18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the Housie, Bt its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Ban on Dutch Ships - Formation op Trading Company.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether the Dutch and Indonesian administrations in the Netherlands East Indies have said that they would appreciate the use by the Australian Government of ils “good offices” with a view to ending the ban by Australian waterside workers on the loading of Dutch ships in Australian ports. If they have, does the Government intend to accede to their request? If it does, what, form will its “good offices” take? In view of the fact that, for nearly two years, the Waterside .”Workers Federation has dictated what trading and other relations shall exist between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Netherlands East Indies-
– Order 1 The honorable member may not debate the matter.
– I do not propose to debate it. “ Will the Minister state whether the intention is that any resumption of trade and of friendly relations between the two countries shall continue to be subject to the future approval or disapproval of the Waterside .Workers Federation ?
– The answers are- to the first question “Yes”, to the second question “ Yes “, and to the third question “ No “.
– Last week the AttorneyGeneral said that certain allegations concerning a Communist trade organization in Indonesia were a part of an elaborate hoax. Has he since had an’ opportunity to carry his inquiries further, and, if so. has the opinion he expressed last week been confirmed? What action does he propose to take against persons who were parties to the hoax?
– Since I made a statement on this subject last week the matter has been inquired into by security and investigation officers of the Commonwealth, and everything that they have discovered so far confirms the view which I expressed. At a later date I hope to give to honorable members a summary of the report received from the departmental officers.
– I have been advised that florists’ wire of 23 gauge in 3-in. lengths is unprocurable in South Australia. This wire is used to tie the canes of vines. Can the Minister for Works and Housing state what are the prospects of supplies being made available in that State?
– This is known as manufacturers’ wire. An allocation of steel rods is made, covering many classes of small wire that are used in different industries. The distribution of this wire is not controlled by either the Commonwealth or the States, that matter being left to negotiation between the customer and the merchant. However, in view of the urgency of the matter, if the honorable member will let me have particulars I shall see what help I can give.
Darwin Service - Qantas Empire AIRWAYS
– In view of con.flicting press reports regarding the air services between Melbourne and Darwin controlled by Trans Australian Airlines, can the Minister acting for the Minister for Air say whether there is any truth in the report that a variation of route is contemplated, and will he take steps to protect the rights of Adelaide as a terminal, or at least a place of call for aircraft travelling to and from Darwin ?
– The question of air routes throughout Australia is constantly under review by Australian National Airlines Commission and the Government, but I do not know that any defi nite action has been taken in regard to the services linking Darwin with other parts of the Commonwealth. As the chairman of the commission is now in Canberra I shall discuss with him whether there is any substance in the press reports to which the honorable member has referred.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the press statement is correct that the Commonwealth Government is acquiring the remaining privately held shares in Qantas Empire Airways? Does this mean that the Government proposes to embark on a series of new overseas air services ? If so, what are the details of its proposals?
– The Government considers that it is desirable to acquire the interests of private shareholders in Qantas Empire Airways.
– More socialism !
– This principle has been adopted by the Governments of the United Kingdom and New Zealand. As honorable members know, the British Overseas Airways Corporation is conducted on that principle. All I am able to tell the honorable member at the moment is that the Government has made this decision, and negotiations are now proceeding with the representative of the private shareholders in Qantas Empire Airways for the acquisition of their interests.
– Is it a fact that neither the Parliament nor the Attorney-General has the power to re-instate a temporary Commonwealth public servant who has been dismissed by the Public Service Board, even after a most searching departmental inquiry has proved up to the hilt that his dismissal was not justified? If so, will the Attorney-General inform the House for how long the Public Service Board has been clothed with such plenary powers?
– The services of temporary officers of the Commonwealth Public Service may be terminated by the Public Service Board at any time. Such a person does not enjoy the rights of a permanent officer. As to the other part of the honorable member’s question, I shall ascertain the facts and supply him with an answer later.
– Oan the AttorneyGeneral say whether appointments have been made to the Stevedoring Industry Commission under the legislation recently passed by this Parliament?
– Although the Stevedoring Industry Bill has been assented to, it is not yet in operation. A large amount of organizing work must be done before the act can become operative. The most important appointment is that of chairman of the commission, who must be either a judge of the Arbitration Court or a conciliation commissioner. No appointment of chairman will he made until effect is given to the new arrangement authorized by the recent legislation which amended the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That work will take some time.
reconstruction training scheme - Land .Settlement of ex-Servicemen.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say what is the total number of ex-service men and women who have so far applied for reconstruction training benefits? What is the estimated cost per head of a full-time professional course, a full-time trade course, and a full-time rural course? How many persons are expected to apply for training under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme? What is the estimated total cost of the training scheme to the Commonwealth? Has the Minister any evidence that ex-service men and women are highly satisfied with the reconstruction training scheme?
– The total number of ex-service men and women who have so far applied for reconstruction training is 275,000 and the estimated number who will apply for training is 315,000. The estimated cost per head for a full professional course is £1,225. While that is the average cost, it may be that the cost for a married man doing a long course such as medicine, will be £2.000 The average cost per head of technical courses is £1,060. The cost of a fulltime trade course is £549, and of a full time rural course £820. The total estimated cost of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, when completed, is about £80,000,000. I have considerable evidence that many reconstruction trainees are highly satisfied with the scheme as it is. I have in my possession a letter, typical of many which I have received, which shows that to be the case. I propose to read this letter-
– I rise to order. The Minister knows that a deputation is here in this building to interview him on this very subject.
-What is the point of order ?
– The Minister has had this question framed.
– That is not a point of order.
– The letter is from an ex-serviceman in Melbourne-
– I rise to order, ls the Minister entitled to read a letter addressed to him on this subject when the question asked by the honorable member for Hume contained no request that he should do so? Moreover, since the letter might contain matter which would be seriously contested by members of the Opposition, and would therefore be controversial-
– The honorable member for Hume asked the Minister whether he had any evidence of dissatisfaction with the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. The Minister has now produced a letter proving that there exists satisfaction.
– The Minister was asked whether there was any dissatisfaction, and he now proposes to produce evidence of satisfaction.
– The point can be settled by asking the honorable member for Hume to repeat the last part of his question.
– It reads - “Has the Minister any evidence that ex-service men and women are highly satisfied with the reconstruction training scheme”?
– I rise to order. I understood that the question was whether there was any evidence of dissatisfaction.
– Order ! The honorable member for Parramatta clearly has been misleading himself.
– I am proceeding with a point of order.
– Is it based on what the honorable member has already said?
– It is based on the fact that the answer to the question is plainly “ Yes “, and no more. A letter giving so-called support to that answer is not a proper part of the answer ; but is merely propaganda.
– That is a matter for the Chair to decide.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether a letter quoted by a Minister becomes the property of this House and must be laid on the table of the House.
– I do not think the Minister would have any objection to that course being taken, provided the letter is not confidential.
– The letter is confidential.
– My point of order is that a letter quoted by a Minister in this House, if called for, must become a public document and be laid on the table. I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether a Minister or a member may read a letter and then refuse to lay it on the table of the House.
– The honorable member for Reid is wrong in saying that if a Minister quotes a letter in this chamber, it must be laid on the table. If the Minister claims that it is a confidential document he need not lay it on the table.
– The letter reads as follows : -
Mr. J. Dedman,
Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Canberra.
Ex-servicemen in Melbourne have been asked by a trainees’ association to write to you asking for increased benefits, so I shall take the opportunity of writing to you, not to complain about existing benefits, but to compliment you, both on your own work, and the work of your Government on behalf of ex-service men and women.
The willingness to co-operate with trainees is daily shown here in Melbourne by a competent staff and such willingness only reflects your own desire to further the interests of exservicemen.
As far as living allowances are concerned,I have been managing quite well on the single man’s allowance and it was only after giving the matter a lot of thought, that I decided that, although the allowance might mean some minor curtailments, the benefits to be derived far outweigh any minor disadvantages. We can hardly expect to be able to save on money which is, after all, only a living allowance.
I am convinced that the objections come from a section, which is always ready to gain popularity by promising the world, however, 1 think most “ rehab “ trainees realize that they are getting a better deal from you and your department than they would receive under any other government.
I sincerely hope that you are able to keep up the good work for many years to come.
I shall not state the name of the writer, but if the Leader of the Opposition thinks that there is something peculiar about the letter, I shall show it to him confidentially. I naturally do not wish to embarrass the writer. This letter is typical of many I have received indicating that a very large number of reconstruction trainees are highly satisfied with the benefits that they are receiving.
– I rise to order. I ask that this document which the Minister has read be laid on the table of the House. Standing Order 317 reads as follows : -
A document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature or such as should more properly be obtained by address, may be called for and made a public document.
– I have already ruled that the letter may be called for unless it is confidential.
– I ask that the document be tabled.
– It is a confidential letter, Mr. Speaker.
– I ask for leave to make a short reply to a question which the honorable member for Moreton asked relating to the land settlement of exservicemen in Queensland.
– Is leave granted?
Opposition Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction able to supply information as to the present position in regard to the operation of the Commonwealth scheme for the land settlement of ex-servicemen in Queensland?
– I am glad that the honorable member has asked this question. Naturally, I have the information, since it was prepared with a view to answering a question on the subject that had been asked by the honorable member for Moreton; but, unfortunately, the Opposition refused me leave to supply it. In Queensland, 105,030 acres has been formally submitted by the State to the Commonwealth Government. Of that area, 81,778 acres has been approved by the Commonwealth as suitable for land settlement, and 23,000 acres has been approved for sub-division. Some of the holdings have been allotted, and others are being advertised, applications for which will close on the 3rd June next. In addition, under the conditions of the Reestablishment and Employment Act, 131 exservicemen have been assisted to acquire properties by means of agricultural loans of up to £1,000.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to an article in last night’s issue of the Melbourne Herald headed “ Pay Rise Slated by Tasmanian Unions - Stiff Letter to Chifley “, the introductory paragraphs of which read as follows: -
A protest against the proposed increase in salaries for members of the Federal Parliament has been sent to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) by the Hobart Trades and Labour Council.
The Ballarat Trades Hall Council last Thursday condemned the “ politicians’ attitude “ on their own salaries as inconsistent.
The Hobart protest points out the policy of the Federal Government has been to “keep wages down to prevent intiation”?
Has the right honorable gentleman received such a protest, and what does ho intend to do in connexion with the proposal for the increase of members’ allowances recently approved by caucus?
– I have not read the article to which the honorable member has referred. It has been mentioned to me, however, that a motion in somewhat similar terms was carried by the Hobart Trades and Labour Council. I have also received other protests. The honorable member asks me what I propose to do. I propose to introduce a bill into the Parliament, either late this week or next week, to give effect to the Labour party’s decision in regard to this matter.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether arrangements can be made for the division bells to ring for a longer period. Five important members of this House have rooms opening off a corridor at the extreme end of this building, and the ringing of the division bells is of insufficient duration to enable them to get to this chamber in time to take part in divisions.
– I was not aware of the circumstances related by the honorable member, but I shall have the matter inquired into.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that a number of prosecutions are pending against small traders for nominal breaches of the law on the information of officers of the Prices Branch? In view of the costly legal representation of the branch in respect of such prosecutions, and the nominal penalties imposed, does not the right honorable gentleman consider that in view of the fact that many of the offenders do not intentionally break the law, a warning would meet many of these cases? Are any prosecutions pending on the reports of the recently dismissed officers of the Prices Branch?
– With regard to tha more general question, I do not know of any particular group of prosecutions that are pending. I have no doubt the mim-, ber is great. Many thousands of prosecutions have been launched since prices control came into existence. There has been a continual stream of such cases going through the courts. The Government receives complaints of two kinds, one that the penalties are excessive and the other that the penalties are inadequate. Penalties, however, are determined by the magistrates. As to the latter part of the honorable member’s question, 1 am not aware of any prosecutions which are pending as the result of reports of officers recently dismissed from the Prices Branch.
– Yes, there are. Some of those dismissed will give evidence.
– That may be so. I shall look into the matter and supply an answer to the honorable member.
Proposed New State Coal Authority - Report of Professor Jones
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping what information is available to the Government concerning the report that the New South Wales Government proposes to set up a new coal authority independent of the Joint Coal Board to control State-owned coal-mines. What is the attitude of the Commonwealth Government to such a proposal?
– I have not any official information on this matter. 1 shall endeavour to obtain full particulars and will supply them to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– It has been reported in the press that Professor Jones, a distinguished Welsh scientist and mining engineer, who recently visited Australia at the request of the Government and has since left for New Zealand, intimated that he had submitted a report to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. If so, will hisreport be laid on the table of the House or be made available to honorable members who are interested? As I accompanied Professor Jones when he inspected the underground operations of a number of mines in Queensland,I am anxious to know the result of his investigation.
– I have not yet seen the report to which the honorable member has referred. When I have given it consideration I may make a short statement next week if the House will grant me leave to do so.
Shortage of Cane Knives
– Recently the honor able member for Moreton asked a question concerning the supply of cane knives for the sugar industry in Queensland. A substantial portion of the industry in that State is located in the Herbert electorate, and producers there are consequently vitally concerned about the supply of cane knives for the harvesting of the 1947 crop. As the Minister was refused leave to make a statement to the House on this subject, I now ask him whether he will supply to the House any information that he may have in his possession regarding this important matter.
– I commend the honorable member for his interest in this matter, which is of vital concern to the cane-growers of his electorate. Following allegations of a shortage of cane knives in Queensland, I had some inquiries made and a firm in that State, Cane-growers Cash Stores Proprietary Limited, was good enough to furnish me with some particulars. These are of interest to the honorable member’s constituents, and doubtless to cane-growers in other parts of Queensland, and are to the effect that the firm is in a position this year to supply between 250 dozen and 300 dozen cane knives in the area served by the firm. If growers from other areas have applied to the honorable member for cane knives, the firm will be happy to assist him by making knives available at their landed cost price.
British Subjects in India.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that about 80,000 British subjects are expected to leave India during the next eighteen months? As most of these persons are highly experienced officials, some of whom are intimately acquainted with irrigation work, and as others are fairly young soldiers, who will have substantial pensions, has the Minister considered trying to attract them to Australia as immigrants? If not, will he communicate with the High Commissioner for Australia in India in order to ascertain whether numbers of these men can be obtained as Australian immigrants? Shipping difficulties should not be so great this year as they have been up to date. Moreover, the distance is shorter that from Great Britain.
– I assure the right honorable gentleman that the Government has done its utmost to attract British subjects in India to Australia. Unfortunately, shipping is the bottleneck. The most that we can hope for at present is an allocation of 28 berths a month from India, and 4,000 people in that country, including 1,000 Australians, are anxious to come to this country at the earliest possible moment. The situation in India is grave, and many thousands of people desire to leave there very much earlier than eighteen months hence. Some of them are being evacuated from India to Great Britain, but unfortunately the Australian High Commissioner advised us by cable on Friday last that the British Government is not able to give us any ships at all to bring British subjects, including Australians, from India to Australia.We are now considering arrangements from this end for the evacuation of all those people to Australia. We have taken prompt action, and I hope that there will be not 4,000 but several times 4,000 British subjects from India eventually settled in this country. I am in agreement with the right honorable gentleman’s approach to this question. He may rest assured that the Commonwealth Government is doing its utmost to bring people from India to Australia.
Victorian Metal Trades Dispute
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether any difficulties have arisen to delay the hearing by the Arbitration Court of the claims of the Amalgamated Engineering Union that were agreed to in the settlement of the recent metal trades dispute. If so, is the delay the result of the prolonged hearing of the 40-hour week claims, which are still before the court?
– No difficulty has arisen, but there has been a little delay in fitting the case into the Arbitration Court’s list. The Acting Chief Judge, Judge Drake-Brockman, promised that he would hear the claims as soon as possible. The trouble is that both the 40- hour week claim and that of the Amalgamated Engineering Union have to be heard by the Full Bench. So both cannot be heard at once. This morning I received a message that satisfactorily clears up the situation. The Acting Chief Judge stated in the court this morning that the evidence in the 40-hour week case would end this week and that that matter would then be adjourned for a fortnight.
– Is not this sub judice?
– It was made public this morning by the Acting Chief Judge.
– But I think it is sub judice.
– But it was made public by the Acting Chief Judge. I have been armed with the information.
– It is no less sub judice than were the pleadings in the other case.
– I will not take any notice of the right honorable gentleman. I think he is joking. The Acting Chief Judge gave an assurance that the claims of the Amalgamated Engineering Union would be heard during the adjournment for a fortnight of the 40-hour week case. I have no doubt that when His Honour gave that promise to the parties to the metal trades dispute he meant to honour it as soon as possible. His statement this morning makes that clear.
Wheat and Linseed
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of the acute shortage of linseed in this country? Is India prepared to supply us with linseed only on condition that Australia sells wheat to it at the same concessional rates as applied in the recent sale of wheat by the Australian Government to New Zealand? Is any agreement on wheat sales to India contemplated by the Australian Government? If so, what are the terms of the agreement? What price will Australia have to pay for Indian linseed, and how will such price compare with the price in 1939? In view of the most-favoured nation clause of the proposed charter of the International Trade Organization, will Australia not be compelled to sell its wheat, for the next three years, at the same concessional prices as were afforded New Zealand to not only India but also the other eighteen nations covered by the clause?
– I am aware of the acute shortage of linseed oil in Australia. The Indian Government has not made the sale of linseed oil to Australia contingent upon our supplying it with wheat. No such threat has been made by that Government. In regard to supplies of wheat to India, that is a matter under the control of the Australian “Wheat Board, and will continue to be controlled by that body except in the making of deals between governments where a matter of government policy is involved. The supply and price of wheat to any country in the world other than New Zealand will also be a matter for determination by the Government, should it arise.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Social Services satisfied that everything possible is being done in respect of the care and treatment of children suffering from tuberculosis? By way of explanation, I desire to mention details of the case of a girl of six years of age who suffers from tuberculosis who is compelled to live with her parents in one room in a two-storey apartment house. A younger child, aged two and a half years, has been removed to an institution to prevent her becoming infected. The father of these children is an ex-servicemanwho has not yet been provided with a home. The child aged six years, who suffers from tuberculosis, sleeps in a bed with her parents. She cannot attend kindergarten or school because of risk of infection to other children. The child’s father works night-shift one week in three, and because he has to have his rest during the daytime in every third week the mother is forced to walk the streets with the sick child for some hours every day. I am informed that there is no place where this child could receive the treatment needed. As the State has not provided the treatment urgently required in such cases, can the Minister say what authority does accept the responsibility of doing something?
– I would say that no member of this House is satisfied that enough has been done for the treatment and care of sufferers from tuberculosis. Until a few months ago, when this Government brought in a Tuberculosis Bill designed to control this terrible disease and to afford treatment to unfortunate sufferers, nothing at all had been done. This matter is constantly receiving the consideration of the Government, and only last weekthe Minister for Health raised the matter at a conference of State Ministers of Health in Melbourne. Members of that conference agreed that the position should be reviewed every six months, and it was decided that such a review should take place in July next, when the matter of more adequate treatment for sufferers and more generous provision for their dependants will receive consideration.
Drought Relief - Butter
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a published report that the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, made it plain to the dairying authority in Queensland, the Queensland Dairymen’s Association, that any further drought relief to dairy-farmers in that State would have to come from the Commonwealth? Has the Premier of Queensland made application for Commonwealth assistance in compliance with the conditions conveyed to him by the Prime Minister in a recent communication, wherein the Prime Minister set out the conditions to be fulfilled and the amounts which had already been granted to other States?
