hope of escape from the constantly recurring strikes. That theory was fantastically propounded in the midst of one of the most devastating strikes ever experienced against a decision of one of the Government’s own conciliation commissioners. Fifty thousand men are out of work in Melbourne because 6,000 are on. strike. We have heard of exploitation of the many by the few associated with the doctrine of class consciousness and attacks on capitalism; but there is no greater example of exploitation of the many “by the few than is to be found in the new technique of the Communists. Coincidentally with the introduction of the -widespread availability of social welfare and unemployment relief, they have ushered in a new industrial era of pulling out a handful of men to make it possible for thousands of others to qualify for unemployment relief. Unemployment relief is being dreadfully exploited by those whom it is designed to aid. It is not a strike against capitalism in Victoria. It is not a lockout in the Victorian Railways. It is a strike against the Labour Government. It is an attack on the community of Melbourne and the rest of Victoria. It is an .assault upon the public of Australia. If there is any function that should be accepted by those who accept the responsibility of government, it is the function of defending the community against attack by a few interested parties, be they monopolists on the capitalist side, or monopolists on the Labour side- key men in some industries. It seems symptomatic of this Government that the only Ministers who leap to their feet on this issue are the professional agitators.
Does the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) come in and speak on an issue than which none greater has confronted the people of Australia since the end of the war? Does his deputy come in arid speak? No! The only Ministers to speak are those who have carved a niche for themselves in the public life of Australia through their capacity to incite man to hate man in this their own native land. We are told that it is an exaggeration to say that there will be a stoppage of sewerage and other essential services. Why, every day the newspapers publish and the wireless broadcasts stories about the stoppage of transport. Is there any service more essential to modern community life than transport? To-day the Prime Minister provided me with a written answer to a question that I asked on notice about the curtailment of petrol supplies in Victoria. In it he referred to the almost complete cessation of country rail services. They are not my words; they are the Prime Minister’s words - “Almost a complete cessation of country rail services “ ! And we know that there is an entire cessation of all suburban rail services in Melbourne, and a threat that there will be no lighting in Victoria. What do we have in this atmo- sphere ? Any- rebuke of those who are on strike? Any plan? Any hope for the people of Australia? No, merely a justification of every previous strike and an incitement to those on strike to continue their nefarious activities against this country. It is a tragic thing that the people of Victoria and people of the neighbouring States, waiting for their newspapers to-morrow morning, do not wait with any hope of reading what the Prime Minister or the Premier of Victoria have said.
We are experiencing a state of affairs in which the people in this fair land wait for their morning papers in the hope that Mr. J. J. Brown, the Com- munist leader of the railway workers, may have relented. We ought to hang our heads in shame to think that in a strike that threatens the very life of this country, and is aimed at the most vital services of the country, we are waiting on the word of a Communist employee of the government railways. It is a sad day for this country. But perhaps it is not too late - I hope it is not - for the governments of Australia finally to recognize their responsibilities. I have no doubt that the silence and- inaction of the Labour governments is merely, a revelation of self-interest -as their prime consideration. When the order arises that compels them to take their decision, are they for the party or for the people? Unhesitatingly, the decision of the Labour governments is that they are for the party. If their existence is threatened in any respect, to the devil with the interests of the people! All I say is that even if Labour governments are to be moved by no higher a consideration than self-interest, great as may be the danger of disruption within the Labour party by their taking disciplinary action against these attackers of the community life, they stand in greater danger of being disciplined by the people of Australia, a disciplining that they have endured before, and one that, if it befalls them on this occasion, will last for another decade, as it has lasted before.
Mr. DEDMAN (Corio- Minister for Defence, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) [10.39]. - It is evident that the Opposition is endeavouring to make the utmost it can out of this issue to gain political advantage because the general elections are to be held in New South Wales and Queensland on Saturday. It ill becomes certain members of the Opposition, at any rate, to take this attitude. Most of all it ill becomes the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), because, not so long ago, before he went to San Francisco, he dic! his utmost to incite the wheat-farmers of this country not to grow any more wheat.
– That is completely untrue.
– That is a completely accurate statement.
– I rise to- order. The Minister has absolutely misrepresented me. I have never made any such statement and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Order ! This is not the first time that the honorable member for Indi has attempted to evade the Standing Orders by taking a point of order to make a. personal explanation. If he desires to make a personal explanation he can do so later, but not now. Nothing that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction lias said has been offensive.
Mr.McEwEN. - It is offensive to me.
– Order! The honorable member has been handing it out. Now he must take it.
– This action is typical of the honorable member for Indi. He is a political accident. .He came here because he espoused the cause of complete opposition to coalition governments, but having got here on that basis - he. got in on the preference votes of the supporters of the Labour party - he immediately “scabbed”.
– That is not true, either.
