18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether heintends that the House shall adjourn to-morrow night or . at about 1 p.m. on Friday for a brief recess. Honorable members from distant States, who travel by train, would appreciate this information in order that they may make their arrangements to return to their homes.
– That matter rests entirely with the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
War Gratuity - Report of the Committee of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives appointed to review the provisions of the War GratuityAct 1945-47.
The report is unanimous, and the Government accepts the committee’s recommendations.Copies of the report will be made available to honorable members.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for External Affairs to the following report of a speech by the Deputy Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Watts, which appeared in the West Australian newspaper of the 1st May: -
Mr. Watts said that he had no absolute evidence that instructions were being given from outside Australia regarding working towards a centralized government, but there was circumstantial evidence. “There are several embassies in Canberra “, he said, “ including those of the United States of America and Soviet Russia. When you think of the political and commercial relationship existing, particularly the commercial relations, between Australia and the United States, as compared with those between Australia and Soviet Russia, ask yourselves why there are fifteen on the staff of the American Embassy and 63 at the Russian Embassy. What are they there for? “
I ask the Minister for External Affairs: (1) Is the statement that the staff of the Russian Embassy numbers 63 correct ? If not, what is the staff ? (2 ) Is the statement that the staff at the American Embassy numbers fifteen correct?
If not, what is the staff ? (3) Has the Soviet Embassy addressed any communication to the Australian Government with respect to the forthcoming referendum or any other referendum, concerning which Mr. “Watts alleges circumstantial evidence? (4) Has it addressed any communication to the Australian Government on any matter of the internal organization of Australia, Government policy, or Commonwealth and State relations concerning which Mr. “Watts also alleges circumstantial evidence?
– I shall deal with the last two questions first. On no occasion has the Russian Embassy addressed “any communication to the Australian Government concerning either a referendum or any other matter affecting internal organization. The total number of adults connected with the Soviet Embassy at Canberra is 23, and not 63. In addition, there are twelve children, making a total of 35 persons. It must be remembered that there are no Soviet consulates throughout Australia. I cannot state at present the total number of persons in the United States ambassadorial and consular services in Australia, but I shall ascertain it for the information of the honorable gentleman.
Broadcasts on Rents and Prices Referendum.
– “Will the Prime Minister inquire into the reason why, when the Leader of the Australian Country party was broadcasting from Brisbane last night on the rents and prices referendum, he was, first of all, allowed to start speaking into a dead microphone; secondly, was “ off the air “ for three minutes in all States other than Queensland ; and, thirdly, when he came “ on the air”, no indication was given as to the identity of the speaker? In view of these happenings, will the Prime Minister communicate, through the appropriate Minister, with the Australian Broadcasting Commission with a view to the Leader of the Australian Country party being given facilities to make an additional national broadcast of the same duration as that to which I have referred ?
– I know nothing of the circumstances mentioned by the right honorable gentleman, and in fact I did not know that the Leader of the Australian Country party was speaking last night. However, I shall make inquiries and ascertain the facts.
– “Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General indicate whether it is true that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has directed that its news broadcasts must not include references to speeches or statements made in connexion with the rents and prices referendum campaign? If so, will the honorable gentleman ascertain whether this censorship has been imposed for political reasons ; and if it has not been imposed for that purpose, will he inquire as to the reason for suppressing statements and speeches which are of importance to every Australian ?
– I have not previously heard of this matter. I shall ask the Postmaster-General to furnish a reply as soon as possible and I shall pass it on to the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he made a recommendation to the Public Service Board that 75 members of the Meat Inspectors Association should be appointed to the permanent staff of his department? If it is a fact, does he not consider that all of such men with high qualifications who have five years’ service or more should be appointed to the department on a permanent basis?
– Some considerable time ago, at the request of the meat inspectors organization, I supported its request that a greater proportion of its membership employed by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture should be appointed as permanent officers of the department. As a result of an examination, the Public Service Commissioner decided to accede to the request, and 75 meat inspectors were appointed to the permanent staff. The Public Service Commissioner may have good reason for not acceding to further requests, but my personal feeling is that there should be no discrimination between members of the staff of the department employed on outside work and those employed on inside work. That is a matter for the Public Service Commissioner to decide, but I hope that at some time he may see fit to appoint a greater number of these people to the permanent staff than are at present appointed.
– When an exserviceman applies for a repatriation loan, the Repatriation Department requires certain documents relating to his war service. These are obtained from the Discharge Departments of the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Australian Navy and the Army. I point out that the delay in forwarding these documents from the Royal Australian Air Force is very much greater than is the case in connexion with the other two services. Will the Minister for Air endeavour to have this delay obviated, or at least to bring the Royal Australian Air Force into line with the other two services?
– I had not previously heard complaints of delay in the Department of Air in regard to that matter. I shall ascertain whether there is any real delay. If there should be I shall endeavour to ensure despatch equal to that of the other service departments in dealing with the matter.
Maori ex-Servicemen - SS. “ Misr “ Incident.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a statement by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Peter Fraser, expressing deep concern that the Minister for Immigration had stated in this Parliament that a Maori ex-serviceman who had married an Australian woman would not be allowed to remain in this country? Will the Prime Minister take up the matter with the Prime Minister of New Zealand with a view to clarifying the Government’s policy? Will the Government also review the entire immigration policy in relation to the
Anzac pact, particularly as the Labour Government in New Zealand is completely dependent on the four Maori members for its majority in the New Zealand Parliament?
– The Minister for Immigration will answer the honorable member’s question.
– The immigration policy of this Government and, I am certain, of previous governments, for the policy has always been the same, was not framed with a view to securing the continuance in office of any government in New Zealand that is dependent on Maori supporters. The immigration policy of Australia has always been clearly stated and, I hope, clearly understood. The Prime Minister of New Zealand did make a press statement about a reply that I gave to a question asked by the honorable member for Henty. The High Commissioner of New Zealand has discussed the matter with me, and the permanent head of my department has written a letter to the High Commissioner of New Zealand for transmission to the Prime Minister of New Zealand. That is all I have to say about the matter.
– Has the Minister for Immigration any information in reference to the statement that the captain of the Egyptian vessel Misr is alleged to have drawn his revolver on passengers on that ship? Is the honorable gentleman able to indicate whether the statement is factual?
– When the honorable member for Wentworth asked me a question on this subject on Thursday last, I promised to obtain some information from the Melbourne office of my department in relation to it. The Commonwealth Migration Officer in Melbourne, Mr. Penhalluriack, has furnished me with a report stating that Captain Drexel of Misr, and a Mr. Crawford, of Messrs. John Sanderson and Company, had called upon him on the 29th April and bacl . said that the Melbourne Herald reporter who had been responsible for tha publication of the statement had visited Captain Drexel that morning and had expressed regret over what had appeared in the Sun-News
Pictorial concerning complaints made by certain British passengers and the captain’s method of handling them. According to Mr. Crawford, the Melbourne Herald intended to publish a report - I believe it subsequently did so - that the statements published in the Sun-News Pictorial were without any foundation whatsoever. When Captain Drexel called upon him, Mr. Penhalluriack referred to the statements in the press and reported that he had gathered from Captain Drexel that the trouble had arisen out of the refusal of one of the British passengers to move a deck chair from an area where other passengers wished to play deck quoits. It appears that the main deck was made available to third-class passengers on certain occasions. This was apparently resented by some of the cabin-class passengers, who had sometimes to be asked several times before they would vacate the deck or alter their position to enable the space to be used by the third-class passengers. When the first-class passengers interviewed Captain Diesel, he explained to them that the third-class passengers could not be cooped up all the time, and went on to tell them of an incident which happened some 23 years ago when he was a junior officer on a ship taking migrants to the United States of America. He said that on that occasion, in order to stop a riot of third-class passengers, one of the ship’s officers, after threatening some migrants who rushed him, had to shoot, but not kill, one of them, and at the same time the captain indicated that he had a revolver in his cabin should trouble arise.
– I rise to order. The Minister is obviously reading a prepared statement in reply to the question. I submit that, unless leave be granted to him to do so, he should not be permitted to proceed.
– A question, which was full of implications, was asked last week about this matter, and to-day the honorable member for Cook has asked the Minister for Immigration whether he has investigated the allegations, and if so, what were the results. The Minister, in his reply, is perfectly entitled to tell the honorable member for Cook the result of the investigations. Honorable members cannot throw stones and not expect them to rebound.
– Captain Drexel wasmerely illustrating that the captain of a ship must be master, and that he must maintain that position by all the means within his power. In the course of his conversation with the deputation, Captain Drexel said that the British firstclass passengers might have been rather hostile to him because they were not seated at his table in the dining room. He explained that a French family, whohad been very highly recommended tohim, had been placed at his table, which seated four persons, and that even if he had wished to do so he could not then have had the British passengersat his table. Mr. Crawford, whotravelled on the vessel from Fremantle to Melbourne, said that conditions aboard Misr were very good, and were better than on the previous voyages. He suggested that Mr. Ferguson, an officer of the Migration Office at Adelaide, who also travelled on the vessel from Fremantle to ‘Melbourne, should be asked1 to express his views regarding conditionson board Misr. I have ascertained from Mr. Ferguson that the conditions were very good, and that, so far as he could see, there was no cause for complaint. This is just another shot in the press warto which I referred a few days ago. TheMelbourne Herald is apparently determined to publish all sorts of scandalousand slanderous charges against all government departments because we will not let Sir Keith Murdoch run the Melbourne Age and Melbourne Argus off the streets by adopting his scheme for the distribution of newsprint.
– Has the Minister for Immigration read a statement in the Sydney Sunday press, which was attributed to Captain Drexel. of the Egyptian steamer Misr. to the effect that on the previous voyage of the vessel, Brigadier M. S. Lush, chief of the Middle East section of the refugee organization, had informed him that at least 44 of the passengers for Australia were knowngangsters? I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that 44 of the passengers were known gangsters. If they were, will he inform me whether they were admitted to the Commonwealth? Will he also state what steps are taken to screen migrants from the Middle East?
– A portion of the reply which I have given to the previous question also applies to the question which the honorable member for New England has asked. I shall have inquiries made into the allegation by Brigadier Lush. However, I can say, in anticipation, that this story, like the other story, will be found to be a fabrication.
– How can the Minister say that before he has made inquiries?
– I can say that, because every person who travels on these ships is examined and screened by security officers, and I have complete faith in the Australian officers who are doing this work. They all had distinguished service in the last war, and are most competent officers. They all have been strongly recommended by competent government officials in various departments, and I am prepared to back their judgment any time against any newspaper story.
– Will the Minister inquire into the allegation?
– I shall have inquiries made, as I have promised, but the result will be as I have prognosticated.
Newcastle District - Commonwealth Activity
– Is the Minister for Works and Housing aware of the acute shortage of housing in the Newcastle coalfields district? Is he also aware that the Newcastle City Council is prepared to make land available for married couples to live on if they can get military tents? Owing to the fact that, notwithstanding the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, the Government of New South Wales is not able to meet the demand for housing, will he ask the Minister for the Army to make military tents available to those people who are suffering during inclement weather?
– I am aware of the great demand for housing in the Newcastle area. The Government of New South Wales in’ my opinion has done an excellent job in trying to meet the position.
– I admit that, but housing is still far behind requirements.
– Under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement, more housing has been provided in that area than in any previous similar period. Whether the position is sufficiently serious to warrant action along the lines suggested by the honorable member I do not know, but I shall ask the New South Wales housing authorities what the position is, and, if necessary, give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing inform me what particular statutory provision would enable the Australian Government to build housing accommodation, temporary or otherwise, for displaced persons who are coming to Australia to fill various essential labour needs? Will he also say whether the Minister for Immigration has stated that if such accommodation is needed, the Government will build it? If it is possible to build accommodation for these persons, could the same authority be extended in order to house those hundreds of thousands of people, who by reason of their homelessness, are virtually displaced persons within Australia? Apart from current housing needs, is it the opinion of the Minister that the housing lag has been in any way affected by homebuilding in Australia to-day?
– I do not consider that any amendment of the law is required in order to authorize the Commonwealth to build some form of accommodation for certain displaced persons. In my opinion, the Parliament already possesses sufficient power under the immigration law. Hostels are the only form of construction that the Government would consider, and hostels would be erected to accommodate displaced persons only in the neighbourhood of basic industries which are providing materials for home construction. By that method, we shall introduce a new supply of labour into these industries which will then be able to expand the manufacture of building materials now in short supply. That policy is receiving consideration. I do not believe that the Minister for Immigration at any time made a broad statement that the Australian Government would provide hostel accommodation for displaced persons. We propose to carry out this policy only in the particular instance to which I have referred.
Maribyrnong Munitions Factory
Mr.RYAN.- I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether a man named James Noonan is employed as a bookbinder in the No. 3 drawing office at the Maribyrnong munitions factory? Is he a wellknown Communist? Has he publicly debated communism on several occasions and publicly expressed his pride in his membership of the Communist party? Is the No. 3 drawing office responsible for some aspects of the guided weapons testing range project? If those are facts, what action does the Attorney-General propose to take to safeguard the security and secrecy of government projects that are being handled at the establishment? If the Attorney-General is not aware whether those are facts, will he have an immediate investigation made with a view to any necessary corrective action being taken ?
– I am not aware that any of the statements made by the honorable member are facts, but I shall refer the substance of his question to the Commonwealth Security Service.
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction received complaints of the failure of certain employers to co-operate with the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme? I have received the following letter from the Enfield Repatriation Local Committee : -
Ata recent meeting of the above-named committee reference was made to the attitude of many employers to the attendance of Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme trainees in their employ, at technical college classes. It has disclosed that the Master Painters Association has declared that they would dismiss any trainee who absented himself f rom work to attend these classes of instruction.
Can the Minister give any further information on that matter?
– In general, employers have co-operated very well indeed with the Department of Post-war Reconstruction regarding reconstruction trainees. I have not heard of trainees > experiencing any difficulty in getting leave to attend classes at technical colleges, but I shall inquire of persons in the industry concerned, and also of members of the Master Painters Association, and shall furnish a reply to the honorable member later.
Expansion of Armaments
– I desire to ask the Minister for External Affairs a question based on information, reported through the press, which is alleged to have been given by United States of America military advisers to Congress during recent discussions in the United States of America. The information includes these items -
The Russians have -
More B-29’s than the United States - built from United States models which landed in Russia during the war and which the Russians seized.
An aircraft industry which, in military aircraft, is outbuilding the United States 12 to 1.
Air bases in north-east Siberia across the Rehring Strait from Alaska, fromwhich they could bomb any city in the United States.
From 260 to 300 submarines, some of them of the German type.
Some 265 divisions (including95 satellite divisions) which could be expanded to 400 divisions in 60 days.
Is there any official information in the possession of the Australian Government which would confirm those statements, or establish their substantial truth? If not, can the Minister state the correct position? If the statements are substantially true, can he tell us whether any protest has been made by a representative of this or any other English-speaking country, or has an explanation been sought for this abnormal peace-time military and armament activity?
– None of the information sought by the honorable member is in the possession of the Government, so far as I know. Certainly, it is not in the possession of my department nor that of the Prime Minister or the Minister for Defence, but I should be pleased if the honorable member would supply me with particulars in the press clipping from which he has quoted. I cannot speculate upon possibilities, but this is the first time I have heard of any such extraordinary expansion in that part of the world.
– I have received representations from branches of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation, and from individual farmers in northern Tasmania, regarding the desperate shortage of plain wire, barbed wire and wire netting. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development find out what supplies are going to Launceston and” Devonport ? Will he endeavour to have the Tasmanian quotas of wire and wire netting reviewed and, if possible, increased, as they are totally inadequate at present?
– It is true that the total production of these commodities in the Commonwealth is inadequate to meet present demands. The basis of allocation of available supplies between the respective States was agreed upon at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and, accordingly, it would not be possible for the Australian Government to alter the allocation to Tasmania without first discussing the matter with the State Premiers. I shall ascertain whether it is possible to list this matter for discussion at the next meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers. In the meantime, the Australian Government will continue to do its utmost to speed up production generally. Because of the general scarcity of labour and of some basic raw materials, such as coal and iron, however, it is not possible at present to ensure that supplies will be anything like adequate to meet requirements in the near future.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the shortage of galvanized iron, and plain and barbed wire, is due to the fact that the firm of Lysaghts, in Newcastle, is extremely short of supplies of zinc, which is used principally for the finishing off of these materials? Is it a fact that a vessel called recently at Newcastle with a heavy cargo of zinc, and that a part of the shipment was unloaded and then reloaded, and transported elsewhere because, it is alleged, greater profits could be secured there? If these are facts, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House of the names of the ship and the persons responsible for the part unloading and reloading of the zinc?
– Although I am not able to give the full details, I know that the firm of Lysaghts has complained during the last couple of days that, due to a shortage of zinc, supplies for its works might be extremely restricted before the end of this week. I understand that 1,750 tons of zinc which was due for export was unloaded at Newcastle and put into another ship. I am informed that that zinc was always intended for export. I also understand that another ship loaded with 75 tons of zinc for export will be calling at Newcastle, and attempts are being made to see whether it is possible for that zinc to be sent to Lysaght’s works. In addition, 200 tons is comingforward on another ship to-morrow afternoon and that will go direct to this works. The complaint from this firm, I assume, is that, due to adequate supplies of zinc not being available, it cannot keep its works operating at full capacity. Efforts are being made to rectify that position.
– In view of the grave situation in Palestine, and the near approach of the date when the British mandate will end, has the Minister for External Affairs any comment to make on the decision of the United Nations, as reported in to-day’s press, to defer its long-range decision on Palestine until its meeting in September? What is the attitude of the Australian Government towards the oversight of the area during the intervening period?
– The matter to which the honorable member has referred is the latest development, and it is, I believe, the most helpful development of the General Assembly. The decision means that without reviewing the previous decision as to partition or economic union, efforts are now being concentrated to obtain an immediate truce, with the standstill being agreed to by the Jewish and Arab peoples, leaving the ultimate question to be looked at again next September. Australia is supporting that attitude. If such a position can be achieved, it may help to lessen the tragedies which are now occurring in Palestine.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give the House any information about the terms and conditions under which the Belgian Government entered into a contract with Russia for the purchase of 400,000 metric tons of wheat at a time when it was a party to- the negotiations for the International Wheat Agreement, by which Belgium has undertaken to purchase 675,000 metric tons of wheat from three named exporters - Canada, the United States of America and Australia? Can the Minister say what price the Belgian Government contracted to pay for Russian wheat ? Oan he further say whether it is intended that Belgium shall adhere to its undertaking to purchase the 675,000 tons of wheat referred to in the International Wheat Agreement, or whether the 400,000 tons from Russia is to he deducted from that amount?
– Neither the Russian Government nor the Belgian Government has communicated to me or, as far as I know, to any other member of the Australian Government, the terms of any agreement regarding wheat that may have been entered into between them. As to the agreement alleged to have been entered into during the time when Belgium was negotiating an international wheat agreement with other nations, I point out that while these negotiations were in progress any nation engaged in them was free to enter into any other form of contract that it considered to be desirable. So long as that contract was not entered into prior to a specific date - and it could not have been if it was negotiated during the currency of the negotiations for the International Wheat Agreement - Belgium would still be required, to, and undoubtedly would, honour its obligations under the International Wheat Agreement, to which it is a signatory. I have not the slightest doubt that when the agreement is ratified by all countries, whatever negotiations Belgium may have entered into previous to the signing of it, it. will purchase the quantity of wheat it has thereby agreed to. purchase.
– On the assumption that the Prime Minister did not read in to-day’s newspapers the report of a statement made by the Leader of the Australian Country party in a speech at Brisbane last night, I point out that the right honorable gentleman then said -
Between the two wars, State prices were kept within the reach of the average citizen. There were no shortages, no black markets, no queues, no ration books and no coupons. But there were goods sufficient for all at prices within the reach of every one.
In the opinion of the Prime Minister, is that statement a gross misrepresentation of pre-war economic conditions, and of post-war difficulties?
– Statistics show that after the last war there was a great inflation of prices and that at a later date, due to world inflation and other factors, there was a world slump, when prices fell to levels that were unprofitable for a great number of people, including the primary producers of Australia, some of whom the right honorable member for Darling Downs presumes to represent. I am prepared to produce figures showing that in the years following World War I., especially in the ‘twenties, there was a grave inflation of prices that resulted in disastrous unemployment and misery throughout the world, particularly in this country.
– The honorable member will recall that, upon the suggestion of some of the organizations representing pensions, provision was made in our pensions legislation for a variation in the rate of pension in accordance with the cost-of-living index figures. Due to the fact that that index was based on the weighted average of the six capital cities and that there were certain falls in it with the result that pensions were reduced by 6d. or ls. - I think Tasmania was one of the States affected - ‘the Government, at the request of the pensioners’ organizations, decided to remove that provision from the act. No requests have been made for a return to that method of computing age and invalid pensions. I point out that since the Labour Government has been in office the rate of pension has been increased from approximately £1 to 37s. 6d.
Comment by “ Christian Science Monitor “.
– I desire to make a personal explanation arising from an answer given by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) to a question which I asked him last Friday.
– Does the honorable gentleman claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– Yes. In the course of his reply the right honorable gentleman used these words -
I tlo not think it is right for an honorable member of this House, in the guise of a question, to spread false slanders against the representatives of his country.
He went on to describe my question as “ untrue and unfair “. The misrepresentation is the imputation that I spread false slanders under the guise of a question. It is not open to any honorable member of this House to say that something was done under the guise of a question if the question was ruled in order by Mr. Speaker, as this question was. It is apparently implied that I was spreading a false slander when I asked - I did not make a statement - whether the action of the Minister’s representative in supporting Russia and its satellite powers was not dictated by sympathy with the ideologies of those powers. In order to prove that that was not a slander - as I say, it was a question, and not a statement - I want to show that it was in fact a perfectly fair ques tion. The truth of the matter is that many of the Minister’s actions abroad, despite what he may say in this House, have turned out to be in favour of Russia.