– I cannot remember any such proposal having been made lately by the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon. However, he did intimate that he thought that some drought relief should be made available in the circumstances which the honorable member has just mentioned. A communication was sent to him informing him of the arrangements made with the government of New South Wales. An intimation was also given that the Government would consider any similar proposal which he cared to make. I do not remember having received any communication on the subject during the last week.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to the report in yesterday’s Melbourne Age that a speaker at a meeting of the Victorian division of the Australian Institute of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries had stated that sales of cream for table use in Australia lowered butter production by 13,400 tons annually? If so, will he state whether this possibility was taken into account before the ban on the sale of cream for local consumption was lifted? If the statement is correct, will he give further consideration to the matter, with a view to the allocation of butter to Great Britain being increased by 13,400 tons annually ?
– I have not seen the Melbourne press statement regarding the amount of cream which would be available in the form of butter if the ban were reimposed. I shall take the honorable member’s question into consideration, and ascertain if any further action can be taken.
– I lay on the table the following papers : -
International Trade Negotiations - Tariff Requests and Preferences - Schedules showing additional items in the Australian Tariff the subject of current international trade negotiations.
These papers comprise a list of additional items in the Australian tariff on which other countries are asking Australia to negotiate; a further list of items on which Australia receives preference in British markets and which may be affected by the negotiations; a further list of items in respect of which Australia proposes to seek tariff concessions from other countries; and a further list of items which are of interest to Australia from the point of view of export trade and on which any country in the negotiating group has made requests for tariff concessions on one or more countries, other than Australia, within the group. Any reductions of tariff so obtained will automatically be applied to the produce of Australia.
Borrowings from Commonwealth Bank by Staff - Building Materials.
– I ask the Treasurer whether officials of the Commonwealth Bank may borrow money from that institution at a very low rate of interest for the purpose of home building.
– Officials of the Commonwealth Bank have the same rights as other citizens, but I am not aware that they enjoy special privileges in the form of low rates of interest. I shall ascertain the facts and supply them to the honorable member.
-Will the Minister for Works and Housing inform me whether it is a fact that the Government of New South Wales allocates 80 per cent. of available building materials in that State to dwellings which are being erected under the New South Wales Housing Commission’s scheme? Are any building materials in New South Wales made available to the Commonwealth Government for the erection of war service homes? If not, will the Minister confer with the State Government with the object of obtaining some of the available building materials for war service homes?
– The allocation of building materials, not only in New South Wales, but also in nearly every other State, has caused the Commonwealth Government considerable concern. Some time ago, through the Prime Minister, we began negotiations with the States, requesting a specific allocation of building materials for war service homes. The States have given evidence of a mild form of co-operation inasmuch as they promise to make available to us certain quantities of materials. However, when we endeavour to obtain them, the States always offer some reason why deliveries should be made the following week. This has considerably delayed the Commonwealth’s endeavours to construct a larger number of war service homes. Recently the Government of New South Wales indicated that its present system for the allocation of building materials was on a coupon basis. Each coupon was presumed to represent sufficient materials for one home. As from the 1st March last, the Commonwealth has been allocated approximately 400 coupons. We have not yet found whether this system is successful. However, we are no longer prepared to continue to negotiate with the Premiers of the States, and we propose to submit to the Parliament a bill to amend the War Service Homes Act, which derives its constitutional powers from the Defence Act. This legislation will empower us to acquire, within any State, sufficient materials to build what we consider is a reasonable number of homes for ex-servicemen.
– I ask the Prime Minister to state whether, under the charter of the International Trade Organization, if any bi-lateral treaty is made between countries which are within the framework of the organization, any other nation which is a member of the organization is at liberty, if it so desires, to take advantage of its terms; in other words, there can be no favoured-nation treatment as between one nation and another, but all the nations within the organization are entitled to claim the same treatment. Does not that principle apply also to block sales of commodities by one government to another, and consequently, there can be no favourednation treatment between governments? If so, does not the sale of Australian wheat at concessional rates to the Government of New Zealand bind the Australian Government in the future, for as long as it continues to be a member of the International Trade Organization, to sell Australian wheat to all the signatory nations at the price charged to the New Zealand Government if they so desire ?
– The earlier portion of the question would require a fairly lengthy explanation. If the honorable member will place it on the notice-paper, [ shall furnish in full the details of the position. This is the first that I have heard of such a proposition as that the price at which Australian wheat may be sold to other countries is conditional upon the price at which it is being sold to the Government of New Zealand.
– It will not be the last occasion on which the right honorable gentleman will hear the proposition put.
– In my opinion, it has absolutely no substance.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the reports that were published in the Melbourne newspapers yesterday, relating to a bonfire called “ Victory Torch “ which burned at Balwyn Victoria throughout last Saturday night? Has the right honorable gentleman noticed the statement that between 100 and 200 tons of waste timber was burned? In view of the fact that other days of celebration are to be held and that, in the ensuing winter months, many aged and infirm pensioners, because of inadequate shelter, will be exposed to sickness and suffering, by reason of low temperatures, will the right honorable gentleman prevent future waste of fuel of this description in the enthusiasm of national celebrations?
– I have not seen the reports to which the honorable member has referred, but I did see a statement about a bonfire having been lighted by the Governor-General by remote electrical control. I am not aware of the clrcumstances, or of the quantity of timber that was burned in the bonfire. The Commonwealth Government has no power to prevent people from having bonfires for patriotic purposes if they so desire. However, I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know what the position is.
– In the absence of the Minister for External Territories, I address a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in regard to the price of copra exported from New Guinea, where the planters are experiencing considerable difficulty in rehabilitating themselves on account of labour shortages and other hardships. Copra exported from Fiji realizes £33 7s. 6d. a ton, from Ceylon £46 15s. a ton, and from the Philippines £70 a ton, whereas the Commonwealth Government permits New Guinea planters to receive only £20 a ton, although in most instances their costs are higher. Can the Minister explain why they are not allowed to obtain world parity price? Who is profiting from the difference? Is it the Government?
– I am aware, of course, that planters in New Guinea are having some difficulty in resuming their pre-war activities. Doubtless, they are not finding it easy to persuade the natives to work for the remuneration which they formerly received. The honorable gentleman must be aware that the Australian Government cannot control the prices of the products ofFiji. On the other hand, it has some control over the prices that may be charged for the products of the islands which come under its jurisdiction. I am confident that the Australian Prices Commissioner, who is responsible to the consuming public of Australia and at the same time is required to deal fairly with the planters of New Guinea, has fixed the price of copra after taking every factor into consideration. I do not doubt that, if the New Guinea planters can prove to him that there is justification for an increase of the price that he has fixed, their representations will receive every consideration.
– Is it likely that the Minister for External Affairs will make a statement in the near future concerning the negotiations in connexion with Manus Island ?
– I have referred to the visit to Washington of the American Ambassador in. Australia. One of the matters with which he has been dealing is the possibility of making an arrangement covering that portion of Australian trusteeship territory. Subject to his permission being given, I hope to make a statement to the House as soon as he returns.
– Can the Minister for
External Affairs say whether preliminary discussions by members of the British Commonwealth of Nations are proposed prior to the signing of the peace treaty with Japan and, if so, where they will be held? Has the Commonwealth Government officially represented that the preliminary discussions and the signing of the peace treaty should take place at Canberra ?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ Yes “. Some months ago Australia suggested that preliminary talks should be held between the representatives of Empire countries, including India. The place where the discussions will take place has not yet been determined, but we hope that it will be somewhere in the Pacific, possibly in Australia.
– Is it true that Mr. Ernest Thornton, of the Ironworkers Union, who is a prominent Communist, is to go abroad again to attend a meeting of the executive of the World Federation of Trade Unions and, if so, will his expenses be paid by the Commonwealth Government? If not, what organizations will pay the expenses of this gentleman who professes to represent Australian unionists ?
– I have no official knowledge of the matter referred to by the honorable member, but I understand that Mr. Monk, the secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, who was to represent thatbody at a World Federation of Trade Unions at Prague was unable to go, and that his deputy, Mr. Thornton, who I presume was appointed in Mr. Monk’s stead by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, will attend as a representative of that body. His expenses will not be paid by the Commonwealth Government which has played no part in his appointment to attend the conference at Prague.
Austral Bronze Company Proprietary Limited : Industrial Dispute
– Last week I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service a question relating to a strike at the works of Austral Bronze Company
Proprietary Limited which was reported to have retarded the production of copper sheets and bus-bar. Have inquiries been made, and can the Minister say what has been done or can be done to settle the strike ?
– Negotiations have been proceeding ever since this matter was raised by the honorable gentleman last week, and yesterday a conference was held in Sydney at which I believe a satisfactory agreement was arrived at. The parties are now discussing a resumption of work.
– I have received from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The circumstances attending the removal of Mr. Lush, the delegate to the Treasurer for the State of New South Wales, and the charges subsequently made by him against the administration.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen insupport of the motion,
– I do not propose to address myself at any great length to this matter because the real purpose of the subject associated with the motion is to emphasize the urgent importance of having some authoritative public investigation of the charges which have arisen during the last few days. From time to time in the course of debate in this House references have been made to land sales control and the administration has been criticized. Land sales control is obviously a branch of administration which is most important as it has a distinct bearing upon the normal conduct of business in Australia. Like many other war-time activities, this control was established during the war, and in addition to being a matter of great importance is of the kind which lends itself to errors of administration and, in. some circumstances, tomaladministration. Every honorable member has heard all sorts of rumorsabout temporary departments exercising controls. Whispersare circulated, but for the most part honorablemembers pay little attention to them. But we now havebrought prominently to the public mind aparticular department and a series of particular allegations made by a responsible administrator. On the l5th May, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in answer to a question by the honorable member for Swan. (Mr. Hamilton)in relation to certain transactions that had been referred to said that immediately the, matter was, brought to his notice the administration of the Sydney office had been changed. He added that the investigations were being continued. Subsequently, on the 21st May, the right honorable gentleman went beyond that when he said that some investigations of a departmental kind had been made, and then he added-
I have not received any proof of corrupt practice, but I am convinced that favouritism was shown to certain persons. When that fact became known administrative changes were made immediately. . It is possible that more serious charges may be laid as the outcome of these investigations, but at this stage I cannot say that that will beso.
It is a matter of common knowledge that, the chief administrative change that was made as the result of these reports was that. Mr. Lush, the delegate of the. Treasurer in New South Wales, ceased to exercise his functions. I may say at once that I do not know Mr. Lush, and I know nothing about him. All I know is that he is, or was, a responsible officer exercising a power which demanded a good deal of discretion, and which naturally would have a great bearing on land sales transactions, great and small. It is a matter of public interest when an officer so placed is, after inquiries, relieved of his post. It becomes a matter of very much greater interest when, that having been done, and when the air is naturally sizzling with rumours about why he was removed, rumours no doubt very much to his detriment, he goes to the press with a copy of a letter sent by him to the Prime Minister of the country. I propose to’ refer to the letter because my purpose is to emphasize that this kind of charge cannot be allowed merely to float in the air. It must be investigated. It affects not only the nian who makes the charge and who, in making it, is defending himself against other unspecified charges made against him, but it also affects the Public Service of this country, which has some claim upon our regard and our respect. It is a charge which affects the whole public attitude towards departments which exercise great discretionary authority. I read from the Sydney Morning Herald, which contains what purports to be substantially a transcript of the letter sent to the Prime Minister. If things material are omitted from the press record, the Prime Minister can make a correction. What this highly placed officer says is - “ I am very concerned about the letters that have been appearing in the Sydney press about myself. “ I have served you and your Government faithfully and to the best of my ability ever since I assumed control of the Sydney office of Land Sales Control Department” “ I have been forced to work under extremely adverse and difficult conditions - conditions that were made more onerous by disloyalty on the part of some of my staff and a lack of sympathetic co-operation by some of my senior officers. “ I would welcome a public inquiry into the administration of the Sydney office, provided the terms of the inquiry were sufficiently wide to cover an inquiry into the Canberra office also. “ On numerous occasions I have informed the Commonwealth Actuary that there was a leakage of information from my office. . . . “ I have been aware for a considerable time that there were several pimps in the office who not only carried information to interested persons outside the office, but also to certain of my senior officers.
I pause there to emphasize what will bo quite plain in the minds of every honorable member, namely, that the applications made to this office must of necessity be of a highly confidential kind. Vendors and purchasers get together and arrange a price. They have to submit it to the delegate of the Treasurer. He, in turn, gets valuations which apply the rules and standards laid down for stabilizing prices. Therefore, it is a very remarkable thing that a responsible officer should be able to say, and say publicly, that there were several pimps in the office who carried information to interested persons outside. I resume - “ I have found to my regret that some senior officers were always prepared to listen to scandal and gossip from disgruntled members of the staff, and from persons outside the office, without . . . advising me later of the nature of the complaints. “ I have also found that there was a very strong tendency on the part of some persons to condemn me without hearing my side of the case. “ In fact, I have had numerous telephone calls from Canberra which indicated that members of the public who had been unable to influence me to make decisions in their favour had been believed in Canberra when they made accusations against me. … “Certain facts have como to my knowledge during the past two years which make me feel sure that other persons, both inside and outside the department, are concerned in the matter. “ My believe in this was strengthened recently by the fact that my silent telephone line was tapped and notes were made of my conversations. . . . “ I have never, as far as I am aware, departed from the permissible price level laid down by yourself.
So far, the charges are of a general kind, for the most part, but he then proceeds to particulars - “ However, some of the decisions which I have been instructed from Canberra office to issue indicate’ a very marked departure from the procedure laid down and from the price level to which I was supposed to adhere. “Some of these instances are: - “ (1) In the case of two large city properties, the valuations had been tested in the normal way, and fair selling prices had been determined by my advisory panel and myself. I had several interviews on those cases, but refused to increase the prices- in excess of what I regarded as a reasonable figure. However, those persons had one interview in Canberra and I was immediately given instructions to issue consents at prices which, in my opinion, could only be regarded as grossly excessive. “ (2) On several occasions I have received urgent telephone messages from Canberra to issue consent immediately to the sale of farming properties before the fair selling price had been determined. “ (3) On at least two occasions when the Canberra office was aware that I was absent from Sydney, instructions were issued to members of my staff to issue and post on the same day consents on cases which had previously been refused by my advisory panel and by myself. “ (4) On another occasion I received peremptory instructions to issue that day a consent to a case in which all the evidence pointed to the price being grossly excessive. In that instance the fair price would have been determined the following day, but the instructions issued were that the consent was to be issued immediately. “ No doubt an explanation could be given for the reason behind these instructions, but, in my opinion, they display gross favouritism towards certain people. “ i have given you only a few instances, as the files are not at present available to me, but these could be increased considerably. “ Certain persons, having become aware of the requirements of the department, generally submitted their cases in such a way that they could be approved immediately. In an endeavour to expedite the flow of applications through the office, I was always prepared to cut red tape necessarily associated with any Government office, and issue immediate consents. “ As my name has been besmirched by certain sections of the press, and by the department, I hereby request you, in fairness and justice to myself, to order an immediate public inquiry into the administration of the Land Sales Control offices in Sydney and Canberra.
And then he asks for a telegraphic reply. There are two aspects of those charges. One is that, if they are proved, they constitute a very serious case against some person or persons unnamed occupying positions in the land sales administration similar to that of the New South Wales delegate of the Treasury administration, and those persons ought not to be asked to have those charges floating around without having an opportunity of answering them and disposing of them. Tor all I know the charges are untrue. If they are untrue it is of the highest importance in the interest of clean administration and to the reputation of public administration as well as to the interest of individuals that those charges should be investigated and disposed of. If, on the other hand, those charges are true, then there is a great deal to be said for the view that this matter cannot be allowed to rest at a point at which there is one scapegoat, and that is the delegate of the Treasurer in the State of New South Wales. He may be beyond reproach; he may be subject to complete condemnation. I do not know, but I do appeal to the Prime Minister to recognize that, in a country like this, where so much depends on public confidence in the honesty of the administration of public departments, allegations of the kind made cannot be ignored, or tq form the basis of accusation and speculation. We cannot have the reputa tions of individuals affected unjustly. This is a complete case- for investigation, but not by some senior officer of the same service. Reference was made earlier to the Commonwealth Actuary. I share the Treasurer’s views about the Commonwealth Actuary. My experience is that he is a man of the highest repute and standing; but it is the administration of land sales controls that is the subjectmatter of these allegations, and consequently, the allegations cannot be adequately investigated except by some person or persons utterly independent of that particular administration. Therefore, I do not raise this matter with any preconceptions as to who is telling the truth
Or who is not telling the truth; for the sake of the paramount public interest I urge the right honorable gentleman to ensure that it shall be thoroughly and impartially investigated, and the facts laid bare to the public of Australia.
– It may be well to recount the circumstances of this matter. The question was first raised in a newspaper, and brought to my notice by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). It was alleged that some preference had been given to a certain company, Sub-division Estates and Land Proprietary Limited. That matter was investigated immediately by the Commonwealth Actuary, Mr. Balmford, who went to Sydney for that purpose. He was rather handicapped in the early stages of the investigation because Mr. Lush, the delegate of the Treasurer in Sydney, applied for sick leave almost immediately after inquiries were initiated. He produced a medical certificate from a Macquarie-street doctor indicating that’ his health was in a bad state, and he would not be able to resume duty for some months. . However, the Commonwealth Actuary continued the investigation of all aspects of the particular case that had been brought to my notice, and from his report it was clear that there had been a serious departure from general procedure in regard to land sales applications. I am not saying anything about bribery, corruption, or anything of that nature; but only that serious departures from established procedure were- apparent. I instructed the Commonwealth Actuary to appoint some one else as delegate of the Treasurer in Sydney and an experienced officer was brought from another State for this purpose. Believing that the matter should be investigated further, I requested the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to instruct the Investigation Branch of his department to make, inquiries. That work is now proceeding, and I expect to have a report upon it at an early date. I felt that not only office procedure, but also every other matter that might appear to be suspicious should be investigated by somebody outside of the Department of the Treasury.
I shall not deal at length with the accusations made by Mr. Lush in his letter to me. I do not know anything about pimps in the office. They certainly were not placed there at my direction, nor I am sure, at the direction of the Commonwealth Actuary, whose honesty and integrity are beyond question. Mr. Lush made certain statements about directions being given from Canberra in regard to applications. There is nothing unusual in that. Mr. Lush was the delegate of the Treasurer in Sydney, and the right Of appeal from his decisions lay to the Commonwealth Actuary and, indeed, to myself. As honorable members “are aware, I have dealt with hundreds of cases in consultation with the Commonwealth Actuary. Members of both sides of the House have repeatedly asked me to look into a particular matter. My practice in such an instance has been to get in touch with the Commonwealth Actuary and to ask for the complete file. In this way, files have been procured from as far away as Brisbane and Perth, I appreciate the great difficulties associated with land sales applications. Even amongst valuers, there are wide differences of opinion as to the values of properties. Other complaints have been made, of course) in regard to the time taken to deal with applications, but that is another matter. Delays very often are not due to any lack of diligence on the part of the officials of the Treasury. One hears of .some extraordinary cases. For instance, there was one case in New South Wales where an approved valuer valued a property for probate early last year, and again later in the same year for a prospective sale. Although his estimate of the value for probate was approximately £9,000, the second figure that he gave was approximately £14,000. Both valuations were made in the same year, one on which tax was to be paid, and the other on which commission was to be paid.
