18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that I have received from the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) a letter, in which he states -
When the House meets to-day, I propose, with your concurrence, to ask the indulgence of the House in order to tender a complete apology.
I call the honorable member for Bendigo.
– I desire to apologize to you, Mr. Speaker, for an incident which occurred yesterday. It was under extreme provocation -
– Order! That is not an apology. The House decides these matters.
– I believe that I should say, in fairness to the Temporary Chairman (Mr. Burke) that the incident arose as the result of a mistake. I did use unparliamentary language, in that I said-
– The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) may say so. He can say what he likes. My remark was unparliamentary in that I said that, so far as I was concerned, the Temporary Chairman could go to hell.
– The honorable member said worse than that.
– I rise to order. As the honorable member for Bendigo is making an apology to the House, I suggest that he should be heard in silence, and not he further provoked.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting on very well.
– I make a complete apology to yon, Mr. Speaker, to this House and to the Temporary Chairman.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that there is a shortage of petrol in Brisbane and Queensland generally at present, and that this month some garages have received less than 50 per cent, of their normal quota? As the position appears to be. the same in other States, will the Minister indicate whether any action will bc taken to overcome the shortage, following his promise to consult with the Minister for Supply and Shipping regarding the petrol position generally? Does the Minister consider that the Government should take immediate action to ensure that supplies of petrol available to the public in Queensland and other States shall be equal to the quantity to which their ration coupons entitle them? With the approach of the Christmas season, motorists are using their vehicles fairly extensively, and, if supplies of petrol are not sufficient to meet the number of coupons issued, motorists will be stranded throughout the country.
– I 8 hall reply to this question. Last night, I discussed with the Minister for Supply .and Shipping and the Minister who represents him in this House the alleged unsatisfactory distribution of petrol throughout Australia. Honorable members will recall that, for a considerable period, a petrol pool operated and gave general satisfaction, inasmuch as all the petrol available was evenly distributed, and those who held petrol tickets were able to obtain supplies of petrol. The Government was assured that, with the abolition of the pool, the distributing companies would make arrangements to ensure a reasonable distribution. and would gradually revert to the normal system. 1 regret to say that, from the evidence available to me, the arrangement has not worked satisfactorily. I am disappointed to find that what I took to he an undertaking has not been observed. I had some doubt whether it would be, but the Government was anxious not to maintain controls of that character if they could be abolished. So we agreed to revert to the system that operated previously under which the companies in the pool were responsible for the distribution of petrol to their resellers. I have not been happy about the arrangement for some time, and I have asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping to invite the representatives of the companies to Canberra in order that the matter may be discussed. The fact is that more petrol has been sold than the quantity for which ration coupons have been issued. It may not have been physically possible for the companies to carry out their undertaking, but the fact remains it has not been carried out. During the week the honorable member for Indi asked a question about the shortage of petrol in Victoria. I propose, in conjunction with the Minister for Supply and Shipping and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, to interest myself in ensuring the carrying out of the undertaking, so that petrol shall be available to people who have been issued with coupons entitling them to buy it. I believe the trouble is largely due to steps taken by the companies to build up stocks at depots. That sometimes means that one locality may be left short of supplies while another has sufficient.
– Will people who have the necessary coupons bc able to exchange them for petrol to ensure the gathering of the harvest and at Christmas time?
– I am not so concerned about ensuring that people shall have petrol for pleasure motoring at Christmas time as I am about ensuring that primary producers and other essential users of petrol shall have adequate supplies. The convenience of the public, of course, must he studied. I have arranged for a discussion on this matter to take place in Canberra on Monday afternoon, and later in the week with the representatives of the petrol companies concerned, because more petrol is being sold than is warranted by the petrol ration coupons issued.
SS. “ River Mitta “ - Transport of Motor Bodies.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether the vesselRiver Mitta, which left Melbourne on or about the 20th October for Sydney has not yet berthed in Sydney, or, if it has berthed, has not yet had its cargo unloaded. As this experience is typical of vessels trading between interstate ports of Australia, will the Minister have prepared for the information of the House a statement showing the average time taken from the point of departure in Melbourne to the point of unloading in Sydney of interstate vessels carrying cargo? What does the Government propose to do to speed up the movement of interstate vessels and the discharge of cargoes in order that shortages throughout the Commonwealth may be speedily relieved?
– I do not know what has happened to the steamerRiver Mitta. If its trip and the subsequent handling of the cargo have been the same as usual, I cannot do anything about it. If there is some abnormality which the Australian Government can rectify, we shall try to do so. I shall endeavour to obtain for the honorable member the information he seeks, and supply it to him.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping a question regarding the accumulation of cargo, particularly motor bodies, at Port Adelaide. This matter was discussed on a previous occasion with the Minister for Supply and Shipping, and certain ships were sent to South Australia. Has the Minister seen a statement in the Adelaide Advertiser pointing out that the accumulation of motor bodies is endangering the employment of workers in Adelaide, and that ships cannot be obtained to load the bodies. Has the Minister noted that ships have left Port Adelaide without motor bodies, although they had space available, and that other ships wth space unoccupied bad passed Port Adelaide without stopping to pick up motor bodies?Will theMinister inquire into the matter, seeing that the present situation is seriously affecting the workers engaged in the industry in South Australia, as well as the motor assembling works in other parts of Australia?
– I have not seen the statement referred to by the honorable member. I know that there has been some difficulty about getting ships for the transport of motor bodies from Adelaide to other parts of Australia, and I am sure that the Minister for Supply and Shipping will try to overcome the difficulty if it is possible to do so. The trouble is largely due to the scarcity of ships for the interstate trade. The Commonwealth Shipping Board is trying to overcome this difficulty by building more ships suitable for the trade. In the meantime, many motor bodies are being transported by road.
Mr.FADDEN.- Has the Minister for Works and Housing seen a press statement by the Director of Housing that, during the year ended the 30th June, last, 45,282 houses were started in Australia? Can the Minister say how many were actually completed and occupied ?
– Last year, 32,000 houses were finished. We published the number of houses commenced in order to indicate the activity in the building industry. Before the war, the number of houses commenced very nearly equalled the number of houses finished in any one year. Since the cessation of war, however, the difference between the commencement rate andfinishing rate has sometimes been as high as 40 per cent., due partly to the ineffective control exercised in some of the States after the Commonwealth relinquished control. Control by the States is now operating more effectively, and the gap between the starting rate and the finishing rate is beginning to diminish. We are now gradually getting back to the position that existed before thewar. I shall obtain the exact figures and furnish them to the right honorable gentleman.
Treatment OF Inmates and Relatives.
– Recently, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Social Services some questions concerning the relatives of mental patients. The honorable gentleman made some inquiries and gave me replies that seemed satisfactory. However, I find that I must bring this -matter before him again. I propose to read a few sentences from a letter addressed to me by the Australian Association of Relatives and Friends of the Mentally 111. These sentences, which will be sufficiently explanatory, read -
Members of the above association ‘are greatly disturbed because they are being worried and harassed to pay out of a basic wage on top of the taxation claimed for social services from them as units of the Australian Commonwealth, a regular sum of money to the Public Trustee for their patients in public State mental hospitals.
One member has, over the past sixteen years, paid £800 in payments. He has had a policeman sent on three separate occasions to view his working man’s home by the trustees. Now he is being threatened that, if he does not .pay the amount demanded, he will be brought before the court. The trustees made a proposition to this member- that, if lie hands over the home (a cottage) they will allow him to live in it free of rent until he dies, and they will not ask any more money of him fo”r the maintenance of his wife who has been a patient in Mont Park for the past sixteen years.
This patient works hard for the Government for which he receives nothing …. This case is only one out of thousands of unfair treatment of decent citizens.
– Order ! The honorable member has quoted sufficient to make her question clear.