– Ever since then the honorable member has supported coalition governments. My reason for saying that he is a political accident is that it was only because his name began with the letter «f the alphabet with which it does begin that he got the preference of certain other candidates in that election. If any other person with a name beginning with “ L “ had contested the seat the honorable member would never have been elected. Not only did he endeavour to persuade the farmers of this country not to grow more wheat at a. time when the world was badly in need of all the wheat that could be grown, bur, also as a prominent member of the Australian Country party I have no doubt that he was responsible for instigating the strike of the producers of milk in Queensland when they threatened not to supply Brisbane with milk.
Mr.McEwEN-. - That is a lie.
– Just as he was behind certain meat producers and the stock agents, who are so ably represented in this House by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), so there was the same instigation on the part of both of those honorable members in relation to meat supplies in- Melbourne recently. Therefore, it ill becomes those two honorable members to attack members of the Australian Labour party and trade unionists. I have a great deal of sympathy with the people of Melbourne in their present troubles, but 1 also have a great deal of sympathy with trade unionists generally and those who are involved in this dispute. As the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has said, the present strike began with a lockout of members of the- Australian Engineering Union by H. V. McKay-Massey Harris Proprietary Limited. That company has works in my electorate, and I know the conditions under which its employees have to work. The company has a reputation for endeavouring to keep the workers down to the lowest level. Honorable members will recall that in the early stages of the company’s development it decided to establish its works at Sunshine in order to evade wages determinations. At that time Sunshine was outside .the area to which the determinations applied. Since then, the company has continuously fought to keep the workers on the lowest level of subsistence. Is it any wonder, therefore, that its engineers have reached the stage that they will no longer put up’ with such treatment? The Chamber of Commerce is also to blame, because if it had brought pressure to bear on H. V. McKay - Massey Harris Proprietary Limited that company would not have carried out the same policy. If blame is to be allocated in this matter, members who sit on the Opposition benches in this House cannot escape. I could have seen the force of their argument had they supported the referendum to give complete powers to the Commonwealth in industrial .matters, but they did not do so. When the proposals were submitted to the people, honorable members opposite said that they did not want to give complete powers to the Commonwealth Parliament but wished its powers to remain as they were.
Recently we had a debate on amendments of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I remind the House that the Arbitration Court is, in fact, a third legislature. It has .-jurisdiction in a field which is within the control of neither the Commonwealth Parliament nor the Parliament of any State. I believe in conciliation and arbitration as the only way in which industrial disputes can be settled. I do not believe that disputes in the industrial field, the economic field, or the international field can ever be settled by means of force. In the last analysis conciliation and arbitration by any authority which has been set up with jurisdiction over industrial matters amounts to the judgment of an individual, in the case of a conciliation commissioner, or of a group of individuals, when the judgment is that of the Full Court. These individuals, or groups of individuals, say what in their opinion is a just settlement. Personally, I would accept the opinion of the conciliation commissioner in the ease which has been mentioned. I regret that the Union did not see its way to accept that decision. At the same time, I shall not adopt the attitude that other persons must necessarily accept the decision of a conciliation commissioner, a judge, or the Full Arbitration Court. As I have said, I myself would accept such a decision if I were a member of the trade union concerned, and would advocate its acceptance, as, indeed, I do now; but I shall not attempt to impose on any other person the obligation to accept such a decision. After all, this matter goes right to the root of the standard of living of the workers. When an arbitration court, or a conciliation commissioner, say3 that the wages which shall be paid to a certain set of individuals - in this case, certain engineers - shall be so much, it says, in effect, what percentage of the total pool of production that individual will draw as his share for the services rendered by him to the community. It is all very well to say that a conciliation commissioner or an arbitration court can never make a mistake, and-it is all very well for honorable members opposite to say that efforts have been -made to incite das warfare. The capitalist system inevitably leads to class warfare, because it divides the community into two classes - the owners of factories and those who do the actual work. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to say that everybody in Australia is a worker. In. Australia, some people are workers and others are drones. If the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) all went on strike, the country would not suffer one jot, and nobody would have to make any sacrifices. We can well do without them. But when men and women who do the real work withhold their services, the community does suffer. Therefore, it is not true to say that every person in the community is a worker. There are drones in our community just as there are in every capitalist society.
Reference was made during this discussion to the police strike in Victoria in 1924. At the time of that strike, Nationalist governments were in power in the Commonwealth Parliament and Victoria.
– The Nationalist Government checked that strike.