– I heard of one case which was exactly the converse : The Commonwealth collected both ways.
– The great difficulty is to be sure of the suitability of so-called approved valuers. However, I shall not go into that matter. As I have said, honorable members from both sides of the chamber have approached me in regard to land sales matters and asked me to examine them. My practice has been to get in touch with the Commonwealth Actuary who is in charge of that branch of the Treasury, and ask him either to look at the files or to hear the representations of the honorable member concerned. Many honorable members have had that experience. In other cases I have gone through the files with the Commonwealth Actuary. Frequently, valuations that the Actuary has had placed before him on appeal, have been changed, and I say frankly that in many cases, after consultation with the Commonwealth Actuary, I have agreed that there should have been different decisions. I am not one of those who endeavour to increase prices; my aim has been to keep them down. I take no notice of this talk about getting telephone calls from Canberra and receiving instructions from the final appeal body. I myself constitute the final appeal authority. Because all humans are fallible, it may be true that many decisions are made in respect of which quite a lot of argument may arise as to their fairness or unfairness. I do not intend to cast any reflection on anybody when I say that. Mr. Lush was suspended from his office because there was a serious departure from the procedure laid down. It would be difficult for the Commonwealth Actuary to scrutinize all the applications he would like to examine, as Mr. Lush proceeded on sick leave almost immediately an investigation into his branch of the department was initiated, and he is still absent on sick leave. The matter is now being inquired into by the Investigation Branch of the Attorney-General’s Department. When a report is received it will be decided whether or not there should be a further inquiry, either by the Public Service Board or by some other authority. Until then, I have no intention of instituting any other inquiry into this matter. When I first heard that trouble had arisen in the Sydney office it would have been quite easy for me to have stepped Mr. Lush down. I did not do that. Instead, I directed that an investigation be made. I have had many complaints from time to time, but nobody has ever gone to the trouble of supplying satisfactory evidence about them.
– I have.
– Appoint a royal commission to investigate these charges and we shall supply the evidence.
– If royal commissions were appointed on every occasion they were sought, the administration of justice in the courts would be held up while judges were engaged on “piffling” inquiries of all kinds. People other than judges are quite competent to ascertain the facts regarding what may be classed as serious reflections upon senior officers of the Public . Service in Canberra. Let me say at once, that any decisions made in Canberra were made either by the Commonwealth Actuary, or, in his short periods of absence on leave, by his deputy, or by me. For every decision made by his deputy the Commonwealth Actuary accepts full responsibility.
– Does every application for approval go before him ?
– No ; if there be no dispute the transaction goes through the normal procedure, and is not submitted to the Commonwealth Actuary, The files are submitted to Canberra only when there is a dispute as to the decision given by a delegate elsewhere, or when appeals against such decisions are made. The Commonwealth Actuary, in effect, acts as a court of appeal in that respect. In some cases honorable members have seen me personally about certain cases; decisions in respect of such cases are made by the Commonwealth Actuary after consultation with me. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that Mr. Balmford’s honesty is unquestioned. I have full confidence in him, and I do not believe that his integrity would be questioned by any member of this House. When the investigation now proceeding is completed, consideration will be given to other aspects of the land sales control apart from procedure in respect of which some reforms might be considered necessary. Having regard to all the circumstances, I cannot accede to the request that there should be a full public inquiry at this stage. Honorable members will be fully informed of the results of the investigation.
– I strongly support the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), which arises out of charges made in the press, and allegations made in Smith’s Weekly in respect of which I asked a question in this House on the 7th May. Similar charges had already been made by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) ; but no notice was taken of them. When I asked my question on the 7th May the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) jokingly replied that he had not read Smith’s Weekly for a long time, and dismissed my question with scant courtesy.
– I did not do so.
– The right honorable gentleman said that if I would compile a list of specific cases he would have them examined. I had referred to specific cases which had been cited in Smith’s Weekly. They apparently got the “ bull’s eye “ because the right honorable gentleman took action immediately after he had found out what was going on. A certain person was removed from office. We now ascertain that that person was Mr. Lush. For some time after my question, however, no action was taken to inquire into these alleged happenings. What has taken place in Sydney is also taking place elsewhere. Recently, I had information placed at my disposal which indicates that a big “ bubble “ will shortly burst in Perth in respect of other matters now under investigation. If the honesty and integrity of any member of the Public Service be in doubt, the Government should immediately institute a public inquiry in order either to exonerate the public servant concerned or to justify those who have brought their charges against him. Land sales control was imposed principally to protect the small man, the man allegedly represented by honorable members opposite, and when charges of maladministration in respect of this control are made, the first thing the Government should do is to institute an inquiry immediately. Smith’s Weekly instanced land valued at £13 in 1944 being sold at the inflated price of £50 in 1947, and in another case of approval being given on the 27th March, 1947, for a sale on first mortgage at 4^ per cent, interest when the interest rate fixed by the Commonwealth Bank on the 18th February, 1947, was 4£ per cent. Another case cited was one in which approval was given for a sale of land at £1,280 when the 1943 valuation was £226. Land sales control was instituted also to protect ex-servicemen and people with little capital from being overcharged as a result of rising demands brought about by the war. If the Government be sincere it will agree to an immediate inquiry into the matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition. Smith’s Weekly indicated that it had access to official files. In the newspapers published during last week-end, Mr. Lush is reported to have said that certain information had been bought, and that there were pimps in his office. Surely that is sufficient to justify the fullest inquiry. Smith’s Weekly also alleged that some applicants secured Treasury consent for transactions immediately, whilst others had to wait for months for such an approval, and that one firm actually received the consent of the Treasurer for a transaction before an application for such consent was lodged. These are serious charges, and should be made the subject of the widest investigation. When I pursued the matter with a question which I asked on the loth May, I mentioned a certain firm, Subdivision Estates and Land Proprietary Limited, of Wiley Park, Sydney. I want it to be understood that I do not know anybody connected with the land sales control office. I have never had any dealings with it. I first saw this matter mentioned in Smith’s Weekly, and I raised it in this House in. order that honorable members from New South Wales electorates might have an opportunity to debate it fully. I am very glad that 1 did raise the matter and that the Prime Minister went so far as to cause an investigation to be made when he found that there had been a departure from normal procedure. However, this is a very serious matter, and the Prime Minister should not dismiss it by saying that we must now wait until we obtain the report of the inquiry that is in progress. The charges and counter-charges that are being hurled about by means of newspapers are so serious that the present investigation should be scrapped and a new one instituted on much wider terms of reference. A complete investigation should be made now, while the subject is fresh in the minds of the people, with a view to protecting, in the long run, those citizens who are obliged to have dealings with the land sales control authorities. I shall not labour the point by quoting further press reports. Everybody with any interest in this matter must have read them. I heartily support the move made by the Leader of the Opposition, and I urge the Prime Minister to set in train immediately an exhaustive investigation.
– The House, and the country, must be amazed at the way in which the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has lightly brushed aside the serious charges that have been made in connexion with real estate transactions. The right honorable gentleman said, in effect, “Although I acknowledge that there has been a serious departure from the principles laid down for the control of land sales, and although I know that certain charges have been levelled by Mr. Lush against the Canberra administration, I dismiss the matter, apart from having some inquiry made by investigation officers “. He might just as well have said, “ therefore, the Government takes full responsibility for these departures “. However, he was very careful not to do that. The implications of Mr. Lush’s letter go much deeper than the Prime Minister would lead the House and the country to believe. In the course of a reply to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), only last week, the Prime Minister indicated clearly that he was not by any means satisfied with the circumstances relating to charges which had been made in a certain newspaper, and which were dealt with earlier to-day by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). The Prime Minister said -
The Government has found that most of the charges against officers associated with the control of land sales have been proved groundless. “ Most of the charges “ ! He qualified his statement. He did not say “ All of the charges are groundless “. In effect, he said that certain charges warranted close investigation. He also said -
I have not yet received a full report of that investigation, but I have convinced myself that the procedure which ought to have been adopted was not adopted in the first place. I have not received any proof of corrupt practice, but I am convinced that favoritism was shown to certain persona. When that fact became known, administrative changes were made immediately. I shall not comment at this stage on other charges that have been made, because I have not yet received reports concerning them. Tt is possible that more serious charges may be laid as the outcome of these investigations, but at this stage I cannot say that that will be so.
That statement was made before the letter written by Mr. Lush was published. The letter serves to give point to the right honorable gentleman’s remarks. He also said -
When we review the record of the last seven or eight years, it must be admitted that very few charges of corruption, or even of maladministration, have been proved.
Then he said something entirely contrary to that. He added -
A case in Sydney is . being investigated at the present time-
But he became very wary, and added - and I make no comment upon it. In that instance the ordinary procedure was departed from.
Eight through his reply to the honorable member for Reid, ho implied that there was more substance in the charges than appeared on the surface. Now, certain charges have been made by the gentleman concerned, Mr. Lush. If Mr. Lush is culpable, he should not be permitted to drag down good men; if he is not culpable, he should be given the opportunity at least to clear his name. Surely, in a democracy, every man who is charged in this way should have the right to give evidence in his own defence. More likely than not, in the giving of such evidence, certain other departures will be revealed. Mr. Lush has been, explicit about such departures. It is not sufficient for the Prime Minister to say, “ I know nothing about pimps “. Mr. Lush has stated definitely -
On several occasions I have received urgent telephone messages from Canberra to issue consent immediately to the sale of ‘ farming properties before the fair selling price had been determined.
In other words, before investigation had been made. He has also stated -
On another occasion I received peremptory instructions to issue that day a consent to a case in which all the evidence pointed to the price being grossly excessive. In that instance the fair price would have been determined the following day, but the instructions issued were that the consent was to be issued immediately.
Those two statements alone warrant ^something more than an inquiry by investigation officers; they warrant a public inquiry. These charges have been made, not by a departmental office boy, but by a highly responsible officer who has acted as a delegate of the Treasurer and who, in that capacity, must have given consent to transfers of property worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. If one is to believe what is said in the city, many questionable practices have been associated with these transfers. Mr. Lush says that these things happened in Canberra. The Canberra officials say that they were done by Mr. Lush. Mr. Lush is suspended. An inquiry is being held in Canberra. I have knowledge of such inquiries. For example, this Government instituted an inquiry into the Commonwealth Salvage Commission’s operations. In that instance, officers of the responsible Minister’s advisory panel said that they were prepared to give evidence regarding certain charges of malpractice, and representatives of responsible business firms in Sydney were anxious to do likewise. However, the gentleman named Conde, who was appointed by the Government to make an inquiry, did not approach me, or the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), to find out what evidence we had. He did not even approach the members of the Minister’s advisory panel to find out what evidence they had. He did not even approach the reputable firms or the officer of the department, who asked that his name be used in connexion with the charges on which the investigation was based. So I object to inquiries behind closed doors. When charges are made by reputable officers of Mr. Lush’s standing, they must cause a certain amount of suspicion of high officers in Canberra and may, incidentally, go right into ministerial ranks, because he does not say “ from the Commonwealth Actuary at Canberra” but “ from Canberra “, an all-embracing term that may apply to any one. That, in itself, is sufficient to warrant a public inquiry into the matter.
On the 16th July last, in this House, I raised the matter of a land transaction in, which the father of an ex-serviceman was forced to pay for an over-valued property because the delegate of the Treasurer consented to the sale. It concerned land at Wingello, in the Goulburn district, in the electorate of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser). The father of the serviceman, who was in the course of being discharged from the Army as medically unfit, arranged to purchase for him a block of land so that he could take up a rural pursuit. The father contracted to buy the property for £6,050, accepting a valuer’s opinion that that was its worth. When he tried to raise money from one bank to complete the purchase, he was told that the land was worthless, and another bank informed him that the land was worth no more than £2,000. He obtained an independent valuation of £3,800. Because of the discrepancy of the valuations, the delegate of the Treasurer refused to sanction the transfer, and the contract for sale became void under the terms of the contract itself.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Question put -
That the House do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Message from the Governor-General reported transmitting Additional Estimates of Expenditure for the year ending the 30th June, 1947, and recommending appropriation accordingly.
Ordered to lie on the table and referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the following additional sum be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year1946-47 for the services hereunder specified, viz.: -
– The trouble experienced in the past has been that once resolutions such as these have been founded in Committee of Supply honorable members are told that in debate they cannot go beyond the limits of what has been agreed to in Committee of Supply. This is a motion to appropriate £18,000,000 for the financial year 1946-47, which has not yet ended. There are many things that might well be raised now, because I understand that they will be ruled out of order in any debate after this motion has been agreed to. Therefore, the widest possible debate should be permitted now and honorable members should have the right to raise any point they desire.
– A general Supply Bill will be brought down later, when any matter may be raised in debate.
– If that guarantee is forthcoming from the Chair I will accept it.
– A general Supply Bill will be introduced.
– But this is not a general Supply Bill, and when that measure is introduced it will be in respect of the forthcoming financial year. The matters which I want to raise now are those which I mentioned in the House on Friday, and which I was refused leave to discuss. They refer to the grant of £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom. I was told by Mr. Speaker that I could not discuss them because they were not mentioned in clause 2 of the United Kingdom Grant Bill which was then being debated. However, I put certain questions on the notice-paper this afternoon and I propose to discuss them now.
– I said that Supply Bill would be forthcoming which would be open to debate.
– When honorable members will have unlimited opportunity to discuss these matters?
– I am not the judge of that.
– It will be a general budget debate and honorable members can discuss any subject.
– No, with respect, it will not be a general debate, because it is not a budget debate. I cannot be put off with that.
– The honorable member has the Chair’s assurance that he can discuss any matter before supply is granted.
– But I want an assurance as to the time which we will have to discuss those subjects. Until I have mentioned certain matters now I shall not sit down. I wanted to raise these matters on Friday last in connexion with the financial commitments and benefits which have accrued to the Commonwealth from the conduct of military operations, but Mr. Speaker ruled that they were out of order. This afternoon I gave notice of two questions, but since they will not appear on the notice-paper until to-morrow, I assume I am in order in discussing them now. When the Supply Bill is introduced the position may be different. I should like a statement from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) of the amount of damages that we have obtained from the United Kingdom Government in respect of the conduct of the war in all theatres, what commitments we have entered into and what payments we have made on behalf of the United Kingdom Government. The figures given should include all sums expended for military supplies and services and anything else involved in the conduct of war. I have asked for a similar statement in regard to Canada. The final report of the Canadian Mutual Aid Board discloses that Australia has received from Canada mutual aid to an amount of some millions of dollars, for which no reciprocal amount has been paid by the Commonwealth. On Friday, when I attempted to raise this matter, I was told that I must confine myself entirely to matters arising out of operations in the South-West Pacific Area, because the United Kingdom Grant Bill referred only to operations in that area. What I want is a statement as to the amounts the Australian Government has paid in respect of commitments entered into on behalf of Canada and Great Britain. The final report of the Canadian Mutual . Aid Board itemizes the Canadian contributions as follows: -
According to the official report presented to the Canadian Parliament, the only credits amount to 300,000 dollars, in respect of equipment which was sold after the war. I should like the Treasurer to inform me why details of Australia’s commitments to other countries, similar to those which the Canadian Mutual Aid Board presented to the Canadian House of Commons, have not been made available to honorable members. That board dealt with the position of every country which received assistance from the Dominion of
Canada, and supplied particulars of the various items which make up the total amounts. The Parliament of the Commonwealth has never been provided with a statement comparable with that contained in this document. The information should be presented to this Parliament before we continue to debate the United Kingdom Grant Bill. Although I could raise other matters at this juncture, I shall refrain from doing so in order that I may emphasize this subject. The Treasurer should supply a complete statement showing the commitments into which the Commonwealth has entered. The figures relating to lend-lease have been provided, but honorable members have no details relating to our other partners in the war.
– I support the protest of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). If we agree to the motion, we shall be deprived of full opportunities for discussion when the bill is presented to the House. Many honorable members consider that a larger, amount should be allocated to the reconstruction training scheme for exservicemen. To-day, an honorable member asked a question of the Minister relating to this subject - the Standing Orders will not permit me to refer to it - but we know that the position is far from satisfactory. Two young men set out to walk from Melbourne to Canberra in order to put their case to the Government. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) said that he would hear their requests. . The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) was somewhat diffident about receiving them, but eventually agreed to do so. They will put forward their views in a very moderate manner. They are not the class of men who cause strikes, go-slow or paralyse the transport industry when they desire to submit their claims. They will merely point out the inadequacy of the amount which ex-servicemen are paid today while they are undergoing reconstruction training courses. A minor adjustment will be made under a bill which this House has yet to consider, but the amount will still be less than they require.
If I cite specific instances, honorable members will see the financial straits of ex-servicemen who have decided to undertake university courses or undergo technical training so that they may become professional men or skilled tradesmen. A single man living away from home, receives £3 5s. a week. Many difficulties arise. A man, with a wife and two children, receives an allowance of 9s. a week for all his children. The total payment is £4 10s. a week. I ask : Gould any honorable member raise a family on £4 10s. a week? These ex-servicemen, who may be attending a university, receive small concessions in the way of fares. Some of the men have commenced long courses and years will elapse before they qualify academically by which time they will find themselves in debt. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) should concede the point raised by some honorable members, and make the allowances payable to trainees adequate to meet present day expenses.
.- Being unaccustomed to the procedure of this chamber, I desire to make sure of my ground. If the committee agrees to this motion the bill will be presented forthwith, and the House will assent to the appropriation of an amount of £18,000,000, of which £4,000,000 will be for international post-war relief and rehabilitation, and £14,000j000 for general charges.
– Honorable members may speak on the second reading of the bill.
– If we now agree to the motion, our right of discussion on the second reading of the bill will be restricted. While the committee is considering the motion, we have complete freedom to discuss a variety of matters that vitally concern our constituents. I realize that an amount of £4,000,000 might be required for international postwar relief and rehabilitation, but I am not prepared to accept from the Treasurer or anyone else a proposal that I should agree, without an explanation of the reasons, to the provision of £14,000,000 for general charges. I should like to know what these general charges are. What amounts did the Treasurer and his officials overlook in earlier budgets? Some special amounts must be involved in such a large sum, and honor able members should be told what they are, instead of being asked in cavalier fashion to agree to the appropriation of £14,000,000.
Other honorable members have referred to the financial provision for the reconstruction training of ex-servicemen. Perhaps a portion of the amount of £14,000,000 will be provided for that purpose. If it is, I shall vote for it. If it is excluded, I should like to know the reason. Before they were demobilized, ex-servicemen were promised that they would be adequately rehabilitated in civil employment. What do we find? Whenever an ex-serviceman seeks training in, say, an engineering trade, he is told that training in that particular branch is not available to him. He might then decide to study accountancy. Again, he is informed that tuition in that subject is not available to him. When he desires to obtain training in watchmaking, he receives the same answer. Whatever he attempts to do, he is told that training in that particular trade or profession is not available to him. One of my constituents has had that experience. Therefore, I address to the Treasurer this simple question : Will he name any trade or profession that is now open to ex-servicemen for training? A. fortnight ago, I sought to obtain this information from the proper authorities, but I received the usual stereotyped reply. After having read through a foolscap sheet of typewriting, I still could not understand what was meant. As a member of this House, I have the right to ask the Treasurer for this information. I do not expect him to supply it off-hand, but he should be able to obtain it from his department.