– Order ! This will result in another personal explanation. The honorable gentleman is entitled to put himself right, but not to put any one else “in”.
– The Minister’s actions have been such and he has supported Russia on so many occasions that one is entitled to ask questions based on that point of view. I regret that I may not give examples of his actions that moved me -to ask the question. The Minister’s statement was an abuse of the privilege that he exercises as a Minister of answering questions addressed to him. His attitude seems to be that he can go abroad and do exactly as he likes and that on his return no one may question -his actions in any way.
– I, too, desire to make a personal explanation. If the honorable member for Henty considers that by the language I used I misrepresented him, I regret it and apologize to him. In the last twelve months or two years Australia’s representatives have cast many votes that have not coincided with the votes of Russia’s representatives. If the honorable member examines the records he will have difficulty in finding any occasion on which Australia’s vote has supported Russia. On the occasion referred to by the honorable member last Friday we supported a particular proposal at a particular conference, which probably every honorable member, with the exception of the honorable gentleman and myself, has forgotten. The honorable member implied that we voted in that way on that occasion in support of communism. I said that that was a slander, and I think the honorable member will agree that it was. The honorable member’s statement was untrue; but if he considers that an imputation has been cast upon him, I regret it, for none was intended ; but I consider that his question was unfairly pointed at the Government. We have stated, over and over again, that the fact that Russia has voted in support of Australia does not mean that Australia is supporting Russia.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been drawn to a recent meeting in New South Wales, convened by Mr. £>. M. Shand, at which a club was launched to bring together aviation and scientific farming? Has he seen the suggestion of a New South Wales grazier, Mr. H. Gordon Munro, that the Government, through the Department of Civil Aviation, should financially assist landholders to lay down landing strips in conformity with the requirements of the Department of Civil Aviation and that such landholders be given expert advice by departmental officers? Will the Minister have the suggestion examined in regard not only to New South Wales but also the other States and make a statement to the House in due course?
– I have not seen the statement. I shall have the suggestion made in it examined, but it seems to me to suggest that people who need landing strips for their own use want tohave them provided at the expense of the Government. That interpretation could readily be placed on what the honorable member read.
– They want advice.
– I shall see whether the report referred to contains any sensible suggestion, and, if it does and if it is important enough, I shall make a statement to the House.
– The town of Horsham, though not in my electorate, serves a good many of my constituents. Will the Minister for Civil Aviation say whether he visited Horsham recently and whether he was asked to establish an airport there? What are the prospects of his acceding to the request?
– Yes, I visited Horsham on Sunday last at the request of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) and of the local council, and inspected one of the suggested sites for an aerodrome. An expert from the Department of Civil Aviation has, I think, visited other sites, and is preparing a report on them. I told the deputation from the council that
I thought it should give the Government a lead, as other towns have done, by purchasing an area, and laying down an air strip for the town, since Horsham was not included in the original departmental recommendation in regard to regular air services.
Transport for Members of Parliament
– Honorable members of this Parliament are permitted, under the rules that have been laid down, to travel by steamer to the Territory of New Guinea once every three years. In view’ of the infrequency and inconvenience of steamer traffic to New Guinea, which is so extremely important to Australia that honorable members of the Parliament ought to acquaint themselves very fully with it and its potentialities, will the Prime Minister alter the rule I have referred to in order to make it possible for honorable members of all parties to visit the territory by air once during the term of three years?
– I understand that no honorable member, except the Minister for Transport, has visited New Guinea in the last nine years. A reason exists for that, no doubt. I shall ascertain whether arrangements can be made to comply with the honorable member’s request, having regard to the availability of air travel facilities.
– In the absence of the Minister for Transport, I direct a question to the Prime Minister, who, I understand, has some knowledge of the subject. Some time ago, I raised the matter of the maintenance of a road to the Stanley Cable Station. I should like to know what action has since been taken in regard to that matter.
– The honorable member made inquiries about that matter some time ago. The Department of Transport endeavoured to ascertain the position, but it has been unable to find any trace of an application in respect of a road to the Stanley Cable Station.
There are several ways in which the matter could be handled by the State Government. Money could be provided from the federal aid roads grant or from the special grant made to the State governments for expenditure on roads in sparsely populated areas. The Department of Transport is making direct inquiries about the matter. An application in respect of the road may be contained in the supplementary list, a copy of which we have not yet received. As soon as I can learn anything about the matter, I shall advise the honorable member.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the Australian Government a few months ago spent 175,000 dollars on the Australian chancellory in Washington? Did high officials of the Department of External Affairs insist Oil the purchase of the building to relieve the crowding at the Embassy? Since the purchase, have twenty members of the diplomatic staff left because of a belated economy campaign? Doos the chancellory employ four security guards as well as a lift Operator arid janitor in order to service the building? In view of the Prime Minister’s insistence on the need to save dollars, what does the Minister for External Affairs intend to do to effect economies in this case?
– The property was purchased in downtown Washington to relieve the heavy strain on the accommodation at the Embassy. It was purchased on favorable terms and is certainly worth a great deal more than the amount of 175,000 dollars referred to by the honorable member. So the Government has probably made quite an appreciation of dollars in the transaction. At the same time, the Ambassador is taking every step to economize in dollars. I cannot answer all the honorable gentleman’s questions offhand; but 1. shall examine them and see whether I can supply him with further information.”
– I should like to know whether the Department of Works and Housing has estimated the expenditure to be incurred in the alteration of Parliament House consequentially upon the proposed increase of the number of senators and members of the House of Representatives. Will the Minister for Works and Housing supply to the House a statement of the details and an indication of the additional provisions that will have to be made for the accommodation and convenience of an increased number of senators and members of the House of Representatives ?
– I think I should answer the honorable member’s question. The Minister for Works and Housing, Mr. Speaker and the President of the Senate and their officers examined the provisions that will be necessary to accommodate the increased number of senators and members of the House of Representatives. There is already insufficient accommodation in some respects, particularly for the press, whose representatives are unhappily housed, being very overcrowded. The question of providing additional accommodation for them will have to be examined. As it is proposed to increase the number of members to 180 or thereabouts, it will be necessary to provide accommodation for the holding of special functions which all the members will attend. Plans were prepared by the’ Department of Works and Housing at the direction of the Minister, and we spent some time examining them, and considering what extensions would have to be made. A plan has been approved, but I shall not weary the House with details.
– Is the plan to be referred to the Public Works Committee?
– No. We are anxious to have the work completed before certain events take place next year. The amount which, it is estimated, will be required to provide ample accommodation is £65,000.
Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
– I have received from the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) an intimation that he desires tomove the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The importance of improving the existing means of communication and consultation with other portions of the British Commonwealth of Nations, especially between those in the southern hemisphere - Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I have taken this action for the purpose of drawing attention to the importance of improving the existing means of communication and consultation with other portions of the British Commonwealth of Nations, especially between those in the southern hemisphere - Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The essential importance of this matter has been demonstrated by successive occurrences over a period of years. It is within the memory of some of us that Australia, when its population was scarcely 1,000,000, despatched forces to assist Britain in the war in the Sudan. Later, Australian troops took part in the Boer War, and in the two world wars they also participated in the defence of Africa. Indeed, whenever the security and integrity of British possessions in Africa have been threatened, Australian governments and the Australian people have instinctively, and almost automatically, resolved to throw Australia’s military forces into their defence. There is an intuitive recognition that Africa, as one of Australia’s nearest neighbours, must play an indispensable part in maintaining our communications with the Mother Country and with Europe. This feeling has deepened since difficulties have arisen in connexion with the defence of the Suez Canal. To that degree the importance of the Cape of Good Hope route has increased.
My own feeling on the matter has been stimulated by the cordial reception which was accorded to Mr. E. J. Eggins, M.L.C., and myself by all the governments of British Africa when we recently paid an unofficial visit to those areas. They made available to our use every possible facility, and placed at our disposal all the information we desired. The link between Australia and Africa was emphasized by the-, insistent requests made to us on’ all sides: in the Union of South Africa and in the British African possessions for more and more Australian equipment, and for thecooperation of Australia in the immensedevelopmental programme which has beendrawn up. We found that Australian, goods were very highly prized. Everywhere their quality was praised, and the only disappointment voiced was at the irregularity of supplies.
The British and African Governments, propose to expend prodigious amounts - including £200,000,000 in central Africa and £100,000,000 in east Africa- upon preliminary developmental work during the next ten years. It is proposed to make British Africa complementary to the British Isles in the matter of population densities, agricultural and mineral production, manufactured goods, and in such essential production as that of atomic energy in time of war. It is hoped to increase the European population in those areas by 250,000 during the next ten years, and by 5,000,000 in the next 25 years. If these plans are successful there will be in those parts of British Africa north of the Union a white population almost equal to the population of Australia.
The importance of better communications between Africa and Australasia is demonstrated by a glance at the map of the world. It is clear from such an examination that there is a great potential market in central and east Africa situated thousands of miles nearer to Australian ports and factories than to London and New York. Indeed, those areas are closed in shipping time to many Australian ports than is Fremantle to such Queensland ports as Townsville and Cairns. One hundred and twenty years ago Western Australia was separated from New South Wales because it could be more easily supplied from Capetown than from Sydney, due to the prevailing direction of the trade winds, upon which sailing ships were so dependent. The combined resources of Australasia and British
Africa - roughly 6,000,000 square miles in area - are potentially equal to the original natural resources of the United States of America. Their co-ordinated development with the aid of British finance and assistance would restore the prestige and the might of the British Commonwealth of Nations and change the trade and defence axis of the world. This is true despite the 2,000,000 square miles of desert in our two countries. If atomic energy be harnessed to peaceful purposes, some day these desert areas will become fruitful and productive.
The different stages of the present industrial development of Australia and Africa - industrially we are, perhaps, 25 years ahead of Africa - and the physical fact that the highest point of the African central plateau is near the equator, while the highest part of our main plateau is in the southern portion of the continent in the temperate zone, make the possibilities of immediate reciprocal trade between the two countries very great. The most arresting feature of our visit was the realization that the extension of the central African plateau from the Cape to the equator and the situation of its highest points on the equator - the peaks of Kilimanjaro and Kenya being perpetually covered with snow and glaciers - make a great part, even of equatorial Africa, as suitable for white settlement as are the high tropical lands of Australia. In the past, the real obstacle to white settlement, and even to active native improvement, in Africa, has been the prevalence of endemic diseases and pests, both animal and vegetable, such as malaria, bilharzia, hookworm, sleeping sickness, yellow fever, dysentery and tropical sores, and especially tuberculosis, in human beings; and rinderpest, tsetse fly, and tick diseases, such as East Coast fever, and pleuro-pneumonia, in stock. With the march of modern medical science all these diseases are now being successfully attacked. The discovery of the microscopic causes of these diseases, the gradual evolution of successful specific remedies for them, and the invention of new antiseptics that can be widely spread by modern methods, such as by the use of the aeroplane, are steadily eliminating these hitherto insuperable obstacles to settlement and progress. Action taken in Africa in regard to some of these diseases is of intense importance to us in our administration of New Guinea and northern Australia. In the ultimate, success in dealing with these problems depends on the projects being carried out on a sufficiently wide and comprehensive scale to prevent pockets, or islands, of infection being left that may undo all the good work done. It is necessary to deal with these things in a broad and comprehensive way as part of an overall plan for the development of both countries.
Africa, like Australia, is very short of water at certain times of the year. In fact, Gillman, a noted scientist long resident in Tanganyika, who enjoys a worldwide reputation in his profession, has pointed out that the lack of settlement in many areas in tropical Africa is due not so much to the existence of diseases and pests as to the lack of a continuous supply of drinking water for human beings and stock. The absence of assured water supplies at all times of the year leads to failure to expand existing settlements and to clear new country. The concentration of stock and settlement in developed areas leads to most devastating soil erosion. The attack on water and soil conservation problems must therefore be made on a comprehensive scale. The cost may be heavy at the beginning, but it will be more than offset by increased productivity, both direct and indirect. The development of the Clarence, the Snowy and the Burdekin rivers in Australia requires the same sort of imagination, vision, tenacity and audacity as have been exhibited in the harnessing of the Nile, the Zambezi, the Congo and the Orange rivers in Africa. Both countries call for the maximum exchange of experience and skill of their engineers, and for the pooling of the results of research and co-operation in migration projects so that their resources may be fully developed. One African project aims to make navigable 2,000 miles of the Zambezi. At present navigation- of that river is obstructed by numerous water falls. The ultimate aim of the project is to place three large water power stations along the course of the Zambezi and to irrigate 2,000,000 acres of land. It is also proposed to raise the level of Lake Victoria Nyanza, which has roughly the same surface area as has England, by four feet, and thus increase the storage of the head-waters of the Nile by 100,000,000 acre feet permitting the irrigation of an additional 2,000,000 acres along the course of the Nile in the Sudan and Egypt. A tremendous amount of money will be expended on these developmental projects and permanent results will be achieved, bringing in their train a greater white population and an improved standard of living for the native populations. Australia has very much to gain in security, defence and trade, by closer communication with Africa. “The growth of the British community in east, central and southern Africa to approximately the size of the Australian population, and active links with Africa in defence, are as important to us as a nation as almost any internal Australian development could .be. Such a growth would open up a trade in which we would enjoy the tremendous advantage of close proximity to Africa and of facilities for the manufacture of goods of a type that appeti.1 to Africans. Australia, therefore, should take the initiative in promoting closer relationship on three planes of action, by the Government, by the Parliament and by the public at large. We should be careful to select men of the best type to represent this country in Africa. Government relationships on the highest plane demand the greatest possible capacity and knowledge in our representatives. Appointments of that kind are probably more important than any similar appointment outside the Empire, with the possible exception of the United States of America.
I congratulate the Government for its action two years ago in appointing a High Commissioner to South Africa. The selection of the first High Commissioner, Sir George Knowles, was indeed a wise one. Those who worked with him in this” Parliament learned to appreciate his great ability and all of us sincerely regret his untimely death. The late Sir George was spoken of most highly in Africa. His deputy, Mr. M. H. Marshall and also Mrs. Marshall have earned a similar reputation. Our Trade Com missioners, Mr. G. Patterson in Johannesburg, and Mr. A. Millard in Capetown, have also made a great impression in that country; but they badly need additional staff from Australia to help them in their work. I thank the Government, and especially Mr. Marshall, Mr. Patterson and Mr. Millard for their .great assistance and courtesy to us while we were in Africa. Additional appointments are also needed for the northern territories, either at Nairobi, or at Salisbury in Rhodesia. This is the first requirement which I suggest is necessary, and I congratulate the Government on the action that it has already taken on this matter.
My next recommendation is that the Government should send to Africa a trade mission similar to that which was sent to India in the 1930’s, and again last year, for the purpose of making contact with possible customers and thereby enabling us to increase our trade. I was Minister for Commerce when the first trade mission was sent to India. At the same time, a shipping line was established between the two countries, and its vessels operated on a three-monthly schedule: As the result of the visit of the mission, the development of trade between the two countries was so rapid and so lucrative that the shipping line introduced a monthly service. I am satisfied that the existing shipping line to Australia via India, which, I understand, was established about four months ago, could be expanded, and could operate, as it were, a circular run. Starting from Durban, the ships could call at East African ports, especially Dar-es-Salaam and Mombassa, then at Bombay and Ceylon, and finally circumnavigate Australia. At the various ports, the ships could discharge and collect cargo, and, in that way, conduct a system of exchange which would greatly benefit Australia and South Africa. The shipping line could possibly provide a passenger service and carry tourists, and in that way help to increase our knowledge of Africa and India.
The Government should also adjust the tariff on imports from South Africa. As present, goods from South Africa entering Australia are subject to the intermediate tariff. In my opinion, they should be subject to the British preferential tariff. When returning to Australia, I brought a few gifts for my relatives and on landing here, I paid, the British preferential rate of duty on them. Then a customs officer discovered that they were subject to the intermediate tariff, and I was obliged to pay almost double the British preferential duty on them. That was a nasty shock to me, as it would be to all traders. I am satisfied that we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by the adoption of this proposal. Some years ago, there were differences between South Africa and Australia regarding exports and imports. The original trouble was due to the Australian embargo on the import of maize from South Africa. However, circumstances have now altered. The native population of South Africa has increased enormously as the result of the cessation of tribal warfare, improved hygiene, and the destruction of elements of disease, and the country is now importing maize to feed its coloured . people. Indeed, South Africa would import maize from Australia instead of desiring, as in the past, to dump its surplus here. From South Africa Australia could purchase tea, cotton, coffee, tobacco and sisal hemp, and, in return, would export wheat and maize, electrical equipment and farm implements, which are urgently required, and also earth moving machinery. I was most gratified to learn that South Africans were very pleased with Australian earth moving machinery. Their only complaint was that they could not obtain all their requirements of it.
An interchange of administrative and research staffs would be to our mutual advantage. For example, officers of the Commonwealth Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Department of External Affairs could be exchanged for a couple of years with officers of corresponding departments in South Africa. In that way, South Africans and Australians would obtain a knowledge of officials and of the policy of the other country, and that would be of immense value. A great advantage may be derived from the exchange of research officers. South Africa and Australia have many similar problems. In some spheres, our problems are more serious and our researches are more advanced than those of South Africa, but in others, the research work of South Africa is ahead of our own. For example, South Africa is more advanced than Australia in dealing with water and soil conservation. [Extension of time granted.’]
I thank the House for its courtesy in allowing me to finish my speech. Approximately 25 years ago Southern Rhodesia, which has a comparatively small population, determined to attack the serious problem of soil erosion. The method which it adopted was to pay a bonus of 2s. a bag for maize or wheat, on the condition that the growers carried out a system of contour ridging and ploughing, and every three or four years ploughed in a green manure crop. The result of this policy is spectacular. When travelling by air over Southern. Rhodesia, I saw about 2,000,000 acres of contour ridges. This practice of agriculture has been widely adopted in Southern Rhodesia. Australia has certain ideas about soil conservation which Southern Rhodesia could adopt with advantage. Australia has successfully cultivated some South African grasses, such as paspalum and rhodes, to such a degree that we are now the recognized seller of guaranteed seed to the whole world. Apparently, Australian climatic conditions are much better suited than those in South Africa to the development of the seeds of these grasses. While I was in South Africa I met a famous agrostologist, Mr. C. J. Rensburg, who is superintendent of the Rietndale Experiment Farm, at Pretoria. He has been invited to spend a year in the United States of America. He has discovered 140 native grasses in Africa, and has developed them under all kinds of conditions. I am satisfied that Australia might easily obtain from Africa two or three types of grass which would be as valuable to us as paspalum and rhodes. A visit by Mr. Rensburg to Australia would be of considerable value.
By means of the radio, we should encourage the people of Australia and South Africa to come to know one another better than they do. Like Australia, South Africa has national and commercial radio systems, and the exchange of programmes and personnel would be a simple matter. The Australian Department of Information is producing films showing the nature of our development, and our habits. An exchange of documentary films could easily be arranged with all the African governments, which I found were eager to co-operate in this matter. Information to our mutual advantage could also be exchanged on the parliamentary plane. At present members of the Parliament of South Africa, and of the Australian and New Zealand Parliaments, visit one another about once every twenty years. When speaking at a meeting of the Empire Parliamentary Association in .South Africa, I suggested that we should be able to devise a system of biennial visits. For example, eight or nine members of the South African Parliament could visit Australia and New Zealand one year, and in the next year a return visit could be made by a similar number of members of the Parliaments of Australia and New Zealand. In that way, there would be in our respective Parliaments a number of men who had travelled to either Australia or New Zealand, and who had learned the other country’s point of view. In my opinion, these visits would be of great value in removing misconceptions. “ One eye is worth a thousand ears,” and an outsider frequently sees some mistake in development to which we, unfortunately, might have become accustomed. The discussions that would take place in these personal contacts would be invaluable.
There are other methods of educating the public, such as by trade producer organizations and the like, but I shall not describe them now. I emphasize the importance of establishing the fullest mutual understanding between our countries at the earliest possible moment, and in the greatest number of ways, and making them permanent. The influence of such understanding between the two countries might be of great importance to our mutual welfare, and, in addition, prove an effective method of determining the destiny of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir
Earle Page) has discussed a subject of first-rate importance. Sometimes I feel that we in this House lack a sense of proportion in the manner in which we treat some of the issues that come before us. When a subject is surrounded by a highly sensational atmosphere, the galleries are crowded and the matter is fully debated. However, some subjects, which affect the well-being of Australia and the British Empire as a whole, and which are of outstanding importance, are frequently discussed in a desultory and almost uninterested fashion. I regret that we have not in this chamber to-day a livelier and more appreciative audience of members to discuss this subject, which,. I believe, cannot be dealt with satisfactorily within the limits of a motion forthe adjournment.
Although the right honorable member for Cowper has devoted most of his speech to the problem of closer relations between South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, he did refer to the larger subject of closer Empire relations. I question whether there has been any time, short; of an actual period of war, when a greater need existed for close Empire co-operation in economic and diplomatic policy. I felt so concerned about this matter that last week I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) whether he considered that a conference of the Prime Ministers of the countries forming the British Empire should be summoned at the earliest practicable date. That suggestion is neither novel nor original. The idea has occurred to many honorable members, certainly on the Opposition side, and no doubt on the Government side of the chamber. We must feel the deepest concern that the authority and prestige of Great Britain and the British Empire generally have fallen to such a low ebb. A few years ago, during the most difficult time of the war, Great Britain gave leadership to the world. Our prestige has ebbed and our authority in world affairs to-day has been diminished, and our failure to make the best effort of which we are capable in the economic sphere is due partly to our neglect, as a group of countries forming the British Empire, to integrate our activities so that each according to the best of its ability would give to the others according to their direst needs.
