18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
37th Annual Report of Commissioner
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Taxation - Twenty-seventh Report of Commissioner, dated 1st May, 1948, together with Statistical Appendices. and move -
That the paper be printed.
I have already explained to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and to the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) that as the result of the decision of the High Court in the McGrath case, it is not possible to circulate a copy of the report until the Parliament has given the necessary authorization. The honorable member for Wentworth and the Leader of the Australian Country party have agreed not to oppose the motion in order that the report may be circulated without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-More than two months ago, the Prime Minister stated that the report and recommendations of an independent committee regarding alleged irregularities in the disposal of surplus ex-American equipment at Eagle Farm, Brisbane, and Garbutt Field, Townsville, were being considered by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. Has the Prime Minister yet received the recommendations of that committee and, if so, has any action been taken? If he has not yet received the report and document, will he ascertain the reason for the delay?
– The report, which is a most voluminous document, reached me yesterday afternoon, and so far I have read only one half of it. I confess that I did not expect the return of the Leader of the Australian Country party from Queensland-
– I came back to get the report.
– I shall endeavour to complete my reading of the report during the -weekend and when I have done so, I shall discuss it with the Minister concerned, and endeavour to supply an answer to the right honorable gentleman’s question. The document covers many matters, and the delay has been caused by the necessity to obtain all tha particulars.
– I ask the Prime Minister the following questions: - 1. Has the Australian Ambassador in the United States of America, Mr. Norman Makin, any authority oyer the activities of Commonwealth public servants’ attached to other Government departments, and working in that country? 2. Are the officials of the departments of Immigration, Information, Trade and Customs, and Commerce and Agriculture completely autonomous, and independent of the Ambassador’s control ? 3. If so, will the Government co-ordinate the activities of these departments in order to give the Ambassador, as being directly responsible for both policy and representation in the United States of America, the necessary jurisdiction over all activities? 4. Will similar steps be taken to give the Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. Beasley, power to supervise, the activities of Commonwealth officers in the United Kingdom? 5. Will instructions be given, both in Australia and abroad, that all representations to the United Kingdom and United States Governments shall be made through the Ambassador or High Commissioner in every instance?
– The Ambassador- in the United States of America or the High Commissioner in London is responsible for making representations on a governmental level. That is done. It is true, however, that in respect of minor affairs associated with departments, Ministers have direct contact, or send messages direct through me or through the Department of External Affairs to their departmental officers overseas. Such matters are mainly administrative or they may be requests for information. In matters of government policy the High Commissioner in London or tide Ambassador in the United States of America, or the Minister in other countries, is the final representative of the government. It always has been a matter of some difficulty to determine just what constitute matters of policy and what are purely administrative matters, but, in genera], the High Commissioner in London and the Ambassador at Washington, or the Minister in other countries, exercise oversight over all .governmental work in their respective countries. It is not always possible to define what constitutes policy, or matters of administration, or what constitutes requests for information which, in the case of a Minister, can very often be best obtained direct from his office overseas thus obviating delay that would be involved when communications pass through me or through the High Commissioner or Ambassador. However, I shall examine the matter further and supply a more detailed answer to the honorable member.
Mr. Harrison having addressed a disallowed question to the Prime Minister,
– Order! The honorable member for “Wentworth has referred to rather a serious matter. He ought to know that there is only one way in which to charge a Minister or any other honorable member of this House with dereliction of duty. That is bv submitting a specific motion, of which notice should be given. There is no doubt that charges have been made today against the Attorney-General. Having made them, the honorable member concluded by asking whether the allegations were facts. Honorable members should have a sense of responsibility in connexion with their duties as members of the Parliament and should, as far as possible, arm themselves with facts before they make charges and then ask their questions. I rule the question out of order.
– The charges were not made by me. They were made outside this House. I am asking that, the matter may be cleared up for the benefit of the people generally.
– I am satisfied that, whether the charges were made by the honorable member or not, he is retailingthem. He is, in a sense, accepting the responsibility for them and then asking whether they are, or are not, correct. The question is out of order.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Wentworth has said that a Mr.. Bate, a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, made certain statements recently when speaking in the Coogee by-election campaign, and he has suggested, I think, that I should answer, them when I, speak in that campaign. I sholl speak in that electorate before the polling date. I do not wish to add anything to what has been said by Mr Speaker. I know that two of the matters referred to by the honorable member are completely untrue. The honorable gentleman is- simply retailing what Mr. Bate said outside this House. I propose to deal with Mr. Bate. I ask the honorable member not to take advantage of the privileges of this House in relation to statements made outside’ of it for which another person will have to accept responsibility.
Statement bt Mb. R, G. CASEY.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to a report in the Melbourne Herald of a statement alleged to have been made by Mr. R. G. Casey. The statement is -
If a member of a British, or Indian, or any other food mission came to Australia to-day wanting to know in a hurry where be could grow pigs, or maize, or rice, or peanuts, or any other commodity in large quantities - wanting to know what were the economics of such an enterprise - what were the parts o* Australia where such activities were possible - where could that investigator go for his facts? There is nowhere lie could go.
I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that no such agency exists in Australia to-day?
– I have read with great interest the article in the Melbourne Herald to which the honorable member has referred, particularly in view of the criticism that has been levelled against the Government recently regarding the enlargement of . staffs of skilled economists and research workers, [t is apparent that Mr. Casey supports such activities by the Government. When Mr. Casey says that such centres of information do not exist, he is incorrect. The statement is not true. In 1946 the Bureau o-f Agricultural Economics, which was formerly the Rural Division of the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction, was transferred to my department. The bureau’s general role is to carry out agricultural economic investigations for any Commonwealth or State authority, or for primary industry organizations. It is endeavouring to provide an economic intelligence service for the primary industries. This type of work has not previously been undertaken in Australia, with the result that the bureau has had to collate information on each industry from widely scattered sources. However, once the basic research work has been completed, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics will be in a position to provide for the Commonwealth as a whole the type of service envisaged by Mr. Casey in his article. The bureau is, in fact, providing a service of this kind at the present time, and its work is much appreciated by Commonwealth and State authorities and industrial organizations. Recently the bureau published excellent brochures on the economics of the fat lamb industry and on the horticultural, agricultural and viticultural industries which have been received with approbation by the general public. Mr. Casey has an incomplete knowledge of the progressive activities of the Australian Government.
– I have to-day received a letter from a constituent at Eastwood in New South Wales, who informs me that on the 3lst March he lodged a telegram at the General Post Office, Sydney, at 9.48 a.m. It was received at the Eastwood Post Office, which is six or ten miles from Sydney, at 10.12 a.m. The recipient of the telegram did not receive it until 4.15 p.m. when it was delivered by the local postman. When the recipient protested to the postmaster at Eastwood about the delay in the delivery of the telegram, he was informed that, as in the opinion of the postmaster there did not appear to be any urgency about the matter he had decided, in view of the shortage of staff, to deliver the telegram in the afternoon mail. .1 ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether he will ascertain whether it is the practice of suburban postmasters to use their own judgment as to the priority that should be given in the delivery of telegrams. If this is the practice, will the public be informed of it so that money will not be wasted sending telegrams in the belief that they will be delivered quickly?
– The question whether postmasters may use their judgment as to how and when telegrams are to” be delivered, is hardly a matter of urgent public importance, but if the honorable member will give me further details of the incident about which he has complained, I shall have the matter brought to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral for an explanation. I have no doubt that the postmaster’s statement about a shortage of staff has some bearing on the late delivery of the telegram.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether there is any truth in the newspaper report that at a conference on the proposed international wheat agreement held in Canberra a few days ago, representatives of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation stated that Australia had been compelled under the Marshall plan to sign the agreement ? If this report is without foundation, will the Minister indicate what did take place at the conference, because many wheat-farmers have asked me whether Australia had been compelled to sign the agreement regardless of its own wishes on the matter ?
– There is no truth in the statement attributed in press reports to members of the Wheat Growers Federation to the effect that Australia was compelled to enter into this agreement because of the Marshall plan. There is no relationship whatever between the Marshall plan and the International Wheat Agreement, and no such statement was made at the conference which I myself, and the secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture had with members of the WheatGrowers Federation recently. Somebody asked what the Marshall plan had to do with the implementation of the International Wheat Agreement, and the reply was that the Marshall plan might assist some of the importing countries participating in the International Wheat Agreement to purchase wheat more readily than they could otherwise do.
– Will the Prime Minister ascertain from the Public Service Board, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the State governments, whether graduates from Australian agricultural colleges can be obtained to work as agricultural officers or supervisors in Northern Rhodesia? I have received in this morning’s air mail a letter from the Director of Agriculture 4>f Northern Rhodesia asking for five such officers. The following reasons are given in the letter for this request: -
We are so deplorably short of staff and the (prospects of getting the qualified men from the United Kingdom is so remote (every colony and African territory is wanting to get hold of the few becoming available from time to time) that I think I should look elsewhere and in so thinking I feel convinced that we would also bo better off by having some of your young men instead of going to the United Kingdom every time.
Your people are trained under conditions much more akin to ours as so many of our problems are the same, your people would come here several laps ahead of the young men from the United Kingdom.
Now, I realize that you will be needing all your people, but I feel that say five, (as a start, anyhow) would make so little difference to you but would be of such enormous help to us.
Can you tell me how I should set about this matter. Should the Northern Rhodesian Government write to the Australian Government or could we circulate the Australian agricultural colleges, or should I come and get them ?
I think the most crying need of Northern Rhodesia as present (next to machinery possibly) is agricultural staff and if you can be the means of putting us on the right lines to getting some of your qualified young men you would have done us a great service Sir, and incidentally have brought our countries a little closer together.
Will the Prime Minister have this matter examined and ascertain what can be done about the request?
– If the honorable member lets me have a copy of that letter, I shall have inquiries made as to what has happened when other governments have asked the Australian Government for the services of certain classes of scientists.
– Did the Minister for the Army see a recent report in the press that decorated ex-servicemen of World War II. had received a gratuity of £20 and are paid a pension of sixpence a day ? Are such payments made? If so, will the Minister consider making similar payments to decorated ex-servicemen of World War I.?
– I have not seen the report, but I shall have inquiries made and inform the honorable member of the result at an early date.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior the reason for the inordinate delay by his department in completing payments to the former owners of land compulsorily acquired by the Government during the war. The land that I have specifically in mind was acquired in. 1943 for the erection of a dehydration factory. The owner asked for £500 for the land, but the department offered only £360. So far the owner has not received a penny interest. The property has been disposed of. for £25,000,. of- which £12,500 was. paid on. the 31st December, 1946, and interest at 3 percent, from then. to. now amounts to £416 all. of which the Government has.last because of a dispute over £140, whichis the difference between the price asked by the vendor and that offered by the. Department of the Interior. The purchaser o£ the property from the department will not pay the balance of the money until a clear title can be. given,, and that is dependent on the. original owner transferring the land to the department..
-Occasional delay in the settlement of claims such as. that referred to. by the honorable member is not necessarily the fault of the Department of the Interior. Sworn valuers value the land to be acquired, and the department tries to reach a settlement with the owners on the basis of such valuations. I shall ascertain whether undue delays have occurred and try to have an early settlement reached., I shall advise the honorable member of the progress made.
– Parents with daughters or sons in mental homes in some States, have to sign declarations that they will pay a certain amount each week for board. When the parents die, other relatives are expected to keep up those payments, and that often causes great financial distress. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether the Commonwealth Department of Health is prepared to take over the control of mental homes in the States so that all treatment and accommodation of the mentally afflicted children shall be free of cost to their parents or other relatives?
– Many complaints have been made from practically all the States about the general conduct of mental institutions, which are purely State instrumentalities. The Australian Government, through the Minister for Health, ha3 not discussed with the State governments the taking over of those institutions. There has, been correspondence, however, between the Prime Minister and certain State Premiers and State
Ministers on the extension of the hospital benefits scheme to those institutions.. If agreementcould be reached between the Commonwealth and the States om this matter, the Stateinstrumentalities would be relieved of the cost of maintaining inmates of mental institutions-..
appointment OfMrs. P. PODVIELSKY.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House whether Mrs. P. Podvielsky - also known as Miss Schnieder - who, he said recently, was an Austraiian nominee of the staff of the United Nations, at a salary of £2,000 a year, is the wife of a man who wasinterned in Australia during the war as a dangerous alien? Will the right honorable gentleman also say by whom this woman was nominated, and’ what is the nature of her duties ?
– I have not heard of the person mentioned by the honorable member, and know nothing of. the nomination to which he has referred. However, I shall look into the matter, and furnish a report to him as soon as possible.
ALLEGED BLackmarketIN Cement.
– Has the Minister for Works and Housing seen the reported statement attributed to the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hollway, that cement is being sold at £20a ton on the black market? Will the honorable gentleman also say whether cement is a controlled material in Victoria, and how the Department of Works and Housing, which is a large user of it, obtains its supplies ?’
– Cement is controlled in Victoria by the State Government. Assuming that control to be effective, I fail to see how cement could get on to the black market.. If it does, that should indicate to the people what would happen if controls were removed. However, it is fantastic to say that cement realizes £20 a ton on the black market when the controlled price is £5 a ton. Furthermore, enormous supplies of cement are available in England at £10 a ton landed in Australia, and could be imported into Australia. My department receives its allocations from the Materials Controls Section of the State department. We are awaiting fulfilment - of an order for 500 tons of cement, which is to come from the United Kingdom.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether a sale of 600,000 bushels - equivalent to 15,000 tons - of grain sorghum was made by the Australian Government to the French Ministry of Agriculture in November, 1947? Did the Minister consent to its release? Will he say whether, despite such consent, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture refused to grant an export licence at that time, and withheld it until March, 194S, in consequence of which delay 4,000 tons of the grain was destroyed by weavils? Is this the kind of planning which the Minister envisages in the co-operative socialistic commonwealth which he promised in the speech that he made recently at Ballarat?