To-day, an ex-serviceman finds it impossible to purchase a home at a fair and reasonable price. In addition, he is not able to rent a home. He is compelled to live with his family in one room. Often, the only money that he has is represented by his war gratuity. It is true that he is able to buy household furniture. Ho might obtain such accommodation as would be provided by one room at Bradfield Park or Herne Bay, but even so he would have no furniture. Yet he is entitled to a war gratuity! I urge the Prime Minister to consider very seriously an amendment which will enable a young ex-serviceman who marries to devote a portion of his war gratuity to the purchase of merely essential furniture such as is needed for a bedroom and a kitchen.
Before I cast my vote I should like to know exactly the purposes to which the proposed appropriation is to be applied. The matters that I have raised are of the utmost importance to young men who were promised that they would be given training upon their discharge. It has been brought to my notice that men discharged prior to last June can continue their studies to the diploma stage, whereas others who have been discharged since that date, through no fault of their own, but simply because the Army refused to release them earlier, can receive only limited tuition. That is another matter -which the Prime Minister might well consider. Men who were discharged after -June last should have the same rights and privileges as others who were discharged :prior to that date, and I can see no justice Lin penalizing them.
I trust that the Prime Minister will consider the matters that I have raised, and provide the relief that I have sought.
– I, too, am unaware of the purposes to which the proposed appropriation of £14,000,000 for general charges is to be applied; but, as rehabilitation involving £4,000,000 is mentioned, I can discuss matters that are relevant to it. I support the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) in regard to trainees. I shall cite specific cases that have come to my notice concerning the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. The first relates to young men who, prior to enlistment, had gained a slight knowledge of motor mechanics in garages. When they attempted to resume their former occupation, after their discharge, they learned that their absence from it for three, four, five or six years precluded them from receiving the rate of pay to which their age entitled them. They are unable to live on the pay which they received when they were say, seventeen or eighteen years of age. I have interviewed the Department of Post-war Reconstruction in Melbourne on many occasions. I believe that it had in view a plan whereby these mechanics could be employed by garage proprietors, who would provide, perhaps, two-fifths or three-fifths of the total wage to which they would, be entitled at the age of, say, 23 years.
– One does not become a mechanic by working in a garage.
– One certainly does not become a mechanic by working in a baker’s shop. But one can learn the trade in a garage. I venture to affirm that there are many first-class motor mechanics in all country electorates who have gained the whole of their practical knowledge in local garages. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) ought to confine himself to the affairs of his department, and not intrude in a matter of which he has no knowledge. I could cite specific instances at Kerang, Warracknabeal, Swan Hill, and many other places. The Government should give effect to what the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) had in mind, and what his department hoped to implement. On my periodical visits to the department in Melbourne, all that I could* learn was that a committee was being constituted, and that the men concerned would be asked to appear before it in Melbourne, with a view to their eligibility being determined and the extent of their training being made known, after which the Government would pay the difference between the standard rate of wage and what they were worth to their employers. I have not heard that that plan has been abandoned, although I have kept in very close touch with the department. Garage proprietors are effecting the rehabilitation of exservicemen, whose services are not worth the wages that they are being paid. The responsibility for their rehabilitation rests on the Government. I may be unduly optimistic in hoping that the proposed appropriation of £18,000,000 contains provision on account of these men, and that when the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) replies to the debate he will tell me that I can rest assured that they will be rehabilitated along the lines that were mentioned to me when I visited the Department of Post-war Reconstruction in Melbourne.
– The honorable gentleman is “ off the beam “.
– In the estimation of the Treasurer, I may he. But I am right “ on the target “ in regard to rehabilitation, and ‘ the work which these men did for Australia while they were absent from this country, during which period they might in other circumstances have been fitting themselves to be good motor mechanics. Now that they are back in Australia they are denied the opportunity to catch up with those who stayed at home. I urge the Treasurerter to give earnest consideration to this matter because I believe that in no better way could this money be expended than in providing opportunities for exservicemen to take their proper place in civil life. The Government should give effect to the scheme of which the Department of Post-war Reconstruction has so much to say in its booklet Bach to Civil Life.
.- As one who has been in close touch with the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, I support the remarks’ of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). Since I entered this House a few months ago I have received a good deal of correspondence on this subject and have consulted with the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who has promised to give consideration to my representations. Therefore, I am hopeful that some of the money with which this appropriation deals will be expended in assisting needy cases. Under this scheme a single man is hit hard. If he lives at home he is allowed to draw £3 5g. a week; a single woman living at home is allowed only £2 10s, a week. That sum does not give to a single man much hope of marrying and settling down and .assuming his proper place in the life of the community. He is, in fact, almost forced to remain celibate. The married man is in an even worse position ; he has great difficulty in keeping the wolf from the door on an allowance of £4 18s. a week. Regardless of the number of children he has the lump sum payment to him on their behalf is only 9s. a week. Out of hia total income of £5 5s. a week he has to pay income tax. Some of these men have come to Canberra to place their case before the Government, and I hope that something will be done for them, In view of the difficulties which the exservicemen are facing, some of this £18,000,000 should be made available tq assist them.
.-~-I am inclined to think that these additional estimates have been brought before us because the Government is ashamed of its failure to live up to its rehabilitation promises to the men who fought for their country, particularly those who enlisted after reaching the age of 21 years. The honorable member for Reid (Mr, Lang) has cited a few instances of the many cases which have come to his notice. Every honorable member must know of similar instances. Young men are experiencing a sense of . frustration because pf their treatment by the rehabilitation authorities. A man who enlisted when, say, 22 years of age, now regards himself as having been placed on the scrap-heap if his ideas do not fit in with those of the departmental officers. Recently, there came to my notice the case of a young man in Sydney who, some, time before this enlistment, hae] studied law. He has returned to .Australia after six years’ service, three of which were spent in the Middle East and two in New Guinea, only to find that, because he was not studying law at the time of his enlistment, he cannot receive assistance to undertake studies in law even though he has passed his first year law since his return. There should be more flexibility in the administration. I am concerned particularly with men who enlisted when more than 21 years of age, and find on their return that they can receive training only in the trade or profession in which they were engaged when they enlisted. The dice is loaded against such men, because while they were away the Government introduced a so-called preference act, which was only a sham, and passed it despite a bitter fight by the Opposition. The Government is evading even its own legislation. It has made many appointments in con.travention of the law. The young man whose case I have cited is one of many in a similar position. A young man who had a mathematical turn of mind when he enlisted may have changed his mind dur- ing his period of service and decided to engage in some other trade or profession on his return. Not every ex-serviceman is capable of making a comeback in the trade or profession in which he started out early in life. After five or six years in the fighting forces it is not unreasonable to expect changes of opinion. As the Government has deliberately flouted the preference legislation it ought now to make some amends by giving to these men an opportunity to reach the positions they would have reached had they not enlisted. Suppose he had been in a government department when he enlisted at the age of eighteen. He should now, after a short period of training, be placed in the same position in the Service, enjoying the same salary and seniority as would have been his had he not enlisted. That is the best measure of preference that could be meted out. One honorable member spoke of mechanics in motor garages, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) scoffed, saying that a man did not necessarily become a motor mechanic by working in a garage. Let me remind the Minister that many service dodgers escaped the performance of military duty by posing as mechanics, although they had never done anything more than sweep out a motor garage. The “ dinkum “ boys enlisted and did their military service, but they are not now being given the training which they should receive because the dodgers entrenched themselves while the soldiers were fighting.
I ask the Government to reconsider its attitude towards war widows. The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) raised this matter recently. She was supported by four honorable members on this side of the House, but the Government, to its everlasting disgrace, refused her request. I suggest that some of the money which the Government is now asking the House to vote should be used in order to treat war widows more generously. Dozens of war widows have written to me on this subject. One war widow here in Canberra has two boys, one five years of age and one six. Her husband was a prisoner of war, and died in Malaya. She is receiving a pension of £4 a week, but when she undertook a course under the Government’s rehabilitation scheme the amount she received in that respect was deducted and she now receives only 19s.6d. a week above the amount of her pension on which she is expected to keep two children. She lives not very far from here, and because she is not a public servant, she cannot get accommodation at a guest house in Canberra, and must pay £4 4s. a week for the keep of her two children, while she has to fend for herself. This is only one case of many. I hope that the Government will do something to provide for this and similar cases.
– No doubt the intention of the Government in the matter of rehabilitation pay was good; but all honorable members must have received a number of letters from people who cannot manage on what they get. The allowance for a married man with children is not sufficient to enable proper care to be taken of the children. In nearly every case the wife has to go to work. I know of one case in which a married man is doing a medical course at a university. He has two small children. It would have cost him £2 10s. or £3 a week in rent for a five-roomed house anywhere near the university. Inorder to avoid paying such high rent he had to go out into the country 25 or 30 miles away; but then he had to pay fares for himself and his family, and this made heavy inroads into his income. Payments to doctors, dentists, oculists and opticians could not be met out of what he received, and neither was he able to pay for clothing. In order to attend lectures at the university he had to leave home at 6 o’clock in the morning, and he did not arrive back until 7.30 p.m. at night. The strain of the long day was such that he was not fit to study in the evenings. This is not an isolated case.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) mentioned the case of a war widow who lives very near us here in Canberra. I do not know whether it is generally known that this woman, who has two children, was refused admittance to one of Canberra’s guest houses on the grounds that the place was only for married persons. Because she was a widow she was not classed as a married person. When she asked for board at another of the hostels in
Canberra, she was told that it was only for unmarried persons, and she was refused. Thus, at the one place she was refused on the ground that she was not a married woman, while at the other she was refused on the ground that she was not an unmarried woman. Where, I ask, is she to live ? It is true that she receives only 19s. 6d. a week in excess of her pension, on which amount she is supposed to live and keep her two children. In other words, she receives 19s. 6d. a week living allowance in payment for her week’s work, which is actually training, and has to pay £4 4s. a week to have her children cared for. This is only one of many similar cases.
The amount allowed to students undergoing reconstruction training courses particularly in the case of married men with families, is not sufficient. .1 hope that money will be provided out of this vote with which to deal more generously with war widows, and with those men who are undergoing reconstruction training courses.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) and the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), who complained of the small allowances to certain of the reconstruction trainees, and war widows. Any one who read the letter written by the widow of General Vasey, which was published in the Melbourne Herald of last Saturday, must have been deeply touched by what she said of the difficulties of war widows who have to keep themselves and bring up children on what they received. I, and I am 6ure many thousands of others in this country, cannot understand the reason for the Government’s refusal to increase the widows’ pension by more than 5s. a week, or only approximately £13 a year. What is the reason for the Government’s obstinate refusal to give to these women and their dependants that which is their right in the light of the sacrifices made by their husbands in the defence of this country? On the other hand, of course, when the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) asked this afternoon whether it was proposed to take notice of certain resolutions passed by Tasmanian Labour organizations protesting against the proposed salary increase of £500 for members of this Parliament, we heard the extraordinary announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that this was a caucus decision and he intended to carry it out by passing a bill during the present period of the session.
– I said that the bill would be brought down during this period of the session.
– If it is brought down, backed by the Prime Minister, and supported by honorable members opposite, it will be passed through the Parliament.
– The honorable member for New England can refuse the increase.
– I have no wish to listen to interjections from the Government side of the chamber whilst I am expressing my views. I am merely stating that it is most curious that, whereas widows in this country are to have their pensions increased by only 260s. a year, the Government proposes to ask this House to vote for an increase of 10,000s. for its members. I have no doubt that the legislation providing for the increase of salaries of members of the Parliament will be agreed to by the requisite majority.
– The honorable member for New England will accept it.
– When the bill comes before this House I shall tell honorable members opposite exactly what I intend to do.
I wish to refer now to the policy of the Government in allowing permits to be issued for the importation of certain luxury goods into this country, despite the shortage of dollar funds. Recently I have had complaints from certain of my constituents in country districts in regard to the impossibility of obtaining ammunition for the destruction of noxious animals and also to shoot animals, the skins of which would find a ready market overseas, particularly in the “ hard “ currency areas. I refer to rabbits, foxes, and water rats. I was investigating this matter recently at the premises of a Sydney retailer of sporting goods. I heard his story of the tremendous demand tot ammunition which is net manufac- tured isa Australia or in Great Britain. After I left the shop, I walked .down the street and was astounded to .see in win’dows displays of .expensive fur coats im: ported from “ hard ‘-‘ currency .countries, including Canada and the United States of America. The .prices of .the coats were HQ guineas and .150 guineas, and they w.ere displayed in th.e windows in some of the largest retail stores in Sydney. I had only gone a little further when I came to another shop, also a big retail store, when I found a’ similar display of glassware from Sweden which is also a “ hard “ currency country. These goods were also advertised in the daily press of Sydney. I should like to know who has been responsible for the issuing of permits for the importation of these luxury goods from “hard” currency countries, when the professed endeavour of this Government, the British Government, and ail other .administrations in the sterling area, is fa conserve dollar funds- The dis.persal of pur hard-earned dollar funds i?l this way is difficult to understand in view of the Government’s refusal to allow ammunition t° be imported to procure skins which could be exported to America, thus improving our dollar po.si.tjon. These are matters that the Treasurer might well i investigate.
Mr. BOWDEN (Gippsland) [6.51 J.Under these proposals, the estimated ex.penditure on items such as postwar relief p.nd rehabilitation is to be increased: There are many matters associated with rehabilitation that honorable member? would like to debate, but they are handicapped severely because mention is only made pf a total expenditure of £18,0Q0,000. No indication is given of the headings under which this money will be expended. We do not know whether the Government is already committed to the expenditure of an additional £18,000,000 or whether the money is to be used as a reserve fund to meet certain contingencies. Unless we know the precise manner in which this money is to be expended, we cannot sensibly debate the wide questions of rehabilitation and post-war relief.
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has said that hundreds ‘of thousands of men have applied for graining under the post-war rehabilitation .scheme; but every one knows that only a restricted number >of ex-servicemen are entitled to these benefits, because they ar,e available .only to tho.se who were under 21 years pf age at the date pf enlistment. I recall that when the Re-establishment and Employment Bill was under consideration, I urged the enlargement .of the rehabilitation scheme by an extension pf the age limit, I pointed out that $11 ex-servicemen were members ,0f a generation that had suffered for many years, and that spine of them were being unfairly denied the right to training that would have been theirs in normal civil life and which the taxpayers generally were quite prepared to give them now At that time the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction promised that as soon as facilities for training, including the provision of new buildings and instructors, had increased, he Would gladly raise the age limit; but 1 have not heard of any such increase. I can only assume, therefore, that the number mentioned by the Minister is the maximum possible under the present scheme, and that when these men are trained, the scheme will pease to operate unless the age limit is raised. I claim that if any legislation is passe?) by thi& House to benefit ex-.servicp.rnen, it should apply to all exservicemen who wish to take advantage pf it. I shall give an illustration : A, nian may take up land that is unproductive, but’ by working on it over a period hp may succeed in bringing it up to a state of productivity. During that time he is paid a sustenance allowance. A certain date line was- fixed beyond which not one penny would be paid, notwithstanding the fact that many “ex-servicemen had spent twelve or eighteen months slaving on their properties without reward or remuneration in an attempt to bring them into a .state of production. Every effort made by honorable members to have retrospective payments made to these men have been met with a blank refusal. There is no sincerity in any proposal which seeks to confer benefits on one section of our ex-servicemen and refuses them to others- I should like to know whether the conditions governing the expenditure of the £18,000,000 mentioned in the Governor-General’s message will be flexible enough to permit of retrospective payments -being made in such cases. For years I have been fighting the case of an ex-serviceman who rendered good service to his country and who finds himself in straitened circumstances because he is unable to obtain his just due because of the arbitrary fixing of this date line. After all, the appropriation recommended by the Governor-General will be made f rem moneys provided, npt by the Government, but by the taxpayers who wish justice to be done. Every submission I have ma.de that this arbitrary date-line be abolished ha? been met with a -blank refusal by the ‘Government because it fears that if that were done the country might have to provide so many more thousands of pounds. It may, but what of it if it means the saving of a man who, when we were in danger, assisted to save this country from enemy occupation ? Is it fair that certain ex-servicemen should, bs penalized in this way? No doubt, after oil opportunity for debate has passed, the Treasurer will tell us for what purpose this money is to be appropriated. If we knew that beforehand, we might be able to put to the right honorable gentleman some proposition for the better expenditure of the money.. The Treasurer should remember that all the cleverness is not to be found on one side of the chamber. It is a truism that minorities are frequently right, although in a democracy they are regarded as being wrong.
– I wanted to tell the committee all about the purposes for which this money is to be appropriated, but I was not allowed to do so.
– The case I mentioned of men having spent months clearing their land to bring it to productivity is only one of many that could be brought forward to demonstrate how ex-servicemen arc denied the rights to which they are entitled. I remind the Treasurer that we are considering the rights of men who all served in the same war. All of these men did much the same job, and consequently they should be treated alike. We do not suggest that retrospectivity should bc- extended to those who fought in World War I., or in the South African war. If that were done, somebody might insist, on the rights of those who fought in the Crimean War. We simply ask the Government to make the benefits of the re habilitation legislation applicable to all ex-servicemen who fought in World War II., instead of to only certain exservicemen. Although I lack knowledge as to the purpose for which this money is to be appropriated, I ask that at least some of it be made available to bring about uniformity in the benefits conferred by rehabilitation legislation.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– A great deal of ground has been covered by honorable members in debating the motion before the committee. Matters that they have dealt with could well be discussed during consideration of various bills that will be presented to the House at a later stage. The honorable member for Barker (Mr, Archie Cameron) referred to war expenditure, mutual aid, and matters of that kind. Last week he asked for a great deal of information, the gathering of which requires considerable research. We shall endeavour to obtain full answers to his questions, and they will be supplied when the appropriate bills are being dealt with by the House. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) said that he had asked for certain information, but had not been able to get it. We shall endeavour to obtain it for him. The motion before the committee relates to the proposed appropriation of £18,000,000. The purposes of this appro.priation will be explained in full when the consequential bill is introduced. An amount of £4,000,000 will be devoted to post-war relief, and the remainder will be set aside for war expenditure purpose’s~that is, it will be applied to reducing the amount chargeable to the loan account. Honorable members will recall that last year there was a gap between revenue and estimated expenditure. Revenue has increased, and there must be an appropriation for this purpose. Another message, which will be presented soon, will deal with a war pensions appropriation, and a third will relate to the granting of supply for a period of four months. Honorable members surely will have adequate opportunity to discuss any subjects they have in mind when the bills resulting from those messages are under consideration. I cannot imagine any subject that could not be properly discussed on one or other of them.