– For the information of honorable members who may be inclined to forget this matter, the Nationalist party later changed its name to the United Australia party, and still later to the Liberal party; but all of them had the same political opinions. The State Government of Victoria is doing a very good job, and is perfectly capable of looking after the interests of the people of Victoria without the interference ‘ of honorable members opposite in this matter. But the Leader c-f the Opposition said that the Commonwealth Government has a duty to ensure that the Government of Victoria’ shall adequately carry out its responsibilities to the people of the State. I recall that when the police strike took place ‘in 1924, it did not occur to the Commonwealth Nationalist Government to inquire whether it should intervene in order to ensure that the Nationalist Government in Victoria carried out its responsibilities to the people of the State. Whilst I regret that this industrial trouble ha.s occurred in Victoria, I point out that industrial troubles in Australia are greatly exaggerated. The Department of Post-war Reconstruction has sponsored the visits overseas of a number of Australian businessmen for the purpose of studying the conditions in other countries and examining the prospects of expanding our secondary industries. In order to inform my mind regarding conditions in other countries arid how our plans for the post-war period compare with those of other governments, 1 have asked all of these gentlemen, on their return to Australia, to give to me their impressions on these matters. About 95 per cent. of. those industrialists, who ordinarily are not supporters of the Labour p.arty, who invested capital in Australia and who know our labour conditions here, informed me that conditions in Australia industrially, economically and financially were very much more favorable than in any. other country.
The world is passing through a period of grave industrial turmoil, which is the aftermath of World War II. Everywhere, workers are dissatisfied with their conditions, as well they may be, because they know that during the war thousands of millions of pounds were spent on destruction, and they cannot see why so much effort and energy which all countries spent on prosecuting a war cannot be called upon, in a period of .peace, in order to give to( them a higher standard of living than they have had in the past. It is quite easy for us to understand why workers feel frustrated at the present time, and why there is so much industrial unrest. I have already said that, in my opinion, the Amalgamated Engineering Union should have accepted the offer made by the .conciliation commissioner. Had I been a member of that union, I should have accepted it ; in fact, I .advised these men to do so. At the same time, I would not, by force of law or force of arms, impose my opinion upon those workers. They might reply to one that they are in a better position to make a judgment on the matter than I am. The country can rest assured that the Com.mon wealth Government is doing everything possible to ensure that this dispute shall be settled in a very short space of time.
– That does not mean anything.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) is one of those who took part in instigating primary producers not to produce when the world urgently required food, and, in the circumstances, he would be well advised not to interject.
The Commonwealth Government, in its sphere of activity, and the State Government of Victoria, are doing their utmost to ensure the settlement of this dispute. If honorable members opposite had their way, they would’ probably endeavour to. settle it by force of arms. I have already stated that a dispute, whether industrial or any other kind, cannot be settled finally by force. It is to be hoped that common sense will prevail, that wiser counsels will be brought to bear on these matters, and that, before long, the dispute will be settled. In the meantime, I have this to say: The Leader of the Opposition has grossly exaggerated the position in Victoria. There is no fear whatever of the people of Melbourne having to go without food supplies. There is no fear whatever that the water supply, or other essential services’ and public utilities will be interfered with. These exaggerations have been made by members of the Opposition to-day because the State elections in New South Wales will be held next Saturday. The people of New South Wales have had six years’ experience of Labour’ governments in the Commonwealth and in New South Wales. They, know that the people have been better off during those six years than they have over been under any other governments.
There is a measure of prosperity throughout the whole of New South “Wales, affecting every section of the community, such as they have never enjoyed before. The people’s savings have substantially increased in all States. Bankruptcies are fewer in number and every index of prosperity shows that they are better off under Labour governments than they are under anti-Labour governments. For that reason, I am certain that the people of New South Wales will not pay any attention to the diatribe of the Leader of the Opposition and his followers, but will vote in accordance with the knowledge that they have gained during the last six years that under Labour governments they have been prosperous. Therefore, I am certain that they will vote for the Labour Government in New South Wales next Saturday.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), during the course of his speech, referring to me and my electorate by name, said that L had urged wheat-growers not to grow wheat. That is a plain, unvarnished lie.
– I ask that the honorable member for Indi be called upon to withdraw that remark.
– The’ Minister has objected to the honorable member’s remark, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– In deference to the Chair I withdraw that remark. When the Minister was speaking, I asked that he be obliged to withdraw a remark which I regarded as offensive, but Mr. Speaker’ ordered me to resume my seat.
– The Chair is not interested in what happened previously.
– I am particularly interested. The Minister’s .statement that I urged the wheat-growers of this country not to grow wheat is a gross mis-statement of fact; and I can only believe that he made it deliberately for party political purposes. The Minister also said that I had incited the milk producers of Brisbane to cease delivering milk. That is a malicious invention.
– That remark is offensive to me. I ask that the honorable member be called upon to withdraw it. I also submit that the honorable member is going far beyond the scope of a personal explanation. He is, in fact, making another speech.
– As the Minister regards the honorable member’s remark as offensive to him, I ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– As my statement was offensive to the Minister I withdraw it. It was intended to be offensive.