– The Australian Government did not sell grain sorghum to France, but certain Queensland interests applied for permission to export this grain. A survey was made by officers of my department, assisted by officers of the Department of Agriculture, in Queensland, in order to find out whether we could safely allow exports from Australia without depleting stocks for the feeding of poultry, pigs, &e., in Australia. It was found that there was in the hands of merchants in Queensland approximately 250,000 tons of grain sorghum which they were not putting on the market for local consumption. It was decided, after a survey had been made of stocks held by growers, th.it it would be reasonable to allow the export of 600,000 bushels, and I stipulated, as a condition of issuing an export licence, that only grain, held by growers could be exported, not grain held by merchants. After that decision was made known, those growers who held supplies of grain sorghum formed an organization to ensure that it should be exported by the growers themselves. Unfortunately, they did not adhere to the terms of the export licence, and forthwith sold grain to merchants at £24 a ton. The merchants promptly resold it to France at £33 a ton, the resultant “ rake-off “ representing their profit, and remuneration for their services. I believed that this sale of grain by the growers to the merchants was a violation of the condition which I had laid dow for the issue of an export licence, and I informed the growers that, in the circumstances, the licence was inoperative and that they would have to make other arrangements. They did so, with the result that, they saved thousands of pounds, and thenceforth they were required to comply with the terms of the licence, which were intended to protect the growers, as distinct from merchants and speculators. Any delay which has occurred was due to the action of the growers themselves in not observing the terms of the export licence, and to their failure to avail themselves of the measures which were designed to insure that they should obtain the maximum return. As for the honorable member’s . references to socialism, the incidents which I have just described are an illustration of the wicked manipulations of some of those engaged in private enterprise in Australia. Unfortunately, in this instance, the merchants concerned had the cooperation of the misled growers of grain sorghum in Queensland. I have always tried to ensure that export licences are issued on such terms as to benefit directly the producers, as distinct from those who speculate in grain or any other commodity.
Visit of Mr. R. G. Casey to England
– Has the Prime Minister seen a statement attributed to high officials of the Australian Liberal party that Mr. R. G. Casey left for England recently for ‘ the purpose of inducing big business interests in that country to contribute £100,000 for use by the party during the next federal election campaign? If so, will he advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, of the attempts of the Australian Liberal party to embarrass the Government and the people of Great
Britain by encouraging the flight of capital from the United Kingdom in this time of great emergency? If Mr. Casey and his business colleagues try to transmit funds from London for’ the purpose of misleading arid confusing the Australian people, will the Prime Minister treat such funds as “ hot money “ as he has done in connexion with other attempts to exploit the suffering and misfortunes of the residents of the United Kingdom ?
– I have not seen any reports suggesting that Mr. Casey will solicit funds for the party which he represents during his visit to London. However, I have my suspicions that the subject may be mentioned. In answer to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I repeat that the Government does not object to money being brought to Australia for reproductive purposes. I should say in this case, of course, that any money obtained for the purpose mentioned would represent useless expenditure, but I do not know whether is could be accurately described as “hot money”. I assure the honorable member that transfers of capital to Australia are being watched very closely. Those that will benefit the country will be welcomed, but those that will not be of advantage to Australia will not be welcomed.
– On the 22nd April
I described to this House in detail the actions of certain prices investigators, one of whom represented himself in my electorate as a wood merchant from Coburg, Victoria, and, by deception, incited farmers and others to commit breaches of the law in connexion with the sale of mallee roots. I asked certain questions, but the Government gave no answers at the time nor has it done so since. I now ask the Prime Minister whether the Government approves of the actions that I mentioned? If not, will steps be taken to stop such practices ?
– The statements made by the honorable member on the occasion mentioned have been made the subject of investigation, as is usual in relation to matters raised by honorable members in the House. I shall ascertain how far the investigation has proceeded in this instance, and inform the honorable member as soon as possible.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table the reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Static condensers of the oil-immersed type.
Ordered to be printed.
Alkalis, chlorine and chlorine products.
Acetylene black (Interim).
Moulders’ chaplets or studs and moulders’ pipe nails (or chaplet nails).
Alleged Issue of Driving Licence to Minor
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior relating to an article published in this morning’s issue of the Canberra Times purporting to report statements made at a meeting of the Canberra Trades and Labour Council. It appeared under this heading : “ Labour Council Attacks Driver’s Permit for Girl “. The report states that, at the meeting of the Trades and Labour Council last night, Mr. Gardiner alleged that a permit had been granted to the fourteen-year-old daughter of the representative of Eire in Australia, Dr. P. J. Kiernan, to drive a high-powered Chrysler motor car in Canberra. Mr. Gardiner said that he had made inquiries of the Department of the Interior, but had received no satisfactory information. He was satisfied that a permit had been issued to the girl in contravention of the provisions of the Motor Traffic Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory. Will the Minister for the Interior state whether such a permit was issued and, if it was not issued, what were the grounds for the statement attributed to Mr. Gardiner?
– There is absolutely no truth in the statement alleged to have been made by Mr. Gardiner that a permit or a licence to drive a motor car was issued by the Department of the Interior to Miss Kiernan, nor did Miss Kiernan make any application to the department for such a permit or licence. The allegation made by Mr. Gardiner against the officers of my department is completely without foundation.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is probably well aware of the unsatisfactory state of the pig industry in Australia due to the cost of production of pork and bacon which is a good deal in excess of the price received by the producers. What steps does the honorable gentleman propose to take to restore some measure of prosperity to pig producers, and to the pig industry generally, which is of considerable economic importance to Australia?
– I realize that the pig industry is of considerable importance to Australia and to the people of the United Kingdom. As to the price factor. I am aware that, whereas in 1943 pig meats were selling for as little as 3d. per lb., the price to-day is well over’ double that amount. I do not consider that the price factor is as unsatisfactory a3 alleged by people who have made representations on the subject to the honorable member. The industry is being continually reviewed by the Government with the object of ascertaining what more can be done to provide an incentive to pig raisers to produce additional quantities of pig meats. One of the problems facing the pig industry results from the attractiveness of other forms of primary production. When I was a lad, farmers usually engaged in half a dozen lines of production, but now they find that it pays to concentrate on one line, and too few of them bother about raising pigs. The problem of overcoming that position is one of great difficulty. The Government will gladly do anything it can to assist the pig industry to overcome the difficulty.
Motion (.by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That Standing Order 70 - II o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of this week.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 5th May (vide page 1450).
Clause 7 (Information).
.- It is proposed to amend section 6 of the principal act by omitting from sub-section 1 of that act the word “ undertakings “ and inserting in its stead the word “ activities “. Presumably the Government desires to amend the principal act so as to confer a wider interpretation on the scope of the functions of the Department of Supply and Development. However, it is possible that the Government has in mind something alse, and I should appreciate an explanation from the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman).
– The word “undertaking “ is defined in paragraph c of clause 5 as meaning “ a building, depot, establishment, factory, laboratory, experimental station, magazine, range, observation post, store or works maintained or operated by or on ‘behalf of the Commonwealth for the purposes of research, design or development in relation to “ wau materiel “ and so -on. Therefore, it would be entirely inapplicable to sub-section 1 of section 6 of the principal act, which relates to the collection of information in relation to industrial, commercial or other undertakings “ from certain persons.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Section ten of the principal act is amended by omitting sub-section (1.) and in.serting in its stead the following subsection : -
.- I move-
That after proposed sub-section (1.), the following sub-section be inserted: - “ (1a.) A person who is a member of the Communist party shall not be eligible for engagement under the last preceding subsection.”.
The reason for such a safeguard is obvious. During recent debates in this chamber the Government has repeatedly Stated that it will safeguard the security of all defence establishments and will not countenance the risk of subversive notion. Nevertheless, members on this side of the chamber are seised with the necessity for inserting in this measure a provision of the -kind referred to in the amendment. I expect that that Government will decline to accept my amendment, and I propose, therefore, to recall certain statements made by the Prime Minister in regard to the security of the nation. On the 25th July, 1946, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) asked certain questions of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in regard to Communist activity in Canberra. Those questions, and the answers thereto, are recorded in Ilansard as follows : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
In other words, the Government has done nothing whatever to investigate the boast made by Communist leaders in Canberra that their members were acting subversively in the Public Service. The answer to the fourth question indicates theapathy and callous disregard of its responsibilities which characterizes the Government in these matters. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that the Commonwealth Public Service Act requires permanent public servants totake an oath of loyalty. It reads -
I, A.B., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the King, and will’, loyally as in duty bound uphold the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia established under the Crown of the United Kingdom. So help me, Gop!
But that requirement, even if it were aseffective as this apathetic Government believes, applies only to permanent civil servants. Approximately 60,000 temporary civil servants are not required to sign this oath of allegiance. I should like to know what the Government is doing to prevent the continuance of the “white-anting” which is definitely taking place. It appears to me that Min.isters are the only people who are happy about the onward trend of communism. Members of the rank and file of the Labour party are deeply concerned about it, particularly those of them who have recently had definite physical evidence of the effects of Communist control of industries. The Government must take every means within its power to safeguard the interests of the country against this anti-British and anti-Australian penetration. -The amendment, which I have submitted, must be accepted if the Government is alive to the necessity for providing adequate safeguards in the important Department of Supply and Development- a war department - which exercises control, direct and indirect, over the physical and economic resources of Australia required for tha preservation of peace and for defence against invasion. If the Government has any regard at all for the preservation of the British and Australian way of life, it will accept the amendment without hesitation.
– The amendment is quite unnecessary, and the Government- cannot accept it. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) read a reply which the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) gave to a question asked in 1946. Much has transpired since then.
– My word it has! The Minister is quite right.
– During a recent debate, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) explained what the Government was doing about the matter. The Attorney-General stated that the Commonwealth Investigation Service, under his jurisdiction, had a complete check on all Communists in Australia, and knew where they were.
– Therefore, the Government knows the persons whom it should not employ. The Minister should accept my amendment.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order ! . The Leader of the Australian Country party has completed his speech, and should not interrupt the Minister.
– The list, it is true, does include some individuals who are members of the Public Service, but the great majority of them hold positions which they could not possibly use in order to betray official secrets.
– Did the Minister say that the Commonwealth Security Service has a complete list of these people?
– A complete list of known Communists and Communist sympathizers.
– In Australia?
– Yes. That is what I understood the Attorney-General to say in his speech, and I believe that that statement is correct. The AttorneyGeneral also said that the Commonwealth Investigation Service made a thorough examination of all new entrants to the Public Service. Because of that screening, it is possible for Communists to be excluded from the Public Service. In the circumstances, there is no reason for inserting the amendment in the act and for that reason the Government cannot accept it.
.- The committee cannot accept the assurance of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) in the spirit that he desires. ‘ I referred to this matter in some detail in my second-reading speech, and foreshadowed that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) would submit the amendment. Nothing that the Minister has said will re-assure those who are concerned at this serious menace which exists in Australia to-day. In this legislation, the Government has taken a good deal of trouble to attempt to ensure the preservation of secrecy by preventing unauthorized persons from entering munitions establishments and defence plants. But does the Minister claim that there are no persons already employed in those establishments who are known members of the Communist party or communist sympathizers? It is a fantastic situation if the Government is trying to prevent unauthorized persons from entering these premises while at the same time it employs in those establishments persons who are known to be members of the Communist party or communist sympathizers. The Government would be maintaining its own Trojan horse in the centre of important defence establishments which are engaged on work requiring the greatest secrecy.
Members of the Opposition have brought to the notice of the Government, either openly in this chamber, or by correspondence, disclosures by people who considered themselves in duty boundto give information about certain employees in defence establishments, who, they believe, are active members of the Communist party and constitute a potential fifth column in this country in the event of trouble. Is it not reasonable to assume that a revolutionary party, highly organized as we know it to be; almost fanatical in its adherence to the cause which it has espoused ; determined to overthrow, when the favorable opportunity arises, the Government of this country; and resolved to constitute its own proletarian dictatorship here, would have key personnel placed in those establishments ready for the day of revolution ? It is no assurance to us to be told, as we have been told in the past by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), that there are only 16,000 members of the Communist party in Australia. Sixteen thousand highly organized personnel, working and planning closely together, could do untold damage in a few hours when they considered that the moment was propitious. According to an official publication issued by the Communist regime in the 1930’s, there were only 23,600 Communists in the whole Russian empire prior to the outbreak of the revolution in 1917.
– What does the honorable member propose to do with the 16,000 members of the Communist party in Australia? Does he consider that they should be put in gaol?
– We would not employ them, as this Government does.
– We have indicated in previous debates on this subject several measures which we would take. For example, we would disband the Communist party, and would not permit it to carry on its activities in establishments such as Marx House, amply provided with telephones and all the resources to enable rapid and easy communication. The Communist party has declared itself to be out to overthrow the established forms of government in this country. We have seen how Communists have sought to sabotage industry in Australia. We have had enough evidence during recent years of the damage which they have done and could do. The Attorney-General has clearly expressed the opinion that Communists are working in the interests of a foreign power. The same view was announced officially by representatives of the trade union movement when the guided weapons range project was under discussion in this chamber. In the face of all that evidence the Minister asks us what would we do. The Government could do many things in this matter. It could conduct a campaign against Communists in Australia in order to open the eyes of the workers to the damage that they are doing in this country and ina,ke it clear that the Communists’ purpose is to use the industrial workers .;f Australia as tools for the achievement of their objectives, as they used the workers in other countries. The Government could inform the workers of the totalitarian governments which Communists have set up for the suppression of the rights of individuals as is evidenced in Soviet Russia to-day. Those are some of the things which the Government could do.
But that is not the issue arising under the amendment. Here is a clear suggestion, a specific request that known Communist supporters or known members of the Communist party employed in defence establishments shall be removed. That would not commit the Government to depriving those persons of employment elsewhere, if it is not prepared to go so far at present ; but it would ensure that Communists shall not remain in defence establishments.
I am at a loss to understand why the Government rejects the amendment. If it is a fact, as the Minister has pointed out, that security officers have lists of all known Communists, it should be a simple matter for his department to ensure that such persons shall no longer be employed in defence establishments. In addition to the security officers I am quite sure that departmental heads would know from their dealings with employees, of persons who cannot be. trusted. Authority should be given for the removal of such persons. I suggested last night that, preferably, some limitation upon any such authority given to departmental heads could be imposed. Provision could be made for appeal to the Public Service Board, and - a departmental head could then be called upon to show good cause why he believed that in the interests of security any particular employee should be removed from a defence establishment. It is futile to insert in the measure provisions about secrecy and prevention of entry of unauthorized persons when the Government knows, or should know, that it now employs in these establishments persons who, because of their known political views, cannot be trusted to be loyal to Australia or even to a Labour Government.
