18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. j; j. Clark) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers-.
“WAR SERVICE HOMES’.
Mr. “WILLIAMS. - Will the Minister for “Works and Housing, in the allocation of war service, homes, give consideration to ex-servicemen who have recently married or are about to be married? Up to date the allocation of war service homes has been based on the needs of the respective applicants, but ex-servicemen recently married or about to be married, surely merit some consideration.
Mr. LEMMON. - All permits for -home construction allocated .by- the States to the War Service Homes authorities have been allocated, in the main,, on a needs basis. The principle has been -.that 90 per cent, should be allocated to men. with families and that tho remaining 10 per cent, should be made available to . widows. If, however, an ex-serviceman, whether single or about to be married, could obtain a permit to obtain materials and could provide the labour to construct a home, the full benefit of the act is avail- . able to him”. I. am now prepared to make 80. per cent, of War Service Homes available on a needs basis, allowing 10 per cent, to widows, and 10 per cent, to eligible ex-servicemen who have recently married or- about to be married.
– A matter- which gives me concern is the statement in the Prime .Minister’s budget speech that the volume, of our exports has substantially increased since before the war.- Tie eight, honorable gentleman has stated that- the volume of meat exported was 1-7 -per.-cent. higher last year tiran-, prior to- the- war, and. that dairy produce exports were. 21 per cent, and foodstuffs as a -whole- 26 per cent, higher; Can the right honorable gentleman, inform me whether: thu statement was the result of a typographical error, or whether the words actually mean what they say?
– One of my colleagues having already asked me whether the statement was intended to refer to volume or value, I made some inquiries. I understand that the use of the word “ volume “ 13 based on figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture apparently regards those figures as being not quite in accord with other figures which it has, and I have arranged that statistical experts shall determine the position exactly.
– Can the Treasurer inform me whether, under the War Gratuity Act, a member of the Royal Australian Air Force attached to headquarters at Darwin, who was required to fly on many operations outside Australia as a part of his duties, is debarred ‘ from obtaining the overseas rate of gratuity because he was attached to such headquarters ? Had he been attached to a squadron and made even one flight out of Australia, would he not have been eligible for one year’s gratuity sX the overseas rate? If I have stated facts, will the Treasurer take steps to remove the anomaly?
– The honorable member mentioned this matter to me some time ago, although I do not remember all the relevant circumstances. I said then, as I say now, that the position of men serving in air -squadrons stationed at Darwin had been considered by the all party committee of honorable members which .dealt with the paymenof “war gratuities. I should not be prepared to make any amendment, except of a minor character, to the decisions formulated by that committee, upon which some members of the Opposition did valuable work. If the honorable member will supply me with particulars’ of any case he has in mind, .and I can get them verified by the Minister for Air, I shall ask the committee to look into -them when any other relevant matters require consideration.
– Can the Minister for Air say why there were several delays in Trans-Australia Airlines schedules the day before yesterday due to mechanical defects? Does he know why the 8.10 a.m. service from Sydney to Canberra was delayed until 1 p.m. through a mechanical defect, and why, even after the aircraft left Sydney, it had to return on one engine? Incidentally, I may mention that this aeroplane was carrying two very important persons in the Leader of the Australian Country party and the right honorable member for Cow.per. I should like the Minister to explain to the House and to the public what precautions are taken to ensure that all commercial aircraft are airworthy, and what system of inspection is applied before any machines are allowed to take the air.
– To the first part of the honorable member’s question he has himself supplied the answer. The delays were due to -mechanical defects. No aeroplanes are proof against such defects, which are bound to occur from time to time. Similar defects occur in locomotives, and other machines in the operation of which I myself have been associated in days gone by. When a defect is sufficiently important to justify the pilot in declining to take the machine into the air that is itself a reason for delay which may occur. I have received no information about the particular trip referred to by the honorable member when an aeroplane returned to Sydney after having been some time in the air. Details of alterations to schedules are not supplied to me, but details ‘©f all accidents involving -serious injury or loss of life are sent to me. The inspection of aeroplanes in order to ensure that they are in sound mechanical condition is very strict. Indeed, pilots from other parts of the world acknowledge that the system of inspection in Australia is of the highest standard. I regret that important persons were delayed by the return of the .aeroplane to Sydney, but I point out that other important persons, including myself, have been delayed from time to time for similar reasons, but that -does not justify complaint. I am sure that all honorable members will agree with me when I say that it is much better that an aeroplane, in which a mechanical defect has been discovered, should not take the air, and that one which has taken the air should return to its starting point when a defect is discovered, than that the pilot should continue the journey. The action of a pilot in returning is fully justified if he believes it to be necessary in the interests of safety.
– Has the Minister for Works and Housing seen the reported statement of a Minister of the Government of New South Wales that the duty on imported timber should be abolished? This proposal was supported by the general secretary of the Association of Co-operative Building Societies in New South Wales, Mr. W. G. Pooley. Has the Minister seen the report? Has the Government considered lifting the duty on imported timber? Have any representations on the matter been received from the New South Wales Government?
– From time to time, requests have been made to the Government for the removal of the duty on certain classes of imported timber but, because of certain difficulties under the British preferential tariff, which was recently agreed to at the International Trade Organization discussions, it has not been possible fully to remove the duty on those classes of timber. I have seen some criticism of the Government by certain State Ministers regarding the duty on imported houses. All requests for the lifting of the duty on imported houses have so far been granted.
– The duty on all houses brought in for governmental uses has been waived.
– Yes. Recently the duty on 2,000 ready cut houses imported by the Government of Victoria for its use was waived.
Australians in Japan : Criticism of Mr. Massey Stanley.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the course of some remarks that I made in criticism of the honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Martin yesterday about Mr. Massey Stanley, I criticized the Minister for the Army, and stated that he had not said anything in Mr. Stanley’s defence until Mr. Stanley had written to him. I find that that statement is incorrect and that, in fact, the Minister made his remarks in defence of Mr. Stanley before he had heard from Mr. Stanley. I desire to alter my remarks accordingly. Nothing, that I said about the honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Martin is withdrawn.
– A good deal of misunderstanding exists among people in connexion with the payments to widowsof servicemen and their children. Can the Minister for Repatriation tell the House the actual payments made to such persons inclusive of pensions and educational allowances?
– Anticipating a question of this nature, I brought with me the precise figures. They are contained in a statement that I recently issued. They are the amounts that are being paid to-day. Of course, they will be increased in accordance with the budget speech of the Treasurer. The allowance for a widow is £2 15s. a week. A widow with one child receives £4. The payment for larger families is as follows : - Two children £5, three children £5 12s. 6d., four children £6 12s. 6d., five children £7 12s. 6d., and six children- £8 12s. 6d. Where there are children of school age the allowance is increased substantially. For instance, a widow with three children, whose ages are 7, 13 and 15 years, receives a total payment of £6 8s. a week instead of £5 12s. If there are four children aged say 11, 13, 15 and 16 years, the payment would be £7 17s. 6d. a week. In addition, school books are provided for children under the age of thirteen years. Medical benefits are also provided for widows. During the next few days the House will be informed of the changes consequent upon the budget proposals under which widows and their families will be entitled to treatment in repatriation institutions similar to that now provided for ex-service personnel. I shall prepare a complete statement for the information of the honorable member setting out the rates of pension which will be paid when the budget proposals have been implemented.
– I have received a long telegram asking for my assistance in the case of the widow and three children of the late Padre Leonard Kentish, who was beheaded by the Japanese during the recent war. An ex gratia pension of £3 19s. a fortnight has been granted to this family. Will the Minister for Repatriation examine this matter and ascertain whether it would be possible to grant this widow the full pension, as it is impossible for her to support herself and her children on the amount she now receives?
– If the honorable member will supply me with the particulars of the case I shall have the matter examined and ascertain whether everything is being done that can be done or whether it is possible to do something more. I assure the honorable member that I shall treat this matter sympathetically.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Immigration been drawn to evidence reported to have been given in a Sydney court by Walter Roth, of the Janus Trading Company, that Roth had been instrumental in obtaining permits for eleven people to enter Australia, and that he had received a total of £1,300 from them in connexion with their applications for permits? Will the Minister have immediate inquiries made into Roth’s statements with a view to instituting legal proceedings against him, if such action is possible?
– Unlike my distinguished colleague, the Minister for Repatriation who had anticipated a question asked of him a moment ago, I had no knowledge of the subject mentioned by the honorable member until I read the statement in the press. Inquiries are already being made into these statements, and if there is the slightest justification for them some one will receive a summons and the full rigour of the law will be applied. It is the jealous boast of the Department of Immigration that no charges of corruption lie against any of its officers. Statements of . this kind which may be made in a court for purposes other than that of establishing the course of justice are immediately investigated by my officers. I shall advise the honorable member as early as possible pf the result of the inquiries.
– So that desirable migrants from Britain will not be forced to wait an unconscionable time before leaving for Australia, because of the housing shortage in this country and to prevent the necessity for other migrants who have arrived returning to Britain because they have been unable to find homes here, will the Minister for Immigration sympathetically consider the use of camps and hostels and other emergency accommodation as is now being done in the case of displaced person migrants ?
– I always consider every matter sympathetically and thoroughly. The matter raised is one of first-rate importance, and if it is possible either to secure camps near the cities or to build hostels for the purpose of housing single British migrants, that action will be taken. As a result of a recent conference of Commonwealth and State officers connected with immigration matters, a proposal is already under consideration to examine the possibilities of erecting hostels to house British ex-service migrants. Under that proposal the Commonwealth would bear half the cost. Under the arrangement at present operating, which was made at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers some years ago, the reception of immigrants is entirely a State responsibility. At a later stage I hope to be able to make a statement on the general principles governing immigration. The Government desires to do as much for the British, single migrant as it does for single displaced persons who come to this country as migrants. .When migrants arrive in Australia from Britain they are at liberty to leave hostels and go where they choose. They are not bound down as are displaced person migrants, but the Government hopes that many British migrants will remain in the accommodation which it has provided for them. The Government brought 1,000 British migrants to Australia over a period to perform building work at Canberra, and it provided accommodation for them. About 600 of those migrants have left Canberra and have gone elsewhere in Australia; but, whereever they have gone, they have assisted in the construction of homes for Aus-‘ tralian people. They are doing good work and their presence in Australia is very welcome. However, a situation may confront the immigration authorities if the Government adopts the honorable gentleman’s suggestion similar .to one which has already arisen. Individuals have advertised in the Canberra Times for British migrants to take private employment. The conditions they offered were full award rates and conditions of employment,, payment of full board and lodging, and payment of their income tax. In those circumstances the Government has found it difficult to hold British migrants in Canberra. Something similar may occur in the future, but the prospect of that happening will not deter the Government from helping British migrants who axe unable to come to Australia because they cannot find persons here to nominate them.
– When appointing publicists to his department, will the Minister for Information consider the brilliant compiler of the Liberal party’s weekly broadcasts who has shown genius worthy of recognition in choosing the song, “ Waltzing Matilda “, as the theme song for these- programmes, thus providing an accurate reminder to the public every week, that the adoption of the Liberal party’s policy means, that hundreds’ of thousands of men will be waltzing “ matilda “ in an unavailing search for work during the next depression ?.
– I have no doubt that the gentleman who writes the scripts for the Liberal party is- a- genius. Indeed, a person would, need to be some sort of a genius to belong to the Liberal party. Of course, the gentleman concerned is hard put to it to justify his propaganda, but if I could secure his services, humanize him and: make him a good Australian, I. have no doubt that’ he could tell the people of Australia a good deal about the possibilities of a financial and economic depression if this Government were ever to lose control of the treasury bench.
– Will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform me whether certain benefits under the reconstruction training scheme are extended to American, Dutch and French ex-servicemen? Is it a fact that Polish ex-servicemen are not receiving those benefits? Will the Minister indicate whether consideration will be given to the extension of the facilities to these ex-servicemen of our war-time ally Poland, who are now in this country as new Australians?
– The Minister for Immigration will answer the question.
– The Government has decided to- extend to the nationals of the countries which the honorable member has mentioned the benefits of the assistance that it gives to British exservicemen. Bait those nationals- do not receive anything-‘ like the benefits that members of the Polish army, who fought in, association with the British army, receive. Polish exservicemen, who- are at present working in Tasmania, are regarded a.3 having been members of the British army, and they were brought to this country free of Cost to themselves. On arrival here, they were issued with clothes by the Department of Immigration, and were immediately given employment .by the Hydro-Electric Commission of Tasmania. Polish ex-servicemen who are allocated to work in other parts of Australia will be similarly treated. Former members of the Polish army, whether they fought alongside Australians in the defence of Tobruk, or were members of the Royal Air Force or served, in other branches of the services, are brought to Australia by arrangement with the British War Office, and are in much better circumstances than are former members of the armies or resistance movements of Holland, Denmark, Norway, France and Belgium, to whom the- Government’s recent decision regarding re-establishment benefits applies. If the honorable gentleman will tell me more specifically what he has in mind regarding any alleged discrimination, I shall investigate the matter.
– In view of the shortage of petrol in the Commonwealth, can the Prime Minister indicate how the search for oil is progressing in this country? Is it true that three companies are searching for. oil in Australia ?
– Searches for oil are being carried out not only in Australia but also in New Guinea. I do not know whether I am at liberty to disclose the progress that the companies concerned have made, but [ shall ascertain whether they will’ consent to the preparation of a statement on the subject. The Government has made available to the companies operating in New Guinea a considerable amount of dollars for the purchase of drilling equipment. Speaking from memory, I believe that the drills have already gone down to a depth of 12,500 feet, and there are hopeful prospects that the work will be successful. Three companies are making searches but I do not know how far they would wish me to disclose the results of their individual efforts. 1 shall cause inquiries to be made to see whether the honorable member for Wilmot can be supplied with the information which he seeks.
– I draw attention to the great transport difficulties that are encountered by small rural communities owing to the impossible task that local authorities are set in constructing roads. Will the Minister for Transport say whether, when Cabinet was considering the proposal to increase by £1,000,000 the amount made available each year under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act 1947 for roads through sparsely settled areas, thought was given to the needs of rural areas where the rates levied on the ratepayers are not sufficient to provide the funds accessary to keep roads sufficiently trafficable in wet and other weather to permit local products to be carted to the railhead and to allow of the transport of mail and the general commercial requirements of the local people? Will the Minister consider the provision of this very necessary assistance to local authorities and residents of isolated areas?
– In the absence of the Minister for Transport, I can answer the question in a general way. When I was a member of the executive of the Local Government Association I waited on the then Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, to discuss the way in which the amount made available for roads aid was allocated to and used by the States. For a number of years requests have been made to this and some previous Australian Governments that consideration should be given to making some of the money available for what are known as by-roads, or roads that are not controlled, financed, or subsidized by main roads boards. Special consideration was given to that matter. Different practices obtain in the States in regard to the distribution of the money that is made available for road works. One condition imposed by the Minister for Transport is that it shall be used for roads in sparsely populated areas, or on the purchase of machinery, or for roads that do not receive assistance from other sources. In New South Wales, for instance, the practice is to divide the grant into two parts. One part is allocated to developmental roads, that is, roads not already in a reasonably trafficable condition but which would assist in the development of certain areas. The other part is given to shires, and I understand that it is the intention to consider making a portion of it available to municipalities which have a considerable distance of road in their areas. At the end of the year the Minister for Transport will receive from each State, for his guidance, a report showing how the money has been spent in that State. One million pounds a year was to be provided for three years, but I have no doubt that the £2,000,000 a year that is now granted will be continued into next year. The whole matter will be reconsidered in the light of the experience that has been gained and the reports that are made to the Minister, who is now examining the methods adopted by the States to see whether they conform with the views of the Australian Government on how the money should be spent generally. It is not desired to interfere with the judgments of the State governments but it is necessary to see that the money is used for the purpose for which the Australian Government, which provided it, intended that it should be used. I shall ensure that the matter raised by the honorable member will be brought to the notice of the Minister for consideration before it is necessary for him to make further recommendations on the matter.
