18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether there is any truth in the report broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission yesterday that Australia has joined Russia and certain smaller nations in opposing the United States of America trusteeship plan for Palestine. If so, will the Minister inform the House of the reason for this alinement?
– Australia’s attitude towards the partition of Palestine has been stated by mc with perfect frankness and fully debated in this House. In November last, the United Nations General Assembly decided, after a special commission had investigated the facts, that Palestine should be divided. That decision was reached by an overwhelming majority. Another meeting of the Assembly has been called to consider what alterations, if any, should be made in the plan. The honorable member has ‘ framed his question in a misleading way. The partition plan was supported by Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa. As I have already pointed out to the House, it was not merely a question of political partition, but also of economic union and a special trusteeship to safeguard the sacred places of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The attitude of the Australian delegation now at New York is exactly the same as that of New Zealand as expressed by Sir Carl Berendsen yesterday. The decision of the United Nations General Assembly made only a few months ago should not be set aside unless new information warranting such action can be brought before the Assembly. Above all, the decision of the Assembly should not be set aside because of violence, or the threat of violence, by anybody. That is a principle to which we have always endeavoured to adhere. I remind honorable members that America supported the partition plan. The fact that that country, within a few months, . has altered its view, does not impose any obligation upon Australia, New Zealand, or any other country to follow its example, in the absence of good reason for doing so. That is the view that has been taken by the Australian and New Zealand delegations, and, in my opinion, it is a just and impartial attitude.
– I desire to direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs, who was chairman of the United Nations committee which recommended the partition of Palestine. Will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether partition can be accomplished without the employment of armed force should the United Nations decide that partition is the best method for achieving a settlement of the unrest in Palestine? If armed force is found to be necessary, is the Australian Government prepared to provide some of the troops?
– I dealt with this matter on a previous occasion. It was never proposed by thu General Assembly of the United Nations that armed force should he used except in pursuance of the decision of the Security Council, and in no circumstances of this case could armed forces be provided by Australia without the approval of this Parliament.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction seen the report in the Melbourne morning press of the 9 th April of a statement alleged to have been made at the annual conference of the Australian Country party by the State Minister for Health, Mr. Dunstan, to the effect that soldier settlement in Victoria would lead to the writing off of £20,000,000 by the State? If so, what are the Minister’s views about this statement? Has the Minister received, as stated in the same report, a letter from the Deputy Premier of Victoria, Mr. McDonald, in which the Commonwealth is asked to leave the administration of the scheme to the State, but to contribute to the State the sum of £1,500 in respect of each soldier settled on the land by the State, and to provide certain financial assistance to the settlers? Did the Minister see in the same report a statement, attributed to Mr. McDonald, to the effect that, if he did not get a satisfactory reply to the letter, he would recommend that the State Government dissolve the partnership? Will the Minister inform the House whether there is any substance in these statements made by the State Ministers at the Country party conference?
– I read an account in the press of statements alleged to have been made by Mr. McDonald, Minister for Lands and Deputy Premier of Victoria, and by Mr. Dunstan, an ex-Premier of Victoria. The statement of Mr. McDonald that he had forwarded to me a letter from the Soldiers’ Settlement Commission of Victoria in which certain suggestions were made in line with those mentioned by the honorable member is correct. I received a letter from Mr. McDonald, and informed him that I would consider the request, and that, in due course, I would tender him advice thereon. I think that it was outrageous conduct on the part of Mr. McDonald that before I had time to reply to his communication and advise him of the result of my consideration of the request he should have made public the contents of the letter he wrote to me, but that is in line with the outrageous conduct which one associates with members of the Australian Country party. Mr. McDonald suggested that the partnership between the Commonwealth Government and the Victorian Government should be dissolved, and that, instead of the two governments working in co-operation, the administration of soldier land settlement should be left entirely to the States, but that the Commonwealth should pay to the State Government £1,500 for every person settled, on the land. I may say that the partnership existing between the Commonwealth and Victoria is not the only one of its kind; similar arrangements have been entered into by the Commonwealth with all the State governments. The experience of returned soldiers after World “War I., when many of them were burdened with such a heavy load of debt that a great part of the remainder of their lives was wasted in trying to work off the debt, shows that the State governments themselves were not able to evolve a soldier settlement scheme anything like as successful as that now being put into operation. The suggestion that the Commonweal th Government should hand over its responsibility in this matter, and at the same time contract to pay to the ‘State government £1,500 for every person settled on the land, is not worthy of consideration. I have advised Mr. McDonald to that effect, and I now say clearly and bluntly that even if Mr. McDonald were to advise his government to dissolve the partnership between Victoria and the Commonwealth regarding the land settlement of ex-servicemen it is extremely unlikely that the Victorian Government would do such a foolish thing. Mr. Dunstan’s statement that the land settlement scheme would involve the writing off by the State Government of £20,000,000 is entirely without foundation. In arriving at such a conclusion, Mr. Dunstan must have been influenced by the fact that, under the soldier settlement scheme of non-Labour governments in Victoria after World War I., £23,000,000 had to be written off because of the inefficiency of the system, and the impossibly heavy burdens placed upon settlers. I repeat that I think it was outrageous conduct on the part of a State Minister to publish the contents of a letter which he had written to a Commonwealth Minister before he had received a reply to it.
Queensland Services - Waterfront Employment - Bast on Dutch Ships.
– Has the Prime Minister read a report that 12,000 tons of cargo that ‘was diverted to southern ports because of strikes has yet to be shipped to Queensland and that when certain ships have been dealt with a further surplus of 6,100 tons will be waiting to come from the south? Has he also read a report that three ships carrying British motor cars, crockery, carpets, foodstuffs, various manufactured goods and general cargo were held up in Brisbane because no waterside labour was available? Is he aware that, according to the Brisbane Courier-Mail, more than 600 men have applied to join the Waterside Workers Federation in Brisbane in the last week, but that none of them is likely to be admitted, and that on Tuesday the port of Brisbane was 506 men short for the day shift and 125 men short for the night shift? Can the right honorable gentleman give the House any information on this subject? If not, in view of the urgent necessity for handling cargoes in Queensland, will he have inquiries made with a view to making a statement to the House to-morrow? The situation is aggravated by the fact that outgoing consignments of Queensland products have accumulated at ports in large quantities.
– I have seen none of the press reports mentioned by the honorable member. However, I have kept very closely in touch with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel and I have also been in touch with the Premier of Queensland regarding the problem of overtaking the lag that has resulted from industrial troubles in that State. One of the most important aspects of the problem is the delay in the shipment of raw sugar from northern ports to the south. Another serious aspect is the accumulation of cargoes in other States, particularly at Sydney and Newcastle. This accumulation has been accentuated by the fact that consignments for Brisbane were removed from some ships during the industrial trouble. This was done because of the fact that if the ships had carried the cargoes to Brisbane they would have been h’“H up nt that port awaiting Pl opportunity to unload. The alternative would have been to over-carry the consignments. All these matters have been the subject of discussion, and the Stevedoring Industry Commission, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel and the Director of Shipping, Mr. Hetherington, have been doing everything possible to meet the requirements of Queensland. A shortage of labour on the waterfront is not an unusual circumstance at any port.
– .Six hundred nien applied for membership of the federation at Brisbane, but none of them was accepted.
– I do not know anything about the applications, but I do know that frequently more men offer for work than can be employed. As a matter of fact, 1.500 or 1,600 men offer for work every day at some ports and, on occasions, no work is offered to them. There are many reasons for that, of course. Often the nature of port facilities makes it difficult to move ships to berths and they have to wait at anchor. Also bad weather sometimes interrupts the unloading of cargoes. I have discussed this matter with the Stevedoring Industry Commission and the shipowners. I have no knowledge of the particular circumstances which the honorable member has mentioned, but I know that unless we have thousands of surplus waterside workers waiting around for jobs, as was characteristic of this industry for many years prior to the war, just to meet an emergency on a particular day, there is, always likely to be a shortage of waterside labour on occasions. Generally speaking, the Waterside Workers Federation has admitted new members after consultation with the Stevedoring Industry Commission. I shall discuss that aspect with the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. Although I do not propose to make a statement on the subject, I shall obtain for the honorable member all the additional information that I can about the matters which he has raised.
– In view of the heavy loss of trade with Java, amounting to minions of pounds, which Australia has suffered during the past two years due to the ban imposed upon Dutch ships by the Communist-controlled Waterside Workers Federation, will the Attorney-
General consult with the Prime Minister with a view to prosecuting the Communist president of the federation, Mr. Healy, and other officers of that organization for this restraint of our national trade? As the question has been asked sp frequently during the last few years, can the Attorney-General also indicate whether there is a possibility that the federation will lift this ban in the near future ?
– - Recently, and perhaps in the absence of the honorable member, a similar question was asked of the Prime Minister. The right honorable gentleman dealt with the matter fully, and to his answer I have nothing to add.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Information a question concerning a publication entitled South-West Pacific, which is produced by the Department of Information from time to time. Because of the excellence of that publication and the valuable educational and historical information which it contains, will he consider making available copies of the publication to all schools in Australia ?
– I am deeply touched by the tribute which the honorable member has paid to the excellence of tie work of the Department of Information, and I am glad to observe that his opinion is shared by all honorable members. Unfortunately, the Treasurer has been unableto provide all the money which the department requires to further the production and circulation of this and similar works of high quality. If sufficient money and enough art paper were available to the department it would be able to supplycopies of each issue of South-West Pacific to every school in Australia. However, when conditions improve I shall makeanother approach to the Treasurer, with a view to obtaining additional money tofurther the good work that is being donehy the department.
– Is the Ministerfor Commerce and Agriculture awarethat the manager of the Queensland
Cotton Board, Mr. Young, has stated that the cotton crop which is now being harvested in that State is estimated to yield only 2,000 bales of raw cotton? Is the Minister aware that in the course of his statement Mr. Young said : “ One of the principal factors holding up the industry’s revival is the price paid to growers “ ? Has the Government considered offering a guarantee of a higher price for all cotton grown in Australia? Is it not evident to the Government that an increase of cotton production would be of great benefit to Australia’s finances during the present shortage of dollars, and would enable goods to be manufactured which are now almost unobtainable?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred, but I can assure him that the Government is aware of the importance of the cotton-growing industry. It is also aware of the difficulties which confront cotton-growers, which are accentuated because of the greater attraction offered at present by other primary industries. The price paid to growers of cotton is not the only factor which militates against an increase of production. Expansion of the industry would necessitate the provision of greater supplies of water, and the construction of dams, channels -and so on would make demands on the relatively small amount of labour available. However, the Government will consider the matter, and if it can assist the industry it will endeavour to do so.
Discrimination Against Jews
– Can the Minister for the Interior inform me whether an a.rea comprising approximately 205 acres of Commonwealth crown land situated at Henry Head, La Perouse, has been leased for a period of fifteen years from the 1st March, 1946, to the New South Wales Golf Club Company Limited, the registered directors of which are Messrs. R. A. Gale, H. A. Fisher, A. Butler, C. M. Glynn, F. I, Bowes, J. L. Dickson, M. Gulson, G. Johnson, K. J. Pope and J. Prendergast? Is it, also a fact that that club, which, according to its memorandum of association, was formed to promote the game of golf, will not admit Jews to membership, and that when vacancies have existed applications for membership received from Jew9, which were otherwise in order, have been rejected ? If those are facts, will the Minister inform the company that the demised lands are owned, through the Crown, by all the people of Australia? Will he also inform the company that the exercise of discrimination on racial and religious grounds is contrary to the spirit and intention of section 116 of the Commonwealth Constitution, which guarantees to every Australian the free observance and practice of religion? Will he also require the company to furnish immediate assurances in writing that the present policy will be altered at once, failing which the lease will be terminated and the grounds dedicated to public recreation?
– The only knowledge I have of this case is that a lease was granted to this company. The other matters raised by the honorable member call for examination by the Minister for the Interior, particularly as the land in question is owned by the Commonwealth and was leased for recreational purposes. When the Minister has completed his inquiries, the honorable member will be informed of the result.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for External Affairs to the action taken by the Australian representatives at two recent conferences held under the auspices of the United Nations. At a conference relating to the status of women, a vote was recorded by the Australian delegate in support of the Soviet point of view and in opposition to a motion moved by the United Kingdom delegate seeking the release from Russia of the wives of some British soldiers. At a conference dealing with the freedom of the press, the Australian representative abstained from voting on a motion, proposed by the United States of America delegate, expressing regret at the absence from the conference of a Czech editor who had been removed from his post following the Communist coup in Czechoslovakia in February last. Can the Minister say whether Australian delegates at such conferences vote in accordance with instructions received from the Australian Government or in accordance with their own judgment on the issues that arise? If the latter is the case, does the Australian Government take any action to express approval or disapproval of the votes recorded by its representatives? If so, what action does it take?
– As to the conference which dealt with the status of women, the vote to which the honorable member has referred does not appear to have been of any significance, because this is the first occasion on which it has been brought to by attention. At a conference of that nature, votes on many matters may be taken suddenly. That is illustrated by the second case to which the honorable member has referred. I have not yet received an official report on that matter because the voting took place only yesterday. I have no doubt that the honorable member’s information is derived from the press. It appears from press reports that, when it was proposed at the end of the conference that members should express their regret at the absence of a particular delegate from a particular country, the Australian delegate did not record a vote. The delegates of a number of the countries voted in favour of the proposal, thereby expressing such regret, and the representatives of theRussian group of countries voted against it, thereby, I presume, expressing the opposite view. The Australian delegate, Mr.Watt, did what I suppose everybody with any common sense or with any knowledge of international conferences would agree was the right thing. He took the view that the proposal related to a matter entirely irrelevant to the business of the conference, and therefore abstained from voting.
– He walked out.
– He did not walk out. The honorable member has raised a broader issue, but I think I have already answered him in a sense, by taking these illustrations. On many occasions when a vote is taken it is impossible for the Australian delegates to ask for or to receive instructions from Australia. Much must be left to their common sense and discretion, which is exercised with wisdom in almost every instance. In cases where a vote was to be taken upon some special matter as to which a question might arise later on, there have been occasions when some instructions have been given. To pick out one isolated vote from a conference involving dozens of votes and to use it for the purpose of criticizing the Australian delegate or the Australian Government is utterly unfair. Proof of the excellence of the conduct of the business of the conference by Mr. Watt is afforded by the fact that his proposal for the encouragementof fair and accurate reporting of international events and the discouragement of warmongering and war propaganda was unanimously accepted, not only by the Western group allied to the United States, but also by the Soviet group. That, I think, speaks well for Mr. Watt’s work.
Imports from Japan and India.
– Two or three weeks ago the management of Australian Cotton Textile Industries Limited requested me to inspect the works of the company which were established at Woodville, South Australia, during the war years. The company, which is manufacturing about 1,000,000 sheets and pillow cases each year for the Australian market, has expended large sums in the provision of buildings and plant, and is very concerned because of competition from Japan and India, where low wages are paid. Has the Prime Minister recently read in the press, or heard over the air, a suggestion emanating from the United States of America that Australia is buying more cotton goods from Japan? If so, will the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the policy of the Government in relation to the protection of the Australian cotton textile industry?
– The policy of the Government - and I think this has been true of all governments of latter years - is to ensure that proper protection is afforded to alt Australian industries which have been established on a sound economic basis. That applies to the cotton textile industry. In order to overcome the scarcity of cotton textiles, particularly of cotton woven goods, special arrangements which, because of their complexity, I shall not attempt to describe in detail to the House, have been made to obtain certain cotton goods from Japan. Those goods have a dollar content, because the cotton used in their manufacture comes from the United States of America. The honorable member may rest assured that the Government will not, authorize the importation of cotton goods to the detriment of the Australian textile industry. Additional supplies are being obtained solely because Australian manufacturers have not been able to secure sufficient quantities of suitable raw cotton. When the Australian industry is able to meet the demand there will be no difficulty about imports.
Air Crash at Amberley.
– Will the Minister for Air indicate whether it is correct, as announced yesterday, that a court of inquiry has found that the crash of the Lincoln bomber at Amberley aerodrome, Queensland, two months ago, which resulted in the loss of fourteen lives, was due to a maldistribution of the aircraft’s load on landing? If so, what steps have been taken by the Minister to ensure that Air Force regulations relating to load distribution are observed? If necessary, will the regulations be revised in order to prevent the occurrence of another such disaster?
– The accident was caused by maldistribution of loading. Distribution of loading is undoubtedly the responsibility of the captain of the aircraft. I regret having to say that, but if he takes off without the proper distribution of his load and meets with circumstances such as those experienced at Amberley on the occasion of the recent crash, it must be expected that an accident will follow. As far as I have been able to ascertain - and I have made close inquiries - the loading of aircraft is supervised, but the final responsibility is on the captain of the aircraft to ensure the proper distribution of the load.
Commonwealth Advisory Council
– I ask the Minister for Immigration what is the personnel of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council? What fees and expenses are paid to members of the council? Is Mrs. Jessie Street a member? What women’s organization does she represent? Is she the only woman on the council? What steps have been taken to ensure that she has the confidence of a representative cross-section of women’s organizations? Is any deputy appointed to take her place during her frequent absences abroad? If not, has the council been without a woman member?
Mi-. CALWELL.- I cannot offhand give the information sought in the first two questions and I suggest that they be placed on the notice-paper. Mrs. Jessie Street is a member of the council, and she has attended a number of meetings, but she has been absent from others because of her absence abroad. She does not represent any women’s organization. She is a very intelligent, cultured and enthusiastic Australian who brings to the work of the council a great store of knowledge and very considerably helps it in its decisions. I think she can be taken as a representative of the women of Australia to a far greater degree than the honorable gentleman himself can he taken as a representative of the men of Australia. She was not represented by any deputy during her absence abroad. In any event, she was not appointed because she is a woman; she was appointed because she is a citizen of the Commonwealth who can help in the council’s deliberations. This is the age of sex equality and neither Mrs. Street nor any other woman will be disqualified by me from serving Australia because she is a woman. Some time ago, at the suggestion of the Opposition, I appointed a committee of women of which Senator Dorothy Tangney was the chairman and the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) was a member to examine some aspects of our nationality law and it gave valuable assistance to the Parliament. I hope to reconvene that committee when we bring down a citizenship bill. I desire its views on some aspects of our new nationality laws as they affect women and children. If I have not answered some of the honorable gentleman’s questions and he places them on the notice-paper, I shall endeavour to supply him with the information that he seeks,
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen the statements in the press yesterday that nine Communist-controlled trade unions were responsible for 84 per cent, of the time lost in strikes in New South Wales between September, 1945 and September, 1947? Has he seen the further statement that the miners federation was responsible for the loss of 1,200,000 man-days because of strikes and that eight other Communist-controlled unions were responsible for the loss of 1,630,000 days? In view of these statements, does the Minister consider that members of the Communist party are honouring- the undertaking they gave when he lifted the ban on it in 1942, that they would do their utmost to promote harmony in industry and to minimize absenteeism, stoppages, strikes and other hold-ups? If not, will the Attorney-General give effect to his declaration that if the undertakings were not observed, the Government would re-impose the ban?
– I have seen the statements to which the honorable member has referred. I have also read in the press, either yesterday or to-day, a denial by some of the unions concerned in the allegation that they are Communistcontrolled. No doubt the honorable member repeated accurately the press references to the coal-miners federation; but I do not overlook the fact, which was acclaimed by every patriotic Australian a few months ago, that the production of coal last year was just short of the record output achieved in 1942. Having regard to the source from which the press derived its information, one would need to examine it carefully to see whether the allegation is wellfounded. With regard to the other point raised by the honorable -member, he must know that the action taken in 1942 related solely to the war-time ban imposed upon the Communist party by a previous government before Soviet Russia was at war. The undertakings given by the Communist party had relation only to action taken under war-time regulations which have long since been repealed and are no longer the law of the land.
– We do not yet enjoy industrial peace.
– Those regulations have nothing to do with the present position. They were abolished when the controls to which they related were lifted. Therefore, there is no point in the honorable member’s last question. However, I have said to the House before, and I now repeat, unpopular though it may be to say so, that during the war period I believed as a responsible Minister that those undertakings were not dishonoured but were honoured. That is in no way justifying, or1 excusing, direct action, which is opposed to the policy of the Government and of the Labour movement. As a matter of fairness, the true position should be stated. Reverting to the honorable member’s first question I again call his attention to the fact that two of the unions affected have denied this implication. All the facts should be examined before any fair inference can be drawn from them.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to a statement made by the honorable member for Bendigo at the recent conference of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Country party that that party is the only organization in Australia that has no Communist cells? If the honorable member’s statement is taken seriously, will the Attorney-General investigate the position with a view to determining the number of Communist cells in the Liberal party and the number of Liberal party cells in the Australian Country party? Will ‘ he also ascertain whether the notorious New Guard fascist leader, Colonel Eric Campbell, is still a member - of the Australian ‘ Country party, and whether he submitted himself recently for selection as the Country party’s candidate for Hume, as he did in 1945 ?
– In view of the importance of the honorable member’s questions relating to the Australian Country party, I suggest that he place them on the notice-paper so that they can be carefully considered. In reply to his third question, I am not aware of the recent activities of Mr. Campbell, who was, of course, a leader of a fascist organization in this country some years ago. However, during the recent debate on communism in this chamber I told the House that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Investigation Service to watch organizations of that character as well as those of the other extreme, and the officers are carrying out that duty.
– As only _ a small trickle of new motor vehicles, including cars and trucks, is coming into Australia, I ask the Minister for Transport whether it is the intention of the Government to endeavour to bring more British vehicles to this country and whether a special effort will be made to include a substantial percentage of utility trucks and panel vans. If this cannot be done, will the Minister ensure that arrangements are made to obtain more spare parts for vehicles already on the roads in this country?
– I can assure the honorable member that there is more than a trickle of new vehicles coming into Australia. Quite a large proportion of the imported vehicles are from Great Britain, and transport authorities believe that it may be possible to meet the demand for British cars in full within the next nine or twelve months. There is, however, a great shortage of American vehicles, due mainly to the scarcity of dollar funds. 1 shall ascertain whether it is possible to alleviate the present position by importing more spare parts.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to the Com monwealth Statistician’s report on food production and consumption in Australia for the year 1946-47, which shows that although the rationing scale for couponed meats permits an annual consumption of 95.68 lb. a head, the actual consumption of these meats was 181.4 lb. a head. Allowing 20 per cent, for wastage in retail butcher shops, these figures indicate a consumption of approximately 145 lb. a head. To assist the people of Great Britain in their desperate economic crisis, which, according to figures published in to-day’s press, is worsening, I ask the Minister what steps, if any, have been taken to reduce the consumption of meat in excess of the ration scale in this country ?
– I shall be glad to submit the figures quoted by the honorable member to the Minister for Trade and Customs. I remind the honorable member that the staff of the Rationing Commission is already substantial; and that there is constant criticism by honorable members opposite of the alleged growing staff of bureaucrats in the Public Service. More intensive policing of the rationing regulations would necessitate the appointment of additional staff. This would be most difficult in view of the shortage of labour of all kinds throughout the Commonwealth.