– Will the Minister authorize an investigation of the whole of the problems of the mentally ill and their relatives, or those who are responsible for them, in order to ensure that none but fully qualified psychiatrists and doctors may hold positions in public mental hospitals; that hone but fully trained nursing staffs shall attend patients in all mental hospitals; that invalid pensions shall be paid; that permanent domestic staffs shall do all the institutional work, or if patients are employed they shall be paid fairly for the service they give; that patients shall have the benefit of craft classes under suitable teachers, wherever their capacity would justify such occupation; and, finally, that the status of the mentally ill shall be raised from that which at present prevails to something more in keeping with an enlightened age?
– The honorable member has asked a series of questions. I shall not make a long reply or ask her to place it on the notice-paper. I shall pass on the question to the Minister for Health and Social Services for examination and reply. I may inform the honorable member, however, that the whole of the matters raised by her come within the jurisdiction of the State governments. The Minister for Health and Social Services is trying to overcome most of these difficulties by consultations and conferences with the State health authorities which are designed to bring mental institutions within the same category as hospitals under the Hospitals Benefits Act. I shall ask the Minister to reply seriatim to the honorable member’s questions.
– For some time I have been seeking from the Prime Minister information in regard to the dollar position. The right honorable gentleman undertook to ascertain what information could be made available to this House and, in particular, what information on the subject had been made available to the House of Commons. Will he give me an undertaking that before the end of this sessional period a statement will ‘be made by him as to the dollar position so as to permit discussion of the extent of the restrictions being imposed on imports from dollar areas and the extent to which requirements are being made up by imports from the sterling areas?
– Following upon the question which the honorable member for Warringah asked me last week, I requested the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. McFarlane, to make contact with the United Kingdom authorities to ascertain what figures made available in the House of Commons, and what figures furnished to me personally could be made available in Australia.
Those remarks refer to figures up to within, say, two months ago. With regard to the general dollar position, one of the two Australian officers who had been visiting London to participate in the dollar discussions has returned to Australia -within the last fortnight, but we have not yet been able to obtain a complete picture of the dollar situation and its effects upon imports from dollar areas. Despite much pressure at an earlier stage no additional restrictions were placed upon imports from dollar areas because the United Kingdom Government itself had exercised no such discrimination. However, the Australian Government has always kept a fairly substantial restriction on imports from dollar areas. The situation is being examined by a special staff which has been directed to consider import licences. I speak of import licences because I know that inconvenience can be caused by the recalling of licences. The Minister for Trade and Customs and I are to meet in conference on Tuesday afternoon to hear a report on the progress made in the review of import licences, and also to hear statements on the general dollar situation in relation to imports. I shall endeavour to obtain the figures which have been given to the British House of Commons, and will try to get information from the Chancellor of the British Exchequer concerning where the dollars have gone. If possible, I shall make a short statement on the position before this sessional period ends. I may say, however, that a review of interim reports last night indicated that the dollar position is rather bad, and dollars available for .purchases by this country are in very short supply. It looks as though the Government will have to impose even more restrictions on imports from dollar areas. The honorable member for Warringah will have had an opportunity of informing his mind on how the Canadian Government is meeting the situation to-day. I realize that any action that this Government may take is likely to cause some disruption of cur economy. Therefore the Government desires to be fully informed on the subject. It will take no action regarding additional restrictions that is not absolutely inevitable.
Criticisms by Colonel H. T. Allan.
– Having in mind Australia’s interest in New Guinea and the Pacific islands generally, I ask the Minister for External Territories whether he is yet in a position to furnish information as to the result of inquiries arising out of the criticism by Colonel H. T. Allan of the administration of the territories.
– As other honorable; members have also asked questions arisingcut of Colonel Allan’s observations, I ask for leave to make a short statement.
Opposition Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
Nationalization : Statement by Alderman Chandler.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a statement by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Chandler, made on his return from overseas, to the effect that because of the Australian Government’s proposal to nationalize the trading banks of Australia, the United States of America ia taking a very cautious stand regarding loans to Australia involving dollars.
– Order ! Quite clearly the Lord Mayor of Brisbane cannot debate this subject in this House at question time by proxy.
– Then I ask tin, Prime Minister whether he considers American opinion is reflected in a statement made by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, American opinion being that the nationalization of banks in other countries, apart from being contrary to American principles of free enterprise, is objectionable because of its influence on American banking methods? If so, is this attitude by the United States likely to hinder Australian trade developments with that country under the recently completed world trade agreements?
– I thought that I had explained to the House during the last parliamentary period that the position regarding international securities in the American market was very disturbing and uncertain. I have not seen any statement by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Chandler, who went to America many months ago in connexion with the original negotiations. If I may be permitted to make passing reference to this matter, there was no proposal at that time for the nationalization of banking in Australia. I understand that Alderman Chandler did a certain amount of canvassing in the United States of America, in quite a proper manner, for the purpose of ascertaining whether it would be possible to convert loans held by the Brisbane City Council. Acting in my capacity as chairman of the Loan Council, the function of which is to ensure that the best possible results shall be obtained from the conversion of loans, I intimated to Alderman Chandler that, as certain Australian governmental loans were coming due for conversion in the United States of America, including some Queensland loans, he should desist from his canvassing, as terms might be arranged under conditions which might prejudice the terms for the conversion of the governmental loans. However, this matter had nothing whatever to do with the Australian Government. I was involved only because I was chairman of the Loan Council. The matter had not been discussed by the Australian. Government. Any difficulties in regard to international securities in the United States of America arose some time ago. They are not of recent date. The honorable member for Wentworth may rest assured that the trade agreement which was made at Geneva, and which has been laid on the table of this House, will not be affected in any way by legislative action such as that mentioned.
– In view of the Government’s policy of decentralization, will the Prime Minister explain to the House whether the Australian Government is endeavouring to coerce the Queensland Government to place the coal industry of that State under the Joint Coal Board of New South Wales? Is it a fact that the Australian Government, under the influence of the “ more militant miners’ federation “, to use the words of Mr. “ Jock “ Campbell, a member of the executive of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party-
– Order ! In using those words, the honorable member is out of order.
– Is it a fact that the Australian Government, under the influence of the “more militant miners’ federation “, is endeavouring to force members of the Australian Workers Union out, of the open-cut method of winning coal, with the object of replacing them by members of the Communistcontrolled miners’ federation?
– I thought that I had made perfectly clear the position of the Commonwealth regarding the development of coal resources in Queensland. The Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, and I have had discussions regarding supervision by the Joint Coal Board over the development of Queensland’s coal resources. The Australian Government’s only interest in this matter is purely a national one, because we believe that the opportunities for expansion in Queensland are very great indeed. We desired to ascertain whether the State, with Commonwealth assistance, could develop its coal resources, not only to meet the requirements of its expansion, butalso, if possible, to take part in the export trade. There are various places like Noumea and other islands in the Pacific from which we require goods necessary for the Australian economy. Perhaps, at a later stage, Queensland will be able to make a contribution to the coal needs of the southern States. We conveyed to the Premier of Queensland our views on this matter. About a week ago, I had a. telephone conversation with Mr. Hanlon, and I emphasized that the Commonwealth was not attempting to coerce Queensland regarding the development and handling of its coal resources.If the State requires Commonwealth assistance by the establishment of a. Joint Coal Board, weshall consider the position. The conditions of any agreement would include the development of the Blair Athol field, and any mutual arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State would require legislative sanction. Last week I made it perfectly clear to officials of the miners’ federation that we were not attempting to coerce, or were not engaging in a fight with, the Queensland Government about the development of the coal resources of that State. I understand that representatives of the miners’ federation will interview the Premier of Queensland to-day or next Monday to discuss the subject generally. I have made the Commonwealth’s position perfectly clear, because newspaper statements can often lead to some friction. In this instance, there is no friction between the Commonwealth and Queensland, and so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, there will not be any friction. I made it clear to Mr. Hanlon, or one of his officers, by telephone yesterday, that we were prepared to discuss with him the terms of an agreement for the development and management of the State’s coal resources. Otherwise it was purely his business.