– In dealing with a proposed appropriation resolution we have an opportunity to discuss a wide variety of matters, thus avoiding waste of time at a later stage, when the bills mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) will be under consideration. The motion now before the committee is of considerable importance. It provides for an appropriation of money for services other than business undertakings and territories of the Commonwealth, namely, defence and post-war charges. The amount involved is £18,000,000, of which £4,000,000 relates to international post-war relief and rehabilitation. I bring to the notice of the Government several matters which, although some people might consider them to be of slight importance, are of definite interest to many ex-servicemen. First, I refer to a question which I asked last week regarding war gratuity payments. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said that exservicemen could have their gratuity payments made now if they so wished. To-day I received a communication from an exserviceman on this subject. He was a prisoner of war in Germany, was wounded, and is now in receipt of a full pension. He is a genuine applicant for assistance on behalf of himself and his wife and two children. Finding that his pension of £4 10s. a week was not adequate to meet the needs of his family, he applied for payment of his war gratuity. He had borrowed money in order to keep one child at school and provide medical attention for the other. He filled in a means test form, and also obtained a certificate of permanent and total disability from his local repatriation medical officers. He informs me that his claim has not been granted yet. Men of this calibre deserve sympathetic treatment and should have their cases dealt with promptly. In his letter, he asks why he should have to wait months for a reply from the war gratuity officers and then be told to “ hum on the league or canteen charities “ in order to obtain funds. His case is an additional reason why the Prime Minister should investigate this matter and arrange for more considerate treatment of needy exservicemen who wish to obtain their gratuity payments. I also received a letter to-day from another man who applied for payment of his war gratuity. He is building a home for himself and his family. He has been informed by the insurance company from which he is obtaining a loan for building purposes that, if he obtains his full gratuity payment, he will not be entitled to receive the total amount of money available by way of loan under the present law. Naturally, he communicated with the Department of Postwar Reconstruction, and was informed that he would be entitled to a loan of only .£855 if his gratuity were paid in full. The maximum loan is essential to him. He has devoted all of his funds to the construction of his home. The contract price for the house is £1,375, the land cost £100, his furniture cost £130, and extras, including solicitors’ fees, amounted to £70. He had £700 in cash, and he has already disbursed this sum. He needs his gratuity in order to complete the home for his family. Nevertheless, he has been informed that, if the gratuity is paid, the amount of the loan available to him under the existing law must be reduced. I hear of cases of hardship of this kind almost daily. Again I appeal to the Government to do something to assist ex-servicemen in such circumstances.
Difficulties are frequently placed in the way of those who obtain assistance under regulations and acts of Parliament. To-da.y, I received a letter from a woman who lives 3 or 4 miles from a township. She obtains payments from the Department of State Children, which has informed her that, in future, it will not post cheques to her. Therefore, because she has no vehicle, she will be obliged to walk to the township in order to collect payments. Provision should be made for persons in receipt of pensions and similar allowances to obtain payments as easily and as expeditiously as possible. Another instance of hardship which came to my notice to-day is that of a woman who is living in a building on a showground. The building has tin sides and Las only an earthen floor. Conditions in it are cold and otherwise uncomfortable. The woman is obliged to live there with her family because they are unable to obtain a home. They have, acquired a piece of land, and the timber necessary for the building is obtainable locally. However, although they have made application, they cannot secure roofing iron. During the war, labour shortages were blamed for delays of this kind. To-day, strikes are the cause. During the week-end a stoppage occurred in steel-rolling mills, which will curtail production of barbed wire, wire netting, and galvanized iron. The continued industrial turmoil is undermining the spirit of home-seekers. The Commonwealth has the responsibility when it lends people money to build houses to ensure that they shall receive ‘ building materials regardless of political consequences. It cannot be said that materials are unavailable, because, according to a communication I received this week, 2,000,000 superficial feet of logs awaits shipment from Cairns alone. The logs are rotting while strikes delay their transport. At the Millaa Millaa railway-ramp 300,000 super, feet of timber, and at fifteen other ramps in the same area hundreds of thousands of super feet of timber await transport. The railway . yards in my electorate of Wide Bay are congested with timber. I hope that and the other matters I have referred to will receive attention.
The drought last year affected Queensland more than any other State of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government has made available to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia millions of pounds on a poundforpound basis for drought relief. The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, has said that he has made application to the Commonwealth Government -for drought relief and that the advance of £1,500,000 to the Government of New South Wales for the drought relief of cereal growers was unconstitutional. The Prime Minister has proved that the Commonwealth Government provided half that amount and the Government of New South Wales the other half to finance a scheme of drought relief for cereal growers proposed by the State government. The Premier of Queensland does not propose to give anything to the sufferers from drought in Queensland, whom he claims to be so fond of and on whose behalf he claims to have made representations. The Government of New South Wales and the Commonwealth Government have also co-operated in providing drought relief this year to the dairyfarmers to compensate them for losses from drought last year. In comparison with the Queensland dairy-farmers’ losses from drought, the losses of dairy-farmers of New South Wales last year were small. The Premier of Queensland is telling the dairy-farmers in Queensland that they can look to the Commonwealth Government for “ further “ drought relief. They have had no relief! Loans have been made to dairying companies and sugar mill authorities by the Queensland Government for distribution amongst dairy-farmers and sugar-cane growers who have suffered from drought, but the conditions on which those loans have been made are that the sugar mill authorities and the dairying companies shall be responsible for the collection of the principal and interest from the farmers for repayment to the Government. That is the only assistance granted to drought sufferers in Queensland. Whilst primary, producers in other States have been able to get millions of pounds from the Commonwealth Government, Queensland primary producers have failed to benefit because the Queensland Government, as is well-known, will not agree to the rightly-imposed condition that it shall contribute an amount equal to that contributed by the Commonwealth Government and that the money shall be dispersed amongst the drought-stricken as a grant and not a loan. All other State Premiers have known for three years of that stipulation. Only two weeks ago the Prime Minister, in reply to a question asked by me, forwarded to me a considered reply in Hansard form, setting out that he had explained to Mr. Hanlon the conditions and told him that the cereal growers in New South Wales had received benefit because the State had investigated their plight and propounded a scheme, in which it shared financial responsibility, to relieve them from the losses caused by drought.
The Commonwealth Government was satisfied with the scheme and paid its share. Mr. Hanlon has been told by the Prime Minister that if Queensland submits proposals and agrees to share the cost and to distribute the money as a gift instead of a loan it will receive equally generous treatment. 1 know that any one could submit proposals for drought relief in Queensland costing £2,000,000, and that the Commonwealth would willingly make its share available. The Premier of Queensland knows that, too. Though that information was conveyed to him a fortnight ago, only last week he told dairy-farmers in Queensland that any further drought relief must come from the Commonwealth Government. He knows that none can come from the Commonwealth Government unless he follows the procedure followed by the other States. He is hoodwinking the farmers. My reply to him is that if he will do as the other State Premiers have done the Queensland farmers will receive drought relief, but not unless he does.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has told us that many subjects discussed in Committee of Supply can be spoken about when the bills appropriate to those subjects are introduced. That is true; but the experience of honorable members is that those matters, which are often apparently minor ones, are too frequently lost sight of in consideration of major bills. One matter talked about this afternoon was the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. Many honorable members pointed out its inadequacy. I do not intend to speak about that, because I understand that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is going into the matter, and I hope that he will rectify, the anomaly. My purpose in rising is to mention other anomalies affecting ex-servicemen. I hope that the Prime Minister will adjust those anomalies in the appropriate legislation. Several honorable members have previously referred to them, but I make no apology for reiteration. The first anomaly is what I term “ deductions from the dole “. An ex-serviceman receiving a war pension for the loss of a finger, an eye or any other disability incurred in war service does not receive the full unemployment benefit should he lose his job. An amount is deducted equal to the amount of his disability pension. That anomaly was referred to when the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act was being debated. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) promised that something would be done about it, but it was not adjusted. He has written to me on the subject several times. He has also written to the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna). who has expressed his sympathy, but sympathy is not enough. Sympathy is quite inadequate when there is an obvious anomaly, and that anomaly could, easily be rectified by the bill to consolidate the law relating to social services, which is now before this chamber.
Another cause of complaint is the application of the means test to dependent parents. It is cruel and harsh for parents who have lost their sons in the war to have to make application to the local police, or some other local authority, and reveal the few pounds or the little bit of land they may have. They have been reduced to a lower standard of living because their eons did their duty, and if they had not made that sacrifice they should have been able to live in comfort in their old age. Abolition of the means test is overdue, and I trust that some supporters of the Government will exercise pressure on it to bring this about. With regard to the matter of provision for widows’ pensions, members of the Opposition exservicemen’s committee have consulted with the Prime Minister and obtained an assurance that he is reviewing this matter in the case of those with children. The inadequacy of the pension for widows, particularly for those with children, is obvious. In the case of many widows whose husbands lost their lives on war service, they have been condemned to penury because of that patriotic sacrifice, and they are entitled to receive at least the equivalent of the basic wage. I make a special plea for the widows of the civil servants in New Guinea and Papua, some 500 of whom died, including many who were drowned on Montevideo Maru, while in captivity. who might have been alive to-day if a tardy government had not delayed approval of their evacuation. How has the Government treated them? The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) told us, with a certain amount of unction, that those people would receive pensions on the same basis as the dependants of servicemen. But the senior civil servants and others who occupied positions of trust had been making big contributions to superannuation schemes for years. When their deaths were ultimately established their relatives were told that the money which had been paid to them in the years of suspense, when they were missing and until presumed dead, had to be repaid, and that repayment had to be made out of the pension of £ 3 10s. a week. I submit that that is very harsh indeed, and I do not believe that the majority of government supporters realize just what has happened in regard to these people. However, it has happened to the dependants of scores of soldiers who died in captivity. Dependants were simply told that they had been overpaid, and by the generosity of the Government they would not be compelled to refund the amounts of overpayment, but in other cases people were not so generously treated. I ask the Prime Minister to review, particularly, the cases of widows and dependants of civil servants in New Guinea and Papua, and I suggest that the sum of money deducted from their pensions by way of repayment be returned to them. Another matter I mention now is the payment of subsistence allowance to ex-prisoners of war.
The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), who spent years in prison camps, have put the .case of ex-prisoners of war. The matter was debated in Parliament, but the Government refused to make any concession. However, that subject is not finished, and the Government must review its decision in the realization that many of the men concerned are handicapped for life because of sickness, and in some cases blindness due to malnutrition. Those men, who suffered so much, cannot- receive too much consideration, and the payment to them of the subsistence allow ance, for which they ask, will not even give them back their place in civil life. In addition, I know of many medical officers in the services who gave all that they had - professional skill, personal possessions and private equipment - without stint in an effort to save men’s lives. Yet the Government, which throws millions of pounds around for payment of expenses of Ministers, members and officials, grudges this small repayment to them. I refer, too, to the inordinate delays in rehabilitation of ex-servicemen occasioned by the Repatriation Department. Although the Repatriation Department is almost entirely staffed by exservicemen far too many delays occur. The department is authorized to make loans for rehabilitation purposes, and I know that many applicants have been granted such loans. But I also know that in a great many cases most unreasonable delay has occurred. I know of one case where an ex-serviceman who wanted to buy a truck, and who had all the requisite qualifications and testimonials, has been kept waiting two years. He is still waiting, and although I have communicated with almost every senior officer of the Repatriation Department I have been unable to obtain for this man the loan to which he is entitled. He was told that he had in-growing eyelashes, and that he should consult a medical officer. He had a number of medical examinations but was told that his eyesight was satisfactory. Notwithstanding this, his application for a loan has not yet been granted. Now that I have ventilated the matter in Parliament I may get a reply in the near future.
Ex-servicemen suffer a number of other handicaps which are quite unknown to most honorable members. The great majority of ex-servicemen are not satisfied with mere labouring work. They want to fit themselves to take a proper place in the national life, and, if they have the qualifications and are given the opportunity, to become leaders of the community. However, they find all sorts of difficulties put in their way. If they are in business and want telephones they find that there is no priority for them. The Repatriation Department has advised men to embark in various business occupations, but when they do so they find that they are denied ordinary facilities.
The main cause of complaint is the withholding of telephone installations. Other ex-servicemen who wished to set themselves up as importers and dealers in various commodities find that they cannot import or obtain supplies of commodities unless they had a basic quota in 1938-39. Very often their disappointments cause them to invest their deferred pay in types of businesses, of which in many cases they know little, and where their investments are foredoomed to failure. If an ex-serviceman sets himself up in the retail trade and wants a vehicle he is told that his application cannot be considered at all. Yet he sees other people without war service with new motor cars and vehicles of all kinds. Generally speaking, the odds are against an ex-serviceman succeeding in business because of his handicaps. These men do not want charity or preferential treatment, they simply want justice in their own country. That is why some of us have raised these matters in Committee of Supply, and we earnestly ask the Prime Minister and his colleagues to review the Government’s decisions in the matters we have mentioned. To recapitulate, we ask that deductions should no longer be made from the dole given to war pensioners, that the means test for dependent pensioners should be abolished, that the payment of full pensions should be made to the dependants of civil servants who lost their lives in New Guinea and Papua, and that an adjustment in respect of previous deductions should be made. “We say that there should be a complete review of the Commonwealth rehabilitation training scheme, and that the subsistence claims of prisoners of war must receive consideration. Repatriation must be made more effective, and concessions extended to exservicemen who have set themselves up in business. Many of the restrictions imposed on ex-servicemen in respect of imports and exports should be abolished altogether.
.- Whilst I agree with some of the points which the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) emphasized regarding the payment of subsistence allowances to former prisoners of war, I shall not refer to them at length, lest I confuse another issue. I propose to direct the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to a grave injustice which should be rectified immediately. On the 21st March last, I asked the right honorable gentleman a question, upon notice, relating to payments to the allottees of deceased servicemen, and officials of the New Guinea Administration who died while prisoners of war. On the 23rd April,” the right honorable gentleman supplied a long answer, from which I shall read two paragraphs. The first . deals with the allottees of deceased servicemen -
Dealing firstly with allottees of deceased servicemen, payment of allotments to dependants is continued as a charge to public funds until the expiration of one month from the date of notification of the death of the member to the Repatriation Commission. This enables pension payments to bc determined and paid. Under no circumstances are dependants of deceased servicemen required to refund any payments of allotments or dependants’ allowances made after the date of the serviceman’s death.
That policy might operate from that date, but I should like to know what is the position of those persons who were forced to make a refund before the new policy was announced. The President of the Victorian Division of the Australian Prisoners of War Relatives Association informs me that when an allotment was not made directly to a wife but to the mother or some other dependant of a serviceman, a refund has been taken out of his deferred pay, or pay due to him, which is still in the possession of the Government. He wrote -
The question to be resolved is whether the Government, having paid these allotments up to a certain date, believing the prisoners of war to be still alive, should allow these payments to remain in the possession of the allottees or whether it should take advantage of the premature death of these soldiers to seize part of some of their estates, whilst leaving others untouched.
The contention of the association is that this is a matter, not of charity, but of right. If it is wrong for one estate to be debited, it is wrong for any estate to be debited.
The other part of my question dealt with the widows and dependents of officials of the New Guinea Administration. The Treasurer gave the following reply :-
With regard to deceased New Guinea officials, payments at rates previously authorized by the officer or as determined according to circumstances were made to dependants from the date the officer became missing until some time after his ‘fate was known. Superannuation allowances, where applicable, have teen calculated from the date of death. The value of all leave credits as at the date the officer became missing have also been credited to dependants.
Where the amounts paid to dependents subsequent to date of death exceeded available credits, no refunds have been sought.
The point which I make is that, if there are no credits, the Government does not seek a refund, but if there are credits, the widows or dependents are debited with these amounts. Surely, every one should receive the same treatment. On this subject, I have had many communications but one of them is so clear that it may be regarded as aptly illustrating the whole case. This widow wrote -
As you know Rabaul fe’1 on 2.1r ‘ 1….. 1942. The Government paid the officers full salaries until 26th April, 1942, when they were put on a detention allowance which was the same salary less £100 tropical allowance out of which the wives received an allotment. Several times over the years I inquired of Mr. Halligan what would be our financial position if our husbands failed to return but nc never could give me an answer. When in Canberra in November, 1945, I called on Mr. Halligan and put the same question to him and he assured me that no moneys would have to be repaid. Yet in August, 1946, in the final wash up I found that I was put on a superannuation pension from 1st July, 1942 (date of presumed death) which meant the paying back several pounds per week for three years and nine months. All this from my husband’s accrued leave, &c. Of course the only conclusion one can come to is that Mr. Halligan did not have any authority to make such a statement. I had tried many times to see him in Sydney without success. All this paying back might be quite just, but there were officers who did not have any leavemoney to balance up apart from the fact that there were women (not public servants wives) who received sustenance over the years and who certainly could not repay. The half-castes too received £2 10s. per week and I understand they were not asked to repay. I would have thought more leniency would have been shown to the widows of the officers who had given a lifetime service and who eventually lost their lives in its service when not evacuated as the Deputy Administrator requested. My contention is that if all cannot repay, it is most unjust to take it from those who could. To add insult to injury at Christmas-time we were all sent income taxes dated back from 1042 to pay out of our superannuation pension. To tax any pension I consider is quite wrong but when that pension has been subscribed to in an untaxable country, it is scandalous. Another point I want to stress is that I always understood superannuation was inviolate - that no debt could be charged against it - but if you look at the financepaper you will see it amounts to £778 8s. 6d. and yet the whole amount I received from the Government are the two amounts £214 9s. 7d. and £228 18s. 3d. You will also notice that the civilian war pension, namely £2 10s. per week has been paid back from 1st July, 1942. I understand that all Government officials’ widows have received that (if only on paper, to balance) but I have not heard of one unofficial widow who has received it from that date. Surely it was meant for all. It must apply to all widows from that date, irrespective of whether their husbands were in the employ of the Government or not, hut as far as I can make out they have been paid only from January or February.
I urge the Treasurer to examine this matter carefully. I am certain that all the widows or other dependants of deceased servicemen and officials of the New Guinea administration are not being treated alike. The amount involved is comparatively small, especially when set against the loss of husbands and other relatives. In half a dozen instances, the widows of officials who paid amounts up to £2,000 into the superannuation fund of the New Guinea Administration, expected to receive a lump sum payment with which they could purchase homes for themselves and their children. After the Government forced them to make substantial refunds, they received only a paltry £200 or £300. They are not in the same position as the widows of servicemen. The Repatriation Department is not able to adjust the matter for them. I urge the Treasurer to ensure that justice shall be done to these persons, because they deserve it.
.- I was pleased to hear to-day that a portion of this proposed appropriation is to be applied to rehabilitation. I am pleased to see the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) sitting at the table. T am certain that, having received the most eulogistic letter that he read to the House this afternoon, he must be in a very good frame of mind. I bring to his notice the position of exservicemen who, having waited for a long time to be placed on the land under the Commonwealth land settlement scheme, have seen fit to acquire properties privately with the small capital that they possessed, and have been endeavouring to rehabilitate themselves unaided. Unfortunately, when they have applied to the department for a living allowance for six months, to enable them to keep going until their properties have become productive, they have been advised by Directive No. 8 of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction that, under sub-section 3 of section 91 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act, an eligible person must have had experience in the occupation prior to his enlistment. Having spent the whole of their capital in rehabilitating themselves, they have been unable to obtain a living allowance. I have such a case before me at the moment. The man in question, prior to enlistment, was working as an outside seller foi1 an ice cream concern. When he returned to civilian life, after five and a half years’ service, his position with that firm had disappeared, because it had sold its business. He enlisted as a private, and worked his way up to a captaincy. During the war, he had quite a lot of experiences, a few of which I shall cite. He joined the 10th Light Horse at the beginning of the war, and in 1941 transferred to the Australian Imperial Force. He is one of the few survivors of the original members of the Inter-Allied Services Bureau, which later became known as “ Z “ Special Unit and Services Reconnaissance Department.