The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) having given notice of motion,
– It has been the custom to take notices of motion even at question time.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve acceptance by Australia of the International Wheat Agreement.
SUPPLY. (Grievance Day.)
Prices Control: Mallee Roots - Motor Vehicles - Grapes - Black Marketing - Country Electricity Undertakings - Income Tax: Deductions - Primary Production: Labour and Materials - Land Sales Control - Sugar - War Neurosis - Reestablishment : Reconstruction Training Scheme - New Guinea : Trusteeship - Henry Lawson Memorial - Unrra Relief - Streptomycin - Arthritis - Roads - Broadcasting.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
.- I suppose that honorable members should regard themselves as privileged to have this opportunity to discuss private members’ business because during the last four sessional periods the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has moved on each “ Grievance Day “ that government business should take precedence over private members’ business. When the right honorable gentleman moved yesterday that government business should take precedence over general business to-day, I thought that we were again to be deprived of this privilege, but now I find that by some miracle we are to enjoy it for the first time in many months.
There are many matters to which I should like to refer on this occasion, but in the 35 minutes allowed to me I shall have an opportunity to deal only with a few of them. The first relates to the activities of officers of the Prices Commission. Prices investigators have been travelling through my electorate and doing things that have not met with the approval of the people, or of myself. In fact, their actions would not be approved by any self-respecting citizen. I shall make specific charges against two men whose activities, I submit, have not been in the best interests of Australia. I assume that the men have been acting under instructions from the Prices Commissioner, who in turn has been instructed by the Govern ment through the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice). I assume, therefore, that I am getting right to the seat of the trouble by bringing this matter forward in the House. The two men concerned are William Timms and Louis Lipshutt, both of whom are prices investigators. These men have travelled through that portion of my electorate known as the Mallee, from which mallee roots are obtained. In an endeavour to purchase mallee roots from landholders, or to induce them to put a price upon the roots, Lipshutt and Timms have indulged in misrepresentation. I shall not offer only hearsay evidence of what has taken place. I have before me a newspaper published at Ouyen, under the title Ouyen and Northwest Express, “which contains a report of court proceedings taken against certain farmers based on the evidence of the prices investigators. In the first case, according to this journal, William Timms, prices investigator, in sworn evidence at the Ouyen court on Thursday, the 11th March, 1948, said that he and Lipshutt saw the defendant, Stanley Edwin Kay, of Kayville, at the recreation ground at Kiamal on the 30th April, 1947, when some men were practising football. He told the defendant Kay that he was conducting a woodyard at Coburg, and urgently required mallee roots. Kay replied that he could not supply them then as he was too busy. He could not, he said, supply them before June.’ Timms offered to pay for the first truck-load immediately. It was then only April, and the mallee roots could not be supplied until June or July, but the investigator, who pretended that he had a woodyard at Coburg, offered to pay for the first truck-load on the spot. He also offered to pay for the second truck-load in advance, but Kay said, “ No, you can’t. You have to wait until you get a weighbridge ticket “. When asked the price, defendant replied, “ Thirty-three shillings on trucks here “. Timms then asked if he could rely on Kay - who then gave his name - to send some in June. I should think that farmers ought to be able to rely upon the Government’s representatives, because that is what the inspectors are. This particular farmer believed that he could rely on this representative of the Government. But the fact is that Timms ma.de many false statements to induce Kay to sell mallee roots at more than the fixed price.
– What was the fixed price ?
– About 40s. a ton Melbourne, less freight charges according to where they are loaded, but the investigator tried to get the farmer to sell the mallee roots at more than that. Kay, in his sworn evidence, said, “ I really believed that the price was 33s., but some friends told me that it was 30s., and I did not bother to send the roots “.
– Had this farmer sold mallee roots before?
– He had not sold any for five years, and, on this occasion, when he learned what the fixed price was, he did not send the roots. Nevertheless, the Prices Commissioner went on with the prosecution, saying that the farmer had offered to sell roots at more than the fixed price, and he secured a convicition. The investigator interviewed Kay on the 30th May, 1947, but the Prices Commissioner did not see fit to bring the matter before the court until the 11th March, 1948, about nine months later. Let it be noted that William Timms admitted on oath that he had told the defendant, whom he had incited to commit a breach of the law, that he was conducting a woodyard at Coburg.
These inspectors also visited other places. William Timms has admitted on oath in court that he told another defendant, William James Ellery, that he was touring the country looking for mallee roots. That, of course, was misrepresentation. Surely the Government should see that its investigators do not misrepresent themselves. Timms visited the farmer, Ellery, on Sunday, the 27th April, 1947, and asked him to supply mallee roots.. Ellery said that he could not supply the roots before June or July. Timms attempted to pay for the first truck-load then, but Ellery refused the payment. It is not hard to understand the technique of the investigators. Their method was to induce a farmer to accept payment for the first truck-load, and then it did not matter whether he sent the mallee roots or not.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the inspectors went to farmers, who are not in the business of supplying mallee roots, and tried to make criminals of them?
– Yes, that is shown by the sworn evidence. Timms admitted in evidence that he had introduced Lipshutt as a man who had come on the trip with him because he had not previously seen that part of the country. By such methods the inspectors tried to build up cases against primary producers. There were plenty of other places where they could have worked with advantage. They could have tried to do something about the black market in motor cars in Melbourne. I know a young man who saw an advertisement in a newspaper offering a Ford car for sale at £230. He went out to the dealer in the suburbs and said that he would take the car at that price. The dealer laughed at him and said, “ Do you think I am Father Christmas”? The inspectors, of whom I have spoken, tried to induce the farmers to offer mallee roots for sale at a few shillings more than the fixed price. That is the kind of thing that is happening under this Government, and it is very difficult, when these matters are brought forward in the House, to get a Minister to reply. I hope that an answer will be forthcoming to the charges which I am now making. If no answer is given, it will amount to a confession by the Government that what I am saying is unanswerable.
The investigators also interviewed Clifford Thomas White on the 29th April, 1947, although the case was not heard until nine or ten months later. The meeting took place near the Underbool Hotel, and the inspectors drank with White - a fine example of Australian fellowship ! Timms told White that he was starting up a business, and wanted mallee roots urgently. White, in his evidence, said, “ He kept at me, and I told him that I might be able to supply him, but could not promise “. Evidence was given to the effect that they were in the hotel for three-quarters of an hour drinking together. Those are the methods to which the investigators stoop in order to obtain convictions against primary producers, although there are thousands of blackmarketeers in Melbourne preying on the community. Every one knows that hardly a motor car is sold in the cities except at a black-market price.
– Do these agents collect expenses ?
– I should think so. They also visited Mr. Olive Pearce, in my electorate, and after a deal was made for the supply of mallee roots they were invited into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Pearce for afternoon tea, and they accepted.
– A bit of a come-down from beer!
– That depends on the individual’s point of view. After they had persuaded Mr. Pearce to enter into a deal for the sale of mallee roots they accepted his hospitality. Fancy behaving like that! “When Mr. Pearce was asked why he had not checked the price offered by Timms, he said, “ I trusted Mr. Timms “. These men fostered a spirit of good fellowship by drinking at hotels and accepting hospitality until their victims trusted them.
– It is another form of the old confidence trick.
– Yes. We know that the Australian is a trusting fellow. He does not expect prices investigators to go into the country and practise the tricks of confidence men. People in the Mallee treat men as men and expect them to conduct themselves accordingly. Then, when a couple of tricksters from the city visit them on this racket, they are caught out in a way that would disgust any decent Australian. Wherever they have gone these investigators have incited farmers to commit breaches of the law and they have not hesitated to engage in gross misrepresentation in order to gain their ends.
However, I have not stated the worst of the cases. A young ex-serviceman came to the ex-servicemen’s sports meeting at Warracknabeal on the 3rd September in order to meet me and tell me of his trouble. His name is K. Blythman. He was recently discharged after war service and is now a farmer at Patchewollock, an important place in the wheat-growing area. His story is not in the form of sworn evidence, as are the others I have dealt with, hut .1 know the man and I believe him. He told me that these investigators said that they wereconnected with some Housing Commission soldier settlement at Coburg, or some other place near the city, and that if hesold the roots he would be doing somegood for his former ex-service “ cobbers “. They persuaded him to enter into somekind of a contract. They also went to R. Clancy, a well-known farmer in the samedistrict, and told him that they wanted; mallee roots urgently as they were starting in business in a wood yard. He entered into a kind of agreement to sell mallee roots to them at slightly more than the fixed price. One fact worthy of consideration in relation to these cases is that some of the men agreed to cart the roots to the railhead over distances of between 10 and 15 miles. As they pointed out, they thought that the cost of transport was worth something. The fixed price is for mallee roots delivered on trucks at the railway, but the regulation is capable of being misunderstood. Another fact is that there was a considerable lapse of time between the dates when the agreements were made and the date when the prosecutions were launched. The cases of Mr. Blythman and Mr. Clancy were brought on by the Commissioner within only one week of twelve months after the investigators had visited them.
– Did these men actually sell mallee roots?
– Some of them sold and delivered roots, but others did not make deliveries because they learned that the price agreed upon was above the fixed price. Nevertheless, the Commissioner proceeded with the prosecutions in all cases. The lapse of time between the visits of the investigators and the commencement of proceedings by the Prices Commissioner is of great importance. I refer to the Ouyen and North-West Express-
– What about the prosecution?
– If the honorable member agrees with this form of victimization he should say so ; if not, he should listen to what I have to say.
I want the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who is at present in charge of the House to get the facts clear in his mind. I should like honorable members on the Government side of the House to co-operate with us to prevent a repetition of such trickery. Surely to goodness they do not condone it ! According to the Ouyen and North-West Express, when the hearing was finished, Mr. Taylor, who represented the defendants, said that nine months had elapsed between the date of the alleged offences and the issue of summonses. He claimed that the defendants’ cases had been definitely prejudiced by the delay, and that the Crown, too, was in trouble. He said that earlier action should have been taken. The Police Magistrate, Mr. Moloney, said he agreed that there had been undue delay, but the cases had been presented for him to hear and he had to hear them. Considering all factors - the misrepresentation by the investigators, the long delay in launching prosecutions, and the victimization of ex-servicemen and others - this is a genuine grievance. I want the Government to make some definite pronouncement about this matter. Does it approve of such tactics? Did the responsible Minister instruct the Prices Commissioner to order his investigators to act in the manner I have described, or were those two officers acting on their own initiative. If they acted without specific directions, they must be condemned; if not, they must be absolved from blame. The Government should state its views on this matter immediately. The people of Australia will not tolerate this sort of thing, whether the Prices Commissioner favours it or not. It is not in accordance with the traditions of Australian conduct and manliness.
I refer now to a letter which I have received from Mr. D. A. Cockroft, honorary secretary of the Victorian Export Grape Growers Association. He complains that members of the association are having trouble in securing refrigerated shipping space to enable them to send their grapes to Singapore and other places in the East. He states that Victorian grape-growers have been allotted a very small share of space on only one
Mr. Turnbull. ship this season. Mr. Cockroft himself was able to send only 120 boxes, although he usually packs about 6,000 boxes. Furthermore that small consignment had to be sent to Sydney. The fresh grape export trade is of great importance in Victoria. Can the Government do something to help these growers? The situation requires immediate and careful consideration because of the importance of export sales to many of my constituents.
I refer now to an application which has been made to the Government by the Shire of Kerang for a subsidy in connexion with losses which it sustained in respect of electricity undertakings at Quambatook and Kerang. Many shires have received such subsidies because of the high costs which prevailed between 1942 and 1945. However, the Government has replied to the Shire of Kerang that, as the council has a fair credit balance, it is not entitled to a subsidy. Perhaps the Government considered that the council should charge a higher price for electricity. The council then pointed out that the money which it was holding, was earmarked for urgent road works.’ At present neither the machinery nor the labour required for these works can be obtained, but when machinery becomes available and the labour position improves, all this money will be expended in this manner. The council also informed the Government that it did not desire to increase the cost of electricity. However, the two matters which I have mentioned are operating quite unfairly against the council receiving the subsidy, and, therefore, I ask the Minister to give further consideration to the position. The council has allocated its funds for important road works and does not, in the circumstances, desire to increase the charge for electricity which is payable by consumers at Kerang and Quambatook.
From the Appin Farmers League, I have received a letter containing a request to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). The league carried the following resolution which explains the position: - ‘
That owing to the fact that farmers and their wives must work extremely long hours, this League requests the Federal Government to make domestic labour-saving devices for farm hones a deduction for income tax purposes and as an incentive to their installation, thus helping to stem the drift from the land.
Members of the League considered that as labour-saving devices are essential in country homes, the cost should be allowed as a deduction for income tax purposes, in the same manner as the cost of farm equipment is allowable.
– What labour-saving devices has the honorable member in mind?
– One labour-saving device which immediately occurs to me is a refrigerator, and there are also many others which could be mentioned. The League asis the Treasurer to give sympathetic consideration to its representations, because this tax concession would assist country people to increase the number of their amenities, and, in this way, would help to stem the drift of population from the rural areas to the large cities. That is urgent. Since the last census was taken, I have noticed a considerable transference of population from the country districts to the metropolitan areas. The population of Victoria increased by 234,989 between 1933 and last year, an increase of 12.91 per cent., but of this total, country districts secured only two persons.
As I desire to give other honorable members an opportunity to speak this afternoon, my remaining remarks will be brief. However, I feel bound at this juncture to refer to the general policy of the Government. When primary producers ask for more tractors, the answer which they invariably receive is that the dollar shortage prevents the granting of their request. When they ask for fencing wire or galvanized iron, they are always informed that these materials are not available because of the shortage of manpower. Those are the stereotyped answers to these two demands. What is the real reason? All honorable members are aware that there is a dollar shortage, but we also know that during the last six or twelve months, goods valued at many thousands of pounds have been imported from the dollar area, although they are not essential to primary production. Unless farmers are able to maintain their agricultural equipment in a proper con dition of repair, production will continue to decline, and, in that event, our standard of living will be lowered. We in Australia have always advocated a high standard of living, but that cannot be maintained with lowered production. Everybody knows that. What is the real reason for the shortage of galvanized iron, and fencing wire? We know that there is a shortage of labour, and the principal reason for that is that government departments are overstaffed. For example, Trans-Australia Airlines is employing ‘a large number of men, and last year its operation resulted in a loss of more than £500,000. Large numbers of those men could have been profitably employed in productive works. In addition to the loss exceeding £500,000 on Trans-Australia Airlines operations, we must also take into consideration the loss that arises because of the absence of these men from productive employment. Probably thousands of persons are employed by Trans- Australia Airlines, and such government undertakings, and, in my opinion, they should be put to work as producers of goods which are essential to this primary producing country. The production of wool, wheat and other primary commodities involves many considerations including man-power, machinery and fertilizers. We must foster our primary industries, because they are the principal contributors to our national wealth. Our land is fertile, our farmers know their jobs, and, by and large, our seasons are “favorable, but we cannot produce large quantities of primary commodities in this machine age without effective agricultural implements. In the country districts, machinery as well as housing and fencing has deteriorated to an almost unbelievable degree. That position must be improved, and the Government must realize that, if we are to maintain our present standard of living, there is more to be considered than the relatively small geographical areas of Sydney, Melbourne and the other capital cities of Australia. Surely the Government, realizing that, will in the future render greater assistance to the man on the land.
I urge the Government to investigate carefully my allegations against the
Prices Branch.. The other matters which I have raised involve government policy, and the Government must see the position of the primary producer in its proper “perspective, but the matter of the Prices Branch requires immediate attention, because even to-day, certain investigators may be doing the same job in another part of Victoria.
.- The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) mentioned prices control, and I, too, desire to refer to that subject, more particularly because I have just received from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) a written answer to a question which I asked some time ago and concerning which I asked a supplementary question this week. All honorable members, and I believe, every thinking citizen in Australia are anxious about some aspects of prices administration. We are disturbed about some of the men who are administering prices control and about some of the things which they are doing. All of us have heard rumours about this matter. Some of us have heard more than rumours, and know that ugly things have been taking place under the administration of prices control. I agree that during a war and its aftermath, it is not always possible to have perfect administration. In war-time, a government gets the best men that it can in the emergency and they are not always the most desirable men. So, various abuses tend to creep in, and, in the circumstances, it would be unreasonable to expect perfection. But one does expect the government of the day to take steps to maintain the administration in as sound and efficient a condition as possible, and my view, which is gained from a good deal of evidence, is that that has not been done. Indeed, the Government not only is careless about the matter but it also seems quite cynical and perfectly happy that there should be slovenliness, and, indeed, dishonesty in some features of its administration. For instance, everybody knows that the administration of second-hand motor car sales is most unsatisfactory. On a previous occasion, I stated that 90 per cent. of second-hand motor cars sold in Sydney are sold on the black market, and
I believe that to be a conservative estimate. In my opinion, practically no second-hand motor cars, particularly in the City of Sydney, are sold at the pegged price. However, the position is even worse. Statements which have been made lead me to believe that some of the officials who administer the regulations for the sale of second-hand motor cars know what is happening. Obviously, they must be receiving some encouragement to shut their eyes to certain things. I have passed on to officials of the Prices Branch for investigation some of the information which I have received. One aspect of the matter which causes me serious concern is the type of men who are appointed to administer the Prices Branch and similar government bodies, and the conduct of some of the officials appointed to make investigations. There are, for instance, officials such as those referred to by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). I could mention many cases which show that the administration of those bodies is, if not corrupt, at all events slovenly, although I realize that my assertion may not be regarded as proof. However, I intend to mention details of two cases which possess a special significance.
Some time ago, I asked the Prime Minister a question concerning an individual whose name I did not divulge and which I do not propose to mention now. The person concerned occupies a high position in the Prices Branch. I am at liberty to repeat the facts of this case because they were given in open court in Sydney. Last November the individual to whom I refer was prosecuted for a black-marketing offence in connexion with the rental charged for a house. He did not appear to defend the case, and the Crown, which was, to say the least, very patient, obtained an adjournment in order to give him a further opportunity to appear to answer the charge. Such an opportunity would not, I should imagine, be given to an ordinary defendant. When the case again came on for hearing the defendant was represented by counsel and obtained a further adjournment. When the case was ultimately heard the Crown called certain witnesses to prove the alleged offence.
Those witnesses had already given written statements concerning the commission of the offence. I know of what I am speaking because, as honorable members are aware, I have appeared in many similar cases. When the witnesses for the prosecution entered the witness box they then, for the first time, took the technical point that they were not obliged to answer questions, on the ground that they might incriminate themselves. That point was taken by two witnesses in particular. The magistrate before whom the case was conducted held that the objection was of too general a nature and declined to entertain it. It was alleged that the defendant had let a house and had charged a large sum of money for the key. When the witnesses were asked questions concerning the actual payment of money they declined to answer them, claiming that they might incriminate themselves by their answers. The magistrate was compelled, under the law of New South Wales, to uphold their objection, and no further evidence was given by the two material witnesses. The result was that the Crown was unable to prove its case and the prosecution collapsed. I emphasize that the reason for its collapse was the refusal of material witnesses to give evidence of the actual payment of money. Under the Landlord and Tenant regulations a person who pays money under certain circumstances is deemed equally as guilty as the person who receives money. However, the Crown does not usually prosecute the person who pays the money. When I asked the Prime Minister a question concerning the official who was the defendant in the case to which I have just referred, that man was still occupying a senior position in the Prices Branch, which, I understand, he still holds. I asked the right honorable gentleman whether he was aware of the facts of the case, whether he approved the retention in office of an official who had been involved in such a matter, and whether he would investigate the circumstances in order to establish the persons real guilt or innocence. Although months have elapsed I have not yet received a reply. I spoke to the Prime Minister privately about the matter, but all he did was to show me a file which indicated that inquiries were still proceeding. Yesterday, I asked a supplementary question of the Prime Minister, who apologized for the delay in answering my original question, and said that he had not yet received a report. Although the officer to whom I have referred is, if not guilty, at least under strong suspicion of guilt, he is allowed to continue in office, and may do so for years unless the pressure which I am now bringing to bear has some effect. I do not ask that the official in question be dismissed, but I insist that an investigation, be made to ascertain his guilt or innocence. If he is found guilty then heshould not be allowed to remain in a position of authority in the Prices Branch.. Important government positions must not be held by persons who break the very laws which they are appointed to enforce. For the sake of the public servants themselves, who are an honorable body of men and women, unworthy members of the Service should be removed. I might add that information in regard to malpractices in government departments has been given to me by public servants, who, as honorable men, are concerned that the reputation of the Public Service is being besmirched.
I now turn to another case of official wrongdoing, which is of a much more serious nature. Some time ago I asked the Prime Minister a question regarding the official involved in the matter which I am about to mention, but I purposely refrained from disclosing his name. When honorable members raise matters such as this they do so usually in the public interest and without intending to be personal. Nevertheless, it is our duty to safeguard, as far as possible, the purity of administration. The individual who was the subject of my question was until a day or two ago employed as the Prime Minister’s personal delegate at Land Sales Control. One cannot imagine any more intimate relationship than that which exists in a political way between the Prime Minister and an officer who exercises the Prime Minister’s function of consenting, or otherwise, to land sales. The man to whom I refer was convicted in 1940 on ten or eleven charges of forgery, uttering and false pretences, and was sentenced to three years imprisonment on each charge. His dereliction was not a mere accidental one, because I am credibly informed that the circumstances surrounding the offences which he committed were deplorable, and his misdeeds included the robbery of honest and poor people. Furthermore, he was also suspected of having committed a number of other offences. On his release from prison this man, who was a law clerk, sought employment through the New South Wales Public Service Board in the office of the Public Trustee of that State. However, that body promptly refused his application, and in doing so it acted on a very sound principle. That principle is one which the Supreme Court of New South Wales invokes when it has to deal with defaulting solicitors. It requires that persons who occupy positions of trust must act at all times according to high standards, and if they betray that trust they cannot expect to be treated as ordinary members of the community who have erred. Therefore, they are punished most severely. They cannot be permitted to retrace their steps, as it were, and regain the status which they held formerly. That principle is an exacting one, but it must bc applied rigorously if the public is to retain its trust in solicitors and public servants. When this man was refused employment by the New South Wales Public Service Board he immediately went to the Sydney office of the Commonwealth Public Service Board and sought employment in Land .Sales Control. The Public Service Board appears to have made no inquiries whaever about- his antecedent history, although its officers could have obtained ‘ such information without any difficulty because the whole city was ringing with it. He was appointed to Land Sales Control in 1942, and in a very short while became the personal delegate of the Treasurer. At the end of 1942, or early in 1943, he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. Following his discharge from that service in 1945, with what the Prime Minister has described as a “ very good “ conduct record, he was given his former position in Land Sales Control, and until yesterday at any rate he exercised the functions of the Prime Minis- ter’s personal delegate there. As honorable members know, Land Sales Control has been “ under fire “ for a long time. A royal commission was appointed to inquire into certain of its activities, and as a result, the head of the Sydney office was denounced as a person who had been engaged in improper practices and one individual was stated to have been guilty of corruption. Even since then, many people have been dissatisfied with the administration of that department, in which there are many opportunities for corrupt practices because delegates are allowed to exercise a wide discretion when consenting to sales of land. Property sales are the subject of bitter dispute, because the Government has pegged prices far below real values, and it is well known that in many cases sales are effected at much in excess of the pegged price. Nevertheless, this man was allowed to engage in this work and to perform these highly responsible functions.