The right honorable member for Cowper has done the Parliament and the country a service in raising this matter to-day. It is almost incredible that members of the British Empire should have allowed themselves to drift so far apart, particularly in matters of economic policy, and certainly in diplomatic policy, during the last few years. That has been due, I believe, to the emphasis which the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government have placed upon international associations and conferences, which have been such a conspicuous feature of our post-war life. For reasons which commended themselves to the respective governments, we have sought to give real authority and prestige to the United Nations. If grave problems of trade or currency arose, we have looked to some newly formed international organization to provide the solution for us. We have tended to neglect the means that lay ready to our hands to achieve close and intimate contact between the nations of the British Commonwealth in an endeavour to solve, at least in part and probably very largely, the trade problems with which we are at present confronted. I am perturbed to find that one Empire country after another is, by restrictive devices, hindering the free flow of trade between itself and the other nations of the British Empire. I do not refer merely to the restrictive device of the tariff, which every country has employed from time to time in order to protect its own industries, but to restrictive devices imposed because of exchange difficulties. Those devices prevent trade from flowing freely and are used because one country in the British Commonwealth has developed a favorable balance of trade with another, with the result that the latter country has an adverse trade balance. Consequently there is a smaller flow of goods and commodities, and possibly even of services, than might otherwise be the case. Great Britain- is screaming for adequate supplies . of foodstuffs for its undernourished people but at the same time it is imposing a prohibition upon the import of many foodstuffs that are produced and pro- cessed in Australia. For reasons of exchange, India, which is a potentially large consumer of Australian manufactures, has imposed a considerable range of import restrictions upon goods manufactured here. If those restrictions are imposed upon Australian goods, presumably they are imposed also upon goods from other countries within the British Commonwealth of Nations. The right honorable member for Cowper referred to New Zealand. It is well known that for years past, in order to conserve its exchange, New Zealand has restricted the free entry of Australian products. In a time of need, when exchange is difficult and when we are looking to so many other countries for the goods that we want, surely the countries of the British Commonwealth can get together to a much greater degree than hitherto. What would it matter as between the countries of the Empire if for a short time Australia, for example, were able to develop a favorable balance of trade with Great Britain and if in so doing it supplied foodstuffs to Great Britain to the maximum of its capacity? Ten years ago the boot was on the other foot. We were continually worrying about Britain’s favorable balance of trade with us and we had to watch our imports from that country very carefully. I have no doubt that as British industry recovers and as the United Kingdom again proves its capacity to export to us the goods that we need and that we are to-day getting from countries such as the United States of America, whatever trade advantage we gain will gradually offset by the goods that Britain will then export to us. In the course of a few years there may be a substantial decline in the value of our exports of primary products. If that occurred, we could still import from Great Britain on a large scale and the trade balance would adjust itself.
I repeat the phrase that I used earlier and which should find a sympathetic echo in the hearts of honorable members opposite. Each of the countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations should give to the others, according to their needs, to the maximum of its capacity. I do not believe we are doing that. In recent years, because of the emphasis that has been placed upon international organizations, there has been no close contact between the leaders of the Empire countries. [Extension of time granted.] There are representatives of the Australian Government in South Africa, Canada, Great Britain and New Zealand, but, while I am glad to acknowledge that they are doing a worth-while job, it must be realized that that sort of contact, when there is limited opportunity for action and with no close touch with affairs at home, is not as valuable as close and intimate discussion between the leaders of the countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations. During the war Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin had close and intimate discussions and, as a result, were able to give effective and decisive leadership to the Allied countries. I believe it is possible for the leaders of the Empire countries to get together in the same way and to work out a plan for our destiny. A great deal has been heard in recent months about the Marshall plan for Europe. We commend it and hope that it will achieve its great objectives; but at the same time we might ourselves usefully develop our own plans for the Empire countries. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development was established in order to solve problems of exchange, but it has not been in existence for a sufficiently long period to enable it to function satisfactorily. We could short-circuit much of the inevitable delay in getting an organization of that kind into full working order by hammering out these problems in our own Empire council. We know little of what is going on in other parts of the British Commonwealth. We follow events in Great Britain as closely as we can, but how many of us have a worth-while knowledge of what is happening in South Africa, Canada or even New Zealand, which is so close to us?
To the extent that the speech of the right honorable member for Cowper emphasized the need for a closer knowledge of and closer co-operation by the countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations it has provided a useful basis for the Parliament to discuss an issue which is as important as any that could be discussed at the present time. I hope that other honorable members will take advantage of this opportunity te express their own points of view and that this will not be the only occasion in the next few months when we can discuss fully the possibility of working out, within the Empire itself, a plan for our own destiny that will lead to a speedy and satisfactory solution of the grave problems with which we are beset at the present.
– The House is indebted to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) for introducing this subject. As the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has just said, we know very little of the other countries within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Most of our knowledge of South Africa was gained from the South African war and probably from the novels of Rider Haggard, which do not present anything like a true picture of what is happening in modern South Africa. It must be admitted that, apart from that, the average Australian knows very little about that very important part of the Empire. We are indebted to the right honorable gentleman for having recently visited the Union of South Africa and for having brought back with him first-hand knowledge of what is happening there now and of the possibilities of closer co-operation with it. It is said by many people that the British Empire is dwindling in power and influence, but I believe that now that it has taken on the shape of a Commonwealth of Nations it has gained in power and influence which, if used wisely, have great possibilities. Rudyard Kipling wrote -
It’s not the individual or the army as a whole
It’s the everlasting teamwork of every blooming soul.
If we could get all the “ souls “ in the British Commonwealth of Nations to act together as a team I believe we should thereby achieve something of great benefit not only to ourselves but to the world. The British Empire is a great bulwark against communism and the other evils that beset the world to-day. It has done more than the League of Nations, the United Nations or other international bodies to promote a true civilization. The right honorable member for Cowper has given a lead, and other honorable members may add their remarks to his regarding the need for greater co-operation within the Empire and especially between ourselves and the Dominions of South Africa and New Zealand, which are so near to us.
– The terms used by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in bringing this matter to our notice are fairly wide in their range. They refer to the importance of improving existing means of communication between :a.nd consultation with other portions of the British Commonwealth of Nations, especially those in the Southern Hemisphere - Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. By reason of his recent visit to South Africa, the right honorable gentleman has accumulated a fund of information, has made contact with a great number of people in influential positions there and has travelled extensively through the country. Like most Australians who travel abroad, whoever they aTe and to whatever political party they belong, he has developed an understanding of the problems confronting South Africa and a better understanding of the problems confronting Australia. His desire is to assist in every possible way the flow of trade between countries with common trade and sentimental interests and racial affinity. It is refreshing that, for once, a motion for the adjournment of the House has been proposed without harsh words being spoken and -without the occasion being used to direct an attack upon the policy of the government of the day.
The right honorable gentleman was generous enough to pay tribute to the work of the Australian Trade Commissioners in South Africa - Mr. Patterson :at Johannesburg, and Mr. Millard at (Capetown. That .tribute was well deserved. Mr.. Patterson and Mr. Millard are in South Africa because of the awareness of this Government that, notwithstanding the fact that there have been trade relationships between Australia and South Africa for over a century, it is essential that Mah rela tionships should be stimulated. For that reason, the Government appointed those two gentlemen. In addition, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) was responsible for the appointment of the late Sir George Knowles as the first Australian High Commissioner in South Africa. The Government has demonstrated its consciousness of the fact that these two great countries have an affinity of interests. The right honorable member for Cowper referred to the existence in South Africa of vast areas similar in many respects to vast areas in Australia and he mentioned that large tracts of both countries are deserts. That is true. He did not, however, mention that the similarity of trading interests in both countries could cause a clash of interests. There is, nevertheless, a vast range of commodities in -which the two countries could trade together to their common benefit. We have taken action along the lines proposed by the right honorable member. He suggested that a trade mission, similar to that which about eighteen months ago went -with the blessing and encouragement of the Government to India, should go to South Africa. On its return from India the leader of that mission, a very patriotic Australian from Western Australia, whose name I have forgotten for the moment, submitted to the Australian Government a most interesting and comprehensive report on trade opportunities in India. The Government was so impressed by the valuable information in the report that it saw fit ibo publish the document at considerable .expense and distribute it ito the people interested in trade with India. It is open for the Australian trading community to organize and despatch to SOUth Africa ,a trade mission similar to that which went to India. It would ‘be welcomed as heartily as were the right honorable member for Cowper and his colleague. The same measure of information and assistance as the trade mission to India received would be available to it. That mission .could leave these shores .under .the sponsorship ,and with the encouragement of the Government of Australia and of my department ; “but the
Government itself does not send trade missions abroad. The trading community is extremely sensitive to trade opportunities in other countries. Whenever the time is ripe to exploit those opportunities it makes its investigations. It is probably not known to the general public, although it is certainly well known to exporters in Australia, that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is doing valuable work in making known to them, opportunities for trade in not only countries outside the British Empire but also, and more particularly, countries within the Empire’ The Department of Commerce and Agriculture, conscious of the need to make the fullest possible information available, only recently inaugurated the publication of the excellent monthly journal Overseas Trading, which circulates extensively in the commercial community. I have received from chambers of commerce, exporters federations and the like letters asking me to convey to the officers responsible for the publication their congratulations on its excellence. The right honorable member for Cowper concentrated on opportunities and the need for increased trade with South Africa. In the current issue of this journal, which members of the Parliament perhaps do not see, although it is available to them if they desire to receive it, there is an article on trade opportunities in South Africa. On the last page, under the heading, “ Exporters Wanted “, appears a. list of goods wanted from Australia by people in South Africa. One South African wants “grocery, hardware lines, agricultural lines, chemicals “, another “ tools, garden tools and equipment, seeds and saddlery “, another “ textiles, foodstuffs and . hardware “, another “ harrows, ploughs, balers and agricultural implements “, another <f oil burning and electrically operated refrigerators”, another “ tanned basils or sheepskins for saddlery trade, pigskins, saddle-trees for riding saddles, tractor chains, harness equipment, riding bits and brushes for horses “, another “ hardware, tools, light mechanical and industrial machinery, garage equipment “, another “ veterinary instruments, dairy supplies and milking machines “, another “ hardware, builders’ materials, electrical tools, radio tools, radio instruments, crockery, glassware, pumps, windmills, engines, stoves”, and another * groceries, wines, spirits “. So it will be seen that for a wide range of secondary and primary products there is substantial inquiry from people in South Africa. One purpose of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is to sponsor trade between Australia and every nation. This journal makes known the inquiries received from all countries for goods that Australia may supply. It may be said with truth that the trade commissioners in South Africa and their meagre staffs, who circulate trade information in that country on behalf of Australia, are inadequately equipped for the task of fostering the development of the trade between the two dominions. But only this afternoon the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) criticized the Government for having spent money on the provision of accommodation for the staff of the Australian Embassy at Washington. It was my good fortune to visit that Embassy in 1945. The conditions under which the staff had to work were disgraceful.
– Has the Minister been to Canberra?
– I am dealing with the position overseas. In a private debate later, I could demonstrate to the honorable member that there has been greater development in Canberra under this Government than any other, especially that of which the honorable gentleman was a member. The honorable member for Bendigo was .critical of the Government because it spent some dollars in acquiring premises in which to accommodate the Embassy staff. When I was in Washington, I found that visitors to the Embassy, who represent all the countries represented at Washington, had to ring a bell on a wire door at the hack of the building to attract attention. They were greeted by one of the staff, who, for that purpose, hai to leave important problems on which he was working. The visitors then had to go up a back stairway to an attic not fit for tramps but where other members of the staff were accommodated. On the one hand, we are criticized because we try to provide proper facilities for our staff in one country and, on the other, we are criticized because we do not increase our staff in another country. I agree that when the time is ripe and we have greater supplies of commodities available, it will be most desirable to increase the staffs of the trade commissioners in Africa. The trade commissioners travel extensively, visiting various British territories up the coast in order to acquaint themselves with all the problems that arise. I appreciate the friendly spirit shown by the right honorable member for Cowper, but every addition to the Public .Service is followed by a howl in the press and by honorable members opposite about the numbers of bureaucrats at Canberra and the cost involved. I hope that the right honorable member for Cowper will be loud in his praise of what the Government has done in filling various posts.
The right honorable- gentleman suggested a variety of ways in which we should increase and expand trade with South Africa and other British countries, for reasons of not only sentiment, but also good business. He said that it would be of advantage if scientists of the British countries exchanged visits and pointed out that an agrostologist in South Africa had isolated 150 different kinds of plants, some of which could perhaps be developed in Australia with advantage to our pastures. Advantage could doubtless be gained from visits to Empire countries by Australian scientists and to Australia by scientists from those countries. We are not backward in agrostology ourselves. In 1932 a scientist at the Burnley School of Horticulture, Melbourne, and a member of the staff of the Victorian Department of Agriculture, showed me 48 different kinds of subterranean clover that he had isolated. The results of scientific research all over the Empire are collated and published by the Imperial Agricultural Research Bureau.
– That is not half so good as are visits to other countries by scientists.
– I agree, but the pub- lications of that bureau are available to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and State departments of agriculture and agricultural colleges. The information supplied in those journals i9 valuable. If an agriculturist at the Burnley School of Horticulture, or at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College or any other agricultural college, reads the description of a grass grown in South Africa that could possibly be advantageously introduced into Australia and grown in, say, the Cowper electorate, he will make arrangements for the importation of seeds of that grass. Its suitability is tested. That work is continually going on. Nevertheless, as funds and scientists were available, it would be of advantage for Australian scientists to visit other countries and for the scientists of those countries to visit Australia. The right honorable gentleman also referred to stock diseases. What I have said about plants applies equally to stock. Mention has been made of the possibility of obtaining from South Africa tropical products in which it has had a major success. We are anxious to stimulate trade of that type. The last South African trade delegation to Australia was here in 1927. I accompanied it on a visit to the Werribee Research Farm.
– That was too long ago.
– I agree. It is possible that as an outcome of this debate traders in Australia will decide to send a mission to South Africa and that South Africa will reciprocate. When I hear submissions like those made by the right honorable gentleman, especially as they relate to the Empire, I feel that we sometimes talk with our tongues in our cheek. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) submitted that we need to get the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations together to help one another. He said the people of Britain were “ screaming “ for food. They are not screaming for food. They bend their knees to no man; but they are expecting their fellow Britishers, the people in the British dominions all over the world, to be reasonable in their trade demands. After all, the best way to encourage trade and develop a proper sentiment between the various parts of the British Commonwealth is to have some regard to the prices which we charge for our products. When, some months ago, the British Government sought to obtain wheat from
Australia, and when, not as a concession, but in recognition of the fact that Britain was placing a huge order, and was supplying the ships to take the wheat away, we agreed to sell for slightly less than was being charged for wheat bought from other countries, it was not the Labour party which criticized the deal; the criticism came from those who had always cried the loudest for the strengthening of Empire ties.
– I did not touch on that phase of the subject.
– No, it did not suit the honorable member to do so, but it suits me. The right honorable member for Cowper addressed himself to this subject in a very helpful and friendly manner, and I am indebted to him for it. We are very anxious to help the people in the various parts of the British Commonwealth, particularly in the United Kingdom. However, I have found that traders in Australia, despite the fact that we have signed a profitable contract with the British Government for the sale of eggs - a contract which has been of immense benefit to poultry-farmers here - are anxious to export more poultry products to non-British countries because they have been offered a substantial price inducement to do so. It became necessary for me to impose export quotas so that the United Kingdom might obtain its proper share. Such circumstances must be taken into account when we hear talk of the need to foster trade with countries of the British Commonwealth. [Extension of time granted.] I do not say that in other Empire countries the commercial instinct is not also strong, and that traders there, like commercially-minded people everywhere, do not demand their pound of flesh. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was very critical. He developed the idea that, because of our participation in international conferences, insufficient attention was paid to the need for holding conferences of representatives of Empire countries. I point out that all recent international conferences, from those of the United Nations downward, and including conferences during the war between Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt, had the enthusiastic support of the people of the United Kingdom. It is true that a great deal of notice has been taken’ of international conferences in the press and in the legislatures of various countries, but they have never been allowed to diminish the importance of conferences between the representatives of Empire countries. An example of that occurred last year, when the representatives of British Empire countries interested in the Japanese peace settlement met in conference in this very chamber, and considered the peace treaty which will some day be made with Japan. That conference could not have achieved more had no international conferences ever been held. Even out of international conference,? good comes to some countries, though perhaps not to many. For instance, one of the concessions which emerged from the recent, conference at Geneva was the elimination of the preference enjoyed by Canada over Australia in the sale of flour, and the more favorable conditions granted for the entry of Australian manufactured goods, including machinery, into South Africa. Two firms in Ballarat have exported considerable quantities of agricultural machinery to .South Africa, but our own requirements are so great that it has become necessary to impose export restrictions. To those who think that we are not doing enough, let me point out that no government is ever able to satisfy every one, and it is a healthy sign that this interest in overseas trade should have manifested itself. I have been informed that only recently arrangements were made for a better shipping service between Australia and South Africa. As trade between the two countries develops, I am sure that this service will be more widely used. Some people are constantly prophesying that Australia is going to the dogs because of the kind of government it has. To them T. commend the following extract from the British Australasian on the 24th April : -
” Australia is a booming country without a doubt”, declares Mr. Noel Curphey.. secretary of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, who lias arrived in London after touring the United States and Canada.
Mr. Curphey is on a worldwide official mission for his organization to investigate industrial developments and practices, and economic conditions.
At the same time he is helping overseas industrialists who see advantages in setting up factories in Australia or in arranging for manufacture under licence. “Americans are pushing up plants in Australia “, he reports. “ England should do the same. It is a form of invisible ‘exports, with the profits coming back “. “ A fact not generally realized he says, “ is that although Australia is one of the four most important primary producing countries of -the world its secondary industry is greater. “ Industrial development since 1930 has been so great that primary production has actually been outstripped. “Australia’s prosperity is now the greatest in her history “, he says, “ and the demand for Australian goods, inside and outside the country, will be greater than the supply for some years. “Men working in an Australian factory are more likely to have a good job than in America. “ A trade recession in America will become very pronounced and noticeable around July. “ This does not mean a depression. Australians take recession as a polite word for depression, but there is a difference - -recession is only a mild falling off in demand. “ Americans hope that Marshall Aid will take up some of the slack of the recession, together with the growing tendency to universal military training and more production for defence.”
Mr. Curphey praises the services given to Australian industry by the Australian Trade Commissioners, -and by the Australian trade publicity officers.
We now have trade commissioners in practically all Empire countries, and in many others as well. Trade commissioners have been appointed to the United Kingdom, France, India and Burma, Bombay, Calcutta, Ceylon, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Malaya, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the United States of America, Canada, and the Netherlands East Indies. That is a wide representation, and I have not heard one word of criticism of the work which any of these men is doing. As our ability to supply goods to world markets increases, so will our overseas trade service be extended.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has raised an issue of very great importance. I remember a saying of his a long time ago which might well be recalled to-day. He said, “ communication is civilization “. We are now concerned with communications linking the various parts of what was, until quite recently, the greatest Empire the world had ever known. It is an Empire without parallel in its achieve ments and the heroic defence of its liberties, and in the manner in which it has relinquished its imperial power. In the whole history of the world there is not a parallel to what Britain has done. I listened with very great interest to the speech of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), who pointed to the achievements of Australia. He quoted an extract from the British Australasian about the prosperity which the people of Australia are enjoying to-day. All that the extract contained is quite true, but I shall ask him three questions. How comes it that we are here at all? How comes it that this Parliament is sitting? How comes it that we emerged victorious from the recent life and death struggle? It is not because of anything we have done, although we played our part ; it is due to the fact that we are included in the membership of the British Empire. “By their fruits ye shall know them “. Honorable members opposite have told us to note the contribution which Australia has made to the Empire. We heard the other night from the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) something about Australia not being a satellite power. Then what it is? Is it a power that stands where it does because of itself, or of anything it can do to maintain its freedom and its rights? The fact is, of course, that it is now., as it has been throughout the 160 years of its existence, dependent upon Britain and the Empire, without which it would not stand for a day. We now hear much talk about the Empire, but when the Empire was struggling desperately against its enemies, were honorable members on the other side of the House raising the banners of the Empire ?
– The right honorable gentleman himself did a lot of talking. He sent his propaganda into the trenches.
– When honorable members opposite speak about the Empire, they do so as if it were something outside themselves. I remind them that but for the Empire they would not be hero. Without Great Britain there would be no Empire. Great Britain is now in sore straits, not because its people have lived unrighteously or have failed to uphold the ideals in which we believe, but because they are paying the price of their valour and sacrifice. Yet, but for Great Britain we and all the free nations of the world would have been ground under Hitler’s heel in 1940. The right honorable member for Cowper has reminded u9 that all the component parts of the Empire are linked together. He has spoken of South Africa. Where in the history of nations is there to be found a parallel to the position in which South Africa stands to-day? Defeated in the war with Britain, it was given, by its conqueror, not only full self-governing powers over its own people, but dominion over British citizens against whom it had fought. Only a few days ago there were seated on the floor of this House representatives of Eire. Would they have been here or would Eire have been able to posture before the world as a free and independent government but for the protection of Great Britain? If the people of Great Britain, by their valour and sacrifice, had not saved the world, Eire might now be groaning and helpless under the iron heel of Germany, as we ourselves might be under the heel of Japan. From the beginning of our history we have owed our very existence to Great Britain, yet an honorable member opposite has the temerity to say that a British citizen has no prescriptive right to enter this country. Another has said that we ure not a satellite power. Not a satellite power! What, then, are we? What could we by ourselves achieve? We shall continue as a nation only as long as the Empire stands between us and destruction, and no longer.