Distribution of Supplies - Fishing Boats
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to reports of allegations by the honorable member for Parkes, who was the leader of the parliamentary delegation to Japan, that the administration in China of the Australian allocation to Unrra was a racket and a scandal; that Australian blood plasma was sold on the Chinese black market; that Australian blankets, flour and other food went to the black market in China; that £19,000,000 worth of goods supplied to Unrra was wasted ; and that 30 fishing boats taken from Australian servicemen were never used and are now rotting in Soochow Creek? As the leader of the delegation has not denied the published reports of his statements, will the Prime Minister (a) disclose the source of the information on which the right honorable gentleman based his letter to me last December, arising from questions regarding the fishing vessels supplied to China from Australia, in which he stated “those vessels which have been engaged in off-shore fishing operations have for the most part given a fair account of themselves”; (6) inform the House whether Australia was represented on the control commit’ee administering these supplies, and, if jo, by whom; and (c) obtain from t7 e leader of the parliamentary delegation a detailed report on his investigations into Unrra while in China and table it in this House ?
– It cannot be disputed that the distribution of Unrra sup- plies generally in China was, to say the least, not satisfactory. I base that statement on discussions which I have had with those closely associated with the work of Unrra, including the late Mr. La Guardia and Commander Jackson, the latter of whom was Deputy DirectorGeneral of Unrra, who informed me that they were not satisfied with the distribution of Unrra goods sent to China from all countries, not merely from Australia. I understand that all the American representatives in China considered that the distribution of the goods was unsatisfactory, though generally, it was thought that perhaps the use of some of the goods sent to China in a manner not intended by the directors of Unrra was due to forces over which the Chinese Government had no control. I have not seen the published statement by the leader of the parliamentary delegation. What has been said generally of Unrra supplies in China may apply in the same degree to the distribution of Australian supplies. I do not desire to make any comments on the administration of another country in regard to this particular matter, but 1 shall have investigations made and inform the honorable’ member of the result. I shall also attempt to give to the honorable member a statement regarding fishing boats which will not be regarded as offensive to the Government of China.
– I have been endeavouring for some months, but without success, to secure from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture some information regarding the price to be paid by the United Kingdom Government for supplies of bacon and other pig meats from Australia. Is it a fact that the Socialist Government of the United Kingdom has embarked, in central Queensland, with the co-operation of the Australian and Queensland Governments, on a scheme for pig-farming on a collective farming basis similar to that in operation in Russia, whereby it is hoped to produce large quantities of the supplies of bacon and other pig meats which Britain seeks? If this is so, will the Minister expedite the making of an agreement under which the Government of the United Kingdom will pay profitable prices for Australian pig meats so that the people of the United Kingdom will get the food they need?
– I understand that the Government of the United Kingdom has entered into a working arrangement with the Queensland Government for the cultivation of a very large area in Queensland for the production of grain sorghum to be fed to pigs which, in due course, will be exported to the United Kingdom. As for the honorable member’s request that a decision about prices be expedited, I can only repeat what I 3aid last week. As soon as the Government of the United Kingdom agrees to a price, an announcement will be made, but I cannot force that Government to make up its mind before it is ready to do so.
Debate resumed from the 8th September (vide page 232), on motion by Mr. Thompson -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to : -
May it please Youn Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, “desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Lang had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the Address : - “ and to inform Your Excellency that because the Communist party, . . .” (vide page 52).
.- The Speech of the Governor-General contained a reference to external affairs which, at the present time, are of transcendent importance to Australia. Once more, the threat of war hangs over the world, notwithstanding the fact that we have only just emerged from a most sanguinary conflict. Therefore, it is necessary that the Government should do what it is- in fact doing; that is, that it should endeavour to ensure that outstanding differences between the nations are settled peacefully so that war may be avoided. The utter futility of war as a method of settling international differences has been fully demonstrated. Many of the problems which confront the world to day are due to the fact that so great a part of the energies of the various nations are devoted to repairing the damage caused during the recent war rather than to supplying themselves with food and other necessary commodities. Upon the victor nations has devolved the responsibility of feeding their former enemies, a fact which shows beyond doubt that in modern warfare there are no victors. All are losers. The present situation in Germany is graphically described in two recent issues of the journal, Current Notes, issued by the Department of External Affairs. The present lamentable position of the German people is described, and the writer touches upon the probable relationship of Germany to the rest of the world in the years ahead. The story is not a cheerful one, and wo are left with dark forebodings as to the future.
Let us turn now to the country which, it is generally believed, constitutes a threat to peace. I refer to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. What I am about to say will undoubtedly be misrepresented and misinterpreted throughout Australia. I do not believe for a moment that the Russian people or the Russian Government seek or desire war. I believe that they are seeking, as all nations have sought from the beginning of time, security for themselves. I know, of course, that, in the past, fear has been a fruitful cause of war, and it is fear, entertained now by the people and the Government of Russia, that is pushing the world rapidly down the incline which leads to the abyss of war. Recently, I came upon a book by the American author, John Steinbeck, written after a visit to Russia. On that visit he states that he made contact with the people of Russia in their homes, on their farms and in the cities. The writer does not discuss Russian politics, although, apparently, he does not like 1 the Russian system. Here is a significant - passage -
The Russians of Moscow are highly suspicious of foreigners who are watched, constantly by the secret police. Every move is noticed and sent to central head-quarters. A guard is placed on all foreigners. Furthermore Russians do not receive foreigners into their houses, and they seem to be afraid even to talk to them very much. A message sent to a member of the Government usually remains unanswered, and a further message is also unanswered. If one is unfortunate one is told that this official hasleft the city, or is sick. Foreigners are permitted to travel in Russia only after great difficulty, and during their travels they are very closely watched. Because of this general coldness and suspicion, foreigners visiting in Moscow are forced to associate with each other exclusively.
That was written in 1634. It is from a book called Voyages in Muscovy, Tartary and Persia, by Adam Olearius. It is clear, therefore, that the Russian outlook is little different now from what it was 350 years ago. Similarly, Russian foreign policy is little changed from the policy applied by the Czars down through the centuries. Notwithstanding that, we must concede that the Russian people and their leaders realize the futility of war. Russia’s participation in the recent war has left the nation greatly weakened. Over a great . part of the country the factories, houses and farms were destroyed or severely damaged, and vast numbers of civilians and fighting men were killed or maimed. Russia does not want war, but fear of the future has pushed the Russian leaders into adopting a more or less aggressive attitude, and it is possible that it will lead to another world war with all its awful consequences. The Prime Minister was completely right in his stirring speech in this debate. He did not say that no one ought to take steps to prevent Russia, in its fear of aggression, from flooding over Europe. He did not say that no hand must be raised or word uttered to show Russia that its policy led inexorably to war. But he did say that men in this country and other countries throughout the world who are urging that we must stop Russia’s movements now are doing an awful disservice to the world. Honorable members who take and express the view that Russia is moving aggressively over Europe do not help the cause of world peace or the cause of the western democracies. The speeches they are delivering in the House and outside are war-mongering speeches. The basic cause of our troubles in the world to-day is the situation in Germany, which was recently graphically portrayed in bulletins issued by theOffice of Education. They indicate the results that stem from the fear complex from which the world is suffering. The tragic mistake is the division of Germany into zones. From that has arisen the situation that may lead to armed conflict. Germany was divided into zones because of fear of a German resurgence and the creation of a new German military machine under a unified government that would once again challenge the rest of the world. The fear instinct that has caused us to take steps to prevent the establishment of a unified German government has intensified but not solved the problem. Our problems now are much more complex than they were before the decision to divide Germany into zones was put into effect. The world situation can give no one cause for satisfaction.
Communism in Australia may be divorced from the Communist government of Russia. The Russian Communist movement and government work for the major interest of the Russian people, and their advancement. And who can blame them? But the Communists in Australia, whom we roundly condemn, are willing to subordinate the best interests of their own nation in the interests of a foreign power. We can still condemn fully the Communist movement in Australia for seeking to prevent the adequate development of Australia and, at the same time, see in the Russian Communists a desire to develop their country, preserve peace in their time and guarantee their security against aggression from other lands. The very instinct of fear, with its consequent preparations to resist aggression, has been, is, and will be the cause of international conflict. I leave the matter there.
No words from me or from other supporters of the Government are needed to demonstrate the wisdom of the policy of the Chifley Government. The comparable position of almost every other nation in the world clearly and indisputably demonstrates the good work done by it and the Labour governments that preceded it. Australia, while short of some products and suffering difficulties common to the rest of the world, is still, because of the efforts of the Labour Government, the best country in the world to live in and one that has better prospects than any other nation.
– Every one who read the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was, I think, delighted at the reference in the first paragraph to the forthcoming visit to Australia of Their Majesties the King and Queen and Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret. Men, women and children in country districts share with their opposite numbers in the cities delight at the forthcoming Royal visit, but they consider that rural Australia ought to see a little more of Their Majesties and their daughter than, according to press reports, has been provided for so far. The oversight of rural Australia is regrettable.
I have other matters to talk about, however, than the pleasant subject of the Royal visit. I was interested in para- graph 5 of the Governor-General’s S peech, which read -
My Prime Minister has devoted a great deal of time to a study of the economic problems besetting the world and having repercussions upon our own economy.
The Governor-General, in paragraph 6, referred to the terrible dollar shortage and he said that every economy is being made by the Government to save dollars. In paragraph 50 of his Speech, he said -
My predecessor spoke to you of the great opportunities for expansion in Australia, and I repeat his request that all Australian men and women should play their part worthily.
That is a request that the Government ought to take great notice of, because the subject on which I shall speak concerns very deeply the honesty and integrity of the Government. It concerns very closely the Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), personally, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice). The story I intend to tell is that of the Metropolitan Cement Limited and the flotation of Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited. The story must give rise to the deepest suspicions in the minds of every fair-minded member of the community. I charge the Prime Minister with having personally brought about the allocation of 1,189,110 dollars to Metropolitan Cement Limited when that company had no assets in Australia to put up pounds against the dollars that were made available to it. The Prime Minister, in effect, handed over dollars in the United States of America on loan to Metropolitan Cement Company Limited without security from that company, knowing that it had no assets capable of backing the loan. I declare that the Prime Minister personally brought about the approval of the Capital Issues Board to the issue to the public of 800,000 shares in Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited; that he influenced the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues to agree to the writing up to very inflated values the shares of Metropolitan Cement Limited. I will show that in assisting in this watering of both companies’ shares he may bring ruin to many small investors in the companies. In dealing with Mr. A. S. Taylor, managing director of Metropolitan Cement Limited, he must have known that he was dealing with a man with a most unsavoury and dubiousrecord. I will show that the PrimeMinister misled the Parliament and myself in his replies to questions and letters when he used the shortage of cement as an excuse for the allocation of dollars. In many of the aforementioned matters, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and the Minister for Trade and Customs aided and abetted him. Mr. Raymond Hamilton, member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales for Namoi and a director of the Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited, acted as a “go-between” for the company with this Government and with the McGirr Government in New South Wales for freight, building and other concessions. The whole story so reeks of suspected corrupt practice that, in the interests of honest administration, the Prime Minister should advise the Governor-General to appoint a justice of the High Court as a royal commissioner to inquire into all the matters that I shall raise, including the conduct of the underwriters, Charles H. Smith and Company, and other matters appertaining to the flotation of Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited. I propose to show, too, how the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and the Minister for Trade and Customs come into the picture.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the honorable member for New England allowed to read his speech ?
– I am not reading my speech, you liar.
– Order! The honorable member for New England is not allowed to read his speech, but is entitled to refer to notes. I shall observe what he is doing.
– 1 am not reading my speech. I am referring to copious notes. On the 17th June last, I asked the Prime Minister a question without notice, about the allocation of more than 1,000,000 dollars for the importation into Australia of machinery for the manufacture of cement, the shortage of which in Australia is due not to a lack of manufacturing capacity but to a shortage of coal. The Prime Minister replied in the House indicating the procedure adopted in dealing with applications for dollars. Later, the right honorable gentleman promised me a written reply, but he did not furnish it. Shortly afterwards, he left for the United Kingdom. On his return I sent him two letters, an urgent telegram and a replied-paid telegram, before I finally got a reply. In a letter dated the 25th August, the right honorable gentleman said -
Difficult cases are referred to me for final consideration.
On the 3rd September, in reply to an interjection made by me when the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) was asking a question about this allocation, the right honorable gentleman admitted that the application had come before him and that he had been personally responsible for the action taken regarding it. In his letter to me he said -
In approving the issue of a licence in this case regard was taken of the shortages of cement for building and other constructional work, both at present and as forecast for the future.
I shall cite some figures to show how the right honorable gentleman misled the House with regard to Australian capacity for the manufacture of cement and additional capacity on order or for which tenders have been called. I ask for permission to incorporate in Hansard a short table giving the detailed figures.
– Is leave granted ?
Honorable Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
– The existing capacity of present cement works in Australia is 1,415,000 tons per annum. Additional capacity on order or for which tenders have been called, all of which will be supplied locally or from Great Britain, represents 310,000 tons per annum, making a grand total of 1,725,000 tons per annum. The highest current sales prior to last year occurred in 1938-39 and amounted to 857,163 tons. Sales for 1947-48 amounted to 993,134 tons. Therefore existing surplus capacity amounts to 421,866 tons per annum. Existing plant and additional ordered capacity will provide a surplus of 731,866 tons per annum. Notwithstanding that, at a time of grave deficiency of dollars the Prime Minister approved of this expenditure of 1,189,110 dollars. ‘ This proposal was approved not only by the Prime Minister, but also by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice), and in particular by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). On the face of the figures I have cited the statements in the Prime Minister’s letter relating to the shortage of existing and future capacity appear to be misleading and incorrect.
I turn now to an investigation of the affairs of Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited and the story of the arrangements made between that company and the Commonwealth and State governments. The nominal capital of the company is £1,500,000. The brokers are Charles H. Smith and Company. The directors are J. T. Walton, chairman of Cash Orders Amalgamated Limited, Arthur Vickery, well known in the pastoral industry, A. T. George, solicitor, Laurence John Hartnett, late managing director of General Motors-Hoi den’s Limited, Raymond G. Hamilton, Labour member for Namoi in the New South Wales Parliament, who is described as a barrister. Hamilton’s experience at the bar and in business has been very slight, but I shall show that he was no mean member of this team, and that he played his part very well in the negotiations between the company and the governments not only to his own advantage, but also to that of the company which he served. The consultant of the company was Arnold S. Taylor, of whose history I shall give some details later. In order to demonstrate what Mr. Taylor has done in the past I quote the following extract from the Bulletin of the 28th July :-
This flotation, Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited, proposes to manufacture cement with Marulan limestone, Berrima coal, and local shale at a site near Liverpool. The principle behind the manufacturing plan is to bring the chief raw materials to the plant, not to cake the plant to the raw materials, as is the ease with other New South Wales cement concerns. . . . This is the third attempt at the metropolitan manufacture of cement, according to Ru/latin records, in which the name of Arnold S. Taylor figures. Mr. Taylor was manager of Southern Portland Cement until 1932 when he floated Metropolitan Products Limited. The public were asked to subscribe ?130,000 - plant capacity to be 50,000 tons per annum. The project never reached production. The second appearance of Mr. Taylor was in’ 1038 when Atlas Portland Cement (Australia) Limited, was formed - A. S. Taylor, managing director. Among other interesting names appearing on the directorate of this company is that of Stanley Evan Parry . . . The public was asked to put up ?185,000 while Mr. Taylor was to be given 89,500 fully paid ordinaries for “ certain plans, rights, processes, leases, &c”.