He spent many months in Japanese occupied territory, during which he organized and delivered supplies by both sea and air to Dyak guerrillas in Borneo. In 1942, he took part in operations in the Netherlands East Indies. In 1943 and 1944 he was in New Guinea, and spent many months in the Sepik River area. In 1945, he saw service in the Netherlands East Indies, Borneo and Malaya. He organized and established at Garden Island, Western Australia, a midget submarine base, and was responsible for the supply and despatch of the ill-fated Rimau expedition which set out from Garden Island to raid Singapore harbour. Doubtless, honorable members have read accounts on that venture. He was commended by Lord Louis Mountbatten. Later he led another expedition to the Riouen Archipelago in search of the Singapore raiders, and returned with the first authentic account of their fate. Did the Government tell this man, and_ hundreds of other men of his calibre, prior to enlistment, that they were required to have had experience in sabotage, espionage, killing, and so forth 1 No. This man had not a job to go to when he was discharged, and is still maintaining a fair degree of independence. Rather than wait for months to be established on the land, he decided to act on his own initiative. Being short of money, he applied to have his war gratuity cashed, so that he might purchase some requirements which would enable him to keep his property going. He met with a setback on every occasion. After considering the matter at some length, the Minister made this reply -
It is a requirement of the act that an exserviceman, to be eligible for an agricultural re-establishment allowance, must have been engaged in an agricultural occupation prior to engagement on war service. The only circumstances under which this requirement is relaxed is in the case of an ex-serviceman suffering from a war-caused disability which precludes him from resuming -hia pre-war occupation.
A person desirous of going on the land, whohad no agricultural experience before enlistment and obtains experience after discharge, is permitted to apply for a qualification certificate from the appropriate State authority ta enable him to participate in the War Service Land Settlement Scheme. The scheme will not, of course, assist an ex-serviceman who has acquired his own property privately.
I am dealing with this case specifically because officers of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction have told me that they consider this man to be of the right type for settlement on the land. He has proved himself to be in that category. He is engaged in poultry farming, and while waiting for his chicks to grow old enough to lay, is right on the breadline. He even bought some gladioli bulbs, with a view to “keeping the pot boiling and has now reached the end of his resources. He cannot cash his war gratuity. He cannot even negotiate a loan on it, because the law forbids his doing so, and states that money from that source can be obtained only for purposes of building. Men in these circumstances are subjected to the temptation of making dishonest statements. I know of men having gone so far as to submit returns stating that their wives were expecting babies, and they wanted cement for the purpose of putting troughs in their wash-houses. Because a man is honest and will not stoop to that sort of thing, he cannot realize on his gratuity. The only cost to the Government would be a living allowance for six months, and, in return, it would have the asset of a man who had established himself on the land. The value of the asset would be enhanced by reason of his having engaged in a productive occupation. Yet he is prevented from receiving the small pittance which I believe he is justly entitled to have. He has proved that he is experienced. Inspectors of the Department of Agriculture who have visited his property have reported to their superiors in most glowing terms in regard to his activities.. I hope that the Minister will take full cognizance of my remarks. He knows of the man to whom I am referring. There are many others in similar circumstances. The officers of the different departments which are responsible for the administration of the act cannot move because of the directive to which I have referred. The Minister should consider the withdrawal of that directive, or have it made sufficiently elastic to enable his officers to give men an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves in the manner desired by deserving citizens of a democracy.
Another matter on which I wish to touch relates to the training of men who, upon their enlistment, were over the age of 21 years, and upon their return to this country were sound in wind and limb. Under the regulations a man who, upon enlistment, was under the age of 21 years, is placed in category 2 for the purposes of training, whilst a man suffering from war-caused disability is placed in category 1. But a man who enlisted at the age of 22 years without any previous training in the militia is precluded from participating in the benefits of the scheme, although it was said, and I believe while the war was on, that it was proposed to increase the age to 25 years. I could well understand the Minister making such a promise because it bears out his oft-expressed opinion in regard to the birth-rate during the depression years. Men who enlisted in 1939 at ages between 22 and 24 years were very young people in 1930, and did not have an opportunity to ‘learn trades. They drifted into all sorts of employment, and as an honorable member once said in this chamber, numbers of them enlisted when war broke out in order to get jobs. On their discharge they expected to have an opportunity to learn trades because they had heard that the age limit was to be raised to 25 years, but all but a few of them have been denied opportunities to do so. I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to the promises made in 1943 and 1944 and make it possible for men who enlisted up to the age of 25 years, particularly those who enlisted in the early years of the war, to be eligible to learn trades. I agree that care must be taken not to flood the market with trainees, but in the building trade there is no danger of that being done for a number of years.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie - Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [8.56]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to obtain parliamentary appropriation for the expenditure of an additional amount of revenue of £18,000,000 for war purposes. In recent years it has been the practice, after making adequate provision to meet civil expenditure, to appropriate the balance of revenue receipts to war purposes. The gap between the total expenditure on war services and the available revenue is met from loan fund. In the budget for 1946-47 it was estimated that revenue receipts would aggregate £385,000,000. The provision for non-war items of expenditure was £223,000,000. The balance of £162,000,000 was appropriated for war purposes. It is now apparent that, because of increased revenue receipts and a reduction of civil expenditure, the amount of revenue available for war expenditure will be substantially greater than was expected when the budget was introduced.
As indicated in the financial statement presented to the Parliament in March last, the prosperity of business and the high level of trade turnover, coupled with an increase of the volume of imports, will result in the receipt of revenue considerably in excess of the budget estimate. It is now possible to furnish some details of anticipated increases of revenue. Customs and excise duties may yield an additional £13,000,000, a further £6,000,000 may be obtained from sales tax, whilst income tax may exceed the estimate by £13,000,000. Post Office revenue and other items will also show increases, aggregating possibly £2,000,000. On the expenditure side a net saving of about £6,000,000 is expected, mainly due to shortages of labour and materials for civil works. Whilst it is still difficult to forecast accurately the final figures of receipts and expenditure of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the further amount of revenue available is estimated to be from £38,000,000 to £43,000,000. Of the anticipated amount, £25,000,000 is to be appropriated by proposed legislation to make a gift to the Government of the United Kingdom towards the cost of its war effort. The bill now before the House appropriates the balance of £18,000,000 for war expenditure. Of this balance of £18,000,000, an amount of £4,000,000 is allocated for international post-war relief. Australia has already spent or is committed to the whole of the Unrra contribution of £24,000,000. This was the fourth largest contribution to Unrra, which has done valuable work in providing for the relief and rehabilitation of war-devasted areas. Although its. activities in both Europe and Asia are now coming to an end, relief needs are still critical, and members of the United Nations have been asked to make further contributions to cover requirements in 1947. This proposed further contribution by Australia will enable us to play our part in ensuring that the work commenced by Unrra will not be left unfinished. In addition to providing for general relief supplies, the proposed allocation of £4,000,000 will cover contributions to the International Children’s Emergency Fund and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Reconstruction Fund, and also our first annual subscription to the International Refugee Organization. The November budget provided for a total war expenditure of £221,000,000. It is anticipated, however, that expenditure on some items will not reach the budget estimate. On the other hand, additional expenditure of £25,000,000 will be incurred in connexion with the gift to the United Kingdom. The total war expenditure for the year, including this gift, is now estimated at approximately £230,000,000.
The proposed appropriation of £18,000,000 will enable additional revenue to be applied to war expenditure, thus reducing the amount chargeable to the loan fund.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for war pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a first time.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie - Prime
Minister and Treasurer) [9.2]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill has been introduced to provide £18,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of War Pensions. Sixteen million pounds was appropriated last July, and the balance now remaining is only sufficient to cover payment of war pensions to the end of July next. After taking into account increases of pensions in accordance with proposed legislation recently submitted toParliament, the amount now requested will meet approximately one year’s expenditure.
Although there is some falling off in pension payments arising out of the 1914-18 war, pensions in respect of the 1939-45 war are increasing. The following table shows the trend in both cases : -
Expenditure from the proposed appropriation of £1S,000,000 will be divided almost equally between the pensions of the two wars. Parliamentary approval is now required to permit this amount of £18,000,000 to be withdrawn from revenue, as required, for payment to the War Pensions Trust Account, in order that pensions payments may be made as they become due. This bill has no ‘bearing on rate of pension, and merely appropriates the amount required to effect payment at such rates as are approved by Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Commit tea of Supply:
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That there bp granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the service of the year 1947-48 a sum not exceeding £I1S,180,000.
– This motion provides me with an opportunity to call the attention of honorable members to a matter which is of such importance to the Commonwealth that it ought to be referred to again and again. I refer to the Economic Organization Regulations.. Honorable members will recall that these regulations, like many others, were promulgated during the war for the purpose, among other things, of fixing the price of land. A sort of code was drawn up whereby officials throughout Australia were to be guided in fixing the price at which land was to be sold. Unfortunately, when officials were appointed to control this matter no adequate set of rules was made to guide them, with the result that it was like the length of the chancellor’s foot. Throughout Australia, and particularly in Sydney, a great deal of discontent, suspicion and general dissatisfaction has been created. When this matter was debated in Decern^ ber of last year during consideration of the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Bill, I said-
The Economic Organization Regulations bo far as they relate to the sale of laud are clouded with discontent, suspicion and rumours of corruption. I say positively and definitely that between 80 per cent, and 90 per cent, of the transactions for the sale of land are conducted on the black market. I make that statement also with a sense of responsibility, because I know the facts. Both in and out of the courts I have dealt with literally hundreds of cases. Every solicitor, every land and estate agent, and every business man would be ready to declare that it is virtually impossible to buy a property at the pegged price.
There was a good deal of debate on the subject, but nothing was done. The answer of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) was that we should not suggest corruption. We should not suggest impropriety of any kind. The answer of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was even more fatuous. All that bad happened, he said, was that, in some instances, solicitors and estate agents were at fault. Otherwise, no irregularities had occurred. However, honorable members were not content, because everybody knew from his own experience that in Sydney, at any rate, this thing was literally rotten. The attention of the House has been drawn to the unsatisfactory state of affairs by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) and the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), but every attempt to have the whole matter properly examined and the regulations recast so that a proper code, under which there would be no likelihood of impropriety, could be established have met with resistance by the Prime Minister. I cannot understand the stubborn and intractable attitude adopted by the head of this Labour Government on a matter which affects the honour of this Parliament, and the good name of Australia at large. The right honorable gentleman has rejected every suggestion that has been made to him. He has said that a sort of departmental inquiry has been held into certain aspects of this matter; but in the direction of recasting the regulations and establishing a proper code, he has not done anything. Only a minor amendment to regulate the discretion of the delegate of the Treasurer in some instances has been effected. The matter cannot be allowed to remain where it is at present. One still hears shameful whispers around Sydney, and there has been newspaper publicity of an alarming kind within the last few days. Undoubtedly, there is growing illegality. Every one knows that in Sydney it is virtually impossible to buy land at the regulation price. If the delegate of the Treasurer refuses permission for a sale at at certain price, and the parties are determined to complete the transaction, the full price is paid under the lap. Illegality of that kind corrupts the nation and we cannot permit it to continue. One way to stop it is to have a more rigorous enforcement of the law, but we should not have a law that is too far ahead of public opinion. Therefore we should have a reasonable law, and I contend that at present there is no reasonable law on this matter. Is the Government frightened? Why does it adopt this stubborn and recalcitrant attitude? This thing is a sort of Augean Stable that should be cleansed, and until it is cleansed we shall have no peace of mind in Sydney at least. I have taken the opportunity presented by this measure to draw attention to something which, as I have said, is not merely a party-political matter, but one affecting the good name of the Commonwealth as a whole. A government that will not move in the light of circumstances such as these must forfeit its right to the respect of the people. The whole of these transactions should be brought out to the light of day, and the regulations scrutinized and put on a reasonable basis by somebody with experience, wisdom and imagination. Until that is done we shall have continuing illegality and whispers of corruption. The Government must act now or stand condemned in the eyes of the people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means founded on resolution of Supply reported and adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Dedman do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley, and read a. first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to secure an appropriation of £68,189,000, required to carry on the necessary normal services of government for the first four months of the financial year, 1947-48. The provision may be summarized under the following heads: -
The bill provides only for the estimated requirements to carry on the essential services on the basis of the provision in the Appropriation Act passed by Parliament for the current year 1946-47. The amounts set down for ordinary services” represent, with minor exceptions, approximately one-third of the 1946-47 appropriations. It is estimated that after excluding special appropriations, the total expenditure on defence and Post-war (1939-45) charges will approximate £40,000,000. This amount indicates a substantial reduction of expenditure compared with the monthly average for last year. The usual provision is made in the bill for “ Advance to the Treasurer “, the amount being £9,000,000. This amount is required mainly to carry on uncompleted civil works which will be in progress at the 30th June and also to cover unforeseen and miscellaneous expenditure. No provision has been made for any new expenditure and there is no departure from existing policy.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Gover nor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for the purpose of making a grant to the State of New South Wales for the purpose of drought relief.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution ad opted.
That Mr. Pollard and Mr. Lemmon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Pollard, and read a first time.
Mr. POLLARD (Ballarat- Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture) [9.21]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is intended to provide £750,000 for the relief of cereal-growers in New South Wales whose crops failed during the 1946-47 season.For three successive years the Government has faced the unfortunate necessity for providing drought relief for cereal-growers in different parts of Australia. On each occasion thesame situation has arisen. Drought has been so serious thatthe growers concerned could not keep up their normal farming unless financial aid were given to them. The effects of the drought in New South Wales last season can be seen by comparing the 1946-47 crop of 15,000,000 bushels of wheat with the normal crop of over 55,000,000 bushels. In effect, three quarters of the New South Wales production, or one quarter of the normal Australian crop, was lost. This blow to production is more severe because growers were doing their best to plant the greatest area possible, and given favorable conditions it is certain that the area under crop wouldhave been well above the normal. These are the conditions which led the New South Wales Government, in accordance with the usual practice in cases like this, to request the assistance of the Commonwealth in giving help to cereal-growers.
The principles adopted in affording assistance for primary producers are well established. Assistance to primary producers is a function of the States, and is not one in which the Commonwealth normally intervenes, or should intervene. In cases, however, where the assistance necessary is beyond the financial capacity of the States concerned, and where the conditions involve widespread distress, the Commonwealth takes some share in providing the requisite funds. The latter conditions are present in the case of last year’s drought in New South Wales which affected cereal-growers generally, their losses being so great as to amount to a serious national loss. The growers have been affected by serious droughts during two of the last three seasons, and some of them have had three successive crop failures and their losses are so great that assistance from governments is needed to enable them to carry on. Seasonal fluctuations are usual in all branches of farming, and they must be met by the farmer as a normal risk. Over very large areas of Australia these seasonal variations are pronounced because bad seasons are frequent. That, however, is one of the risks which the grower must meet himself, and no government could justify a policy of meeting normal seasonal risks by payments from public funds. Next there are seasonal losses greater than normal, the meeting of which is beyond the farmers’ means, but it is within the capacity of the State to assist in compensating for them. These occur fairly often, but irregularly. In these cases the growers’ needs can be met by temporary financial assistance. The States have provided organizations for making advances to farmers which are well established and well known. Commonwealth assistance is not needed in these cases, as the States have the capacity to take appropriate action. Sometimes, however, seasonal losses of such a degree occur that Commonwealth aid is needed.
This bill becomes necessary in order to meet an abnormal situation. Drought in the wheat areas over the last three years has caused damage which is far greater than the normal loss of a bad season. Practically the whole of the cereal belts in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have experienced severe drought in two of the last three seasons. The droughts have extended over an exceptionally long period and have been very severe. Two years ago it was necessary to provide assistance for growers in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. In 1945-46 the growers in the greater part of New South Wales experienced a good season, but those in Victoria and South Australia were badly affected, and Commonwealth assistance was again necessary for the growers in these two States and in portion of New South Wales. In 1946-47 Victoria and South Australia had a good season, but New South Wales suffered to a degree which meant agricultural disaster for the State. With two exceptionally bad seasons coming close together, the growers concerned did not have a chance to recover from the first. The loss is widespread, and it is so great that Commonwealth assistance is necessary for the industry. In these circumstances representations were made by the New South Wales Government, and plans were submitted for relief to cereal-growers. These plans follow the general lines established in the two previous years, as our misfortunes have led to general agreement on methods necessary for giving relief.
The amount needed will be provided equally by the Commonwealth and the State and the distribution to growers will be made through the established State agency. The assistance provided will be a grant to the cereal-growers, as it is considered that they must be given a chance to carry on without contracting additional debt which must be repaid over future years. This is not a difficulty which can be met by loans, and the governments recognize that fact. It should be noted also that the assistance is intended not as compensation for losses but to help growers to carry on their normal farming, and for that reason a condition is attached that the recipients must carry on normal farming in order to qualify for the assistance. There is no mean3 test. Circumstances do not justify one. The imposition of a means test would delay the assistance, and in view of the widespread nature of the drought the saving resulting from a means test would not justify the effort and irritation inseparable from its imposition. Provision is also made for direct payment to the growers, and for the State to ensure that the money shall not be attached by creditors* This is consistent with the aim of assisting the farmers to carry on. It is also provided that Government institutions, banks and companies shall be excluded as the assistance is intended for farmers, and not for trading concerns which make farming only a portion of their trading operations. As usual the qualification for relief is based on crop failure, with 6 bushels to the acre taken as the upper limit. The maximum rate applies to complete failure, with a scale established according to the actual quantity of grain harvested. No payments will be made in respect of crops of 6 bushels and upwards to the acre.
Honorable members, especially those from country constituencies, are well aware of the damage caused by drought during the last three years. They will agree that assistance must be given so that production may be established at the highest practicable figure. Our farmers have had more than their share of misfortune, with extended drought following on the unavoidable hardships of the war.
The result has been a great and prolonged reduction of our food production which is more serious at a time when the world has faced disastrous food shortage. During the coming season Australia’s capacity to produce foodstuffs will again depend on weather conditions. We hope that the season will be a good one. I ask the House to approve of this bill so that our farmers may be able to produce the maximum quantity of cereals in the season now approaching.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 23rd May (vide page 28S0), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill has been discussed at great length and I do not intend to reiterate the points that have already been dealt with during the debate. I desire merely to make a few observations on what has already been said in regard to this most important bill. The measure is entitled a bill for an act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £25,000,000 as a grant to His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom. It will be a grant to the Government of the United Kingdom as a contribution towards war expenditure incurred by it in respect of operations in and around the Pacific region. The effect of this bill will be that our sterling balance in the United Kingdom will be reduced by £25,000,000. We on this side of the House believe that a gift of food to Britain would be much more beneficial to that country than this monetary gift.
– That is not Britain’s idea.
– I do not know what leads the honorable member to believe that. Apparently he has dreamt it, because that view has not been aired in this House nor have we heard of any representative of Great Britain expressing it. Let us sum up the position. Where will Great Britain be able to buy food with this gift of £25,000,000? I refer the Government and its supporters to the “late final extra” edition of the Sydney Sun of to-day’s date. I can reasonably claim that the news in that edition is up to date. Under the heading “ Food Crisis - 32 Countries in Bid to Beat Famine “, it publishes the following news item : -
The International Emergency Food Council decided to-day to call a conference of the Food and Agriculture Ministers of the 32 member governments to plan means of combating the world food crisis during the next year.
Points made at the conference were -
A dozen more countries may have to cut their bread ration between now and the harvest.
No false hopes of raising rations can be placed on this year’s harvest despite good prospects in many parts of the world.