.- The reason given by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) for rejecting the amendment is not sufficient. Indeed, his answer is contemptuous of the Parliament. The measure which we are asked to take very seriously embodies provisions for the defence of the country against possible aggression, and the amendment seeks to prevent traitors from being employed in defence establishments. The Minister simply said that the Government cannot accept the amendment. The reply which the Minister gave to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and to which he referred was given a long while ago; but, recently, in this chamber I challenged the Minister with respect to the employment of a certain person in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which the Minister himself controls. I pointed out that that particular gentleman was employed as an official photographer. I recall having read in the press that the result of photographing the whole of Australia was to be made available as a No. 1 priority to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research which employs that gentleman. I asked whether he was not the secretary of the Communist party in Canberra. To that question I am still awaiting a reply. I also named another gentleman. Later, both of them wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald denying that they were members of the Communist party. They are a Mr. Pomeroy and a Mr. Atcherley. That leaves me in the position of having made a statement that is not true, because their denial is the last statement to be published, on this matter. But the Government knows that what I said is true. If it does not know, then the Commonwealth Investigation Service is a sham and a mockery. If our security officers do not know that those gentlemen are members of the Communist party they are incompetent and have fallen down on their job. If they are aware that my statements are true, then the Government also is aware of the facts; but the Government has not yet supplied an answer to my question.
– Is the honorable member’s question on the notice-paper?
– No; it has been taken off the notice-paper in the usual way. I have been given a reply that a further reply will be furnished later; but it has not been removed from my memory, and neither has the Government removed the necessity devolving upon it to furnish a reply to it. One of the gentlemen I mentioned, although he may not be a permanent officer of the Public Service, was appointed to the department by the Minister himself, and that -makes the position worse from the point of view of both the Minister and the Government.
Just prior to my election to this Parliament the same gentleman supplied to the Canberra Times a statement in connexion with a certain election and signed it as the secretary of the Communist party in Canberra. Here in Canberra, under the very noses of the security officers, these potential traitors to this country meet, and are prepared to betray their fellow citizens. They suspend from the Communist party any person who does not obey the Communist tenet of making a Communist retraction. They debase themselves by taking a pledge not to make the oath of loyalty or to subscribe to the Constitution of Australia. Those are the kind of people who are being screened by the Government and. Minister for Defence. Desperate diseases require desperate remedies, and these people must be dealt with. I know that I cannot discuss a motion of which I have given notice, but have so far been prevented, I hope temporarily, from moving in this chamber. The Minister hurled at the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) the question, “ What would you do ? “ The Minister should address that question to me; but he does not need to do so, because in the motion of which I have given notice I have set out what I would do with potential traitors to AustraliaIt is not sufficient for the Government to say that it knows who are the members of the Communist party and that it will deal with them if they occupy responsible positions. It knows of men who are in responsible positions but it is not dealing with them. The only thing to do, therefore, is to try to compel the Government to obey the law by inserting in the bill the words contained in the amendment which has been moved by the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden). They will then be incorporated in the law of this country and. the Government will be compelled to . act. I support the amendment. The Government must face up to its responsibilities and take action against people who are avowed potential traitors to Australia.
Ministers talk of the security police and of their trusted officials, but in Great Britain a model secretary turned out to be a model Communist. One of the. most trusted secretaries in Great Britain turned out to be one of the most trusted Communists. If the Communists were known to be what in fact they are, possibly they would not be of so much use to the enemies of this country ; but because they are smart and clever and because they are in key positions they are valuable to those who wish to destroy Australia and its manner of life and to take away its freedom. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) will have to say much more than he has said if he desires to justify his rejection of this amendment, and he will have to gay even more if honorable members opposite are to satisfy their constituents at the next general elections. “* Mr. HARRISON (Wentworth) [11.43]. - A certain looseness of language appears to he creeping into the arguments used by Ministers in opposing amendments moved by the Opposition. One would expect that a Minister in charge of a bill, before making statements that committed his party to a certain course of action and that might be closely analysed to his detriment, would make sure of his facts. In answer to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), the Minister for Defence (Mr. x Dedman) said that, according to the information he had obtained from the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), the Commonwealth Invstigation Service had a complete list of known Communists in the Public Service and, I think, in Canberra. It is important to analyse that statement closely. In its relations with the Public Service, the security service is concerned with matters other than communism. Can we rely upon its efficiency? The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) recently alleged in a question that a delegate of the Treasurer appointed by this Government had been convicted upon eleven charges of forging and uttering and sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment under discussion. If he does not, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
– I am pointing out that the Commonwealth Investigation Service is not infallible. If, as the Minister has stated, it has a complete list of these people, I want to know why it permitted the appointment to the Public Service of a man with a criminal record.
– Order !
– I shall’ leave that. The security service cannot even police something that is criminal and not subversive.
Mb. Lang. - The Government takes no notice of it.
– The honorable member for Reid. (Mr. Lang) raises a point with which I shall not deal at the moment. I want to pursue the statement made by the Minister. Recently I asked a question with regard to directors of an airline who were alleged to be Communists, and I was fobbed off with a temporary answer. Even if the Commonwealth Investigation Service has information with regard to Communists within the Public Service and in Canberra, its information generally with regard to Communists and their supporters cannot be complete. Althrough my question was asked many weeks ago, it has not yet been answered. When we find that all questions with regard to communism that are likely to embarrass the Government are not an.swered, how can we place any reliance upon a statement by the Minister, loosely made in the hope of justifying the rejection of an embarrassing amendment that the security service has a complete list of these people? The AttorneyGeneral has referred to Communists as the agents of a foreign power. They were sufficiently destructive to cause special legislation to be introduced with regard to the guided weapons range.. Surely that in itself is a sufficient ground for the Minister to say, “ The Government acknowledges that Communists are agents of a foreign power, and that it is necessary to introduce special legislation to prevent them from sabotaging the Empire’s war effort, and from giving effect to their traitorous and subversive doctrines. That being so, and realizing our responsibility to the people of Australia, we accept the amendment.” The Minister does not say that. He says there is no need to oppose the employment of these saboteurs and potential traitors to Australia because the Government has a complete list of them. I challenge that claim. In the light of the evidence that has ‘ been produced, there is no truth in that statment. The leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has, in good faith, moved an amendment designed to assist the Government to carry out the tasks for which the Minister for Defence is responsible without fear of interruption by a fifth column in time of emergency. I ask the Government to take the same salutary action against these people as has been taken by the governments of other countries which have experienced what we are experiencing to-day. The circumstances existing in almost every country in the world demand that some such action shall be taken by Australia before it is too late. By accepting this amendment, the Government can give effect to the statements that have been made from time to time by Ministers.
– I support the amendment. Why the Government will not accept it is beyond my comprehension. The Government has admitted that the Communists are a menace and it has taken certain action in regard to the guided weapons range. Surely it must realize that secret work will be carried out in the factories to be administered under this bill and that valuable information may be acquired by Communists who are avowed enemies of Australia and of the British Empire. They owe allegiance to a foreign power, and admit that they are out to assist that power to establish its ideology in this country. I cannot visualize any reason for the Government’s rejection of the amendment other than that it is afraid of the Communists because of their political influence; but surely the Government has not fallen as low as that. Again I urge the Minister to accept the amendment. If it will mean the displacement of skilled men, surely other employment can be found for them where they cannot harm this country. If not, we can well afford to get rid of them. This precaution is essential in the interests of our national safety, and the safety of the Empire.
.- I find it extremely difficult to understand why the Government will not accept this amendment. Yesterday, I brought to the notice of the House the case of an alleged Communist who is employed in the drawing office of a Melbourne munitions factory, and is understood to be engaged on. projects associated with the guided weapons range.
– Can the honorable member vouch for the truth of these allegations ?
– No, but the information has come to me from a reliable source, and I have every reason to believe that it is true. Assuming that that man is all that he is alleged to be - one who boasts of being a Communist and a worker for the Communist cause - and assuming that he is engaged on work associated with the guided weapons project, what action does the Government propose to take in regard to him ?
– It is impossible for a Communist to be in any such position.
– Assuming that he is, the Government will be recreant to the trust that the people have placed in it if it refuses to take action. On the other hand, should the Government remove this man from his responsible position, as I assume it will if the information I have received proves correct, what will be its attitude towards similar individuals who apply for employment in the same or some other vital establishment? If they have all the qualifications necessary for employment, will their services be accepted or refused? It is to be hoped that they will be refused. If so, why should not that bar upon the employment of Communists be made part of the measure that we are now discussing? The Government cannot have it both ways. It can either agree that all known Communists are a danger to this country or it can allow Communists access to some of our innermost secrets. In the light of the revelations made at the Communist spy trials in Canada, clearly the Government cannot agree to permit Communists to have access to vital secrets, knowledge of which might prejudice our security. Therefore, why does the Government oppose the insertion in this measure of the provision contained in the amendment of the
Leader of the Australian Country party? The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) says that the Government knows all the Communists in Australia. I rather doubt that. It may know quite a number of them, but I know something of the Communist organization and of our security organization, and I say that the Government does not know all the Communists in this country. It would be impossible for the Government to know them. The real Communist leaders are not those whose names appear in the press from day to day as the instigators of this or that industrial trouble, or as being engaged in organization work for the Communist party. Most of the big Communists are underground. Even if the Government does know the names of all the Communists, apparently it is not prepared to utilize this information to prevent any of them from obtaining government employment. The munitions establishments are not the only undertakings in which Communists are employed to-day. They are employed in the Post Office and in many other national undertakings. Is the Minister prepared to permit Communists to be employed in these vital services and, above all, in secret and important undertakings which are covered by the measure now under consideration? Again I urge the Government to accept the amendment.
– I support the amendment, which if carried would prevent any member of the Communist party from being employed in any of the departments to be administered under this measure. From time to time, cases involving the employment of Communists in important undertakings have been brought to the notice of the House. I myself have instanced the appointment of known Communists to confidential positions in government departments, including departments engaged on war work, but on every occasion the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has shielded these people, endeavoured to explain away their motives, and has refrained from taking any action to remove them from the positions that they occupy. The Minister has cited one case in which investigation officers prevented a Commu nist from being appointed to a confidential position, but the honorable gentleman seems to assume that once a Communist has secured a position he should not be removed. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) brought to the notice of the House the employment of an alleged Communist at the Maribyrnong munitions factory, and the Minister, in his usual role of a defender of the Communists, asked the honorable member for Flinders whether he could vouch for the truth of the allegations, implying, of course, that the man was not a Communist. Some months ago I brought to the. notice of honorable members the case of a man named Norman Sheppard who was employed, and I understand is still employed, as chief engineering metallurgist at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory. This man occupies a position of great importance. He is responsible for the heat treatment of rifle barrels, and should he wish to sabotage the work of the factory he could so alter the tempering process that our soldiers might go into action with rifles that would be about as useful to them as bows and arrows in modern warfare. This gentleman, Norman Sheppard, was secretary to the Communist party at Lithgow, and he occupied at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory a position which, I am informed, allowed him access to all its confidential records. When I asked a question about that, I received the usual partial answer from the Minister that the matter was being looked into. Then I rereceived a letter saying that Sheppard was a member of the Communist ‘party but that, as the Lithgow Small Arms Factory was then largely engaged on civilian activities, it was considered that no opportunity existed for him to indulge in subversive activities if he desired to do so. After the disclosures made in the report of the royal commission into the activities of spies in Canada, does the Government think that high officials of the Communist party occupying positions in the Public Service that give them access to confidential information will just sit down and twiddle their thumbs instead of ferretting out that information to send to their lords and masters overseas ? The report of the royal commisison conclusively showed that
Canadian Communists were not. loyal citizens of Canada but owed their allegiance to Russia. Similarly, members of the Communist party in Australia are not royal citizens of Australia. They may be Australians by birth but they also owe allegiance to- only one country and they are ready to sacrifice Australia in the interests of Russia, the nation that they serve. When I raised the matter of the appointment of Arthur William Rudkin to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Minister said that he took personal responsibility for his appointment. The Minister took pride in having appointed him, and defended him,, watering down the charges on which he stood trial in Western Australia early m the war. It was shown at that trial that Rudkin was conveying information to Deane, secretary of the Communist party in Western Australia, who- was also tried at the1 same time. That. information may have been of value to the enemy., The charges against Rudkin were mildly worded, indeed. A diary kept by Deane showed that information as to, the organization and movement, of troops in Western Australia was being passed on to J. B- Miles, secretary oi the Communist party ia Sydney; win©., ai» was shown- im Deane’s diary,, was in contact with tha Comintern, which was then- situated in- Vienna, because, at that time,. Germany and Russia were allies. So. information of value to- the enemy- was passed to the enemy by a man nOw in- the employ of the Australian- Government, who is* defended by/ the- Minister. Instances- could be multiplied Many times. Yet the- Minister refuses’ to: accept the simple words: of the amendment, which would block the’ entry of members of the Communist party to- confidential positions in the Public Service-, in which) they could sabotage and white ant Australia’s interests. How can any Communist be trusted when Kathleen Wiltshire, for many yea>r3 confidential secretary to- the High Commissioner- of the United Kingdom, in Canada, and one- of the most trusted- officers, of Great- Britain in- that dominion was got at by the Communists, and! gradually drawn. into the party’s: network to, betray her trust by the- disclosure of confidential: documents of Mr. Malcolm Macdonald1, the. High ©om- missioner, that she thought would be of interest, or use to the Soviet. Union ? Yet. the Minister, in the face of all the facts, day after day says that the Commonwealth Investigation Service carefully watches the activities of the Communistsand prevents: them from being appointed, to positions of trust in the employ of the Government. “We know them,”’ he says. “ We have them tabbed.” Arethey tabbed, when, without censorship - and I do not believe in censorship in. time of peace - they are able, as were theirfriends in similar positions in Canada,, to pass on to the country to which they owe allegiance the secrets of the country whose flag protects- them and in which (hey live?