– During the consideration of the Estimates for the Department of Works and Housing, I directed ‘attention to an item of £100,000 for the Commonwealth Engineering Company. I asked the Minister for Works and Housing to lay on the table the relevant papers in order that I might obtain some information about the arrangement. I understood the Minister to say that he would give consideration to my request. I now ask him whether he has reached a decision?
– During the debate on the Estimates, I did inform the honorable member for Reid that I would convey his request to the Treasurer. I have done so, and the Treasurer is now considering the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is a fact that during the year ended the 30th June last, out of 3,500 tons of tallow shipped abroad from Australia, 3,200 tons were sold to India at £130 a ton, compared with the Australian ceiling price of £32 5s. a ton? Is it also a fact that the difference between the export and the local prices is being credited to a pool? Will the Minister distribute the money in the pool to the owners of the live-stock who produced the tallow? If so, how will the distribution be made?
– It is a fact that during the year ended the 30th June, last, considerable quantities of what is known as white-collar mutton tallow were exported to India. Those were the only shipments of tallow from Australia, because of the shortage of tallow for local soap-making. The reason why the whitecollar mutton tallow was exported to India is that it is essential in the manufacture of textiles. Unless we supplied that white-collar mutton tallow to India, it would not be possible to obtain textile supplies for the Australian people. It is true that the export price was approximately £130 a ton, but the internal price for the same kind of tallow is considerably higher than £32 5s. a ton. The manufacturers of tallow operate a voluntary pool, and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture ‘ gives them considerable assistance in its operation and administration. They operate the pool so as to equalize the price obtained for tallow exported with tallow sold in Australia.
– The Sydney press this morning contained the following report : -
The State branch of the Federated Clerks’ Union yesterday threatened direct action to stop wool being shipped from New South Wales unless claims on wool companies are met.
The branch decided that from 8 a.m. next Tuesday shipments would cease until all companies settled the clerks’ claims for 100 per cent, trade union membership and provided suitable Saturday rosters for staff.
The branch also decided to ask the Federal executive of the union to take similar action in all States.
In view of the acute dollar deficit, what action does the Minister for Labour and National Service propose to ensure that goods that we have for export shall be sent to the international markets where we need to build up balances instead of being held up because of the action of the Clerks Union.
– When a dispute threatens it is incumbent upon the employers and employees to notify the appropriate conciliation commissioner who will immediately call the parties together in order to straighten things out.
– Has that been done?
– I do not know, but I will make inquiries, and, if necessary, remind the people concerned what they ought to do.
– I have received from a member of the forces a letter containing the following passage: -
All members of the forces were technically discharged on 30th June last, and deferred pay and gratuity were finalized.
All leave to member’s credit on that date was to have been paid for at that time. To date this has not been clone. The sum involved is about £25 per soldier.
Will the Minister acting for the Minister for Defence ensure that these men shall be paid without inordinate delay?
– I have heard of no complaint of the kind mentioned by the honorable member. I understand that all payments were being made smoothly. I will see whether they can be expedited.
-Some time ago, I placed before the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture representations from the Tasmanian Barley Growers Association, which has 400 members, for an increase of the price of barley. He promised that he would have the matter reviewed at a conference with the Australian Barley Board. Will a decision be long delayed?
– The Barley Board does not receive barley from Tasmania. Barley-growing is of such small volume in that State that when the ‘board was formed it was not considered necessary to bring Tasmanian barley within its ambit. The price ofbarley is a matter for the Prices Commissioner. I shall he glad to ask him what the situation is and inform the honorable gentleman.
Assisted Air Passages
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether consideration has been given to assisted air passages for migrants from Britain. If so, what arrangements are being made? If not, in view of the large numbers of Britishers waiting to come to Australia, the shortage of shipping and the high cost of air passages, and in view of the fact that assisted sea passages are granted, will he investigate the possibilities of assisted air passages, which I am assured from reliable source would bring in about 2,000 immigrants yearly ?
Mr.CAL WELL. - I am pleased to be able to advise the honorable member that the matter of assisted air passages is the subject of inquiry by a sub-committee of representatives of the Treasury, the Department of Immigration, and the Department of Civil Aviation. When I was in London, I was approached by the London representatives of Qantas Empire Airways, who desired to be considered in any scheme for bringing people to Australia by air. At that stage we had not thought of extending the sponsorship of persons transported by air as well as by sea. The cost factor is important. I am told, however, that it may be possible, if an agreement is negotiated, to bring people from Britain to Australia for about £200 each. In that event, we possibly could get the British Government -and that is one of the difficulties, of course - to agree to pay the same amount of sponsorship under the assisted passage scheme for transport by air as well as by sea.
– How much is it?
– Half of the cost of sea transport after deducting £10 from the total fare. The Australian Government pays the other half. If the scheme comes to fruition, the honorable member will find that his figure of 2,000 a year is too conservative. I am thinking in terms of 10,000 a year.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
Call from the Chair.
– I ask that further questions be placed on the notice-paper.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. At question time it has been your practice to call honorable members on both sides alternately. Those who do not get the call one day get it on the next day, if possible. I have risen consistently for three days without getting the call. That does not appear to be consistent with your announced method of calling honorable members.
– Strictly there is no point of order involved in the call from the Chair. The only requirement of the Standing Orders is that the Chair shall give the call to the honorable member he first notices. Question time is a very valuable part of the day’s proceedings in that it gives to honorable members generally the right to question the Executive. Originally, it was foundthat in the first 35 minutes it was possible for twenty questions to be asked and answered but this week the average number of questions asked and answered in that period has been only thirteen, largely because of the very lengthy questions and answers. Honorable members should give consideration to others by shortening their questions, and Ministers, I think, ought to shorten their answers. It is true that the method I have adopted in giving the call is to alternate between both sides of the House and between the two parties on the Opposition side, as far as practicable. It is not always possible to carry that out. strictly, but I do so to the best of my ability. I keep a list, and I start from the bottom and top of it on alternate days.
– I have risen 90 times.
– I am sorry that we have not had the benefit of the honorable member’s wisdom, but I have tried to do my best by everybody.
– Do you think that it is fair, when there are twice as many members on this side of the House as on the other, that every member of the Opposition should get the call while only half the number on this side are able to get it?
– The Chair does not expect everybody to ask questions. Under all governments, it has been usual for more questions to be asked by Opposition members than by Government supporters. I do not think that members on the Government side have any grounds for complaint.
– I have noticed during the last few days, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Griffith says, that few Government supporters ask questions as compared with members of the Opposition; but it is becoming a practice for certain Government supporters to get the call twice and sometimes three times on the one day, while some honorable members of the Opposition side cannot get the call at all. Honorable members ask questions of a Minister who is representing a Minister in the Senate who is in charge of the department concerned, and all the Minister in this House can say is that he will place the matter before his. colleague. Would it not be better for such questions to be placed on the notice-paper, thus saving valuable time? The length of time occupied over questions now as compared with a few years ago has increased so much that a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee should be held to discuss the procedure regarding the asking and answering of questions.