– Honorable members opposite owe a deep debt of gratitude to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), first, for visiting South Africa as an unofficial ambassador of Australia, and, secondly, for his portrayal of the closely allied difficulties confronting both countries. His visit to South Africa was a goodwill mission from which excellent results will probably flow. In the past there has been a growing development of Australian industrial enterprise in South Africa. Under the auspices of the South African Government, one of our largest woollen manufacturing concerns has established an important textile factory there. Australian insurance companies have also assisted in the development of South Africa by establishing branches there. It is notable that some of our largest construction companies have also established branches in South Africa, thus operating for the benefit of both dominions.
I agree with everything that was said by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) in his speech on ‘ this motion. But for the Empire, would, this Parliament now be in existence, and would Australia still be a free democratic country? Not at all; it would be under the heal of a tyrranous conqueror. Recent developments in world trade render it imperative for us to find markets for our goods, not only in the old countries of the world, but also in undeveloped! areas on the Indian Ocean basin. Theright honorable member for Cowper hastold us of the opportunities that exist to expand our trade with Kenya and other parts of Africa which he was able to visit. I stress the necessity for the appointment of additional trade commissioners. I admit that during the last few years there has been some extension of trade representation abroad, but much more should be done in that direction in order to stimulate trade with Empirecountries, which is of very much more importance to us than trade with foreigncountries. The extension of trade representation in Empire countries is of far greater importance to us than is the extension of diplomatic representation in foreign countries, especially in countries in South America, with which our tradeis negligible. Only recently, it was disclosed in the Estimates that the expenditure incurred by the Australian Minister in Brazil amounted to only £2 in a whole year for commerce purposes. The lack of an adequate shippingservice, particularly between Australia and Kenya and India, has detrimentally affected the development of trade between Australia amd Empire countries in the Indian Ocean basin. TheGovernment should foster trade between Australia and those countries by providing assistance or subsidies to shipping; companies to enable them to improve their services between Australia and Eastern countries. As the result of the development of the oil wells in Saudi Arabia, the purchasing power of the Arabian people will be enormously increased. We should take advantage of this potential market for our goods. I envisage the day when Aden will become one of the great ports of the world and the modern counterpart of Bremen and Singapore in pre-war days. Goods destined for other countries, not necessarily those within the British Empire, will be permitted to enter and leave Aden free of customs duties. Steps should also be taken to provide an improved air service from Australia to South Africa, not only over the existing route, but possibly through the Cocos and Seychelles Islands.
I support the plea of the right honorable member for Cowper for greater personal contacts between trade and governmental representatives of Africa and Australia of the highest standing as a means of enabling the people of the two Dominions better to appreciate their mutual problems. The right honorable gentleman has done us a great service ir* paving the way for developments which will he beneficial not only to Australia but also to South Africa and the Empire as a whole. The greater the development of Empire trade, the better able will the Empire be to defend its interests. If we adopt restrictive policies and deny Britishers the right of free entry into the Commonwealth, we merely assist the cause of those who desire to bring about the disintegration of the Empire. The closer the Empire is knit together, the stronger will its component parts be and the less danger there will be of democracy vanishing from the earth.
– This afternoon we have had a remarkable exhibition of apathy on the part of Government members. Only one Government spokesman, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has addressed himself to the subject of the motion moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). Listening to the Minister one would have thought that he was par ticipating in an address-in-reply debate, or a debate on the Estimates and budget papers, or something of that description, because he dealt with a wide variety of subjects ranging from subterranean clover to the United Nations. It is the duty of the Minister in charge of the House to reply to the representations of the right honorable member for Cowper; but he made no attempt to do so. Instead, he treated us to one of the most wandering speeches I have ever heard from him. So barren were the Minister’s remarks that the right honorable member for Cowper must have fancied that he was back in the African desert instead of being in this House. The Minister referred to 48 varieties of subterranean clover. He did not refer to the 48 varieties of socialism in his own .party. The House is entitled to a reply by a responsible Minister to a motion of such importance as that with which we are now dealing. Australia cannot but be vitally affected by recent developments on the continent of Asia, particularly in India, and, to a lesser degree, in Palestine. We have heard remarks of a somewhat laudatory character made in relation to recent developments in India, yet, notwithstanding the fact that India, whose relations with South Africa are not of the happiest, has, to all intents” and purposes, ceased to be part and parcel of the British Empire, the subject has never been considered by this House. A completely new situation has arisen in Asia as the result of hostility between India and Pakistan.
– They have recently become more friendly.
– About as friendly as is the honorable member towards members of the Opposition in this House. For more than 100 years the British Empire was able to call upon the man-power and resources of India for Imperial purposes. Now, however, India has ceased to be a great Imperial base. That base is already being transferred from India and the Middle East to the British possessions in Africa. If information which I have obtained is correct, Great Britain, even before the- conclusion of World War II., was developing a completely new defence axis from the west to the east coast of Africa. Therefore, it stands te reason that the countries which have the greatest interest in this development are Australia and New Zealand, and the closest possible co-operation between ourselves and all the British possessions in Africa is of outstanding importance. I regret that the right honorable member for Cowper did not deal fully with that aspect of the subject, but the dissertation by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture about trade arrangements wheat contracts, the United Nations and the like, was no answer to the case which he submitted. The truth is that there are circumstances which will compel the Australian Government to take a much more intelligent, lively and factual interest in events in Africa than it appears to be showing at present. We have had to listen to a superfluity of statements about Palestine and other countries which do not concern us in the slightest degree, except insofar as Great Britain has decided to shift its base from Palestine into safer territory in East Africa. That is our only concern. Great Britain has already got out of Egypt.
– Is not the honorable member revealing confidential information?
– What is the confidential information?
– - The shifting of bases.
– Do not be funny! That information is no more confidential than was the Representation Bill which v.-p debated last week, and which will enable the Minister to shift his base at the next election. Sooner or later, certain developments overseas will force themselves upon the attention of the Australia Government. One of those developments is the loss for Imperial use of Indian influence, man-power and materials. Arising out of that, and the development of conditions in the Middle East, is the need for Australia to take a practical, intelligent and timely interest in the construction of bases in East Africa. If those bases are to be effectively manned, there must be, as the right honorable member for Cowper has clearly shown, a much larger proportion of European people in British possessions in Africa than there is to-day. At present, the Europeans constitute only a sprinkling of the population. South Africa has big problems in relation to Indian immigrants, native control, and the differences that have existed between the Dutch and the British. The last of these three problems is, I hope, a diminishing one. These are matters of first-class importance, and the attention of the Parliament of the Commonwealth might very well be directed from time to time to matters which really concern our future and our welfare. Instead, we devote too much of our time to things which do not, in the long run, concern us, and we make ourselves a “ meddlesome Mattie “ in international politics.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has stressed the importance of improving the existing means of communication and consultation between Australia and other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and his speech raises the whole subject of Empire co-operation, especially in the present difficult days. I shall spend a few minutes reminding honorable members of the fact that we do not live in the kind of world, and we have not to-day the kind of empire, which most of us think about. Human beings are’ subject always to a time lag in their ideas, and every one of us is inclined to think of the British Commonwealth of Nations to-day in the terms of yesterday. At one time, there was a British Empire. It was a purely colonial Empire, based upon the central authority in England. The colonies were scattered throughout the world, and were dependent entirely upon the will of the authorities in England. That Empire, great as it was, broke up after the American revolution of 1776, and a new kind of empire emerged. One after the other, the remaining units of the old colonial Empire achieved what we used to call “ responsible government “. The first of those changes took place as the result of the Durham report in Canada in the early part of the nineteenth century, and one by one the various colonies, including New South Wales and other Australian States, achieved what we call “ self-government “.
At the end of World. War I., the British Empire consisted, roughly speaking, of Great Britain and its colonies, plus the dominions of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, India and the rest. That basis of the Empire did not last for many years. In the course of perhaps 25 years this idea of an empire, based on “ dominion status “, has disappeared, and now in 194S, we are in the process of developing an entirely new kind of British Commonwealth of Nations. The difficulties which made it impossible for the old ideas of empire to survive are illustrated in the case of Eire. In 1921, Eire became theoretically a member of the British Commonwealth, with dominion status. The treaty which made this possible had the consent of Mr. Cosgrove and other members of the then Irish Republican Movement. But although this treaty between Great Britain and Ireland was consented to literally, it was not consented to in spirit by the Irish people, and, undoubtedly, they spent the next twenty years in undoing what they contracted to do in 1921. Mr. de Valera has said so, and the de facto position has been turned into a de jure position by various unilateral acts of the Parliament of Eire. The United Kingdom Government hae virtually acquiesced in these acts, whereby Ireland has taken itself outside the British Commonwealth of Nations, has ceased to regard itself as bound by the limits of dominion status and is, in fact, no longer a part of the British Empire. It does, for certain purposes, regard itself as being in external friendly association with the British Commonwealth. I offer no comment by way of praise or blame, but merely state what I believe to be the constitutional fact.
India has become another problem. Quite recently, India became nominally a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations by achieving dominion status, but any person who has a knowledge of the subject realizes that the great Dominion of India regards itself as a separate people, for practical purposes, not within the British Empire. Pakistan is in the same position. Yesterday, newspapers published a report of an interview with the Governor-General of Pakistan, Mr. Jinnah, who stated that, when it suited his people, they would no longer regard themselves as a part of the British Commonwealth and as bound by the alleged limitations of dominion status. Dominion status really has no such limitations, but it is a convenient phrase and device to convey the idea of a common kingship, and to keep, nominally within the British Commonwealth, those units which tended to break away and become independent.
A further problem arose with Burma, and the Attlee Government cut what it regarded as the “ gordian knot “ by immediately giving to Burma independent status outside the Empire. South Africa also creates a problem. There are in that dominion approximately 2,000,000 white people, but only a microscopic proportion of them are British in sentiment. The vast majority are Afrikander in sentiment, and are not friendly to the British people. Under the leadership of Field-Marshal Smuts, South Africa- is a part of the British Commonwealth, but what will happen when he ceases to hold office we can only conjecture. A similar position arises with Eire, India and Pakistan, for instance, because they have not a common bond of sentiment with Great Britain, as have other parts of the British Empire. They all may be regarded as themselves mother countries, whereas to Australians, New Zealanders and a big majority of Canadians, Great Britain is the Mother CountryGreat Britain is the country from which their laws, language and political institutions derive, and towards which they naturally look with a sense of kinship, because most of them have associations with the people of Great Britain. The same cannot be said of the people of Eire, India and Pakistan. They themselves are mother countries, and, obviously, they have not the same sentimental bond with Great Britain.
None of the difficulties which we are facing to-day should blind us to the fact that there is still left a great and strong British Empire. It consists of Great Britain, which has a population of nearly 50,000,000 virile people, and its vast colonial Empire, which we are inclined to forget, but which has a population of many millions and a vast industrial potential. This colonial Empire is scattered throughout Africa, the Indies, Malaya, and the Pacific. Great Britain and its colonial possessions, considered together, are a very importan.t unit indeed. With Great Britain still stand Australia, New Zealand, Canada and, ito a certain degree, South Africa. All :those units taken together constitute an empire of which Great Britain is the Mother Country, bound it by bonds of sentiment as well as by bonds of selfinterest and self-defence. The fact that we have, on the one hand, an Empire of this kind still existing, and, on the other hand, units which recently belonged to but which are now only in “ external association “ with the British Commonwealth, underlines the problem which the right honorable member for Cowper has mentioned, and emphasizes the necessity to close our ranks, gather together as be3t we can the remaining units and have closer consultation and communication between them so as to make the British Commonwealth a workable and powerful group of peoples. Unless we have workability and power, we shall perish.
I commend the right honorable member for Cowper for having raised this matter to-day. It is essential, not only on grounds of sentiment, although that reason is sufficient, but also on those of Australia’s self-interest, for us to take active and positive steps to improve communications and consultations between members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. [Extension of time granted.] I am obliged to the House for its courtesy. There exists between Great Britain and its colonial Empire, on the one hand, and the Dominions of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa on the other, a real need for close communication and consultation in order to make the British Commonwealth a reality, and restore it to its former position as one of the most powerful forces in the modern world. If we do not do that, we shall all perish individually, because united we stand but divided we fall. If we do it, we shall have before us an era of even greater power and prosperity than we have already enjoyed. One other result will follow, and this is the point I have been seeking to make. Although countries like Eire, Pakistan, India and others - units of which I have spoken as having broken away from the old idea of dominion status and which are now content only with external association with the British Commonwealth - have broken away, if we establish close collaboration and co-operation we shall be able in some degree to re-unite those units with us. I am positive that if we present a united front to the world and show to countries like India and Pakistan the clear and obvious virtues of common action on important issues, they will see the advantage of that for themselves. I do not say that they will re-unite with us because of bonds of sentiment - they have no particular sentiment towards us, for the reasons I have stated - but they will enter into engagements with us of a closer kind than they are prepared to enter into at present. That was the drift of Mr. Jinnah’s remarks when he said that his country was prepared to stay within the British Commonwealth only for so long as it was convenient and profitable for it to do so. I hope that, by our own actions, we shall make it convenient and profitable for India, Pakistan and other countries to remain in close association with us and, under a common crown, still to form part of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Last but not least, some of my recent reading on this matter leads me to suppose that Eire is undergoing a change of feeling towards the British Commonwealth and Great Britain. If we can show to Eire a co-ordinated and wellordered British Commonwealth of Nations, it will be ready to enter into closer relations with us than it has hitherto been prepared to do. This is the riddle of Eire’ as I read it. Whereas before the war Eire was rapidly drifting completely away from the British Commonwealth, the great generosity pf the British people towards it during the war and the extraordinary restraint that they showed in the face of great provocation, having regard to the fight they were making for their lives has taught Eire, as some Irish statesmen have said, that, after all, there may be something in the idea of the British Commonwealth.
-In the specific grounds advanced by the right honorable member for Cowper for seeking to move the adjournment of the House, reference was made only to “ portions of the British Commonwealth of Nations “.
– The right honorable gentleman referred to “ other portions of the British Commonwealth of Nations, especially those in the Southern Hemisphere “. He referred to all the nations but enumerated only some of them.
– ,So far as I am aware, Eire is not a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– The point I am trying to make is that whereas Eire is not now part of the British Commonwealth it may be prepared to join us if we are wise and co-operate and consult among ourselves, as we should do.
.- in reply - I was disappointed at the scope of the speech made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) which dealt fully with trade. The honorable gentleman was perhaps drawn aside by the interjection which led him to introduce into the discussion a note of party politics, and did not deal with the other issues. They are so important that I thought they might have been dealt with by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) or the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I am glad to see that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is now present. I referred to the desirability of each of the two countries improving its knowledge of the other. I refer to “two” countries because I regard Australasia as one unit rather than as two separate countries. I suggested that the exchange and the distribution of films was one way in which that could be done. Steps should be taken to secure an exchange of films, not only with the Union of South Africa, but with other countries in South Africa. When I was in Northern Rhodesia a film was exhibited showing the development of the Zambezi. It was of great interest to me, and I am satisfied that the films showing developments in Australia that have been prepared by the direction of the Minister for Informa tion would be of great interest to the South Africans. In Pretoria there is a jacaranda festival. I saw a film of it. I was told that it would create great interest in Pretoria if a film of the Australian festival at Grafton were shown there. Such an exchange would help to improve the knowledge of the younger people of each country about the younger people in the other. I hoped that the Government would give a lead with regard to the use of radio in this connexion. I trust that after the conclusion of this debate a statement will be made with regard to both radio and films. In Australia and South Africa there is a national radio system as well as a commercial radio system. It would be very easy to exchange recordings relating to matters of mutual interest.
I was most anxious that a government statement should be made with regard to close co-operation between the governments of the countries to which I have referred in the formulation of common policies. Mutual agreement could only be maintained if there were continuity of thought on the part of the governments, especially during the period when policy was still fluid and before it was crystallized or public statements made in connexion with it. Attempts have been made to create a political structure such as council of State or a general secretariat of the Empire. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are all in the southern hemisphere. They are close together from a geographical point of view, and have almost identical interests so far as their development is concerned. My idea is that there should be exchanges of departmental officers in order that sufficient knowledge of each country’s attitude be made available to the Ministers of each country to enable decisions acceptable to all to be taken almost automatically. The Anzac pact between Australia and New Zealand goes some way in that direction, and it might be possible to bring South Africa into it. What I desire, however, is something much more intimate than that, and I hope that sooner or later a senior government spokesman will make a statement with regard to this matter. I am satisfied that if action is taken along those lines to secure intimate consultation between South Africa, New Zealand and
Australia and continuous and automatic understanding of each country by the others, it will be extended to the Empire as a whole and will create a fellow feeling between all member nations. The only way in which it can be done is by ensuring that the views of the government of each country are known to the governments of the other countries whilst policy is still fluid, because when it is crystallized and public statements have been made it is very difficult to alter it.
I hope that the Government and the Empire Parliamentary Association will consider arranging more frequent interassociation visits. In that connexion, it should be borne in mind that in Australia matters relating to agricultural development, water conservation and so on are dealt with by the State governments. Provision should therefore be made for members of the State Parliaments, as well as of the Australian Parliament, to make these visits so that the information that is collected may be available in those places in which it will be of most value.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act toamend the Superannuation Act 1922-1947, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purposes of this bill are (i) to grant pensions to 24 officers of the Australian Military Forces retired from the forces before they reached their appropriate retiring ages; (2) to delete that part of the Superannuation Act which concerns contributors attached to the permanent military and air forces; (3) to extend to ex-State officers the 25 per cent. increase of superannuation pensions; (4) to remove an anomaly in the 1947 amending act in regard to medical examination prior to contribution for additional units of pension. To meet the urgent needs of the service, 24 officers of the permanent military forces were retired before they had attained the retiring ages fixed for their ranks. As the Superannuation Act, under which the officers contributed, did not provide for pensions in such circumstances, the bill provides for an appropriate pension based on the number of units for which the officer contributed and his age at the date of his retirement. The names of the officers concerned and the pensions payable to them are shown in the schedule to the bill.
The Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill makes provision for pension benefits for members of the defence forces who retire after that bill becomes law. PartIVa. of theSuperannuation Act which deals with contributors attached to the permanent military and air forces will become unnecessary and is being repealed.
The 1947 amending Superannuation Act provided for an increase by 25 per cent. of superannuation pensions in force when that act commenced, but excluded pensions which were payable in respect of State pension rights transferred to the Superannuation Board under sections 57 and 58 of the Superannuation Act. These State pension rights were preserved to ex-State employees by section 84 of the Constitution. The majority of employees so entitled were transferred from the Western Australian State service, where their right to pension had been determined by the Superannuation Act 1871. These pensions are payable without contribution by the employees and are on a more liberal basis than those under the Superannuation Act. In an act recently passed by the Parliament of Western Australia, the pensions payable under the 1871 act were increased, as from the 1st February, 1948, by 25 per cent., provided that the pension, together with the increase, does not exceed £360 per annum. The Government considers that the pension payable to ex-State officers should now be similarly increased and the bill, therefore, contains a provision for this increase from the 1st February, 1948, of pensions payable under sections 57 and 58 of the Superannuation Act, and for one-half of the amount in the case of widows.
The 1947 act increased the maximum number of pension units for which employees may contribute from 16 to 26. Employees who were contributing for the maximum of sixteen units when the 1947 act commenced were permitted to elect to contribute for additional units, according to their salary groups, without medical examination. Some employees, however, who had been eligible to contribute for sixteen units, were not doing so, and the 1947 act provided that these employees, if eligible on a salary basis to contribute for units above sixteen and if they so desired to contribute, must submit to a medical examination. The requirements for medical examination in these cases places -the employees at a disadvantage compared with the employees who were contributing for the full sixteen units, because neither class of employee had had a previous opportunity of contributing for units in excess of sixteen. This bill, therefore, provides for the deletion of the requirement for medical examination in respect of elections for units above sixteen by employees who, though qualified on a salary basis when the 1947 Superannuation Act commenced, were not contributing for the maximum of sixteen units. Both classes of employees will thus be placed on the same footing. A medical examination will still be required in respect of the number of units below sixteen for which employees had previously declined to contribute.
A minor amendment provides for a definition of salary insofar as it relates to members of the forces as from the 1st July, 1947, the date from which the new pay codes for the Army and the Air Force commenced. A machinery amendment is included to give the Superannuation Board power to authorize the secretary to the board to determine such matters as the board may specify.
I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave he given to bring in a bill for an act to provide retirement benefits for members of the Permanent Defence Forcesof the Commonwealth, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave. - I move -
That the hill be now read a second time..
The bill proposes to establish a schemefor improved retirement benefits on a uniform basis for members of the Permanent Defence Forces. A measure of this kind was foreshadowed when, in May last year, I had the privilege of introducing to this House the Superannuation Bill 1947, the object of which was to> bring the Commonwealth Superannuation scheme into line with modern practice and! thereby to improve the scale of benefits: available to members of the Public Service. In moving the second reading of that bill, I said -
In view of the special conditions relating, to service in the forces, lower retiring ages,, more vigorous standards of medical fitness,, and so on, the Government is considering a plan for retiring benefits to replace the systemof lump sum payments on retirement to Navy and Air Force officers and the pension schemefor Army officers. The details will be announced as soon as possible. .