The shortage of cereals, especially wheat, will not be eased before the 1948 harvest at the earliest.
The rice shortage has been the basic cause of the general food shortage.
In view of these facts, the claim by honorable members opposite that Great Britain can use the proposed gift of money to buy food in the world’s markets is ridiculous. In what country could Great Britain buy food to-day? That is a fair and reasonable question. I should like to know the answer to it.
Another point which should be made clear relates to the International Emergency Food Council. The Prime Minister has said in this House that, although we may make food available with the intention that it shall go to the United Kingdom, the council may divert it to some other country. The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) asked what were the powers of this international council, who were its members, and one or two other pertinent questions about it some weeks ago, but the answers did not throw any light on the subject. I have’ discussed the problem of supplying food to Britain with many people in Victoria. Almost every person I have questioned is sending food parcels to the United Kingdom or is assisting in some way. Some of them are earning only the basic wage; others are pensioners who save a few shillings from their meagre incomes in order that they may send food to relations in the homeland. In this united Empire, which is not so closely united as it should be, we should be one big happy family. One person who regularly sends food to Britain is well known to many honorable members. She is Miss Howell, a member of the staff of the Federal Members’ Booms, Melbourne. She has done a wonderful job in sending food to relations and other people in the United Kingdom. She has had little assistance from others, and has paid for most of the parcels from her earnings. I was greatly impressed with statements made in letters which she had received from people in the homeland. Only recently, she told me that the people in Great Britain needed dripping and other fats more than anything else. How can we send fats to Great Britain ? Will the International Emergency Food Council divert such shipments to other countries? On this subject, I again refer to to-day’s issue of the Sydney Sun. Under the heading “ Plane Load of Fats to Aid U.K. ‘’, it states -
Before leaving for London by plane to-day on “ Operation Dripping “, Dr. Graham Humby said that his cargo would supply the fats ration of 100,000 English people for a week.
Chief Engineer J. Simpson said : “ It makes 67.32S lb. I think we’ll just make it “.
If we cannot send fats and other food to the United Kingdom through this international organization, of which Australia is a member, how can we send such a great quantity of fat by aircraft? If we can. send such a. quantity by aircraft, why cannot we send more? We cannot truthfully say that we are short of fats, for the simple reason that we have not been exporting fats. Primary producers have been toying to have the way opened to enable them to exports fats, which are £100 a ton dearer overseas than in Australia.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) recently made a survey in order to ascertain how much fat was being held in Australia. Although. I do not know the figures, they can be. obtained from the Minister. .1 suggest that the total is large. That is not a mere assumption ; it is based on the fact that, in southern Australia, livestock is in as prime a condition as it has ever been, I estimate that the average quantity of fat taken from each sheep or bullock to-day would be many pounds more than the average in a normal
Australian season. Anybody who visits the stock markets or travels about Victoria with his eyes open can see that the sheep are in prime condition. Many butchers do not like them to be too fat. In spite of rationing, people object to having too much fat on their meat. Recently I heard a man say, “ These chops are too fat. Give me something lean “. Sometimes, in this prolific primary producing country, it is impossible to get lean sheep. This is one such time. Of course, I am not referring to Queensland or northern New South Wales, where droughts have been severe. In southern Australia the season has been good. Sheep and cattle have been fat for the last eighteen months and are now prime. Therefore, there is no doubt that we have sufficient fat to enable us to export large quantities to the United Kingdom. Why do we not send it? As far as I can ascertain, nobody has been able to give an effective answer to that question. Does the Government intend to persist with its “do nothing” policy? Will it continue to allow individual Australians to use their meagre savings, when they are oppressed by heavy taxes and high prices, to buy foodstuffs for Britain while it takes no part in the campaign? Or is the Government, at this late stage, to follow the lead of individual members of the community and send more food to the Mother Country? To give Great Britain £25,000,000 instead of food is like giving a motorist, whose petrol tank is dry, money to buy petrol when the nearest petrol pump is 40 miles away. In both instances the money is of little use. The man whose petrol tank is dry cannot proceed, but the man with enough petrol to get home with a little left is all right. We have more than enough food to see us through. I am not frightened to say that the Australian food ration should be reduced. Australians are exceptionally well fed. Few of them would object to less food if more were sent to Britain, and those who did object could be dismissed from consideration. They are not good Britishers, and, therefore, not good Australians. I suggested a higher price for meat exported; but honorable members opposite protested because they did not understand the implications of my abatement. Any one with experience of the live-stock market knows that the grice of fat stock sold for consumption, in Australia is much higher than export parity. When [ suggest that the export price should be raised and that the Government should step in and buy food for Britain, I do not suggest an increased price for fat stock for local consumption.
– In other words,, the honorable member puts a price on his patriotism.
– I do not do that at all. I urge that the Government be patriotic. It must realize that, if it buys for export to Great Britain fat stock consigned to the market by any primary producer, that primary producer, as a taxpayer, remits to the Government a parts of what it pays him for it. Australian primary producers are making a gift to the “Food for Britain” appeal of many head of cattle and sheep. No one in the community has contributed more food than they to Britain. If people in big business, whom the Government seems to want to push ahead, did asmuch,, they would do good. If the biggest business of’ all, the Commonwealth Government, which would like to nationalize all industries, would follow the example of the primary producers and others who are digging deep into their own pockets to help Britain, Australia would more effectually fulfil its role as a member of the British Empire. To make a gift of £25,000,000 to the United Kingdom as a payment for its share of the waging of the war in the Pacific is utterly ridiculous.
What Australia owes to the United Kingdom no one can assess. It was the assistance given by the United Kingdom to the pioneers of this country that put our feet on the ladder which has taken us to great national heights. It was Great Britain’s war effort that preserved us. A truer repayment of our incalculable debt to Great Britain than the transfer of £25,000,000 in the books would be the shipment from Australia of more and more food. Money is useless to hungry people if there is no food to buy with it. I wonder at the apathy of the Government and its supporters. I know that it is a collective attitude,, be- cause if I said to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who is a good Christian, “ Do you not want to help our Mother Country out of its plight?”, be would say, “ Of course I do “. The honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) would want to help a brother in distress. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) would be solidly behind any proposal that the Australian people should feed their kinsmen. I think that applies to most members of the Labour party as individuals. Why, then, does it not apply to the Labour Government collectively? Will the Government not drop its disfavour of assisting G’reat Britain and allow Australia to play its part as a constituent of the greatest empire the world has ever known by rendering to the seat of the Empire the aid’ that it d’irely needs.
– I am very appreciative of the action of the Government in making this gift of £25,000,000 to the British people, but I have been surprised at the trend of this debate. Practically the whole of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was devoted to emphasizing the necessity for exporting more meat and butter to Great Britain, and he compared the quantities of those commodities consumed in this country and the United Kingdom. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) apparently does not want to reduce the ration of the people in Australia-
– I advocated a reduction, of the ration!
– But I do not think that he believes that by slightly reducing the meat ration in this country it will make any appreciable difference to the people in the United Kingdom.
– It will help.
– In the sense that every little helps. It is all’ very well for people like us to advocate a. reduction of the ration; but the point is that the hard-working members of this community have to live on the ration. I do not think the honorable member for Wimmera has spoken to the wive3 of working men and said to them, “ I do not think you require the quantity of meat and butter you receive “-
– There are hardworking people in Great Britain, too.
– I quite appreciate that, but I think that in debating .this matter honorable members opposite have not adopted a reasonable attitude, but have deliberately appealed to sentiment. The honorable member for Wimmera was quite right when he said that the honorable member for Wilmot and 1 would advocate doing all that we could to assist England. The utmost that we can do to help the people of Great Britain cannot be too much. However, in reply to the honorable member for Wimmera and those who advocate sending food instead of money, I would point out chat the purchase of food for export, even to Great Britain, would inevitably increase the price of food here, so that the British people would have to pay more for less food. The honorable member said quite clearly that the reason why more meat is not going to Great Britain is that we are asking the primary producers to sell it at a price lower than is being paid in Australia. If that is right, we shall have to pay a higher price on the open market for the food we propose to export to the United Kingdom. That would mean that the people of Great Britain would have to pay a bigger price for their food and that they would inevitably receive le3s.
– Even at the higher price it would be cheap in comparison with Great Britain’s need.
– Yes; but I am concerned with exporting as much meat to the United Kingdom at as reasonable a price as we can. whereas the honorable member’s concern is to send more meat to the United Kingdom at a higher price.
– But the Government’s present proposals will not result in any food being sent.
– We shall send just as much as the honorable member for Wimmera. I say to members of the Opposition: Where are you going to get £25,000,000 worth of food to send to Great Britain now, and still leave food available for purchase by the United Kingdom at its present price ?
– Where does the Government propose to buy extra food ?
– I do not know; but the honorable member for Wimmera cited figures from a newspaper extract of the bread available in support of his contention that there was little prospect of improvement in the food situation. Yet, in spite of the evidence which he has adduced, he says : “ Where are you going to get £25,000,000 worth of food?” Another remarkable statement made by the honorable member was that of all the fat rendered from sheep slaughtered in this country none is available for export to the United Kingdom. I suppose the honorable member has heard of the great difficulty of getting candles and soap in this country. If we have the fat in Australia but cannot get tallow and fat to make soap and candles for our own use, then what has become of it? It is all very well to speak of an aeroplane taking about six tons of fat to Great Britain, but the honorable member should realize that when he speaks of £25,000,000 worth of food he must take into account the existence of the International Emergency Food Council, a body which he himself mentioned. If he wants to be quite fair he should acknowledge that the real reason why there is such an acute shortage of food in Great Britain is that the British people made available to the starving peoples of Europe food which they could ill afford. If we can make any more food available - and 1 hope that every ounce will be exported - we must realize that it is not of much use sending a single shipment, even a large shipment, to relieve the plight of the British people. It is inevitable that the. British people will say, “ We are going to honour our obligations to the International Food Council “, and they will pass on at least some of the food we send them. Let us take the position with regard to wheat. The honorable member knows that shipments of wheat go to
– And also to New Zealand.
– We receive goods from New Zealand also.
– But not at conces- sional rs. tes
– The statement which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) made with regard to concessional rates on wheat sold to New Zealand is only a half truth. The honorable member does not tell the world - and still less the people of South Australia - that the wheat sold to New Zealand at a certain price is not to be delivered only during this year of shortage but its delivery will be spread over several years. Some of the wheat sold at the price of which he complains is not to be delivered for two or three years.
– I did not say that. The honorable member is imagining it.
– The statement has been made that Australia has sold so many bushels of wheat to New Zealand, and has lost so much money on the transaction.
– So we have.
– Australia has entered into a contract to sell wheat to New Zealand, but not all of the wheat has been delivered.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to direct his remarks to the bill.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Wakefield has caused me to digress; but I believe that his interjections should be answered in order that the people may understand that all the wheat which we have contracted to sell to New Zealand, when the United Kingdom so urgently requires it, is not being delivered now. In fact, only sufficient quantities will be delivered to help New Zealand through its present season and for the next few years.
– To carry out our contract.
– The honorable member believes in carrying out contracts.
– Hear, hear !
– If the contract favoured us completely, and we made a good thing” out of it, the honorable member -would not object to it.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the wheat agreement with New Zealand is bad?
– No, I do not; but, because the honorable member for Wakefield thinks that at the moment a foreign contract would be a little more valuable than the New Zealand agreement, he decries what has been done. We all can be wise after the event. Many people have made contracts and later, when conditions altered, thought that had they not entered into those agreements they could have done better. On the proposal to make a gift to the United Kingdom of £25,000,000, we should not discuss the New Zealand wheat agreement. As I said earlier, too many irrelevant matters have been imported into this debate. If any honorable member says that we should not make the gift, I am prepared to try to understand his attitude. I was amazed at the speech of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Instead of relating his remarks to this .bill, he referred to naval expenditure, and what was paid for docks.
– Very appropriate, too!
– The remarks of the honorable member for Barker would have been more appropriate if they had been made on a budget debate. When we are discussing a proposed gift to the United Kingdom we should be prepared to say whether we approve of it. The honorable member for Barker was asked to state the amount of the gift which he considered we should make to the United Kingdom. If I am not mistaken, he replied that if he occupied the treasury bench he would be able to name the figure.
– Yes, because I should have all the information.
– If the honorable member believed that the gift should exceed £25,000,000, he should have been able to suggest a figure. His argument related to the amount of money which Great Britain had paid on behalf of Australia, under an agreement for services which we shared. I, too, have examined the Auditor-General’s report. Since the honorable member spoke I have re-read a part of it.
– The honorable member for Barker directed the honorable gentleman’s attention to it.
– If I had to wait until some one like the honorable member for Wakefield directed my attention to my duties as a member of this House
I should be lacking in my responsibilities. I do not need the honorable member to tell me what I should do. I should consult him if I desired to throw doubt upon and question the sincerity of another person. In reading the Auditor-General’s report, I discovered that appreciable payments had been made by Australia for certain services on behalf of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and other countries. I found also that at one period, when an accounting was made, a part of that expenditure was repaid to Australia. The honorable member for Wakefield believes in honouring an agreement. Australia has done so. Under this bill, the Government announces that it is prepared to make a gift >of £25,^000,000 for the purpose of assisting the United Kingdom, especially in regard to ihe commitments into which it entered in .the Pacific during the war. 1. give credit to the Government for being prepared to make this gift. Although we may argue the merits of the proposal, we cannot escape the fact that the amount of £25,000,000 will be provided by Australian taxpayers from general revenue.
– Rubbish !
Air. THOMPSON.- If the amount is not to be met from general revenue, perhaps the honorable member for New England (Mr,. Abbott) will indicate the relevant loan appropriation of £25,000,000. The honorable member will discover that subsequently the Parliament will appropriate an amount of £25,000,000 for the purpose of making this payment to the United Kingdom, and the appropriation will be from general revenue.
– That is provided in the Supply Bill.
– The point which I emphasize is that general revenue will provide £25,000,000, and general revenue is derived from direct and indirect taxes. The money will not bc provided ‘out of loan.
– The people know that.
– Some honorable members opposite do not appear to realize it. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) described the gift of £25,000,000 as a book-keeping entry. If this substantial amount could be provided so simply, our financial problems in Australia would be easily solved. I am in favour of this gift. Later, we may be able to increase it. .Some honorable members opposite have stated that the gift has been made at a time when economists have emphasized the necessity for scaling down the United Kingdom’s debts. So far as I am aware, the Commonwealth Government decided last February to make the gift, before the scaling down of debts was raised. The Commonwealth Government considered that Australia should make this gift to the people of Great Britain. Australians are strongly in favour of the proposal, and 3 congratulate the Government on having introduced this bill.
I appeal to Australians to do everything possible to provide food for the people of the United Kingdom.
– Except by reducing our rationing scale.
– I do not know whether the honorable member has said: “Henceforth I shall live on unrationedfood, and shall not use my butter or meat coupons. In that way I shall make available my share of rationed goods to the people of the United Kingdom “. I do not know whether he did that. I am not asking him.
– Has the honorable member ever tried that? I have.
– During much of my life’, I have had to be satisfied with considerably less than I am now entitled to purchase under the ration scale. The honorable member for Wakefield merely begged the question when he spoke of reducing the ration scale. The meat ration was fixed by those who considered what is necessary to maintain the health of the people. That applies also to the butter ration, which was fixed originally at 8 oz. and was subsequently reduced to 6 oz. The honorable member should realize that a reduction of the ration scale would affect mostly the workers, who are entirely dependent on it, whereas he and I can obtain many meals in restaurants and hotels, and leave our rations intact. It ill becomes an ‘honorable member who knows in his heart’ that he would not be affected one iota, to advocate a reduction ofthe meat and butter rations. “The principal sufferers would be the great mass of the people, who live on their rations alone.
– What about the great massof the English people?
– They deserve ev ery assistance that can be given to them. I do. not know what the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) knows about the great mass of the English people. According to official reports from England, they are now getting more food than they had before the war. I am not speaking of people like honorable members opposite, who are alwaysable to obtain the best meals that are offered by the leading hotels.
– The honorable member himself looks very well fed.
– I hope that I do, and that I reflect credit on the wonderful country in which we are living. I would not adopt the miserable outlook which characterizes the honorable member, in regard to what the people of this country s hould do. We do not need to worry about whether the ration is reduced or not; there will still be supplies for the people of England, who appreciate what is being done for them. The people of Australia will always do their utmost to help their kinsfolk in the Old Country. Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways; they cannot argue that the reduction of the meat ration would make more food available for Britain, and in the next breath say that more stock would be sent in to market if a higher price could be obtained for it.
– That is a misinterpretation of what has been said.
– It is not. The honorable member has complained time and again that we have been unable to have sufficient stock sent to market because the export price is less than the local price.
Mr.Turnbull. - I did not say that.
– If the honorable member denies that he advocates a higher price for stock for export to Great Britain, I shall be satisfied. In the past, his contention has been that stock-owners have not senttheir stock in to market be cause the export price is lower than the price for local consumption.
– The honorable member is now qualifying his statement.
– I am not. The honorable member has said that plenty of fat stock is available, and that it could be sent to England. Has the Government ever prevented any man who has stock from sending it to market and selling it for export to England at the fixed price? Has the British Government refused to buy Australian stock at the fixed price? If the honorable member can prove that the Government has prevented the sending of stock to market, I shall admit that it is responsible for the shortage; but if we have all the meat of which he has spoken, and there is an arrangement with Great Britain in regard to price, the Government is not to blame if the meat is not sent forward for shipment.
I support the bill. I know that the people of Great Britain will appreciate our attitude, and that the people of this country will recognize that Great Britain is being credited with £25,000,000 for the purpose of assisting it to purchase food in Australia, if it so desires, at the best prices available. This will enable it to obtain more than would be obtained if the Government purchased the meat at a higher price, and sent it, instead of making a gift of money.
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehy). - Does the honorable member claim that be has been misrepresented ?
– I do.
– The honorable member for Wimmera.
– I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson), who has said that I want meat tobe purchased for shipment to England at a higher price than is available in Australia.
– That iswhat the honorable member said.
– I didnot say anything of the kind. My statement was that I wanted the exportpricetobe raised tothe level of thehome-consumption price in Australia, so that the sellers of stock could obtain the Australian price for that which was exported. It is not fair or reasonable to expect the primary producer to sell-
– Order ! The honorable member may only make a personal explanation as to the manner in which he has been misrepresented, and may not proceed to debate the matter.
– Very well. The honorable member for Hindmarsh misrepresented me when he said that I want the price of meat for Britain to be higher than is available in the Australian markets. I do not want the price to be higher than is available at Newmarket at the present time.
– Order! The honorable member is again debating the matter.
– The price of meat at Newmarket is much higher than the export parity price. I suggested that the export parity be brought up to the level of the price at Newmarket. I was grossly misrepresented by the honorable ‘member for Hindmarsh, from whom I expected better things.
– I listened carefully to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) who, like a conjurer, has all the solutions. He merely pulls them out of a hat. I am amazed that any one should find the solution of the British food problem so easy, particularly as many intelligent men have failed to solve the problem. I do not think that we can dismiss this subject as airily as the honorable member for Hindmarsh does when he says that Australia is making a maximum contribution and that nothing further can be done.
– We are not making a maximum contribution.