.- Honorable Members on this side areamazed at. the refusal of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) to accept the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Australian- Country party (Mr. Fadden) . The only reason he has: advanced for hisrefusal is. that the Government already has the power te deal with the Communists. Surely the additional power proposed by the amendment weald makethe people more certain that- Communists shall mot get into positions ia. which they can work” against Australian interests. It is! periectly clear to:- the people that communism is rampant in certains areas and organizations in Australia- It is also becoming- perfectly clear to them that if _ communism is to be curbed’ inAustrafia they will have to change theGovernment,, because ifr has shown during its occupancy of the treasury-bench that it is not prepared to take a definite stand, against’ the widespread! operations of the Communists in Australia.. It. is well known to the people that the Government of the United Kingdom,, in the early stages: of its administration,, took a stand similar to that of -the Australian Government. Its members were not. so fulsome in. their statements- about the Communist part$ itself and’ its individual members as aire members- of this, Government, but the fact remains that, for a long time: they took no definite> actionagainst the; Communists. More recently, however; their attitude- has. completely changed’, and warnings, by the. Prime >
Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Attlee, that action would be taken against the Communists have been given effect.
– - According to press reports yesterday, action has been suspended.
– Doubtless, pressure has been brought to bear on the Government of the United Kingdom, resulting in a weakening of its determination to root out the Communists in Great Britain. However, the fact remains that it took a firm stand and some action, although, doubtless, not altogether voluntarily. I suspect that the Government of the United Kingdom found that it had to do something about communism in Great Britain if it were to have the co-operation of other countries, particularly the United States of America. A great deal of experimentation and testing has been undertaken in connexion with atomic energy and various weapons of war. With the exception of Russia, all the countries that were allied in the wai1 have decided to co-ordinate their defences. For instance, they intend to have rifles and artillery of .similar calibres and that rockets and other machines of war of the same types. It is, therefore, necessary that the results of research in one allied country shall be handed to the other allied countries for their information and assistance. We all know that the development of the atomic bomb was not the work of any one country. It was the result of the co-ordinated work of scientists in various countries. That work is proceeding and doubtless further developments will occur from time to time. Doubtless the research work that is being undertaken in America on rocket bombs, atomic energy and other machines of war is so important that America is loath to hand over the results of its work to a country where Communists are in key positions. I suggest that that is one of the influences which caused the British Government to take certain action. As honorable members are aware, research work is being carried out in Australia also. Reference has been made to the guided weapons Tange at Woomera. When that project was forecast, the Communist organiza tion in this country became active. Honorable members will recall what the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) said about that programme. Subsequently, an act was passed to give protection to the project. While the precautions taken at the time were probably adequate to cover the construction of the range, in their present form they will not operate to exclude Communists from various activities when research experiments and tests are being conducted. I am convinced that unless the Australian Government assures the American Government that adequate steps will be taken to safeguard the secrecy of these activities, America will not freely make available to us the results of research in that country. I believe, therefore, that the effect of this amending bill will be nullified unless the Government takes steps to make it transparently clear to all concerned that it will be impossible for Russia or any subversive agencies to learn through communistic channels in Australia of the results achieved in these experiments. I emphasize that nothing the Minister or any other member of the Government has said inspires confidence in the Australian Government’s sincerity to build up the defence system of Australia in the way that the people as a whole desire.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has moved an amendment to prohibit Communists from being employed on works of great national importance, which will be undertaken under this bill. It is common knowledge that the Communist elements are attempting to control Australia. I am not astonished at the Minister’s refusal to accept the amendment; it is in keeping with the Government’s attitude to the Communist menace ever since I have been a member of this House. Obviously, the Minister is acting on instructions from caucus to “Keep hands ofl’ the Communists “. I am at a loss to understand why the Government is afraid of causing disfavour with the Communists. Is it that the Government wishes to retain their favour for political reasons, or is there a far deeper reason?
Doubtless the people of Australia will draw their own- conclusions on this vital question. It is noteworthy that whenever communism is attacked in this House, honorable members on the Government side speak at length about democracy, but fall short, I consider, of the high ideals of democracy. Recently, during a debate in this House, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) said, “Democracy must be allowed to express itself in its own way and in the proper way “. The Government appears to have a wrong impression of the true meaning of democracy. Abraham Lincoln’s famous descriptive phrase “ Government of the people, by the people, for the people” has become rather hackneyed, but it may pertinently be asked who are the people referred to. Are they the loyal, peace-loving, patriotic and industrious citizens of this country, or are they those who are disloyal to the King, who are always endeavouring to disrupt industry, and who owe allegiance to a foreign power. In Lincoln’s time - in the days when democracy was born in America - any one who did not show definitely, by some practical means, allegiance to the American President, was given short shrift. That is what should happen in Australia to-day. For these reasons I heartily support the amendment which has been submitted by the Leader of the Australian Country ‘party.
.- The amendment of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) asks very little indeed. Had the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) given the amendment any consideration whatever there is a reasonable chance that he would have broken his hitherto unbroken record of refusals to accept any amendments whatever. This bill empowers the - Government to take an active part in defence undertakings of a vital nature. The Minister told us that the Government has in its possession a complete list of all known Communists, “fellow travellers’’, and other subversive agents in this country. All we ask is that the Government, knowing who these people are, shall take steps to ensure that they shall not be employed on work of a confidential defence nature. If the Government fails to do this, then it is a reasonable assumption that, despite knowledge that these men are traitors, working against’ this country, the Government is prepared to employ them in positions where they may be able to do the utmost harm to the interests of this country. That is undeniable. I notice the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) has taken. a great interest in my remarks. “Would he, knowingly, employ in the Department of the Army on a secret job, a known member of the Communist party - a person known to be subversive to the interests of this country ?
– The Minister for Defence made it quite clear that the Government would not employ such persons on projects of this nature.
– “We ask the Minister in charge of the bill to adopt that principle in regard to employment of such men on work of a confidential defence nature. No one puts forward amendments on the subject of communism with much confidence. They have received such scant consideration by the Government that the purpose of the Opposition is to put it on record that this is a government which opposes any proposals to curb the activities of Communists. Reference has been made to ‘ fellow travellers “ of Communists. If sympathy, and protection, and the giving of assistance makes a man a fellow traveller of Communists, then there are “ fellow travellers “ sitting opposite me in this chamber, persons who have done much to give comfort to the Communists. The amendment relates to work of a most confidential nature, and should information regarding it be divulged the Statemight be placed in great danger. Theproposal put forward in the amendment speaks for itself. Let the Government answer.
– It is a complete distortion of anything I have said in thisdebate to suggest that the Government proposes to employ Communists in the Defence Department. Because the Commonwealth Investigation Service- screens all persons employed on project’s of a secret nature, it is impossible for any Communist to be employed on any of the projects discussed. I was astonished that the honorable member .for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) should allege that a particular person was employed on drafting work in connexion with a secret project. The honorable member made the allegation, but he is not prepared to vouch for its truth.
– I have stated what was reported to me.
– Things are coming to a pretty pass, when honorable members opposite - and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) ought to be with the Opposition - are prepared to make allegations of that kind without having a scintilla of evidence to support them. I take this opportunity to clear the name of a resident of Canberra, whom the honorable member for Reid traduced in this House. I have here a letter received by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) shortly after the honorable member for Reid had made certain allegations in the House, and I now quote the letter in order to put it on record. It is as follows: -
I urn advised that Mr. J. Lang, M.H.E., made * statement in the House yesterday that I am secretary of the Canberra branch of the Australian Communist party; also that I have been appointed as Economic Advisor to the Prices Commissioner. I deny all these allegations in totality. Neither am I a member of the Communist party.
I think that the Government should take some action to protect citizens against slanderous and malicious statements made under privilege in Parliament.
Politically I am a socialist and support the socialist plank. I am an Investigating Officer, Grade 3, in the Prices Branch and have never claimed to have any other position therein, If I had done a tithe of the damage to Australia that Mr. Lang has accomplished in his political career, I would hang my head in shame. My record in the Public Service is clear
In 1041 I was appointed as a shift chemist si.t the Commonwealth Explosives Factory at Maribyrnong, where I was responsible for the production of nitroglycerine and cordite. In 1 1)43 I was transferred, at my own request, to my present position.
I shall be grateful if you will make mv position clear to the House in which I have been traduced.
That is all I have to say on this amendment.
.- I am sure that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) is hoping in his heart that no war will break out while he occupies his present position, lest he be called upon to face the consequences of the Government’s refusal to take elementary precautions to ensure the security of the country. During the - last general election in New South Wales, a noted Communist, speaking in the public square of Goulburn, openly stated to a huge audience that if war broke out in which Australia and Great Britain were on one side and Russia on the other, he would be on the side of Russia, and that he would do everything possible to induce other people to behave as he would.’ This fellow got away with it, no action being taken against him by the police or any one else. I forget his name, but he made no attempt to conceal it. Therefore, we have it on the authority of one of the Communists themselves that if Australia should be engaged in war they would take their stand against the country to which they are supposed to owe allegiance. I believe that if war were to break out we should have sabotage on the scale of civil war, and that the enemy within would be a greater menace to the security of the country than the enemy against, whom we had declared war.
– Honorable members do not vouch for the truth of any of the allegations which they make.
– Does a policeman have to vouch for the guilt of a man before arresting him on a charge of murder? The man is charged, and then tried.
– The policeman would get into trouble if he arrested a man without reasonable evidence.
– We have had reasonable evidence against some Communists. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has read a letter from a man against whom certain charges have been made. I do not know whether the charges are true or not, but this man’s letter amounts to no more than a plea of not guilty. Surely the Minister does not expect us to accept it as evidence?
– Is it not a principle of British justice that a man is innocent until he is proved to be guilty ?
– Yes, but why not do something to see whether or not he is guilty? When I was on Gallipoli, we had an example of the work of saboteurs. The Minister may have been there himself.
– I was.
– A man was caught altering the time fuses on shells so that, instead of the shells bursting over the enemy, they burst among our own troops. When he was discovered, he was dealt with peremptorily at the gun. Saboteurs can do- untold damage. A few handfuls of grit in an engine sump can put out of operation a vehicle engaged in vital operations. The alteration of a chemical formula might affect the whole course of a war, and neutralize the efforts of thousands of patriotic persons; yet the Minister is content to ask what evidence ve have against potential wreckers of that kind. He refuses to accede to our request for an investigation, and he rejects the amendment, which merely seeks to ensure the security of the country in time of war. Enemy agents could cripple the war effort of any country. In fact, they did so in France during World War II., when they brought the grandeur of that nation into the dust. The Minister for Defence is an old soldier. He ought to be realistic, stand up to his responsibilities and assure the people that the Government will prevent any chance of betrayal in the event of future trouble. We do not say that another war is inevitable. None of us would care to go on record as having predicted a war in the near future, just as no diplomat would care to go on record as having declared that there would not be a war. Should the worst happen, however, the portents indicate clearly which nations will be engaged. That is why we are seriously concerned that steps should be taken to secure any efforts that we may be obliged to make for our own defence against the activities of known saboteurs - people who boast about their aims. I know that there is a natural reluctance on the part of this Government to accept any suggestions made by the Opposition, however meritorious they might be, for fear of giving a little credit to it. On many occasions, the Government has rejected valuable suggestions’ made in this chamber by the Opposition but has afterwards adopted them secretly and reintroduced them as its own. We on this’ side of the House are so patriotic that, in this instance, we shall not mind if the Government treats our suggestions in that way. We shall make no objection if it presents the amendment as its own. provided that the object of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is achieved. I urge the Government, for goodness sake, to do something to reassure the people that it will protect their interests in the event of another conflict.
.- It is characteristic of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) to endeavour to get away with a subterfuge. He has been accustomed to doing so throughout his life. Certain statements have been made by me in this chamber regarding two men. One of them is employed in the Department of Defence and the other in the Prices Branch. I understand that each secured his position by ministerial appointment instead of by the usual Public Service (process. The employee in the Department of Defence is Mr. Pomeroy. There must berecords relating to him in the files of thedepartment and they must be availableto the Minister, who talks so glibly in this chamber about the “ careful screening “ of entrants to the Public Service. If the honorable gentleman has examined Mr. Pomeroy’s record he lacks the courageto produce the facts. Instead, he hassneaked away to the Prices Branch and obtained a letter from a. Mr. Atcherley, whose name I combined with that of Mr. Pomeroy in my earlier charges. WhenI made those charges, I wanted to ascertain whether the security police were ascompetent as I thought they ought to be and whether they had on record thenames of Pomeroy and Atcherley, twoavowed Communists in the employ of the Government. There is nothing wrong about my raising this matter under privilege of Parliament. My duty as amember of this Parliament is to exposesuch masqueraders. Therefore, in order to ascertain whether the security service- knew about the records of these two men, I raised the matter in this chamber. My object was also to ensure that the facts would come to the knowledge of the Minister and lead to ministerial action. From that time until now, the Government has engaged in subterfuge in order to sidestep my questions. Now, on a matter of prime importance, when members of the committee seek to bind the Government, by act of parliament, to do certain things, the Minister for Defence runs out and gets a letter from Mr. Atcherley. Let me tell the Minister, the members of this committee, and the people of Australia, that I hold a sworn document bearing Mr. Atcherley’s signature as a zone secretary of the Communist party! If the security authorities are not aware of the facts about Mr. Atcherley, then they are incompetent. But, thank God, there are other police in this country who do know the facts even if the Commonwealth Investigation Service is ignorant of them ! I have never made any charge in this chamber that I am not prepared to stand by and to prove up to the hilt. This avowed Communist. Mr. Atcherley, has the impudence to write to his colleagues and friends telling them what a damaging sort of person I am. Very well ! I am damaging to the Communists ! I did a lot of damage in their eyes when I introduced to Australia legislation providing for such social innovations as family endowment, widows’ pensions, the moratorium, workers’ compensation-
– Order! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the matter before the committee.
– I am replying to what the Minister brought before the committee from a person outside Parliament.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member will connect his remarks with the issue before the Chair.
– I think you were in the chair, Mr. Temporary Chairman, when the Minister came into the chamber
– That is true.