Parry is the gentleman whose actions were so caustically commented on by the royal commission under Judge Kirby which inquired into land sales control. The year 1938 might have been a wonderful one for Taylor if everything had gone right. In that year the Berrima Electric Power Company Limited, of which Taylor was managing director, sued the State of New South Wales for ?15,000 compensation. The company had been registered in 1934. Reporting the case, the Sun had this to say -
Mr. J. W. Shand objected to the methods of Mr. W. J. Curtis, K.C.’s examination of Mr. Markell, n director. Mr. Justice Maxwell is reported to have said, “This company has a lot to explain. I want to be satisfied that the two directors who met constituted a quorum, [n evidence Mr. Markell is reported to have ?aid that at the meeting referred to by him he moved the appointment of Mr. Arnold Taylor as managing director.
Mr. Curtis, K.C. ; Was it seconded?
Mr. Mab kell. ; Yes.
Who seconded it? Mr. Taylor did. There was no one else there to do it.
The meeting, Markell said, was held at Taylor’s office in Margaret-street, City. Commencing his cross-examination of the witness, Mr. Shand said, “ I will establish that this company was carried on in an absolutely fraudulent way”.
The company realized its position when it attempted to obtain compensation for the erection of a dam which had been carried out by German prisoners of war in the internment camp at Berrima, and for the building of a coal mine tunnel which had been in existence for 50 years. The company was non-suited. Its solicitor was Mr. H. J. Price, who is now gracing Long Bay gaol for having stolen approximately ?60,000 from his unfortunate clients. How these birds of a feather nock together ! They are all in the game.
I come now to a consideration of the affairs of Atlas Portland Cement (Australia) Limited. This company was floated with capital of ?185,000 and Taylor, who was appointed managing director, was to get ?89,000 worth of fully paid up shares. Mr. Taylor merely appears as consultant of the Metropolitan Portland Cement Limi-ted and as the vendor of certain shares in companies interested in Marulan limestone leases and Berrima coal. The cash or face value of these shares was alleged to be ?89,461. So Mr. Taylor is not doing too badly in this flotation, either. The following statement appeared in the Bulletin : -
The prospectus, vague and unsatisfactory in several ways is not sufficiently emphaticon the point that the outlay of ?800,000-
That is the capital issue to the public The statement continues - does not give the company the freehold of the limestone leases or colliery. It appears that Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited has an option over “ the greater portion of the shares in Metropolitan Cement Limited . . .”
They exercised that later, and then we find the paid up capital of Metropolitan Portland Cement Proprietary Limited, at ?1,050,000 for a production of 150,000 tons of cement a year. I compare that with the Kandos company, which has a considerably greater plant capacity, and the paid up capital of which is only ?673,000. Yet Metropolitan Portland Cement Proprietary Limited, was permitted to raise approximately ?6 of capital a ton of annual cement production capacity. The valuer to the Yallaroi Shire, Mr. W. G. Coughlan, in this glorious prospectus of this wonderful company, stated -
Having regard to the situation of the limestone to your works site, near Liverpool, and your total freight advantages over other consumers, which I am informed by your board approximate £100,000 per annum-
I direct attention to the fact that the company received a special freight concession from the McGirr Labour Government in New South Wales. It is wonderful to have the seductive voice of a Labour member of Parliament, Mr. E. G. Hamilton, member of the Legislative Assembly, to obtain concessions for the company from the McGirr Government and the Chifley Government.
I shall now consider the assets which Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited is acquiring from Metropolitan Cement Proprietary Limited - the company with an issued capital of £87,508. When we examine the capital, we almost shriek with laughter. Metropolitan Cement Proprietary Limited was originally registered on the 17th July, 1932, as Metropolitan Products Limited. Its name was changed on the 7th July, 1937, and it had a paid capital of £87,508, but the only amount paid in cash for shares was £508. On the 14th January, 1948, Mr. Raymond George Hamilton, Labour member for Namoi in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, appears as a director, although he does not appear, according to the register, to hold any shares. The original company had eleven shareholders, six of whom held one share apiece. The intermediate company had 35 shareholders, but now 60 shareholders are shown in the prospectus of Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited. They are receiving £250,000 in cash, or fully paid up shares, for cash assets of £508 and whatever the shares are worth for undeveloped coal and limestone leases. I shall not deal at great length with that aspect, but I point out that Mr. Taylor got 20,000 shares in March, 1948, and, through the action of this Government, his shares three months later were watered until they are worth £72,964. The Prime Minister has said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works “. I say that the Prime Minister does not let his light shine before men that they may see his bad works. He often speaks of the “ light on the hill “ as the light to which he is guiding the people, not the light of cor- ruption I propose to borrow this torch from him and light up portions of this flotation in a way which the Prime Minister’s innocent statement in the House, his letter to me on the 25th August last and the prospectus have not done. It has been said that the company had great difficulties in obtaining directors. While many were called, few responded. I cannot prove that allegation to be true, but I have in my possession a copy of a letter dated the 17th March, 1948, from the managing director of Metropolitan Cement Limited, to a Mr. Hornibrook,asking him to join the board and putting forward the whole story of the company. That letter is accompanied by an original document, which I have in my possession, written by Messrs. Charles H. Smith and Company. It asked the addressee whether he wanted to subunderwrite shares in this concern.
– Who are Charles H. Smith and Company ?
– They are the underwriting brokers for the issue of Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited. Their letter, which is dated the 27th May, 1948, reads-
As promised, I enclose herewith a draft copy of the prospectus of the above proposed company which I think will give you all the information that you require. As a short cut to sizing up the proposition, I am enclosing a copy of a letter which was written to Mr. M. R. Hornibrook prior to him accepting a scat on the board, and if you will read this letter I think you will have the whole story in as concise a form as possible. As it is my intention to immediately proceed with the underwriting, I will be glad if you will ‘let me know immediately whether you wish to participate, and if so, to what extent.
But Mr. Hornibrook jibbed. He did not become a member of the board. The other letter, dated the 17th March, 1948, begins with a reference to the possibility of Mr. Hornibrook joining the board, and proceeds to discuss the limestone deposits. The managing director wrote -
From Marulan the limestone will be brought by the railways to the works site near Liverpool, under a contract freight rate, which will enable the limestone to be landed at Liverpool. . . The company will, in view of the total cost of assembling it’s raw materials at its producing and distributing site, enjoy freight advantages as against the company operating at Berrima, and say at Kandos, and taken on an average basis of 9s. a ton.
That is a pretty good gift. The letter continues -
No technical difficulties exist, and in view of the full sponsorship of this project by the Government and their wholehearted cooperation in all respects, way-leave could be obtained. . . . Some five months ago, after conceiving the idea, because of many years delay in securing suitable plant in Australia or England, of obtaining a new or used cement plant complete from America, we initiated negotiations in respect of this through the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction and they, on our behalf, made inquiries throughout America, and following on this, we received specifications and general particulars covering a plant in America which we were at first under the impression was the property of Henry Kaiser. After securing a firm offer and negotiating preliminary negotiations with the Commonwealth and Stale Governments, we arranged for the inspection of this plant in America, and in this connexion two qualified engineers of the company proceeded to America, and after their preliminary and satisfactory inspection of the plant, Mr. Ray Hamilton, Member of the Legislative Assembly, with full sponsorship from the State and Federal Governments, proceeded to America to negotiate the best deal possible in respect of the purchase price of the plant and the amount of dollars required, together with provisions for dismantling, packing and shipment. After describing the plant, the letter proceeds with an account of the company’s financial- dealings with the Australian Government. It states -
The company’s proposals to the Commonwealth Government completely outlined its capita] structure, the re-valuing and bring into account of part of its reserve assets, and the increase of its initial fully paid capital from £125,000 to £250.000. thereby giving to the present holders who have developed the assets over many years, a reasonable proportion of the capital in the company. . . .
That was written up from £87,508 of very doubtful capital to £250,000, and Mr. Taylor’s share interests rose from £20,000 at the beginning of March last to £72,000 in the next three months. This economist, this honest man, the Prime Minister, condones it. It was typical of A. S. Taylor. It was the same sort of thing he did when lie tried to get £13,000 for his company from the Government in the caf e, Berrima Electric Power Company Limited v. The Crown. The Government agreed to the proposals as will appear later. The letter proceeds -
It is proposed to increase the nominal capital to £1,500,000 and to issue for subscription by way of underwriting £800,000 for cash, which it is anticipated will cover the capital expenditure required to bring the company to functioning point. The issued capital of the company at functioning point will be £1,050,000 or approximately £(i of capital per ton of annual cement production capacity.
The shareholders of the other company, Metropolitan Cement Limited, got £250,000 cash or’ fully paid-up shares. The letter went on -
The sponsorship of the State and Federal Governments has been completed and the State government has not only brought about the contract arrangements with the railway commissioners in respect of the limestone freights, but has made available to the company executive officers of the Building Materials Division and the civil and mechanical engineers associated with that department. All transactions with inter-governmental departments have been taken out of the company’s hands and are being handled by Mr. Mander, chief executive officer of the Secondary Industries Division. In the Commonweath sphere, the company’* project, because of its inherent merit, has received the complete personal sponsorship of the Prime Minister, who, in addition to directing the approval of the capita] issues matters …
That was a direction, according to this letter, to the Capital Issues Board to do something that was dishonest and treacherous to the rights of the people of the Commonwealth. The letter was written by the managing director of Metropolitan Cement Limited and sent out by the issuing brokers, Messrs. Charles H. Smith and Company. It went on - . . arranged for the granting to the company, in the present time of stress, an authority and permit to import the complete cement-making plant from America, with the necessary dollar allocation, and we are pleased to inform you that only this morning we have received a letter from the department indicating that such permit is now available to the company, with time running from to-day. Et was to conserve time that we refrained from picking up this permit at an earlier date.
I point out that this company, Metropolitan Cement Limited, had only a share capital of £87,508, of which £508 was represented by cash, when the Government gave them an allocation of $1.1S9,110 without any security for payment. It was a company whose managing director was a scoundrel like Taylor. As the honesty of the Prime Minister and other Ministers is impugned, and as the honesty of Mr. Ray Hamilton, with his go-between and log-rolling tactics, 13 also impugned, there is only one thing that the Government can honestly and decently do, and that is to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the whole matter, and any other matters incidental to it, of the issue of the capital of Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited, which reeks with suspicion and corruption.
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) used very strong words when he was referring to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley).
– And also to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction.
– And myself as well. He has, in fact, accused the Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) and myself of what amounts to corruption. I do not believe there is a single individual in the whole of Australia who will believe the charges that were made by the honorable member. Whatever may be said of the Minister for Trade and Customs and myself, the integrity of the Prime Minister is unassailable.
The honorable member quoted from a large number of documents. I do not know where they came from, or what authority is possessed by the individuals who prepared them. Having perused the documents which are in possession of the Treasury, I can assure the House that there is very little truth in the observations that were made by the honorable member for New England. For example, a report by Mr. Balmford, the chairman of the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues, to the Prime Minister himself makes it clear that Mr. Balmford made the recommendation. The honorable member for New England said that the Prime Minister himself directed that authority should be given for this capital issue.
– That is what the Prime Minister said.
– It is true that the Prime Minister gave his approval to it, but that is very different from saying that the right honorable gentleman directed the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues to take certain action. The Prime Minister approved of the issue, on the recommendation of the Advisory Com mittee on Capital Issues. I am afraid that I am not in possession of all the facts relating to this matter, because it does not concern my department.
– It does.
– If I heard correctly what was said by the honorable member for New England, all that my department had to do with it was that it made the necessary inquiries and inspected the plant in America in order to be certain that the plant was available and that it was suitable .for Australian conditions. Is there anything wrong with that? If my department, having made inquiries, was able to confirm that there was such plant in the United States of America and that it was suitable for use in Australia, surely the public will be thank ful that there is a government department which is able to undertake that work.
As far as I can gather from the documents in my possession, the history of this matter is that the original company, Metropolitan Cement Limited, which was formed in 1932, made a certain application to the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues. That application was refused.
– What was the date of the application?
– It was made in March, 1948. I do not know the day of the month. Who are the officers who would deal with this matter? First, there is Mr. Nette, the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury. Is there any honorable member who will say that anything derogatory can be said of the conduct and integrity of Mr. Nette, a Treasury official? Is there any honorable member who will say that any proposition that is put to Mr. Nette, and by Mr. Nette to the Treasurer himself, will not be subjected to the most detailed scrutiny? Every honorable member of this House who has taken certain matters to Mr. Nette has come to the conclusion that he is very tight indeed in regard to the permissions that he gives. Then there is Mr. Balmford. Is there any one who will cast any aspersions against the character and integrity of Mr. Balmford ? I suggest that there is not one honorable member of this House who would do .so. I am afraid that I do not know the names of all the members of the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues, but I am certain that if I were to ascertain their names it would be found that they are men of the highest integrity and standing Those are the officials who advise the Treasurer upon applications such as this.
When the application was first made by this company the advisory committee reported that, in its opinion, because of certain matters in the application itself, it should not be approved. Then, because in the application that the original company made it was suggested that the goodwill set out in the prospectus was set at far too high a figure, it was suggested that a new company should be formed and the goodwill considerably written down. It was also suggested that the rate of royalties which were to be paid by those who were to use the coal - because I understand that the original company had a coal lease and a lime concession - should also be written down considerably. The original application provided that the royalty to be charged should be ls. 6d. a ton. The second application, which was also rejected because it was considered to be of an extravagant nature, was later approved, but only after it also had been amended and subjected to certain well-defined conditions which were recommended to the Treasurer by the Capital Issues authorities. I shall read these to honorable members. I shall read also the final portion of a report to the Treasurer which is signed by Mr. Balmford, who, as I have said, is a public servant of very high standing. Nobody could have any doubts that Mr. Balmford would not do his duty, and certainly nobody would suggest that any one could corrupt or bribe him. The final paragraph of Mr. Balmford’s report to the Treasurer reads -
After consultation with you I therefore authorized the approval of the issue of £000,000 in the new company, subject to the following special conditions: -
The option held by Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited, or by trustees on its behalf, to purchase the issued shares in the existing company known as Metropolitan Cement Limited shall not be exercised without the prior consent in writing of the Treasurer and this condition shall be clearly stated in any prospectus published in respect to the issue of snares authorized by this consent.
No consideration shall be payable to Metropolitan Cement Limited otherwise than by way of royalty on limestone mined by Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited.
The amount of the said royalty payable to Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited shall not exceed the rate of Cd. per ton or such higher rate as the Treasurer, after consultation with the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, may approve.