– The Chair is bound by the Standing Orders, and the call is given, in accordance with the Standing Orders and the precedents which have been established, first to one side of the House and then to the other. It is: true that an honorable member on one side of the House might ask two or three questions during question time; but I do not intend to depart from the time honoured practice under which the call goes first to one side and then to the other, whether or not this results in the calling of the same person twice. If the House thinks that the Standing Orders should be altered, it may alter them, but while they remain as they are, I will administer them as they are.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from the 20th November (vide page 2429), on motion by Mr. Barnard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill proposes to bring patriotic funds under government control, where they will be administered by the Repatriation Department under regulations issued by that department. The hill makes three exceptions, namely, the Australian Red Cross Society, the Royal Australian Navy Relief Fund and the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Fund. It is easily understood why the Australian Red Cross Society should be exempt. Its work is worldwide, and is continued both in peace and in war. I can understand why the other two organizations have been exempted, but I fail to understand why certain other organizations are not also to be exempt. I want to know whether the Government intends to exempt the funds held by the Legacy Club, the Carry-On Club, which does somewhat similar work, the Poppy Day Appeal Fund, which is devoted to helping necessitous ex-servicemen, and also the H.M.A.S. Sydney Fund, amounting to about £200,000, which was raised after the loss of H.M.A.S. Sydney for the purpose of replacing that ship. When Great Britain presented Australia with the cruiser Shropshire, the money in the H.M.A.S. Sydney Fund was not needed for the purpose for which it was raised, and it is still held by the Government. Some municipal councils which contributed large amounts to the fund, have since wished to withdraw their contributions so that they might be given to the Food for Britain Fund, but the money is still held by the Government, and may eventually be disposed of at the direction of some remote official. Sub-section 1 of proposed new section 118a states - (1.) The Governor-General may make regulations in relation to -
The Legacy Fund in Australia was established to help indigent ex-servicemen and their dependants. I say that advisedly as one who has been a member of the first Legacy Club since its inception. Members have devoted their time to assisting ex-servicemen. Under the provision which I have just, emoted this fund, or any similar fund, can be taken over by the department. Will the Minister for Repatriation say whether it is intended to do this? The very name of the organization arose from the fact that servicemen who, though perhaps like myself, were very scared during their war service, but were not badly scarred, believed that they had inherited from their dead comrades a. legacy and an obligation to look after their families and those dependent on them. The organization has now operated for many years, and has been responsible for the education of thousands of children. Members have made personal contact with the families of ex-servicemen who lost their lives. There is a system of adoption under which a member takes under his charge a junior legatee, sees that he is educated, and then placed in employment, all without charge on the Government. The fame of this organization has gone abroad, and in a recent issue of the Christian Science Monitor glowing reference was made to the work of the Legacy Club in Australia, the methods and organization of which are now being copied in Great Britain. However, in the second-reading speech of the Minister, no reference was made to the Legacy Club, and there was no suggestion that its funds might not be taken over.
– The honorable member need not be unduly alarmed about that. There is no intention to interfere with a lot of these funds.
– Well, why not name those that will not be interfered with? Three organizations have’ been specifically exempt, but no others have been mentioned. Ministers merely throw bills upon the table, and, with but brief explanation, expect the House to approve of them. The Government refuses to accept amendments, and the bills become law. Later, regulations are drafted by the departments and are tabled. Frequently, however, they do not come before us for discussion. After lying on the table of the House for the prescribed period, they become law, frequently without the knowledge of honorable members. If the rules of debate permitted, I could cite many examples of regulations that would not have stood the test of challenge. Regulations were made on an Air Force matter, some time ago, which resulted in deductions of hundreds of pounds being made from the pay- of certain members of the Air Force. The men protested against these deductions being made, and took the matter to court, securing a verdict in their favour. The Government appealed to the High Court and won, but only now is that matter will be equitably adjusted. The Minister for Repatriation shows very little interest in this bill. He contents himself with saying, “ You need not worry about it “, giving us a kind of halfbaked assurance. The moneys standing to the credit of the patriotic funds have been provided by the people for exservicemen and their dependants. The Legacy Club, to which I have referred, was founded by a handful of men, who carried out a notable task without assistance for very many years. Only comparatively lately has the Legacy Club been able to get on its feet financially. Yet, when we show some perturbation as to the disposal of patriotic funds, the Minister, indifferently, says, “Yon need not worry about it “. The ex-servicemen’s organizations have done a great deal of very valuable work in solving difficult financial problems for the ex-servicemen and their dependants. The Repatriation Department was established by an anti-socialist government of the past, but it has lost its character since the present socialist Government assumed office. Both the Repat riation Department and the War Service Homes Commission, which were formerly staffed solely by ex-servicemen, have now lost their identity, having been merged into the general Public Service.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to discuss the bill.
– Both of those instrumentalities are no longer what they used to be. Other organizations are responsible for the collection of patriotic funds. I have mentioned the “Poppy Day” appeal, which may not register with some of my hearers in this House. It is an appeal for funds for ex-servicemen which is conducted in a big way in Victoria. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is hostile to any interference with the fund established as a result of that appeal. If the Government intends to take over that fund it will be in trouble with the league. It would be quite wrong for moneys liberally given by the people for cxSer.vicemen and their dependants to be taken over by the Government. The Minister should give us more information about this proposal ; but he merely sits in his place and says nothing. Probably we shall have a brief reply from him and nothing more. I trust that honorable members opposite will raise their voices in protest against this shabby treatment. If the honorable gentleman thinks that he can brush aside, in that cavalier way, the sentiments expressed by the exservicemen’s organization, we shall fight the bill. We shall oppose every clause of it, and we shall fight it outside the Parliament as well.
.- In a very brief address last night, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), suggested that we could very easily accept the bill, because of the sympathy of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) for the exservicemen. Even though we may admit that the Minister and his Government are in this matter sympathetic towards exservicemen, there is no reason why we should accept the bill for that reason alone. We accept or reject a measure either because we agree or disagree with its provisions or the powers proposed to he conferred by it upon the Government. This hill, which has a seemingly innocent title, proposes to confer upon the Government unlimited powers to control and dispose of patriotic funds subscribed for ex-servicemen and their dependants and of the assets created by the expenditure of such funds. We are not concerned with what may be the intention of the Minister; but we are concerned with the powers proposed to be given under this bill. This measure may be administered by a Minister very much less sympathetic than the present Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). In many places ex-servicemen are establishing funds for the building of memorial halls, many of which will house exservicemen’s clubs and amenities of that kind. Many of these projects are ambitious, costing from £10,000 to £15,000. Obviously, that amount of money could not be collected in one, two or three years. The funds are being built up over a number of years and the ex-servicemen are justifiably proud of the rapid rate at which they are reaching their goal. Under this bill it will be possible for the Government to seize those funds, and where an asset has already been created by the expenditure of the funds, to seize and dispose of the asset. Some of these efforts have been subsidized by the State governments. The State governments say to the ex-servicemen who wish to build a memorial hall, “If you are ambitious enough to undertake the project in your town, we shall subscribe £1,000 towards its cost “. Proposed new section 118a. provides that the Governor-General may make regulations in relation to, inter alia, the control and distribution of moneys and assets raised or acquired ‘by patriotic funds. I interpret the word “ assets “ to mean the material things provided by the expenditure of the money. The proposed new section also provides that regulations may be made in relation to the winding up of patriotic funds and the disposal of the assets and moneys of the funds. I do not think that there is any ambiguity about the meaning of that. I do not believe we would require a lawyer to interpret what is meant by that provision. Under this bill, power is to be given to the Government, not only to seize unexpended patriotic funds, but also to seize and dispose of the assets created by the expenditure of such funds. I do not believe the Minister would pretend that there is any doubt about that. Sub- section 2 of proposed new section 118a. defines “ patriotic funds “ as anr funds established, or to be established, for the purpose of providing comforts or financial or other assistance for, inter alia, members of the forces or their families or dependants. The words “ providing comforts “ could easily be interpreted to include soldiers’ club rooms. Without first consulting ex-servicemen to ascertain their reactions, the Government proposes to make regulations which will empower it at any time to seize the assets built up as the result of the expenditure of these patriotic funds. Apart from those excluded and named in the Minister’s second-reading speech, the moneys and assets of exservicemen can be seized and disposed of whether the ex-servicemen like it or not. The Minister is asking the House to accept an extremely dangerous proposition. During recent years I have been apprehensive of all measures brought down to grant unlimited power to governments. The Minister may say, “ This Government would never dream of doing anything that would be unfair “. But we are not concerned with this Government only; we must look to future years. This Government will not always occupy the treasury bench. Responsible exservicemen who sit on each side of this House could have given the Government valuable advice on this subject which should be regarded as entirely non-political. The Government could obtain the maximum co-operation from ex-service members in all matters of this kind if it would seek their advice. As it is, all ex-servicemen who are members of the Parliament must be apprehensive about the situation. Funds which have been raised for the specific purpose of assisting ex-servicemen will be in jeopardy if this bill is passed in its present form. It does not need a bush lawyer to interpret the clauses of the bill, for they are couched in the widest possible terms. I suggest that instead of placing the funds to which the bill refers under the control of a public department bound by red tape a responsible committee of ex-service members of the Parliament should be appointed to advise the Government on the subject. This is not an original suggestion, for it was advanced first, by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I do not advocate the establishment of another board of public servants, but I believe that responsible ex-servicemen who are members of the Parliament or associated with some repatriation organizations could be constituted as a committee to adjudicate on what should be done with patriotic funds concerning the satisfactory disbursement of which there were reasonable doubts. I know that certain funds have been in existence for twenty years or more. I have had experience with some of them myself. Such funds may have been vested in trustees and the trustess may have died or they may have moved to the four corners of the earth, with the result that, at the moment, nothing can be done with the funds in question. It is desirable that legislation should be passed to meet such cases.