– And deliberately produced a letter which ‘he said he wished to have embodied in the official record’s. This letter that the Minister produced states that my political reputation is known. My political reputation is known in connexion with family endowment, widows’ pensions, workers’ compensation and the moratorium, not to mention other beneficent legislation in the interests of the poorer persons who comprise the mass of the community. I am known favorably for that legislation, except to the likes of Mr. Atcherley. This matter is serious. Every honorable member, like myself, must accept his responsibilities. The matter now before the committee concerns the defence of Australia. The Minister for Defence is in charge of a measure which, he says, is essential to the proper defence of the nation. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has declared that it is of first importance in this connexion to ensure that Australia shall not be destroyed from within by traitors. Therefore, he has moved, strictly within his rights as a member, that such a provision be embodied in the legislation now before the committee so that, whoever may be Minister for Defence in the future, will, if he obeys the laws of the country, ensure that traitors and potential traitors shall not be employed in the services of the nation - services that should have the utmost protection because they are of immense importance and the utmost secrecy. I heard the Leader of the Australian Country party submit his amendment and I must make my decision and record my vote upon it. Every honorable member will have to justify his vote, if he opposes the amendment when the division is called.
Question put -
That the sub-section proposed to be inserted (Mr. Fadden’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. T. N. Sheehy.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I draw attention to the position of temporary public servants whose security of tenure appears to be threatened by this clause. Many of them served in the armed forces during the war, and have occupied their positions for periods of up to eight years, and, in exceptional cases, up to fifteen years. They believe that they are entitled to apply for permanent positions for which their service and qualifications fit them in undertakings of the kind contemplated by this measure. Does the Government propose to reward them for their long and faithful service by not enforcing rigidly the terms of the Commonwealth Public Service Act? If it does not, it should certainly make its intentions clear so that young temporary officers will at least have an opportunity to leave the Service and make a career for themselves in private enterprise.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) mentioned this matter in the chamber some time ago. The officers to whom he refers were appointed as temporary employees, because sufficient permanent officers were not available to fill positions which were vacant at the time. The policy of the Government is that such positions should be filled by the appointment of permanent officers of the Public Service. However, I shall make inquiries as to whether the terms of the advertisements inviting applications for appointment to positions in the defence and security undertakings can be widened so as to include temporary officers. If the terms of the Commonwealth Public Service Act do not prohibit the employment of temporary officers in such positions, then every consideration will be given to their applications.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 and 11 agreed to.
Clause12 (Continuance of existing regulations).
.- I consider that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) should explain the reason why it is proposed to continue permanently the operation of the National Security (Munitions) Regulations and the National Security (Shipbuilding) Regulations, which are not before the committee, and have been regarded as purely temporary provisions.
– The Government desires to continue in operation the National Security Regulations relating to munitions and shipbuilding until such times as appropriate regulations can be made under this measure.
– Why is reference made in the clause to the National Security (Shipbuilding) Regulations? Is it designed to prevent the unauthorized construction of vessels?
– The honorable member is virtually asking me to explain the effect of the National Security Regulations.
– But the Minister is asking the committee to make permanent some merely temporary provisions.
– The National Security (Shipbuilding) Regulations have been in operation for a long time, and by virtue of those regulations the Government has been able to control the building and repair of vessels. Specific reference has been made to those regulations in the present clause in order that they may continue in force until regulations can be made under this measure.
.- I have listened carefully to the explanation given by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), but it does not altogether satisfy me. The clause does not contain any reference to any limitation on the period of operation of the National Security Regulations which it mentions, and enactment of this measure may have the effect of making those regulations permanent. Last night the Minister gave an assurance that before the Government embarked upon a shipbuilding programme it would introduce authorizing legislation in order to give honorable members an opportunity of discussing its proposals. Because of that assurance I do not think that permanent effect should be given to the National Security (Shipbuilding) Regulations by including them in this measure without any reference to a time limit upon their operation.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Liability of officers and employees).
.- I should like to know the nature of the developments which have prompted the Government to make the proposed amendment. The clause proposes that after section 25 of the principal act the following new section shall be inserted : - 25a. - (1.) An officer or employee of the department, a member of a committee or of a board constituted or deemed to be constituted under this act or any regulation made under or in force by virtue of this act, or a person engaged or employed to perform any duty or function in relation to any matter specified in, or arising under, this act or any such regulation, shall not be under any liability, civil or criminal, in respect of any act or thing done by him in the course of his duty, unless it is shown that he acted’ negligently or. without reasonable care in the doing of that act or thing.
No similar provision was included in the principal act. Section 25 of that act deals with the requirement that officers and employees should observe secrecy, and presumably something has happened during the currency of that act to prompt the Government to amend it. I consider that the committee should be informed of the nature of that happening.
, - The Department of Supply and Development will be responsible for the oversight of such projects as the guided weapons range. In the conduct of various experiments, there might be risks of accidents which could not have occurred when the activities of this department were much more limited than they will be in future. The purpose of this provision is to ensure that employees of the Commonwealth who, under orders, carry out dangerous defence tests and’ experiments shall not be personally liable for any accidents, and that the Commonwealth itself shall be responsible.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Duration of act).
.- This clause repeals section 28 of the principal act, which imposed a time limit upon the operation of the legislation. When theoriginal Supply and Development Bill was introduced in 1939, the Menzies Government recognized the emergency character of the legislation and the fact that it gave wide regulation-making powers to the Executive, and, therefore, a. time limit was prescribed. That provision made it clear that after the war emergency had passed, the legislation would not remain in force. After the lapse of the prescribed five-year period, Australia was still at war, and the Labour Government introduced amending legislation which provided that the principal act should continue in operation until terminated by proclamation. There again, the Labour Government recognized that this legislation was of an emergency character, and should not be continued after the emergency had passed.
I am prepared to accept the proposition from the Government that in the unsettled state of the world to-day, we are still virtually in a state of emergency, and, therefore, legislation of this kind must remain in force; but I contend that a time limit should still remain upon the operation of this legislation. Certain provisions of the bill, such as those which widen the field of the department’s activities and give power to make regulations, go far beyond the scope of the original act. I find it extraordinary that members of the Australian Labour party, who were most vociferous in their protests in 1939 when the original Supply and Development Bill and the national security legislation were introduced and who pressed for a twelvemonthly review of the legislation, should now be prepared! to give it permanent existence. I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr.. Dedman) to reinstate section. 28 of the principal act, which imposes the limit of five years upon the operation of the legislation. That would ensure that, from time to time, this Parliament would review the working of the legislation, and ascertain whether any amendment was necessary in order to protect the public against excessive Executive action. The Minister has not given to the committee any reason why the emergency legislation of this kind is to be continued permanently. If there is no sound reason, the time limit should remain.
Our minds are apt to become dull on some matters involving, the rights of individual citizens. We become apathetic and, to’ a certain degree,, casual when legislation has been in force for some time; In 1939, the1 debate on the Supply and Development Bill was long and interesting. At that time, honorable members from the three political parties represented in this chamber thoroughly examined the possibilities of the bill. Now, nine years later, we have become so accustomed to the kind of bureaucratic control and regulation making power which- legislation of this- kind incorporates that we are permitting this bill to be passed after a brief discussion in the last two days. In the interests of the Parliament and the community generally, a time limit should be placed upon the operation of legislation of this character, and, accordingly, I invite the Minister to restore section 28 of the principal act.
– The Government is not prepared to place a. time limit on the operation of this measure. If we are to be prepared for any emergency which might arise in the future, the Department of Supply and Development must carry on activities of an almost permanent character. The Government has ear-marked a sum of £33,500,000 for defence scientific research, spread over a period, of. five years.. Some of the experiments will have only just begun after three or four, years, and will not be even approaching completion, at the expiration of the five-year term which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has suggested. In the United Kingdom, where the problem of defence is no different from what it is in Australia, there has always been a Department of Supply, and. no time limit is attached to its activities. If we are to take our responsibilities seriously in relation to the defence of this country and satisfy the governments of the United Kingdom and of the other dominions that we are anxious to assume greater responsibilities in relation to- the defence of the British Commonwealth of Nations, we must ensure that the activities of this department, particularly those applicable to defence scientific research, shall not cease at the end of any given period. For those reasons,. I consider that it would be entirely wrong for us to place a time limit upon the activities of this department.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 5th May (vide page 1424), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I suggest that this bill should be deferred, at any rate for the time being, because members of the Opposition have not had an opportunity to study its provisions.
– Members of the Opposition have not been here.
– Three bills were introduced yesterday, and members of the Opposition were present at the time. One of those bills contains 85 clauses. I say, without any fear of contradiction, that the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) has not read one of those clauses.
– That is not true.
– At the moment we are not in a position to debate those three bills, because we have not had an opportunity to study their provisions. If the Government is not prepared to give to honorable members a reasonable opportunity to consider these measures we must let them go by default. In such circumstances proceedings in this chamber become farcical. Yesterday, the Minister made second-reading speeches on three measures, including this bill. While he was doing so we were examining other legislation, but we are now expected to proceed with those measures one of which, as I have said, consists of 85 clauses. I am certain that neither honorable members opposite, nor members of the Opposition, have read those measures. So far to-day we have been giving close attention in committee to another measure. I have not even seen the bill now before the Chair. I again ask the Governmentto defer consideration of the measure, preferably until the next period of the session, or at least till a later hour this day, in order to give to Opposition members the opportunity to examine it. The measure consists of twelve clauses, some of which are lengthy and involved. As the Minister seems intent on proceeding with consideration of the bill, all I can do is to register a protest on behalf of the Opposition because none of us is in a position at the moment to discuss the measure adequately.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922- 1947, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Interpretation).
.- I invite the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) to explain to the committee the meaning of the clause.
– The clause is purely consequential due to the repeal of Part IVa. of the principal act.
– That is not a satisfactory explanation. What is the significance of the repeal of that part of the principal act to which the Minister has referred? Not one honorable member has the faintest idea of what is contained in the bill. The Minister has a duty to explain the’ provisions of the measure and their significance.
– As I was occupied with other matters, I was not present yesterday when this measure was introduced. I support the protest made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). In the circumstances, honorable members generally, including ministerial supporters, have not been given an opportunity to consider the measure. The Minister has a duty to explain the clauses of the bill not only to the Opposition but also to the outside public. No publicity has been given to this measure, and so far it has not teen debated. The Minister’s secondreading speech was as vague as ministerial second-reading speeches usually are. Now, when the Minister is asked to explain a clause he merely replies that it is a consequential amendment. Obviously, that conveys no information to honorable members or to the outside public as to the effect of this legislation. If the Minister wishes to obtain the co-operation of the Opposition in the passage of this measure, presuming that it is a good measure, he should explain its provisions. It is wrong for him simply to rely upon the Government’s majority to push the measure through as quickly as possible. Out of courtesy to the Parliament, the Minister should explain the provisions of the bill.
– I support the protests made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). This clause is the foundation of the whole bill. It is incumbent upon the Minister to explain the reason for the proposed deletion from the principal act of the words - or, being a contributor in accordance with Part IVa. of this Act, has attained the age of fifty-five years.
There must be a reason for it. The Minister should explain to the House and to the country what significance is to be attached to the removal of the age limit of 55 years. It is not just to treat the committee in the cavalier way in which he has treated it.
– If honorable members will read clause 8 (1) the meaning of this provision will become clear to them. The amendment in the clause now before the committee provides that the following words shall be left out of paragraph a of sub-section 3a of section 4 of the principal act : - or, being a contributor in accordance with Part IVa. of this Act has attained the age of fifty-five years.
Clause 8 (1) of the bill seeks to repeal Part IVa. of the principal act. which deals with members of the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force who are contributors to the superannuation fund. That part is sought to be repealed because those persons will not be required to contribute to that fund when they are transferred to the new defence forces retirement benefits scheme.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 1 (Rights under State acts not prejudiced).
.- Is this the clause that applies to officers who have been transferred from the State Public Services to the Commonwealth Public Service?
– The same explanation applies to this clause as to clause 4. It is consequent upon the repeal of Part IVa. of the principal act.
– The Minister has not understood me. In the course of this bill provision is made for officers who were transferred from the State Public Services. It liberalizes the provision that was formerly made for them.
– This clause does not refer to them. I shall indicate the clause which does so when the committee comes to consider it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12 (Increase of certain pensions).
.- In the course of his second-reading speech the Minister in charge of the bill said -
The 1947 amending Superannuation Act provides 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 areona more liberal basis than those underthe 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 position apparently is that, whereas in 1947 the Government was not prepared to grant increased superannuation payments to certain officers who had been transferred from the State Public Services, it has now varied its policy and proposes to grant the increases except in those cases where the pension is more than £360 per annum. I cannot see any basis of logic for that limitation. The ground upon which the Government has apparently acted is that the “Western Australian Government has itself imposed that limitation in its amending legislation. There may be very good reasons why an impecunious State government, limited as to its revenue by the uniform taxation scheme, should prescribe such a limit, but those reasons should not apply to the Australian Government if it is determined to act justly. It had been brought to my notice that the effect of this provision will be to avert an increase of the pensions to some very loyal and devoted senior ex-members of the Commonwealth Public Service. They are men who, by their devotion to duty, energy and skill, attained the highest offices in the Commonwealth Public Service. While persons on the lower rates will receive the benefit of this liberalization, those who retired when they had reached the highest positions in the Commonwealth Public Service, after transfer from the State Public Services, will not benefit at all. I suggest to the Minister that that is a penny-pinching and shabby way in which to treat men who have given long and devoted service to the Commonwealth. There is no basis of logic for it. If the Government is prepared to grant an increase in respect of some officers, that increase should apply to all. It is not as though a great number of persons is involved. I understand that only twenty ov 30 officers are excluded in this way from the liberalizing provision. This is a matter that might well be reviewed, and if no good reason exists for their ex clusion other than a rather slavish following of the course taken in the Parliament of Western Australia, the Government should recognize the claim that those people very properly have upon it for a share of the benefits conferred by this bill.
– The Commonwealth is under obligation to pay pensions to the officers on a scale not less than that on which pensions would have been payable to them by the State had they continued in the State service. The Parliament of Western Australia has amended its legislation only in relation to those in receipt of a pension of less than £360 per annum, and, therefore, the Commonwealth’s obligation is limited to that amount. I believe that it would be wrong for the Commonwealth to increase pensions to those who, if the increase was made, would receive, a. pension in excess of £360, because already those officers are being treated more liberally than other employees of the Commonwealth in that they are provided with a pension without having to contribute for it. Other employees have to contribute for superannuation benefits. I see no reason why there should be any obligation on the Commonwealth to treat one section of the Public Service more generously than any other section.