When I asked a question about this matter, the Prime Minister promised that an investigation would be made. Having received no further information, I asked another question, to which a reply was given, by the right honorable gentleman to-day. It reads -
I have ascertained that one of the officers acting as a delegate in the Land Sales Control Office served a term of imprisonment for an offence of the nature referred to hy the honorable member.
The man was convicted upon ten charges of forging and uttering and false pretences. The offences were committed under the most deplorable circumstances. The answer to my question continued -
Early in 1042, the officer concerned applied in the usual way to the Public Service Inspector, Sydney, for temporary employment in the Public Service and he was appointed to the SubTreasury, Sydney, where he was placed on Land Sales Control work, for which his known qualifications appeared to fit him.
The right honorable gentleman does not say what the “ known qualifications “ were or whether this man was then appointed as the Prime Minister’s delegate. Obviously he was subsequently so appointed. The Prime Minister also stated -
At that time, staff shortages were very acute, and information was not in all cases readily available to enable the normal check of the records of applicants for temporary appointment to the Commonwealth Public Service to be carried out.
At that time the New South Wales Public Service Board was also suffering from an acute shortage of staff, but it had no difficulty in ascertaining the record of this man and treating him accordingly. The answer continued -
Towards the end of 1942 the man referred to enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. He was discharged, at the end of 1945 with a “ very good “ conduct record.
I do not know what that means. It may mean that he was not guilty of embezzlement or anything of that sort whilst serving in the Royal Australian Air Force. The answer concludes -
Under the provisions of the He-establishment and Employment Act he was reinstated in his former employment. At no time has any fault been found with his work. The question of the future employment of this man is receiving attention. He is not now acting as a delegate.
In answering a question addressed to him yesterday, the Prime Minister said that this man had a .wife and family and a good record in the Royal Australian Air Force. The right honorable gentleman also referred to the existence of what he called “ extenuating circumstances “. In my opinion, no circumstances can justify the employment as the delegate of the Prime Minister of a man who has been guilty of the criminal conduct to which I have referred. I agree that the man should be allowed to re-establish himself in the community. Having served his term of imprisonment, he has expiated his offence for ordinary purposes and the community should, as far as possible, take him. back and give him a chance to become a normal citizen; but, for the sake of the honour of the Public Service and the protection of the citizens of this country, he should never in any circumstances be employed in Land Sales Control. Although the Prime Minister stated that this man is not now acting as his delegate, he did not say whether he’ is still employed in Land Sales Control. I say he should not be employed there. There are other fields of activity open to him. Except in the most extraordinary circumstances, a defaulting solicitor is not allowed again to practise his profes sion. There is no difference in principle between the case of this man and that of a defaulting solicitor. There is good reason for the severity with which the courts act in refusing to restore to the roll of solicitors any man who has betrayed the trust reposed in him and stolen money from innocent, and very often, poor people.
I have mentioned these two incidents not because I take a pleasure in dragging up matters of this kind but because I believe a very important principle is involved. What sort of Public Service are we to have in Australia, and how are we to protect the honest men who, upon leaving school, entered the Public Service and made it their career? They are entitled to protection. During the war many peculiar people were employed at Victoria Barracks and other places in Sydney. When I was in the services, I frequently saw employed in such positions men who had been in gaol, and solicitors who had been struck off the roll. I can understand that sort of thing happening in war-time, but I cannot understand it happening, and I refuse to condone it, long after the end of the war. We are shortly to be asked to grant to the Australian Government permanent control over prices. If that power is granted, what sort of officials will administer the control? It is no inducement to people to vote “ Yes “ at the coming referendum if they are faced with incidents of this kind. For the sake of the honour of the Government itself, and of public servants, who are mostly honorable and decent men, the Prime Minister, should take drastic action in this case.
– I assure the House at once that what I am about to say cannot be regarded as referendum propaganda. I am concerned with the present state of the sugar industry in Queensland. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) in collaboration with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has taken every possible step to solve the present difficulties. I communicated with the former Minister and the chairman of the Shipping Board, and they were very helpful in arranging for ships to transport sugar from Queensland. It has occurred to me that the acuteness of the position may not be generally known. A substantial portion of last year’s manufactured sugar is still in storage sheds either at the mills, or on the wharfs.
– What is the reason for that?
– The principal reason is that the ships necessary to transport the sugar have not been available. Even when ships arrived at the ports the limit imposed by the Waterside Workers Federation upon the quantity of sugar to be handled by waterside workers prevented the ship9 from being loaded as quickly as normally. Whatever may be the reason, the sugar is still awaiting s’hipment, and I am trying to help, even in a limited way, to overcome the difficulty. During the f forthcoming sugar season in north Queensland a record amount of cane is expected to be harvested, provided last year’s sugar stocks are removed. At present between 230,000 and 250,000 tons of the 1947 sugar crop is still stored in sheds at the mills and on the wharfs. Until this sugar is removed, obviously the mills, cannot recommence” crushing. If only portion of the stored sugar is removed, the mills must cease crushing when the available storage space is filled. The continuance of this state of affairs will result in mass unemployment among canecutters, mill-workers, and others employed in industries dependent upon the maintenance of adequate sugar supplies. Another aspect is that the cane-growers receive only an interim payment in respect of the “sugar they deliver to the mills in order to keep their farms going. Final payment is not made until the sugar is loaded into the ship’s hold. Although crushing normally commences between the middle of June and the middle of July, most of the mills will begin crushing this year early in May. The sugar-growers, however, have not been paid for their cane harvested for crushing in the 1947 season. The longer sugar is left stacked the greater is the deterioration which takes place. Sugar is stacked in large sheds. In the bags on the outside of the stacks which are exposed to the air the sugar hardens like concrete. That, however, does not affect its quality, but the sugar in the bags in the centre of the stack, where no air penetrates, in most cases deteriorates considerably and reverts to molasses. When work is begun on the stacks and the outside bags are removed, it is found that the bags in the centre contain only a syrupy substance.
– What is its value ?
– It has practically no value, because it reverts to molasses. The expense involved in its treatment is wasted.
– Is the honorable member referring to brown sugar?
– Yes, to raw sugar.
– Would it be handled by the “wharfies”?
– A substantial portion of that sugar is stacked in sheds at the mills and would not be handled by the wharf labourers. If they were called upon to handle it, however, they would probably ask the Board of Reference to authorize the payment of additional rates because of its condition.
– That sugar represents a complete loss to the growers 1
– Yes, as well as to the millers, who have borne the expense of milling it. The position is very serious.
– It is serious for the people generally because they cannot obtain sugar.
– The refined sugar used in the southern States comes from north Queensland ports in a raw state. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Shipping and Fuel have done everything possible to improve the position. Their hands, however, are in a large measure tied because Commonwealth control of shipping has been relinquished. Other than in respect of ships owned by the Commonwealth Government, the decision as to where ships shall go rests entirely with their owners. The Director of Shipping, Mr. Hetherington, has been exceedingly helpful. In the arrangements made for the lifting of the stocks of sugar in north Queensland, Bowen, which is the outlet for sugar from the Proserpine and Inkerman mill areas, seems to have been given the worst deal of all. “Whilst it is true that ships are now lifting sugar at Townsville, Lucinda Point, Mourilyan Harbour and Cairns, thus lessening the difficulties of the areas north of Inkerman, the port of Bowen seems to have been neglected. 1 ask the Minister in charge of the House to discuss this matter with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, and to request that every possible endeavour shall be made to provide more adequate shipping facilities for the whole of north Queensland, particularly for the port of Bowen. At Inkerman, 12,500 tons of sugar harvested in 1947 is awaiting shipment, hut there does not seem to be any immediate prospect of getting any further ships to lift it. It is expected that the Inkerman mill will commence crushing in the first week in May. If the sugar left over from the 1947 harvest is not removed the mill cannot commence crushing and the whole of this year’s cane will remain unharvested. That can only have the effect of creating mass unemployment among workers in the sugar industry, and in associated industries. I ask the Minister, with all the sincerity of which I am capable, to take this matter up with a view to providing as much shipping as possible to lift raw sugar from north Queensland ports.
– The honorable member foi* Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) mentioned the accumulation of sugar in north Queensland ports, and the loss occasioned to primary producers by reason of this fact. He did not overstate the case. Loss is being sustained, not only in north Queensland, hut in every part of Australia, by both primary producers and the public generally because of the sugar shortage. Always, as the season for processing fruit approaches, an attempt is made to hold up the production or distribution of sugar. This is the third season in succession when the processing of stone fruits has been” affected by a disturbance in the sugar industry. The honorable member referred to losses sustained by the sugar growers, and I am sure that he sympathizes with them, but he did not put hia finger on the real cause of the trouble, namely, the apparent determination of the workers to go on strike. The workers have refused to load sugar for southern ports, and although attempts have, been made during the last few weeks to overcome the difficulty, sugar still fills the stores in the north, and the new season’s crushing is about to begin. The strikers will not permit the sugar to be loaded because some paltry condition is not satisfied. The Government should take a stand to prevent the wharf lumpers and other workers from inflicting such losses upon primary producers. The farmers, who have no forty-hour week, suffer sufficient losses because of the vagaries of the seasons without having additional man-made losses inflicted upon them by those who set out to blackmail the primary industries. It is the responsibility of the Government to clear up the industrial trouble, so that preparations may be made for the new season’s crushing. Accumulated stocks, amounting to 250,000 tons of raw sugar, should be shipped to the refineries. Already, for lack of raw sugar to process, refineries have closed down, and men have been thrown out of work. Soon, unless sugar is available, more workers will be unemployed, because the fruit processing factories will be unable to carry on. All these losses will be incurred because the Government does not lift a hand to ensure that the ships sail. This is not a matter of loading ships for Indonesia ; the ships are needed to carry cargo between Australian ports. I join with the honorable member for Herbert in asking the Government to take action to see that ships are sent to load sugar at Queensland ports. The port of Maryborough, in my electorate, is seriously affected.
– The Commonwealth Government cannot send ships.
– It can arrange to have the ships sent, as has been done before. It is unfortunate that the Government does not institute some system of control to ensure that ports are properly served with shipping. The Government should also see that people are made to do the work for which they are paid.
I desire to refer once again ro the shortage of such essential materials as galvanized iron, fencing wire, iron fencing posts, &c, so much needed by primary producers. In this connexion, I draw attention to a reply which I received from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), a reply which emphasizes the callous way in which he views the problems of the farmers. Frequent representations have been made on this subject, and Ministers invariably reply that the allocation of supplies is controlled by the States. We know that the State governments have assumed responsibility for distribution within their own areas of the quotas allotted to them, but it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to see that the quotas are sufficient to meet the needs of the people. Production has been so retarded by continual industrial strife in the iron and steel industry in New South Wales that persons with even the highest priority are a year or two years behind in obtaining supplies. In January last, I made strong representations to the Prime Minister himself by letter, and also in this House, asking him to arrange for the carriage of urgently required iron and steel products to Queensland by road. The right honorable gentleman was slow to reply, but on the 3rd February he sent me a letter which had a strong party political bias. The letter is as follows : -
In reply I desire to advise you that the production and manufacture of the goods mentioned in the communication received from the South Isis Progress Association are not under Common weal tb control and are being produced entirely by private enterprise. In many instances the reason for the insufficiency of supplies is on account of the shortage of manpower and materials and in other instances on account of not being able to secure sufficient supplies from overseas.
The Prime Minister deliberately evaded the real issue, which has been raised so often by honorable members in this House, namely, that the shortage of iron mid steel products is. directly due to the fact that men have been stood down because the materials have not been available upon which to work. The letter from the Prime Minister concluded -
Private enterprise is doing everything possible to meet the demand and in this regard the Government is assisting in every way within its power.
The Government is not assisting private enterprise in this matter at all. It does not lift a hand to ensure that the waterside workers shall shift iron ore on the waterfront for transport to factories urgently in need of it. It has failed to maintain continuity of adequate supplies of coal, and to prevent hold-ups, of transport services due to industrial unrest. On the other hand, the Government’s inaction encourages industrial dislocation which has already resulted in colossal loss to the nation as a whole and has placed in difficulty producers in distant States who depend directly upon the production of heavy industry in New South Wales. The position is becoming worse. Recently, I communicated with the Co-ordinator-General of Public Works in Queensland with regard to the supply of roofing for a dwelling. In the distribution of roofing priority is given to buildings being constructed in certain areas and on certain classes of land, such as, movable black soil. The secretary of the Co-ordinator-General replied to my request as follows: -
By direction, I have to advise that since the dwelling in question is being erected in a black soil area, the use of galvanized iron is approved by this department. Accordingly, it is recommended that Mr. … or his builder immediately lodge a definite order with a supplier for his requirements, ensuring that the priority certificate issued by the local authority accompanies the order for endorsement by him.
It. is desired to point out, however, that the supply position of galvanized iron throughout Queensland still continues to be extremely acute and the limited supplies available are not nearly sufficient to meet the heavy demands for the most urgent and essential approved purposes. Merchants in … and adjacent areas, in common with other suppliers, are approximately twelve months in arrears with deliveries of orders on behalf of clients, many of whom are in necessitous circumstances.
I received that reply on the 11th Feb.rurary last, and since then I have pressed the matter with the department. However, I read recently in the Brisbane press that the Premier of Queensland had visited Canberra for the purpose of making representations to the Prime Minister to make available to the Queensland Government supplies of roofing material for 500 State homes. The homes have been constructed for some time, but 500 of them were without roofs. On the 20th of this month I received another communication from the CoordinatorGeneral of Public Works in Brisbane with respect to an application for twelve coils of galvanized barbed wire to enable a farmer to fence his property and another application by a poultry farmer for wire netting. He- wrote -
By direction, I have to advise that Mr. . . desire for the early release of the above quantity of wire is appreciated. Unfortunately the supply position of barbed wire throughout Queensland is extremely acute and the limited supplies available are not nearly sufficient to meet the most urgent and essential demands from all sections of the community. At the present time orders in the hands of merchants are approximately two years in arrears.
That is the official comment with respect to supplies of wire so urgently needed by those engaged in the pastoral, agricultural and dairying industries. I am informed that iron posts which are urgently required in many districts, particularly in the plains country, cannot he supplied, and that supplies are now two years in arrears. A few months hence I shall probably be informed that supplies are three years in arrears. Yet, all that the Prime Minister can say in response to my representations to ensure the transport of these materials from the factories, if necessary by road, is that these industries are now controlled entirely by private enterprise. I emphatically deny that private enterprise is responsible for the loss of 50,000 tons of by-products suffered by the iron and steel industry in recent years. That loss is attributable solely to continued industrial unrest which has forced the industry to close down sections of rolling mills which produce galvanized iron. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) no doubt will tell us the number of times he has endeavoured to mediate in disputes, and that he believes that the parties to these disputes act in good faith. I emphasize the increasing losses and inconvenience being suffered by our people under these conditions due to the tactics of that section of the trade unions which seeks to hold the primary producers of this country to ransom. We could not keep the wheels of industry turning but for the continued toil of those who win from the earth the commodities on which the trade and commerce of this country depend. We are now menaced not by a foreign power, but by those sections of the community who are acting in the interests of a foreign power and whose first objective is to show that our social and economic system does not work. The Government ignores every request made by honorable members, including even those honorable members who support it, that it should no longer run side by side with those enemies of democracy who are bent upon the destruction of all we hold dear in this country. Regardless of the party political affiliations of honorable members who draw attention to losses of production as they affect not only producers but also consumers, the Government allows the position to become increasingly worse. Its apathy encourages disruptive sections to harass those who are endeavouring to develop Australia to the greatest possible degree. It is useless for the Government to encourage migration to Australia when it refuses to take action to remedy this state of affairs. On any day of the week one can see many persons idling in parks in our capital cities. Yet, the Government says that production is hampered because of shortage of manpower. Ample man-power is available for the production of goods and commodities which are essential to the community’s well-being. If any problem exists in this respect, it can be solved rapidly if the Government rouses itself from its apathy and discharges its responsibility to ensure maximum production throughout the Commonwealth. I again appeal to it to ensure that those persons in the community who want to work shall be permitted to work at their full capacity. The Government can do this by dealing effectively with disruptors in industry.
.- I take this opportunity to refer to a problem relating to the welfare of exservicemen. It is a matter which, I am sure, is agitating the minds of members of the Government, particularly that of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). As the years go on we find that the neurosis cases arising from World War II. are becoming more serious and more difficult to cure. Unfortunately, despite that growing problem, there have been no dramatic developments in the treatment of mental wounds which, perhaps, are the worst of all war wounds. Neurosis cases have created a grave problem for the Department of Repatriation which, on the standards of the first World War, has been administered under a reasonably effective Repatriation Act, and has had a reasonable rehabilitation plan, and an adequate system of hospitalization. But the neurosis Cases from World War II. are different. They require a new outlook on the part of doctors, nurses, members of the various welfare organizations associated with our hospitals, and the public itself. The greatest anxiety is being experienced by the parents of young servicemen who, upon their return from the war, developed mental instability, and are now in institutions in which treatment is far from satisfactory, due largely to a lack of planning. The most serious injustice, to my mind, lies in the fact that war neurosis sufferers are housed in civilian mental institutions. Whilst I admit that there can be no distinction between the suffering of civilians and ex-servicemen, we have decided as a general principle that exservicemen undergoing medical treatment,
Or convalescing, should be in the company of other ex-servicemen. In respect of neurosis patients this has not been possible, and the major trouble has arisen from the concentration of patients of all ages, and in all conditions, in one group. The State authorities who control the mental institutions are nonplussed and the Government and the Department of Repatriation have been Unable so far to cope with the problem. Iri the United States of America however, medical authorities have already come within striking distance of a solution. They have not succeeded in devising curative treatment for all cases - some of them are incurable - but they have segregated patients into various groups. Some remarkable cures have been effected, and substantial progress has been made in the treatment as the result of scientific research. Unfortunately, so far as I am aware. the practice in this country is still to put war neurosis cases in Callan Park asylum in New South Wales, and in other civilian mental hospitals throughout the Commonwealth. Patients who are in the twilight stage of mental affliction are acutely conscious of the fact that they are in these institutions. It is most tragic for parents who have to visit these institutions to see their sons, some of whom are not yet 25 years of age whose mental affliction has developed from the concentrated service that they were called upon to give to their country in its hour .of danger. Oncethese men have been declared to be in a certain state of mental degeneration, the Master in Lunacy assumes control of their estate. If a patient was in receipt of a pension, it is not transferable tohis parents, either or both of whom may be in poor circumstances. Many parents who travel to the hospitals week after week, carrying special diet for their sons find the tram fares and other incidental costs a heavy burden. One immediate action that the Department of Repatriation could take would be to make some concessional allowance to parents who visit institutions in which neurosis patients are accommodated. There is an urgent necessity also for an improvement of the existing accommodation. Whilst I sympathize with the repatriation authorities in their problem of providing accommodation for these unfortunate ex-servicemen, I submit that war neurosis patients at least should be kept with ex-servicemen. As I said earlier, there can be no distinction between persons suffering mental affliction; nevertheless, psychiatrists recognize ;the beneficial effects of having exservicemen amongst other ex-servicemen who understand them and Can assist them greatly on the road back to health. Some of them unfortunately will never get back.
Serious complaints have been made to me by some of my constituents concerning the treatment of war neurosis cases at certain institutions under the present divided State and Commonwealth control. It is true that in some instances the warders looking after these young ex-servicemen are diggers of World War I. and one would naturally expect them to be kindly attendants; but that is not always so. Some of them, because of their age, or for other reasons, are not fit custodians of mentally afflicted young ex-soldiers. I ask honorable members to imagine the feelings of a parent who spoke to me recently about her . son, who, before the war, to my own knowledge, was a fine young Australian undergoing a course in architecture at Sydney University. He is now suffering from mental deterioration which began in the Middle East and continued in the jungles of New Guinea. He returned to Australia a physical and mental wreck. He is a most intractable patient, and it is most tragic for his mother, who visits him twice a week, to know that after meeting her, he will not return to his room and has to be dragged there forcibly. I do not know what the remedy is in this case. The parent is quite reasonable about it, but it is most upsetting for her to be brought face to face with our rather rough-and-ready solution of a very serious problem. I have also been informed on the unimpeachable authority of the executives of the Burwood and Enfield branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that shock treatment is administered to ex-servicemen in groups and that patients about to be treated have to stand and watch others undergoing treatment. I could not believe it until I made a check and found the statement to be true. One can readily imagine the fear engendered by such an experience. Most of the problems arise primarily through the shortage of staff at the mental hospitals. Unfortunately some attendants, and even doctors, are prone to consider this type of illness as a form of malingering. There is no true understanding of the mind of the sufferer. In addition, accommodation is poor. Recalcitrant patients are housed with the well-behaved. Then there is this undesirable practice of treating patients with others looking on. These problems must be tackled on a wide basis. They require a definite plan whereby the sufferers can be removed to some of the large country homes which at present are . unoccupied for most of the year. These buildings could be acquired and converted into sanatoriums for ex-servicemen. We should have representatives in other countries where considerable advances have been made in the treatment of these cases so that we may be aware of the most modern developments. We should be planning a scheme of welfare that would include, as it does in Britain, not only an organization for the treatment of these men, but also a village near the treatment centre where their parents or wives could live when visiting them. We have not begun to do anything about the treatment of the mentally wounded. It is ‘ not enough to say that they have to be put here or there because there is nowhere else to put them. Everything is possible when a nation is at war and after the war is over the treatment of those afflicted by it should not be niggardly. A complete plan, including the most important aspect of scientific research, to ensure the safeguarding against further deterioration and the improvement of the mental health of these young fellows ought to be devised. Those beyond scientific aid should at least live in circumstances commensurate with the sacrifices they made when they enlisted, ready to do whatever their country asked of them. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) once referred to the establishment of “ worry “ clinics, which are necessary adjuncts to the treatment of war neurosis. The only “ worry “ clinic that I have seen in Sydney was established by ex-service organizations. It consists of a little room, nothing more than a cubicle, which, I think, would intensify rather than lessen the worries of a patient. The clinic is visited by doctors and the symptoms of patients are charted, but beyond that nothing is done, and if that is an attempt to establish “ worry “ clinics, it would be better to leave them alone. They must be provided on a more generous scale. I summarize my remarks thus: First, there must be better accommodation for these war victims ; secondly, there must be scientific investigation of war neurosis; thirdly, as opportunity offers there must be a scheme for building more hospitals in which they can be treated and, fourthly, attention must be paid to an urgent human factor, namely, the problem of the parents. Their sons receive pensions, which are held in trust by the Master in Lunacy, but a temporary compassionate allowance should be paid to the parents to cover the costs of travel be- tween their homes and the hospitals at which their sons are undergoing treatment and the cost of extra food, dainties, which parents like to take to them. That would not place much of a strain on repatriation funds, and it would indicate to the people that we are aware of and are trying to solve the appalling problem of these young men.