I put it to honorable members opposite that everything is perfectly above board in this matter. The conditions under which the Capital Issues authority has agreed to the raising of the capital for the new company were approved by the Treasurer himself, and are perfectly fair and reasonable in all the circumstances. There can be no suggestion whatsoever of bribery or corruption on the part of any Commonwealth Minister or officer.
I have discussed this matter only because the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) had raised it immediately before I rose to speak. I had intended to speak on other matters and shall now pass on to them. Before I do so I desire to congratulate the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) on the capable manner in which he moved the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. and also the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. O’Connor) on his speech in seconding that motion. It does not in any way detract from the merit of their speeches to observe that the programme outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech gave them much more to enthuse over than honorable members of the Opposition have ever had in any of the barren speeches which the Opposition parties placed before this Parliament when they constituted the government. I have watched with very great interest the progress of this debate and I can see quite clearly that a well-defined plan has been developed by members of the Opposition. First of all the House heard the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) move for an addendum to the Address-in-Reply. That honorable member has no right to be sitting in this chamber side by side with loyal members of the Labour party. The House then heard the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen) second the amendment and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and other honorable members on the Opposition side support it.
I shall deal first with certain observations made by the honorable member for Warringah relating to the defence of Australia and to international affairs. The honorable member for Warringah, like all honorable members opposite, has been given ample opportunity to deal with defence matters in this House. During the past fifteen months I have on two occasions made statements on defence policy, and on my motion “ That the papers be ‘printed “ the Opposition has secured the adjournment of the House. On two occasions when those items on the notice-paper were called no Opposition member rose to take part in the debate. Honorable members opposite have only themselves to blame if the subject of defence has not been thoroughly debated by them. It is not surprising that the honorable member for Warringah was not present to take up the debate on those occasions, as he is very seldom present in this House. The honorable member comes here for a day and goes away again. I have examined the records of attendance of honorable members, and have found that the honorable member has been absent on 65 of the last 126 sitting days. In the circumstances it is a fair inference that the honorable member for Warringah is more interested in his own private affairs, and particularly in the affairs of the rubber company of which he is a director, than he is in the defence of Australia. During the last war it was my responsibility to advise the Advisory War Council regarding plans for the balanced distribution of available man-power between the fighting services and industries. The honorable member for Warringah pestered me for weeks to secure the release of men from the fighting services to provide man-power for the particular industry in which he was interested. That is hor much interest the honorable member for Warringah has in the defence of Australia. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) yesterday asked a question about the proportion of the national income which countries of the world expend on defence. That is not a good basis of comparison, as countries with great resources, such as the United States, can well afford to expend a higher proportion of their national income on defence than countries such as Australia, with limited resources.
– Let the Minister give the figures on a reconcilable basis.
– I shall deal with this matter in my own way. Comparison of proportionate expenditure between different countries is not a good basis to take. The. significant fact is that this Government is expending 6.5 per cent, of the national income on defence compared with only 4 per cent, expended in 1939 by the Government of which the right honorable gentleman was a member. That is the basis on which we should make a comparison. Is there any honorable member here who would say that the danger of war is greater to-day than it was in 1939? Surely in 1939 it was obvious that war would break out at almost any time. That is not the position to-day. Yet in 1939 the gentlemen who now sit on the Opposition benches were only expending 4 per cent, of the national income upon defence as against 6.5 per cent, which the present Government is expending. The Government defence programme provides for an expenditure of £250,000,000 spread over a period of five years. In the 1947-48 Estimates £80,000,000 was provided for defence and allied services compared with £35,000,000 in 1939-40. The expenditure a head of population was £10 10s. in 1947-48 compared with £5 in 1939-40. This Government is spending more on the defence of Australia than was spent in 1939, when the world situation was very much uglier than it is to-day. In addition to the expenditure of £80,000,000 in 1947-48 an amount of £120,000,000 was provided for post-war charges, including interest on the war debt of the last war. That was not a factor in the 1939-40 budget. I emphasize that the amount of £120,000,000 was in addition to the £80,000,000 on which is based the statement that 6.5 per cent, of our national income is being expended on defence. In view of what I have said, can any of the honorable members of the Opposition, who are continually demanding cuts in taxation, say that the Government is not making sufficient moneys available for defence? The Opposition has never suggested so, though it has been given two opportunities to debate this question. On those two occasions no member of the Opposition rose to suggest that the amount of money the Government was spending on defence was insufficient. Another important consideration, apart altogether from the extent of the finance made available for defence is that for the first time in their history, and in the history of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the armed services have been given an assured programme over a period of five years as a basis on which planning and authorization of expenditure for the balanced development of their services can proceed. To ensure that there will be no avoidable delay in carrying, out the programme for the expenditure of £250,000,000 on defence over a period of five years, the Government recently appointed a defence progress review committee, whose first report will be made available to a meeting of the Council for Defence to be held in about a fortnight’s time. I have perused the report and am in a position to give the House- some information on how the plan is progressing. The authorizations programmed for 1947-48 totalled £57,000,000. Authorizations placed up to June, 194S, totalled £45,000,000. Over the period of five years £33,500,000 is to be expended on research and development . of £4,000,000 provided for this purpose in the 1947-48 estimates, authorization for the expenditure of £2,750,000 was approved. The lag in that instance is due to two reasons, first unavoidable delay in deciding, after consultation with the United Kingdom, which research projects, additional to the rocket range project, could be carried out in Australia. For security reasons, it is not appropriate for me to divulge detailed reasons for this delay. The rocket-range project is proceeding satisfactorily. The second reason for the lag in the expenditure is that there is a grave shortage of scientific research workers, not only in Australia, but also throughout the whole world. Honorable members will be aware that outside the defence vote this Government made available to Australian universities an amount of £82,000 to enable them to carry on their normal research activities.
I have arranged to supplement this with another £20,000 from the defence vote, so that an adequate number of scientific research workers will be available in succeeding years.
The total cost of the programme for the Navy over five years is £75,000,000. Authorizations for last year totalled £21,000,000, and authorizations placed up to the 30th June totalled £16,000,000. The main reasons for the lag in this instance are that the commissioning of the first aircraft carrier has been delayed for reasons beyond the control of this Government, and that the Navy construction programme in Australia has been retarded because of delays in the delivery of steel products due to the scarcity of labour in the iron and steel industry.
The total proposed expenditure under the Army programme is £62,500,000 for five years. Authorizations for 1947-48 totalled £7,000,000, while authorizations placed to the 30th June totalled just £7,000,000. Therefore, there was no lag in connexion with Army expenditure.
For the Air Force, the five years’ programme provides for an expenditure of the same amount as for the Army, namely, £62,500,000. Authorizations for 1947-48 totalled £20,000,000, while authorizations placed up to the 30th June, 1948, amounted to £15,000,000. While all units planned for have their full complement of aircraft, there has occurred an unavoidable delay in obtaining certain technical equipment, which accounts for the lag in this service. The equipment has to be obtained from overseas, and it has not, in all instances, been forthcoming.
Under the defence vote, provision is made for certain activities of the Department of Supply and Development, the total amount for the five-year period being £17,500,000. Authorizations placed to the 30th June amount to 90 per cent, df the figure planned for. The full amount was not expended bceause certain plant, which has to be obtained from overseas, was not available. It is evident, therefore, that any lag in expenditure from the defence vote has been due to reasons over which the Government has little or no control.
This factual account of the progress made in the development of our £250,000,000 defence plan completely answers any criticism offered by members of the Opposition during this debate. The honorable member for Warringah described the plan as “ words, words, words “. His Rip van Winkle mind must have gone back to the days when he, himself, was Minister for the Army.
As for the quite unwarranted criticism of the Government’s external affairs policy, it would be but gilding the lily for me to add much to what has been so ably said by my leader. The Prime Minister made it clear that an early consequence of a war against Russia would be that Russian forces would sweep right across Europe, but that would only be the beginning. In the long run, the United States would win, but at what cost to suffering humanity ! Then with what would we be faced ? The reconstruction of a Europe poisoned by Communist doctrines ten times more virulent than those with which Europe is afflicted to-day. In such circumstances, reconstruction would be impossible, and Europe would drag down with her to primitive barbarism the rest of the civilized world.
The honorable member for Warringah criticized our policy with regard to Malaya. We have done everything in that connexion that the British Government has asked us to do. It must be remembered that the Federated Malay States and Singapore stand in certain relationships to the United Kingdom. We informed all concerned that we would meet all requests for assistance up to the limit of our capacity, but that such requests must be made to us through the United Kingdom Government. To meet expected requests through the United Kingdom, Sten and Austen guns and ammunition and “walkie-talkie” equipment were kept ready for immediate despatch, so that when the authorization of the Government of the United Kingdom was cabled to us, there was not a moment’s delay in meeting requirements. Everything asked for has been sent if we had it here. Ammunition in excess of that requested was sent because the quantities specified seemed unrealistically small. What more would Opposition members have had us do?
I now turn to the amendment moved :by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) and seconded by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). The honorable member, in framing his amendment, went into great detail regarding what he wishes to be done. In actual fact, although the amendment contains seven paragraphs, it would have been quite sufficient for his purpose if it had contained only the first, because everything contained in the subsequent paragraphs would follow consequentially if the Communist party was banned. My colleague, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), has discussed the menace of communism, and stated the reasons why the Government has not banned the Communist party. On some future occasion, I shall have something to say about the Communist party and its activities, but al the moment it is not necessary for me to add to what has been so ably said by my colleague. Evidently, there is a deeplaid plot between the honorable member for Reid, the honorable member for Indi and certain other members of the Opposition to hang the Communist party about the neck of the Australian Labour party. They have tried to make the people of Australia believe that if only the Labour Government were defeated there would be an end to the activities of the Communist party. They -have tried to create hysteria among the people on this issue.
– That device is worn out.
– Yes, and I have no doubt that, before long, the people will become thoroughly tired of the tactics of the Opposition. Let us consider the terms of the amendment. The first paragraph states -
Already, there is legislation under which any government might ban the Communist party if it wished to do so. I refer to the Crimes Act. The Minister for Information discussed the Crimes Act in some detail, and I do not propose to go into the matter further at this stage.
Lt is significant that, when the Opposition was in power, and proceeded to ban the Communist party, it did not use the Crimes Act, but issued a National Security regulation for the purpose. In the opinion of many competent lawyers, the Crimes Act as it stands is not sufficiently strong to enable the Communist party to be dealt with. As a matter of fact, there is a doubt whether the Australian Government has the power to ban the Communist party, even if it wished to do so.
– There is an act of Parliament under which action could be taken.
– Action is not necessarily constitutional simply because it is taken under an act of Parliament. All acts of Parliament are not valid.
– The Government has found that out !
– Yes, we learned that six justices of the High Court had different opinions about the meaning of certain constitutional provisions. On the last occasion when the Labour Government tried to ban an organization known as Jehovah’s Witnesses, the High Court declared the ban to be unconstitutional. That gives point to my statement that there is considerable doubt whether the Australian Government has power to ban any political party. I leave the matter there just now, but upon a future occasion I shall have more to say about it. For the moment, I content myself with saying that the programme outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech will, when put into effect, prove to be of great benefit to the people of Australia, and I am confident that the people are aware of this. Therefore, 1 have no doubt that, at the next general election, the people will return this Labour Government to power.
.- The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) discussed several subjects upon which I propose to touch. He repeated the parrotcry of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and minor members of the Labour party about the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) being frequently absent from the meetings of the House. That kind of attack is becoming tiresome.
I am sure that the honorable member f ot Warringah does not need to be defended by me, and I merely point out that he evidently makes very effective contributions to the debates when he is present, because his remarks brought the Prime Minister, the Minister for Defence and other members of the Labour party to their feet in order to attack him in the only way known to them - that is, by abusing him. Since we are speaking of absences from the Parliament, I may mention the absence of the Minister for Defence. He says that he was absent on public business. Every minor member of the Cabinet who goes abroad travels with a host of secretaries and attendants, and remains abroad at the public expense for months at a time. When the Prime Minister himself had occasion to go abroad he went and returned in about sixteen days. So, either the business of these minor or junior Ministers and Ministers of lower status than the Prime Minister, is vastly more important than that of the Prime Minister, or a lot of their time is taken up in pleasure jaunting.
I shall now touch on the subject raised by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and the reply given by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, whose department was involved in the matter. I have no’ knowledge of the facts of the case other than those stated in the speech of the honorable member for New England, but the time has passed when Ministers can rise and, as refutation of a serious charge, simply say, “ Every one knows us so well that no one would believe the allegations”. During the last sittings of the House I made charges about New Guinea. I asked for a royal commission. The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) made the same sort of reply. He said, “ There is nothing to warrant a royal commission”; but, within a fortnight of my having made my charges, the Special Federal Court was examining one of the worst cases of corruption that have occurred in the history of the Commonwealth although I had been refused in the House any access to New Guinea or any reply to my charges. I also made charges in respect of the Land Sales Control and I asked the Prime
Minister to institute a royal commission but he refused my request. The reply was that to point a finger at any public official, Mr. Lush or any one else, was wrong. Yet, within two or three weeks of my having been refused a royal commission, the Government was forced to appoint one and the disclosures showed, not that Mr. Lush or other officers were corrupt, but that they were surrounded by corrupt men who were pushing their claims and getting away with certain things at the expense of the public. I am not suggesting that the Prime Minister is personally guilty of corruption. I have a high opinion of his character and I would not join in any suggestion that he is personally involved in the charges levelled by the honorable member for New England, but I do say that there are corrupt people in the community - black marketeers, swindlers, company promoters and the like - who are using officers of the Government and exerting pressure as a result of which they are getting from the Government things that honest people cannot get. The circumstances and facts presented justify a statement of that character. It is not sufficient for the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, under the cover of the honoured names of Mr. Balmford and Mr. Nette, to say, “ Such charges as these cannot be sustained “. The honorable member for New England brought evidence that, in my opinion, demanded the presence in the chamber of the Prime Minister. His charges cannot be lightly disregarded. He did not merely make statements; he documented what he said. He produced the company’s prospectus. He adduced evidence that the Prime Minister granted more than 1,000,000 dolars to the company, when a farmer cannot get a tractor and people are curtailed in the use of motor cars because of the lack of dollars. Yet here we have a company, the sole motivating force of which is Mr. Arnold Taylor, a man whose record is anything but savoury, and a director of which is a Labour politician in New South Wales, Mr. Hamilton, the member for Namoi in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, which was able to obtain more than 1,000,000 dollars to import from the United States of America machinery for the production of cement in Australia. The honorable member for New England asked, and was refused by Labour members behind the Government, permission to have incorporated in Hansard a statement of the capacity of Australian cement manufacturers to meet not only the existing demand, but also the estimated demand for cement. The table showed that the Prime Minister’s statement that the decision to grant the company the dollars was based on the shortage of cement-making capacity in Australia would not stand examination. Those are facts that call for a searching examination. The grant of the use of more than 1,000,000 dollars to the company of Mr. Arnold Taylor, a company promoter, who got £20,000, more or less, in gift shares, and of Mr. Hamilton, the Labour member for Namoi in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, who has apparently been able to use influence to secure concessions from the New South Wales Government, which the prospectus shows to be worth £180,000 a year, has been at the expense of other sections of the community, whose use of dollars has to that extent been restricted. It is no longer sufficient for a Minister to say, as the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said, when he was charged with certain breaches of the building regulations, “Every one knows that this could not be correct “, or as that honorable gentleman also said when the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) stated that he had been victimized by the Minister for External Affairs because of certain statements he had made. “No one would believe that of me”. No one would believe that the Prime Minister would be personally involved in any corrupt deal. But every one in the community believes that racketeers are pulling strings with the Government to “ get away with “ improper deals and the like. We were told, in the Keane trunk case, that, as a Minister’s honour was involved, an inquiry was impossible. Yet that case has an odour that reeks to high heaven. The time has arrived when the community should be given the opportunity of having ventilated before impartial judges in the courts the allegations that have been made. It should not have to accept the word of ex parte persons as to the truth or otherwise of charges. 1 leave it at that. I support my colleague, the honorable member for New England, in the case that he has presented, because it is based mi facts. The Prime Minister may want to laugh it off. But many people, when they read their newspapers, will want to know the explanation, and the explanation given by the Prime Minister a few days ago was unsatisfactory.