– The honorable member will resume his seat. After withdrawing a statement which had been objected to in accordance with the Standing Orders, the honorable member said that he intended that statement to be offensive. If the honorable member makes another remark of that kind, or does not confine himself to making a personal explanation, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I rise to order. Do I understand that if an honorable member makes a statement which is regarded by another honorable member as offensive, he may be called upon to withdraw it whether the statement be true or not?
– The honorable member has not raised a point -pf order.
– I have said that the statement made by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction that I urged wheatgrowers not to grow wheat is untrue. There is not a vestige of fact to justify it.
– I say that it is true.
– I also said that the invention of the Minister that I had incited milk producers in Brisbane not to deliver’ milk is equally without justification, or foundation in fact. The Minister further said that I had urged stock producers not to deliver fat stock to the Melbourne market and that I had supported the stock agents in a similar programme. That is just as untrue as the other inventions of the Minister. His speech only reveals the depth to which he will descend to score a party political point.
– I wish to .make a personal explanation, as I feel a certain degree of responsibility in this matter.
– The Minister may do so only if heclaims to have been misrepresented in the course of debate.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Indi in my view deliberately-
– I made no reference to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) in my remarks.
– Unless the Minister claims that he has been misrepresented, he will not be permitted to make a personal explanation.
– I’ have been misrepresented. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), when speaking in this debate, endeavoured to create the impression that during an interchange that took place when I was speaking, I, had reflected upon the war records of two honorable members. The action of the honorable member was most deliberate and despicable, because at no time did I refer to the war records of the two honorable members concerned. During the course of my address, when there was considerable interruption, I referred to two honorable members without in any way reflecting upon their war records, about which I know nothing. The honorable member for Indi, as he usually does, tried to play upon the sympathies of the people. I believe that for political reasons he deliberately misrepresented what I said in reply to interjections by the Opposition. At no time during my address did I even refer to the war record of any honorable member.
– The honorable member for. Moreton
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-The honorable member for Richmond will resume his seat.
– Have I not the right to make a personal explanation?
– No; I called the honorable member for Moreton before the honorable member rose.
– I want a .fair go. I had risen before you called the honorable member for Moreton.
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
.- It is tragic to find in this National Parliament three Ministers speaking as political agitators in support of the strikers in Victoria, and attempting to’ justify the present strike in that State. It is one of the most serious and most devastating strikes that have occurred in Victoria, and its repercussions are being felt throughout the Commonwealth. Not one Minister who has spoken to-night has rebuked the strikers, who are defying the law of this country. Instead, the Ministers who have spoken have incited the- strikers to continue to break the law. That is a reflection upon the Government. Those Ministers have said that every man has the right to strike, and that they will uphold that right. How will it be possible to find a solution of the industrial dispute in Victoria when Ministers in this Parliament express sympathy with those who break the law and encourage them to continue to do so? There can be no hope of restoring industrial peace when Ministers carry on like that. There can be no doubt as to the consequences of the present industrial unrest in Victoria. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) himself said that he was aware of the possible consequences of this serious strike; but not one of the three Ministers who spoke in this debate gave an indication that the’ Government had a plan to end the strike, or to ensure that adequate food supplies shall be made available to the people of Victoria. The people of Melbourne have been given no assurance that public services such as the water and sewerage systems, transport, electric light and power will be maintained. A continuance of the strike will have a devastating effect upon the whole economy, not only of Victoria, but also of the other States. There will be most serious repercussions in’ Queensland. I protest emphatically against the action of Ministers who to-night supported and condoned the strike, and expressed sympathy with the strikers. At the hands of this Government, Queensland has always been treated as the Cinderella State, rather than the Queen State of the Commonwealth. “We have made repeated appeals to this Government to help us to obtain supplies from the southern States by rail or by sea, but to no avail. Queensland suffered more than any other State in the Commonwealth from a shortage of supplies during the war, and that position has not been materially improved since the cessation of hostilities. Every commodity that has to be transported from the southern States to Queensland is in short supply. Many times in this chamber I have stressed the need for improved supplies of wheat for Queensland. Wheat is sent to Queensland mainly from “Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. Increased shipments have been promised, but have not come forward. The result has been that hundreds of thousands of fowls have had to be slaughtered because they could not be fed. Now, of course, there is an acute shortage of eggs in Queensland. Not only are eggs unobtainable for children and for patients in hospital, but even supplies for the production of new stock are inadequate, with the result that the shortage of eggs will continue for a considerable time.