I approach what the Government has done in the rehabilitation and reestablishment of ex-servicemen in no critical mood. Indeed, it has done well. One instance of the good it has done is provided by the history of a young man in my constituency. His father is employed by the Mortlake gas works, and the best that he could have hoped for was that his son would complete his primary education and then get along in the world as best he could. The youngster however was able to stay at school until he gained the Intermediate Certificate. He then enlisted under age and went to the war. On his return, the re-establishment authorities took up his case and, with their assistance, he was able to matriculate and enrol at the Sydney University, where he is in his second year at the Medical School and is regarded as a star pupil. That story could be often told about other exservicemen, and it must be a great satisfaction to us all to realize that the reconstruction plan has succeeded. Criticism has been levelled against it, of course, because the field is so vast that there must be wide scope for criticism, even valid criticism. What concerns me is whether we are providing enough sustenance to trainees under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. Some trainees at universities and technical colleges frankly admit that the amount is sufficient, but there is a vociferous group that claims that it is insufficient. Between the two claims must lie the truth. We must consider whether the amount is adequate. The costs of re-establishment are diminishing. By 1951 we shall have paid war gratuities amounting to about £70,000,000. I suppose that payments on account of war pensions are increasing. We have, however, committed ourselves to the expenditure of about £80,000,000 on the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen and we had better not “spoil the ship for a hap’orth of tar “. If the young men who fought for Australia are doing well in training for their chosen vocations in the trades or in the professions, we must ensure that they shall not lack strength in their struggle. The student who has had war service is not like the student fresh from a second- ary school. . He was fighting the enemy for up to five years, far from the schoolroom atmosphere, and yet has virtually to go back to school to lay .the basis for his career. The five years that exservicemen have lost must be made up to them as far as possible. They are up against the time factor, always. To make a success of what we have begun we must ensure that they shall not suffer deprivations. I introduced a deputation on this subject to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who .was astonished that some young Australians spent 10s. on amusements. His astonishment is more a tribute to his Scottish dourness and his achievements in this country than to his knowledge of what takes place amongst young people in Australia. They are living on short commons. Many of them have only the one suit to wear to the universities or the technical colleges. One student of dentistry at the Sydney University told me, in illustrating the development of a snobbish approach to ex-servicemen undergoing reconstruction training, that his professor had said to him that he could not fail him on account of his work, but that he would like to fail him because of his clothes. I wonder whether the professor would have objected to the clothes worn by that young man when he was in khaki with a pack on his back and a rifle on his shoulder.
– Does the honorable member vouch for the truth of that?
– I can vouch for the truthfulness of the man who told it to me, and I would not have repeated it had I doubted its truth.
– I very much doubt it.
– I can understand the doubt of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale). I was astonished myself when I heard it, and so I made investigations. If the honorable member requires evidence of the fact that snobbery exists at the Sydney University, I refer him to what has been happening in the Medical School. The secretary of the British Medical Association, Dr. Hunter, said that we did not want any more doctors. .That was refuted by the Prime Minister, who said that we did need more doctors. What Dr. Hunter probably meant was, “ “We do not want any doctors for the Government’s free medical scheme when it comes in “. It was recently decided that first-year reconstruction trainees at the Medical School would be allowed no more “ posts “, and a by-law of the university was produced to show that that had always been the case. Whether the university authorities were generous or not I do not know, but, in 1946, if a medical student failed in one subject, or a group of subjects, all that he had to repeat was study of the subject or subjects in which he had failed, whereas now he has to repeat the whole year’s course. There will not be any more of these soldier trainees, as a date has been fixed for the receipt of applications to come under the scheme. Few ex-servicemen are beginning the medical course this year. There seems to be something wrong with the university attitude towards some ex-servicemen students. I have stated the facts as I know thom. I repeated the story of the dentistry student because I was asked to mention it, and, having investigated it, I believe it to be correct, although I have no sworn testimony to support it. That incident is symptomatic of what is happening at our universities. The points which I have raised in regard to the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen are worthy of consideration by the Government, and the plea for increased sustenance fees is of particular importance. The. value to the community of many hundreds of welltrained Australians cannot be assessed merely in terms of money. If the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme allowance is too small - and it is certainly very small - it should he increased. A period has been set to this training scheme. We know that, except for a few special cases, no new students will be admitted to universities under its provisions.
Another serious aspect is that some students find the courses which they undertake too difficult to complete. A young fellow residing in my electorate decided to study for a science degree. In the first year of his course he appeared to do very well. Then malaria and other afflictions not uncommon to young ex-servicemen caused his removal to hospital, where he re mained for some time. The result was that he began his second year of study well behind scratch. After a long conversation with the university authorities, he was advised not to persist with the course, but to undertake a different course of training at a technical school when he felt better in health. This was agreed upon, and he was advised by the Universities Commission that he would be permitted to terminate his studies. He returned home and awaited an opportunity to enter a technical school. During the month or more of waiting he was paid his reconstruction training allowance until it ceased at the direction of the Universities Commission. Before he commenced his technical training, he was informed by the commission that he was indebted to an amount of £20 or £30 as the result of over payment of his training allowance while he was not actually a student. He ignored this because he was obsessed by other problems arising from his illness and his plans for a fresh course of study, and, to his surprise, he was interviewed by a security officer. I asked some months ago that this sort of thing should be stopped, and action has been taken accordingly. Such practices in relation to the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen must not be permitted. Probably the visit by the security officer was only a routine check-up, but the law provides enough processes for the collection of debts without requiring security officers to engage in such work. I have mentioned all these matters because this House is the place in which to air them.
I have been concerned for some time about the rehabilitation of natives in New Guinea. Australia has a trusteeship in that territory, and the eyes of the world are upon our conduct of its affairs. Last week we read of a tragic incident at Lae, where 37 natives were killed in an aircraft crash. The statement made yesterday by the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) made clear that provisions governing the carriage of natives in the territory are much more humane to-day than in the past when, under the administration of United Australia party governments, they were ferried by air from plantation to plantation, from mining plant to mining plant, from sea coast to sea coast, at so much per lb. The native was freight - just “ black cargo “. That was a most disgraceful state of affairs, and I am glad that the law has been amended to put an end to it. I believe that even the League of Nations in the past, and certainly the United Nations to-day, would criticize the employment of such methods of moving native labour recruits by a trustee power.
I am glad that a modified form of recruitment of labour in New Guinea is operating to-day, thanks to the interests of the Minister for External Territories. We must realize that some people are still in New Guinea with the object of exploiting the natives and the country by persisting with the old inhumane methods and therefore we must be particularly careful not to fall into the cornplacement belief that everything is well in the territory. I am satisfied that the Minister has worked valiantly to rehabilitate the natives, who had a very big share in the war-time campaigns in their own land. Many of them were detribalized, torn from their homes in the hills to work in labour gangs, to be organized by the Australian New Guinea Administration Unit, to be put into uniform in some cases. The trained natives in the constabulary served under arms, and they made a considerable contribution to the defence of the territory. The South Seas Commission has interested itself in the future welfare of New Guinea natives. It has reached the conclusion that the average diet is below normal and that tuberculosis due to nutritional deficiency is one reason why the native birth-rate is falling. Detribalization has meant that the natives are not living in a balanced world with a sensible economy. The attraction of the “ boys “ to the sea coast has had a very bad effect.
Crowded nations near Australia, such as India, China, Burma and Malaya, which look with suspicion upon our White Australia policy, are represented at the United Nations, and if we depart in any way from a high level of conduct in the government of native races which are under our control, we shall be castigated very severely indeed. The aircraft crash which I have mentioned has brought to our attention the fact that there are still breaches, in fact if not in spirit, in our code of treatment of New Guinea natives. The efforts of the Minister for External Territories to have natives trained to work as medical orderlies in their own villages and to produce profitable crops, such as cinchona and kapok, so that they may have money of their own are part of a well designed plan. We could not let anything interfere with our plans.
In future discussions of foreign affairs in this House, we should pay particular attention to our duties to the natives as well as the white residents of New Guinea. I understand that consideration is being given to the recreation of the machinery of government by a legislative council in the territory as it existed before the white residents broke off their peace-time pursuits in order to fight the Japanese. When local government is re-established for the white population, we must turn ourselves to the task of rehabilitating the natives. The story of our treatment of Australian aborigines is a sorry one, and we should be careful not to perpetrate the same mistakes of ignorance and neglect in the wider field of New Guinea.
The suggestion has even been made from Japan, in one of those looselyworded statements that may have been official or just a “ furphy that Japanese nationals should be sent to Dutch New Guinea and British New Guinea as colonists. We must resist any such proposal to the limit, but we shall also have to answer for the way in which we administer our mandate. Therefore, we must do everything possible to ensure the welfare of the 1,000,000 natives of that territory. In the past, New Guinea was regarded as a field for exploitation. The general attitude in those days was that the white man should get as much out of the country as possible, that he should rape the island of copra, rubber, and whatever other profitable crops it could produce. A nation which is trustee of such a territory should be concerned instead with the benefits that can be brought to its people by means of sensible planning and human sympathy.
We referred to the people of New Guinea during the war as “fuzzy wuzzy angels,”. Yet such men were packed like cattle a few days ago into an aircraft that was not airworthy and which crashed in the territory where some of our greatest victories were won.
– That statement is scarcely fair to the pilots of such aircraft.
– I was not referring to the pilots.
– Some Australians were also killed.
– I know that; hut I was referring to the fact that these natives were loaded on to the aircraft, not as passengers, hut as cargo. That is a fair statement, and, in my view, the position is most unsatisfactory. The statements which the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) and the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) have made, cover this ground, but I desired, while I had this opportunity, to revive, in our minds, the dedication of New Guinea, which was our greatest battlefield in World War II. The country has more than exploitation behind it. It has the blood of men who died for Australia. It also represents a sacred trust to us, in that we have a subject race - a dark race - to care for under our trusteeship from the United Nations. Those things are worth watching in view of what has happened at Lae. That is why I have referred to this matter.
I shall now deal with a subject closer to home. Many years ago the Australian poet, Henry Lawson, died in New South Wales, and to our eternal disgrace, we have not yet erected a memorial to him near his birthplace, Mudgee. Hidden in the outer reaches of the Sydney Domain is a statue of Henry Lawson, with his dog by his side, looking back at the city in which he wrote so much verse. In the country, his former homestead is falling into decay. A man who purchased it said, “ I thought that it might be a historic memorial. The white ants got into the timber, but I let the chimney stand “. That is typical of our attitude to anything cultural in Australia. So, as a stark reminder of our indifference to Henry Lawson, there is only the remains of a chimney sticking up in the bush somewhere. When I was the president of the Fellowship of Australian Writers and before World War II., an attempt was made to raise sufficient money to defray the cost of the construction of a seat outside the Church of England at Mudgee to the memory of Henry Lawson. We had the greatest co-operation from the Anglican Church authorities, and assistance from the municipal and shire councils, but we were not able to collect sufficient money in New South Wales. The bulk of the amount of £250 which was required for the purpose, was subscribed by trade unionists - wharf labourers who were lovers of Henry Lawson, and members of the Australian Workers Union. Incidentally, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), who was formerly president of the Australian Workers Union, is a lover of Henry Lawson’s works, and is able to quote his verse verbatim by heart.
We collected the required amount of £250, but war broke out, and our idea of building a little seat, where Henry Lawson’s mates and admirers could sit and discuss him, had to be postponed. When the war ended and we again approached the contractor regarding the work, we found that the price of this simple plinth of granite, with an inscription, had risen to £700. We have not been able to obtain financial assistance from the Australian Government or the Government of New South Wales. In response to our request, the Australian Government replied that it had no authority in relation to monuments in New South Wales. That is the present position regarding the proposed memorial to Henry Lawson. A memorial to the great poet in Sydney is buried among the gum trees, some distance from the area where the crowd generally gathers in the Domain. Whilst approximately 10,000 people assemble in the Domain nearly every Sunday afternoon and 5,000 of them listen to political speeches and the other 5,000 listen to the exponents of various forms of crankdom the attendance at the Lawson Oration in the Domain has never exceeded 200.
I return to the position at Mudgee, where we have not been able to erect this simple little memorial because of the cost. I mention, more in sorrow than in anger, that neither the Australian Government nor the Government of New South Wales has been able to cut through the mass of red tape in order to say, “ Let some one. do the work now “. We have erected a number of unworthy memorials and useless stone monoliths which do not count for anything, but the simple gesture of constructing a seat where the mates and admirers of Henry Lawson may sit and talk about our great Australian poet would be a fine thing for Mudgee and for Australia. I mention this matter as the last of my grievances in the hope that something may be done in this Parliament or outside it to make tardy recognition of one of the greatest native Australian “ singers “.
.- At the beginning of this month, the public was informed that the Australian Government had offered a gift of wool worth £1,100,000 to certain countries in eastern and western Europe as a part of postUnrra relief. Subsequently, a Government spokesman said that this gift would come from Australia as a part of the general participation in post-Unrra relief plans, and he added -
The Australian Government made the offer of relief in this form after it had been recommended by a technical committee of the United Nations.
This gift will be distributed on the following basis:- Italy £250,000, Poland £250,000, Austria £150,000, Greece £150,000, Hungary £150,000 and Yugoslavia £150,000. It is noteworthy that wool to the value of nearly £550,000 will be distributed among the satellites of Soviet Russia. No honorable member and no Australian citizen will object to the gift in the form of wool to Italy, Greece and Austria. We all know that great distress exists in Greece, where almost interminable warfare has been raging. Italy, in the words of Mr. Winston Churchill, has “worked her passage back into the comity of democratic nations “ and I believe that. to-day, Italy is in every way deserving of assistance. Austria, which is an ex-enemy country, is now under American, British and Russian control. The American and British zones are poverty-stricken. As I stated, no one will object to the gift of wool to Italy, Austria and Greece, but Hungary, Poland and Jugoslavia are in a different category. They are now the satellites of Soviet Russia, and I believe that the decision to make these gifts to those countries should be seriously reconsidered by the Australian Government. I shall give my reasons for that suggestion.
I realize that the Government, like all honorable members, is most anxious to relieve in every possible way the plight of destitute people, subject to the overriding consideration that our kinsfolk in the United Kingdom have first, call on us for assistance, because to-day they are “ hard-up “ in every respect. Assuming that we can meet their needs to a large degree, it is only right and proper that we should also grant assistance to other deserving countries. However, serious objections may be raised to the granting of aid to certain countries. It is not as if we do not know what has happened to gifts which have been made in the past to the satellites of Russia. I shall cite some examples. Mr. Byrne’s book, Speaking Frankly, reveals- - very frankly indeed - what occurred in the distribution of gifts which the United States of America sent to certain European countries. A large quantity of machinery and plant, which was sent to Czechoslovakia to assist in the rehabilitation of that country, was forwarded to Soviet Russia, and Czechoslovakia did not derive any benefit from the gifts. Even more recently, Czechoslovakia received from America a loan of approximately 50,000,000 dollars, but transferred it at a profitable rate of interest to Roumania, and the Czechoslovakian people did not get one dollar of it. -Unrra sent gifts to Yugoslavia, but advice received from a number of sources has revealed that the gifts, instead of -being given to the peasants, who urgently required them, were distributed partly to the Red Army and partly to the Communist supporters of Marshal Tito. The Government now proposes to adopt the same attitude in regard to the recent war. We know that when Unrra was functioning and was supervising the distribution of relief in Yugoslavia and other satellites of Russia, relief goods were diverted from the people whom they were intended to assist. Now that Unrra has relinquished control of the distribution it is even more obvious that the goods which we send to central
Europe will not reach the children and the destitute people whom they are intended to benefit. Instead, they will almost certainly be diverted to serve Communist purposes, and may even be passed to the Russian army. I do not know who comprised the technical committee which made the recommendations to the Government on which this proposal is based, but I assume that the recommendations were made by persons of proRussian sentiments.
– The matters which the honorable member is discussing could be mentioned more appropriately during the debate on international affairs.
– I am discussing the gift to certain European countries which the Government proposes to make. “What guarantee have we that the gifts will find their way to the people whom they are intended to benefit? What plans have been made to supervise their distribution ? Those questions should be answered satisfactorily before the goods are sent overseas. What other countries have made similar gifts? Has post-Unrra relief been offered by the United States of America, Russia, South Africa or by any other British country?
We all desire to succour the weak, and I have no objection to sending gifts to the destitute peoples of Europe. Nevertheless, I am concerned that the gifts should find their way to people for whom they are intended and not to their political bosses. Accordingly, I suggest to the Government that we may be able to alleviate the sufferings of the people of wartorn Europe by consigning wool to the camps for destitute refugees in western Europe. Those camps are filled with refugees from Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and other countries to which the Government now proposes to send wool. The inmates of those camps are still claimed as’ citizens by the countries from which they fled, and quite recently some refugees were returned to Poland and other countries because of requests made by the governments controlling them. Since governments still regard those refugees as citizens, they should not object to their nationals receiving help from outside sources. If the relief goods were distributed in the way I suggest, Great Britain would also benefit considerably. At the moment the United Kingdom is responsible for clothing and feeding large numbers of refugees in camps in western Europe, and the receipt of gifts by the inmates of those camps would certainly lessen the demand which they make on Great Britain’s meagre stocks. I understand that negotiations are to be conducted with the Governments of Yugoslavia and Hungary before the gifts are made, but I think that it would be preferable to do as I suggest. If the Government does not adopt my suggestion, it should, at least, ensure that the relief goods are distributed under proper supervision, so that we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that they will reach their proper destination.
.- The first matter which I propose to mention is the shortage of streptomycin, a drug which is employed in the treatment of meningitis and certain types of tuberculosis. I know something of this matter because I have been endeavouring to assist tubercular patients to procure supplies of the drug. Streptomycin- is of great assistance to sufferers from tuberculosis, and I know of two or three patients who have been cured by its use. Most of the supplies come from the United States of America, and 17,000 drachms had been imported prior to the 1st July, 1947. Statistics are not available in respect of the quantity imported during the last nine months, but it is common knowledge that sufficient streptomycin is not available to treat all the cases which require it. I understand that licences are granted to import streptomycin under an arrangement that preference is to be given to the requirements of public hospitals and the Repatriation Commission, and that when the requirements of those institutions have been satisfied the balance is to be made available to general practitioners. However, general practitioners do not seem to be able to procure the drug, and this constitutes a serious weakness in the scheme of distribution. Of those who suffer from tuberculosis, by no means all are eligible to receive treatment from the Repatriation Commission, and many sufferers who were not in the armed forces during the war are unable to be treated with streptomycin. The Government of the United States of America restricts the export of streptomycin, and whilst the exact nature of Australia’s present requirements is not known, it is obvious that sufficient quantities of the drug are not available. Some considerable time has elapsed since the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) has made any announcement in regard to this matter, but I appeal to the Minister representing him in this House to bring the matter to his colleague’s attention. The drug is also made in Australia at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, but only, I understand, in small quantities for experimental and research purposes. I should like the Minister to explain why streptomycin cannot be manufactured in this country in sufficient quantities for distribution to hospitals. If it can be made for experimental purposes, surely it can also be made for general use. I urge the Minister to examine that aspect of the matter. The Government is to’ be complimented on having in November, 1946, abolished the 15 per cent, import duty on this drug, which now comes into the country free of duty. It is to be hoped that the dollar shortage will not affect the importation of adequate supplies. Imports from the United States of comic strips and syndicated material for magazines should be reduced rather than imports of streptomycin.
– What about films?
– The same remark applies to films. Streptomycin is vital to the health of people stricken with a terrible disease and should have the highest priority in respect of imports from the dollar area.
I do not think the problem of arthritis is being treated sufficiently seriously in this country. For nearly six years I visited hospitals weekly, and during that time I saw many hopeless cases of arthritis. Those who suffer from the disease in an acute form have a feeling of despair that I have not noticed in any other people except those afflicted with cancer. They are immobilized and unable to work. They have to be helped about the house, or, if they are in bed, assisted in all their activities. In many cases the disease need not have reached an acute stage had the problem of its treatment been dealt with more scientifically during the last twenty years. Arthritis immobilizes a far greater number of men and women in Australia than is generally realized. The removal of any person, whatever his occupation, from industry because of arthritis means a loss of production. I suggested to the Minister for Health that Dr. Metcalfe, the Director-General of Health, should examine the methods for the treatment of arthritis used in Great Britain and see whether they can be adopted in Australia. The Minister intimated that he had instructed Dr. Metcalfe to investigate the British methods of treatment before returning to Australia after attending a conference of world health organizations at Geneva. Recent issues of medical journals indicate that this problem is being attacked in Britain in a more determined manner than in this country. There are no arthritis clinics in Australia. Sufferers from the disease in an advanced form are almost pushed aside from the ordinary stream of life, and very little can be done to assist them. Treatment with drugs was attempted, but with little success. The drug ertron, for example, was used in Western Australia and, I understand, did not even reach the eastern States. Sufferers from arthritis who experience a sense of despair and loneliness that it is almost impossible to understand deserve much more attention from our health authorities. Recently I asked the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) what action his department was taking in this matter. The honorable gentleman said at first that he thought that two of his officers who were shortly to go overseas would examine the problem in England, but subsequently he retracted that statement. In his last letter to me, the Minister said -
I have since discussed the matter with the chairman of the Repatriation Commission, who has informed me that two specialists will be going overseas shortly, but that neither will be able or competent to undertake a complete inquiry, as arthritis is not their speciality. According to expert medical opinion, an inquiry into arthritis by an expert would take at least three months. I regret, therefore, that there does not appear to be any immediate prospect of medical practitioners attached to the Repatriation Commission assisting in your problem.
It will be of interest to you to have the further information that was supplied to me by the principal medical officer of the Repatriation Commission. He says that all forms of treatment for arthritis as recorded in overseas medical journals are already practised in Australia.
I Lave not seen much evidence of that in the hospitals I have visited. The letter continued - lt seems that a quick study could only be made by a practitioner with long experience of the treatment of arthritis - a generic term covering a very wide field. In fact, two experts would probably be necessary - a physician and a surgeon. Recent medical opinion is in favour of the setting up of special clinics in larger centres, just as for tuberculosis, cancer, &c, where patients not responding to ordinary methods of treatment may be sent.
That is sound advice. I hope that when Dr. Metcalfe returns and makes his report the Government will he able to tackle the problem of arthritis with as much energy as the problem of tuberculosis is now being dealt with.