Other matters have been mentioned in the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. Malaya came into the picture in that speech. As usual, when communism is mentioned we have smug members of the Labour party saying, “It is no menace at all. The whole thing is under control. We are not at all alarmed about the situation “.. They may not be alarmed, but the Government of the United States of America is alarmed, and that government would have to be the main participant on our side in war. The situation has alarmed the Government of the United Kingdom, and legislation, unique in British history, has been passed for the removal from any post involving secrecy, not only members of the Communist party, but also any one suspected of being a “ fellow-traveller “ of the Communist party. But; in this country, the Government and, notably, the department controlled by the honorable Minister for Post-war. Reconstruction, who is also Minister for Defence and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, are befriending the Communists every day. The attention of the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction has been directed more than once in this House to Rudkin, who, during the war, when Russia was not fighting, was convicted of treason and gaoled for six months for having attempted to convey to Russia confidential information obtained by him in his capacity as a national security officer. Some time after his release, he was appointed by the Minister, in his capacity as Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, to a position in the service of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. We objected as we have had to object to other appointments to the staff of the council. Intervention in these matters has not been attempted by the Minister, notwithstanding that he is in charge of the most secret part of our defence projects. It is suggested that nothing can be done. We have been told how much money is being expended on defence, but, if this country goes to war - and there is only one enemy in sight - the greatest weakness in our defence will be the number of agents of the enemy in key posts in every trade, industry and public departments in Australia. All the money that we are spending on defence will go for nought if those agents of the enemy are left in those pivotal positions. 5Tet they are allowed to remain there. The Communists’ activities in Australia are developing and the Communists are being encouraged by the lack of action by the Government. I did hope that there was one Labour Government in Australia that would challenge the Communists’ onward march. I hoped that the Labour Government of Queensland had sufficient backbone and courage to do so. For a time it seemed that it had. The Premier, Mr. Hanlon, stood up to the Communists when they tried to paralyze Queensland in a transport strike. He had the anti-picketing legislation enacted. Some of the Communists were gaoled because of their defiance of the law. Strangely enough, within the last few weeks, under pressure of some kind, because I cannot conceive of any other reason than pressure by the Communists or pressure of some other kind, Mr. Hanlon has not only revoked the anti.picketing law - and that can be understood, because the trade unions asked for its revocation - but he has also released the Communists from prison without their having paid the fines, non-payment of which had caused their imprisonment. The trade unions did not ask for their release. In fact, the Australian Workers Union, the greatest trade union in Australia, protested against their release. The federal secretary, Mr. Fallon, in Brisbane, immediately protested that the Queensland Government had no right to surrender everything that had been won against the Communists in the railway strike. Therefore, our hope that one Labour Premier had enough courage and faith in democracy to stand up to the Communists has vanished. No man on the front or back benches on the Government side of this House gives us any hope that Australia will be rid of those who seek to destroy, not only the British Empire, but also our way of life. Our only hope lies in a change of government.
– I propose to utilize the period I have available to speak in this debate to make some remarks and to pass some comments on my experiences as a member of the recent parliamentary delegation to Japan. Other honorable members have already spoken on the subject, but because of the importance of some of the information which we were able to elicit, I believe that the subject is one on which some comment should be made by all the members who comprised the delegation. I preface my remarks by pointing out that in the short period of five weeks during which we were in Japan it was not possible, particularly having regard to the constitution of the Japanese nation, for any one to form firm opinions. Despite the fact that we moved around the country freely and were given great opportunities for learning everything that was to be learned, all we could hope to do in such a short, period was to form some definite impressions and gain a certain amount of knowledge, which, allied with common sense, would enable lis to present to this House a report of our experiences which would be of some value, In the first place, we must pay tribute to the Australian and United States authorities for their efforts to make our stay in Japan as instructive, informative and enjoyable as possible. Nothing more could have been done by them than was done to ensure that our visit would be valuable to us and to Australia.
I came back from this tour of Japan with two main impressions in my mind. My first impression was that Japan is a nation which cannot be ignored or in any way relegated to a position of minor importance in the international sphere. I say that advisedly, because I know that, as a result of a very natural feeling in Australia against the Japanese, there is a tendency to think that Japan should to a certain degree he ignored or ostracized. That, I believe, would be a great mistake.
One has only to travel the country and see instances, as we did, of the remarkable work done by the Japanese to realize that that would be dangerous. We visited the Kure dockyard where, in the space of a decade, instrumentalities were developed which were able to turn out one of the greatest battleships the world has ever seen. One has only to see instances of the intensive cultivation applied to the relatively small area of land available for the production of food to realize that here is a nation that we must take into account as a definite force in world affairs. We must do this no matter how much we may detest some of its characteristics, if we are to provide properly for the future of Australia. It is highly desirable that we should seek to develop Japan in such a way as will enable the Japanese people in future to be not the enemies they were in the past but a race which can contribute much to world affairs, particularly to Australia.
My second impression was that Australia seems to be in danger of making a grave mistake in its policy towards Japan. That policy is already commencing to operate and as the result of it we are already losing something of the effective influence that we formerly exerted with the United States in Japanese affairs. Not only are we in danger of losing our voice in Japan but we are also in danger of losing face. I refer to the steady depletion of our forces there, to which some reference was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) last night. It is to these two main impressions that I propose to devote most of my remarks.
Regarding the first impression, relative to the development of Japan along democratic lines so that the Japanese will no longer be a menace to the security of Australia, the task of establishing democracy in Japan as honorable members are aware, has been mainly entrusted to the United States of America, in conjunction with the Far Eastern Commission, assisted by certain components of the British Empire. It was evident from our investigations that a magnificent job is being done by those forces. Every opportunity was given to us to see what has been done and what is being done. The general set-up is that American head-quarters, commonly known as S.C.A.P., is divided into sections, each of which deals with a phase of Japanese life and the re-development of the Japanese nation. Each section operates on the lines of affording direction though not indicating to the Japanese Government and administration. That, I believe, is a particularly sound policy, the objective of which is to ensure that the Japanese people themselves shall devise, promulgate and operate the various laws and regulations required for the development of a democratic nation. Such actions as the government and the administration may take are not taken at the dictation of the conquering powers. Certainly in its functioning the Japanese Government must observe the fundamental principles of the Potsdam Agreement, partly as an indication of its sincerity and partly as a means of enabling its officials to obtain the necessary training in government and administration, which many of those forming the Government do not at present possess. There has been devised for Japan a new democratic constitution which forms the basis of this attempt to develop a great nation. It is interesting to note some of the provisions in the preamble of that constitution. I propose to quote from it, not because I accept what is stated in it as being entirely accepted by the Japanese people, but as an indication of the way in which Japan is being directed towards the development of a democratic state. The first paragraph of the constitution reads -
We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected representatives in the National Diet, determined that we shall secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful co-operation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout this land, and resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution. Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed y the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances, and rescripts in conflict herewith.
The final paragraph reads -
We, the Japanese people, pledge our national honour to accomplish these high ideals and purposes with all our resources.
I quote those paragraphs to show the lines now being followed as the result of. the direction of the occupying powers to ‘provide for the realization of the ideals behind the Potsdam Agreement. Not for one moment, however, do I accept those words as meaning that those ideals have already been achieved. I believe that there is a long way to go before they are achieved, but an excellent start has been made. A Japanese government has been formed, and a purge has been carried out of all elements responsible for the development of Japan as an aggressive nation and for the conduct of the war. At American headquarters sections are devoted to such vitally important matters as education and religion, primary industries and the emancipation of women. Those practices which prevailed in Japan in the past, under which women were permitted to be sold and which permitted the establishment of brothels have been abolished. Considerable progress has been made in land reform. I quote these results of the functioning of S.C.A.P. head-quarters briefly - as I do not propose to go into details now - but I have said sufficient to indicate to the House the lines being followed in the redevelopment of the Japanese nation. We were given every opportunity to see exactly how this scheme is operating and what results have so far been achieved. For instance, during our ten days’ stay in the Tokyo region, we were regularly briefed each morning by a different section at S.C.A.P. That briefing consisted of addresses by leading officials of the sections controlling the particular aspects of Japanese life which we were to examine that day. Explanations were given to us of all that had been done by each section. We were given the opportunity to ask pertinent questions. I know of no attempt to withhold from us information to which we were entitled. As the result we can report to the House that very great progress has been made in the task of building a democratic nation in Japan. Having made that statement, however, I have to say - and I wish to make it clear that [ am speaking entirely for myself - that I was left with a rather uneasy impression that the American authorities, or at least some of them, are already attributing a greater measure of success to their efforts than I would be prepared to accord to them. I believe that this is due to overoptimism and over-keenness by those responsible for the operations. There is no doubt whatever about the keenness of the American officials and their determination to succeed in the very important task with which they have been entrusted. They realize that they are engaged in one of the most interesting experiments that has ever been carried out in world affairs, and they are fired with a determination to succeed. I gained the impression on various occasions that, as the result of their keenness and determination to succeed, they were beginning to attribute to their efforts a measure of success which has not yet been achieved. For instance, we were told that a very great degree of success had been achieved in getting the Japanese people to accept the principles of democracy - in short, that Japan has in a large measure accepted the democratic way of life ; but we saw very little to warrant such an optimistic opinion. Certainly the occupation has been accepted by the Japanese nation as a whole. There have been no instances of attempts to oppose the occupation. There have been practically no incidents with which our troops have had to deal. The occupation has been accepted with the fatalism so inherent in the Japanese race. The people generally find that they are enjoying better conditions than they had been accustomed to in the past. No longer are they likely to be bashed in the streets by a policeman if they happen to look the wrong way, as they frequently do. They have an inherent fear of communism and they are protected from Communist propaganda by the occupation. The general attitude is that it is profitable for them to accept the occupation and at least to give lip service to the principles under which it is being carried out. I formed the opinion that, to a vast body of people in Japan, the war represents just another catastrophe. The Japanese have been accustomed to put up with catastrophies, such- as earthquakes, fires, floods, and pestilence, from the beginning of the history of their country. To many of the Japanese people, their defeat in World War II. is just another catastrophe of the kind that they have learned to accept fatalistically, and, having done so, to set to work to re-establish the normal life of the nation. Certainly, the people have been impressed by our way of life as they have seen it demonstrated by our troops. Certainly, too, those who are at present in power sincerely desire to embrace the principles of democracy. Japanese trade union leaders refer to the period just before the outbreak of World War II. as one of oppression. Many of them were in gaol because of their principles. They are undoubtedly sincere, but they lack real experience of the art of government or administration. Therefore, I. believe that if members of that section are to establish the democratic way of life in Japan their efforts must be supported by us for a lengthy period. If they fail it is almost certain that powerful groups which operated in Japan in the past will again take .control and all our efforts will have been in vain. If my impressions are correct, it will be positively dangerous for usto be finally satisfied with the successes achieved so far in the democratization of Japan. The danger lies in the feeling of over-optimism which is evident and is operating in conjunction with certain economic factors, such as the need to enable Japan tofeed its own people and thereby relieve the American taxpayers of the heavy load that they are now bearing. This can give rise to a radical change in the original intention of the democraticpowers regarding Japan. I believe that we can see this change beginning to operate to-day. The original provisions of the instrument of surrender are being watered down. As evidence in support of this statement I need to quote only two recent opinions which have been published in the press, and expressed vocally. We have heard suggestions that it may be advisable to allow the Japanese to re-arm. Originally, the Allies had no intention of permitting them to do so, at least not within our time, because they were determined to prevent the Japanese- from having the ability to wage another war of aggression.
– The Japanese constitution would have to be altered before that nation would be permitted to re-arm.
– The suggestion is so fraught with danger that we in Australia must devote particular attention to it. The position of Japan is of greater importance to Australia than to any other nation.
The second proposal, which relates to the possibility of Japanese expansion, has not been voiced officially, but it is an example of the kind of kite-flying to which we in Australia are accustomed. We know that it is often the forerunner of official suggestions. The suggestion is that Japan might be allowed to settle some of its nationals in New Guinea in order to increase the production of food for the population of the Japanese home islands. Those two suggestions are evidence of dangerous over-optimism about the present position in Japan, and” we must watch it most carefully. Realizing that Australia might have to combat this idea within the next few years, I sought permission for the delegation to visit the northern island in the Japanese group, Hokkaido, because I heard that opportunities existed there for further expansion within the confines of the present Japanese home islands which would enable Japan, for some years at any rate, to feed its own population from within its own boundaries. That argument, if it could be reasonably sustained, would provide Australia with a good counter to any suggestion that Japanese nationals should be allowed to migrate southwards towards Australia. As the result of consideration shown to us by General MacArthur, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), Senator Cooke and I were able to pay a. short visit to Hokkaido and we saw for our- selves that there is still an opportunity for considerable expansion by the Japanese people northwards instead of southwards.
– Hear, hear !
– Certainly, it is contended that the climate of Hokkaido is too severe. Certainly, too, attempts were made previously by the Japanese
Government to settle the island more closely than it is settled at present, but I am completely satisfied, and I am sure that the honorable member for Parkes and Senator Cooke will agree with me, that a good deal more can be done by the Japanese to utilize the opportunities within their home islands to provide food for their own population, provided they tackle the problem in the proper manner.
– That is perfectly true.
– The climate of Hokkaido is not too severe, and the soil is at least as good as that which is being cultivated in the other islands. I accept the statement of various American officials that Hokkaido could contain at least another 6,000,000 people before it would be necessary to begin advocating expansion in another direction. That is an important matter for Australia, because I believe that we shall be called upon shortly to counter a proposal from certain sources that we must allow the Japanese more living room in order that, they may be able to feed themselves.
I have dealt with those two instances of the present trend, because I consider that, under the conditions at present operating in Japan, either of them could constitute a grave threat to Australia. When I say “ under the conditions at present operating in Japan I mean that that country is still in a state of flux, and we cannot yet rely on those J apanese, who are sincerely trying to develop the democratic way of life there, to do so without considerable support for a long time from the United States of America and Australia. While dealing with this phase, I emphasize that we must realize that Japan must be given opportunities to engage in world trade. If the Japanese people are to have a reasonable chance to develop along the lines which we require them to do, and to establish their own sound economy, they must have some right to obtain the funds with which to purchase raw materials and food. I left Japan with the belief that the chief hope for the success of our determination to make Japan a peaceful democratic nation lies in three factors. The first is the education of the young generation. Already the American authorities are doing a fine job, under very great difficulties, along those lines. The second is the emancipation of women. There, too, we saw interesting examples of what has already been achieved by certain American officials, who, realizing the value of this factor, have been putting it into effect. At Yokosuka, they have established a women’s reform club. It has a large enrolment, and is already playing a strong part in the local administration of that area. The third factor that will assist most materially in the establishment of the Japanese as a peaceful democratic people, is the acceptance of Christianity. On this point, General MacArthur himself made a most interesting comment. Shortly before we left Tokyo, he had a conversation with us on all subjects relating to his work, and he said that, in his opinion, the principles of democracy were based upon the principles of Christianity. He added, “It is my belief that we cannot be sure that the Japanese have accepted the principles of democracy until such time as they have thoroughly absorbed and adopted the principles of Christianity”. There is particular force in that opinion, because it appeared to me, from my brief observations, that the Japanese are now a pagan nation, and that their principles are not based on any real ethics, as we know them in Christianity. Until such time as they adopt ethical principles based on Christianity, there is little chance that they will be weaned from their old habits.