– There is evidence that the people of Australia do not think that we are doing all that could be done. That is the view of . the Wellington Graziers Association, one of the bodies which is sending food to Britain. That association is of the opinion that the £25,000,000 should he offered as a gift to Princess Elizabeth in the form of foodstuffs spread over six monthly periods. This problem should be tackled on a national scale, us public opinion has demonstrated clearly. The Government should harness together all the voluntary bodies which are endeavouring to send more food to Britain. The efforts of these bodies should be directed by the Government into the most effective channels, so that the maximum benefit may be derived by the people of Britain. I am glad that the Government is doing something, but there is room for it to do more. It is claimed by supporters of the Government that this gift of £25,000,000 will free Britain of some of its indebtedness and will enable the United Kingdom Government to purchase food elsewhere. I should like to know where Britain could purchase the food that it needs if not in Australia. I have not heard any honorable member say iti what other country Britain could expend £25,000,000 in exchange for food. Many people throughout Australia would like an answer to that question. Australia, in common with other countries, owes to Britain a debt which it can never repay, because in the dark days of the war Britain fought a battle which has benefited the world. I shall not do more than make passing reference to Britain’s contribution to the Pacific war as the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has already dealt fully with that matter. Suffice it to say thai Britain’s war effort preserved the democratic way of life for us in Australia. Because of that, any inconvenience that, we may suffer in order that every man. woman and child in Britain shall be adequately fed is not too much to ask. Can the Government honestly say that all Australia’s surplus food is being sent to the people of Britain? In my opinion, thi1 Australia ration is generous compared with that of the United Kingdom, and no one will deny that extra food beyond that covered by the ration reaches many Australian homes. If our ration is not to be reduced, the Government should at least exercise a more strict control over the rationing system. Only in that way can it ensure that food over and above our requirements shall reach the people of Britain.
During the war the Government controlled certain foods which may be described as semi-luxury foods. Among them was sugar for manufacture of confectionery, milk for manufacturer into icecream, and pure cream. To-day there is more confectionery on the Australian market than the people need ; and that means that sugar is being used for semi-luxury foods when the people i>f Britain are in need of it. If it was thought desirable to curtail r,he manufacture of semi-luxury foods during the crisis of war, we should realize that what is possibly an even greater crisis exists to-day, and that similar action is again called for. When 1 was with the Australian Wavy in England about two years ago, I had to eat three breakfasts before I was satisfied.
– That was not fair.
– I agree that it was not fair; but my point is that the position i;o-day is worse than it was then. As a serviceman, I received additional rations, so I can appreciate the plight of the people of Britain to-day. Semi-luxury foods should be controlled in order to ensure that their basic ingredients, such as milk and sugar, shall be made available for more needy people. The primary producers of Australia are greatly concerned about the under-nourished people of Britain. But there are grave doubts in their minds as to whether the extra food which they produce actually reaches Britain, or whether it lies on the wharfs in Australia, or goes onto the , black.market here. The Government must give a firm assurance to the primary producers that this extra food will be shipped, and will reach the dinner tables in Britain. Admittedly, the Government has launched a national appeal asking that all stock possible be sent in for export before the 30th June. I point out, however, that if the producers send in more than their usual quantity of stock in order to co-operate with the Government - and they wish to cooperate - their incomes for this financial year will be inflated, and they will have to pay an unduly large amount of income tax - particularly as the price of stock is at present so high. Therefore, I suggest that the Treasurer should arrange for primary producers, who send in additional stock, to receive some concession in the way of income tax so that they shall not be penalized because of their effort to send food to Britain.
We have read many newspaper reports that ships are leaving this country only partly loaded, and going on to New Zealand to complete their cargoes. We may properly assume, I think, that the food which should be loaded for Britain is not reaching the seaports in time. It was reported in this morning’s newspapers that seventeen ships had been diverted from Australian ports. The Government should make a special effort to ensure that food cargoes shall be ready at the ports when the ships call.
To-day, the British Empire is facing a challenge to its existence, a challenge which threatens not only its general economy, but particularly its food supplies. Perhaps the challenge is as serious now as was the challenge which the Empire faced during the war. Britain does not now need our fighting forces, but it needs our food. We are an important part of the Empire, and we should be proud of that position, and of the part that we have played in it. We must not and cannot fail Britain now in its time of need.
– Three questions faced the Government when it was considering this matter, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) did not deal with any of them in his speech. I intend to pose these questions, because, whilst they demanded the consideration of the Government, they are also exercising the minds of many people in Australia. This bill provides for a contribution to Great Britain in recognition of the services which were rendered by that country in the Pacific during the war. A contribution of this kind is always made in the way in which the contributor considers it will best assist the recipient Therefore, the question arises: Does Great Britain need financial relief? The second question that arises, assuming that Great Britain is in need of some financial relief, and that a recognition of its contribution in the Pacific theatre of war can best be made in the form of a grant of money, is, what should be the amount of that grant? How big should it be? The third point, which may not be closely related to the others, but about which I wish to make some observations, is, whether the situation in which Great Britain finds itself to-day, could havebeen prevented by action on the part of some authority or other.
I have said that the Leader of the Opposition did not deal with any of these questions. Inferentially, because he did not deal with them, he must be taken to agree that Great Britain should receive a grant of this kind. By inference also, he is in agreement that the amount set out in this measure is- adequate, taking all the circumstances into consideration. This view, of course, is in complete contradistinction to the view expressed by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who said that we should make not only a grant of £25,000,000 to Great Britain- but also a further gift of £25,000,000 worth of food.
It was clearly shown by the Leader of the Opposition, and later proved again, if that was required, by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) that it is immaterial whether we make a gift in the form of food or money. In fact, if we make it in the form of. money, it will be of greater advantageto the people of Great Britain, becausea gift of food would not make any net addition to the quantity of food going into the United Kingdom, unless we impose in this country a more severe scale of rationing, than that now in operation ; whereas a gift of a sum of money will mean that the United Kingdom can buy food from other countries - from Argentina, for example - and will not have to export goods to pay for them. T have said that a gift of food to Great Britain would be of no value unless it was accompanied by more drastic, rationing, in Australia. On this question, the right honorable gentleman had no constructive proposals to make. He surveyed the different food commodities- that are rationed and-, rather unfairly, I thought; compared the butter ration of 6 oz. a week in this country with the ration of 2 oz. a week ihi Great Britain; Actually, the British- ration of butter is” supplemented by 4 oz. of vitaminized margarine, so that the total edible fat ration: in. both. countries is the: same: The Leader of the Opposition also said that we should send more meat to Great Britain. I am sure that honorable members on both sides of the House will agree with that,, if it canbe done. But what, exactly, did the right honorable- gentleman say? He said that there are two alternatives: either the Government must impose a more drastic scale of rationing, and enforce it, or it must lift rationing altogether. However, he did not recommend either of those courses. My opinion is that the lifting of rationing would have exactly the opposite effect to that mentioned by thiright honorable gentleman. He was not. prepared to advocate either of the two courses, and he has as much information as is available to the Government on thu matter. All he could say was, “ I do not know the- answer “. I can give the. Leader of the Opposition one answer.;, that is, that the lifting of rationing would, mean less meat for Great Britain. I can also tell him that, the- imposition of a more drastic scale of rationing, than hat. operated in this country could only bcimposed upon the people and enforced bv a method which, I am sure, he would hesi-tate to advocate. The Government would have to buy all the stock on the- hoof throughout the whole of Australia, andfeed it into the domestic market at the. rate required by the coupon scale, reserving, the remainder for export. Would the right honorable gentleman advocate that that be done? I do not think that the Commonwealth Parliament has the constitutional power to do it because it would mean the compulsory, acquisition of stock on every farm and. station throughout the Commonwealth. Therefore, the first of the suggestions made by the Leader of the Opposition can be regarded as completely impracticable, and the second, if adopted, would have exactly the opposite effect to that intended.
On the question whether Great Britain needs relief, there can be no room for doubt. During the war Great Britain bled itself white. It was forced to realize on nearly all of its overseas investments. It went deeply into debt to a number of countries; and, in addition, bh& very nature of its industrial war effort, involving absolute concentration on war production, meant that Britain was less prepared than any other country to meet the problems of the post-war period. The United Kingdom must increase its exports by 75 per cent, to pay other countries for the food and raw materials that are required, if the British people are to pay their way and also retain a reasonable standard of living This gift of £25,000;000 will provide Britain with overseas currency without having to export anything at all. The amount of the gift can only be decided after a complete investigation of the financial relations between Great Britain and Australia before the war and as they exist to-day. There has been a two-way pattern of indebtedness between the Dominions and Great Britain. On the one hand, the Dominions built up considerable sterling balances in London. These are built up, from time to time, as .a result of the export from the Dominions to Great Britain of primary .products and other commodities. On the other hand, they are depleted in payment for exports from Great Britain to the Dominions, and in payment of debt ‘charges to Great Britain. Before the war ‘every dominion owed investors in the United -Kingdom considerable sums of money. Every dominion had, from time to time, raised loans in the United Kingdom market. These loans were taken up by individual investors in the United Kingdom, and the Governments of ‘the Dominions which raised the loans -owed individuals in the United Kingdom comparatively large sums of money. These moneys, of course, were payable according to the date of maturity of the loan. Thus they were not immediately repayable. There were two kinds of indebtedness. First. there were balances to the credit of the Dominion Governments - in the Commonwealth Bank, as far as Australia’ was concerned, and in the trading banks in London - and, secondly, there were large -sums of money which Governments of the Dominions owed to individual investors in the United Kingdom. It is true that all the Dominions built up their sterling balances during the war period, because the Dominions exported food to Great Britain, and Great Britain was not able to export goods to them. Consequently, a considerable percentage of the increases of the sterling balances in London, ‘held ‘on behalf of the
Dominions, is the result of the “ back log “ of demands for imports, which the United Kingdom was unable to meet. The Dominions will require much of these sterling balances in years to come in order to pay for their imports of goods which Great Britain was unable to supply during the war period.
Let us consider the size of those sterling balances before the war., and compare them with the present figures. An examination shows that Australia has increased its sterling balances in London to a lesser degree than has any other Dominion. T shall cite the figures relating to only three dominions, because they are the only exact statistics available. Those furnished in relation to the other dominions are in the form of estimates. I desire only to give figures as accurately as 1 possibly can. During the war India increased its sterling balances in the United Kingdom from £89,000,000 to £1,200,000,000, New Zealand from £8,000,000 to £S0,000,000, and Australia from £46,000,000 to £190,000,000. Honorable members -will see that the percentage increase in Australian sterling balances is much less than that of the other dominions. Let us look at the other side of the picture. What change has taken place in the indebtedness of dominion governments to the people of the United Kingdom? India, Canada and South Africa have paid off the whole of their indebtedness, but Australia and New Zealand have decreased their indebtedness by approximately only 10 per cent. The figures relating to this aspect are interesting. In March, 1940, India’s sterling debt was £329,000,000; to-day it is practically nil. [n March, 1940, New Zealand’s sterling debt was £158,000,000 ; to-day it is £120,000,000, a decrease of approximately 10 per cent. In March, 1939, Canada’s sterling debt was £91,000,000; in 1947 it was practically nil. I have not been able to obtain the exact figures in relation to South Africa, but I believe them to be comparable with those which I have given for India and Canada. In June, 1939, Australia’s sterling debt was £547,000,000; in June, 1946, it was £487,000,000, a decrease of £60,000,000, or approximately 10 per cent. From those figures honorable members will realize that,this Labour
Government can make the proud boast that it has improved Australia’s financial position vis-à-vis the United Kingdom to a lesser degree than has any other dominion. I should not have made a point of this had it not been for the fact that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), in particular, attempted to belittle what this country has done to assist the United Kingdom. Apparently, the honorable member loves to “ foul his own nest “. He suggested that Australia was ungenerous in charging the United Kingdom the cost of maintaining its troops in Australia. The honorable member knows very well that that is the normal practice adopted by a country which acts as host to the forces of another. It is true that the United Kingdom Government paid the maintenance costs of the British forces based in Australia, and for the construction of camps here. But it is equally true that the Australian Government paid for the upkeep of Australian forces in the United Kingdom.
– What forces?
– The Royal Australian Air Force. The Australian Government also paid the rent of buildings occupied by our forces in the United Kingdom, and rent for aircraft used by Australian airmen in the Middle East. In addition, the Australian Government paid to the British Government a per capita grant for our servicemen who went from this country to the western theatres of war.
– And for the cost of their transport.
– That is so. It is perfectly obvious that what the honorable member for Barker regarded as a mean and ungenerous attitude on the part of this Government is merely the normal method adopted by governments in paying for the maintenance and upkeep of their forces in other countries. As he so often does, the honorable member presented only one side of the picture. The Australian Government owes United Kingdom investors an amount of £487,000,000. Partly offsetting this, Australia has at present £190,000,000 standing to its credit in London. This bill will reduce that amount by £25,000,000
Australian. The British Government itself has signified to the Australian Government that this is the way in which our contribution towards the assistance of the United Kingdom during the critical time it is passing through could best be made.
Finally, I want to say a few words regarding the question whether something should have been done to prevent Great Britain being placed in its present position. I shall voice certain thoughts which have been in my mind for a long time. It is a very great pity that, when the war was won, some international authority was not appointed to scale down the whole structure of international indebtedness.
– It is not too late to do so even now.
– That may be so, and. perhaps, the honorable member can assist in achieving that object. I believe that had some authority examined the international debt structure - that is to say, the load of debt that has to be borne by various countries throughout the world - it might have been able to relieve Great Britain of some of the burden which it now carries. I greatly regret that some investigation was not made on those lines. The suggestion may be rather unpractical and rather unrealistic, but I consider that colossal international debts constitute one of the gravest menaces to the peace of the world in the years to come. I conclude by expressing the hope that some authority may yet be appointed, perhaps under the aegis of the United Nations, to examine the complete debt structure of every nation in order to ascertain whether hard-pressed countries may be relieved of some of their international indebtedness. In the meantime, I commend the Government for having introduced this measure to make a gift of £A25,000,000 to the United Kingdom Government. It will be a step in the direction which I have suggested.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Beale) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator,. &c. - 1947 -
No. 36 -Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
Nos. 37 and 38 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 39. - Commonwealth Postmasters’ Association.
Nos. 40-43 - Amalgamated Postal Wor kers’ Union of Australia.
No. 44 - Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia and Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Labour and National Service - C. R. Airey, S. H. Solomon.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 55.
National Security Act - National Security (War Damage to Property) Regulations - War Damage Commission - Report for 1940.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1947 - No. 2 (Juries Ordinance).
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– I have directed that the information sought by the honorable member should be obtained and communicated to him.
r asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Department of Post-war Reconstruction : Staff.
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice-
How many of each of the following per sons are employed in the Department of Post war Reconstruction: - (a) Chief economists, (b) economists, (c) assistant economists.
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2 (a tof) -
As in other Commonwealth departments there is a number of officers in my department with university qualifications, some of which bear a direct professional relationship to the positions they are occupying and some of which simply reflect the increasing opportunities of higher education now being provided in this country.
n asked the Acting Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
With reference to one, John Schneider occupying a property alongside the Schofield aerodrome; Quaker’s Hill, is the Minister ina position to inform the House (a) what was the value of his plant when he was moved by the Government; (b) what did it cost to move him; (c) has any money since been paid to him; (d) what is the total amount to which the Government has been committed; and (e) ishe now in receipt of any moneys from the Government?
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
Northern Territory: Pastoral Leases.
n. - On the 23rd May, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) asked,inter alia -
What are the names of the stations on the Barkly Tableland and in the Wave Hill district which were due for quarter resumption in 1,935 and on which theCrown has not yet exercised its resumptive rights for 1935 and/or 1945 quarter resumption?
The following is the information desired by the honorable member: -
Weights and Measures.
r asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
The prices paid were based on those prevailing on the New York market at the time of purchase, and it will be observedthat purchases were mainly of the highest grade silk only ten packages of the lowest grade, via. D, priced at £1 5s.11d. per lb., being included in a total of 1,530 packages.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am having inquiries made in regard to the right honorable gentleman’s questions and immediately I am in a position to do so I shall give him full answers thereto.
Broadcasting : Land-line to South Australia: Leakage of Information.
l. - On the 20th May, the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. McBride) asked the following question:
Is the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral aware of the sudden interruptions which occur in the national broadcast. Will he confer with the Postmaster-General with a view to providing a more efficient landline so that the proceedings of this Parliament will not be interrupted and listeners in South Australia inconvenienced thereby?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
As the trunk-lines concerned pass through territory which is exposed to extreme climatic conditions, faults occasionally develop on the circuits through causes which are beyond the control of the Postal Department. The channels are supervised closely, however, in order to ensure that a faulty circuit is replaced promptly by another line and that any faults which develop are corrected speedily. A considerable amount of work is now in progress on the trunk-line route between Melbourne and Adelaide in preparation for the provision of additional channels. It is difficult to avoid interruptions occurring at times, but the officers are fully alive to the inconvenience which may be caused by even a short break in the programme circuit and all possible steps are taken to obviate interruptions. The department is anxious to afford relay facilities which will not be lacking in regard to efficiency, and the honorable member may rest assured that every effort is being made to enable Parliamentary proceedings to be relayed with complete fidelity.
– On the 20th May, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) asked the following question:
Is the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral aware that serious leakages of confidential information by senior officials and members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission during the past year are still occurring? Is he aware that the contents of important documents of which only the general manager and members of the commission should have been aware has become public property and published in the press, thus shaking the confidence of officers of the commission in their organization and deterring them from reporting matters which affect gravely the efficiency of the Australian Broadcasting Commission? Will the Minister ask the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission the result of the inquiry into such leakages which was held twelve months ago?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has informed me that the commission has been concerned regarding the leakage of confidential information, some of which has been published in the press. In October, 1946, the commission directed that an inquiry should be made in regard to one particular case of leakage of information to the press and a senior officer was deputed to conduct investigations. His report indicated, however, that he had been unable to secure any definite evidence showing how the leakages occurred, and the commission felt itself unable, therefore, to pursue the matter further.
Telephone Services : Brisbane Exchanges.
l. - On the 21st May, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) asked the following question:
The Courier Mail states the cut-over from manual controlled telephone exchanges to automatic exchanges in the city of Brisbane had released an additional 1,700 to 1,800 telephones to householders in the metropolitan area. I assume that the press report refers to the automatic type of telephone which is manufactured in Australia and which has been of great advantagein the cities. I also assume that the adoption of automatic exchanges has released magneto telephones. I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General to ensure that the Postmaster-General’s Department shall give priority to urgent cases in country districts’-, where many people are unable to get telephones for two years.
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
The cut-overs of telephone subscribers’ lines which have been effected recently in Brisbane mainly involved transfers of services from existing automatic exchanges to new automatic exchanges in adjacent areas. These transfers have been arranged in order to make available extra , accommodation for new subscribers in the Brisbane metropolitan area. Magneto telephones have not been released by the alterations. There ia a serious shortage of magneto instruments in Australia and en’deavours have been made, and will continue to be made, to obtain supplies by local manufacture and from abroad. This type of telephone is being manufactured in the postal workshops at the rate of 250 weekly. Vigorous efforts are being made to increase supplies, but progress is being retarded because of the shortage of essential components. Priority treatment is being extended to urgent cases in country districts and supplies of magneto telephones are being distributed without delay as they become available. The Postal Department appreciates the importance of telephone facilities to residents of country districts, and the honorable member may rest assured that all possible steps are being taken to meet the situation.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470527_reps_18_192/>.