This measure is brought forward in fulfilment of the undertaking then given on behalf of the Government.
Also, in May last year, I outlined tothis House the new conditions of pay and allowances that the Government proposed to establish for members of the defence forces. That code of pay and conditions took effect from the 1st July, 1947, and has provided a generally improved basis of remuneration and conditions of livingfor men who take up careers in one or other of the three services. In an important sense, this measure may he regarded as the counterpart of the new pay code. While that code established the standards which personnel of the forces would have during their active service careers, this measure proposes to establish retirement benefits available to them when their term of service ends. The existing provisions for retirement benefits are deficient in a number of ways. In particular, they lack uniformity as between the three services. This is no longer justifiable since comparable standards of pay and service conditions have been provided for all three services. Moreover, it would be impossible under the existing retirement provision to deal adequately with the peculiarly difficult problem created by the practice, now common to all services, of retirement at comparatively early ages. Early retirement of members of the forces has been made necessary by the requirements of a modern defence system. It is now the rule in the armed forces of United Kingdom and the other British Commonwealth countries. In view of our special needs for defence forces of the highest efficiency under conditions of present day warfare, we cannot afford to lag behind- in this vital matter.
Nevertheless, the practice creates a problem which on the one side is intensely human, and on the other side has an important practical bearing upon our ability to recruit and retain men of the requisite -calibre for the services. On the human side, as I have called it, the practice means that men in many cases will come to the end of their service careers whilst still in the early middle years of their lives. Thus, in the Air Force, retirement of officers commences at the age of 41, in the Navy, at the age of 45 and, in the Army, at the age of 47. Men who leave the services at such ages have before them the acute personal problem of finding new occupations in civil life. Since it is the exigencies of the defence system which impose these conditions of retirement, the Government has a clear obligation to provide a special .scheme of retiring benefits, which should be sufficient to tide the member over the period of readjustment and to supplement substantially his earnings in his civil occupation. Similar considerations apply in a perhaps some what lesser degree to men who retire from more senior service positions at a rather higher but still relatively early age. On the practical side, it has to be considered that unless provision of this kind is made, the prospect of early retirement will act as a discouragement to men contemplating careers in the services. It might then become difficult to attract to the services the type of men which a modem Navy, Army and Air Force demand. It may be helpful if I outline to honorable members the existing retirement provisions for the forces. Naval personnel are credited with deferred pay, payable on the retirement of the member, or to his estate if death occurs during service. For officers serving to the full retiring age of their ranks, the cumulative deferred pay would amount to approximately £4,000 for lieutenantcommanders rising to approximately £6,500 for captains. Permanent personnel of the Army are contributors to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund and have the same pension cover for themselves and their dependants as have members of the Commonwealth Public Service. Before the amendment of the Superannuation Act in 1947, the maximum pension obtainable by any officer at the age of 60 was £416 per annum. Under the amendments to the Superannuation Act, there was a general increase by 25 per cent, of the pensions of all officers and other ranks, and officers were enabled, according to their rate of salary, to contribute for a maximum pension of £845 per annum at the age of 60. The general effect was that 60 per cent, of the cost of all pensions would be provided by the Commonwealth. The Air Force provisions are not in line with those of either the Navy or the Army. Permanent Air Force personnel below officer rank are contributors to the Superannuation Fund under conditions similar to those obtaining in the Army. Air Force officers contribute to the Superannuation Fund to provide for benefits on death or invalidity during service. The major retirement provision for these officers is a system of deferred pay which is a benefit paid to the member on retirement or to his estate if death occurs during service. The rates of deferred pay are substantially lower than those of Naval personnel of equivalent rank. The review of these provisions led to the following conclusions : -
First - Wide disparities exist between the different schemes.
Secondly - In view of the recent reduction of retiring ages for Army officers from 55 or 60 to ages ranging from 47 years upwards, and even lower retiring ages in the other services, it is necessary to provide a scheme of pension for retirements at age 40 or later.
Thirdly - A deferred pay scheme makes inadequate provision for the officer or his dependants in the event of death or invalidity in the early stage of his career.
Fourthly - Payment of deferred pay in a lump sum on retirement may lead to an unwise or unfortunate investment resulting in the loss of the retirement benefit.
Fifthly - Now that comparable ranks in each service, receive generally the same rates of pay and allowances, it is most desirable that a uniform system of retirement benefits for all services should be adopted.
An exhaustive investigation of all aspects of the problem was accordingly undertaken, and the recommendations which were subscribed to by representatives of the three service boards form the basis of the bill now before the House. The bill provides for a scale of pensions to officers rising from £360 per annum for majors, and equivalent ranks in the other services, up to a maximum of £S45 per annum for lieutenant-generals, and equivalent ranks in the other services, who serve until retirement at age 60. The maximum pension of £845 is also the maximum pension payable to a member of the Commonwealth Public Service.
The pension provision in the case of other ranks is based on twenty years’ service after the age of twenty, and the rates range from £95 per annum for able seaman, private or aircraftman, 1st class, to £155 per annum for a chief artificer, warrant officer 1. (Army) or warrant officer (Air). For service beyond twenty years, the annual rate of pension increases by £6 to £8 for each additional year of completed service. Provision is also made in the bill for the payment of a half pension to the widow, and allowances to the children, on lines similar to those laid down in the Commonwealth Superannuation Act 1947. After retirement of the member, the rate of widows’ pension is related to the pension previously payable to the ex-member.
The existing deferred pay and superannuation schemes cover only permanent members of the forces. This bill, as mentioned earlier, extends pension benefits to personnel on long-term engagements. Those who do not serve for a sufficient period to qualify for a pension will be entitled to a refund of their contributions if their period of service is less than ten years, although throughout this period they will be covered against death or invalidity.
Where the term of service is in excess of ten years, but less than twenty years, the member will be entitled to a refund of his contribution, plus a gratuity equal to one and a half times the amount he has contributed. Provision has been made for certain officers who, because of their late age on entry, cannot complete twenty years’ service for pension before reaching the retiring age for the rank held, to receive a pension on a reduced scale after the completion of fifteen years’ service.
Naval, Army and Air Force cadets, and all personnel under the age of eighteen years, will be covered by the scheme, but will not be required to contribute to the fund, until attaining the age of eighteen years. They will not be pensionable until reaching the- age of 40 years.
The existing deferred pay entitlements of Naval and Air Force members presented particularly difficult problems. These have been met by granting these members the option to become contributors to the Defence Forces Retirement Fund, or, alternatively, to retain their existing rights. The deferred pay of those members who elect to become contributors to the fund will be transferred to the new fund to be established under this act, and the amount so transferred will be used to reduce their future contributions for pension entitlement. Army personnel, who are contributors under the Commonwealth Superannuation Act 1922-1948, will be transferred to the new defence forces retirement scheme on the same terms and conditions as regard benefits and contributions as those to which they are entitled under the Superannuation Act. The reserve values held on their behalf will be transferred from the Superannuation Fund to the new fund, and will he available to meet part of the cost of the benefits they will ultimately receive. The contributions of members of the services will be precisely the same as in the case of the Commonwealth Public Service, and relate to a member’s rate of pay, and the age at which he becomes a contributor or obtains pay increases.
To finance a scale of pensions such as is proposed for early retirements in the defence forces will entail a much greater government contribution than in the case of the Commonwealth Public Service superannuation scheme, where retirements occur at age 60 or 65. The subsidy under the Superannuation Fund, namely, 60 per cent, of the cost of pensions, is inadequate for the retirement fund. On the average, because of early retirement benefits, the Commonwealth will have to pay much more than 60 per cent., but because of the impossibility of forecasting retirement rates, no precise statement can be made of what the percentage is likely to be. The Commonwealth undertakes to meet the deficiency between the value of benefits payable and the accumulated value of the members’ contributions. The method followed i3 similar to that under the Superannuation Fund. The Commonwealth meets its liability in respect of each payment of pension or gratuity as it arises.
No precise information is at present available as to the ultimate cost of the defence forces retirement scheme, but, based on the present approved strength of the forces, it is estimated that the annual commitment may reach £2,000,000 in fifteen years’ time, and increase comparatively slowly thereafter. This commitment is much in excess of the present liability of the Commonwealth in respect of deferred pay and superannuation for the forces.
Provision is made in the bill for the establishment of a defence forces retirement fund, to be administered by a board comprised of the president of the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, the Commonwealth Actuary, a representative of the Treasury, and one from each of the three services. The nomination of the representatives of the three services will be by the relative service boards and their appointment will be subject to approval by the service Minister. They will hold office for a term of two years.
The bill provides for the control and investment of the fund under the direction of the board along lines similar to those provided in the Commonwealth Superannuation Act 1947. It also provides that the fund shall be audited by the Commonwealth Auditor-General ; that it shall be valued by the Commonwealth Actuary every five years, and thai the annual report ‘of the board’s operations and a statement of accounts shall be published.
In view of the varied conditions of service in Navy, Army and Air Force many of which are of long standing, and the impracticability of covering in a bill such as this every possible class of case, a general provision has been inserted in clause 87 enabling regulations to be made to deal with isolated and unusual cases and, incidentally, any minor changes or variations which may take place in the course of the adjustment of the services to uniform conditions of service.
The Government regards the scheme embodied in this bill, along with the pay code established last year, as an essential part of its programme for building up effective defence forces for Australia. The scheme puts upon a modern basis one important phase of the services on their personnel side. If it is true that the effectiveness of a defence system depends ultimately upon the way it is officered and manned, then a measure such as this, which seeks to improve the standard of defence personnel and the conditions of their service, becomes a vital link in the national system of security.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryan) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for the payment of allowances to certain transferred officers.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Holloway do prepareand bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this short bill is to grant an allowance to persons in receipt of, or entitled to, pensions under section 84 of the Constitution. That section preserved to any former State officer transferred with his department to the Commonwealth all his existing rights and privileges, and entitled him to retire on a pension which would be permitted by the law of the State if his service with the Commonwealth were a continuation of his service with the State.
The majority of officers and pensioners at present concerned in. this measure were transferred to the Commonwealth Service from the State of Western Australia. Their right to pensions arises from the Western Australian Superannuation Act, 1871. These pensions are on a more liberal basis than those under the Commonwealth Superannuation Act, and are payable without contribution by the officers. The Western Australian Parliament recently passed legislation increasing by 25 per cent., as from the 1st February, 1948, pensions payable under the 1871 act, which, together with the 25 per cent. increase, did not exceed £360 per annum. This bill provides for the granting of an annual allowance on a similar basis to persons transferred from all States of the Commonwealth, and in receipt of, or entitled to, pensions under section 84 of the Constitution. The provision will operate from the 1st February last.
Debate (on motion by Mr. McBride) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 14th April (vide page 843), on motion by Mr. chifley-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill was introduced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who has a delightfully matter-of-fact approach to what are sometimes the most important and consequential matters. For example, when he introduced a very important measure providing for the nationalization of banking, he announced it to a startled Commonwealth in a statement consisting of 28 words. Therefore, when the Prime Minister makes a second-reading speech introducing a seemingly trivial provision, it is necessary to examine the matter carefully to see just where the catch is. I assure honorable members that, however innocuous this measure may appear to be they will find it meaty enough if they delve beneath the surface. That is not apparent from the speech of the right honorable gentleman. I am certain that most honorable members who have taken the trouble to examine his speech will have come to the conclusion that this is in the nature of a purely machinery measure, which is merely designed to carry on something already established by governments other than Labour governments. This is not an easy bill to follow because it is one of those measures which set out to amend the principal act. Consequently, unless honorable members have by them, or have had the forethought to study, the principal act, they will have some difficulties in following the arguments which I propose to address to them to-night. Although the bill seeks to amend the principal act, and therefore in one sense is a measure the provisions of which might be examined more minutely when we reach the committee stage, certain important principles are raised by it, some of which are highly controversial, and I therefore intend to invite the House to examine them with me at this stage. Perhaps it would be of assistance if I gave something of the background of the legislation now before us. The legislation, affecting the Department of Supply and Development, has not had a very long life. Most honorable members were present when it was originally introduced. They will recall that early in 1939, because of the uncertainty cf world events, Australia had decided to expand very considerably its provision for defence. We had in that year a budgetary provision for what was a record peace-time expenditure upon defence. If my memory serves mc aright, the rate of expenditure was approximately three times the’ quantum of the budgetary provision for defence in the previous year. It seemed to us that the existing machinery would be overtaxed if it had to cope with that very substantially increased expenditure. At that time there was under the general control of the Department of Defence what now constitute seven or eight government departments. For instance, at that time the Def ence Department and the defence secretariat had to deal with subject-matters which now come within the administrative control of the departments of the Army, Air, Navy, Munitions, Aircraft Production and Supply, and also the general considerations which the defence secretariat proper now exercises through the Minister for Defence. At the time of which I speak, immediately prior to the introduction to the principal act sought to be amended by this bill, only one department controlled these activities. It occurred to the Government that if it were to engage on this vastly increased expenditure, it would be necessary to establish additional administrative machinery. The then honorable member for Corio, Mr. E. G. Casey, was appointed as Minister of the department, and, as the junior Minister of the Cabinet, it fell to my lot to be his assist ant. We had to embark on the process of separating from the Defence Department certain of its activities and at the same time establish otherauthorities which we felt would be necessary if the defence programme were to be fully implemented. When the tremendous pressures of war were subsequently exerted upon us, we had also to establish the departments of Munitions, Aircraft Production and Shipping, and later the Department of Labour and National Service, and to a certain degree the Department of War Organization of Industry. When the legislation was introduced it was recognized by the Menzies Government, and certainly by Mr. Casey,, who presented it to the Parliament, as being of an emergency character. We asked Parliament to confer upon the Government, powers, which, in ordinary times, we would not have expected to receive. We asked for very considerable power to make regulations, and for power to conduct activities under government auspices which, in normal times,, would very largely be left to the resources of private industry. The emergency character of the legislation was stamped upon it in certain important provisions. For example, a time limit of five years was placed upon the operation of the act. Although certain functions were set out in the legislation, they were not to be exercised until after they had been examined and approved by the GovernorGeneral in Council. There was a close definition of the matters which should properly come within the scope of the department. That was the state of affairs which existed when the act was first introduced. The only really substantial amendment made since that time was made by the Labour Government in 1944 when, the five-year period of operation being about to elapse, it eliminated the limiting provision and provided that the act should continue to operate until it was terminated by proclamation. That is something of the background of the legislation. I emphasize it because members on this side of the House are often chided and, indeed, attacked, by Government members on the ground that this country was virtually unprepared at the outbreak of the war. If honorable members will examine the circumstances and the facts which. I just outlined, they will agree that almost the entire administrative machinery necessary for the conduct of the war had been laid down before the Labour Government took office, and that it. was not altered in any material particular by the Labour Government when it subsequently, assumed office. Indeed I recall that the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) - I am glad he is in the House because he will confirm what I have to say - referring to the production of munitions and the development of industry, said that -what had been done at that time was - I believe I quote his actual words - “ a miracle of achievement “. Far from the country being unprepared, as has been suggested, extensive administrative machinery was laid down in preparation for war. It is only fair to remind Government members and supporters, however, that far from that original legislation receiving the wholehearted support of members of the then Labour Opposition it was criticized very closely and finally voted against at the third-reading stage of the bill. The then Opposition criticized in particular the provisions which dealt with the control which we sought to exercise over the profits of those supplying government orders. Looking back over the records of those years, I believe that Australian industry can very properly take pride, not only in its wonderful achievements in the production of the munitions of war, which virtually turned Australia into the arsenal of the Pacific, but also in the manner in which it respected the policy of the Government with regard to the limitation of profits. It is true that profits were made at that time as should be expected from the employment of labour. I invite any Government member to challenge the statement that in no other country - I do not exclude Great Britain, and certainly not the United States of America - did the Government receive fairer or more just treatment from those to whom it entrusted its orders than did the Australian Government at that time. It very properly enlisted in a voluntary capacity the services of some of its industrial leaders and was generous enough to acknowledge the very great debt which Australia owed to them. I mention these matters merely by way of background.
– The workers had something to do with it.
– Yes. I do not think that any honorable member opposite would charge me with having failed to acknowledge from time to time our debt to the workers. Though there were some blemishes on our record we have no occasion to dwell upon them now. By and large, the Australian people pulled their weight and recorded a magnificent achievement in the factories and in the field, certainly in the field of war itself. That has been acknowledged by members on both sides of’ the House on many occasions.
The speech of the Prime Minister would give unthinking people the impression that all that the Government seeks to do in this measure is to carry into the period of peace some useful machinery which had been established in time of war. The right honorable gentleman set out briefly the circumstances to which I have just referred and then went on to say that the principal amendment to be made in the principal act was the substitution of “ war materiel “ - I emphasize the French spelling of the word and all it connotes* - for “ munitions “ wherever the latter occurs. I ask honorable members to examine the bill closely. In order to do so it is necessary to read the principal act and to compare the bill with that act. In the first instance, the time limit to which I have referred is to be omitted altogether. Far from this now being emergency legislation, with a limited period of life, hedged around with all sorts of restrictions to ensure that there would be no doubt about the authority of the department, the Government now brings, a bill down and says, “ The administrative set up of this department is to be a permanent institution “. In dealing with that aspect I contrast the attitude of the Government now, with that of honorable members opposite when the original bill was introduced and when, the national security legislation, a sort of twin brother to it, was before us. At that time very great emphasis was laid by the then Leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. Curtin, upon the emergency character of the legislation, and upon the very powerful forces which, were set in train by it. It was his desire that the National Security Act, for example, should be reviewed every twelve months. He was not at all satisfied with the provision which limited its life to the period of the war and twelve months thereafter. He wanted it to be reviewed every twelve months. He pointed out that the legislation gave the Government very wide powers to make regulations. It was able to impose its authority on the commercial and domestic lives of the people on a scale never previously known. He considered that safeguards should exist. We provided safeguards which, we believed, would protect the position so far as it lay within our capacity to do so, while carrying out a full-blooded war effort. But it is noteworthy that in this new legislation and during a period of peace, the Government has removed the time limit and shown that it has adopted a very different attitude of mind from that displayed by the late Mr. Curtin when, as Leader of the Opposition, he criticized the original legislation.
I come now to the widening of the definition of “ munitions “ in the principal act. The definition of “ munitions “ was very wide, but it was not sufficiently wide for this Government, which has substituted the words “ war materiel “. What do those words mean ? In this matter, we are assisted by a rather unusual display of frankness on the part of the Prime Minister, because this is how he defined the words -
The expression has a much wider meaning than “ munitions “ and is so used in the United Kingdom and United States forces, and may be defined-
I invite the attention of the House to those words - as including everything used in war except the personnel.
We know that modern warfare is all-in or total war. When we talk about “ everything used in war “, we think not merely of the equipment which the troops take into the front line but also the feeding, clothing and servicing of hundreds of thousands of men and women. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the words “ everything used in war “ insofar as they relate to the troops, may be taken as being so wide as to include almost anything that one can imagine from ice cream to motion-picture films, because all those things at one time or another were, in effect, subject to government requisitioning and ordering during World War II. So, we see that it would be very difficult for any one to place a practical limit upon what the words “ war materiel “ mean to-day. Therefore, we are bound to examine this provision rather closely. Why does the Government, which found the word “ munitions “ to be adequate to carry it through a total war on a scale never known before, now turn round, in time of peace, and say, “Let us have a much wider definition”. I find that “ war materiel “ means -
Armaments, weapons (including long-range weapons), ammunition, engines, magazines, aircraft, vehicles-
No qualification is placed on the kind of vehicle. Under this legislation the Government could manufacture motor cars, motor scooters, cycles and anything which it chose to regard as a vehicle necessary for war.
– It would include trams and trains.
– That is so. I notice also that merchant ships are included in the definition. That is most important, and I shall devote some time to this matter after I have read the exact wording of the definition. It continues - merchant ships and other marine craft- “ Other marine craft “ is as wide as the ocean. The definition continues - equipment, supplies-
No restriction is placed on the word “ equipment “ or “ supplies “. The definition continues - baggage and other things needed in war-
The definition does not say whether these “ other things “ are needed in war by the troops or by the civilian population. The definition continues - and includes any goods, components, parts, accessories or plant necessary for, or incidental to, the testing, development, production or supply of any of those things.
It is unlikely that even in the course of this debate we shall be told who drafted the language of this amending bill, but
I have a strong suspicion that the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) had a hand in it, and saw the possibilities associated with this legislation, linked with the declared objectives of the Australian Labour party. By the stretching of this definition of “ war materiel “, there is scarcely any major project of a productive kind or any socialist measure which this Government could not turn its hand to in peace-time, and claim that it was being done in the interests of the defence programme of this country.
– The honorable member is drawing on his imagination.
– If the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) believes that I am drawing on my imagination, perhaps he will explain why all these things are included in the definition. However, I shall examine that aspect in detail later. In these matters, the Government employs two techniques in order to further its socialist objective. It employs the open blatant technique - the sledge-hammer technique - such as we saw with the attempt to nationalize banking and interstate airlines. It also employs the technique of socialism by stealth. Examples oi this are provided by the uniform income tax and the rents and prices referendum. The present proposal is a further instalment of socialism ‘ by stealth as practised by the Chifley Government.
– Is the honorable member opposed to uniform taxation?
– The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) cannot drag that smelly red-herring across my trail. My views on uniform taxation have been clearly expressed in this House.
– The honorable member is in favour of it.
– The Minister is at liberty to quote my views in extenso whenever he pleases, either in this chamber or on the public platform.
– Order ! Perhaps the honorable member will now return to the bill.