– Is it a fact that there are only approximately 1,000,000 Christians in Japan?
– I have no exact figures, but the number is very small. Every opportunity is being given by S.C.A.P. to religious bodies to establish work in Japan, and a start has already been made. However, that work is not an actual function of government, though the matter is of prime importance to the people of Australia, and particularly to religious bodies. If my summing-up of the position is correct, it will take at least a generation before we can be certain that Japan has become a nation which will not be inimical to our interests, and which our sons will not have to fight within the next twenty years. Many Australians, who have been in
Japan, are of the same opinion, although some of them believe that two generations must pass before the danger will be removed. “We -cannot console ourselves with the belief that, after having occupied Japan for two or three years, we can “ get out from under”, and that everything in the garden will be lovely.
Those remarks bring me to my second impression. In my opinion, a mistake has been made in our policy in Japan. Originally, in addition to United States forces, there was the body known as the British Commonwealth Occupation Force,, which included troops from the United Kingdom, India, New Zealand and Australia. They were under the command of Lieu tenant-General Robertson. That force did a magnificent job in the early stages of the occupation, and those troops who remain are still doing fine work. As the result of its efforts, the British Commonwealth Occupation Force gained a high standing in the eyes of the Japanese people as well as the Americans. Unfortunately, the composition of that force has been steadily deteriorating. The United Kingdom component has been withdrawn completely, the New Zealand component is in the course of returning to that dominion, and the Australian component is being considerably reduced. By the end of the year, the only troops who” will be in Japan, other than those of the United States of America, will be Australians, and they will be reduced tothe strength of a normal battalion. That reduction of numbers, I find from my inquiries, is already causing Australia, and the British Empire as a whole tolose prestige. I admit that the policy which the United Kingdom and New Zealand adopt in this matter is not our business, but the policy which Australiafollows is definitely of vital importance to us. To my knowledge, the subject has never been discussed in this House, and therefore, I propose to examine it now before it becomes too late. A fine establishment has been built up in Japan as the result of the operation of” our troops. If we allow the present policy to be continued, and, later, we desire to re-establish ourselves in Japan, the task will be infinitely more difficult than it has been up to date. The reduction of our forces to the extent which is obviously intended will mean the loss of at least some of our status as a nation, particularly in the eyes of the United States of America, whose forces in Japan are doing a fine job. We are also in danger of allowing the idea to form in the American mind that we have “ given Japan away “, that we are not prepared to accept our share of the responsibility of the occupation and therefore, that we are not worth much consideration in discussions that will take place in Japan from time to time. We are also losing the bargaining power which our forces won by their fighting in the islands. We may need that bargaining power when the terms of the peace treaty are being considered. To a great extent, we are wasting the work that has already been done by our forces in Japan. In view of the importance to Australia of the proper development of Japan, and having regard to the trend of development in that country to which I. have referred, it is particularly important that we should hot lose that prestige. Therefore, I strongly counsel a further examination of the question of the number of troops that is to be retained in Japan, with a view to the retention there for some considered time of at least a brigade group.
In addition to the reasons I have already put forward in support of my contention, there is the additional reason that Japan could be regarded, at any rate for some years to come, as a splendid training area for the troops of our Regular Army, We are building up a Regular Army, and our object in so doing is to provide for the proper defence of Australia. If this country has to be defended at any time it is to be hoped that the battle will he fought outside Australia, possibly in the islands adjacent to it. There is no better area in which to train a Regular Army than one in which the troops can be given adequate instruction in the type of warfare that they may be required to wage. There are areas in Japan in which a brigade of our troops could be trained under conditions approximating to those under which it might be required to fight in the defence of Australia. .Such a brigade could be replaced by another after, say, twelve months. In order to see how practical this idea of mine was I went into the mountains with Brigadier Hopkins during the last week of my visit and inspected the training areas* that had been used by our troops, and also by the Japanese army for its training in jungle warfare. I know now of my own knowledge that the areas available there are adequate to meet all our requirements. Why should we throw away an opportunity such as this merely because of some cheese-paring policy or a failure to realize the real need for adequate defence preparations? For that reason also, I counsel a further examination of this matter before it is too late.
No survey of our trip would be complete without a few remarks concerning the conditions under which our troops are operating in Japan, particularly in view of the scurrilous and lying statements that were made about them a short time ago. Several honorable members have already spoken on this subject and have given the lie to those statements. I endorse the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) on that subject. When I went, to Japan I did not expect - and in this respect I differed from some other honorable members - to find that the charges that were made were true. I went there determined to apply my own critical eye, trained in examinations such as this over many years,. to conditions as they were, in order to find out for myself exactly what the position was in Japan. We were given every help. We saw the military installations. We saw the troops in their billets, in their rest hotels, at their meals and under other conditions. Everywhere I went I found a fierce resentment among all ranks at the lies that had been published in Australia concerning them - and I am satisfied that they were lies. Time and again men said to me, “ These things were said about us in Australia. Why did you not defend us on the floor of the House ? “ I believe, therefore, that it is our duty to say, even at this late hour, that we found that the conditions under which our troops were operating, as well as their discipline and conduct, could not be bettered anywhere. Conditions both for troops and their dependants were better than any that I have seen elsewhere in my military experience. I say that advisedly and soberly. The discipline and conduct of the troops could not be bettered. There are many ways in which one who is trained in military matters can determine for himself the state of discipline of any unit. Many tiny indications are to be found, not by watching parades but by moving quietly among the troops and seeing them, if I may use the expression, in the raw. That is how a man who knows what to look for can judge the real condition of any body of troops. I did that, and I can assure the House that I am very proud indeed of the job that has been done by our troops in Japan and of their standing, not only in the eyes of the Americans but also - and this is very important - in the eyes of the Japanese. The Japanese have found the Australian troops to be firm but, at the same time, fail-. I know that our men are highly regarded and respected by the Japanese, and that is a factor that may be of great importance to Australia. The dastardly criticism that was made of them should be completely denied, and the people of Australia should be told plainly that it was not true.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– On the last occasion on which I spoke immediately after the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) I took him to task for some of the statements that he had made. On this occasion, however, it is my pleasant duty to congratulate the honorable member. He and those honorable members who accompanied him on the visit to Japan have, since their return, made use of the knowledge that they gained to inform the Australian public of the facts regarding the splendid service rendered by and the conduct of the Australian troops serving in that country and to furnish important information to the Parliament about the economic, military and racial position in the Japanese islands.
I have been struck by the fact that honorable members opposite who have spoken in this debate have confined their remarks almost exclusively to communism and to the communist menace. I have noticed in the past that when a political party concentrates upon one subject or one slogan it does so in an endeavour to cover up its complete inability to place any constructive programme or ideas before the people, lt is well known to the average intelligent Australian - and most Australians are intelligent - that the policy of the Communist party is completely foreign to the Australian democratic outlook. That policy is quite incapable of realization because it will be rejected by the people at the elections. It is, therefore, futile for the Communists to advocate revolution, sabotage and destruction as a means of inflicting their ideas upon the people of Australia. I have also noticed that it is the custom of members of the anti-Labour parties in this Parliament and also in the State parliaments to suggest that the government of the day, if it happens to be a Labour government, should takeprompt and effective action to ban the Communist party or any other party with similar objectives and ideals. It is very strange, however, that, when the anti-Labour parties have the opportunity to do so, they fail completely to put those suggestions into effect. For a long while before he occupied his present position, the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Hollway, thumped and banged the table in declaring that Communists should be banned and his utterances were published far and wide in Victoria. He said in nouncertain terms that the Cain Government should ban the Communist party, and should dismiss Communistsfrom the Victorian Public Service and put them behind bars. He explained what he would do if the party of which he was a member ever formed the government of the State. The Honorable T. T. Hollway has realized his ambition - no doubt by a fluke - and is the Premier of Victoria. He has now occupied that position for eight months. He has as his sparring partner a member of the Australian Country party - another party that uses the Communist bogy to cover up the fact that it has no policy. Although the Premier of Victoria has held that position only for eight- months, hesees political dangers looming ahead in.
Victoria, because he cannot agree with his colleague of the Australian Country party - and who could agree with him? Notwithstanding that there are Communists in Victoria, Mr. Hollway has gone to the United Kingdom as a member of the Empire parliamentary delegation. No doubt he will have a very pleasant and enjoyable trip and I do not blame him for taking it. In the absence of the Premier, many important responsibilities devolve upon the Deputy Premier, Mr. McDonald, who has occupied that office for a considerable time. Mr. Hollway -ailed a fortnight ago, but no Communist in Victoria has been locked up nor has any Communist organization been banned. All that the Victorian Government has done has been to discontinue the payment of some kind of subsidy to the Eureka Youth League. The whole idea of the Opposition in raising this question of communism is to cover up the fact that it is not in favour with the Australian public. The Labour party has not merely coined slogans and paid lip service in the fight against communism ; it has also been taking action to remove the possibility of the Communist party carrying on with its nefarious work in Australia. According to the Communists, the philosophy of the Communist party is an ideal. The laws of Australia apply equally ‘ to Communists, Fascists, Nationalists, members of the Labour party, or anybody else, and they can be invoked to deal with citizens who overstep the bounds of decency or act illegally to the detriment of their fellow citizens. The race from which we have descended is noted for the fact that it gave refuge to people from all over the world who postulated all sorts of theories, revolutionary and otherwise. It gave refuge to Lenin, Engels and others. It is a race which is proud of the fact that it has always permitted free speech and free association. However, in the case of sedition, acts of violence, interference with the liberty of the individual, or breaches of the law, United Kingdom governments - and they were not Labour governments - have taken effective action to dual with offenders. It was my pleasure whilst serving with the Australian Imperial Force in World War I. to visit England for a very brief period.
I took the opportunity then to visit Hyde Park. There I saw and heard theorists of all . kinds enunciating their ideas, breathing fire and fury and even advocating revolution, but as long as they only advocated those things they were tolerated. It is probably due to that fact that of all the countries in the world to-day none, with the exception of Australia, is more free from communism than is the United Kingdom. I say to those who base their attacks and propaganda on nothing else but communism, that intolerance of that nature is not far removed from religious intolerance and there are some people in Australia who, if they had their way; would ban people of various religious denominations. The famous poet, John Milton, was driven out of England and went to Italy because of religious intolerance, and many people in past times were imprisoned because of their religion. The members of the Opposition show a similar type of intolerance to-day. Summed up, the fact is that over a long period of years the present Opposition held the reins of government in this country. Its policy was so futile and its actions so negative that at last the people put a Labour Government into office. Over the years of its administration, the present Government has demonstrated its capacity to govern actively during the most critical period of Australia’s history. I emphasize again that honorable members of the Opposition might very well, by their speeches in this House and on the public platform also, particularly in Victoria, and also by letter, direct their propaganda to the Honorable T. T. Hollway, the Premier of Victoria, a brave fellow, who, when his party was in Opposition in that State, railed against the Cain Government for not banning communism, but who has not banned it himself. The Opposition might also direct its propaganda to Mr. John McDonald, the Acting Premier of Victoria, who has adopted the same attitude. Honorable members of the Opposition are killing communism with their mouths. When they formed the Australian Government and had an opportunity to do something of a practical character to remove the conditions on which communism thrives and which are the basic causes of its existence, they did nothing.
– The Liberal-Country party Government banned the Communist party.
– There is not the slightest doubt that Australia is the soundest country financially in the world, and any one who has been abroad would endorse that view. The latest to endorse it is Sir Norman Brookes. Australia has the best standards of life in the world and it is only possible to arrive at one conclusion-
– The primary producers are responsible for that.
– If the honorable member for Wimmera casts his mind back about 50 years he will recall that the reason why there are to-day primary producers like himself and others was the radical advocacy at that period of the breaking up of large estates owned by squatters and other landowners. Who were the proponents of the policy of closer settlement which was initiated in those days? Were they the representatives of the squatters who then graced the parliaments of Australia and held the reins of government? No, they were the radical parties of the day who advocated, and forced governments to undertake, policies directed toward closer settlement and better living conditions for the Australian people. Those advocates were the forerunners of the present Labour party. To go back to an even earlier period, I can recall my early visits to Melbourne and have vivid recollections of the slums and tenements in the suburbs of Colwere crammed so close together that one could hardly understand why, until he did some research work on the problem. On the other hand, one could cross the river Yarra and find oneself in the suburbs of Toorak and Malvern, where there were dozens of mansions containing 80 or 90 rooms. A few of those mansions are crumbling ruins in areas which were gradually cut up to provide land for the building of homes of a more modest character. In contrast with those days, when the rural areas also were dotted with mansions containing 70 or 80 rooms, belonging to individuals who owned carriages and horses and employed servants, to-day one finds closer settlement and well-established farm homes. In Collingwood and Fitzroy, both of which had tenements similar to those in the Woolloomooloo district of Sydney, new homes have been built, and such reconstruction work is proceeding throughout the whole of the suburban area. Those developments were the result of radical propaganda for improved living conditions, shorter hours, and education and social services by members of the Labour party. It is because of those achievements that communism will never gain a real hold in Australia. All that honorable members of the Opposition can do is to come into this Parliament and endeavour to delude the Australian people into believing that communism is a real menace in Australia. The Labour party is the only party which has ever really fought communism in Australia. Long ago it laid down that no Communist could be a Labour party member. That principle was operating with the Labour party long before the Opposition parties took any action at all regarding communism. I repeat that honorable members of the Opposition fight communism with their mouths. All the talk against communism during this debate has been so much sham intended to delude the people of Australia. That type of propaganda if neither new or unusual. In 1934, in Victoria, during the Commonwealth election of that year, communism bore the name of bolshevism, but thereafter communism became rather stale as a means of attacking the Labour party. Now the attack has turned to the Labour party’s policy of the nationalization of banks and the Opposition has indulged in a new type of fear propaganda. I invite honorable members to look at the poster which I hold in my hands and which I have retained since the federal election campaign of 1934. Ii reads -
Protect your savings from Labour’s policy of political control. Remember the fate of the Bank of New South Wales and of government enterprises, and place official Labour candidates last.
Propaganda of that type was carried on for a while, but at last the Australian people realized that all the Opposition’? propaganda was false, and as a result a Labour Government has been in power in Australia since 1941. Thi3 Government has not snatched the savings of the people. In fact, those savings have accumulated in the banks of Australia, Commonwealth, State and private, until total savings are now greater than ever before in the history of Australia. The Government took not one penny piece, other than by the processes of law, to finance the recent war, to meet national debt commitments, to develop the country, and to provide social services. The Opposition to-day can only feel envy of the Government’s record. The Opposition was in power as the Australian government at a time when there was no war and when there were ample national resources as well as a vast reservoir of labour. It is sorry that it did not adopt means like those adopted by the present Government and effect results as successful as this Government has achieved.