I now wish to refer to the Commonwealth Aid Roads and “Works Act. There is a movement among municipal councils throughout Australia for an increase of the grant from the income derived from the petrol tax. The tax on petrol is now approximately 10½d. a gallon, and the revenue derived from it amounted to £15,750,000 in 1947-48. Of that sum, £4,500,000, representing 3d. of the 10½d. tax on each gallon, is allocated to the States. Municipal and shire councils receive £1,000,000. That is an entirely new allocation. The sum of £500,000 is allocated to Commonwealth roads, £100,000 to the road safety organization, and £9,650,000 to consolidated revenue for general purposes. The representatives of many municipal councils in Tasmania have referred to the Government’s* action as a move in the right direction. Tasmania receives only £50,000 of the £1,000,000 allocated to local authorities, but each of the 49 municipalities is paid a sum ranging from £1,000 to £1,200. The scheme has now been in operation for nearly a year, and the municipalities realize that the sums allocated to them, although a great help, are not sufficient to enable them to cope with their road problems. A new organization recently formed was called the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, which consists of representatives of all the municipalities of the Commonwealth. A deputation from this organization recently waited upon the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and presented a case for an increased grant in the next financial year. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and I represented Tasmania. The deputation pointed out that the rates charged by municipal councils had almost reached the maximum impost that could be levied, having regard to the capacity of the ratepayers to meet them. Accordingly, there was no prospect of solving the real problem that confronts them by the imposition of higher rates. The only sensible source from which increased revenue could be obtained is from the petrol tax, and therefore the deputation urged that consideration be given to an increase of that tax when it is reviewed again by the Government. The local government rating system, which provides most of the revenue of municipal councils, was designed many years ago to meet purely local needs, including the provision of roads suitable for horse-drawn vehicles. The emergence of the motor vehicle as the normal means of road transport has created demands which are beyond what was originally contemplated. Better roads are needed for war and defence purposes in the national interest, as well as for ordinary purposes. Thus, the provision and maintenance of roads has almost become a national responsibility. When this matter is again reviewed by the Government it should be looked at from that angle. Gravel roads giving access to the main highways are mostly under the control of the municipal councils, and are subjected to great strain by heavy and constant fast motor traffic. Many of these roads were constructed for traffic no heavier than buggies and gigs. In New South Wales, out of a total length of approximately 126,000 miles of roads, 101,171 miles are under the direct control of councils. In Victoria the corresponding figures are 105,000 and 100,700 miles, although in respect of approximately 12,000 miles of road some financial assistance is provided by the Country
Roads Board. Assistance to the municipal councils to maintain these roads is an urgent matter. Of the proceeds of the petrol tax an amount of £4,500,000 is allocated to the States for State highways, but only £1,000,000 is made available to local authorities for roads in sparsely populated areas. The figures I have cited reveal the amazing fact that the greater proportion of the total road mileage is under the control of local authorities and that it would have been fairer to reverse the allocations, providing £1,000,000 for States and £4,500,000 for the local authorities. In Tasmania huge timber lorries are used to transport logs to the timber mills which have been established in towns linked with the hydroelectric supply. The old custom of establishing mills in the bush is being abandoned. To-day the mills are being established in towns where the workers live, and electric power is available to drive the machinery. That involves a tremendously increased haulage on roads which are constructed and maintained by the local authorities. Sawn timber is also hauled into the towns from the few outback mills that still exist. Thousands of tons of pulpwood are hauled to the railheads and to the paper mills at Burnie and Boyer. Those mills are expanding their activities, thus increasing the wear and tear on country roads traversed by vehicles bringing in timber -for pulping. The increasing use of heavy vehicles to move the potato crop is also damaging country roads. The expansion of the hydro-electric scheme is proceeding and heavy machinery from overseas is being hauled over narrow out-back roads which were not constructed to carry traffic of that kind. A larger grant will have to be made available to the municipal councils in order to enable them to carry on. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), who is a member of a municipal council, has stated that the municipal rates imposed in his district have reached their limit and that if they are further increased many farmers will be forced to abandon their farms. That is also the case in many municipalities in Tasmania. I trust, therefore, that the Government will consider increasing the allocation to local authorities at the ex- piration of the first year of operation of the new Federal Aid Roads Agreement in June next.. The Minister for Road Transport in Tasmania informed the members of a deputation that he would place their requests before Cabinet and that the Australian Road Council has approved of an increased allocation to municipalities from the petrol tax, amounting to £500,000.
Interference with wireless reception is causing a great deal of dissatisfaction among listeners in St. Mary’s, in my electorate. For the last eight years, the listeners have found it almost impracticable to use their wireless sets because of interference from high-tension mains connected with the hydro-electric system. The departmental officers investigated the complaint after I had presented a petition signed by hundreds of people living in the town. The results of the investigation are very interesting. The investigating officer reported as follows : -
At St. Mary’s, the main source of trouble was traced to a faulty thermostat associated with a recently installed hot water system at a hotel, and arrangements have been made for replacement of the defective unit at an early date. Electric drills at two garages, a drink mixer at a milk bar, and a hair dryer at a private residence, were also responsible for severe interference and approved suppression methods were applied in all instances.
Defects were discovered on the main high tension lines at Fingal, Scamander and St. Helen’s, and on the 13-mile line between Fingal and St. Mary’s. A fault at St. Helen’s was cleared by the replacement of a defective high-tension fuse, and all other line faults are to be remedied by officers of the Hydroelectric Commission on the first occasion that a close-down on the main 22 kV high-tension line is practicable.
The department advised the people of the St. Mary’s district that the use of efficient aerial systems was of paramount importance in minimizing interference. The report continues -
There is, however, a normal amount of high tension “ fry “ apparent in the town and, as explained previously, the use of efficient aerial systems by listeners is of paramount importance, if this condition is to be offset. In this connexion, it was found that, notwithstanding advice tendered to complainants during previous visits to the locality, some listeners in the district are still employing inefficient installations, and the importance of attention to this matter was again stressed during the visit.
I raise these matters trusting that the Government will give them due consideration at the appropriate time. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
– Is leave granted ?
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. Pollard, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now reada second time.
The object of this bill is to ratify the international wheat agreement which was drawn up in Washington last month by the representatives of the governments of 36 countries. The agreement is subject to ratification, or formal acceptance, by the governments concerned by the 1st July, 1948. Efforts to secure an agreement dealing with the international trade in wheat have a rather long history. I propose to summarize this history and to outline why these efforts have been so persistently continued by governments. I shall then explain the agreement in some detail.
Prior to the 1914-18 war, world wheat production steadily expanded to keep pace with increased world requirements due to population growth and to the rise in standards of living. From 1885 to 1914, the price of wheat in the world market remained fairly stable. The change in any one year on the Liverpool market seldom exceeded 10 per cent., whilst during the whole period, except during the world depression of 1894-95, annual average prices kept within a range of less than 20 per cent. In the twenties it became apparent that, as the result of the return of Europe to full production after World War I., and the expansion in production that had occurred in the oversea exporting countries since 1914, serious problems would arise in the international marketing of wheat. During the late ‘twenties, a gradual accumulation of stocks culminated in the heavy world crop of 1928-29. The United States of America and Canada attempted to keep prices reasonably high by withholding stocks from the market, but, ultimately, they found it necessary to release them and a pronounced fall in prices took place.
Another factor which contributed to the heavy fall in prices in the ‘thirties was the contraction of the import demand for wheat by many of the large European importing countries. The export price of wheat in Australia fell from about 5s. in July, 1929, to about 4s. in July,’ 1930; but in July, 1931, it was only 2s. 3d. This contraction was brought about by the attempts of governments, with varying degrees of success, to protect their own producers from the worst effects of the depression ; and, in the case of the importing countries, to increase domestic output of wheat in order to lessen foreign exchange difficulties and for other reasons. Nearly all these measures had the effect of restricting the free flow of trade, of piling up wheat surpluses and of increasing the pressure of these surpluses on an ever-dwindling market.
During the five years 1932-37 world net imports of wheat averaged about 550,000,000 bushels, compared with about 650,000,000 bushels during the five years 1909-14 and 750,000,000 bushels during the ten years 1922-32. On the 1st August, 1933, and again on the 1st August, 1934, world stocks of old season wheat exceeded 1,100,000,000 bushels, against what was then a normal carryover of about 600,000,000 bushels. These large stocks were held principally in the United States of America and Canada. A succession of bad seasons in North America from 1933 to 1937 had the effect of removing the abnormally high stocks and a balance that proved to be temporary only was restored between world supplies and world demand. Prices recovered, but fell again in 1937 as world production increased.
It had become evident by 1930 that world per capita consumption of wheat had ceased to increase. The demand for wheat in the main consuming countries had become inelastic, so that changes in world purchasing power conditions did not have as much influence on the demand for wheat as on the demand for industrial products and for many other primary products. It thus seems that in accounting for the fluctuations in the price of wheat, much emphasis should be laid on the variation in supply. This variation, it was clear, came from changes in seasonal conditions and from responses to price changes by producers. When prices rose producers went into wheat production; when they fell many went out of it again, but only after they had suffered considerable losses. It came to be recognized, therefore, that wheatgrowing was very uncertain, and that whilst production sometimes gave satisfactory returns, very unsatisfactory prices inevitably followed. The following record of prices shows how the landed price of Australian wheat in the United Kingdom fluctuated during the 1930’s.
At the outbreak of World War II. in September, 1939, the f.o.b. Australian export price of wheat was around 2s.. Australian currency, a bushel. Some transactions took place at about ls. lOd. a bushel at this time. Two years previously the average f.o.b. price was around 5s., Australian currency. For some years after the outbreak of the recent war accumulated supplies and harvests were such that prices rose very slowly., At the end of 1943 the Australian Wheat Board’s export price was 4s. lid. f.o.b. bulk, for sales west of Suez and 4s. 7/d. for sales east of Suez. At the close of the recent war there was a worldwide food shortage. There was a delay in getting European wheat countries back into production. Prices obtainable by exporters rose to record heights until in November of last year the price on the Chicago market for the shortest term futures rose to 3 dollars 20 cents, the export equivalent for shipments from Gulf of Mexico ports being 3 dollars 30 cents, or 20s. 9d. Australian. At this time and for some weeks afterwards Aus-, tralia was obtaining 19s. 6d. a bushel for its wheat. Later, the Australia Wheat Board increased its price to 20s. 6d. a’ bushel.
It is difficult to say precisely what “world prices “ are, and it is clear that there is no world price in the pre-war sense. In normal times wheat was traded freely at exchanges in Winnipeg, Liverpool, the Baltic, in London, and at Chicago and Minneapolis. Now Liverpool and Winnipeg are closed, and the business at Chicago and Minneapolis deals largely with the huge American domestic consumption - a figure exceeding the Canadian and Australian production put together. At the end of January of this year, when the negotiations for the agreement now before the House opened, Canada had a contract, entered into in 1946, to sell a substantial proportion of its exportable surplus to the United Kingdom up to the end of July, 1950. The price for deliveries during the year, the 1st August, 1947, to the 31st July, 1948, was fixed at 1.55 dollars or 9s. 8d. Australian a bushel in store Fort William/Port Arthur. For deliveries during 1948-49 the price is to be 2 dollars or 12s. 5d. Australian a bushel. In January, Canada was selling to other countries at prices around 3.25 dollars - about £1 Australian - a bushel, which were comparable with the United States export price. Australia had negotiated contracts with the United Kingdom and India for the sale of 105,000,000 bushels, at prices of 17s., equivalent to about 2.7 dollars a bushel, in the case of the United Kingdom and of 18s. 6d., equivalent to about 3 dollars a bushel, in the case of India. The Australian Wheat Board’s export price at the end of January was 20s. 6d. a bushel. The Argentine was selling at about 5 dollars or over SOs. a bushel. With all these varying prices, and with so little wheat being sold on a free market, it is clearly unsound to refer to a “ world price “.
A world price, of course, means competition between suppliers. Now no competition exists. Where there is competition it must be expressed in comparable prices in the buying markets, whether these prices are brought back to f.o.b. for quotation or left c.i.f. Where a supplying country, taking Australia as an example, has one f.o.b. quote for all countries it is evident that there is no world price, since it means that each country is paying a different landed price for Australian wheat because of the dif ference in cost of freight. The Chicago market has been assumed by some to give world prices, but it is clear that this is not so when Argentina can obtain prices much higher than the export equivalent of the Chicago price. However, it can be said on the following reasoning that Chicago prices give a good indication of the trend of the market. Chicago prices, in the main, over a period are influenced by the quantity of wheat the United States Government takes off the domestic market. This quantity is influenced by (a) current American harvests and known prospects of forthcoming crops and estimates of the quantity that the United States will have surplus todomestic requirements; and (b) by harvests in other countries which influence the quantities the United States Government will be asked to export. If a slackening in demand on American export wheat reduces pressure on Chicago, prices fall there and American wheat for export falls correspondingly. As soon as there is sufficient wheat coming from other countries to cause an exporter to offer wheat in the same market as America, competition will arise. A world price will then be quotable, and in the different supplying countries quotes will be based on competitive landed prices in importing countries.
I have gone into this poirt in some detail, because (a) the Australian Wheat Board was on sound grounds in establishing its export price as the f.o.b. Australia price which was equivalent to the c.i.f. United Kingdom price of American wheat shipped from the Gulf of Mexico;, (b) it illustrates how varying export prices of the different supplying countries will ultimately come together when competition returns, and, incidentally, how Argentina will be forced, as soon as world supply overtakes world demand, to reduce its export price if it wishes to dispose of its wheat; and (c) in assessing the price ranges contained in the agreement, it is correct to use the export equivalents of prices in Chicago as an indication of present values. It is further correct to say that the fall in prices of futures at Chicago, which took place in February last, though influenced to a degree by speculation and other elements - possibly even by the negotiations for the agreement which were proceeding at the time - did arise out of a reassessment of ideas of the conditions likely to obtain in future months, and particularly the revised estimates of the United States 1948 crop prospects and the possibility of bountiful harvests in Europe.
With the accumulation of stocks in the late ‘twenties and the fall in prices, growing attention was being given to the possibilities of some kind of an international arrangement to bring greater order and stability into the international trade in wheat. The matter was considered at a conference held under the auspices of the International Institute of Agriculture, which met in Rome early in 1931. In May of the same year, Canada called a conference of exporting countries at which Australia was represented. At these meetings restriction of production was freely advocated and a sharing of the world market amongst the exporters was contemplated. Though resolutions were passed approving these principles, no governmental action was taken. Proposals for a conference again came from Canadian interests early in 1933. Following upon a conference of wheatgrowers, the Australian Government was asked through a deputation to support a conference of exporting countries. After several meetings in London at which restrictions of acreages and export quotas were fully canvassed, a scheme was drawn up by the four main exporters. This scheme was submitted to a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers on the 1st July, 1933. The proposed agreement dealt with limitations on exports by the four countries - in effect, export quotas - but it was designed to operate for two years only. The Danubian exporting countries also joined. The undertakings implied the use’ of measures to limit production. The quotas were based upon a net world import demand of 560,000,000 bushels. The conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers supported the proposals, and in 1933 a bill to give legislative effect to them was introduced into this House by the then Minister for Commerce, the Honorable F. H. Stewart, now Sir Frederick Stewart. The bill in due course became law.
The agreement of 1933 did not operate successfully, mainly because of reviews required by Argentina, and the lack of obligation on the part of importers to accommodate their importations to the quotas of exporters. The International Wheat Advisory Committee that had been set up in 1933 continued to function, however, and intermittent attempts were made to work out a new agreement. The fall in prices during 1938 led to discussions of a possible conference. From January, 1938, to January, 1939, prices in Australia fell from 4s. 3d. to 2s. 6d. f.o.b., and at one stage wheat on some Western Australian farms was worth less that ls. a bushel. On the 1st December, 1938, the Australian Wheat Growers Federation wrote to the then Prime Minister advising that it favoured an international conference. In January, 1939, the International Wheat Advisory Committee prepared a draft agreement and submitted it to governments for comment. In Australia the proposals were considered by a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The main principles dealt with export quotas, ranges of prices, control of production, and maintenance of adequate reserve stocks. The conference approved the principles contained in the proposed agreement. Later, more concrete proposals were considered and approved generally by the premiers. Difficulty was experienced at the international meetings in reaching agreement on export quotas, however, and the outbreak of war interrupted negotiations.
Following an exchange of views between their governments, officials of Argentina, Australia, Canada, the United States of America and the United Kingdom met in Washington in July, 1941. A preliminary report was submitted in August, 1941, in which the principles of acreage control, price ranges and export quotas were again put forward. The Governments agreed that their representatives should meet again to work over the details of the proposed agreement. The conference was resumed in October, 1941, and met at various dates up to April, 1942, when a memorandum of agreement, to which was attached a draft convention, was drawn up and accepted by the Governments of Australia, Argentina, Canada, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. This memorandum indicated agreement amongst the four principal exporters upon quotas. Upon the basis of aggregate exports of 500,000,000 bushels, the percentages were, Canada 40 per cent., Argentina 25 per cent., Australia 19 per cent., and United States 16 per cent.
From 1943 to 1946, frequent attempts were made to reach an agreement on price ranges for incorporation in an agreement for the stabilization of trade during the war and early post-war years. The stumbling block was always the price ranges, the United Kingdom being unable to meet the views of the exporters. By 1943, the Australian Wheat Board was in existence. It was constantly consulted by the department on details.
One major difficulty that always arose was the basis for arriving at Australian, f.o.b. equivalents of the basic Canadian price. The attitude we adopted throughout - which was agreed upon between the department and the Australian Wheat Board - was that in sales for delivery to the United Kingdom and north-western European markets, we would agree to our f.o.b, price being based on our competitive c.i.f. position in the United Kingdom. In markets close to Australia we sought a higher f.o.b. price but one no greater than the Canadian f.o.b. This caused a lot of controversy though, as we shall see later, it was ultimately resolved in our favour.
At the various discussions from October, 1941, to September, 1944, Australia was represented by the Secretary, at that time the Assistant Secretary, of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Upon his return to Australia late in 1944, he explained the position at length to a special meeting of the Australian Wheat-growers Federation. At a further meeting of that body in Adelaide in 1945, he gave further details arising out of discussions then proceeding. Meetings in London and Washington in 1944 and 1945, were attended by the present General Manager of the Board, who was then Assistant General Manager.
At the conference in London in March, 1947, it was made clear that Argentina would not be a participant, and a new approach was attempted, the new feature that was introduced being guarantees by individual importers to take specified quantities. Though agreement was not reached on all details, the principles stated in 1947 were used as the basis of negotiations at the recent conference in Washington at which full agreement was reached.
This review of the various attempts which have been made over the past fifteen years to reach an inter-governmental agreement on the international trade in wheat clearly shows that in Australia the principle of such an agreement has been accepted by all interests concerned. Growers, through their organizations, have given it their support, whilst, at various times, governments of different political views, both State and Commonwealth, have clearly associated themselves with the view that should such an agreement be brought in, Australia, if satisfied on details, should participate.
It remains for me to refer to the details of the agreement which are contained in the schedule to the bill now before the House. Whilst, as I have said, the approach is different from that contained in earlier drafts, it still contains the main provisions of those drafts. These are export quotas, and maximum and minimum prices, together with obligations in certain circumstances to provide minimum carry-over stocks. The agreement is not difficult to understand, but the following explanatory notes are submitted. The quantity of wheat covered by the agreement is 500,000,000 bushels, of which Australia’s share is 85,000,000. Australia is bound to supply this quantity if it possibly can. If it cannot provide 85,000,000 bushels, the United States and Canada will be first asked to make up the discrepancy. If they cannot do so, then Australia is released from its obligations, provided that its failure is due to crop losses and is not due, for example, to having made large sales outside the agreement. If Australia has more than 85,000,000 bushels to sell, it may sell additional wheat outside the agreement, either to countries not parties to the agreement, or it may make increased sales to countries within the agreement. From conversations not yet on a formal basis, it is apparent that the United Kingdom, together with the colonies for which
Britain has assumed responsibility in the agreement, will require more than the quantity provided for it in the agreement -180,000,000 bushels. Some of this extra quantity will certainly be drawn from Australia outside the agreement.
The 85,000,000 bushels is considered to be adequate. In fact, it was not considered that Australia would be justified, under the terms of the agreement, in seeking a higher figure. It is estimated that this will require an average harvest over the five years of about 170,000,000 bushels, and that an average of 180,000,000 bushels would not be an embarrassment. These figures, though they cannot be definite at present, are arrived a t as follows : -
In the first year of the agreement it is certain that we will be able to sell all of our excess over the 85,000,000, and it is almost certain that we shall do so in the second year - August, 1949 to J uly, 1950 - and that we shall enter into the third year of the agreement with a low carry-over. Even with heavy harvests, therefore, some increase of carry-over in the later years of the agreement could be accepted without difficulty.
No provision is made in the agreement for restriction of production, but if supplying countries produced more than their quota, and other quantities they could sell outside the agreement, they might be forced to limit output. However, it should not be necessary for Australia to contemplate restriction of production during the course of the agreement.
It is, perhaps, of some interest to compare the export shares under the present agreement with those contained in the draft convention negotiated in 1941-42. There, Australia had an export quota of 95,000,000 bushels. This, however, ref erred to total exports, and compares with 85,000,000 plus additional spies outside the present agreement. Some addi tional sales are certain. Since 1941-42, also, consumption of flour within Australia has increased. Sales of wheat for poultry have also increased very heavily and, in view of our egg contract with the United Kingdom, this expanded outlet will continue to be effective during the period of the agreement. Under the 1941-42 proposals, Australia could have looked for average harvests of about 160,000,000 bushels, as against the volume of 170,000,000 to 180,000,000 bushels which I have mentioned in relation to the present agreement.
In selecting a price range many bases were considered, but rather early in the negotiations - in 1941-42, in fact - Canadian sales were adopted as a basis, with equivalents to be worked out for Australian and United States sales. Although this basis was reviewed at different times, it was ultimately adopted. The views of Australia in regard to the treatment of sales to “ nearby markets “, which I have already alluded to, were accepted and given effect to in , the formula set out in the agreement. This formula means, in effect, that in sales for delivery to the United Kingdom when prices are at the top of the range, Australia will charge the same c.i.f. as Canada, subject to any agreement for a difference on account of quality between Canadian and Australian wheat. As freight between Australia and the United Kingdom is greater than that between Canada and the United Kingdom, on the same c.i.f. price Australia would get a lower f.o.b. return than Canada. On present freights, Canada would receive the maximum of 2 dollars or 12s. 5d. Australian, and Australia would receive 12s. The same price would apply to such European countries as Holland, Belgium and France. We might call this category A.
In the case of India, and United Kingdom purchases for delivery to Ceylon and Malaya, the Canadian c.i.f. price would be much higher than the Australian c.i.f. ; consequently, when the Canadian f.o.b. equivalent was the basic price of 2 dollars (12s. 5d.), the Australian f.o.b. equivalent would be much higher - perhaps 14s. 5d. In this case, under the agreed formula, Australia will charge 12s. 5d., the basic f.o.b. maximum. Canada cannot compete in these “ nearby markets “ because its c.i.f. quote would be much higher than the c.i.f. equivalent of Australia’s 12s. 5d. Thus, in sales to these countries Australia’s maximum f.o.b. price will be a straight conversion from the Canadian f.o.b. to the same figure in Australian currency. This group of countries might be called category B.