– But the Commonwealth proposes to increase the pension payable to those in receipt of a pension of less than £360 a year.
– Yes, because we are obliged to do so, but why should we increase the pensions above £360 when we are not obliged to do so and when if we did so we should be treating some more liberally than others?
.- The Minister for Defence ‘ (Mr. Dedman) asks why the Commonwealth should do something generous when it is not obliged to do it. It was not obliged to increase superannuation benefits generally by 25 per cent., but it did so, because it thought that that was the proper thing to do. It is adopting a most miserable approach in this matter. I do not ask the Minister to amend the bill at this stage, because I know that he needs the opportunity of ascertaining how the Government would be involved in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, but the information in my possession is that only a handful of former Commonwealth officers is involved. They have the strongest claim to consideration, because by skill and devotion to duty they reached the highest levels in the Public Service. The Minister acts miserably when he says that the Government will not accept our proposal because it has no obligation in the matter. All I ask him to do now is to refer the matter to the Public Service Board with a request for a report and possibly a recommendation upon it. The Government does not necessarily have to accept its recommendation.
– The matter has been considered by the Public Service Board.
– Was its recommendations in line with the provisions of this bill ?
– These provisions represent the recommendations of the Public Service Board on the matter.
– In other words, the Public Service Board was prepared to exclude senior Commonwealth officers who otherwise would have become entitled to the increase?
– That is only the honorable members inference.
– I must infer that from what the Minister says. I asked whether these provisions were recommended by the Public Service Board. If the Public Service Board has not recommended the exclusion of those officers, it would be the will of the committee, I should think, that the matter should be referred to the board for examination. I do not know the officers concerned personally, but I do know their reputation and records in the service of the Commonwealth. I for one would not be a party to depriving them of an increase that the soaring cost of living makes merely an act of justice to them.
– I suspect an anomaly. The Public Service Board ought to be asked to investigate the merits or demerits of the proposition made from this side of the committee. On the face of it, different classes of pensioners are treated differentially. Men who occupied higher grades in the Public Service are to be limited to pensions paid to men who occupied lower grades. That apepars to be an anomaly that ought to be removed.
– There is no doubt about the position. If we granted an increase of pensions over £360 per annum, we should put the recipients in a position better than that of Commonwealth Public Servants who contribute for superannuation.
– But did they not contribute to the State superannuation scheme ?
– No. They have made no contributions for the pensions that they receive under the terms of their transfer from the State service to the Commonwealth, and to do as Opposition members suggest would be to place them in a better position than that occupied by public servants who contribute for superannuation. That is a thing that no government could agree ,to.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to provide for the establishment of acoustic laboratories. The Parliament will be asked to provide the necessary funds from time to time. During 1942 problems of noise and difficulties of inter-communication in aircraft and armoured fighting vehicles arose and in April, 1943, the National Health and Medical Research Council, with funds provided by the Commonwealth, established the Acoustic Research
Laboratory at the Kanematsu Institute of Pathology, Sydney Hospital, to investigate these matters. The laboratory was later moved to the New Medical School, University of Sydney. As a result of investigation, a highly-efficient inter-communication system was devised for tanks and aircraft, and an excellent series of ear plugs was designed and adopted by the services for protection against excessive noise and blast from mortars, guns, armoured fighting vehicles and aircraft. With the termination of hostilities attention was directed to civilian problems in the acoustic field, the most immediate of these being associated with the rehabilitation of deafened exservicemen.
A further important problem arose concerning a large group of children about five years old whose congenital deafness was the result of the mothers being affected by rubella, or german measles, during pregnancy. Techniques for taking accurate measurements of the hearing deficiencies of these children were devised, and special hearing aids were designed to assist in their education and speech development. This research work was initially carried out in collaboration with the New South Wales Education Department.
In 1946, the National Health and Medical Research Council decided that, as the war-time research activities had ceased, and the amount of routine civilian work was increasing, it was no longer justified in financing the operations of the laboratory. The council, however, considered that the laboratory was much too valuable to be disbanded, and recommended that it should be taken over by the Commonwealth Department of Health. Cabinet agreed to this proposal in May, 1946, and the transfer was effected on the 1st January, 1947. The name of this establishment was then changed from the Acoustic Research Laboratory to the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratory, and it is now situated in Erskine House, York-street, Sydney.
In the meantime, the work that was being carried out in collaboration with the New South Wales Education Department on school children with hearing defects evoked general interest, and requests were received from other States for similar assistance. Staff and portable equipment were sent to Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, to measure the degrees of deafness in the affected children, and to indicate which of the children would benefit by the use of hearing aids. Calibration and fitting of the hearing aids purchased by individuals and by the State authorities were also carried out by the laboratory staff.
In April, 1947, a request was received from the Repatriation Commission for assistance in the choice, fitting and maintenance of the hearing aids which were being supplied to deafened ex-servicemen. An arrangement was made with the Commonwealth Department of Health that acoustic laboratories should be established in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane, and that the Repatriation Commission should contribute to the cost of their establishment and maintenance. Those at Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth are now in operation. The main laboratory, situated in Sydney, attends to the requirements of the Repatriation Commission in New South Wales.
At present, in private enterprise, no standards are defined for qualification as a hearing-aid technician, nor is there any provision for the registration of persons - other than registered medical practitioners - recognized as skilled in the measurement of degrees of deafness. The service provided by the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories is, therefore, the only one of its type in the Commonwealth.
The functions of these laboratories are - (1) to carry out the requirements of the Repatriation Commission for deafened ex-service personnel and to provide a similar service for the Commonwealth Department of Social Services in respect of deafened ex-service personnel whose disability was not caused by war service; (2) to assist the education departments of the States in measuring deafness, fitting aids, and maintaining hearing aid equipment for school children; and (3) to act on behalf of various State and other authorities who desire to have independent tests made before assisting financially in the purchase of hearing aids for people under their care.
With the development of the acoustic laboratory service, it is proposed to extend its activities to the investigation of problems associated with noise in industry. To do this, it will he necessary first to define noise levels which affect the production and the sensibilities of the persons working in noisy conditions. Equipment and staff will then be provided to measure the noise levels obtaining in various industries, and to advise on methods for the reduction of noise to safe proportions, or if this is not possible, for the protection of the worker from ill effects.
Investigations will be made for the purpose of developing apparatus for detecting early deafness in children at the most prevalent age, with a view to taking early preventive action against deafness.
A Commonwealth-wide acoustic laboratory service will be of great value as part of a national health service in providing advice and assistance, with all the technical equipment which is necessary for measuring degrees of deafness, and for the maintenance of efficiency in hearing aids. Some of the less populous States have already requested that the acoustic laboratories should actually carry out tests in respect of citizens generally. This would greatly increase the activities which at present are the responsibility of State authorities and organizations. This expansion will be considered in planning for a national health service.
To encourage the production in Australia of hearing aids and their component parts, technical advice and information as to the standards to be achieved will be available to manufacturers. The Government fully appreciates the disadvantages suffered by those who are unfortunate enough to be afflicted with deafness. People so afflicted are deprived of many pleasures and experiences. The Government wishes to do everything which will contribute to the application of scientific advances in offsetting or correcting the disability under which so many people are labouring, and thus open up for them the opportunities that proper aids would permit. It is not proposed that the Commonwealth should supply hearing aids at present. The provision of such a service in other countries is under close observation and consideration will be given to this aspect by the national health organization which the Government proposes to establish.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 5th May (vide page 1428), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, as the title suggests, proposes to give legal sanction to an agreement made by the Commonwealth with certain State officers upon their transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service. The principal part of the hill is that which deals with additional allowances. As these have already been fully discussed in connexion with a bill for the amendment of the Superannuation Act, a bill which is consequential upon the passing of this measure, it i3 not necessary for me to say anything more on the subject. The Opposition has no objection to offer to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– by leave - Numerous questions have been asked by honorable members on the subject of the continuity of training of ex-servicemen in the building trades under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. In addition, many conflicting statements have appeared in the press. In these circumstances I have decided to state the position as it is now. As honorable members know, the Government’s plan for the building industry provided for a housing construction of 60,000 houses a year as against the pre-war level of 40,000 houses a year, plus a 20 per cent. increase in other forms of building construction above the pre-war level. It was recognized that, in order to achieve the proposed construction rate, it would be necessary to expand both the building labour force and materials production accordingly. Building tradesmen would also be needed by other industries. The proposals for this additional building labour envisages a further 32,850 skilled tradesmen, plus other associated workers. It was estimated that the 32,850 tradesmen would cover the following trades : -
The major responsibility for the recruitment of this force became that of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme.It was evident that such an ambitious scheme could be carried through only by the unstinted support of the industry, and to this end employers and trades unions were invited to take an active part in the administration and supervision of the training scheme. This support has been given ungrudgingly and has resulted in putting into training a force of no less than 17,300 trainees. This gratifying result is due, as I have said, to the energy of the industrial committee selected from the employers and the unions. Unfortunately, however, the training rate has outstripped the advance in materials production, with the result that there is now a real danger of the factors of labour and materials becoming out of balance. There has also been recruitment to the industry from sources other than the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. The closest consultations have been maintained with the industry, which, at a conference in February, agreed that the training rate for the building trades under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme should be adapted to the rate at which industry can absorb the partly trained men with the materials available. Therefore, the industrial committees, on which employers and employees are represented, havebeen given the responsibility of recommending future training rates in each State for the trades concerned. Furthermore, close contact is maintained with the Commonwealth Employment Service which reports increasing difficulty in placing new trainees with employers in a position to complete their training adequately. No change has been made in the Government’s aim to increase building output, including houses, to the level mentioned. This increase is essential if the people of Australia are to be adequately housed. At the same time, while the target for employment of building tradesmen in the building industry and elsewhere will be preserved, the future rate of training for building trades must be regulated to accord with the realities of the materials situation. The employers and unions have stated that, as the materials position improves, so will entry into training. The shortage of materials and its effect on the training rate is not peculiar to Australia. Materials shortages forced a similar situation in the United Kingdom, as long ago as August, 1947.
The temporary cessation of training under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme which has occurred in some trades is due to the shortage of materials. Training in these trades will be recommenced when greater supplies of materials ensure employment opportunities fortrainees. It is of little service to ex-servicemen to train them for skilled occupations unless it is reasonably clear that employment opportunities exist for the completion of their training on the job, and for their subsequent employment. It is, of course, to be expected that, as the number of skilled tradesmen, including Commonwealth reconstruction trainees, approaches the total requirements of the industry, there will be honest differences of opinion between employers and employees’ representatives as to the numbers still to be trained. These differences of opinion do not indicate lack of goodwill on either side and the Government is not disturbed by them. It is concerned to ensure that in the industrial committees there is the fullest opportunity, with the best possible information, for these differences to be ironed out in consultation. The Government is satisfied that if employers and unions will use these opportunities in the same spirit as they have shown during the life of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, progress will continue to be made.
Briefly, the Government policy is, first, to maintain the training scheme as an effective instrument for the reestablishment of ex-servicemen and the provision of skilled labour for industry; and, secondly, with the assistance of em ployers and employees, to regulate the flow of trainees into particular trades to guard against unemployment among ex-servicemen trainees. With the consent of the House, I shall incorporate in Hansard a series of tables which outline the progress of reconstruction training in building occupations, the materials supply position, and the numbers engaged in building occupations.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme - Training for Building Trades. and move -
That the paper lie printed.
.- I welcome the motion for the printing of the paper, because it gives me an opportunity to bring to the attention of the Government the extraordinary situation which has developed in respect of one aspect of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme as it relates to ex-servicemen in the building trade, in the hope that remedial action may be taken. For the information of honorable members, I point out that under the scheme industrial committees, representative of employers and employees, and presided over by government nominees, have ‘been established in each State for the purpose of supervising its administration and operation. From time to time employers apply to the proper authority for the transfer to them of one or more of the ex-service personnel trained under the scheme. These requests are referred to the appropriate industrial committee, which has to approve of the establishment of the employer concerned as an “ approved establishment “. I understand that, as far as it relates to the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, that machinery has worked reasonably well; but serious difficulties have arisen in one section, to which reference was made, in part at any rate, by the Minister in his statement. The facts in my possession indicate that a representative of the carpenters and joiners division of the Building Workers Industrial Union, who is a member of the Victorian Industrial Committee, will not approve of any establishments the proprietors of which are members of the Timber Merchants Association. Consequently, when a member of that association applies to the committee for a trainee to be allocated to him, the union representative to whom I have referred “ digs his toes in “ and refuses to approve. That, in my opinion, is not a genuine refusal to approve. It is not seriously suggested that the establishments from which approval is withheld are such as normally would not be approved. It seems quite clear from the facts which I shall place before the House that this man is merely using his position on the committee as a lever to exert industrial pressure on the Timber Merchants Association. In 1946, Judge Kelly, of the Arbitration Court, deleted certain clauses from the carpenters and joiners award. His action apparently arose from breaches of the industrial law by members of the carpenters and joiners division of the Building Workers Industrial Union. In other words, the judge deleted the clauses as a disciplinary measure. The clauses in question granted to the union the right of entry, the right to post notices, and the right to inspect employers’ wage sheets. When taking this action, the judge told the union that it could make application to the court for the re-insertion of the clauses, upon its giving assurances satisfactory to the court that it would, in future, abide by the provisions of the Arbitration Act and the awards thereunder. In August, 1947, the union made application for the reinstatement of the clauses, but on the 1st September, the judge, deeming that the assurances offered were inadequate, declined to grant the union’s application. Since that time, officials of the union have not had the right of entry to any of the premises of members of the Timber Merchants Association. The union, aggrieved at this decision of. the judge, has taken this particular action in order to vent its spleen, and exert some pressure, apparently through the Timber Merchants Association, by the action that it is taking against members of the Timber Workers Association, on the court itself. The employers who are members of the association, are concerned, no doubt, with the problems which arise from the action of the court in their proper sphere, but when one of them asks the committee for a trainee to be transferred to his establishment, he is met by the difficulty to which I have referred.