I observed during the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that, possibly for the first time in the history of Australia, Hi3 Excellency was gracious, enough to pay personal tribute by name to senior Ministers who had rendered magnificent service to the people. I think that is a policy which might well be adopted by other governments, and by this Government if it continues in power after the next election. Gracious tribute was paid to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), who has rendered the people of Australia, in a modest, quiet, but effectual way, a very great service as he has moved amongst coal-miners, industrial workers, and others with whom he worked in his boyhood. He has shown that he knows how to talk with them and enlist their sympathy. He has been able to impress upon them the basic fact that it is essential to achieve an increased production of coal. The activities in which Senator Ashley has been engaged have been of a very difficult character. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) is aware of that. That gentleman visited the coal-fields while he was Prime Minister and met with a hostile reception. He is not the type of individual who has the capacity and understanding required to obtain the best results from the workers in what is the dirtiest and most difficult occupation in the world. Under the cir cumstances His Excellency’s tribute to the Minister was most appropriate. The same may be said of the tribute which His Excellency paid to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) who also has rendered a magnificent service, over a long period of years, to workers and to the country’s industry generally, by helping to maintain industrial peace. When the Opposition was in power it did not have in its ranks any individual of the type that could have rendered such service. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) also rendered a magnificent service at one of the greatest international conferences ever held, which met at Geneva to bring the nations o’f the world together and attempt to break down international trade barriers with the object of realizing the great objectives laid won by Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill, in the Atlantic Charter.
– The Minister has not mentioned the Postmaster-General.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) was Minister for something or other in a previous government, but his activities were so unimportant that I cannot recall what particular department he administered. His name will never go down in history for any achievements, although it may be remembered by virtue of the honorable member’s alleged association with the “ Boo “ Guard. I would not myself make an accusation of that type as I have no proof of its truth or otherwise. I am not like the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), who, under cover of parliamentary privilege, makes filthy innuendoes and accusations which he does not dare to make outside the Parliament. In connexion with the honorable gentleman’s remarks about importation of cement-making machinery, let me say that there is more to the matter than just the manufacture of cement for supplying our own needs. The honorable member for New England said something about ascertaining our requirements, as if that were all that was involved, and he implied that if sufficient coal and labour were available all the cement we needed could be made with the machinery already here. I remind him that we are receiving cablegrama every day asking whether Australia can supply cement to various countries overseas, and if so, how much it can supply. Cement is an important dollarearner, so that the importation of cementmaking machinery to enable us to make more cement which can be exported for dollars is a matter of vital importance. I know that the honorable member for New England came into the House with a brief from the cement manufacturing combine, which fears that if more cement-making plants are established in Australia, it may have difficulty in selling its output should exports decline. However, I have no doubt that, as long as the economy of this country is directed by the Labour Government, we shall be able to continue exporting cement and many other products.
An important section of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech dealt with the primary industries. It is true, as the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said, that the primary producers render a most important service to the community, and play an important part in the country’s economy. However, it is evident that the primary industries cannot be carried on successfully without various secondary and ancillary industries, some of which are engaged in processing primary products. It is gratifying to know that the value of our exports is steadily increasing, and I am sure that this increase will ;be maintained, because inquiries for our products are coming in every day. During the war, the marketing of our primary products was largely controlled under national security regulations, but in normal times, the compulsory acquisition of primary products is objectionable. The Government does not favour acquisition.
– Then why did the Government try to acquire the banks ?
– That is a different matter from acquiring primary products. Moreover, it i3 not agreed that banking should be the monopoly of a few bank shareholders. As I have said, the Government does not like the acquisition of primary products.
– But the Government i« still acquiring them.
– The policy of acquisition was initiated by a government which the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) supported. As a matter of fact, some of the trade organizations and interests which befriend the honorable member for Richmond are advocating that the Government should continue to acquire primary products, particularly wheat. I have here a circular issued by the Farmers and Settlers Association urging wheat-farmers to vote against the wheat stabilization proposal. It declares that there is no need for such a scheme because “ the Federal Government could extend the existing system for another crop “. I am able to say, however, that the Government will not continue the present acquisition scheme for another year. However, if the stabilization plan now being submitted to the vote of the farmers is not accepted, there will be no return to the open market for wheat exported. The publication to which I have referred describes me as a dictator, a charge which I deny. No matter what the Farmers and Settlers Association may call me, the provisions of the Constitution remain unaltered, and these enable the Government to negotiate bulk sales to the Government of the United Kingdom, or the Government of India or the Government of New Zealand, or the government of any other country.
– That is a threat.
– It is not a threat, but just common sense. If, by some tragedy, the honorable member for Richmond were to succeed me as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and he were asked by the Government of the United Kingdom to make a bulk sale of 90,000,000 bushels of wheat to it he would have no alternative but to try to put the deal through.
– But he would not sell wheat to New Zealand on the same terms that this Government did.
– I suggest that the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) stick to carpets and pillows, about which he knows something. The honorable member for Richmond knows all about bananas, and has a glimmering of knowledge about wheat. Therefore, I prefer to deal with the honorable member for Richmond. Does he say that he would refuse to do business with the Government of the United Kingdom in the circumstances which I have mentioned? It is essential under the conditions obtaining in the United Kingdom to-day that wheat should be bought in bulk in order to economize in distribution.
– But if I were in control I would pay the proceeds of such sales to the producers.
– The honorable member has at various times spoken of the need to strengthen the bonds of Empire, and to do everything we can to help Britain. I ask him whether the wheat which the Australian Government sold to the Government of the United Kingdom over a period of twelve months at 17s. a bushel was sold too cheaply. Are we to believe that 17s. a bushel was too little when the present world parity price of wheat is about 13s. 6d. a bushel, and the Government of the United Kingdom could buy wheat from the new Canadian crop at that price? Does the honorable member say that 17s. a bushel was too little to charge the people of Britain in their extremity, or that it was not a sufficient return to the Australian growers? Every decent wheat-grower in Australia admits that it was a good price, and if honorable members opposite were capable of making a single generous admission, they would agree with me that the Government has consistently done the fair thing by the primary producers.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
.- On behalf of the people of Western Australia, whom I have the honour of representing, I express gratitude to Their Majesties the King and Queen and Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret for having decided to visit Australia next year. The people of Western Australia will join with those of the rest of Australia in giving the Royal visitors a hearty reception and in doing everything possible to make their visit both pleasant and memorable.
The Governor-General’s Speech contained references to several members of Parliament, including quite a few Ministers, who were mentioned by name. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) also referred to that fact. I wonder whether he was upset that neither he nor his predecessor, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully), was mentioned for having negotiated the wheat agreement with New Zealand, a deal which should be recorded in every historical record of Australia, and which, before it was brought to light, was denied with untruths but which when the facts were eventually well established, had to be subsidized by the Government, at the expense, of course, of the taxpayers, so that the farmers should not lose what they had stood to lose because of it.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture referred in his speech to the savings of the people as being indicative of the prosperity and well-being of the people as the result of the Labour administration. People may have money in the bank, as, I concede, a great many of them have; but savings are not of value unless they can be used to buy the goods that the people need. No system of government, democratic or otherwise, is satisfactory unless, under it, the people themselves can produce the goods that they themselves want to buy with their savings. The reason why people cannot buy the goods they want is obvious. It is that the supply of goods is insufficient. Goods are in short supply because the Communists in charge of the key industrial unions will not allow the unionists to work as they could. It is useless for the Government to say that the only thing to do with the Communists is to appease them. Any organization, Communist or otherwise, that sets out to upset by force the democratic system of government that we enjoy in Australia, as the Communits are admitted by Ministers and their supporters to be doing, must be harshly dealt with by the Government. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture scornfully asked, what the Victorian Government had done. The Victorian Government, not long ago. brought down emergency legislation that stopped the Communists in Victoria in their track. Unfortunately, having been checked in Victoria, the Communists, in order to achieve, by other means, the ends that they sought there, expanded their activities in the Commonwealth field. Unhappily, the Australian Labour Government has not sufficient backbone to evoke the law that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture referred to when he said that the Chifley Government was prepared to use the law to stop any nefarious acts by those who espoused the Communist ideology. Does the honorable gentleman imply that the Communists in charge of the key industrial unions, who are depriving the people of their needs, are not acting nefariously? Any government with backbone would soon bring tho ring-leaders to book.
– How long is it since the honorable member himself was a Communist?
– I was not a Communist, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Eraser) is. I was an independent. I had the courage to say what I thought. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the action of the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, that wellknown Communist named Healy, in tying up 72 ships in Sydney Harbour immediately after the passage last year by this Parliament of the legislation dealing with the stevedoring industry, was not nefarious. The people whom I represent, along with other Western Australians engaged in primary production, have only recently felt the repercussions of that event. It was the cause of their inability to obtain the superphosphate they required to grow the wheat and other products so badly needed by ourselves, our kith and kin in Great Britain and the starving multitudes in Europe. The lag in shipping caused by that hold-up has not yet been caught up. I challenge representatives of Western Australian constituencies on the Government side of the House to say that the people whom they represent can ‘get what they need and that the deprivations that they are suffering have not been caused by the Communists. Wherever one goes in Western Australia one is confronted by shortages of everything needed for primary production. Farmers are crying out for water piping. When one makes representations to the authorities for additional supplies he is told that the State is receiving 8^ per cent, of all the water piping produced. More water piping is not produced because insufficient coal is mined to enable the steel works to produce all that they could produce. The basic cause of our shortages is the shortage of coal. The shortage of coal arises from the nefarious activities of the Communists on the coal-fields. I am not one to attack the workers. I know the conditions under which they toil. I am not like some of the gentlemen to whom the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture referred. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I have worked, and worked hard. I do not believe in adding to the hardship that the workers normally undergo. All that the Government needs to do is to deal with the “redraggers “ in their midst. The Queensland railway strike was not merely a strike of the railway workers. It was a move by the Communists to prevent private enterprise from expending considerable sums of money on exploiting the Blair Athol coal resources, which, if properly handled, could supply all Australia’s coal needs. During that trouble the Australian Government did not lift one finger against the Communists. I go so far as to say that I believe that it was because of pressure from this Government that the Queensland Labour Government, led by Mr. Hanlon, whose courageous anti.picketing legislation brought a sudden end to the Queensland transport strike, remitted the fines imposed upon the Communist ring-leaders for their breaches of that law and released them from gaol where they had been placed for having failed to pay their fines. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, in his eulogy of this Government, also said that the Government of Victoria led by Mr. Holloway, had no backbone, but he knows that the Communists in Victoria have been very quiet since the advent of that Government. They are not game to do much, because they know that immediately they cause industrial trouble, the anti-strike legislation passed by the Victorian Parliament to curb their activities will be proclaimed and enforced. It is this Government, not the Victorian Government, which, as the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has said time and time again, has no intestinal fortitude, for ‘it refuses to arraign the Communist leaders before the court for breaches of the Commonwealth Crimes Act when they cause industrial trouble extending beyond the limits of one State and to gaol them when they have been found guilty. There would be no need to gaol a thousand Communists, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said. His words were an attempt to wriggle out of the position in which he finds himself. If action were taken to gaol the ring-leaders and deport the agitators that were not bom in Australia, the rest of the Communists would not be able to find enough hollow logs to hide in, and would perish like rabbits in trying to cross the Nullabor Plain. I did not intend to talk for so long about communism. In fact, I did not intend to participate in this debate. But the words of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture goaded me into doing so.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) spoke about a certain matter earlier. I do not know all the details of the matter to which he referred.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) knows nothing about it.
– I say in answer to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who would be more respected in Australia than he is if he paid more attention to post-war reconstruction, that I know that the expenditure of dollars was involved in bringing from America machinery for the manufacture of cement. Cement, as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has stated, is certainly required and orders for it have been sent abroad, but cement need not be short in supply if the idle plant in Australia could be brought back into production, as it could be if sufficient coal were available for the fires to be lit and the plant set working. The first factor in the idleness of certain cement works is the shortage of coal ; the second is the shortage of labour. The second is understandable, to a degree; but the first is not. The Government should not have allowed the expenditure of precious dollars on the purchase of machinery of which we have an apparent abundance to produce cement; it should have taken effective action to ensure the production of sufficient coal to allow our already available machinery to operate. The Prime Minister has called for a production drive so that Australia shall be able to contribute its share to the feeding of the people of Great Britain and Europe. Yet he has allowed dollars to be wasted on the purchase of unnecessary machinery when primary producers cannot get the dollars to buy from America the spare parts that are needed to put into working order the tractors that they must operate if they are to produce the food that the people of Great Britain and Europe need. It is useless for Ministers to attribute the stortage of things that primary producers need to the unwillingness of merchants to sell and to say that they have ample stocks on their shelves. Nothing is farther from the truth. Farmers want spare parts for their tractors and cannot get them. I cannot buy a clutch for my tractor although I have been trying to do so for months and months. Some one stole the clutch of my machine during the war. But that is beside the point. The point is that where a merchant, before the war, imported £50,000 worth of tractor spare parts annually to satisfy his requirements, to-day he is allowed to import only £10,000 worth a year. This state of affairs is alarming. It is better to keep the tractors already in the country moving than to try to bring in new ones. The charges that have been laid by the honorable member for New England warrant the most searching inquiry to ascertain whether any wrong-doing has occurred. Any one guilty of wrong-doing or of telling untruths in obtaining the dollars to buy the machinery referred to by the honorable member for New England should be severely dealt with. The Australian people should be thankful that the honorable member for New. England has brought this matter before the House and thereby given the Government the opportunity of instituting a most searching inquiry into the facts.