It follows that, over the whole of our exports, the return Australia will get on exports under the agreement will depend on the proportion of category A to category B. A fair estimate is one-third A and two-third B. On present freight charges and rates of exchange, this would give 12s. 3d. as an equivalent of the 2 dollars. If a quality differential of, say, 6d. were agreed to in the case of sales to the United Kingdom - there will be no quality differential for sales to nearby countries - the average would be about 12s. In the case of the minimum, much the same principles will apply, although in certain circumstances the Australian f.o.b. price for sales to “ nearby markets “ would come down to the minimum f.o.b. price for sales to the United Kingdom.
In the case of markets equidistant from Canada and Australia - e.g., Shanghai, when Canada is shipping out of Vancouver - it would be necessary for us to be able to come down to such a price in order to compete with Canada on a c.i.f. basis in those markets. However, where countries such as India, New Zealand, Java, Ceylon and Malaya want wheat, or flour, they will naturally come to Australia for it and pay the Canadian f.o.b. prices - converted, of course, to Australian currency. Here, again, the actual minimum return overall, would depend upon, the proportions of the 85,000,000 bushels that go to the different destinations. A fair estimate would be that, if prices fell heavily and reached the minimum of 1 dollar 20 cents throughout the fourth year, the average return would be about 7s., and that, if they went to the minimum of 1 dollar 10 cents in the fifth year, the average return would be about 6s. 4d. The calculations which ha vo been used in arriving at these figures are conservative.
Alterations of freight rates would affect sales in category A. If freights fell, our f.o.b. return would increase. If they rose, the reverse would be the case. Alterations in exchange would also affect these equivalents if such alterations affected the relationship between Australian currency and the Canadian dollar. A special clause in the agreement provides that, if the Canadian dollar depreciates on the American dollar, there will be no change in the basic prices.
There is no commitment under the agreement that wheat shall be preferred to flour. In practice, Australian mills should be able to sell their full output. The United Kingdom allotment under the agreement covers flour for the United Kingdom, Ceylon, Malaya and British commitments in .respect of other colonies. The Netherlands quota includes flour for the Netherlands East Indies. These, with the requirements of the Pacific Islands, should keep our mills going.
In the opinion of the Government, the agreement is essentially sound from the point of view of the Australian wheatgrower. It is obviously difficult to assess any balance between concessions given and received by producers. It is true, of course, that in the first year Australian growers will make a monetary sacrifice; they will receive less under the agreement than if there were no agreement. This position might obtain also in the second year. It could even continue further. As time goes on, however, the risks the grower takes with no assured minimum become greater. When the slump comes - and all close observers say it will come sooner or later - the consumer will be the loser and the producer will gain. But no one can say what the severity or duration of the slump will be. Summed up, the agreement seems to strike a fair balance between the early contributions of the producer and the later contributions of the consumer. However, with heavy crops in all wheat countries, it could be a real boon to the producer. To my mind, its real service to the Australian wheat-grower is that it gives him security. While enjoying good returns, he may look forward for five years - I personally hope the agreement will be renewed long before the expiration of five years - with confidence that he will not have to face disastrous price falls such as the wheat-growers of Australia have experienced in past years.
In conclusion, I pay tribute to the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. McCarthy, to whom credit for the successful conclusion of this agreement is due in large measure. His energy and tenacity over a long number of years in representing the Australian Government abroad have been outstanding. Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Tadman, of the Australian Wheat Board, and all other officers who have assisted in the negotiations, are entitled to the thanks of the Australian people. I refer all honorable memebrs to which the preamble to the agreement reads -
The Governments on whose behalf this Agreement has been signed, “Recognizing that there is now a serious shortage of wheat, and that later there may be a serious surplus;
Believing that the high prices resulting from the present shortage and the low prices which would result from a future surplus are harmful to their interests, whether they are producers or consumers of wheat; and
Concluding therefore that their interests, and the general interest of all countries in economic expansion, require that they should co-operate to bring order into the international wheat market,
Have agreed as follows:
I recommend to the peoples of nations participating in the agreement, and indeed of all nations, that they ‘allow those words to sink into their hearts and minds so that the disasters which have overtaken producers and consumers in the past may never again be experienced in this world.
Debate (on motion by Mr. MoEwen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 21st April (vide page 1022), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– We have before us, at long last, the threatened legislation in regard to the increase of the number of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and to the method by which the Senate will be elected. The preamble to the bill sets out clearly the powers under which the Government proposes to increase the number of senators, and, through that, to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives. With that preamble one can hardly have any quarrel, because it is a recitation of what is contained in the Australian Constitution. The framers of the Constitution, rightly or wrongly, but nevertheless as a matter of fact, did give to this Parliament, and to this Parliament alone, the power to determine from time to time whether the number of members should be increased or decreased. They also prescribed two safeguards. The first was that no original State may have fewer than six senators, and the second was that no original State may have fewer than five members in the House of Representatives. Beyond that, so far as I can see, the government of the day, whatever its political makeup, complexion or objective may happen to be, is entitled to go pretty much its own way; and in the two bills now under consideration, the Government has taken full advantage of that liberty.
It is customary, when we are considering legislation of a vital and far-reaching character, to compare it with the political policy of the government of the day. We heard a little about this aspect last night from the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who referred to the Government’s “ blank cheque “. What I should like to know is whether the Government will repudiate publicly the cheque which it has filled in and signed. If honorable members will examine the statement of policy of the Australian Labour party, they will see that for a number of years members of that political body committed themselves to do certain things in regard to the Parliament of the Commonwealth if ever they had a majority in both chambers. For several years after I became a member of the House of Representatives, I often heard from members of the Labour party, which was then in Opposition, laments - in fact, sometimes almost moans - that they could not do certain things that they wanted to do because they lacked a majority in both chambers. Their minds went back to the time when they had a majority in the House of Representatives, but were in a minority in the Senate, and they warned us in dire, threatening tones that they would carry out their policy once they had a majority in both chambers. It is most interesting to note that the statement of policy of the Labour party to which you, Mr. Speaker, among others, have subscribed, contains a section entitled, “ Amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution “ and under that heading is this objective -
To abolish the Senate.
The Labour Government, which now has a majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives and which claims to have been given a “ blank cheque “ by the electors to do what it likes, is now prepared to repudiate its own signature. Instead of abolishing the Senate, the Government now proposes to increase the number of senators by 66$ per cent. You, Mr. Speaker, will be familiar with other interesting objectives of the Labour party, which are contained in its constitution. One of those objectives is -
To invest the Commonwealth Parliament with unlimited legislative powers and authority to create (or re-order) States or Provinces with delegated powers.
In the past, we have not heard very much about that objective, but I direct attention to another declaration of policy which the Labour Government repudiated in 1942. I refer to the statement that the Australian Labour party will “ assure that no Australian citizen can be conscripted for military service “. Still under the heading of “ Constitution “, I find this objective -
No imperial federation and no imperial honours for Australian citizens.
If the Government adheres strictly to that objective, there may be regrets in some quarters next year. The Labour party also advocates -
The abolition of State legislative councils and State governors.
A political party which committed itself publicly to these objectives, should at least attempt to live up to them.
– From what document is the honorable member reading?
– It is the official report of the proceedings of the seventeenth Commonwealth triennial con ference of the Australian Labour party, held in the Trades Hall, Melbourne, on the 26th November, 1945. It was on the proceedings of that .conference, I believe, that the Labour Government was returned to office in 1946. Its policy is governed by the triennial conferences, which, I understand, meet shortly before each Commonwealth election, and give the Minister for Information and his colleagues their riding instructions for the next race, and tell them whether their mounts are to be black, grey or piebald.
Towards the end of this document, there is an even more interesting provision relating to Commonwealth elections. I warn the Minister for Information that, in committee, I propose to test the sincerity of the Government on this issue. The policy of the Australian Labour party includes this provision -
Commonwealth Electoral Act amendment to remove the existing disqualification of State members as Federal Parliamentary candidates, and the repeal of any Commonwealth law preventing the removal of the existing disqualification.
Possibly the Government has overlooked that item of policy for the time being, and the Opposition might be beaten to the post, but, at any rate, I shall be interested to see how the Government faces up to these matters.
– The Government and its supporters may even allow the Governor-General to run.
– He might recover his old form.
– Order ! The honorable member for Barker has been in Parliament long enough to know that the name of the Governor-General must not be used for the purposes of influencing debate.
– I did not introduce the name of the GovernorGeneral into this debate, and I have only just attained my parliamentary majority - a mere 21 years as a member, first of the Parliament of South Australia, and now of the Commonwealth Parliament.
The position of the Senate has deserved the attention of this Parliament for many years. In 1928, the Bruce-Page Government appointed a royal commission to examine the Constitution. From memory, I believe that the commission did not present its report until after the BrucePage Government had been defeated at an election which followed the dissolution of the Blouse of Representatives. At that election, senators did not face their masters. The royal commission unanimously recommended that . proportional representation, should be adopted for the election of senators, but that recommendation was not made effective. “When a new Senate was sworn in on the 1st July, 1935, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party had 33 supporters, and the Labour party had three. In the present Senate that position is reversed. On both occasions, however, the three senators constituting the Opposition have represented Queensland.
In 1935 the only Labour senators elected were those elected to represent Queensland. Incidentally, they included the President of the Senate (Senator Brown), who was very vocal in those days. For three years there was no effective Opposition in the Senate. However, amongst the senators who supported the Government of that day were certain gentlemen, including two or three from South Australia whom I well remember, who scrutinized very carefully proposed legislation and subjected measures to criticism in the light of their opinions and those of their electors. At the present time the Opposition in the Senate comprises only three members, and within the ranks of the Government supporters in that chamber there is not one who is prepared to step outside the narrow lane of political opinion prescribed for him by the Australian Labour party. If any of them did pass beyond that narrow avenue I have no doubt that an untoward fate would overtake him. If the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), who introduced the measures now before us, had declared that the Government had decided to depart from its publicly professed policy of providing full employment, I could have understood him, because no one to-day can contend that the Senate is either fully or gainfully employed; in fact, because of its present political composition, it is virtually an unemployed chamber. No doubt a good deal of dissatisfaction and heart-burning is experienced by Government supporters in. the Senate because they are not afforded an opportunity to express their views on many matters. Because they are not permitted to express themselves as freely and as often as they might, they cannot avail themselves of the publicity secured by the .broadcast of parliamentary proceedings as much as they wish. One does not need to be a clairvoyant to realize their feelings. The Government now contends that a Senate of 36 members is not sufficiently large, and that its membership should be almost doubled. Of course, that contention completely overlooks the fact that during the first parliamentary sittings held this year the Senate was not called together at all, and that it has- met for only three days during the present sittings. It is now in recess and will not resume until next week. The Government has completely disregarded that fact, and instead of formulating some reasonable plan for the reform of the Senate, it proposes that the number of senators shall be increased from 36 to- 60 at the forthcoming elections.
The method of election which the Government proposes has my support; indeed, I have always supported the principle of proportional representation sinceI have taken an active part in politics. Furthermore, the South Australian Country party has consistently supported that principle and has advocated its application to the election of senators. Therefore, I still believe that the introduction of proportional representation would be a worth-while reform. Theadoption of that system for election of the Senate would give that chamber the only chance that it will ever have of becoming a reasonably useful legislative body. Furthermore, the application of that system would result in the election of a politically balanced chamber, because the party which held the majority of seats would have sufficient power, and the party, or parties, whose members were in the minority would have ample opportunity effectively to express their views. After all, that is the very basis of democratic government. Under sucha system, the majority can rule, but the minority is represented according to- its numbers, and is able to express its views on every matter which comes up for consideration. The political situation presented by the present composition of the Senate is one of some difficulty. It may be contended, and I believe that it has been contended, that the adoption of the system of proportional representation at this stage would ensure a majority of supporters of the Australian Labour party ir. the Senate for three years after the next elections. I believe that that is a reasonably sound assumption. Nevertheless, when one has regard to the fairly even balance of the adherents of the political parties in the community, it is unlikely, since seven Senators are to be elected by proportional representation for each State, that any party, or combination of parties, will secure more than 24 of the 42 seats to be filled.
I propose to consider now the effectiveness of the Senate. That chamber cannot initiate money bills, cannot impose any tax, and cannot amend any bill which would impose a tax or authorize the expenditure of public money. “When such a measure comes before the Seriate, all that it can do is to pass the measure, reject it entirely, or return it to this House with a request that certain provisions be reconsidered or certain amendments be made. However, from my experience of the Senate and my knowledge of its history, I believe that no government is ever likely to be seriously embarrassed by it. Although con.stitutitionally it may be able to bring about a double dissolution of the Parliament it has only done so on one occasion in its history. The result of its action on that occasion was such that the political parties represented on this side of the House have no reason to feel proud of their action. The elections of senators on that occasion resulted in the return of 35 Labour adherents and only one candidate of the opposing parties. Indeed, I believe that the election of the one nonLabour senator, who was returned for South Australia, was nothing more than a political accident brought about by the sudden death of Senator MacGregor.
– On that occasion 31 Labour supporters and five non-Labour supporters were elected to the Senate.
– I accept the correction in regard to the numbers, although it does not affect the substance of my contention. The fact remains that a legislative body, elected on the basis of adult franchise, which is so unbalanced! in its composition cannot discharge its: normal functions in the manner expected’ of it by a democratic community. Should’ the general elections to be held next yearresult in the return of a majority of nonLabour members of this House, the Australian Labour party will still command/ a majority in the Senate. However, in view of the unhappy fate of the. senators who precipitated a double dissolution on the occasion to which I have referred, I believe that its supporters in that chamber will change the title of their party to that of the “no election party” or the “ no double dissolution party “. I think that it was the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) who observed last night that a general election, conducted under the system of proportional representation, which has been occasioned by a double dissolution, will not result in the representation of any party being entirely obliterated from the Senate. Nevertheless, the tendency of electors to change their political allegiance, and even to change their representatives without forsaking their particular party, was clearly illustrated in the last elections for the Tasmanian Parliament. Therefore, adoption of the system of proportional representation will not assure any member of the present Senate that he will necessarily be chosen by his party to contest an election under its aegis.
There are certain features of the Government’s proposals with regard to the system of proportional representation proposed to be adopted which I should like explained when the bill is in the committee stages. However, I make it perfectly clear now that I do not agree with the remark made by the Attorney-General, in the course of his speech, that candidates may be selected at random in order to complete a voting “ ticket “, and that they may be elected simply because of the mechanics of the system of proportional representation. There is no need to resort to random tactics such as those which are sometimes employed in poker schools. That is unnecessary and indefensible, and should not receive the support of the House irrespective of the source from which the suggestion emanates.
I propose to say something now with regard to the terms for which it is proposed that the new senators should be elected. I have always been under the impression that I can comprehend any idea which is expressed in reasonably clear English, but I must confess that .1 cannot even pretend to understand the meaning of sub-clause 4 of clause 5 of the Representation Bill now before the House. I should have thought that any competent draftsman could have expressed, in approximately six or seven lines of type, a clear conception of the Government’s proposal. By its proposal to increase the number of senators from 36 to 60 the Government will increase the number of representatives of each State from six to ten. The Constitution makes it quite clear that the Parliament may make whatever provision it likes in regard to filling the places of senators. Therefore, if we follow the procedure which was adopted at the first election of the Senate, and at the election following the only double dissolution which has taken place, it stands to reason that the candidates who arc first declared elected will serve a longer period than their colleagues There will be only two senators, the sixth and the seventh, who will serve for the shorter term, that is, from the day of the first meeting of the Parliament until the 30th June, 1953. I have read this bill several times and discussed it with many people, but I am still unable to determine whether the sixth and seventh senators retire on the 30th June, 1953, or whether, in the event of their being sitting senators, they do not retire until the 30th June, 1956. That should be explained so that there will be no misapprehension.
It has been stated publicly on many occasions by all sorts of authorities - some outside the Parliament who want to get in, and some inside the Parliament who do not seem to be able to get out - that there- should be a considerable increase in the number of members of the
House of Representatives. I have never accepted that contention. I do not think there is any necessity for an increase in the number of members of this Parliament. That is not a decision I have arrived at lately. In its relations with the Australian people the Australian Parliament stands in a different position from the Parliaments of the United Kingdom, the Dominion of Canada, the Dominion of New Zealand and the Union of South Africa. In each of those countries the dominion or Imperial Parliament is supreme. In New Zealand and Great Britain the Parliament possesses 100 per cent, of the legislative authority, and in Canada and South Africa the Parliaments have all the legislative authority not specifically handed over to the provinces by the Constitution. The position in Australia is the exact reverse of that. Section 51 of the Australian Constitution gives specific powers to the Australian Parliament, and all powers not mentioned in the Constitution remain the legislative province of the States. The Australian Parliament, therefore, is one with limited responsibility and authority. Its authority is so limited that since the conclusion of the recent war and to some extent before then the history of the present Government is one of almost incessant attempts in the High Court to prove that the scope of section 51 of the Constitution is much greater than many people in this country are prepared to concede. In those circumstances it is reasonable to say that members of this Parliament in their relationships with the Australian electors are not in the same position as the members of the other parliaments to which I have referred are to people whom they represent.
It has been argued that the electoral divisions represented by members of the Australian Parliament are too large and that proper attention cannot be given to them. I am not prepared to concede that that is so. The electors of the Division of Barker so far seem to be of the opinion that I am better able to do the job than any one else who has offered to undertake it. That, of course, applies to every honorable member of this House. The largest electoral division in Australia - and I believe in the British Empire so far as area is concerned - is Kalgoorlie, which is now represented by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson). If this legislation is enforced strictly, the Kalgoorlie division will have to be increased in size. There are just over 36,000 persons on the Kalgoorlie electoral roll. According to the official figures circulated by direction of the Australian Government, Western Australia will have eight seats and 320,000 electors. Although the quota will be reduced to 40,000, Kalgoorlie will fall short of it by nearly 4,000.
– The figures revealed by the census would have compelled the Kalgoorlie division to be enlarged in any case.
– Much the same will apply to the Kennedy, Wakefield and Grey divisions. This legislation will not affect the Grey division materially as far as area is concerned. All that will happen will be that Yorke Peninsula will be excluded from it, but the division will still extend from Port Lincoln to the Northern Territory and from the vicinity of Hawker to the Western Australian border. I ask honorable members to study maps showing the divisions of Wakefield, Darling, Maranoa and Kennedy. It is stupid to suggest that the size of the divisions will be materially reduced if this _ bill becomes law. The size of my own division of Barker, with about 70,000 electors, will not be much altered. There is little substance in that argument.
It has been argued that a larger Parliament will mean better members, but I contend that that is a false argument. I ask honorable members to consider the House of Commons in Great Britain, the House of Commons in Canada and the Congress of the United States of America. Does it follow that because there are 640 members of the House of Commons in Britain, they are better men than honorable members of this House? There are approximately 240 members of the Canadian House of Commons, but is the average standard of the Canadian members higher than that obtaining in this Parliament? If the number of members of this Parliament is increased, much the same type of member as at present will be elected, and the only difference will be that the number will be greater. It ia also argued that a bigger Parliament means a better ministry. I do not believe that statement to be true. The history of ministries in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and everywhere else shows,as a former member for Wakefield said, that no ministry can carry on successfully if more than about 35 per cent, of its members are other than passengers. In all ministries there has to be someone to go out to show the flag and to discharge the functions of leadership, and the other ministers do the drudgery and the administrative work without which no ministry can carry on. That is true of ministries whether they consist of 10 or of - 25 members. I am not a betting man, but if I were I should say it was fair bet that if the number of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate is increased, the next Government, especially’ if the Labour party has a majority, willdiscover that there are not enough Ministers and that the number should be increased. For what it is worth, I should like some member of the Cabinet, preferably the Prime Minister, to declare to the country that an increase in the size of Parliament will not mean an increase in the number of ministers. As the ministerial team is organized at present, I should say that the principle of unemployment in the Senate nearly applies to the ministry as well. It would be enlightening to hear what the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) does except to move the “ gag “ and why, under present conditions, there are five Ministers dealing with service matters.
There are other problems to be considered, and I do not know whether the Government has devoted any attention to them. One, Mr. Speaker, affects your own department particularly. Assuming that you will be occupying the chair in a House of Representatives with some 120 members, I ask you whether there will not need to be a serious review and amendment of the Standing Orders and of the general conduct of business in this chamber. A question time limited to an hour at the most, and often less than that at the will of the Prime Minister, will afford very little opportunity for honorable members to ask questions without notice. If we are to ensure that the enlarged Parliament is to function we would do well to examine closely the method adopted by the British House of Commons, under which questions without notice may not be asked except on certain days. I do not express my opinion very loudly about some questions that are asked now because some of mine might come under the classification, and rightly so, of being somewhat disorderly. There is also the question of the passage of bills. Is it the “belief of the Government that, with a House of 121 members, we shall be able to devote, in a committee of the whole House, that consideration to legislation which ought to be devoted to it if it is to stand the test of experience and of contest in the courts? If the number of members of this House is increased there will have to be evolved some method under which many bills are referred to certain committees which will deal specifically with them. There will have to be an acknowledgment of the method which, I understand, is employed in the House of Commons and in other legislatures, under which there is no debate on what is known as unopposed legislation. If bills which are introduced do not meet with hostility from the Opposition, there is no point in having a long debate on them. Both you and I, Mr. Speaker, could recall instances in which legislation has been passed by this House very slowly and painfully, despite the fact that not one speech was made in opposition to it, members merely talking to their electors. I am not questioning their right to do so but I am questioning the capacity of the House to tolerate the continuance of that practice if, after the next elections the number of members is to be increased by 56. I have dealt with a few of the matters which I think are important from the general point of view of honorable members. They are matters which, if they do not receive the attention of the Parliament at this stage, will force themselves upon the attention of the Parliament as soon as the legislation now before us has received the assent of the Crown and has been p.ut into operation.
.- I listened with very great attention to the expressions of opinion by honorable members opposite relative to electoral reform. The apologetics indulged in by them were truly astounding. Each of them has said in effect, “ I do not know why we did not do something about electoral reform years ago, but if you do anything about it, we will vote against your proposal “. Now that the Government has seen fit to apply itself to the problems of electoral reform, every conceivable kind of bogy is raised by them in an endeavour to terrify the people. It must be remembered, however, that the method by which we propose to enlarge both the Senate and the House of Representatives, was not chosen by the Government as a free entity but was laid down in the Constitution by our fathers, in ari attempt to rule us from the grave. In order that the people may know the difficulties with which we are confronted it might be well for me to read section 24 of Part III. of Chapter 1 of the Constitution, which deals with the constitution of the House of Representatives. The section reads as follows: -
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the Senators.
That is the first provision specifically laid down for us by our fathers.
– For what reason was the number of members fixed as twice the number of the senators?