– Returning to the definition clause, I shall refer briefly to “ merchant ships “,. because I consider that this is a useful illustration of the point I am making. In this legislation, the Govern ment does not include “ merchant ships “ merely within the definition of “war materiel”. In clause 16, power is taken in connexion with - the building, repair and maintenance of merchant ships, and the building, extension, operation, repair and maintenance of shipyards, dry docking and repair facilities for merchant ships.
What does the Minister say about this extremely important innovation? There have been times in the history of Australia when a government which put forward a proposal to engage in the construction of merchant ships, recognized it as being of sufficient importance to warrant the introduction of special legislation. The Parliament would be informed of where the ships were to be constructed, the estimated outlay on the establishment, and the programme envisaged and, generally, it would be given a complete picture of the project. . If these words mean anything, they must mean that the Government has in mind a plan for the construction of merchant ships in this country under governmental control, supervision and “ auspices, at a cost of some millions of pounds. What kind of treatment does this project receive in the Prime Minister’s speech on this second reading of the bill? The only reference to the subject is as follows: -
The general organization of the department contemplates that there shall be boards responsible for the management and administration of the following four main groups of undertakings: - Munitions production, including arms and ammunition factories; aircraft production factories : long-range weapons research and experimental establishment; ship construction and repairs.
This matter is worthy of emphasis, because in Australia, in recent years we have been constructing merchant ships, and the industry is very soundly based. I do not know whether I have a complete picture of the industry; I have not had the time to attempt to obtain it ; but I know that during World War II. the firm of Evans Deakin and Company Limited in Queensland constructed the River “ type of ships and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Whyalla constructed the “ Iron “ series. In addition extensive ship construction took place at Cockatoo Island in New South Wales.
– And also at Mort’s Dock.
– Yes. Therefore, this Parliament is entitled to more detailed information from the Prime Minister when he proposes this important expansion of Commonwealth activities than the few words which are almost lost in his short second-reading speech. The Prime Minister, when replying to this debate, should deal with this matter in greater detail. I assure him that in committee he will hear a good deal more from some honorable members on this side of the chamber unless our requests for information are satisfied.
My remarks about “ merchant shipping” apply to this definition at large. It is couched in the widest possible terms, and it would be difficult to put any effective limit to it. We have before us some evidence of the degree to which the Government, even at the present time, is utilizing Commonwealth factories, set up for munitions production, to supply goods to non-governmental purchasers. Towards the end of March or early in April, I placed a question on the notice-paper in relation to this matter and received a detailed reply from the Minister for Defence, who, in this chamber, represents the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong). This reply appears in .Hansard of the 8th April on pages 776 and 777.
– The honorable member will not be in order in quoting from Hansard of the current session.
– -I shall quote the details of the Minister’s reply, and not from a speech which he made in a debate. I asked -
What government munition factories, if any, arc manufacturing goods for sale to nongovernmental purchasers ?
The reply was as follows: -
Seven factories, namely - Ammunition Factory, Footscray; Ordinance Factory, Maribyrnong; Ordnance Factory, Bendigo; Ordnance Factory, Echuca; Explosives Factory, Maribyrnong; Ammunition Factory, Finsbury, South Australia; Small Arms Factory, Lithgow.
An idea of the value of the goods supplied to non-governmental purchasers, quite apart from goods these factories made for government use, may be gained from the following details given in the answer : -
The value selling price commercial production in munitions factories for the year ended the 31st December, 1947, was as follows: - Ammunition Factory, Footscray, £441,000; Ammunition Factory, Finsbury, £430,000; Explosives Factory, Maribyrnong, £28,000; Ordnance Factory, Maribyrnong, £314.000; Ordnance Factory, Bendigo, £06,000; Ordnance Factory, Echuca, £101,000; Small Arms Factorv, ‘Lithgow, £328,000. Total, £1,738,000.
I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, as one who has some knowledge of industry, that such activity is within the realm of big business. Not many manufacturing organizations in Australia have an annua] turnover of nearly £2,000,000.
– The honorable member would like the machinery in the factories to be rusting.
– No. The Parliament is entitled to much more from the Government than a two-page speech by the Prime Minister purporting to explain an innocuous machinery measure, when what is in fact proposed is’ permanent legislation granting more sweeping powers in the matter of government manufacture and production than have been known before in this country. The measure has been introduced almost covertly, as if it were something to be slipped through without the Parliament knowing very much about it. The Government cannot get away with that. The House will require a fuller and clearer explanation of the programme the Government has in mind. It is not as though the Government had told the Parliament from time to time that it regarded the international situation as being so grave that it is necessary rapidly to expand government production for war purposes. On the contrary, the Minister for External Affairs continually assures the House that the only country that seems likely to be able to wage an aggressive war within any measurable distance of time is actuated by the most peaceful motives in what it is doing and is merely concerned with its own security. If we are to have this wide expansion of activity, we should at least know why it is being proposed.
I turn now to another aspect of the legislation. As I mentioned earlier, when the government of which I was a member brought in the principal act it took care, because it recognized, as I cannot emphasize too often, that it was of an emergency character, that too much authority and liberty should not be permitted to the Minister controlling the department or to the department itself. Section 5 of the principal act sets out the matters to be administered by the department. The opening words of the section are -
The matters to be administered by the department shall be matters relating . . .
Then a list of these matters is given. Sub-section 1 (a) of that section refers to “ the provision or supply of munitions “. It is quite clear that it is to govern very largely what appears thereafter. The principal act provides that the matters to be administered by the department “ shall be “ certain matters, but in this bill the word “ be “ is proposed to be struck out and the word “ include “ substituted. In other words, while the principal act limited the matters with which the department should deal, in this bill there is no such limitation. The matters set out in this clause of the bill “shall include” what the department may do. Under the provisions of the principal act we were able to get through a terrible and exacting war, but now, in a time of peace, the Government wants to give this department even wider powers than it had during the war.
– Another blank cheque.
– Another blank cheque, as the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) very properly comments. Sub-section 2 of section 5 of the principal act provides that the Governor-General, which is merely a polite euphemism for the Cabinet - may from time to time determine the extent to which, or the conditions upon which, any of the matters specified in that section may be administered by the department. In other words, before the department itself can do anything the Cabinet has to decide that it should deal with those matters. This amending legislation sweeps that provision aside, and all the power left to the Cabinet is to add to or vary the matters that may be dealt with. In other words, the department has a blank cheque to deal with all the items set out in this very important section.
An examination of the other amendments reveals instance after instance where limiting words are proposed to be deleted and extending words inserted in their stead. The House will have an opportunity to examine those in more detail in the committee stage.
I turn now to what I regard as a very important aspect of the legislation. The Prime Minister, in his second-reading speech, indicated that a good deal of work will be done by this department in connexion with the rocket range and kindred secret projects. Special reference was made by the right honorable gentleman to the provisions made to ensure secrecy. He said -
Provision is also being made for secrecy on the part of persons employed upon the operations, and for the steps necessary to prevent entry of unauthorized persons upon secret defence undertakings and for search of suspected persons in such areas, particularly in respect of dangerous inflammable material or explosive substances.
I offer no criticism of that so far as it goes. I recognize that provisions of that kind are essential if these highly important technical processes are to be kept for the information only of the service authorities and the governments that are directly interested. There is one remarkable omission from the secrecy provisions, which the Opposition feels bound to impress upon the Government and the country. There is no reference in this legislation to the action to be taken to screen- those persons who are already in these establishments and who may be suspect because of their known associations or views. I refer to those people who have openly declared themselves to be members of the Communist party or Communist sympathizers. I know from past experience that the Government is inclined to underrate this menace. It was not very long ago that the Prime Minister dismissed references to communism in this country as a “ bogy “. He has not used that word for some time. Ever since the Attorney-General made the very clear statements that he did make in relation to the rocket range project and the attempt to hinder work there by members of the Communist party, referring to what they were doing as being done in the interests of a foreign power, there has been no suggestion that this is merely a bogy. The Government tries to “ play down “ the Communist menace in Australia by saying that the Communist party, according to the last figures, has a membership of only 16,000. I remind the House that at the time of the outbreak of the revolution in Russia in 1917, when the total population of the Russian Empire was about 1S0,000,000, there were only 23,600 Communists in Russia. That statement was contained in an official booklet issued by Intourist in Moscow in. the 1930’s. To-day the Government, faced with the statement by the Attorney-General, which the right honorable gentleman apparently accepts, that there are 16,000 active members of the Communist party in Australia, shows every sign of underrating the Communist menace. Whatever action the Parliament may feel should be taken generally on this issue, it cannot ignore what should be clone in relation to these establishments and activities. A question was asked today by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) regarding an employee, of whom the honorable gentle- man gave details, in one government factory. Recently I brought to the notice of the Attorney-General certain facts in relation to employees in one of our naval dockyards in which it was claimed by my informant that Communist workers were engaged. A trade union official recently announced at a trade union conference that in the Postal Department there were Communist cells able to interfere with communications. There is no doubt that scattered throughout these establishments there are people, some of whom have openly declared themselves to be active members of the Communist party, who have perhaps been planted in those establishments to carry out such mischief as they can if the need arises. If merchant ships are to be constructed and moved about for trials members of the Seamen’s Union will be employed. It is no secret that Mr. Elliott, the secretary of that union, is a declared Communist. The Opposition suggests to the Government, and so far as it lies within its power insists, that appropriate provisions be inserted in this legislation authorizing the head of the department to remove from hi3 department or from establishments that will be engaged on war producwork persons whom he, on information that he considers to be adequate, believes to be members of the Communist party or genuine Communist sympathizers.
– That would be a fine sort of Gestapo to set up !
– The Minister did not permit me to conclude what I wish to say on that matter. I did not suggest that it should be left entirely in the hands of the department. The Opposition is prepared to accept the proposition that any person so removed shall have the right of appeal to the Public Service Board. The onus would then be thrown upon the departmental officer dismissing a person to establish that there were reasonable grounds for doing so. Without having to look very far, the Government could find in these establishments people whose presence there in the conditions prevailing to-day is a menace to the security of Australia. Bearing in mind all that was revealed by the investigations of the Canadian royal commission into espionage in Canada and the spy trials there, we should be alert and vigilant to see that that sort of thing does not happen in Australia and that where it can be prevented now it shall be prevented. In the . committee stage the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) intends to propose an amendment designed to give effect to the proposal I have just made.
My final comment relates not so much to what the bill does as to what it fails to do. This is a bill for an act to amend the Supply and Development Act. When it is passed, as no doubt it will be, the principal act will still be the -Supply and Development Act. We have heard a great deal about supply in this legislation but very little about development. One would have thought that in a period of peace, particularly a peace that has just come to us after a. bitterly fought war which strained all our resources, the Government would be looking for means to develop the resources of this country in the best and most productive way and in the manner best calculated to augment the progress, prosperity and comfort of the people. Although in the early months of 1939 the Menzies Government was conscious of the over-riding urgency of the production of munitions, we made it clear that the purpose of the Supply and Development Act was not merely the production of munitions but also, in the words of the then Minister for Supply and Development, Mr. Casey, national planning. I thought that when this bill was brought down it would contain provisions which would enable the Government to undertake that phase of the work of the Department of Supply and Development. Associated with the production of munitions, a certain amount of development was carried out by the department while we were in office. Honorable members who represent country constituencies will, I am sure, be familiar with what we did to encourage the production of flax. That is an interesting illustration of the sort of thing that wise government planning can achieve. With the cutting off of our supplies of flax, which came largely from northern Europe, Australia had to try to make itself selfsufficient in that commodity, and plans with that objective were set in train through the Department of Supply and Development. Farmers were encouraged to grow flax.
– The Menzies Government made a great agreement, the annulment of which was recommended by - a committee appointed to consider the matter.
– I do not know what the honorable member is referring to. We got the flax industry going. We made contracts with those who were to grow the flax, and to-day Australia has already produced, not on a commercial scale, admittedly, its first linen cloth. I hope that soon we shall be producing on a commercial scale linen cloth for apparel and other domestic purposes. I have no need to enlarge on the subject of flax. I merely use it as an illustration of the kind of work I have in mind. It is proper to say however, since I am speaking as the representative of the Liberal party, that the party stands for the planned development of Australia, and that it is to legislation of this kind that we should nor mally look for provisions for such planning. It is often stated that because we are opposed to socialism and State ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange, we have no time at all for national planning. Nothing could be farther from the truth. That belief is the result of confused thought by the Government, which cannot distinguish between national planning and a controlled economy. We are opposed to the controlled economy that we are experiencing to-day, which is merely the mechanism for the enforcement of the Government’s socialistic objective. But we believe in national planning, and there is nothing inconsistent in that with our general policy of encouraging private enterprise, initiative and industry. In the United States of America, which places more emphasis on private industry than does any other country, there is a most comprehensive system of national planning. By an effective and proper use of planning instrumentalities in the state and administrative arenas, the United States of America has been able to plan and develop such wonderfully beneficial schemes as that of the Tennessee Valley Authority and others with which honorable members are familiar. We made it clear when we presented our policy to the country before the last general election that if returned to power we should constitute a ministry of development that would endeavour to give the maximum impetus to full production and expansion of our resources.
– The people did not believe you.
– At that time the country did not believe us. I say without intending any serious reflection on the Australian democracy, or the constituency at large, that I do not imagine that one person in 1,000 studied the policy that we put forward at the last general election, but the people will believe us and will study our policy next time because it is my conviction that the policy presented by the Leader of the Opposition at that time is not only the most constructive and comprehensive ever presented by an Australian political party leader, but it will also be the basis of the non-Labour policy in this country for many years. I make that final comment because I am deeply disappointed that the Government has ignored the developmental possibilities of legislation such as this. No reference was made to those possibilities in the Prime Minister’s second-reading speech. No part of the bill gives any indication that the Government has in mind any policy other than the policy of something for nothing, and of handouts to the people, under which money is taken from them with one hand and returned to themas a “ free “ benefit with the other. What we believe in and what I believe the Australian people, who, after all, have some independent spirit, backbone and . pioneering capacity left in them, want is a programme of development that will call forth their maximum capacity and will develop to the greatest possible degree the resources of the Commonwealth. I offer those criticisms to the Government because I consider that this bill embodies such important principles that we were entitled to a fuller explanation of it than has been given to us. I make no apology for having taken so long to deal with a subject that was dealt with so cursorily by the Prime Minister when he presented the bill to the House.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has dealt with the bill so exhaustively that there is little for me to add. He referredto all the main points, and I propose to underline one or two of them.
– There is no need for the honorable member to do so. The honorable member for Fawkner did his job well enough.
– I am not certain that the points made by the honorable member for Fawkner could penetrate the honorable gentleman’s head without further explantation of them. When the principal act was passed in 1939, the international horizon was clouded. The legislation was passed as an attempt to place our defences on a reasonable footing and to prepare for the war that appeared likely to break out. The international horizon to-day is not so clear as we should like it to be, and, naturally, the Government considers it necessary to amend the principal act in order to bring it into line with modern developments in the production of munitions, particularly guided weapons. The bill, however, is not so innocent as it appears to be, because it introduces a completely now principle. The act of 1939 provides in sub-section 1 of section 5-
The matters to be administered by the department shall be matters relating to arrangements for ascertaining costs and for the control; and limitation of profits in relation to the production of munitions, and, subject to the directions of the Governor-General and to the next succeeding sub-section -
the provision or supply of munitions
the manufacture or assembly of aircraft or parts thereof by the Commonwealth or any authority of the Commonwealth;
The act did not empower the Government to produce directly any munitions of war except in two respects. It was recognized that even limited powers; to be exercised under it should exist for only a limited period, for it was provided that it should continue in operation for only five years. That term was extended by the Labour Government in 1944, and the act has remained in force until now. It is clear that the government which introduced the original measure had no intention of entering into the ordinary manufacture of goods other than munitions, the word being restricted in its meaning, and aircraft. The main point made by the honorable member for Fawkner is that this bill amends the principal act in three important ways. First, it deletes the definition of “ factory” and substitutes “undertaking”, which is a much wider term. A factory is a place in which articles are manufactured. One does not talk about a factory turning out merchant ships. In other words, the scope of the measure is being greatly widened. Secondly, the term “ munitions “ is to be replaced by “ war materiel “, which, as the honorable member for Fawkner said, covers almost everything that one could think of, from nails to merchant ships. Thirdly, section 5 is to be amended by the substitution of the word “ include “ for the word “ be “ in the phrase “ The matters to be administered by the department shall be matters . . “ That will enable the Government to include in the powers of the
Department of Supply and Development anything that it wishes to include. Under the Constitution, the Government has no power to manufacture goods except those required for the defence of the Commonwealth, authority for which is given to it in the section relating to defence. Therefore, it is apparent to any one with even limited intelligence that the Government is trying to get into its hands power to engage in manufacture and trade. One of my colleagues spoke of what he called the sledge hammer methods of the Government in its effort to introduce socialism. He referred to the establishment of Australian National . Airlines Commission and to the even more notorious Banking Act. In the present instance, the Government is seeking to apply its policy of socialism by what might be called the infiltration method. Take, for example, the provision regarding merchant ships. I do not know what the policy of the Government is regarding shipbuilding, but there appeal’s to be no doubt that this- measure will empower it to embark upon shipbuilding, just as it may embark upon the manufacture of refrigerators or any other article. In the original act, there was a provision empowering the Government to engage in the manufacture of aircraft. That provision is to be exercised, for we know that the Government proposes to continue manufacturing aircraft, both military and civil. Does this Parliament intend to give such power to the Government? Are we going to authorize the Government to engage in manufacture in competition with private enterprise? If that is the intention of the Government, let it say so.
– The purpose of this bill is to perpetuate the powers which the Government enjoys under the Supply and Development Act 1939, which was a war-time measure having a currency of five years only. There is, however, no limit to the duration of the present legislation. This drastic measure may be employed in time of peace for the purpose of socializing industry. By a misuse of the defence power, the Government may defeat the provisions of the Constitution itself.
Members of the Opposition view with great suspicion any measures which the Government introduces, because we remember the assurance given by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in 1945, particularly in regard to banking, when he said that there was no suggestion that banks were to be nationalized. Nevertheless, he then knew that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had told the bank officers, as was stated in their journal only last week, that he would have preferred at that time to nationalize the banks, and that if the legislation of 1945 did not achieve all that he wished, he would introduce nationalization later. The Prime Minister introduced the present bill in a very short speech. His attitude might be likened to that of a mother who says to her child, “Now, my little boy, take this castor oil. It is beautifully concealed with orange juice. It will not make you sick; just swallow it clown “. The Prime Minister says to us, “ Just swallow this legislation ; it will not do you any harm “. As a matter of fact, however, it is charged with dynamite. The 1939 act armed the Government with very wide powers, but those proposed to be conferred by this measure are even wider, and there is no time limit to them for they may continue in operation indefinitely. We can understand that if the Government believed that war was approaching, it might be justified in seeking again such drastic power, but the Prime Minister has assured us that we are approaching an era of blessed peace which will last for the next fifteen or twenty years. I may be a doubting Thomas, but the Prime Minister has assured us that there is peace ahead, and that we need not fear war. If that is so, why has he introduced this drastic legislation? The Government must have some ulterior motive for seeking to prolong its war-time powers. In section 4 of the Supply and Development Act 1939, the following definition appears: - “ time of ‘ war “ means any time during which a state of war exists, and includes the time between the issue of a Proclamation of the existence of war or danger thereof and the issue of a Proclamation declaring that war or danger thereof declared in the prior Proclamation no longer exists.
It then defines “ war “ in the following terms : - “ war “ means any invasion or apprehended invasion of, or attack or apprehended attack on, the Commonwealth or any Territory of the Commonwealth by an enemy or armed force.
We know that technically a state of war may’ be held to exist until peace treaties have been signed with all the countries with which we were recently at war. Because the definition of war includes an apprehended invasion or attack, it is only necessary for the Government to say that it apprehends invasion or attack upon the Commonwealth or any of its territories to justify it keeping this drastic legislation in force indefinitely. An examination of the bill shows us how greatly the powers of the Government are to be increased by this legislation. The bill proposes to amend section 4 of the 1939 act by deleting the definitions of “ factory “ and “ munitions “, and by adding sections which define “ undertakings “ and “ war materiel “. In the 1939 act the word “ munitions “ is defined as follows: - “ munitions “ means armaments, arms and ammunition, and includes such equipment, machines, commodities, materials, supplies or stores of any kind, as are, in the opinion of the Governor-General, necessary for the purposes of defence.