Queensland has always required supplies of potatoes from the southern States, particularly Tasmania. The result of the present industrial trouble has been that, while potatoes are rotting in the fields in Tasmania, they are unobtainable in Queensland. Even when supplies are shipped from Tasmania other States are given preference over Queensland. No protest is made by the Labour Government in Queensland, which apparently endorses the inaction of this Administration. The recent devastating floods in Queensland have increased the difficulty of providing foodstuffs. Hundreds of miles of fencing has been swept away, and, although appeals have been made to this Government for barbed and plain wire, and supplies have been promised,, only a negligible quantity has actually been received. To-day it is not possible to cultivate fields because stock is roaming all over them. Barbed wire and wire netting are unprocurable. This Government exhibits an appalling lack of interest in Queensland. That was amply demonstrated to-night by the speeches of three Ministers who are no more than industrial agitators. Cigarettes, tobacco and matches can be obtained .in the southern States, but they are not available in Queensland. Industrial lawlessness is holding up the development and expansion of industries in Queensland, and I am afraid that while there are Labour governments in office, there is no prospect of having the position eased. Queensland also suffers an acute shortage of building materials, most of which come from the southern States. No real effort is being made to provide homes for the workers or to construct new factories to facilitate industrial development. Building materials and fittings, including household glass, electrical equipment and fittings, gas and electric bath-heaters, are all produced in Victoria and have been unobtainable in Queensland during the eight months or more that the strike has been continuing in Victoria. Agricultural implements too are urgently required. Most primary producers to-day are seriously hampered by the difficulty of obtaining new parts for machinery. Machinery for canning and food processing has been out of operation for six months. Other items in short supply include automobile parts, bicycle parts and accessories, nails, barbed and plain wire, galvanized iron, sugar-cane cutting knives, soft goods, boots and shoes, infant foods and cornflour. The position, in Queensland to-day is worse than it was during the war, yet no effort is being made by this Government to settle the dispute. It is claimed that the Prime Minister is doing everything possible to assist a settlement, but to-night we had the extraordinary experience of hearing three responsible Minister’s express sympathy with the strikers, condone their actions and almost encourage them to carry on. The Government, instead of using every possible effort to restore industrial harmony, is standing by wringing its hands in despair. It stands condemned in the eyes of the people of this country for the manner in which it has failed to deal with industrial unrest and to. ensure a supply of raw materials to the various States.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Thompson)adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 - No. 22 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - W. T. Doig. External Affairs- E. R. Walker.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 36.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinance - 1947 - No. 1- Police.
House adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
Department of Trade and Customs.
Mr.Falsteinasked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
When was Mr. J. J. Kennedy appointed Comptroller-General of Customs?
How many permanent officers of the Department of Trade and Customs have resigned since that time?
What are their names?
Were the resignations tendered much prior to normal retirement?
Were any reasons stated therefor?
Have these resignations been precipitated by any internal troubles relating to promotions or to the introduction of other than customs trained personnel to supervise the work of the ordinary officers?
Does this special squad report direct to the Comptroller-General?
If not, to whom are the reports made?
Do these reports contain other than strictly departmental information?
Hamilton, V. J. Cummins, G. J. Stuart, H. W. Thurston, A. M. Brown, P. B. Jamieson, M. M. Pahlow, M. E. Purcel, L. J. Tomlin, B. I. Skelton, S. M. Scanlon, J. M. Shepherd, S. C. Falconer, K. H. Lynch, J. H. Benbow.
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
Yes. Arrangements for the purchase and shipment of ra-w silk have been conducted in recent months by the representative of the Department of Trade and Customs in Japan who was also leader of the Supply Group. The initial purchases early last year were, however, arranged by an Australian Economic Mission which was then visiting Japan and which had the assistance of an Australian silk expert.
y asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– Tie answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) There is no reparations commission as such at present functioning in Europe. The Allied Reparations Commission, the establishment of which was contemplated at the Crimea Conference and confirmed at the Potsdam Conference, adjourned indefinitely in September, 1945.
Separations from Italy, Rumania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland were determined by the respective peace treaties with those countries. Principles for reparations from Germany were laid down in the Potsdam Agreement, the execution of which is in the hands of the Allied Control Council for Germany.
See answers Nos. 1 and 2 above.
d asked the Minister for Works and Housing, 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 right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions- are as follows : -
I and 2. Australia is only exporting quantities of water pipes to those countries which were dependent upon us for supplies prior to the war. We are bound to give those countries which we were supplying pre-war and where we have established permanent markets, some share of our present distribution even though the quantity is necessarily limited. . The quantity of butt welded pipes allocated for export is 250 tons per month and all sizes are included in this allocation. Taking as « basis an average quarterly production of 20,493 tons, the quarterly allocation of 750 tons for export would represent only 3.60 per cent, of quarterly production. Production of water piping is proceeding to the capacity of the manufacturers’ plant, and whilst complaints are received from the various States regarding shortages of this material, it is felt that proper control by the States would ensure that sufficient is available for all essential requirements. Additional plant capacity is being installed which can be brought into operation when additional supplies of skelp can be made available from the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited mill now being erected.