– That has already been done in New South Wales, where dormant funds come under the control of the Government.
– I would have no complaint about the taking of proper measures to deal with dormant funds. If such funds cannot be used for the purposes for which they were raised authority should exist to take charge of them; but the proposed new section 118a in this bill goes much farther than that. The Minister should explain explicitly the meaning of paragraphs c and d of subsection l of this proposed new section, for it seems to me that they provide that the Government may take over the control and distribution of all moneys and assets raised or acquired by patriotic funds and may wind up any such funds and dispose of the assets and money involved. This proposed new section is in my opinion entirely unsatisfactory, and is fundamentally unsound. Lf it be agreed to - as no doubt it will, for the Government has the numbers - many injustices will follow, and many grievances will arise.
– I support the views expressed by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). Ex-servicemen’s organizations have been doing a very fine job for many years in assisting needy comrades. Some of their activities undoubtedly come within the scope of the Repatriation Commission, but because of delays by that body in reaching decisions, the exservicemen themselves considered it necessary to take steps which make it possible to give prompt assistance to needy comrades and their dependants. I have in mind a distressed diggers’ fund which was established by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia after the last war. It was substantially supported by generous-minded citizens, and its funds were also strengthened by the proceeds of sporting fixtures and the like. If this bill is passed in its present form, I fear that the Repatriation Commission may be able to assume control of such a fund, and it may use the money in ways not approved by the people who raised it.
– Would the honorable gentleman define such a fund as a patriotic fund?
– It would, in my opinion, fall within the definition in the bill, for the measure is drawn in the widest possible terms. In the branch of the league to which I belong we have a committee operating which- determines what disbursements shall be made from the funds available for the purpose. The disbursements are not limited to exservicemen who are members of the league. A great deal of good was done during the depression by disbursements from this fund. People who had not a shilling to spend were granted relief from the fund at the time they needed it most, and they were able to buy essential clothing, foodstuffs and the like. If their application had had to go before a public authority all sorts of delays may have occurred. Organizations of the kind that I have in mind were able to avoid inordinate delays, and to grant assistance when and where it was needed. It will be no answer for the Minister to say that the Government does not propose to interfere with the operation of such funds. The terms of the bill are so wide that anything could be done. I should like an assurance from the Minister that funds of the kind to which I have referred will not be interfered with; in fact, the bill ought to be amended to ensure that that will be so. These funds were accumulated as the result of house to house canvassing at a time when taxation was very high. People intimated how much they were prepared to contribute regularly, and collectors called to receive their subscriptions. In one small district that I know of more than £7,000 was collected during the war years. A substantial amount was distributed. When the war ended a considerable sum of money was still held in the fund. A public meeting was called, trustees were appointed, and eventually the funds were distributed in equal shares to the Australian Red Cross Society, the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, and the Legion of ex-Servicemen. I suggest that the Government should make a clear statement of its intentions in this connexion. Unless it does so, the confidence of the public will be sapped. The exservicemen’s organizations are, in the main, doing an excellent -job in assisting people who are in temporary difficulties. The Minister should make it clear that funds which these organizations are administering for the purpose of assisting disabled comrades and their dependants who do not receive sufficient from the Repatriation authorities will not be interfered with, but will remain under the administration of the persons best able to administer them.
– I believe that the powers conferred under this bill are far too wide to justify honorable members supporting it in its present form. Last night, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) endeavoured to assure the House that there need be no fear as to the effect of the operation of this bill on the various funds to which it applies, and that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) could be relied upon to give sympathetic consideration to the problems which would arise. He also pointed out that this legislation provided for the winding up of certain funds which are in such a condition at present as to require this action. As experience has proved, there comes a time when it is advisable that some of these funds should be wound up. If the bill merely provided for that, I should have no objection to it. But I believe that wider action can be taken under this measure which conveys such wide powers upon the Minister.
This morning, the Minister, by interjection, stated that there was no intention of dealing with some of the funds which had been mentioned, but I contend, with respect, that that is a vague genera] statement which we hesitate to accept. I make that assertion without any desire to convey anything offensive to the Minister himself. The issue is not whether the administration of the Minister for Repatriation, whoever he may he, under this bill, will be “sympathetic or otherwise. If an act depends for its efficiency and successful operation upon sympathetic administration, it is a bad act. The provisions of any act should be such as to ensure that its administration, in conformity with its provisions, shall be successful and efficient, no matter who may be administering it. Because of the wide generalized powers in this bill, it is a justifiable criticism to level at it that its effectiveness will depend upon sympathetic administration.
In addition to the funds to which the honorable member for Parkes referred as requiring winding up, there are many others which have been functioning for many years, and which, it is expected, will continue to function. A few minutes ago, the honorable member for Parkes asked whether these funds would come under the heading of patriotic funds. I recognized from his tone that he was actually seeking information for his own guidance. Several funds in my own electorate, two of which I recall at this moment, namely, one at Rockhampton and one at Mackay, are actually named after their respective districts. From that viewpoint, they must definitely be classed as patriotic funds. In common with the funds in many other districts, they are established by local enterprise, and are being administered by local committees. Men and women are giving a considerable amount of their time, without any remuneration but simply with a desire to serve, to the administration of these funds in a way which will benefit exservice men and worner, and their dependants.
Another point that should be made, is that that fine organization the Legacy Club uses many of these local district funds in carrying out the wonderful work which it has performed for a considerable period. Because of that tie-up, how far would the Legacy Club be involved in any action which might be justified under this bill? Because of the local knowledge which is applied by local committees to the administration of these funds at present, a most effective service is being rendered, but every person with a practical knowledge of the position will agree that immediately some kind of supervision, no matter what it might be, is superimposed on the work of the local administrators, something of the personal touch is lost. It is the personal touch in the handling of these many problems which constitutes such great value. To lose any part of that will bc a bad thing.
The operation of the organizations which administer the various funds fills in a gap which now exists in the administration of repatriation work. The Repatriation Department, I believe, is doing a fine job, but there are many cases which, because of some peculiarity, do not come within the scope of the regulations governing repatriation officers. Many of these local funds have been developed because of that fact, and they are catering for many cases which, otherwise, could not be dealt with by the Repatriation Department or which are of such a nature as to demand immediate treatment. They would not receive it if they were referred to the Repatriation Department. Therefore, these local funds are a valuable adjunct to the work of the department, and nothing should be done to hamper their operations. Consequently, I am afraid that the assurances that there will be sympathetic administration and that there need not be any fears about the matter are not sufficient to satisfy me that the bill, in its present form, is worthy of support. The powers which it will confer upon the Minister are too wide, and insufficient information has been given to the House as to exactly bow they will be exercised.
Some of these district patriotic funds have been in operation since World War I., and others were developed at the beginning of World War II. They still contain considerable funds and are still functioning. Will their operations and administration be taken over holus-bolus from those who are at present administering them? That is a plain question, which the Minister should answer. Alternatively, is it the intention of the Minister not actually to take away from the present local administrators their work, but to superimpose on their work certain instructions with which they must coinply? This is information which the House and the country are entitled to have before the bill is passed. Unless some satisfactory information along the lines which I have described is given, I shall not support the bill.