In the act the word “ factory “ is stated to include an “ establishment “. The bill proposes to add two new sub-sections defining “ undertaking “ and “ war materiel “. Paragraph c of clause 5 provides that section 4 of the principal act shall be amended -
Paragraph d amends the section as follows : -
We know that in total war all goods used by the civil population in peace-time may become war materiel. Therefore, what the Prime Minister says is quite true: This bill covers everything required for the conduct of war except the men needed for the fighting forces and for the supply departments. The word “ undertaking “ can cover production of all kinds. Under that provision, the Government could set up factories to compete with any private enterprise. They could be used to smash private enterprise, just as the Government tried to use the banking legislation of 1945 to smash the private banks of Australia, and just as it attempted, by the establishment of interstate airways, to smash the private airline companies. Even though it was checked in its attempt by the decision of the High Court, it has persisted in its policy. The definition of war materiel covers everything produced in the Commonwealth. It includes, not only munitions of war, but also, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) pointed out, merchant ships also. In order that nothing may be missed, paragraph e provides that section 5 of the principal act shall be amended by -
add to or vary the matters to be administered by the department; and
This bill is, indeed, an example of the blank cheque about which the Prime Minister had so much to say in his policy speech. The people having signed the blank cheque, the Prime Minister now believes that he should be permitted to fill it in for any amount. This bill includes a provision designed to give the Government full control over the whole production of the Commonwealth. Section 9 of the principal act empowered thu department to control and limit profits in relation to the production of munitions. , Under this amending bill that control is extended to war materiel. This wider definition gives the Government power to fix prices in respect of every industry in the Commonwealth, including our primary industries. Irrespective of whether or not the Government’s referendum proposals in relation to rents and prices be carried, if this measure be passed the Government will be empowered to overcome the safeguards in the Constitution and to achieve in an underhand way the right to exercise powers which the people of Australia will undoubtedly refuse to grant it on the 29th May. Proposed new sub-section 2 (A) of section 5 provides that the GovernorGeneral may determine the extent to which, or the conditions upon which, any matter may be administered by the department. Thus, the department may administer any matter at all! Under that provision power is to be vested in the Governor-General - or, virtually in the Government - to control industry of all types, to direct labour by closing certain factories, and to direct producers as to what they shall grow. This bill will result in the creation of the perfect police state and is but another step in furtherance of Labour’s policy to control the means of production, distribution and exchange. Under the wide definition embodied in this bill it will be possible for the Government to socialize the whole fabric of Australian industry. This is a dangerous measure which should be fought to Ihe last ditch. Tt contains no provision limiting the time during which it is to operate and it is introduced at a period when we are not threatened with war. Section 6 of the principal act empowers the Government to make regulations under which it may obtain information in relation to industrial, commercial or other undertakings. Clause 7 of the bill seeks to amend that section by omitting the word “ undertakings “ and inserting in its stead the word “ activities “. This amendment will enable the Government to demand information from and to pry into the activities of any person. The activities of any person may be spied on and investigated by an all-powerful
Cheka which will virtually control the whole of the industry of the Commonwealth. Section 9 of the principal act reads -
The Governor-General may establish, maintain and operate, or arrange for the establishment, maintenance and operation of, factories for or in relation to the provision or supply of munitions.
By the substitution of the mere word “ undertakings “ for the words “ factories for or in relation to the provision or supply of munitions “, the Government proposes to assume control of all undertakings, irrespective of whether or not they are concerned with the manufacture of munitions. Under the wide definition of “war materiel” it could control any undertaking established in the Commonwealth. This clause will give the Government full opportunity to establish socialized co-operation in the socialist State about which the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) spoke recently at a meeting of the Labour party in Ballarat. This clause will give the Government the fullest power to implement Labour’s platform for the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) referred to the criticism of the original measure by the Labour Opposition when it was first introduced. If the original legislation could be criticized the proposal now before us could be criticized tenfold. The original bill was introduced at a time when war was imminent, a state of affairs which does not now exist. This bill widens the whole ambit of the powers vested in the Government under the principal act which it completely alters by perpetuating in time of peace what was purely a temporary war-time measure. It will enable the Government to pry into the activities of all businesses and individuals and to use such official information as it obtains to crush private enterprise, if it wishes to do so. It represents merely another attempt on the part of the Government to obtain powers which it does not possess under the Constitution and which it realizes the people will not grant to it. When an election is imminent the Labour party always plays down its socialization policy. With Labour firmly in the saddle the Government is now attempting to place the Prime Minister’s “light on the hill” - the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, an abjective which has been repeatedly endorsed by successive Labour conferences. Like a bloodhound sniffing at its quarry, the Government is out to socialize everything. Under the guise of a defence measure it has in reality brought down a bill designed to increase its powers to an extent never contemplated by and certainly not authorized by the people.
.- The purpose of this bill is to make drastic alterations to the principal act which was placed on the statute-hook in 1939. Unlike some other honorable members on this side of the House, I am not afraid of our munitions (factories being used for themanufacture of other than military equipment and war materiel. The munitions factories at Lithgow, Maribyrnong, Bendigo, Echuca and in other parts of the Commonwealth might well be employed in time of peace in the manufacture of civil goods so that, should war come upon us, the necessary machinery and trained personnel will be available to switch, over to the production of munitions. I believe, however, that no government has a right to establish a bureaucracy and use the money collected from the people by taxation for the maintenance of factories which compete with private enterprise under uneconomic conditions. The civil products of our munitions factories should be correctly costed so that they do not compete unfairly with the products of private enterprise. We are entitled to an assurance from the Government that our munitions factories will be allowed to compete with private enterprise only on a fair and just basis. I regret that clause 9 of the bill does not contain a provision to give security of tenure to the employees of the munitions factories who have served the Government faithfully and well for many years. Many of these employees left lucrative jobs at the outbreak of war and have been continuously employed in our munitions factories. I know some men who have been employed in the munitions establishments from six to fourteen years, but they are still regarded as only temporary employees. The Public Service Board is calling for applications to fill permanent positions in the munitions factories completely ignoring the rights of efficient men with wide experience who have already rendered long service to the Government. To-day we were informed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) that a decision had been made that a number of men who had been employed by his department for many years in a temporary capacity were to be made permanent. That practice should be followed in our munitions establishments. Why should permanent positions in those establishments be filled by outsiders from the State railways departments or the Postmaster-General’s Department? Why should the existing employees be the first to go should the Government decide upon, a policy of retrenchment? I appeal to* the Government to reconsider its decision! in relation to these men. To grant permanent status to those who have served! it faithfully and well over a long period of years is the very least the Government can do. It is an advantage for the Government to have these factories, because they will be a definite check on some of the great monopolies or near monopolies in this country. However, in order that the people of Australia may have confidence in the fairness of this Government and in the justice of thislegislation, there should be a proviso that the factories must compete with private enterprise only on fair and economic terms, and that the taxpayers’ money must not be used to bolster up inefficient organizations which could not possibly survive under normal competitive conditions.
.- Every honorable member will agree that,, having passed through a war of six years’ duration and having entered that struggle in a state of unpreparedness which caused the government of the day and the people great anxiety, we should not object now, or at any time, to the Government making proper preparations to enable the countryto enter a conflict in future in a much better condition of preparedness than on the last occasion. Consequently, I do not oppose the Government making the necessary preparations, including the operation of factories to provide equipment for the defence of Australia and other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations. However, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has pointed out, members of the Opposition have real doubts regarding the necessity for many of the amendments proposed in this bill.
I had the privilege of being Minister for Supply and Munitions during the early stages of World War II. - a period when the plans and a good deal of the foundation work for the whole of our munitions effort were laid. I am not concerned about the legal powers which the Government will take under this bill, although they are very real. After all, we may derive comfort from the fact that the bill will have to withstand a challenge in the High Court, should any person or organization consider that its provisions are ultra -vires the Constitution. During a war the defence powers of the Government are very wide, and I do not believe that they terminate abruptly on the cessation of hostilities, or lapse completely during a period of peace, when we should be making many of our defence preparations. Therefore, if the Government oversteps the bounds of its defence powers under the Constitution, I have no doubt that its actions will be challenged in the High Court.
As the Minister for Supply and Munitions during the early part of World War II., I had the privilege of seeing what was done, appreciating the achievements, and knowing many of the problems which arose at the time. Some of them, I believe, still exist. This evening I shall mention them, and I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) or the Minister for Defence (Mr.’ Dedman) will furnish information to enable me to gauge whether they are being solved. I remember vividly that in the early stages of World War II. we were drawing up plans for the expansion of munitions production, and we realized that trained personnel necessary to staff the new factories would be difficult to find. However, with modern methods which were developed before the outbreak of the war and accelerated during it, the personnel who were previously required to do a skilled job were no longer necessary. The Government of the day was able to make satisfactory agreements with the trade unions concerned regarding the introduction of dilutee labour. These dilution agreements enabled comparatively untrained men to do many of the jobs which only trained men had previously done. Unfortunately, one section of employees in Commonwealth factories in the eastern States - the toolmakers - would not enter into a dilution agreement. This section is well known to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). I well remember the conferences which were held in an endeavour to reach agreement.
– The union went a long way to meet the wishes of the government of the day.
– Days were spent in endeavouring to reach the basis of an agreement. The old idea of tool-making had been superseded by modern methods and machinery, and the representatives of the union admitted the changed circumstances. If my memory serves me correctly, they also admitted that SO per cent, of the tools which were previously made by skilled tool-makers could, under modern conditions, be made by process workers. We tried to secure an agreement with the union to allow us to use dilutee labour in government factories, but the organization refused to co-operate. When these lengthy negotiations failed, we intended to refer the matter to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The identical conditions which we asked these great protagonists of nationalization to accept in government factories were actually in operation in outside industry under awards of the Arbitration Court. When the Labour Government took office towards the end of 1941, it continued the negotiations with the union, and I believe that I am correct in saying that, even at the termination of the war, no agreement had been reached. Consequently, the government factories had to obtain a large precentage of their tools from outside industry, which made them under the identical conditions that tool-makers employed, in government factories refused to accept. I mention this matter, because it is most important. Whilst I am in favour of the
Government engaging in the manufacture of goods and equipment which are not made in outside industry or which private enterprise could not produce economically, I am anxious to see that the work is conducted on an economic and efficient basis.
Comments have been made about the manufacturing field which the Government will be able to enter under this bill. Shipbuilding was mentioned. I had the privilege of being the Minister who established shipbuilding in Australia, during World War II., and, naturally, [ am greatly interested in the progress of the industry. However, members of the Opposition are disappointed with some of the grave mistakes which have been committed, and the inefficiency which apparently prevails in the industry. Figures of relative costs have been quoted. During the war, and in the initial stages of the development of an industry, high costs are unavoidable, but now that Ave have had some years’ experience of shipbuilding, and the pressure of war has been removed, we should be able to construct ships on an economic and efficient basis. Therefore, I am disappointed to find that the advantages to be derived from the installation of modern equipment in ships constructed in Australia are completely nullified by the demands of the marine unions. For example, certain ships constructed in Australia were equipped with mechanical stokers. When those ships were commissioned, the union concerned demanded that the same number of men should bc employed in the stoke-holds as there would have been had the boilers been hand-fired. This Government, I believe, against the recommendation of competent authorities, meekly acquiesced, and allowed the initial number of stokers to serve in the stoke-holds. Obviously, actions of that sort discourage shipowners from expending additional money on the construction of efficient and uptodate vessels here.
I am particularly concerned with the way in which the government factories will operate. It is axiomatic that the Government should manufacture only those goods which are not being made or which cannot be made by outside industry. My experience has satisfied me that outside industry may be expected to produce the goods more efficiently than government-owned factories can do. Although I make that statement, I desire topay a warm tribute to the work which wasdone in Commonwealth factories, particularly in the initial stages of the war,, when I was Minister for Supply and Munitions. In season and out of season, the employees of those factories gave sterling service in speeding up the job, and producing our requirements. I have reason to believe that a great deal of that spirit has since disappeared, and that we cannot expect the same kind of efficiency in a factory owned by the Government as we can in a factory operated by private enterprise.
We should not be blind to the fact that the United States of America which supplied the main sinews of war and which is being asked to supply the main sinews of peace enthusiastically encourages private enterprise. However, I recognize that even in the United States of America certain activities had to be undertaken in government factories, but they were limited, wherever possible, to the manufacture of goods which were not or could not be made by private enterprise. This Government should follow that sound practice. If it does not, Australia will not have the supplies and equipment necessary for our defence, and many millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money will be wasted in a fruitless effort to nationalize the munitions industry. I agree entirely with the comments made about the legal technicalities of the bill. In my opinion, the powers which the Government is seeking are unnecessary. They could definitely be used to enable the Government to infiltrate private enterprise in this country. Having regard to the opinions that have been expressed by the Prime Minister and by other Ministers, and bearing in mind the recent speech made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) in which he assured the people that it is the policy of this Government to go on and on with the nationalization of the industries of this country, there are very real grounds for fearing the effect of this bill.
Mr. DEDMAN (Corio- Minister for Defence, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of
Scientific and Industrial Research) [10.16]. - in reply - I do not propose to speak for more than a few minutes in reply, because most of the matters that have been raised by honorable members opposite can be dealt with at the committee stage. I regret that I was not present when this bill was introduced, because it might have been appropriate that a bill to amend a measure introduced by the former honorable member for Corio should have been introduced by the present member for Corio. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) argued that this bill was but another step in what he ^alleged to be a programme of socialization. The honorable gentleman’s argument was complete sophistry, as he must have known. He is a lawyer by profession, and surely he realized that his argument was based on false premises. The honorable gentleman said that the substitution of the word “materiel” for the word “ munitions “ gave the Government power to undertake all sorts of activities which it would have been unable to undertake had the bill not been introduced. The honorable member knows perfectly well that, no matter what interpretation may be placed on the word “materiel “, unless it comes under the defence powers in the Constitution, it does not enable the Government to do anything at all. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) said this substitution would give the Government power to manufacture anything from nails to ships, and he ‘mentioned refrigerators specifically. The bill, if passed, will not give the Government power to manufacture any of those articles unless they are munitions of war. If it gives the Government permission to manufacture refrigerators, it can only be because such refrigerators can be termed “munitions of Avar “. If manufactured products, whether they be nails, ships, or refrigerators, are necessary for the prosecution of a war which may occur in the future - we hope it will not, but having regard to current world events we must be ready for it - it is essential that the Government should have these powers. This measure is not designed to implement a programme of socialization at all.
– The honorable gentleman said that about the Banking Act. Why does he not tell the truth?
– It is a measure designed to ensure that, should war overtake the world in the future, the Government will have the power to’ do the things that are necessary for the prosecution of that war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Title). .
.- This clause seeks to amend the title of the principal act by omitting the word “ munitions “ and inserting in its stead the words “ war materiel “. In his very brief speech, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) emphasized that there is no special significance in this alteration. The honorable gentleman in making a very brief speech followed the example of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in moving the second-reading of the bill. The right honorable gentleman then made a speech which was terse to the point of bluntness. If no special significance is to be attached to this alteration, why should it be made? The definition of “ munitions “ was sufficiently wide to meet the demands of the programme for the war that has just concluded. It is not sufficient merely to propose such an alteration. There should be an explanation of it. I follow the argument of the Minister for Defence quite clearly. It is that the Government can only exercise these powers under the general defence power given by the Constitution. It is clear from the language used by the Prime Minister in his second-reading speech that the right honorable gentleman regards the term “war materiel”, bearing in mind our experience in the war that has just concluded, as covering almost the entire range of items that are. required to-day for domestic purposes. During the recent war the most unexpected items were requisitioned to meet the needs of the services. When the American troops were in this country they required articles that normally were regarded as luxuries. Ice cream is an example of that. Does the right honorable gentleman now argue that, because ice cream was provided as an’ amenity or a luxury in the time of war, he can now stretch the defence power so as to enable the Government to construct an ice cream factory at the present time? Having regard to the language used in his secondreading speech, it seems that he does. If the word “ munitions “ were retained, I do not imagine that a court would say that items of that nature could properly be regarded as coming within the scope of government production. The committee should not be expected to agree to this clause without being given an adequate explanation of its purpose.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Definitions).
– I do not know for how long we shall have to press the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) before we obtain some satisfaction on this matter. The honorable gentleman refuses to give an explanation of why the term “ war materiel “ is used. Clause 5 defines “ war materiel “ in some detail, and states that it includes some items which, as I said in my second-reading speech, might properly be the subject of separate legislation. It includes merchant ships, and other clauses of the bill go on to show that the Government has in view - I do not know whether it has any definite project in mind,’ or whether it merely envisages it as a possibility - the building, repair and maintenance of merchant ships. If the Government has any programme in mind, the. committee is entitled to be told what it is and what expenditure is proposed. The committee should be told whether it is the intention to make use of the existing shipbuilding and repair companies, which have so successfully produced, ships to government order, or whether it is proposed to establish government undertakings for the construction of merchant vessels. These words have not been, put into the bill without some design, and the committee is entitled to know what that design is. I emphasized earlier that firms such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, Cockatoo Docks and Engineering ‘Company Proprietary Limited and Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company Limited were equipped to build and repair ships. If they are to have taken from them the orders that, judging by war-time experience, they might expect normally to be placed with them by the Government, where are they to go for other orders? But if it is the intention of the Government to place orders with them, what is the need for a definition of this kind in the bill? The subject-matter covered is so important that the committee should not be asked to agree to a sweeping power of this kind merely as something incidental to a definition in a supply and development bill. If the Government has such a programme, it should bring down special legislation to deal with it.
.- I was disappointed at the brief reply of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman). The honorable gentleman made no attempt to explain the matters that are agitating the minds of honorable members on this side of the committee, but he merely contradicted an assertion that this bill is a step towards the consummation of the socialistic ideals cf this Government. I believe that that is so. It seems to me that the Minister is afraid to make a lengthy explanatory speech for fear that it may be said of him, in the words of Shakespeare, “ Methinks he doth protest too much “.
– When I said that I would be brief, one honorable member opposite interjected, “Hear, hear!”
– The Minister dismissed the change from “ munitions “ to “ war materiel “ with an airy wave of his hand. He said that it does not mean anything at all, and certainly does not mean what is suggested by honorable members on this side of the committee. However, clause 5 contradicts the honorable gentleman’s statement. It reads -
Section four of the Principal Act is amended -
by adding at the end thereof the following definition: - “ ‘ war materiel ‘ “ means armaments, weapons, . . . ammunition, engines, magazines, aircraft, vehicles, merchant ships and other marine craft, equipment, supplies, baggage and other things needed in war and includes any goods, components, parts, accessories or plant necessary for, or incidental to, the testing, development, production, or supply of any of those things.
That covers the whole range of manufactures. Can the honorable gentleman specify anything that is required or used in peace that is not also required in modern warfare?
– Does the honorable member wish the country to be prepared for war or not?
– I do, but I do not wish to see socialization introduced under the guise of defence preparations. Members of the Opposition are just as eager a3 honorable members opposite to prepare for the defence of Australia. Is it the intention of the Government to proceed with the manufacture, in government establishments, of all the items referred to in clause 5 (d) ? If it is successful in obtaining a “yes” vote at the forthcoming referendum, it could harass private manufacturers and rely upon the taxpayers to pay for the losses incurred by inefficient government institutions. It could manufacture clothing, food and all the new munitions that may be needed in a future war. What does the Government intend to do, anyway ? Does it propose to go ahead now with the manufacture of things that it believes may be wanted ten years hence or does it merely want power to manufacture those things when the occasion arises? It may manufacture articles to-day that will be obsolete in six months’ time. We want to know whether the Government is going ahead with the construction of aircraft, merchant ships and other marine craft that may ‘be obsolete in ten, five or even two years’ time. We all know that present-day aircraft may be utterly obsolete soon with the development of jetpropulsion. Is the Government going ahead with the manufacture of Mustang aircraft, or does it only want power to manufacture its needs in an emergency? We want an answer to those questions, and unless we receive one we shall have to conclude that the Government intends to use the powers that it proposes for itself under this legislation allegedly for the defence of the Commonwealth to enter into all forms of industry in competition with private enterprise, using the taxpayer’s money to pay for its inefficiency while its competitors will have to submit to prices control. The committee and the country are entitled to a clearer definition of the intentions of the Government than the Minister for Defence has been pleased to supply so far.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) would have us believe that none of the powers proposed to be taken by the Government under this bill could be used except in conformity with the defence provisions of the Constitution. But what he has not told the committee is that the principal act defines “ time of war “ as follows : - “ Time of war “ means any time during which a state of war exists, and includes the time between the issue of a Proclamation of the existence of war or danger thereof and the issue of a Proclamation declaring that the war or danger thereof declared in the prior Proclamation no longer exists.
Behaving as he has previously behaved in this chamber, the Minister for Defence, who fully knows the position, has tried to hide from the Australian people exactly what he is aiming at. He knows that a state of war does exist and will exist until a proclamation is issued that it no longer exists or the treaties of peace have been signed, and that he can therefore do whatever he likes. Why is he not frank? Let him tell the people the truth and not misrepresent things.
– These powers do not apply only to a time of war. They can be operated at any period in a time of peace.
– Of course, and no limit is placed on the operation of the legislation. The Minister is afraid to place a limit on it. It is typical of the Communist method of operating a democratic constitution.
Honorable members opposite, who’ are only too willing to ride on the Communists’ backs, indicate their dissent from that statement, but it has been proved in country after country that the forms of democracy are used to implement the Communist method of government and eventually to turn the country into a Communist state. The widest possible powers are given to the Government by this legislation to be used, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has pointed out, without any reference to the defence power, because there is to be no limitation on the operation of the legislation and because a state of war still exists. Moreover, the Government may justify its exercise of these powers on the ground that it apprehends an attack on Australia in accordance with the definition of “ war “ in the principal act as meaning “ any invasion or apprehended invasion of, or attack or apprehended attack on, the Commonwealth or any Territory of the Commonwealth by an enemy or armed force “. The Minister for Defence should tell us exactly what is meant by “ war materiel “ , which appears to me to be a generic term covering practically everything needed in war. It may mean supplies of food and, consequently, the Government would have power to control the production and supply of primary products. The term could cover anything. Yet we have been given the shortest possible explanation by the Minister, who tells us neither what the term means nor what the Government intends to do. We are asked to present the Government with a blank cheque allowing it to do in secret what if is ashamed to do in public.
– I did not rise to speak on clause 3 in reference to the matter raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) because I realized that it could be dealt with more adequately under clause 5. It is true that “ war materiel “ has a wider meaning than has the word “ munitions “ in the principal act. The plain fact is that the experience of World War II. showed that the requirements of war are much wider in scope than they used to be. The interpretation of the word “ munitions “ may have been adequate to provide for all the requirements of Avars in years gone by, but it is no longer adequate to provide for the requirements of a war under modern conditions. It is, therefore, necessary for the Government to be prepared for any emergency and to have the power to provide for the requirements of the services in a war fought in modern circumstances. But that does not give to the Government the power to enter into the production of commodities that are normally needed only in peace-time. Ice cream factories were mentioned. If the Government set up and operated an ice cream factory in peace-time on the argument that ice cream might be necessary in time of war I am quite sure that the High Court would decide that that use of” the defence power was invalid. But if -the Government set up in peace-time a factory to produce certain kinds of equipment needed by the Army in war-time and, in order to keep the machinery in a state of proper repair so that it should be usable in war-time, used that factory for the manufacture of some peace-time article, the High Court, in my opinion, would decide that that was a valid use of the defence power. It depends entirely on the article concerned.