– I have no idea. That is what the Constitution provides. In pre.scribing the manner in which a quota shall be ascertained the phrase, “ twice the number of the senators “ is again used. Having ascertained the quota, the number of members to be chosen in each State is determined by dividing the number of the people of the State by the quota. The Constitution, which was written almost half a century ago, in addition to prescribing the machinery by which the number of members to be chosen in each State shall be determined, contains the following extraordinary proviso: -
But notwithstanding anything in this section, five members at least shall be chosen in each original State.
But for that proviso Tasmania, would probably not have had more than one representative in this House. I doubt if there were 200,000 electors in Tasmania at the time the Constitution was framed. Even to-day, half a century afterwards, there are only 250,000 people in that State, and but for this extraordinary proviso, the number of members now representing Tasmania would at most be only three. The machinery for determining the number of members to be chosen in each State which is specifically laid down in the Constitution is inflexible. We are hamstrung by it. Whether we like it or not, if we desire to enlarge the membership of the House of Representatives we must also automatically enlarge the membership of the Senate. It is proposed to elect senators to the enlarged Senate by the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation. It is amazing that while every honorable member opposite who has spoken on this subject has admitted that a reform of this kind is desirable, no attempt was made by governments which they supported to bring about such a reform even when they had a majority of 35 to 1 in the Senate. Now that we propose to do something about it we are subjected to severe criticism. Honorable members opposite have raised all kinds of objections to the Government’s proposals, not only on the floor of this House, but also elsewhere. Though they have said that this1 Government has no mandate to enlarge the Parliament, they have made it clear that had either of the two opposition parties been returned to office, it would have had to do the very thing which they say this Government has no mandate to do. On the 2nd of August, 1945, the Melbourne Herald, the handbook of the Liberal and Australian Country parties, published this statement -
The proposal to enlarge the Federal Parliament to about double its present size, which is now included in Mr. Chifley’s election programme, was last put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Menzies, before the 1944 referendum.
The writer went on to say that the Prime Minister had suggested “ the enlargement of the Federal Parliament to about double its- present size “. The principal argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition last night was that this Go vernment had no mandate for its proposals, but that because he had referred to the desirability of increasing the size of the Parliament in his policy speech, he would have had a mandate to proceed with his policy of reform had he been returned to office. The Government, therefore, has a clear mandate from the people to bring about this desirable reform, and to proceed with this proposal in accordance with the machinery laid down in the. Constitution. How can honorable members opposite object if we merely carry out something with which they are in agreement and which they themselves recommended ?
– What does the platform of the Labour party say on the. subject ?
– The honorable member for Richmond is well aware of what is contained in the platform of my party and I do not intend to discuss it.
– But what does the platform say?
– Order ! The honorable member for Richmond is doubly disorderly in interjecting from the seat of another honorable member.
– I wish my sadistic friend would return to his own seat and confine himself to his own tortuous thoughts in silence. Unless he can find muck to rake up he is unhappy.
– The honorable member has not answered my question.
– My honorable friends opposite find humour in the fact, that although our policy provides for the abolition of the Senate, we propose to enlarge it. But how else could we constitutionally enlarge the House of Representatives? Honorable members opposite know that the Constitution provides that membership of the House of Representatives shall be as nearly as practicable twice that of the Senate. They also know what scant consideration a referendum on the abolition of the Senate would receive from the Australian people at present. These hypocrites and distorters of facts know that the people would not agree to abolish the Senate. I always thought, that the intellect of members of the Australian Country party was low, but I did not know that it approached the moronic level. The membership of the House of Representatives can be increased only in accordance with the Constitution, and an increase of its membership automatically entails an increase of the Senate membership. By referring to the fact that, under this proposal, Tasmania will not be entitled to more members of the House of Representatives, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who, unlike so many of his colleagues, has some claim to intellect, has drawn Tasmanian members into the debate. It is not the Government’s fault that under present conditions Tasmania cannot be given increased membership of the House of Representatives. A government composed of honorable gentlemen opposite could not constitutionally allow Tasmania more members. The Parliament should increase the membership of the House of Representatives to 121 and of the Senate to 60 and then ask the people at a referendum held conjointly with the next general elections to eliminate section 24 of the Constitution, which sets out the constitution of the House of Representatives, with a view to inserting in its place a provision specifying the number of representatives of each State in the House and that the total membership shall be, say, 150. That would enable Tasmania to have three or four more members in the House. I do not see why it is necessary for membership of the House to be fixed mathematically. It is evident that the’ framers of the Constitution did not favour a mathematical basis, because they decided that Tasmania was entitled to five members, notwithstanding that, on a mathematical calculation, that State would, at the time, have been entitled to only two members. I am aware that, under this legislation, Tasmania will have more representation in the Senate, but I think it is also entitled to more representation in the creative house. I believe that if the people had before them a proposal that each State should nave a specific number of members in the House they would be fully aware of what they were voting on and would agree to it. I do not imagine that the people in the less populous States of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania would vote against their having more representation in the House of Represen- tatives. I am certain that the people of Tasmania would prefer eight or nine members to five, and that the people of Western Australia and South Australia would welcome greater representation than they have now or will become entitled to under this legislation. I cannot imagine that the people of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland would vote against such a proposal, because their position would not be endangered.
– The Government already has power under- the Constitution, without the need for a referendum, to increase the representation of Tasmania.
– That is not so. The honorable member cannot get away with that. Another reason why the PrimeMinister ought to examine the provisions in the Constitution relating to the Parliament is that section 15 provides that if the place of a. senator becomes vacant before the expiration of his term of ser7 vice, the Houses of Parliament of the State for which he was chosen shall choose a person to hold the place until the expiration of the term, or until the election of a successor at the next general election. I propose to illustrate how that may work out under the Hare-Clark system. Assume that after the next general elections Labour had 31 seats and the Opposition parties 29 and that three months later two Labour Senate seats became vacant in States where Liberal governments ruled, as could easily happen. The parliaments of those States would nominate Liberals to replace the Labour senators whose seats had become vacant. That would mean that the Liberals would have 31 senators as against Labour’s 29 when, in reality Labour had won 31 seats at the general elections. Such a position would be untenable, because in those circumstances, following the death of two honorable senators the Governments of the States which they represented could, in effect, reverse the state of parties in the Senate and thus defeat the will of the electors. The HareClark system provides that in such circumstances vacancies shall be filled by candidates who polled the most votes cast for unsuccessful candidates at the preceding general elections.
– This legislation does not contain such a provision.
– No ; and that is my point. The Government should give urgent consideration to providing for the eventuality -which I have indicated, because in that way vacancies would be filled, not by the appointment of nominees of State Parliaments, but according to the choice expressed by the electors- in the States concerned at the preceding general elections. I urge the Attorney-General to give serious consideration to my suggestion that the Government should seek an amendment of the Constitution by deleting section 24 and by making specific provision to permit of an increase of the number, of members that may be elected to the House of Representatives by a small State like Tasmania when an increase of the population of the State warrants such action being taken independently of considerations applying to the Commonwealth as a whole. That would be in accordance with the principle which the framers of the Constitution had in. mind when dealing with the Constitution of the National Parliament. Such a provision would give great satisfaction to the people of Tasmania as a whole, and would do justice to the less populous States. My second suggestion is that the Government should adopt the principle of the Hare-Clark system in respect pf the filling of vacancies which may occur in the Senate and thus ensure the expression of the will of the electors in the filling of such vacancies.
.- Although one usually listens with interest to speeches made by the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) in this chamber, the arguments which he presented to-night were very weak. He wriggled and squirmed in his attempt to justify the proposals embodied in this legislation and which are contrary to his party’s policy, and, at the same time, retain the good will of the people of Tasmania. He quoted an article from the Melbourne Herald in his endeavour to justify the failure of the ministerial party to inform the people at the last general elections of its intention to introduce this legislation. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), with the same purpose in view, also quoted articles from Sydney metropolitan newspapers. I challenge any honorable member who represents a Queensland electorate to produce one report published in a Queensland newspaper that the Labour party, at the last general elections, indicated its intention to introduce this legislation. The plain fact is that at the last general elections the people were not made aware of the Government’s intention. No Labour party candidate, at that time, advocated enlargement of this Parliament. Such tactics, of course, run counter to the accepted practice in this country that a political party discloses all of its intentions in the policy speech of its leader and that the party which succeeds at the polls will not introduce, during the life of the ensuing Parliament, legislation which has not been forecast in its leader’s policy speech. However, we again find this Government ignoring the will of the people just as it refused to consult them on the nationalization of banking. The honorable member for Denison asked what would be gained by submitting this issue to the people, and he added that obviously the people would turn down these proposals. That sums up the attitude of the Government towards the will of the people. Similarly, after the people of Queensland decided, by a large majority, against the State Labour Government’s proposal that the Upper House should be abolished, Mr. E. G. Theodore, who was then Premier of the State, ignored that expression of the people’s will and abolished that chamber. Thus, this Government is running true to Labour party form in respect of this and other vital issues. I can see no reason why the Government should not take the opportunity which will be presented at the approaching referendum on rents and prices to consult the people as to whether they desire the enlargement of this Parliament as is proposed under this legislation. The Government will not follow that course; it prefers to ignore the will of the people. Consequently, one is justified in describing the two measures which we are now discussing as expediency bills. They have been prompted solely by the Government’s fear of destruction and its instinct for self-preservation. As the result of certain happenings during the life of this Parliament, it is obvious that the Government would have little hope under the present representation system of being returned at the next general elections. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), in his second-reading speech, endeavoured to justify this legislation on the basis of the increase of the population of Australia since federation. Of course, our population has greatly increased during that period. I was surprised that he did not try to justify the enlargement, of the Parliament also on the ground that the volume of work of honorable members individually has increased considerably since federation. On that point, I support the views expressed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I do not believe that -an increase of the number of members of either this chamber or of the Senate -can be justified on that ground. The Government is undertaking work which :more properly should be left to those engaged in industry. In the sphere of primary production it has taken complete control of matters, particularly the marketing of primary products, which should be left to the producers themselves, and could be carried out more effectively by producer-controlled boards. The Government is also interfering unduly in the control of housing materials. The present shortage of building materials is only temporary, in the sense that it could be rectified by a government which would refrain from harassing private enterprise and preventing it from increasing the production of urgently needed commodities. Such a government would encourage increased production by reducing taxes.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I am endeavouring to show that the work of members of Parliament individually has not increased to a degree that would justify enlargement of the Parliament. As the honorable member for Barker has pointed out, the majority of Ministers have, in fact, very little work to do at present. That is only too evident.
The principal objects of this legislation are to increase the number of members of both chambers and to provide for theelection of senators on the basis of proportional representation. Frankly, I agree with the latter proposal. Under the present system it is possible for a large body of electors - anything up to 49 per cent. - to be without representation in the Senate. A strong opposition in a Parliament always makes for better government because it can. prevent the Government from becoming too smug and complacent. I am not referring specifically to any political party when I say that a substantial and enthusiastic opposition is everwatchful of the country’s welfare and can offer valuable criticism of the government’s legislation. Unfortunately, the measures that we are now considering have sprung from the exigencies of the situation in which the Government finds itself to-day. Whilst I appreciate that an increase of the membership of the House of Representatives without a corresponding increase of the membership of the Senate would require an amendment of the Constitution, I believe that that would have been a more desirable course. Constitutional difficulties could have been overcome by a convention of representatives of the States, or by permitting the people of Australia to vote upon the issue at a referendum. An increase of the membership of the Senate is an unwarranted imposition on the people of this country.
This legislation represents another step by the Government in the direction of the centralization of government. We of the Australian Country party believe in the decentralization of government and of industry. The enlargement of the Parliament according to the present proposals will mean industrial domination. I do not suggest for a moment that the great industrial movement of this country should not be adequately represented in the Parliament, but, under this scheme, the representation of the cities of Sydney and Newcastle in this chamber will be increased from 16 to 29. I have heard it said that the increase will be from 18 to 31, but, so far as I can ascertain, the figures that I have given are correct. Representation of the City of Melbourne is to be increased from 12 to 22. Therefore, of a total of 121 members of the new House of Representatives, no less than 51 will represent the three cities that I have mentioned. Whilst there can be no doubt that our secondary industries are of great worth, it hardly seems fair that the industrial cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, Ballarat and Geelong will together have equal representation in this House with the rest of the Commonwealth. That will not make for equitable government, and the proposal will not be acceptable to country residents whose products form the basis of our economy and contribute so largely to our national income. How many interests will these 51 members actually represent? It is true that they will represent a great number of people - perhaps 2,000,000 - but the interests of these people are almost identical. In contrast, consider the diversity of interests that I represent in the very important constituency of Maranoa. The products of that electorate include beef, mutton, bacon, cotton, dairy produce including butter and cheese, citrus and deciduous fruits, wheat, maize, peanuts, vegetables, tobacco, hay, chaff, grain sorghum, sudan grass and navy beans. In addition, pigraising is as large an undertaking in Maranoa as it is in any other electorate in Queensland. In short, every primary industry of any consequence in Australia, excepting perhaps sugar cane-growing and banana-growing, is represented. I believe that I have represented these varied interests satisfactorily. At any rate, the electors of Maranoa indicated their satisfaction with my work in no uncertain manner after my first term of office in this Parliament. In addition to primary industries, we also have some secondary industries, including iron foundries and coal mines in two separate areas. Mr. Randolph Bedford, a former member of the Queensland Parliament pointed out on one occasion that the electoral division of Maranoa was approximately three times the size of Victoria. Is it fair, or is it in the interests of the Commonwealth as a whole that, in this chamber, there should be 51 representatives of three cities, and only one representative of an electorate of such great importance to Australia as that which I represent ? Obviously, one member cannot do the job efficiently. If I were to concede that increased representation waa necessary at all, I should say that it was necessary only in part. Certainly it is not necessary in the cities. It may be advantageous in electorates such as Maranoa. However, I understand that country people generally are against the proposal to enlarge the Parliament.
The recent census has revealed certain anomalies in the present electoral boundaries. In Queensland, there is one electorate in which the number of voters exceeds the legal maximum, and another in which the number is less than the prescribed minimum. This necessitates an alteration. I understood also that in the normal course, two States were to lose seats and Queensland was to gain one. For those reasons a redistribution was necessary, but that could have been done quite easily by departmental officials. Whilst there may be justification for a larger Parliament on the ground of increased population and the additional duties imposed upon members, I contend that these arguments apply only to one House. Admittedly, an enlarged House of Representatives would give to a government a wider field from which to choose its cabinet, but it does not necessarily follow that the incoming members would be any better than those who now occupy the benches in this chamber. There is no need to increase the membership of the Senate. After four and a half years’ experience of this Parliament, I have seen no evidence that senators are overworked. The honorable member for Barker pointed out that the Senate had sat for only three days since the beginning of this year. Senators do not even have enough electoral work to do to justify returning to their States during a long adjournment. The present membership of the Senate is 36, consisting of six from each State, which is ample. The Senate was intended to be a house of review, and one of its functions was supposed to be to safeguard the interests of the States. However, for a long time past, it has been simply a party house, and legislation is rushed through it to suit the convenience of the government in power. Recently, the House of Representatives spent five weeks debating tariff proposals, butthose same proposals were rushed through the Senate in two days. The Opposition in the House of Representatives is sometimes criticized by the press for not keeping debate going longer, but there is no indication that senators even try to discuss properly the legislation which comes before them. It would merely aggravate the present unsatisfactory position if the membership of this “ house of rest “ were increased to serve the interests of the supporters of a political party.
– I remember Mr. R. G. Casey saying something like that once.
– Yes, and I believe that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) agrees with it. Even if it is desirable to increase the membership of the House of Representatives, there can be no possible justification for enlarging the Senate, and a proposal should be put forward for altering the Constitution to enable the House of Representatives to be enlarged, while leaving the Senate as it is. We know that when members of the public wish to place something before a member of Parliament, in 95 cases out of 100 they communicate with a member of the House of Representatives. It is a crying shame that the country should be called upon to suffer the imposition of paying for a bigger Senate, and I make no bones about stating what I feel regarding the proposal. I have no wish to reflect upon present company; it is supposed to be bad manners. However, during the life of a previous, Parliament, a senator who was sitting at a table with me remarked that he had received a letter. I said, “You have actually got one?” and he admitted that it was the only one he had received for a week.
The Government has brought forward these proposals in an attempt to save its own life at the next elections, and, in bringing them forward, it has ignored that plank of its own platform which provides for the abolition of the Senate. It has also ignored the will of the people, and disregarded the fact that it could have called a convention, or at least a conference of parties, with a view to finding a satisfactory method of removing existing anomalies. Instead of doing that, however, it has put forward a scheme which, it hopes, will give Labour control of the Senate until 1953.
I summarize the position as follows: Whilst it is necessary, as a result of the information revealed by the recent census, to correct certain electoral anomalies, this could have been done without increasing the size of the Parliament. The honorable member for Denison said that redistribution was necessary. That is true, but it need not involve increasing the membership of the Parliament. The population of electorates has increased, and so have the parliamentary duties of members of the House of Representatives, but that situation has been met by the granting of secretarial assistance to members, so that it is no longer necessary for them to pound out their letters with one finger on a typewriter. They are now able to give their attention to the discharge of what are their proper parliamentary duties. These bills furnish another example of the tendency of the Labour Government to bring in legislation which is outside the scope of its stated policy, and sometimes even contrary to it. Moreover, under the proposed scheme, government will be centralized to an even greater degree than at present. Advantage should have been taken of that provision in the Constitution which says that regard may be paid to the size and industries of country electorates. Certainly, if some electorates are to have a smaller population than others, rural electorates are entitled to this benefit. The relevant section of the Electoral Act provides that the commissioner shall, when fixing the boundaries of electoral divisions, give due consideration to -
Action should be taken to alter the Constitution so as to make it unnecessary to enlarge the Senate at the same time as the membership of the House of Representatives is increased. Because the Government failed to refer its proposals to the people, and in consequence has no mandate; because I am convinced that Australia will not benefit from an increase of the membership of the
Parliament, particularly the Senate; and because such increase would involve unwarranted expenditure, I am opposed to this legislation.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in opening the debate for the Opposition, divided his speech into two parts - “Why this thing is being done “, and “ How it is being done “. I propose to divide my observations under the same two headings, and to add one or two conclusions of my own. When discussing why the Government proposed that the Parliament should be enlarged the Leader of the Opposition, and the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen) after him, gave a number of fantastic reasons, mostly conjured out of their own imagination, why the Government was acting in this way. The Leader of the Opposition first attacked the bona fides of the Government because, he said, no mention had been made of the proposal during the 1946 election campaign. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) showed that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had referred to the matter during that campaign. But whether that was so or not does not really matter. I have repeatedly stated in this House that when a government is elected in circumstances such as attended the election of this Government, with a blank cheque from the people, it is entitled to do everything possible under the Constitution for the welfare of the people. It is not inhibited from doing anything at all, subject to the limits of the Constitution. Consequently it does not matter at all whether this matter was mentioned during the 1946 election campaign.
On this point, the Leader of the Opposition developed an argument in which there was a fallacy which would be obvious to any pupil, however backward, in a primary school. The right honorable gentleman said that because he advocated enlargement of the Parliament in his policy speech - and he had the support of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) - and because his party was defeated at the elections, then automatically it followed, by inference, that the electors had turned down the proposition and voted against it. The plain fact, of course, is that that was only one of a very large number of points of policy expressed by the Leader of the Opposition in his policy speech. I do not think I need to tell the right honorable gentleman, or his supporters, that the reason for the defeat of the Opposition parties at the elections was not that they advocated enlargement of the Parliament. The fact was that the people did not trust them to form a government. The right honorable gentleman’s argument was based on completely false logic. He said that the Government’s proposal arose from the fact that the 45 members on this side of the House were trying to save themselves from the wrath to come. That involves a very naive assumption that the Labour party is going to be defeated at the next elections. I make bold to say that not one of the 45 honorable gentlemen who sit on this side of the House would fear defeat, even if the elections were contested within the existing divisions.
– That also is an assumption.
– That is true. But I am as much entitled to make assumptions as is the Leader of the Opposition. In fact, I have greater justification for doing so than he has, because he donned the mantle of a prophet and it is well known that a number of his prophecies in regard to elections have been completely false.
I have engaged in three general (lections since I entered this House, and on each occasion the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party prophesied that they would gain great victories. On each occasion they and their parties were defeated. Just as the right honorable gentleman has been wrong in the past, so he will be proved wrong again. I repeat that the 45 members on this side of the House would not fear the results of the next elections even if the electoral boundaries were unchanged. However, assuming that the proposed increase would make their positions a little more secure, the logical conclusion would be that the positions of the 29 honorable members opposite also would become a little more secure than they are now. Therefore, the argument that the Government has introduced this scheme merely in order to protect its own members and supporters falls down. I also say that the 45 honorable members on the Government side of the chamber do not fear the outcome of the next elections because each one of them pulls his weight. That cannot be truthfully said about the 29 honorable members of the Opposition. If it were true that the proposal would strengthen the positions of present members on this side of this House, I should be a little doubtful about the value of the scheme because it would provide security of tenure for a number of “ dead beats “ on the Opposition benches.
The plain truth is that all of the reasons conjured up by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) to explain the introduction of this measure are quite erroneous. The reason why this, legislation has been introduced is that the Government considers that the best interests of the nation will be served by increasing the representation of the people in this Parliament. The Minister for Information has shown clearly that the number of electors which each honorable member represents to-day is very much larger than the number represented by each member of the original Parliament. In fact, honorable members to-day are unable to look after the interests of such large numbers of constituents in a proper manner. It is also true that the legislation which this Parliament is required to consider to-day is of a very much more complicated nature than the legislation of earlier years, when the number of members of the Australian Parliament was originally decided upon. It is in the interests of the nation that such legislation should be considered by a larger number of representatives than the people now have.
Having proved that there should he an increase, I pass on to the question of how the enlargement is to be brought about. Consider first of all the membership of the House of Representatives, which is the more important of the two Houses of this Parliament. Our Constitution clearly lays down that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be twice the number of senators. Because one-half of the number of senators representing each State must go to the people every three years, there must be an even number of senators for each State. Therefore, any increase of the number of senators can be only by twelve or a multiple of twelve. The number must be 36, as at present, 48, 60, 72 and so on - an arithmetical series increasing by the number twelve.
Again, it follows automatically under the Constitution that the number of members of the House of Representatives must be double the number of senators. Any increase of the number of members of the House of Representatives must be to approximately either twice 48, or twice 60, or twice 72, and so on. That means that the number in the House of Representatives, if there is to be an increase, must be a number in the arithmetical series 96, 120, 144 and so on. When increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives, we are limited as to choice. We must select a number in the arithmetical series. The number chosen by the Government is 120 which, in the terms of the Constitution, is as nearly as practicable double the number of senators.
– Under the Government’s proposal, the House of Representatives will have a membership of 121.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) knows the reason for that, and I shall not waste the time of the House in dealing with it. The number will be “ as nearly as practicable “ twice that of the Senate. Members of the Opposition have not criticized that number.
– Obviously the Minister has not listened to our speeches.’