The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), who was unable to take part in this debate before he left for his electorate this morning, asked me to inform the House, after discussing with me my attitude towards this proposal, that he associates himself with the fears expressed by other honorable members regarding the operation of the bill in its present form.
.- I want to get the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) at the beginning of my brief remarks, and to point out that I am most dissatisfied with this bill. Never in my political experience have I seen legislation like it. This bill does only one thing, namely, authorizes the Governor-General to make regulations for certain purposes. Every other bill presented to this House contains various clauses setting out the proposals of the Government, and often, in addition, a clause which authorizes the Governor-General to make regulations not inconsistent with the provisions of the bill. The measure now under consideration does not indicate what is in the mind of the Minister. I ask him to cite one bill which only prescribes authority to make regulations. If this bill is passed, regulations made under it can be slipped on to the table of the House unknown to members, and, after 30 days, have the effect of law. This is a hole-and-corner method, to which I do not subscribe. Before I shall support the bill the Minister must explain why he has not introduced a measure which sets out what he desires to achieve, and containing, if necessary, a clause empowering the Governor-General to make regulations. T am fed up to the teeth with the way in which the Government runs the country by regulations. It has gone perfectly barmy in its efforts to administer the country without parliamentary sanction. On one hand, it has gone wild with socialization proposals, and, on the other, it has gone wild in its efforts to govern by regulations. Unless the Minister discloses to, instead of withholding from, honorable members what he proposes to do with these patriotic funds, I must oppose the bill. I contrast it with the Services Trust Fund Act, which discloses the intentions of the Government. That act provides for the setting up of a trust to administer the funds.
– The trust has been set up with a Victoria Cross winner as chairman.
– Well, it is a “ washout”, as I will show later. It is not doing its job. Meanwhile, I am dealing with this bill, which proposes that the Governor-General may make regulations in relation to -
I have never seen a bill empowering the Governor-General to make regulations that did not indicate in the bill the general policy of the Government. The definitions are contained in proposed new section 118a (2)-
In this section - “ patriotic funds “ means any funds established, or to be established, for the purpose of providing comforts or financial or other assistance for -
members of the Defence Force or their families or dependants;
members of the Forces of any part of His Majesty’s dominions (other than Australia)or of any allied country ; or for any similar purpose in connexion with the war, or for purposes includiny any such purpose; “ the Defence Force “ includes any Force raised or maintained under the Defence Act 1903-1941, the Naval Defence Act 1901-1934 or the Air Force Act 1923-1941, whether in Australia or overseas, and the Australian Army Nursing Service; “ the war “ means any war in which His Majesty became engaged on or after the third day of September, One thousand nine hundred and thirtynine.
I object to giving power to the Government to control the accumulated patriotic funds by means of regulations that we have not seen and the value of which we cannot anticipate.
In order to show that the trust administering the Services Trust Funds has fallen down on its job, I propose to show what is happening. I have received the following letter from the Ipswich Legacy Club, of which I am a member : -
You may recall that, at our meeting of the 9th September last, a letter from Brisbane’s Legacy was read requesting that our club submit any applications for assistance from the Australian Military Forces Special Benefits Fund to that club before making any payment, this being brought about by the restriction of funds due to the change-over in administration of the fund.
At that meeting I submitted the following motion: -
That this club protests against the delay occasioned in assisting needy cases due to the change over in administration of the Australian Military Forces Fund, and urges that the reorganization be expedited.
That motion was carried and forwarded to the Legacy Club at Brisbane on the l2th September. On the 17th September, a reply was received advising that, as the “Mother Club”, it had already protested in very strong terms along the lines suggested. The letter that I received continues -
At our last meeting a letter was received from Brisbane Legacy, dated the 22nd October, and I was directed to forward a copy to you, which I show below. “We are holding various applications from your group for reimbursement from the Australian Military Forces Special Benefits Fund, of amounts paid out by Ipswich Legacy. Unfortunately, at the present moment, we have no monies available in this fund, but as soon as funds become available the cases will again be submitted for consideration “.
There is £4,500,000 in the Services Trust Funds that ought to be available for distribution to needy ex-service men and women and their dependants, but the money is frozen. When the administration of the canteen funds was on a voluntary ‘basis things went along splendidly without complaint. In a fit of crankiness the Government decided to take over control of the funds and to reorganize them. The consequence of the reorganization is a denial of aid to people who need it. That is indefensible. It is equally indefensible for the Government to ask us to adopt this proposal without giving the information we want as to its intentions. I have never before seen the like of this bill. I want the Parliament to govern the country and I resent the drift towards Hitlerism that we witness in every piece of legislation introduced by the Labour Government. Abuse of the regulationmaking power was never so great as it is in this bill, because we are given no indication at all of what sort of regulations will be made. The powers asked for are greater than any government ought to he given. Patriotic funds are best administered by those who raise them. I need only instance the way in which the trust administering the Services Trust Funds has fallen down on the job to prove that.
– A gallant soldier, Brigadier Blackburn, V.O., is chairman of the trust. The honorable member is condemning him.
– Winner of the Victoria Cross or not, if he is not making money available from the fund to help people in need, he is not doing his job. A man can be a gallant soldier, sufficiently gallant to so endanger his life in the cause for which he is fighting as to be awarded the Victoria Cross, and yet not a good’ administrator. I do not say that about Brigadier Blackburn, and I resent the innuendoes of the Minister. Probably his effective administration of the fund is hampered by the Government. It probably does not want him to succeed. Whatever happens it is important that the local authorities administering these funds to-day should continue to administer them. Funds raised in specific districts should be expended iri them.
– That is exactly what is intended.
– Then, why in the name of heaven, has the Minister not said so before?
– The honorable member does not give me a chance.
– Give you a chance! Why, the Minister made a speech in moving the second reading of the bill. He had all the opportunity he needed then to say everything that had to be said from the Government’s point of view about the bill. The measure ought to be withdrawn and ; redrafted so as to state the intentions of the Government in regard to these funds. The concluding paragraph authorizes the making of regulations, but they should be able to do no more than to implement something to which Parliament has already agreed. Actually, the Government has not sought any power in the bill except power to make regulations, and we have not been informed what those regulations will be. _ Not long ago, the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia held a conference in Canberra, at which fears were expressed that the Government was trying to grab its funds which had been raised to assist ex-servicemen in distress. I know that there were discussions with members of the Government on the subject, and I should like to know whether the league was satisfied with the outcome of the discussions. So far as I know, this is the only .bill that has ever been introduced into this Parliament which makes no specific provision for anything except the making of regulations. This is an example of executive government run mad. The Government is merely toying with the Parliament. I demand that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted in such a way as to state clearly the proposals of the Government.
.- I believe that there is much in the contention of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) when he says that the bill, as it stands, merely provides for the making of regulations about a number of things. In that regard, I have perfect confidence in the Minister for Repatriation _ (Mr. Barnard), so long as he is administering the bill; but, unfortunately, Ministers change from time to time. It may be that another Minister will be found administering this bill at some time in the future.
– In another two years’ time.
– I do not suggest that the change will occur in two years’ time. I think that the present Minister will be administering this legislation for a long time - at least, I hope so. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the power to make regulations is the only substantial power provided in the hill - power to make regulations relating to a number of things, including the establishment of patriotic funds. Well, I should like to have some definition of what is a patriotic fund, but none is contained in the bill. Finally, the bill provides for the imposition of penalties, and although some limit is prescribed to those penalties, it is, in fact, provided that six months imprisonment may be imposed for a breach of the regulations, and that is a serious penalty. The contention of the honorable member for Moreton is, on the whole, not bereft of reason. It is not sufficient that the bil] should provide for the making of regulations, and that only. Moreover, the provision for the making of regulations is in very wide terms, and includes power to make regulations for the application of penalties of a serious kind. Well, I do not want, in a provision of this kind, to include power to impose a serious penalty. These penalties, involving up to six months’ imprisonment, are too drastic. Although I am satisfied that the Minister for Repatriation will sympathetically administer this legislation, we cannot overlook the fact that at some later stage, as the result of a re-allotment of Cabinet duties, his place may be taken by another Minister who would not be so sympathetic. Although I do not suggest that the bill should be revised as drastically as was suggested by the honorable member for Moreton, I believe that it is unwise to retain in it penalties of such a serious character. I do not suggest that the bill be withdrawn, but I ask that it be reconsidered in the light of observations made by honorable members opposite and some honorable members on this side of the House. The granting of power to make regulations without defining what those regulations shall contain is to be deprecated. I do not believe that the Minister has given sufficient consideration to this proposal and I suggest that he reconsider it.