Compulsory Acquisition op Property.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
PETROL: Rationing; Resetters’ Permits for ex-Servicemen.
y. - On the 29th April, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) asked a question regarding the petrol ration in Victoria. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: -
The decision to withhold ‘ regular petrol rations to private motorists and to make a reduction in the regular ration which will be made available to other motor vehicle operators in Victoria during the month of May was not taken because there is any shortage of bulk supplies in that State, but because of the difficulties of distribution, to country areas, particularly, brought about by the withdrawal of rail tankers owing to the almost complete cessation of country rail services. Broadly, the regular distribution from bulk terminals on the sea-board to places within the metropolitan area is by road tankers while supplies are sent to country areas from the bulk terminals by rail tankers. With the almost complete stoppage of rail tanker movement the country areas would very quickly be left without any petrol supplies unless some special action be taken and this position is being avoided by withdrawing a proportion of the road tankers from the metropolitan area and utilizing them for carrying bulk supplies to country towns; it should be emphasized here that because of the very much smaller capacity of road tankers compared with that of rail tankers it is.not possible to move into country areas with road tankers, anything like the quantities which can be moved” by rail. Summed up, therefore, the position is that because of the country rail service stoppage the available overall bulk distribution facilities are greatly reduced and this’ in turn compels some adjustment of rations so as to enable an equitable use of reduced distribution facilities in the interest of the maintenance of supplies of petrol for essential transport in both metropolitan and country areas to be arranged. The action to withhold regular rations from private motorists does not mean that this group as a whole is being left without petrol entirely. Those private motorists who are using their vehicles to transport groups of people to and from work are being provided with special rations for that purpose by the Liquid Fuel Board; this service to the community is actually in full operation and will be continued. Road carriage of goods, including superphosphate, to country areas has been organized by the State Transport Board in Victoria and petrol for this transport is available to those operators, although here again it must be stated that the quantities of goods carried by road cannot be as great as could be moved if rail transport were available- Petrol is moved by road in two ways, i.e., in bulk by road tankers or in drums by ordinary motor lorry; the number of- drums available are somewhat limited owing to industrial difficulties and there is no evidence available that the existing fleet of private motor lorries is insufficient to cater for all possible drum movements. To move petrol in bulk requires the use of specially constructed tank waggons of which (apart from a few in use at air force stations) the Commonwealth does not possess any. Oil companies, as part of their general distribution plan move petrol from time’ to time, as necessity dictates, from bulk terminals in adjoining
States to certain Victorian border towns for ultimate distribution in adjacent Victorian areas and the desirability of doing this in the present situation will not be lost sight of. The honorable member may be assured that the Victorian supply and distribution position will ibo kept under constant review in order that supplies of petrol for essential transport throughout the State may bc available as far as this is practicable.
– On the 29th April, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked a question concerning the issue of permits for petrol pumps to ex-servicemen. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
It is an essential feature of the liquid fuel rationing administration that every reseller of liquid fuel shall be licensed by the Liquid Fuel Control Board. It is necessary also that the board knows that every licence issued is an effective one, otherwise it would not know from which licensees it should receive regular returns of stocks, sales, &c, for policing purposes. This is the reason why the board requires evidence from each applicant that lie will be in a position to ‘ resell motor spirit, i.e., that his station is equipped properly and that he will be able to obtain supplies of motor spirit in bulk for purpose of resale. By making this stipulation the board then knows that every licence which it issues will be an effective one and that every licence holder must send in regular monthly stock and sales returns.
Subject to this provision, however, the Liquid Fuel Board will issue a licence to every applicant and in dealing with applications it already has a full liaison with the oil industry. The attitude of Liquid Fuel Boards is quite clear and frank in this matter and if oil companies are acting towards applicants as stated by the honorable member, then it is clearly an attempt “ to play the applicant off”.
Following earlier representations by honorable members concerning the position of exservicemen who desire to enter the reselling business, the oil industry was asked to define its attitude clearly. The reply then received from the industry is to the effect that -
It will do everything possible to facilitate the transfer of existing licences where an ex-serviceman desires to enter the reselling business at an existing location by purchase or otherwise of an existing reseller station.
Where an ex-serviceman desires to enter the reselling business by opening a station at a new location the industry will thoroughly examine the case and if it is satisfied that additional facilities in the proposed area are warranted and that the ex-serviceman concerned- is likely to bc able to make- a reasonable living in the selected location, the industry will be prepared to assist him by making pumping equipment and bulk supplies available to. him.
The Government’ has no power to compel the oil companies to make equipment or bulk supplies of motor spirit available to any applicant, this being a matter within the sole control of the industry itself.