– So far in this debate, no member of the Opposition has said that the membership of the House of Representatives should be increased to 96, or 144.
– Some Opposition speakers have stated that there should not be any increase.
– That is true, but the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) will recollect that the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party, in their election speeches, advocated an increase of the membership of the House of Representatives.
The House, in dealing with this legislation, is limited in the choice that it can make. I emphasize that it must decide on a membership of 96, 120, 144 or a number in that arithmetical series, and members of the Opposition have not advocated that the number should be 96 or 144. The Government selected 120, because each member would then have approximately 40,000 constituents, and the Government considers that an electorate of that size is large enough for any member to look after properly. In addition, that number will give a membership in this House that will be adequate for the consideration of legislation, which, as I have explained, is more complicated now than in the early days of federation. The larger House will also provide a wider field of selection for Ministers, and that will be all to the good.
When we have decided that the number of members best fitted for present-day requirements is 120, the Constitution itself automatically decides how many members each State shall have. Section 24 of the Constitution lays down how the number of members for each State shall be arrived at. The Leader of the Opposition strongly criticized the provision that the number of members representing Tasmanian electorates will not be increased. The right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that, under the Constitution, Tasmania cannot be allotted any additional members of the House of Representatives.
– The Constitution does not provide anything of the sort.
– The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Barker know perfectly well that unless we increase the membership of the House of Representatives substantially in excess of the Government’s proposals, Tasmania cannot be allotted more than five members.
The honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) raised the issue “city versus country “. The honorable member for Maranoa appeared to be unaware that the number of electors allowed in any particular constituency is provided not in the Constitution, but in the Commonwealth Electoral Act; a latitude of 20 per cent, is permitted in relation to each electorate. If the honorable member for Indi had examined that act when he was Minister for the Interior some years ago, he would have known that the government of the day could have varied that percentage. Under section 24 of the Constitution, it still is possible to make the value of votes in country electorates substantially greater than the value of votes in city electorates. To take a figure at random, I point out that we could allot 20,000 voters to country electorates and 40,000 to city electorates. That is possible by a simple amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act withouth an alteration of the Constitution. If the honorable member for Indi and other members of the Australian Country party who, no doubt, will raise this issue during this debate, feel so strongly about this matter, they should have demanded an alteration of the Commonwealth. Electoral Act to meet their wishes when they supported anti-Labour governments some years ago. The plain fact of the matter is that the honorable member for Indi makes a practice of snivelling and whining in this House about things which the present Government will not do, but which he and his colleagues in former governments failed to do. As he had that opportunity for years, it ill becomes him now to raise that issue.
– Why does the Minister object to doing it?
– Because I have always believed in the principle of “ one vote one value “. That is why I believe in equal representation for city and country electors. However, the honorable member for Wimmera does not believe in that, nor does the honorable member for Indi, who, when he was a member of the last non-Labour government, never opened his mouth in criticism of the present system of election. I think that what I have said disposes of the issue of city versus country seats.
The Leader of the Opposition said that Tasmania will suffer if the Government’s proposals are adopted, but I believe that his argument that tine adoption of the present proposals will result in the centralization of federal powers in two States is fallacious. He cited certain statistics and said that that combined representation in this House of New South Wales and Victoria would confer on those States 22 more seats than the aggregate number of seats held by other States. He went on to point out that adoption of the present proposals would increase from 22 to 39 the margin of seats held by New South Wales and Victoria above those of the other States. But since the number of voters residing in those two States is already so much greater than the number residing in all the other States that their parliamentary representatives greatly out-number those of other States that does not really matter. If the parliamentary representatives of those two States in this chamber do not realize that they owe a duty to the smaller States, then it is immaterial whether their majority be one or 100. If the representatives of New South Wales and Victoria desire to act unf airly in regard to the other States they could do so even now. The position certainly will not be substantially different when these measures are enacted.
In support’ of his contention that the quota of electors for metropolitan electorates should be larger than that for country electorates, the honorable member for Indi made a grossly exaggerated statement. He said that the economy of this country is dependent on wool, wheat and other primary produce. Australia’s economy depends as much on the workers in every industry as the primary producers. Without the services of the men who operate the railways and other transport services, maintain the roads, and render all the miscellaneous services which modern society requires, primary producers could not function. It is true that primary producers render a very great service to the people of this country, but that service is no greater than that rendered by the thousands of workers engaged in industry. That is why I believe in the principle of one vote one value, and why I am opposed to increasing the quota for city electorates in order to provide additional parliamentary representatives for country residents.
From what I have said it should be clear that once it has been decided that an increased membership is necessary, the method by which that increase is to be made is already provided by the Constitution. The only point remaining to be decided then is the exact number of seats to be allocated to the Senate and to this House. Because of the provision in the Constitution, that the number of members of this House shall be approximately twice the number of senators, and that only half the senators shall retire every three years, we are confined, for practical purposes, to a choice as to whether the membership of this House shall be 96, 120 or 144, or any other figure in that arithmetical series. From the criticism uttered by honorable members opposite, one would imagine that the Government was endeavouring to prescribe some irregular method of increasing the number of members, but as I have pointed out, the Constitution limits the choice of the number of members to a particular mathematical series. The same consideration applies with regard to the proposal to increase the membership of the Senate, and I believe that the Government’s approach to the problem is the correct one. Since this House is the more important of the two branches of the legislature, the Government first selected the most appropriate number available to it and that determined the corresponding increase of the membership of the Senate which would have to be made. A membership of approximately 120 was selected as being the most appropriate number for this House, and it followed automatically that the number of senators should be 60.
The Leader of the Opposition said that in his opinion there was not a great deal of work for the Senate to do, and that a good case might be made for a reduction of the present number of senators. But the right honorable gentleman knew that if we wished to increase the membership of this House there was, constitutionally, no alternative to increasing the membership of the Senate.
– A referendum is to be held shortly, and the Government could quite easily have included its proposal in the matters to be submitted at that referendum.
– Had we proposed to submit this matter to a referendum honorable members opposite would certainly have opposed it. I remind the House that at the election campaign in 1946 they advocated the proposals to increase the membership of the Parliament which they are now attacking. Honorable members opposite do not know whether they are coming or going.
Honorable members opposite support the principle of proportional representation proposed to be adopted at the next election of senators, but the Leader of the Opposition criticized the adoption of that system. He used strong language, alleging that the proposal was “ indecent”. However, I point out that if proportional representation is ever introduced it will inevitably be introduced in circumstances similar to those now existing. The right honorable gentleman suggested that there should be a double dissolution. The Minister for Information pointed out that that was impossible unless the Constitution was tampered with to the degree of faking a double dissolution in order to put such a proposal into effect. It is a grave abuse of the English language to term “ indecent “ a proposal by which the Govern.ment refuses to tamper with the Constitution in the manner that would be necessary if effect were given to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition. The plain fact is that once it is decided to introduce proportional representation, the system must be introduced in the manner in which this Government is doing it. If honorable members opposite had decided to introduce proportional representation when, they occupied the government benches, they would have done exactly what is now proposed. It boils down to the fact that members of the Opposition support the principle contained in this bill.
The Minister for Information has already quoted extensively from press reports and from the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Darling Downs. I want to put on record again the concurrence of the Leader of the Australian Country party in the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in his policy speech in August, 1946, regarding an increase of the size of the Australian Parliament. The Minister for Information did not include a paragraph from the right honorable gentleman’s speech dealing with the issue of city versus country. In his policy speech, delivered at Toowoomba on the 3rd September, 1946, the Leader of the Australian Country party said -
I cordially agree with Mr. Menzies with respect to the increase of membership of the Parliament. As the only way in which it can be carried out under the Constitution is by increasing the number of Senators, we believe that such increase will give a new opportunity for putting into practical effect a continuous policy of proportional representation for that chamber. An increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate-
With no alteration to the Constitution; exactly in the way in which this Government is now proposing to do it - will increase the number of advocates for rural development and proper balance in national life. Ultimately, this course will lead to great national economies due to increased familiarity with and concentration upon our problems, and the wider choice of human material for ministerial positions.
An increase in the membership of this House and of the Senate was advocated by the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party at the last general elections. In the draft platform of the Liberal party, under the heading “ Constitutional “, the following words a appear : -
Obviously, the inclusion of this matter in the policy speech of the Leader of the Opposition was not a decision taken suddenly. It was a decision taken by the federal executive of the Liberal party.
– The Labour party platform advocates the abolition, of the Senate.
– I am talking of opposition to this measure by those who advocated it the other day, so to speak. In the light of the advocacy of this proposal during the election campaign by the Leader of the Opposition and of the fact that it is contained in the platform of the Liberal party, it can only be concluded that the opposition to this measure, which is in the best interests of the people of Australia, is sheer hypocrisy and humbug.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Australian Prisoners of War : Promotion during Captivity - Royal Australian Air Force : Deferred Pay.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to refer to a matter that I have raised several times in this House and upon which I have received no satisfaction, although I believe the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) is making some inquiries into it. Many Australian soldiers were promoted in the field or during captivity, but their promotions have been repudiated by the Australian Government, and the pay appropriate to their ranks has not been credited to them, although two years have elapsed. That is a disgraceful thing. I propose to read a letter addressed to me by the president of the ex-Prisoners of War and Relatives Association, of which I am a member. The letter begins -
Concerning promotions, I was actively interested in this matter as A.D.M.S. “ Blackforce” for some months after repatriation to Australia. These were some of the anomalies.
I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) to heed me, and to apply some pressure upon the Minister for the Army or whoever is the obstruction standing in the way of these men getting justice. The letter continues -
Pre-capitulation promotions. To my certain knowledge, at least a few members of the force in Java were promoted during the campaign to appointments on unit establishments, but owing to local conditions not permitting adequate 2nd Echelon procedure, such promotion and pay was subsequently not granted, although fully supported by the G.O.C., A.I.F.
These men were promoted in the field. Second Echelon is the records branch. If, for some reason, the records branch broke down under the stress of war and did not promulgate these promotions, that was not the fault of these men, who bore the risks attaching “to their ranks in battle and later in captivity. The letter goes on -
For example, Lieutenant Ian Cameron, A.A.M.C., of my own unit was appointed Quartermaster (Hospital Establishment Q.M. Captain) but never received this rank. He subsequently rationed camps of thousands of men throughout captivity . . .
Post-capitulation promotions. Despite extreme wastage by death and sickness-
Honorable members opposite are not listening ; they do not care whether or not these men receive justice - promotions were extremely sparingly made, and were undoubtedly necessary under circumstances where members were exercising authority and carrying responsibility far beyond their rank.
The writer of this letter is a colonel in the Australian Army Medical Corps who performed outstanding deeds of self-sacrifice while in captivity. He would not say so himself, but I can say it for him. The members of this association, on whose behalf he is writing, are not men who sit down and strike. They only want justice, and it is time that something was done. The letter continues -
Such promotions, in my experience, were infrequently recognized by the Japanese.
They were recognized sometimes by the Japanese, but never by the Australian Government. This gentleman writes with no bitterness, but merely factually. The letter goes on -
In any case, the difference in pay of other ranks amounted to at most a few pence a day, and pay of officers, apart from a small monthly pittance of uniform nature for all officers, was represented by a specious credit in the Yokohama Species Bank ! Throughout captivity, iri order to keep vast numbers of sick men alive, we introduced heavy taxation at source according to pay, so that, in fact, extra pay represented scant material advantage.
Dealing with medical personnel, he said -
Whatever arguments can be made against promotion in other services after capitulation, it is obvious that the Medical Corps normally continue their usual function under special provisions of the Geneva Convention.
The Japanese ignored the Geneva Convention but these men did their duty to the sick.
In the Far East, where whole forces of prisoners became ill, their task was of heroic proportions, and as an example one private soldier (nursing orderly) frequently attended to the nursing of hundreds of sick. As nursing sisters were evacuated, it was requested that the men who did corresponding work in their absence should at least be advanced in trade grouping and pay commensurately. This recommendation was not granted, and no attention was paid to’ promotions within, and indeed, often fantastically, below normal establishment. Thus the devoted work of the Medical Corps, which has been acclaimed as a major factor in returning a majority of prisoners of war to their homeland, received no material recognition. I can speak with special knowledge and authority on this small aspect of the general problem and am reminded of numbers of medical personnel who died when their sick bodies and nagging energies were no longer equal to the demands of their unselfish spirits.
I mention the medical services with diffidence as an example of how inadequate has been the consideration to post-capitulation promotions.
T trust that you will again bring forward this matter at some appropriate time.
The rectification of this anomaly would cost but a few pounds. It is disgraceful that this injustice should have been allowed to go on for two years notwithstanding the representations made in this House time and time again. The Minister for the Army is preoccupied with fancy uniforms for an army he intends to recruit. Thousands of pounds will be spent ,on uniforms which are not wanted. Fighting men do not want “ commissionaire “ uniforms. These men, on whose behalf I plead for justice, and whose rank was in some instances recognized by the enemy, have not been paid their just due. It is high time that this injustice was remedied. I have referred on several occasions to an almost similar instance of injustice to former members of the Royal Australian Air Force. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has also referred to it. At the outbreak of war the Government induced a number of men to join the Royal Australian Air Force as flying instructors, prescribing certain rates of pay for that mustering. The men concerned carried out their duties throughout the war; but by a retrospective regulation made in 1944 the Government withheld from the deferred pay of those who survived a sum which in most instances amounted to hundreds of pounds. Some of the men were killed in the course of their duties; others went overseas after serving as flying instructors. So incensed were the men at this dishonest action of the Government - no private employer would so treat its employees, nor would this Government so treat any union - that they presented a case to the Supreme Court of New South Wales and won the action. In his summing up the judge made scathing comments about the Commonwealth’s action. The case was taken on appeal by the Commonwealth to the High Court and a decision was made in favour of the Commonwealth on a matter of law only, the High Court holding that the Commonwealth had power to make such a regulation. The High Court justices, however, were most scathing in their condemnation of the Government’s action. After pursuing this subject over a period of two years, and after the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), had washed his hands of it completely, I received a promise from the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) that an ex gratia payment would be made. Despite the fact that as recently as a month ago these assurances were repeated, these payments have not yet been made. The Government should rectify this injustice because many of these men who were prisoners of the Japanese desperately need the money.
– If ever legitimate claim has been put before this House, it is that made to-night by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) on behalf of certain former prisoners of war. These men should have been paid the money due to them. In the prisoner of war camps the warrant officers, classes I. and II., the sergeants and the corporals, bore much responsibility for the actions of those under their control. The honorable member for Balaclava has referred chiefly to medical orderlies. There were others similarly circumstanced. Only a small percentage of the prisoners were allowed to remain in the camp to carry out camp duties ; the rest were sent out on working parties. Those who worked at the aerodrome or the gardens at Changi or were employed in building funk holes into which the Japanese hoped to crawl when the invasion came, were in charge of our own non-commissioner officers. Commissioned officers were not sent out with working parties. If any of the men did something wrong, it was the noncommissioned officer who generally took the beltings which were handed out by the Japanese as a punishment. Just before the capitulation, certain men were promoted to non-commissioned rank. In the last few days before the capitulation those promotions were published in what are called “Part II. Orders”. Those who were lucky enough to have their promotions so published carried the higher rank during the whole term of their captivity. If the promotion was not recorded in Part II. Orders they did not become entitled to the higher pay, although they had to carry out all the duties associated with their rank. In the last days of the defence of Singapore many non-commissioned officers died at the hands of the Japanese, and it became necessary to appoint others in their place. Those who were appointed to higher ranks in the prison camps carried out their higher duties throughout the whole three and a half years of their incarceration. When these men came back to Australia honorable members asked the Government to recognize these promotions by giving them the pay appropriate to their rank and the additional responsibilities they had to carry in the prison camps. The Government, however, did nothing about it. I shall cite a specific case. Last year, a man now living in Canberra, who was promoted in this way, interviewed me in the King’s Hall in this building and produced his pay-book, showing that his promotion was authorized by a high ranking officer in the Australian Imperial Force. I handed the pay-book to the Minister for the Army and said, “ Surely this man should be paid the rate of pay prescribed for a sergeant. I know be played his part well, because I know what he did in a camp “.
The Minister, who is generally sympathetic, said, “ I shall have investigations made into this case “. I assume that some official at Army Head-quarters, or elsewhere, made some kind of investigation, after which the pay-book was returned with a letter stating briefly that nothing could be done. So I again approached the Minister saying, “ Surely, in view of the entries in his pay-book, you will not turn this man away without paying him for the services he has rendered!” The Minister said, “I shall look into it again “, and I thereupon again handed him the pay-book. However, I have not heard any more about it, nor has the pay-book been, returned yet. Perhaps the Minister is still investigating the case. It is to be hoped that when a decision is given it will give satisfaction not only to the man concerned, but also those similarly circumstanced, and to Australians generally. If any men deserve the pay, these men do. Previously in this House I have asked that former prisoners of war be paid the 3s. a day sustenance to which they are entitled, and I am not finished with that subject yet, but to-night I am dealing with a specific case. The Government should give full and symypathetic consideration to what has been said by the honorable member for Balaclava who quoted Lieutenant-Colonel Dunlop, who did great work in Malaya and Borneo and made medical history in the camps along the Burma railway. One may depend on it that what he says is absolutely true. I ask that the Government lend a sympathetic ear to the claims advanced by the honorable member for Balaclava on behalf of certain exservicemen, and by me on behalf of the man whose case I have mentioned to-night and of ex-prisoners of war generally, to whom I have referred in detail before. They did a great deal for Australia, and ought to be given justice.
.- I add my support to the second matter referred to by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). He indicated that both he and I have raised the matter many times before in the House, and there ought to be no need to state the facts again in any detail; but what I have always regarded as one of the most disgraceful episodes that I have encountered in government administration remains uncorrected and an injustice persists. The honorable member for Balaclava referred to men who gave long and faithful service in the Royal Australian Air Force during the war being deprived of a part of their deferred pay. That is an unwarranted and disgraceful act on the part of the Government. I have reason to believe that certain Ministers and departments have seen the matter in a new light since they have examined it afresh. I believe that three departments have recently investigated the claims made by these men - the Department of Air, with which they served; the Attorney-General’s Department, which was concerned with the litigation that took place in the Supreme Court of New South Wales and, later, in the High Court, to which the honorable member for Balaclava has referred, and the Treasury, where I believe the matter rests. I speak informally and unofficially because no official pronouncement has been made, but I have reason to believe that the Department of Air, which has examined the matter, is sympathetic and that the Attorney-General’s Department has supported the recommendation of the Department of Air. That recommendation went to the Treasury weeks or months ago and there it seems to lie. I hope that this will be the last occasion on which it will be necessary to direct the attention of the Government to this matter. Two of the departments concerned have made a sympathetic recommendation. Not much money and not many men are involved, but the men feel a sense of grievance. Belated justice should now be given to them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - Regulations - StatutoryRules 1948, Nos. 44, 45.
Lands Acquisition Act -Land acquired for Postal purposes - Murrurundi, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
What amount per head is being spent by the Government in the cases of single men and women on (a) a full professional course, (b) a technical course, (c) a trade course, and
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The numbers who have commenced training as at the 28th February are - (a) Males, 194,478; (b) females, 21,687. 3. (a) University training. - Three-year course - single male, £820; single female, £703. Four-year course - single male, £911; single female, £794. Six-year course - single male, £1,093; single female, £976.
Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen : Single-unit Farms.
asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
g asked the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The members of the panel are as follows: -
e asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s. questions are as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Mr. CHIFLEY. - The answers to -the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
On the 9th April, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked a -question concerning lie employment in the .Land Sales Control Office, Sydney, of a .person who, he. stated, had been convicted of forgery. I now inform -the honorable .member as follows : -
I have ascertained that one of the officers acting as a delegate in the Land Sales Control Office served a term .of imprisonment for an offence of the nature referred to by the honorable member. Early in 1942, the officer concerned ‘applied in the usual way to the Public Service Inspector, Sydney, for temporary employment in the Public Service and he was appointed to the Sub-Treasury, Sydney, where he was placed om Land Sales Control work, for which . Mb known qualifications appeared to fi>t him. At that time, staff shortages were very acute, and information was not in all cases readily available to enable the normal check of the records of applicants for temporary appointment “to the Commonwealth Public’ Service to be carried out. Towards the end of 1942 the man referred to enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. He was discharged at the end of 1945 with a “very good “ conduct record. Under the provisions of- the He-establishment and Employment Act he was reinstated in his former employment. At no time has any fault been found with his work. The question of the .future employment, of this man is receiving attention. He is not .now acting as a delegate.
Kennedy Memorial Stamp.
l. - On the 14th April, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked the following question : -
In view of the many representations of honorable Ministers and the constant agitation by. the Royal Geographical Society of Australia and many other public bodies in Queensland for the issue of a special Kennedy stamp to commemorate the explorations of the York Peninsula by the late Mr. E. B. Kennedy and his aboriginal companion, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General urge reconsideration of the issue of such a stamp before .the end of this year?
The. Postmaster-General has supplied the following information : -
Careful consideration has been given to the matter of the issue of a special postage stamp in 1948 to commemorate the explorations and the centenary of the death of E. B. Kennedy but, unfortunately, ‘ the way is not clear to include such a stamp in the programme of commemorative postage stamps for the current year.
The Postal Department has. been approached by. a large number of organizations urging that stamps should be published to feature famous personalities in Australian history, lt is’ not practicable, however, to comply with all requests, particularly at the present time when; due to the abnormal conditions arising from the war, the Commonwealth. Stamp Printer is hard pressed to meet the increasing demands -for postage -stamps and postal stationery.
After examining all the circumstances, it was decided some time ago to issue three commemorative postage stamps during 1948, this, number representing the maximum issues which .cam he made without .interfering seriously with normal production. The firststamp of otitis series, which will feature William J. Farrer, who contributed so greatly to the development df the wheat industry in Australia, will be published within the .next few weeks.
The department recognizes that the exploratory work of the late Mr. Kennedy did much to encourage early settlement in Queensland, and the question of issuing a stamp to commemorate his achievements will receive further consideration when the programme for 1949 ia being prepared.
Innisfail POST Office.
-On the 14th April, the honorable member for Hobart (Mr. Edmonds) asked the following questions : -
Some time ago, I made representations to the Postmaster-General’s Department on the subject to a new post office at Innisfail and. was informed that plans and specifications for the building were in hand. I now ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General what is the present - position regarding this matter and whether he will .do what he can to expedite this work?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -
The department is fully aware that the existing accommodation is inadequate and has made provision for a new and up-to-date structure as an item on its rehabilitation pr.ogram.me.
Plans for all new buildings on the programme are being, prepared in order of urgency and the amount of work involved is severely taxing the resources of the technical staffs of the Department of Works and Housing.
Because of the many other urgent requirements for departmental buildings in Queensland, it has not yet been possible to make a start on the plans for the Innisfail building but the honorable member may bc assured that these will be prepared as soon as possible and that the building will be erected immediately the circumstances permit.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 April 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480422_reps_18_196/>.