– Most aspects of the bill have been fully discussed. I agree with what has been said by honorable members generally in regard to it. It is interesting to note that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) agrees that the provisions of the bill are far too wide and that they should be reconsidered. Under this bill the Governor-General may make regulations covering everything pertaining to patriotic funds and the assets that may be created as the result of the expenditure of such funds. A provision should be inserted in the bill to ensure that the intention for which the funds were established shall be preserved. The Government should not allow patriotic funds to be established and then, at some later time, determine the methods of their disposal. If the powers proposed to be taken by the Government in this bill be exercised, as we fear they may be exercised, all incentive to subscribe to patriotic funds that may be established in the future will be destroyed. Many of these funds were originated during World War I. and were revived during World War II. In the State with the conditions with which I am most familiar, the Justices Department ensures that the patriotic funds shall be devoted to the purposes for which they are raised, namely, for the assistance of exservicemen and their dependants. Operating within that charter those controlling the patriotic funds have been able to do very much good in the past. The necessity for building up patriotic funds was not so great during World War II. as it was during World War I., largely because it was possible for the Australian Comforts Fund to provide a higher standard of service for the troops than was possible, during World War I. Arising out of the experience of World War I., the various comforts funds were able to do an extremely efficient job for the troops. The dependants of ex-service men and women are also being assisted from many patriotic funds. Since the end of World War II. local’ committees have done excellent work in helping cases of neurosis pending determination by the repatriation authorities of whether such cases properly came within the scope of the commission. Our local committee at Kingaroy, for example, gave assistance to such cases. One young mother with two children was helped for four or five months. She received £5 per week and was able by this means to carry on in a normal way. If patriotic funds such as these are brought within the control of the Repatriation Commission, local committees may be discouraged and undoubtedly in some instances the funds will languish. Collections have now ceased in connexion with these funds, but the administrators of the funds still operate in many localities and still distribute much needed assistance. In Queensland, in some instances, trustees have been appointed to act under the supervision of the Justices Department, and the funds are subject to regular audit by the Queensland Audit Department. If the persons administering the funds are not giving true effect to the charters under which they are registered, steps can be taken to apply a remedy.
It is well known that the effects of war service are only now becoming apparent in many ex-service men and women. Tropical disorders of various kinds are becoming manifest and until help can be obtained through official channels for persons suffering from such disorders, recourse is bad to local funds. We desire that state of affairs to continue.
– Such activities will not be prejudiced.
M r. A DERM ANN. - I know that the Minister is sympathetic, but his conversation with me since his second-reading speech was delivered does not seem to me to be in accord with his speech. In the course of his speech the honorable gentleman said -
Funds are of the character of one orother of the following classes: -
Australia wide, or operating in more than one State.
Operating in a territory or territories of the Commonwealth.
Operating solely within one State.
The legislation included a provision to the effect that where a State had satisfactory legislation to cover the requirements, the Governor-General may exempt funds of class C from the provisions of the Commonwealth legislation other than those directed to winding up. and may exempt the’‘operations” of any branch in the State of a fund of class A, i.e., operations as distinct from establishment of the fund and winding up. Infive States such exemptions were approved.
Tasmania was the one exception. I asked the Minister whether exemption had been given to those funds and he replied in the negative. I should like him to clarify the position.
I can understand the need for the winding up of dormant funds, but a good many of the funds that I have in mind may be subject to heavy calls during the next few years, for many disabilities that ex-service men and women are labouring under are only now becoming apparent. There are many borderline cases that will need assistance. I do not blame the Government because borderline cases exist. They are probably inevitable; but they also involve some delay on the part of government authorities. Delays must occur when the lines of demarkation are not clear. It is necessary, therefore, that funds shall be available to provide assistance for borderline cases pending decisions by the official authorities. In these circumstances, we should not do anything that will discourage people from making voluntary contributions to local funds. I hope that the Minister will give careful consideration to the points which I have raised.
– I support the remarks that have been made on this bill by honorable gentlemen on this side of the chamber. I regard the provisions in clause 3, in particular, as dangerous. If they are put into full effect it. is inevitable that the administration of many patriotic funds will be seriously interfered with, and that injustices will be inflicted upon deserving people. If patriotic funds are placed under the control of the Repatriation Commission in various parts of Australia there will undoubtedly be considerable resentment. The people who have provided these funds through voluntary contributions should be allowed to continue the administration of them if they desire to do so. Some of the funds are designed to serve a special purpose. I know of some funds from which grants may be made to ex-service men and women who desire to engage in certain industrial activities. An ex-serviceman, for example, may have an opportunity to acquire a business of a kind in which he desires to engage, but may not have the necessary cash to pay the deposit required. It is true that he may make application for assistance in this regard under the reestablishment programme which is being administered by the Department of Postwar Reconstruction; hut such applications are frequently subject to long delays before determinations are made. In the meantime, an ex-serviceman could very easily miss the opportunity to acquire the desired business. Various local committees, however, have funds available from which advances may be made to meet these circumstances. If the control of such funds be taken over by a government authority, delays in the granting of applications for assistance will undoubtedly occur, and for this reason the funds will not be so readily accessible to ex-servicemen as they are atpresent. The ex-servicemen, of course, reimburse certain of these funds when applications which they have made for advances under the re-establishment programme have been granted. Similarly, when exservice men and women apply for repatriation benefits, delays almost invariably occur, and the individuals concerned are able to obtain temporary relief from local sources. If, however, these local funds come under government control, delays in the granting of relief from them will also occur. A certain amount of red tape is used in every government department and the existence of local funds of the kind to which I have referred is a mitigating factor in this connexion.
I greatly fear that if the Government takes charge of all patriotic funds, as it could do under the terms of this bill, individual incentive will be killed, and exservice men and women will be denied the assistance which voluntary contributors to such funds intended should be readily available to them. We all know that private citizens have worked hard to establish their local patriotic funds, and they should not be denied the right to administer the funds. Auxiliary organizations for the relief of individuals who served in the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, have done splendid work, and the patriotic instincts of the private citizens, who organized these activities, should not be ignored. I quite admit that at times a regulation may be broken here and there by persons who are anxious to give help without delay in deserving cases; but this is not a sufficient reason why the Government should assume control of all these funds. I have in mind one fund to which local residents contributed more than £2,000. It is being used to assist ex-service men and women to obtain equipment to engage in various primary producing activities. The ex-servicemen can obtain advances for the purchase of implements to cultivate and sow their ground, and for other essential requirements. Many of these local funds are almost a necessary adjunct to schemes established by the Government for the assistance of ex-service men and women, and people will resent any attempt by the Government to assume control of them. The bill provides that heavy penalties may be imposed on individuals who commit breaches of the regulations, but care must be taken that over-zealous officials shall not act in a way contrary to the best interests of ex-service men and women for whose benefit these patriotic funds have been established. Proposed new section 118a which will be inserted in the principal act if clause3 is passed provides - (1.) The Governor-General may make regulations in relation to -
It would be most unfortunate if government action resulted in discouraging the civilian population from doing everything possible to assist ex-service men and women to re-establish themselves in private life. This bill will produce unwarranted interference with certain funds. I am anxious that ex-servicemen shall continue to receive the advantages which the organizers of these funds and subscribers, many of whom are women, have provided. I object to a proposal that the control of these funds shall be assumed by the Government and, perhaps, their assets be sold. For these reasons, I oppose the bill.