Local Government Loans.
y. - In reply to questions addressed to me on the 24th April, by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) and on the 29th April, by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) regarding the financing of semigovernmental loans in New York, I intimated that I would supply full infor- mahon on the matter. I now wish to inform the honorable members that in view of the suggestion in some quarters that there has been bad faith on the part of the Commonwealth in connexion with negotiations for a loan which the Brisbane City Council wishes to raise in New York, it seems desirable that I should make the following facts available to the House :-
It should first be stated that three authorities are concerned in imminent refinancing operations in New York. The Commonwealth, for itself and certain States, is at present engaged in negotiations for a loan contemplated to be raised next June; the Brisbane City Council has in view the raising of a loan to refinance an issue for which it has an option of redemption on 1st September; and the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, Sydney, wishes to arrange for the refinancing of a loan which can be paid off on 1st October next. The latter body, the Sydney Water Board, also intends to raise a loan in Australia, and contemplates issuing a public loan for which a period has been allotted in May-June, but this is purely an internal operation, and is not connected in any way with its New York business.
It is important to note the dates on which the New York operations would have to take place. The Commonwealth loan is, as I have said, contemplated for June. The Brisbane City Council would have to raise its money in July, and the Sydney Water Board in August. This is due to the conditions under which the current loans may be redeemed if it is desired to pay them off before the dates of maturity. This background will make what follows- more readily understandable.
In January of this year, I, as Chairman of the Loan Council received letters from the Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland asking, for Loan Council -approval for’ the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board and. the .Brisbane City Council respectively to negotiate in New York for the refinancing of loans in respect of -which they had, and shortly would have, options .of redemption.
I replied to both Premiers on 21st January, 1947, stating that I preferred to defer sub- ‘ mission of the proposals to the other members of the Loan Council until more definite information was available regarding probable terms of the loans. I said that, in the meantime, I (as Chairman of the Loan Council) had no objection to the opening of preliminary negotiations by the bodies concerned for the raising of the -new loans and ‘to the commencement of the preparation of the Registration’ Statemen t and other documents which had to be compiled in respect of operations of this kind. My advice concerning the opening of negotiations was based on the procedure adopted in the case of the Sydney County . Council which went on the New York market immediately after the Commonwealth refinancing loan was raised in December, 1948. The ‘Sydney County Council was permitted to commence negotiations before the negotiations for . the Commonwealth issue -were concluded as it was thought at the time that the presence of -the Sydney County Council in..the market would not harm the Commonwealth loan.
This view later proved to be mistaken. We were advised by the Consul-General at New York in February last that -the Sydney County Council loan had affected the Commonwealth 45,000,000 dollar Issue and the Consul-General recommended with -the concurrence of the underwriters that no representatives ‘be permitted to discuss refinancing in New York of semi-governmental loans until the Commonwealth had completed- -the raising of the loan it was contemplating next June to -refinance the Commonwealth 5 per cent. 1057 loan, in respect of which it had arl option of redemption.
The Chairman of the Sydney Water Board and the Lord Mayor of Brisbane were apprised of this advice from the Consul-General but it transpired that the Lord Mayor of Brisbane had made arrangements to go to the United States of America and we were told -that these arrangements ‘ could not be altered. I ‘ also informed the Premier of .Queensland by telegram of the Consul-General’s advice and suggested that it would bc wise for the Brisbane City Council to defer any further action pending developments. Later, I received another cablegram ‘ from the .Consul-General emphasizing the bad effect it would have on the Commonwealth operation if the Brisbane City Council ‘ was allowed to negotiate for a refinancing loan in July, and this information was also passed to the Premier of Queensland.
It should be stated here that the Loan Council’s view is that ‘in refinancing operations in New York, semi-governmental loans should not .bc approved ‘if they would interfere with the successful refinancing of Commonwealth or State Government loans. None of these loans has yet been approved by the Loan Council ‘ -md I told [the Premier of Queensland early in
April .that, in view -of the decided opinion of our. -underwriters and agents in New York 1 was not prepared to support the Brisbane City Council’s proposal,’ involving a New York loan in July.
As regards the Sydney Water Board loan the fact is .that, in this case, the New York market will not have to be approached until August, and .negotiations for terms will not be commenced until, the Commonwealth issue has been completed, This will not clash with the Commonwealth loan. The Water Board representative who will negotiate terms will not arrive in New York until after the Commonwealth loan has been raised. ‘
There has been no preference accorded the Sydney Water Board or discrimination shown against the -Brisbane City Council. The whole -matter is governed by the dates on which options of repaying the New. York loans may be exercised, and by the Loan Council view that governmental issues must take precedence. It so happens that a refinancing loan, by the Brisbane City Council in July, would conflict with a Commonwealth operation while a similar operation by the Sydney Water Board in August would not.
In addition to the loan referred to, the Brisbane City Council has two small loans in New York over which options -will be -available on’ the 1st December and 1st February. The Australian Consul-General has recommended that, the best course for the Brisbane City Council to take would be to do one operation - in October covering the three loans. This advice was .also passed on to the Premier of Queensland and the Brisbane City Council.