– And the circumstances.
– Yes. I repeat once more that the Government has no intention of using this measure to introduce nationalization and the socialization of industry. All that the Government wants to do is to make certain that if we do have to face another war it will have the necessary power to enter into the production of whatever is required to conduct a successful campaign. All that clause 5 does is define the articles that are required in the prosecution of war and enable the Government to make the necessary preparations for their production.
– What about merchant ships? That is what I am concerned about.
– I shall deal with merchant ships in a moment. In the United Kingdom there is a Department of Supply. There is also a comparable department in the United States of America. In that country, this very word materiel is used. In the United Kingdom, as here, the word is qualified by the use of the word “ war which precedes materiel. All the bill does is to give us authority in relation to matters affecting war materiel - not all material, as is the case in the United States of America.
– The United States of America has a different constitution.
– That is quite true, and I made that point earlier. It is impossible, by putting a definition of a word into a bill, to get power to do something which the Constitution forbids us to do. The Oxford English Dictionary defines materiel as follows : -
Stock in trade, available means, as distinguished from personnel.
Webster’s Dictionary gives this definition -
That which constitutes the materials, or instruments employed, in distinction from the personnel, or men; the baggage, munitions, provisions, etc., of an army.
The word is sufficient in itself to convey the intention of the legislation, and is used in that sense in the United States of America, but we have limited the interpretation of the word by preceding it with the qualifying word “war “.
– Has the Minister seen the definition in the Prime Minister’s speech?
– The Prime Minister did not give any definition. He merely explained in a generalway the purport of the measure.
– What is the significance of the use of the French word materiel rather than the English word “material “?
– In this, as in some other instances, there is not an English word which describes exactly what is meant. There is no one English word which can be interpreted to mean what is conveyed by the word materiel. The fact that the word materiel is used in the United States of America and also in the United Kingdom, the home of the English language, suggests that there is justification for its use in this clause.
– May I suggest that if the Government does not know the difference between the meanings of the two words, there is little justification for using the French word.
– I have given dictionary definitions. What more does the honorable member want?
– I confess that there is no clear distinction in my mind, even after hearing the dictionary definitions.
– I have quoted the dictionary definitions. If the honorable member sets herself up as an authority in opposition to the dictionaries, I cannot do any more to enlighten her. The bill provides that the Government may, when necessary, undertake ship building and ship repair work. The honorable member for Fawkner said that the Opposition should have an opportunity to discuss the Government’s plans in this regard.
– Has the Government a specific programme?
– In due course, a bill will be brought down setting out the Government’s programme in regard to shipbuilding. I give that assurance in reply to the question of the honorable member for Fawkner. During the debate on that bill, the honorable member will have an opportuity to discuss the Government’s proposals.
.- I appreciate that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has given us a little more information than was previously available. I do not question his bona fides when he says that the Government intends to bring down a bill dealing with its shipbuilding proposals. I said that a matter of such consequence ought to be the subject of special legislation. But I draw the attention of the committee to the detail which appears in this bill on the subject. It is not just a passing reference in a definition of shipbuilding. Paragraph bb of clause 16 reads as follows : -
The building, repair and maintenance of merchant ships and the building, extension, operation, repair and maintenance of shipyards, dry-docking and repair facilities for merchant ships;
If the Government intends to bring in separate legislation, why insert such detail in the present bill? It would appear that the Government has advanced its shipbuilding plans very considerably if it is in a position to give an assurance that legislation on the subject will be introduced. The Minister has made a significant admission. There are in this country, established shipbuilding firms, and there will be consternation among them when they hear of the Government’s intention, not because they have reason to fear straight-out com petition from the Government, but because they know that the Government will not have to pay the same regard to cost as they do, seeing that losses will be made good at the expense of the taxpayers. The Minister, having gone so far, might as well be completely frank, and tell us whether the plans of the Government have advanced to the stage where legislation has already been prepared.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Functions of department).
.-This clause really epitomizes the purpose of the bill. It proposes to amend section 5 of the original act which defines very precisely the powers of the Government in regard to supply. These powers are purely administrative, except in two respects. They include arrangements for ascertaining costs, the control and limitation of profits, the establishment or extension of industries for certain purposes, the co-ordination of surveys of Australia’s industrial capacity, and investigations into the supply of goods. The only two powers given to the Executive originally in relation to manufacture dealt with the provision or supply of munitions and the manufacture or assembly of aircraft and aircraft parts. Under this bill, as the Minister has admitted, the Government will have power to manufacture anything at all that comes under the defence power. That is a complete change of the law. The Minister says that the Government could not manufacture icecream, or perhaps pink icing, about which the honorable gentleman knows something, because such things are consumable, temporary goods which disappear like the dews of the morning. But what about barbed wire? That is a material of war which must be. manufactured long before Avar breaks out and in great quantities if it is to be of any use. The Government could manufacture a very wide range of articles under this power. Does it intend to proceed with the erection of factories to manufacture such goods? As the Minister has told us, a bill relating to shipping will be introduced to the Parliament soon. What about barbed wire, buckets, and the hundred and one articles used for war which must be manufactured in time of peace? I should like the Minister to give a categorical answer to my question.
.- I direct attention to three matters arising from this clause. In the first place, the clause will widen very considerably the functions of the Department of Supply and Development. Again I stress the fact that the original act stood the strain of the Avar from which we recently emerged. Therefore, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) should explain why the scope of the activities of the department is to be widened by inserting the words “ shall include “ in sub-section 1 of section 5 of the principal act in place of the words “shall be”. The words “ shall be “ limit the functions of the department. The insertion of the words “ shall include “ will greatly extend them. Paragraph e will enable the degree of supervision exercised by the Cabinet over the work of the department to be varied from time to time. The principal act contains a provision that Cabinet must determine the extent to which the functions of the department specified in section 5 are to be exercised. The amendment proposed in paragraph e will enable the department to determine those matters, and Cabinet will have only the - power to vary or add to its decisions. I have every respect for the officers of the Department of Supply and Development. They have created an efficient organization. Nevertheless, the Opposition considers that the Government should have responsibility for important, decisions of the kind described. The Minister ‘himself, in appropriate cases, should be subject to the supervision of his Cabinet colleagues. Consequently, he should explain why the Government has decided to make such a sweeping change in the act as to place extensive, powers in the hands of himself and his: departmental officers instead of leavingthem with the Cabinet. The clausealso provides that the amendments which will be effected by paragraphs a and e of sub-clause 1 shall come intooperation on the 6th April, 1948. Is. there any special reason why the 6th April has been selected?
Mr. DEDMAN (Corio- Minister for Defence, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of theCouncil for Scientific and Industrial’ question asked by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), I point out that the Government never has made barbed wire or buckets and does not intend to do so while private enterprise continues to supply them.
– I am glad to hear that.
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) wanted to know why the scope of the activities of the Department of Supply and Development is to be widened by inserting the words “ shall include “ in sub-section 1 of section 5 of the principal act in place of the words “ shall be “. It is not possible to be absolutely definite about the activities which a department of this kind must undertake in a total war such as we recently experienced and such as we may experience in the future. Therefore, we do not want to bind ourselves by using the words “ shall be “ in relation to certain definite things and activities. We want to be able to widen the scope of the department’s activities, if necessary, according to circumstances as they may arise in the future. There is not much substance in the criticism raised by the honorable member because, in fact, most departments of this character are set up by executive act; they are not created by enactments of the Parliament. For example, I refer to the creation during World War II. of the departments of Munitions, Labour and National Service, and War Organization of Industry. The scope of the activities of those departments never came before the Parliament for discussion. Therefore, I consider that the Government has shown a measure of frankness in permitting this matter to be debated in this chamber.
– Apparently the Minister begrudges the Parliament its right to debate and discuss anything!
– I am drawing a distinction between the conduct of the Government in bringing this matter before the Parliament and that of the Opposition which, when it was in power, did nothing of the kind.
– The Parliament originally created the Department of Supply.
– I am not talking about this department. I am merely pointing out that it was not really necessary to refer the scope of its activities to the Parliament. The Government could have done everything dealt with in the clause by executive act. In any case, uncertainty about the demands which may be made upon the department in any future emergency makes the term “ shall include “ preferable to the term “ shall be “. What was the third point raised by the honorable member for Fawkner ?
– Why is Cabinet’s right to determine the matters to be dealt with by the department being taken away from it?
– There is nothing in the original act about the Cabinet.
– There is a reference to the Governor-General.
– That is an entirely different matter. Action by the GovernorGeneral does not, in all instances, necessitate a Cabinet decision.
– If it does not mean a decision by the Cabinet, what does it mean?
– I have said that action by the Governor-General does not necessarily mean a Cabinet decision. Action by the Governor-General may, in fact, take place without any Cabinet decision at all. However, the members of the Government have such confidence in one another’s administration that they know that Ministers will not take any action of which Cabinet would not approve. The third point related to the date upon which the Prime Minister announced the setting up of the new Department of Supply and Development. The changeover was made from the then existing Department of Supply and Shipping, and Department of Munitions. It was decided that the Department of Munitions should be amalgamated with the Department of Supply, and become part of a new Department of Supply and Development, and that a separate Department of Shipping and Fuel be established.
Clause agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Dame Enid LYONS (Darwin) [il.3]. - I wish to discuss a matter which has considerable bearing upon the policy of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Although it might appear to be of purely local interest, I assure honorable members that it concerns many people throughout the State, and indeed, the Commonwealth. I refer to the need for the extension of telephone services to Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. Cradle Mountain is a national reserve and throughout the year is the centre of a great deal of tourist activity. The chalet at Cradle Mountain is 16 miles distant from the nearest telephone, and considerable inconvenience, and sometimes serious suffering - including, on one occasion, a death - have resulted from the lack of telephone communication. Last summer, a woman who was a member of a party of university students and others on a hiking tour through that area was bitten by a snake. She lived for 48 hours, but because of the lack of telephone communication, she was not able to get medical treatment which would almost certainly have saved her life. It may be of interest to honorable members if I read a letter written to the clerk of the municipality of Kentish by the mother of this woman -
Words can only very inadequately tell you how much I appreciated your sympathetic letter. I am more grateful still for your tribute to my loved one’s bravery. I was in Katoomba at the time of the tragedy, but many persons have told me that the deepest gloom fell over the town of Murwillumbah and the surrounding district when the fatal news was received.
If, as a result of my daughter’s death, telephone communication with these mountain chalets is arranged, I will be able to console myself that it was a fitting (but untimely) end to my daughter’s splendid career. She was highly respected in her profession and 1 received a very respectful letter of sympathy from the Federation of Chiropodists.
This mother is firmly convinced, as are the residents of that district, that the life of this woman could have been saved had telephone communication been provided there. The telephone for which the municipality of Kentish now asks would necessitate the construction of a telephone line for a distance of only 16 miles. I suggest that the line might well be extended’ along the whole route of the tourist track to Lake St. Clair. On the route of the proposed 16 miles ex tension there is one settlement known as Daisy Dell. Here, a sawmill employs many men. There are also many women and children who frequently need medical attention but who have to visit a centre some miles away in order to make telephone calls. I have pointed out on several other occasions that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been criticized because of the lack of expenditure in country districts except when contributions are forthcoming from those who would use the installations. A department which has such tremendous revenues as the Postmaster-General’s Department should extend its operations so that it can be regarded not as a taxing machine, as at present, but purely as a public utility. I earnestly commend to the sympathetic consideration of the Government this request for the provision of a telephone service to Cradle Mountain, which will serve the needs of not only the local residents but also those participating in hiking tours in that area.
.- On more than one occasion, I have brought to the notice of the House instances of wrong impressions being created among intending migrants about conditions in this country. Other honorable members have frequently done likewise. In reply, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has invariably said that the truth has been told to the persons concerned, and that nothing can be done. During the last month or so, many instances of misrepresentation have been brought to my notice. I propose to mention one of them to-night in order to show exactly how false impressions of Australian conditions are created in the ‘ minds of intending migrants. I cite the case of a British officer, a married man with two children, who until comparatively recently was serving in Ceylon. He contemplated migrating from England to Australia and read two publications, of which the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) is proud, Australia Anew and Facts About Australia. He was able,” as he thought, to form some impression as to conditions in Australia. He also had the advantage of certain conversations with the Australian Trade Commissioner, Mr. Frost. He inquired about the housing situation in Australia and was told that if he required only a small apartment or a flat he would not have a great deal of difficulty in obtaining one.
– Who told him that ?
– One of the officials of the Department of Immigration in Ceylon.
– The Department of Immigration has no officials in Ceylon.
– Then he must have been informed by someone in the Trade Commissioner’s office. He was also told that & party of 1,000 migrants which arrived in Western Australia had accommodation found for them by the authorities in Australia. He decided to accept his discharge in Ceylon and come to Australia. When he arrived in Western Australia the only accommodation which he could secure for himself and his family was at an hotel. For accommodation for himself, his wife and two children he had to pay £5 15s. a week, in addition to which, it cost him 15s. a day for meals for them, since the hotel tariff included no meals other than breakfast. He then endeavoured to find other accommodation, and went to the office of the Department of Immigration, where he interviewed Commonwealth and State officials, who were unable to do anything for him. Since then he has approached estate agents, advertised in newspapers, and communicated with the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the Red Cross and other bodies in an effort to obtain accommodation. When he found that accommodation was not available he inquired as to the possibility of building a home, but he was informed that a year would elapse before he could do so, and even then it was not certain that he would be able to obtain building materials. He inquired as to the possibility of obtaining a house under the State housing scheme, and learned that his application would not be considered for at least twelve months, and that even then he might not be able to obtain one. Finally, he leased a small summer shack for the winter months at Waterman’s Bay, some distance from Perth, where he is compelled to reside temporarily. This man, like many others who have come to Australia, is completely “ fed up “, and the state of affairs disclosed by his treatment is simply not good enough. We all know of the housing difficulties, and that even Australians experience the greatest difficulty in obtaining a small apartment. However, the real point of this man’s complaint is that he was the victim of false representations overseas by officials who described Australian conditions to bini. Undoubtedly, misrepresentation of that kind is going on, and if it continues it must do considerable harm to Australia, apart altogether .from the bitterness which it engenders in its victims. I trust that the Minister will put things right in this case, and ensure that intending immigrants are informed of the actual conditions obtaining in this country.
– I shall bring the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) to the notice of the Postmaster-General. However, I think that the honorable member somewhat overstated her case when she said that the post office should not be used “ as a taxing machine as at present, but purely as a public utility “. The Postmaster-General’s Department is not being used as a taxing machine; it is being used, and always has been used as a public utility, and it is of greater use as a public utility to the country now than it was when the political parties opposite were in power. The honorable member made a plea for the construction of a telephone line somewhere in her electorate, and she is, no doubt, endeavouring to advance the cause of those whom she represents. However, there are a lot of places in Australia which require telephone communications, and there are many places which are not yet connected with capital cities, or even with provincial towns. I assure the honorable member that the Postmaster.General is doing his utmost to provide facilities, and that any money which the Postal Department has in reserve is unexpended simply because the department cannot find man-power and materials to provide the services which it desires to provide.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) told us the story of a former British army officer who alleges that he was misled by some Australian official in Ceylon as to conditions obtaining in Australia. The Department of Immigration has no officers in Ceylon, and when I informed the honorable member of that fact by way of interjection, he replied that some one in the office of the Australian Commissioner, Mr. Frost, must have been responsible. I do not believe that, and, on the contrary, I think that the gentleman whose case the honorable member is pleading was informed of the actual conditions obtaining in Australia. I do not believe that the gentleman in question, or any one else, was informed that apartment houses could be obtained readily, or that accommodation was found for 1,000 migrants who arrived in this country. Migrants have been accommodated temporarily in a camp in Western Australia, and then sent on to the eastern States, but, so far as I am aware, no Australian official overseas has made the slightest attempt to create a false impression by deliberately misrepresenting the situation in Australia. Officers of the Department of Immigration overseas go to great pains to impress upon intending migrants that if they come to Australia and no accommodation can be provided for them by relatives or friends they will experience great difficulty in obtaining accommodation. The honorable member mentioned only one case. Although he said that there are many others, I have not heard of them. I remind the honorable gentleman that last year the Government brought 20,000 people to Australia, many of whom came by free and assisted passages, and went to live with their relatives and friends, where they are quite happy. Others who came “ under their own steam “ ignored the official advice tendered to them as to the housing difficulties in Australia. They took the risk, and when some of them, found that they were unwise in ignoring the official advice became disgruntled and blamed officials, the Government and every one else, excepting themselves, of course, for their discom forts. However, I have great sympathy with the gentleman mentioned by the honorable member and with all others who are unable to obtain accommodation. As the honorable member said, there are a great many Australians who are unable to obtain accommodation. The Government certainly does not desire to bring to Australia people who cannot be accommodated here. Such people simply aggravate the existing housing problems, and my comment applies to all migrants, British or otherwise. At the same time I feel confident that the officers of the Department of Immigration in Western Australia gave the gentleman concerned every possible assistance, and I do not believe that it is necessary for me to make any apology or explanation on their behalf. I think that it is probable that if all the facts of this case were known it would be found, that the gentleman concerned has not related all the circumstances. When we are in trouble we are alwa’ys inclined to tell the best possible story in order to justify ourselves. However, the honorable member has now ventilated the matter in the House, and if he will give me details of the case I shall see what can be done for this gentleman and his family to obtain a building permit or to find some suitable accommodation in Western Australia. The Department of Immigration and the Department of Labour and National Service are always anxious to assist migrants, and particularly those who come from Great Britain and find themselves, either through their own mistakes or through misunderstandings, in similar circumstances to that of the gentleman in question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948 -
No. 23 - Amalgamated Engineering Union and others.
No. 24 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No. 25 - Postal Telecommunication Technicians’ Association ( Australia ) and others.
No. 20 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 27 - Australian Journalists’ Association.
No. 28 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
Nos. 29 and 30 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - A. W. Doubleday, A. S mallman.
External Affairs - J. L. Allen, A. B. Jamieson,
Post-war Reconstruction -N.C. Carroll, V. E. 6. Harris, H. G. Sheath, W. G. St. C Smith
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (12).
National Security (Prices) Regulations -Orders- Nos. 3307-3311.
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinance - 1948 - No. 4.- Supply (No. 4) 1947-48.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -
n asked the ‘Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished at a later date.
g asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the recent directive of the Commonwealth Bank, with the approval ot the Government, that overdrafts must not be extended to companies, but rather that they should bc called upon to raise new capital, will he - (a) table a list of the applications for new capital issues approved since the directive was issued; (6) table a return of the list of applications for now capital refused since the same date?
– lt is not the practice to disclose decisions reached on applications for new capital under National Security (Capital Issues) Regulations.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the price of gold in France in terms of Australian currency since France resorted to a free gold market?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as. follows : -
On the 20th April, 1948, the latest date for which information is at present available, theprice of gold in the free market in France when converted at the official rates of exchangewas £A.31 per fine oz.
n asked the Ministerrepresenting the Postmaster-General,. upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the followinginformation : -
n asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following information: -
Government Stores: Losses by Fire.
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 5. The information desired is not available. The Commonwealth’s policy in regard to insurance is to carry its own insurance risk. In view of the diversified classes of goods, their location, &c, it is not possible to determine what would be the annual cost of insuring against destruction by fire. It is to the Commonwealth’s financial advantage to accept the risk in view of its immense variety of property and spread of insurable interest.
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 4. The matters mentioned in the question are governed in each State, not by any law of the Commonwealth, but by State law, which in this instance is not statute but common law. Accordingly the matter contained herein is furnished merely by way of information. In the English case, of Blackwell v. Blackwell. decided in 1943, Lord Justice Goddard said - “ In my view there is no legal right in a wife to retain savings made out of housekeeping money. Even if there had been an arrangement between the husband and wife with regard to those savings, I am far from saying that this sort of domestic arrangement can necessarily result in a legal contract “.
As regards the husband’s income, and savings therefrom, and as regards goods purchased from the husband’s income for the home, the wife has (in the absence of any agreement or gift specifically altering the position) no” legal rights in such income, savings or goods. I understand that the New South Wales Government has under consideration a bill to give a wife a share in savings made by her from an allowance made to her by her husband. However no such bill has yet been introduced into the New South Wales Parliament.
Con cilia tion . Commissioners.
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be supplied to the honorable member at the earliest possible moment.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to thehonorable member’s questions are asfollows : - 1 to G. The Commonwealth Government has no official advices in connexion with the agreement entered’ into between the Queensland! Government and Electric Supply Corporation (Overseas) Limited nor of the activities of Mr. T- J- Hirst on behalf of that company.
r asked the PrimeMinister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - ] and 2. I have not seen the reports referred to by the honorable member in regard to the clearance of sugar from north Queensland ports. The Government is fully aware of the need to expedite the removal of sugar both for shipment overseas and to the refineries in southern ports. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel, through the Director of Shipping, is in constant touch with private shipping interests with a view to ensuring that the privately owned vessels, together with Commonwealth-owned ships, may meet requirements for lifting Queensland sugar. It is hoped that adequate provision will be made to provide both for export requirements and for shipment to the refineries.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 May 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480505_reps_18_197/>.