– Is the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) prepared to grant me the adjournment of the debate?
– This bill is one of those extraordinary things which emanates from this most amazing Government from time to time - a government which has already indicated in the Ministers of State Bill, which was introduced this week, that it considers that the services of Ministers to the country are not nearly sufficiently well rewarded. About that subject we shall have something to say next week. The interesting point about the short bill now under consideration appears on the reverse side of the single sheet. The measure contains only three clauses, and, of them, the third is the most interesting. I admit that I did not glance at it until only a few moments ago, but it has certain definitions. For example, “ the war “ is defined as -
Then, there is the definition of “ the Defence Force”. Honorable members will notice that I am starting at the end of this proposed new section and working up to the beginning of it. “ The Defence Force “ includes - . . any force raised or maintained under the Defence Act 1903-1041, the Naval Defence Act 1901-1934 or the Air Force Act 1923-1941, whether in Australia or overseas, and the Australian Army Nursing Service.
I come now to the beginning of the proposed new section. It reads -
The Governor-General may make regulations in relation to-
I know that you, Mr. Speaker, will not allow me to make any reference to the Governor-General.
– Order ! And it is undesirable to do so.
– I said I knew that you, sir, would not allow me to do so. I understand that; so that anything which I have to say on the subject will besaid outside the House in Melbourne next Saturday week. Paragraph a of sub-section 1 of proposed new section 118a provides that the Governor-General may make regulations in relation to - the establishment of patriotic funds.
According to the definitions which I have just read, the establishment of these patriotic funds must be in relation to the war in which His Majesty became engaged on and after the 3rd September, 1939. It seems to me rather peculiar that the Government should consider that new patriotic funds will be established in relation to a war which has ended. That is working in reverse. It reminds me of some of the expressions which are attributed to Einstein, about whom I do not know a great deal, but about whom I have read a little. He said that if we know how to do certain things in relation to time, space and other matters, it is possible for us to leave the world to-morrow, stay away from it for 100 years and come back yesterday. That reminds me of what the Minister has in mind regarding the establishment of patriotic funds relating to a war which has ended and for the use of forces 99 per cent. of whose members have been demobilized. The only Australian forces now in existence are now in Japan, and some of those troops did not take part in active operations. Apart from them, we have a few troops scattered in the islands to the north of Australia. The Governor-General may also make regulations in relation to -
I submit that proposed new paragraphb is closely related to proposed new paragraph a. I can conceive of the Government being concerned, perhaps, about the raising of money for the purpose of augmenting a fund, or improving the assets of patriotic funds already in existence and established in relation to World War II. But it is most unlikely that there will be any attempt to raise money or acquire assets for patriotic funds which have not been established. Therefore, I am rather in the dark as to why proposed new paragraph a has been included in the bill. Next we have paragraph c - the control and distribution of moneys and assets raised or acquired by patriotic funds;
Why the Governor-General, which means the Ministry of the day, should want to control these funds, which are usually very well controlled by the bodies that are responsible for their raising and management, is beyond my understanding. If we like to go through the list of different funds in respect of both World War I. and World War II., I think even this Government must admit that the management of those funds provides an example that might well be followed by a few of our government departments. They have been well managed and they have been applied to the purposes for which the money was raised, and that is something that we should not like to certify to in regard to certain government departments. Then we. have paragraph d - the winding up of patriotic funds and disposal of the assets and moneys of the Minds: the remarks I made just, now apply with equal force. If the people are able to raise money and acquire assets satisfactorily from the viewpoint of both the donors and the beneficiaries, they should be able to wind up their funds equally satisfactorily to the donors and the beneficiaries.
– If they cannot, what does one do then?
– Has the Minister heard of the old saying that you do not cross a creek until -you come to it?
– The creek is running, and we want to do something about it. What ‘ does the honorable gentleman suggest when funds cannot be wound up?
– Can the Minister state one fund that cannot be wound up?
– I know of a number.
– The Minister is conforming strictly to the rule applied by the Ministry for some time. It is a rule that only a ministry intoxicated with its own power and its belief that it is in permanent occupancy of the treasury bench would formulate. I have a strong suspicion that even the records of the famous the Sth November have not eradicated from the minds of my friends opposite that awkward delusion.
– .They are waiting for the atomic bomb to explode.
– I am not too sure about that. I have been reading reports from Japan of what has occurred at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From the agricultural viewpoint, the atomic bomb has proved extremely successful, because plants and grasses have grown extremely well since it, was dropped in those areas. Whether we shall see me and one or two others in the Australian Country party asking for atomic energy for agricultural production I do not know.
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the bill.
– I was answering the right honorable member for North Sydney. Paragraph c reads - the provision of penalties, not exceeding a fine of fifty pounds or imprisonment for six months, for any breach of the regulations.
We have not, seen these regulations, but since regulations made by the GovernorGeneral must conform to the statute, they must deal with four different things. They must be regulations for the establishment of patriotic funds. Is it proposed that there is to be a fine not exceeding £50 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months imposed on any one who establishes patriotic funds? That is what this clause provides for. The Minister claims the right to fine a. man £50 or imprison him for six months if he establishes a patriotic fund in contravention of the regulations. We have not seen the regulations but penalties are provided for the raising of money and the acquisition of assets. The House is entitled to see these regulations. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Twentythird Annual Report for year 1946-47 together with Statement by Minister reregarding the operation of the Act.
Lauds Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Department of Works and Housing purposes - Garbutt, Queensland.
Science and Industry Research Act - Twentyfirst Annual Report of Council for vear 1940-47.
Ordered to be printed.
Sugar Agreement Act - Sixteenth Annual Report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, for year ended 31st August, 1947.
House adjourned at 12.51 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he ask the Public Service Board to furnish a statement showing the number of («) permanent and (b) temporary public servants employed in w,:li Commonwealth department at (i) 30th .Tune, .1 935). or a. date in that year for which statistics are available; (ii) at a similar date in 11140 and (iii) at the latest available date this year?
– I refer the honorable member to my reply to a similar question which is contained in Hansard, pages 3068-9, of the -28th May, 1947. The figures shown there are the latest available at present.
Super Tax on Public Companies.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What were the total amounts of super tax collected in each financial year since its imposition ?
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are 1 as follows : -
As super tax is included in the same notice of assessment as ordinary company tax, separate ledger accounts are not kept for the super tax. Consequently the precise amount of super tax collected during each financial year is not available, but the amount assessed for each financial year is as follows: -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
y. - On the 14th November the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked a question concerning the Commonwealth Year-booh. I have had this matter examined and am now able to supply the following information : -
The number of copies of the current YearBooh (No. 30) ordered from1 the Government Printer were -
Compared with these figures, 4,600 copies of the previous issue (No. 35) were printed and 6,000 copies were printed in pre-war years. “ Not for Sale “ copies are distributed, gratis to Ministers, members of Parliament, Commonwealth and State departments, other public authorities, representatives of British and foreign countries, universities, libraries, scientific societies, the press, chambers of commerce, manufacturers, &c, employers’ and employees’ associations, research workers, and other persons who on various public grounds are considered to be entitled to copies.
Owing to delays in printing, the publication of the current ‘Year-Booh was long overdue and this factor, coupled with the prescription of the Year-Booh as a text-book by some universities, caused a very heavy demand for the publication. Copies were received from the Printer on 14th August, 1947, and by 17th October, 1947, all “For Sale” copies were disposed of, including an additional 000 converted from “ Not for Sale “.
Stocks of “Not for Sale” copies (approximately 750) are still available, but these arc being held to meet all legitimate requests for such copies until the publication of the next issue. As no indication can yet be given of the probable date of publication of the next issue, and as requests for copies are averaging about a dozen to fifteen weekly, it is not considered advisable to make any further copies available for sale.
Steps will be taken to order increased supplies of the next issue of the Year-Book.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 November 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19471121_reps_18_195/>.