I should have thought that if the chairman, who is nominated by the Government, is satisfied that a deadlock exists between the representatives of the employers and the employees, he should exercise a deciding vote in the matter. However, I am advised that a decision of the committee must be unanimous, and for more than six months, trainees in this particular section of the building trades have not been transferred to employers who are members of the Timber Merchant’s Association. The organization includes the most important employers in the timber business in Victoria. The trainees have not been able to obtain a transfer. To emphasize the irony of the matter, I point out that on the 10th March last, the general secretary of the Building Workers Industrial Union - not the representative of the carpenters and joiners section - made the following statement in the course of an address to the Arbitration Court: -
I would point out at this moment there has been a retrogression of entry to the carpentry trade because of the inability of employers to absorb Commonwealth reconstruction trainees. This has created a position where there has been a restriction in the training of those trainees. lt is obvious that the union is preventing the entry of trainees into the trade, while representing to the court that the employers are unable to absorb them. The Government has a direct interest in this matter. It desires that its reconstruction training scheme shall be a success, and we are in accord with that wish. We require an increased number of workers in the building trades in order to overcome the housing shortage. But by an utterly improper use of his position on this committee, the representative of the carpenters and joiners section of the union is preventing the scheme from operating. In my opinion, the remedy is clear. The Government can either discuss the position with the committee, and remedy it, or seek an amendment of the act or the regulation which provides that the decision of the committee shall be unanimous. The requirements of justice would be met if the chairman, who is the nominee of the Government, could decide the matter in the event of a disagreement between the representatives of the employers and employees. I do not know whether the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) is familiar with these facts, but he should at the earliest practicable moment endeavour to straighten out this difficulty. If the union has a legitimate grievance which should be aired before the court, then it should approach the tribunal. Commonwealth instrumentalities which are set up for totally different purposes should not be abused in this way in order that a union may carry out some intimidatory industrial action.
– There is a good deal of substance in the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), but the case is not so one-sided as he might think. He is perfectly right in saying that the Government is very jealous of its reconstruction training scheme, which to date has been most successful. In Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia, no ex-service man or woman is drawing what we call a “ stand-by payment “, which is made while the person is waiting to be sent to a job. Indeed, only 43 ex-service men and women throughout the whole Commonwealth are drawing re-employment payments.
I did not know that the difficulty to which the honorable member has referred had been in existence for so long, because it has not been referred to the Department of Labour and National Service.
– The Timber Merchants Association tried to straighten out the difficulty with the committee.
- Mr. O’Connell, the manager of the Timber Merchants Association, made a statement on the matter, which was published in the press early this week. I shall explain how the difficulty arose. Nearly all the carpenters and joiners who have been trained to 40 per cent, efficiency, and who have been put into full employment, with the payment of a subsidy, have been able to obtain employment on construction work outside the mills. One reason why they prefer to do construction work, instead of being employed in the carpentry shops inside the timber mills, is that they receive an extra 5s. 6d. a week for it. The timber merchants are experiencing difficulty in obtaining trainee carpenters and joiners to go into the shops.
– The employers can get the trainees, but the committee will not approve.
– There is a further difficulty. During the operation of the vocational training scheme after World War I., some employers were not training ex-servicemen as they should have done. As a member of the appeal board for Victoria, I discovered that some exservicemen were being kept on one special little job and were not being taught their trade, although the Government was paying a subsidy at the time. In the operation of the reconstruction training scheme after World War II., we have not discovered any similar instances. I state that fact in order that the honorable member for Fawkner may not think that I am suggesting that employers are not “ playing the game “. We desire to ensure that exservicemen receive thorough training in properly equipped workshops, and, for this purpose, the representatives of the employers and employees must have the right of entry to these establishments. They will also re-assess the trainees so that the Government will not continue to pay subsidies in respect of men who may have attained 100 per cent, efficiency.
In the difficulty to which the honorable member for Fawkner referred, I do not know who is right or who is wrong, but I assure the honorable gentleman that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and I will jointly see the committee about the matter, and endeavour to solve the problem. Something has occurred to prevent the representatives of the carpenters and joiners section from entering these workshops. The judge, who denied them the right of entry, must have had some reason for doing so, but the union representatives are now endeavouring, through a Conciliation Commissioner to straighten out the difficulty. I understand that the union representatives were asked for certain assurances before they would be given the right of entry. To date, those assurances have not been given to the Conciliation Commissioner. The House will agree that we must have the right to ensure that the employers keep their part of the contract, and give exservicemen proper training. Those are the facts. I admit that there is no cause sufficient to warrant the continuance of the present position. There are, I understand, three or four trainees who have readied the stage when they can work in the carpentry and joinery industry. They would probably be prepared to do so if this hitch had not occurred. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and I will interview the committee and ascertain why it will not give permission for these men to go into the workshops. If there is any obstacle that can be removed, it will be our duty to remove it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harbison) adjourned.
– As Chairman, I present the third report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk and - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed (vide page 1534).
– ‘Since the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) made his second-reading speech, I have had an opportunity to examine this bill and to assess the claims that have been made. Members of the Opposition are in agreement with the principles set out in this bill and do not intend to oppose it. In his speech, the Minister dealt with the history of the formation of acoustic laboratories, and, in agreeing to the second reading of the bill on behalf of the Opposition, I propose to elaborate upon that matter.
The Acoustic Research Laboratory was originally established to investigate intercommunication systems for armoured fighting vehicles and aeroplanes and noise protection devices for their crews. At the end of the war it was decided that its activities should be diverted from the field of warfare to acoustic problems in civil life. That was a laudable object. As the result of the last war, there are in Australia 2,500 deafened ex-servicemen. It is not sufficient to allow those men to rely merely upon such chance developments as might occur in the field of hearing aids. The Government has a definite responsibility for them and, by the establishment of these laboratories, has shown that it recognizes that fact. It is also proposed to examine the problem of deafness of school children, which, as honorable members are aware, is caused in many cases by some disease of the mother in the pre-natal stages. The scheme envisaged by this bill will help to ascertain the extent to which deafness exists in Australia and will further the development and design of hearing aids. Facilities for the giving of advice will be provided so that sufferers from this affliction may take full advantage of the benefits that will accrue from this legislation. The functions of these laboratories were described by the Minister as follows : -
Social Services in respect of deafened ex-service personnel whose disability was not caused by war service.
These must commend themselves to honorable members as being very worthy objects.
The bill, however, does not go as far as I hope ultimately the Government will go. For example, no attempt is to be made by the Government to assist those who suffer from this grave disability by helping them to purchase hearing aids; nor is any attempt to be made to undertake an investigation of the diseases that cause deafness. The percentage of deafness among children is very high, and we know that it is normally caused by what is known as rubella or germ an measles in the mother during the pre-natal stages. A close investigation should be made of the causes of the diseases that affect the hearing of the individual, and I have no doubt that that will be done in due course.
The bill contains two important clauses. Clause 4 reads -
The Minister may establish, maintain and operate within the Commonwealth acoustic laboratories for scientific investigations, including tests in respect of hearing aids, and their application to the needs of individuals and in respect of problems associated with noise as it affects individuals.
That is the pivotal clause. Clause 6 gives wide powers to the Government. The Opposition feels that in a matter of this nature the Government is not in a. position at the moment to pin-point with any accuracy the powers it will require and, therefore, acknowledges the necessity for this clause which reads -
The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this act, prescribing all matters which are by this act required or permitted to be prescribed, or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this act, and in particular -
for prescribing the conditions under which acoustic laboratories controlled by the Director-General shall be operated; and
for prescribing the terms and conditions under which the servicesof those laboratories may be made available and the charges which may be made for their services.
We acknowledge that the Minister cannot pin-point, at this moment, everything that is likely to flow from a service of the kind proposed, but we hope that in giving the Government the wide powers proposed, we shall not see them abused by it in the making of regulations.
– I pay tribute to the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna)for having drafted this legislationwhich has been introduced into the House on his behalf by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). I have often tried to obtain from the Government help for the deaf. The Acoustic Research Laboratory was first designed to devise protection for members of the services and people engaged in heavy industries against the excessive noises and blasts of warfare and industry respectively. Later it turned its attention to civilian problems in the acoustic field, especially the rehabilitation of ex-service men and women for whom the Repatriation Commission provides hearing aids.
– Free of cost, too.
– Yes. I commend the Government and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) for that service. For many years the plight of children afflicted with deafness has been neglected as far as the provision of acoustical equipment is concerned. The State Government has set up institutions at which deaf children are educated, but that is not enough. Science has perfected wonderful hearing aids that will give to deaf men, women and children something of the pleasures that their deafness has lost to them hitherto. I congratulate the Government on its decision to establish acoustic research laboratories in the various States. I cannot understand, though, why portable acoustical equipmenthas not previously been sent to every Australian State. Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia have had the equipment at various times, but only this year has Queensland been visited by the scientist in charge of the Australian Government’s acoustical laboratory. I am especially pleased that a laboratory is to be established in Queensland and that the Government proposes to do its utmost to restore to the greatest possible degree the hearing not only of ex-service men and women whose hearing was impaired by their war service, but also of all other people in the community similarly afflicted. During my chairmanship of the War Expenditure Committee, I found that the deafening noise in heavy industries, especially in boilermaking, was responsible for a great deal of absenteeism. I hope that research- will lead to, if not elimination, at least considerable diminution of the deafening noises in heavy industries, because I am certain that that will considerably diminish absenteeism and increase production by leaps and bounds. Time and time again I have urged in this chamber that the provision of hearing aids should be one of the Commonwealth’s social services. In Great Britain this year the Government has started a scheme whereby hearing aids are provided to deaf people in indigent circumstances at a nominal cost and to other similarly afflicted people at a cost less than- they would have to pay on the open market. I hope for the introduction for a similar system in Australia. Deaf people who cannot afford to pay for hearing aids should receive them free. Australia to-day is spending 2,000,000 dollars on the purchase of acoustic equipment and spare parts from the United States of America, but I am confident that with the aid of the more experienced acoustical equipment industry of the United Kingdom, we shall soonbe able to produce our own equipment and thereby save dollars whilst providing a wonderful boon to those afflicted with deafness.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) referred in his second-reading speech to the deafness of children known to have been caused by the contraction of German measles by mothers during pregnancy. There we have a fruitful field of research. The person to whom honour is due for having made that discovery is a Sydney man whose name I must confess escapes me for the moment.
– He is a Tasmanian, whose name is Murray.
– But he practices in Sydney. His discovery ought to be of tremendous importance in the prevention of deafness of the type referred to by the Minister. Research must be aimed at the prevention of German measles in women during pregnancy. At what stage of pregnancy does German measles have this effect upon the unborn child? I understand that it is known to be in the early stages. It is necessary to ascertain at what stage the danger is the greatest and when it ceases. Is there any possibility of inoculation of young women so that they shall escape infection during the months of danger? If that could be clone and we could thereby prevent the incidence of deafness among children we should lay our finger on the cause of a great deal of deafness and thus prevent suffering and loss of efficiency. It is in the field of preventive medicine rather than curative medicine that I think the future of the medical profession lies. The part that the Government should play in the health of the nation lies in that direction. I commend the measure. The Government has made a great step forward in bringing it before the House, but I hope that it will not be content with this patching of defects that we know exist and that it will turn its attention to the prevention of the defects and, particularly, to the prevention of deafness caused by disease in pregnant women.
.- I do not intend to delay the passage of this bill. I rise merely to ask whether the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) can tell me whether the Department of Health has made an estimate of what the proposed new service will cost. That would be useful information to have.
– in reply - I cannot i nf onn the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) of what the service will cost, but I assure him that the money is available to meet whatever the cost may be. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said that he thought hearing aids should be provided to deaf people free of cost.
They are provided free of cost to exservice men and women by the Repatriation Commission. The Director-General of Social Services will examine the practicability of providing them free of cost to other members of the community afflicted with deafness who are in indigent circumstances, as requested by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan). The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) directed attention to the necessity for scientific research into deafness caused by German measles during pregnancy of women. Research to that end is proceeding here, in the United States of America and in Great Britain. Our scientists are keeping in close touch with investigation abroad. Perhaps before long we shall send scientists to the United States of America and Great Britain for a first-hand exchange of experience. We intend that Australia shall be up to date in the methods of combating deafness among our people.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representa tives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next meeting.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to
Wednesday, the 2nd June, at 3 p.m.
Australian Prisoners of War : Re-establishment Leave.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I rise to direct the attention of the Government to an anomaly that bears harshly on certain Australian exservicemen who were prisoners of the Germans or Italians in World War II. On their release, after the defeat of Germany, they returned to Australia with the utmost despatch in order to join the fight against the Japanese. The Government, however, with the knowledge that victory over the Japanese was approaching, decided that men who had suffered the rigours of life in a prisoner of war camp for three or four years should not be called upon to undergo further suffering and declined to allow them to participate further in active service. They were discharged before the 15th August, 1945. There were other prisoners of war who, having friends in England, were absent without leave in that country after having been rescued from the prisoner of war camps in Germany. No one blamed them much for their absence. Who could do so when they had been incarcerated for so long ? The authorities turned a blind eye to their absence. The point I make is that former prisoners of war discharged after the loth August, 1945, were granted re-establishment leave of 30 days. Among them were many of the men who were absent without leave whilst their companions hurried back to Australia to take up the fight once more against their country’s foe. They came home and were discharged after the 15th August, 1945, and received special re-establishment leave of 30 days. The good soldier, who tried to do his job, has been penalized by the denial of such leave. I have here a letter from Mr. T. A. Hennessy, VX15554 2nd/6th Battalion, who is chairman of the Bendigo branch of the Prisoner of War Association, enclosing a reply which he received from the Finance Officer of the 3rd Military District in response to his application for such leave. The letter is as follows : -
In reply to your letter dated the 23rd March, 1048, it is advised that re-establish- ment leave is granted to a member discharged on or after the 15th August, 1945, provided that he is eligible under G.R.O. 343/45. Records held in this office show that you were discharged on the 10th August, 1045.
The circumstances that I have outlined adversely affect the good soldier, the man who wanted to come home, and get on with the job. Because of his decency and devotion to duty, he has been penalized to the extent of 30 days leave. I am sure that this interpretation must be an oversight, and that, when it is brought to the attention of the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Army, this obvious anomaly will be remedied, and an injustice removed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments -Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - A. K. Major.
Parliamentary Reporting Staff - A. B.R. Miller, R. A. A. Paynter.
Overseas Telecommunications Act - First Annual Report of the Telecommunications Commission (Australia) from the establishment of the Commission to 30th June, 1947, together with financial accounts.