Before he left this country, the -Lord Mayor of Brisbane was informed that the Commonwealth was not prepared to agree to the floating of local government loans in New York -until arrangements had been completed for the Commonwealth refinancing operation in that market. The Commonwealth has stood firm in this attitude which is based on the very definite views expressed by our advisers in New York.
Food fob BRITAIN Loading of “ Obion “ ; Parcels.
– On the 18th April, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) asked a question concerning the loading- of SS. Orton-. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
It is a fact that Orion left Melbourne with a .quantity of its cargo undershipped A considerable amount of the short shipment was due to the occurrence of ° rain for approximately 18$ hours which prevented loading from proceeding. The stop-work meeting which was held in Melbourne was for the purpose of discussing the attitude of the waterside workers towards the transport position. The -meeting affirmed the attitude of the Australasian Council* of Trade Unions that emergency transport should be used and as a result the Waterside workers in the. Port of
Melbourne have continued to work ships.I might add that the Commonwealth Government has no control over British or other overseas vessels, but in view of the interest which has been displayed by honorable members in regard to the loading of the Orion I am endeavouring to secure a statement on the subject and when this is available replies will be furnished to other honorable members who have raised this matter in the House recently.
n. - On the 26th March, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked a question concerning alleged damage by rats to food parcels on wharfs and in ships. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
Inquiries into this matter have been made in an endeavour to secure confirmation of the report that food parcels have been damaged on wharfs and in ships by rats. The Overseas Shipping Representatives Association has no knowledge of any complaints that food parcels for Britain have been damaged by rats either on wharfs or in ships. Adequate measures for the control ofrats are regularly carried out both on wharfs and in ships, but if anyspecific instances of damage can be quoted further investigations could be made into the circumstances of such particular cases.
Shipping : Hold-up of Cargoes.
– On the 23rd April, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked a question concerning the hold-up of shipping cargoes. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
At the present time the back lag of general cargo - that is, cargo awaiting shipment, for which no tonnage has yet been allotted is as follows: - Melbourne, 44,000 tons; Sydney, 52.000 tons: Adelaide, 28,700 tons; total, 124,700 tons. The bulk of this back lag centres on Sydney there being 43,700 tons waiting tocome from Victoria and South Australia into that port whilst 52,000 tons is awaiting shipment from Sydney to other States. In addition to the foregoing general cargo there are also accumulations of steel and steel products at Port Kembla and Newcastle awaiting shipment interstate, the current unallotted total being approximately 25,000 tons. Bo far as concerns Western Australia the present unallotted cargo comprises from Adelaide 800 tons, from, Melbourne 10,500 tons, from Sydney 8000 tons, from Kembla 8,000 tons, from Newcastle 6,000 tons, total 33,300 tons. The Australian Shipping. Board, following the settlement of the Sydney waterfront dispute and the re-arrangement of tonnage, has been able to allot the following vessels for Western Australia and these are expected to give a material clearance of the present accumulations for that State.
RiverFitzroy - to load at Newcastle, Sydney, Hobart and Adelaide for Western Australia, commencing at Newcastle at the end of this week.
Allara- to load at Newcastle, Sydney, and Melbourne for Western Australia, commencing next week.
River Loddon - to load fully from Adelaide to Western Australia commencing next week.
Koorimga - to Load fully from Adelaide to Western Australia, commencing next week.
Duntroon - to load Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide for Western Australia leaving Sydney 16th May.
As against the cargo which has to be shipped around the Australian coast the Australian Shipping Board has at its disposal the following tonnage for interstate trade : -
Requisitioned vessels, 88 (total tonnage. 350,000 dead weight) ;
Commonwealth-owned vessels, 20 (total tonnage, 145,000 dead weight) ;
Commonwealth-chartered ships, 18 (total tonnage, 180,000 dead weight) ;
Total number of vessels, 126 (total ton nage, 675,000 dead weight).
The Australian Shipping Board has made every endeavour to obtain additional vessels by charter to carry out the very heavy commitments which are involved inmoving essential supplies on the Australian coast with particular reference to the carriage of wheat for the eastern States. The board has recently been successful in negotiating for the charter of six additional vessels from Williamson and Company, Hong Kong. The first of these ships has already been taken over by the board and is included in the total of Commonwealthchartered ships mentioned above. The second vessel is now on route to Australia and the remaining four are expected within the next two or three months. During the post two weeks the total accumulation of general cargoes has been reduced by some 20,000 tons and it is hoped that with the additional vessels which are now coming forward and the alleviation from the labour position in Sydney which will result in the admission of 500 more members in. the Waterside Workers Federation, continued improvement in the position will result.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470501_reps_18_191/>.