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinance - 1948 - No. 5 - Commissions of Inquiry (Papua).
House adjourned at 4.3 p.m. to Wednesday, the 2nd June, at 3 p.m.
The following answers to questions w ere circula ted : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : - 1, 2 and 3. The total quantity of cigarettes containing American leaf which may be imported from the United Kingdom during 1948 is 2,250,000,000 cigarettes or an equivalent weight of tobacco calculated at the rate of 450 cigarettes to the pound. These quantities represent approximately the weight by which importations of American leaf have been reduced by the dollar restrictions. The quantity permitted importation is allocated amongst the British manufacturers on a quota basis according to their importance in the Australian trade and their ability to supply. The quantity available from some British manufacturers is very small. Licences are issued against the quotas to the Australian distributors of the manufacturers. There is no monthly quota. Licences are issued in January and July for half the annual quotas. If it can be established that the tobacco or cigarettes are manufactured wholly from leaf of sterling origin, licences will be issued freely to the quota holders mentioned above without debit to their quotas and also to other importers. The quantity imported under this heading would be additional to the figure of 2,250,000,000 quoted above. There is, therefore, no restriction on the importation of cigarettes made in the United Kingdom entirely from leaf of sterling origin, whereas the cigarettes made wholly or partially from American leaf are restricted on a quota basis to a definite quantity. 4 and 5. Australian manufacturers have been striving to increase production of tobacco and prior to the recent restrictions had increased the quantity available for distribution to within 10 per cent. of the estimated demand. However, as from October, 1947, there has been a decrease in production owing to the restricted quantities of tobacco leaf permitted importation from America and the decrease in size of the Australian crop. In spite of this decrease, the quantity of Australian tobacco and cigarettes distributed throughout the Commonwealth is greater than it was during the period when tobacco rationing conditions were in force.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
e asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Flax production operations at the Oatlands flax mill, Tasmania, finally ceased in August, 1!)40, and the land and buildings were subsequently disposed of to the Tasmania n Government for use by some other industry. (6) Operations at the Hagley mill were temporarily suspended in February, .1948, because through the poor returns obtained by growers from their flax crops in relation to other crops sufficient acreage for flax could not be obtained to keep the mill in economic production. These poor returns were due to unsatisfactory seasonal conditions and the damage caused to the flax crops by the rust disease. The representative of the Tasmanian flaxgrowers has advised that the farmers in the Hagley district would be interested, in again growing flax if sufficient supplies of sowing seed of a rust resistant variety were made available.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon not ice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following inf ormation : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
There is no officer by the name of Storer on the staff of the Commercial Branch, Department of Trade and Customs, Sydney. However, if the honorable member’s question relates to Mr. T. F. Strover, who is a member of the staff of the Central Import Licensing Branch, Department of Trade and Customs, Sydney, the answers are as follows: -
Clerk-in-Charge, Correspondence and Records Branch.
See No. 1.
See No. 4.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
Notwithstanding that due to large shipments of cottons from the United Slates of America ordered before the dollar stringency arose, stocks of many types of cottons and the garments made therefrom arc temporarily good, the Government decided on account of the circumstances set out above that it would not be prudent to discontinue clothes rationing at the present time.
d. - On the 15 th April, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Langtry) asked whether any indication could be given of the present position regarding the importation from the United States of America of hearing aids and replacement parts for hearing aids at present in use. The Minister for Trade and Customs desires me to inform the honorable member that provision will be made in the 1948-49 import licensing budget for the importation from the United States of America of hearing aids and replacement parts for hearing aids. A. special committee is at present engaged in the allocation of the 1948-49 budget to the various items to be imported and, until the committee has completed the work in hand, I am not able to say precisely what allocations will be made for the importation from the United States of America of hearing aids and replacement parts therefor.
d. - On the 22nd April, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked the following question : -
I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to the Commonwealth Statistician’s report on food production and consumption in Australia for the year 1946-47, which shows that although the rationing scale for couponed meats permits an annual consumption of 95.68 lb. a head, the actual consumption of these meats was 181.4 lb. a head. Allowing 20per cent. for wastage in retail butcher shops, these figures indicate a consumption of approximately 145 lb. a head. To assist the people of Great Britain in their desperate economic crisis, which, according to figures published in to-day’s press, is worsening, I ask the Minister what steps, if any, have been taken to reduce the consumption of meat in excess of the ration scale in this country?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information: -
The honorable member correctly quotes from the Commonwealth Statistician’s report on Food Production and Consumption for 1 946-47 that the consumption of fresh meat was IS 1.4 lb. a hoad, which is stated in terms of carcass weight. His assumption that wastage would account for 20 per cent, is erroneous, as the deduction allowed off carcass weight by the Rationing Commission for bone, fat “and trimmings in converting to butcher weight averages over 29 per cent, and even this is claimed by butchers to be too low. The Statistician’s” report states the individual ration for an adult as 1.84 lb. a week, which is equivalent to 95.68 lb. per annum (butcher’s weight) as quoted by the honorable member, or 134.9 lb. carcass weight. An additional factor to be allowed for is that meat is necessarily made available for the following purposes, which account for over 100,000 tons per annum: - Hotels (for guests staying less than six nights) ; cafes and restaurants; manufacturing (for sausages and smallgoods); hospitals; special medical cases; merchant vessels, &u. Furthermore, consumption in non-rationed areas and on farms killing their own meat is not restricted and would greatly exceed the ration. Unfortunately, there is also (i leakage of meat and coupons from rural areas to consumers in cities and towns, which it is very difficult to police. It is to be regretted that the unrelated, and therefore misleading, figures quoted by the honorable member received wide publicity. A much truer picture would have been presented had he quoted from the concluding paragraphs of the section on meat in the Statistician’s report. Those show that, in carcass weight equivalent of beef, mutton, pork, offal, canned meat and bacon and ham, consumption of which for the three years ended 1938-39 averaged 253.2 lb. a head per annum, declined on account of meat rationing to 218.7 lb. in 1944, 203.2 lb. in 1945, and 203.1 lb. in 1946. Preliminary estimates for 1940-47 indicate a rise to 211.2 “>: but, the Statistician remarks, this figure is inclusive of a small but unknown quantity consumed by services. In a memorandum to the Rationing Commission the Commonwealth Statistician estimated that if consumption of meat in 1946-47 had been at the same amount a head as in 1942-43, 132,000 tons more would have been consumed, thus reducing exports by half. The Rationing Commission and thu Government are aware that there are evasions of meat rationing by some persons in rural areas, as indicated above, by meat traders and by consumers, but the losses of meat thereby, although regarded as serious in existing circumstances, are less than is sometimes claimed. One of the main reasons, the Rationing Commission considers, for 011sumption bbeyond the permitted quantities, is the failure of the courts in some States to inflict penalties on offenders sufficiently high to act an a deterrent.
E,1.- - On the 16th April, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) asked whether the allocation of import licences for the forthcoming year would be on a quota system, based on the value of goods purchased during a specific quarter, or on the basis of purchases for the whole year.
The special committee has reported to me that whereas it was originally hoped that it would be possible to issue licences on a quota basis related to importations made by individuals or firms in the financial year 1946-47, it has been found that such a system of licensing will be possible in relatively few instances. In these few instances each quota holder will be entitled to a licence each quarter of a c.i.f. and e. value equal to one-fourth of his annual quota related to his imports in 1946-47. In other cases, the budget, which is in course of preparation, will allocate a certain amount of money to specific tariff items or a specific commodity and licences will be approved against the particular budget allocations in cases where the importation is deemed to be essential. To secure an even flow of imports, the guiding principle will be that licences issued each quarter will not exceed one-fourth of the total annual amount allocated under each budget specification.
Sheet Brass: Black Market Sales.
y. - On the 16th April, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), asked a question regarding the sale of 20-gauge brass sheet in Sydney. I am informed by the Minister for Supply and Development that this matter has now been investigated by the Commonwealth Investigation Service, which reports that neither the person nor the firm concerned is an agent of nor in any way connected with the Commonwealth Disposals Commission; also there is no record of any sales of surplus sheet brass by the commission to these people. It was ascertained that the person referred to by the honorable member is an agent selling goods, including sheet brass, solely on behalf of private firms.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What staff (<i) permanent and (6) temporary and exempt was employed in Commonwealth departments at the 31st December, 1947?
– I refer the honorable member to my reply to a similar question which is contained in Hansard pages 943-44 of the 15th April, 1948. The figures shown there are the latest available at present. Normally, figures showing the particulars asked for are compiled for the 30th June each year. The next figures will be for the 30th June, 1948, and will be supplied when they become available..
Queensland Shipping Services.
y. - On the 22nd April, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), asked a question in connexion with the shipping position in the port of Brisbane and the difficulties being experienced in lifting cargo from southern States for Queensland ports. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has advised me as follows: -
The difficulties referred to arose, of course, out of the delays occasioned by the industrialdisturbance in Queensland but since shipping operations have been resumed both the Australian Shipping Board and private shipowners have made every effort to lift cargoes which had accumulated for Queensland ports. As at the week ending 1st May the quantity of cargo awaiting shipment from Adelaide for Brisbane was approximately 5,500 tons and the vessels Mungana and Beltana had been fixed to lift this cargo. From Melbourne for Brisbane there were approximately 5,000 tons of cargo offering and the vessels Manunda, Carlisle and Cardross had been fixed for Melbourne loadings for Queeusland ports. The Director of Shipping has been unable to obtain any clear indication of the actual amount of overseas cargo which was discharged at Sydney for transhipment to Brisbane. It appears, however, that from advices received from the various shipping interests 10,000 tons of cargo, both overseas and interstate, were awaiting shipment to Brisbane from Sydney during week ending 1st May. A number of vessels including the Arkaba, Manunda, Delamere, Carlisle, River Norman and Troilus have been fixed for Sydney loadings for Queensland ports and it is the view of the Director of Shipping that these vessels will be adequate to cater for all the cargo offering. Certain of the vessels mentioned will also lift cargo for other Queensland ports. There was, of course, an accumulation of steel products at both Newcastle and Port Kembla for Queensland ports but these accumulations have largely been cleared by recent shipments with the exception of a quantity of 1,055 tons awaiting shipment to Townsville from Newcastle as at 22nd April. The Steamship Owners’ Association anticipate that an early fixture will be made for this loading. As regards the waterside labour the position in
Brisbane has been under close review by the Stevedoring Industry Commission for some time. It was only to be expected that following the settlement of the Queensland dispute, shortages of labour would occur in all Queensland ports where cargo had accumulated for shipment. The Commission is of the opinion that the waterside workers registered for the port of Brisbane are adequate for the normal needs of the port and that no good purpose would be served by increasing the registered labour available for the Brisbane waterfront at the present time.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t. - On the 14th April, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now able to supply the following information to the honorable member: - 1 to 4. The Federated Clerks Union was registered in 1911 as an organization under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and at all times its constitution has entitled it to accept as members persons employed in a clerical capacity in the Commonwealth Public Service. The officers referred to are officers of the union itself, and not of the Commonwealth.
n asked the Minister for Post war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s . questions are as follows : -
Prices Control: Alleged Improper Practices.
y. - On the 25th February last, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked whether I was aware that a senior member of the Prices Branch had been charged with black marketing in connexion with the renting of a house and that at the hearing certain Crown witnesses who had previously made statements supporting the case for the prosecution declined, on the ground that they might incriminate themselves, to give evidence with the result that the charge against the official was ultimately dismissed. The honorable member further asked why was no immunity offered these witnesses to encourage them to give evidence against the defendant.
The facts are that an officer of the Prices Branch, Sydney, was being transferred to Canberra. He” had the occupancy of a house in Sydney and was approached by a fellow officer - a lady who was an old friend of his family - with a view to obtaining possession of the house for her married sister who was homeless and about to have a baby. The Prices officer agreed and said that, as he did not want the furniture in Canberra, he was prepared to sell it for £150, which was considered to be its fair value. The husband did not approve of the purchase of the furniture but, without his knowledge, the wife purchased the furniture and obtained a home. The husband complained to the Prices Branch, Sydney, and was referred to the Deputy Rent, Controller within whose province the matter fell. It is a breach of the National
Security (Landlord and Tenant) Regulations to give or receive a sum of money (other than rent) in association with the grant of a lease. The Deputy Rent Controller, in referring the papers to the Deputy Crown Solicitor with a view to prosecution, expressed doubts as to whether the circumstances were such as would warrant the institution of proceedings. It was doubtful whether the transaction was within the regulations. The question of prosecution was ultimately referred to the Acting AttorneyGeneral, who decided in November last that, as the honour of the administration of the Prices Branch was at stake, the prosecution, should proceed. The charge was not one of black marketing as alleged by the honorable member. Both women were unwilling witnesses and, after they had given portion of their evidence, they were advised by the magistrate that they need not answer certain questions if the answers might tend to incriminate them. Acting on this advice, they readily declined to give further evidence and the information was dismissed, without, of course, any ruling on the legal contentions of the defendant. It is not the practice of the Crown to offer indemnity to witnesses in cases such as this and no indemnity was accordingly offered. I repeat that the prosecution was brought to vindicate the honour of the Prices administration, which had been impugned.
Constitution Alteration : Broadcasts onrents and Pricesreferendum.
– On the 5th May, 1948, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked me a question without notice regarding interruptions to the broadcast by the right honorable the Leader of the Australian Country party on the forthcoming prices referendum. I have advised the right honorable gentleman by telegram as follows . -
Reference interruption Mr. Fadden’s broadcast raised by you in House, PostmasterGeneral has informed me that the interruption was due to technical faults which resulted in the broadcast being six minutes approximately short of the allotted time on stations outside Queensland. To compensate for this loss the Australian Broadcasting Commission which is the responsible authority on this matter is agreeable to provide a further six minute period at a time suitable to the Australian Country party to compensate for the loss of time caused by the interruption. The commission states that apologies were made for the interruptions on three occasions between 7.16 p.m. and 7.23 p.m. and that Mr. Fadden’s name was again mentioned as the speaker when the line fault was cleared. I have advised Mr. Fadden of the foregoing.
Primary Production : Spare Parts for implementsandmachinery.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.Chifley. - The answers to the honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows:-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 May 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480506_reps_18_197/>.