One of the most important subjects dealt with in the Governor-General’s Speech is defence. My colleague the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) to-day told us what he thought of conditions in Japan, and concluded his speech by saying that Japan offered the best opportunity for the training of our Regular Army. He urged that we should have a battalion in that country for training purposes and change its personnel annually. I believe that every honorable member will agree with that suggestion, particularly as it comes from one who served in two wars and knows only too well what jungle warfare means. If Australia is attacked again in the future, the assault will probably be made from Japan or its adjacent islands, and accordingly it is desirable that our fighting forces should be given training in those areas. However, I appeal to honorable members not to allow any threat of attack from that direction to cloud their views on Australian defence generally. Not one word was said in the Governor-General’s Speech of my proposal to guard the 4,350 miles of the coast of Western Australia, extending from Esperance to Wyndham. What preparations have been made for the defence of that part of Australia? Apparently, not one defence installation is to be provided there, notwithstanding the fact that the lifeline between this country and the United Kingdom passes through Western Australia and across the Indian Ocean. Not one hint has been given by the Government that it has any plan for the defence of our vulnerable western coastline. There is trouble to-day in Indonesia and in Burma; there has been trouble in India;’ there is trouble between the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine; and there is trouble, too, in Iran and Iraq. All of these countries are practically bordering on the Indian Ocean and trouble within their borders may jeopardise our security. With the present regime in Russia following almost exactly the policy of the czars, and gathering more and more territory under the Russian claw, it is feasible that, with the world shortage of oil, the Russians will endeavour to move down through
Iran and Iraq and thus be in a position to strike a blow at our lifeline to the United Kingdom. Yet, not one word was said about the need for defence preparations along the Western Australian coast. More than twenty years ago, the then Australian Government proposed to establish a naval base at Cockburn Sound, near Fremantle. The sound is sheltered by reefs and its entrance calls for very intricate navigation; but nothing has been done. Until some move has been made by the Government to establish defence strongposts along the Western Australian coast, we cannot look forward to any great development of secondary industries in Western Australia. Unfortunately, the secondary industries of Western Australia have not developed in keeping with its primary industries and consequently the State is lagging behind the eastern States industrially. When honorable members and the people generally have become fully aware of the great expanse of coastline in Western Australia which ‘ is open to an aggressor, they will clamour for its appropriate defence, and something may be done. At Albany there is a wonderful natural harbour, but until the present Western Australian Government took office nothing had been done to develop it. The present Western Australian Government proposes to expend over a period of years an amount of £1,300,000 in improving theharbour at Albany. When units of the British Navy were in Australian waters during World War II. a British admiral said that it was a crying shamethat the natural harbour at Albany had not been developed. He was amazed that we should be so short-sighted as to fashion our defence policy in such a way as to make essential the carrying- out of all repairs at the dockyards of Sydney and Melbourne. Why was no attempt madeto establish the naval base at Cockburn Sound? I remember vividly the great works that were planned for that area about twenty years ago, but not one shovelful of soil has yet been turned to implement them. In his Speech, the Governor-General alsoreferred to air projects. Again, thewhole of the Government’s plans are related to the development of air routes across the Pacific. No mention was made of the development of air- routes extending from Western Australia and across the Indian Ocean to the United Kingdom. The present air route to England from Australia, through Darwin, Singapore, the top of India, Persia and on to England cannot be called an “ all-red “ route. An upheaval in any of the foreign countries traversed by the route might very well bring about a stoppage of the service. An alternative route for air travel to England would be from Western Australia to Cocos Islands, Diego Garcia Islands, Seychelles Islands, Mombasa, Khartoum and Malta and thence to England. The whole of that route would be over British territory. Whether this subject was discussed at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers I do not know; but at least it is time that some indication was given to the people of Western Australia that the Government is aware of the dangers that threaten the maintenance of our lifeline to the United Kingdom and that it proposes to do something about it. Dealing with this subject last year, a London writer said that he was certain of the awareness of the people of Western Australia of the dangers that confront us in the Indian Ocean, but that the people of Canberra were apparently blind to them. Until General Blarney returned from the Middle East during World War II., nothing had been done to protect our interests there; but immediately the danger was forcibly brought to the notice of the Government some attempt was made to minimize it. I bring these matters to the notice of the House with the object of awakening in the minds of members of the Government some idea of the need for making adequate preparations for the defence of our Western Australia coastline. Admittedly, the Australian Government, in association with the British Government, is constructing a guided weapons range in Central Australia. Some people may say that the development of long-range weapons of the rocket type will be of advantage to Western Australia’s defence. Some of these missiles will travel across the north-west corner of Western Australia and drop into the ocean, but beyond that they will be of no direct benefit to the defence of Western Australia.
The Government claims that since 1939 the number of persons engaged in civil employment has increased by 640,000. That figure may be correct, but the manner in which the information is used in the Governor-General’s Speech is intended to convey to the people that the Government has been responsible for lifting the unemployment figure. The true position is that the Government can claim to have been responsible for the employment of only 220,000 of the 640,000 additional now employed. The remainder can be accounted for by the natural increase of young people reaching the age of sixteen years since 1939, the influx of migrants and the employment in industry of persons who were formerly selfemployed but who, as the result of the stupid policy adopted by the Government in maintaining high taxes, have been forced to abandon their businesses and work for wages. Probably many of them are employed in the Public Service at a wage in excess of that earned by them when they were self-employed. I refer to this subject briefly, for the purpose of dispelling any idea from the minds of the people that these additional 640,000 persons may have gained employment as the result of the policy of the present Government.
The Governor-General’s Speech contains a lengthy statement on immigration. Everybody in Australia appreciates our need of a greatly increased population; but it is encumbent upon the Government to ensure that the Australian people are suitably housed before we add to our housing difficulties by bringing in thousands of others. The present immigration policy might have much more to commend it if the Minister for Immigration had arranged for the migration of artisans to be engaged in Australia solely in the building trade. During this debate much has been said about the need for improving the living conditions of the people in order to defeat the insidious propaganda of the Communists. What could contribute more to the comfort of the people than the provision of comfortable homes? The housing position to-day is as bad as it ever was. Exservicemen and their families are still living in garages, sheds and caravans because they cannot obtain homes. One of the contributing factors to the shortage of housing in Australia is the repeated industrial upheavals which are instigated by the Communist leaders of key unions. With the influx of the thousands of migrants forecast by the GovernorGeneral and by the Minister for Immigration, the housing position will become more and more acute. It is the responsibility of the Government to house our own people first rather than to aggravate the position by bringing in others. I believe that everybody will agree that the root cause of the housing problem is the coal shortage. The Prime Minister and the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) ‘ have recently appealed to the miners to increase coal production. Recently the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) cited figures relating to the quantity of coal consumed at the Bunnerong power-house. It is common knowledge that more coal is being used to-day than was used before the war and that greater quantities of coal are needed to meet the needs of our expanded secondary industries. However, honorable members opposite have only short memories if they have forgotten so soon the threat of the leaders of the miners federation who, not so long ago, said, “ We will not build up one day’s reserve of coal for big business and private enterprise to use against us “. It is this refusal to build up reserve stocks of coal which is responsible in the main for the existing coal shortage. I agree that the conditions under which miners work are not as good as they might be and that we should do everything possible to improve them; but I do not agree that the leaders of any union have the right to say that the members of their organization will not establish reserve stocks because of a fear that such reserves may be used against the workers in the event of subsequent industrial trouble. If we set ourselves out to give the coal miners the best of conditions and provide them with suitable amenities, the least we can expect is that the miners will play the game and give Australia a “ fair crack of the whip “. Union leaders would not dare to make such statements in the country whose ideology the Communists propound in this country. It is within the power of this Government to take the necessary measures to prevent a repetition of that kind of threat. The ordinary law-abiding, self-respecting unionists to-day are endeavouring to get rid of their Communist dictators. But they know perfectly well, as honorable members opposite know, that when they endeavour to propound their ideas at union meetings, they are threatened with dire penalties. Therefore, it behoves the Government to give these unionists every possible assistance. By doin? so, the Government will earn the respect of all the honest unionists. One form of assistance that the Government can render is to introduce legislation to make it compulsory that unions shall not countenance stoppages of work without first taking a secret ballot of their members. Unionists throughout Western Australia have told me repeatedly that they would prefer the secret ballots to be conducted, not by the executives of the unions, but by a judge of the Supreme Court or by_thi Chief Electoral Officer of the State. That is an amazing situation. Is it not sufficient proof that unionists do not trust their own executives and want to get rid of them? But they are not able to do so. When they venture to express their opinions at union meetings, they are told to sit down or they will be “thugged “. That has happened. The Government should give the genuine unionists every possible assistance to enable them to rid themselves of the- disruptionists. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) has stated in this House that the Locomotive Enginemen’s and Firemen’s Association succeeded in getting rid of them, and I believe that it did. The Australian Workers Union also has fought them tooth and nail. But what is the use of the engine-driver getting rid of men who cause strikes when the union of which the guard is a member retains them? That is exactly what is happening. The president of the Australian Railways Union, “ Red “ Brown, can apply the Westinghouse brake whenever he pleases, and stop the train. Therefore, the honest unionists need assistance to get rid of the disruptionists. The members of the Labour party who vote against the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) will not be helping law-abiding, self-respecting unionists to rid themselves of these termites, who have “ white-anted “ the unions and caused untold trouble not only in industrial circles but also throughout Australia.
– Before I discuss the Governor-General’s Speech, I should like to pay a tribute to two honorable members who have made such splendid statements to clear the honour of Australian troops in Japan. The parents of the soldiers have suffered anguish caused by the rumours which have circulated throughout this country alleging immoral conduct by young Australians in Japan. I know that the troops and their parents will appreciate the eulogistic references that have been made in this chamber about the troops. I suggest that the two speeches should be published in a small booklet, and distributed among the thousands of Australian troops in Japan, because I know how much they have fretted and fumed about these defamatory statements.
Having made that suggestion, I shall try to confine my remarks to the Governor-General’s Speech. By birth or adoption, all honorable members are Australians, and I find it disheartening to hear so many statements which foul our own nest and defame our own country, whilst hardly any reference is made to our economic stability and to the security in which we live. The Australian people would be heartened by this good news contained in His Excellency’s Speech, but instead of hearing it they are misled, misinformed and almost insulted by some speeches that have been delivered in this chamber. All honorable members should be able to agree on the first three subjects which His Excellency mentioned. The first was the visit to Australia of the Royal family next year. It goes. without saying that the Australian people are delighted with this news. The second reference was to the assistance which Australia is rendering to Great Britain. During the last three years, every honorable member has urged that Australia should give the maximum possible assistance to Great Britain.
– We are not doing enough.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and I could say a number of nasty things to each other, but I do not desire to engage in recriminations. In my own heart, I think that we have been robbing Great Britain by the high prices we have been charging that country for foodstuffs. However, we have done the best we can to help Great Britain, and we shall continue to do so. The Governor-General recognized it, and the people recognized it.
– The Governor-General says what he is told to say.
– His Excellency is not the kind of man who does what he is told.
– He has to, and the Minister knows it.
– I do not.
– I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling the House to order, because I am suffering from a sore throat. All honorable members will agree that Australia should continue to render the maximum assistance to Great Britain.
Visitors from overseas have hailed with delight, and have expressed their gratitude for the proposed gift of £10,000,000 and for the previous assistance which Australia has given to the United Kingdom. One honorable member has suggested that some “ tags “ are attached to the gift of £10,000,000. Of course, there are not. It is a straightout gift.
The third subject in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech on which I think there should be agreement is defence. At any rate, I do not think we shall argue in public about defence. I agree that wo should not hide our heads in the sand. We are very uneasy about the international situation, and whilst we hate the idea of having to prepare for another war, we cannot avoid doing so. We all agree that we must do the best we can on the most scientific lines to defend Australia. It may be necessary for us, even in the near future, to defend ourselves. As a layman, I do not propose to discuss defence. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) is advised by the Defence Committee, and our defence experts collaborate with those of Great Britain and the other Dominions, and, I think I am correct in saying, those of our ally, the United States of America. Problems of defence must be solved by Navy, Army and Air Fore experts. My knowledge of the subject is very limited. Defence has now become a most scientific and technical matter and the plans which are formulated for it must be kept a closely guarded secret. The rationalization of the Navy, Army and Air Force, and the manner in which they would co-operate, in an emergency, with the f orces of our allies is such a secret and delicate subject that a layman could do a disservice to his country in even trying to engage in a public discussion about the weakness or strength of our defence system. It would be wrong for a layman to do so. Every honorable member is anxious that we shall have the most modern methods of defence in order to safeguard this country.
As I have shown, there cannot be much argument about the first three subjects which the Governor-General mentioned in his Speech, but because of the fundamental differences between the economic policies of the political parties represented in this House, there exists room for disagreement about the economic situation and the Government’s proposals for maintaining financial stability. The Labour Government took office in wartime, and I admit frankly that every member of every political party and every section of the people of Australia cooperated with the Government, as they would have co-operated with any government, and as the Labour party, when in Opposition, co-operated with the Menzies Government, in order to make the war effort a success. Perhaps another government would have handled the labour problem differently. It might have avoided doing some disagreeable and difficult things, and refrained from forcing inconveniences on the people against their will. It might not have hurt their feelings as much as the Labour Government did in order to make the war effort a success. I do not know whether another government would have acted differently, and I do not suggest that our war effort was not undertaken with the co-operation of the whole of the people. Before the war effort ceased, this Government tried to establish an economic policy, based upon its own beliefs, which would prevent inflation or deflation and avoid a financial and economic depression.
– The Government adopted the economic policy of Lenin.
– Those who have not a case, and who cannot accept the Governor-General’s Speech because the views expressed in it are so sound, must endeavour by devious means to divert the public attention. I shall willingly take the platform in any town hall against the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) or the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and debate any subject with them. Then we could really let ourselves go.
– I am prepared to accept the Minister’s challenge.
– Very well; the honorable member for Henty , (Mr. Gullett) can be the chairman.
– I shall be as unbiased as the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear).
– As I stated, there is a difference between the economic policies of the Labour party and the Liberal party and, consequently, there is room for debate on economic matters. Let us examine briefly our history during the last two decades. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), who really introduced this subject, referred to the statement of the Commonwealth Statistician that 640,000 more persons are engaged in industry in the Commonwealth to-day than there were so engaged in 1939. Neither the Government nor the Commonwealth Statistician said that those people had been unemployed. The Commonwealth Statistician said, in effect, that the development of Australia had teen so great since 1939 that 640,000 more people are employed full time now than had been employed in that year. Let us compare the 1929-39 decade with that of 1939-48. The period between 1929 and 1939 was one of continuous booms and bursts. During the whole of those ten years 10 per cent, or more of our working population was always totally unemployed, and the average for the period was 15 per cent. No one knows how many people were on broken time or engaged in casual employment. At the peak of the unemployment, as some of us know to our sorrow, 30 per cent, of the total working population of Australia was totally unemployed. When war broke out in 1939, approximately 290,000 totally unemployed people were registered. That was the picture in 1939.
Let us look at the picture to-day. Whereas in 1939 approximately 290,000 people were unemployed, to-day there are no unemployed at all, and 640,000 more people are employed in industry than were so employed in 1939, and all the people who are working to-day are working regularly. They receive their incomes regularly and are not on broken time, as they were before. I do not suggest that the Government is responsible for the whole of the advance, but the figures are so striking that some credit must be given to it for the way in which it has managed the economy of the country, which is now based upon the Government’s policy of full employment. Why did the Government stake its fate, as it were, on such a policy? It was right and proper from a humane point of view to do everything possible to see that every one was employed, but it was the economic consideration which convinced the Government that that was the correct policy to pursue. If one went into a university club room to-day where discussions on sociological problems take place, one would probably see a chart showing that 80 per cent, or 81 per cent, of the total population of Australia is composed of wage and- salary earners. That great mass of people constitutes the consuming unit of the community. The Government realized that the prosperity of the country depends upon the demands for goods and services that are made by that unit, and that those demands depend upon the wages and salaries earned by the members of that unit, and upon nothing else. The Government knew that once a demand for goods and services was created by increasing the purchasing power of that great mass of people, full employment would be established, and that full employment could be maintained for only as long as that demand was maintained.
– There could hardly be anything other than full employment after six years of production devoted to war purposes.
– I have allowed for the war, but it has been over now for over three years.
– The shortages still exist.
– The figures show that the position has improved year by year since the war ended. The policy of the Government is to encourage ever greater production of wealth and to shareit, not amongst a few people, but amongst every man, woman and child in Australia, I suggest to honorable members opposite,, who perhaps hope to occupy the treasury bench in the near future, that they should study these facts and decide whether they will adopt the same policy if they have the opportunity to do so. If they do occupy the treasury bench and do not adopt that policy, we shall go back to the old order.
The result of the economic policy instituted during the regime of the Curtin Government - and continued by the Chifley Government - has been to disprove the old tory idea, which prevailed for so many generations, that it is necessary to have a povertystricken section of the community on the one hand in order to have a wealthy section on the other hand. This Government knew, or thought it knew, that the results of full employment would prove that theory to be wrong. Every student of economic affairs knows that it is not possible to raise the economic or social status of the persons on the lowest rung of the economic ladder without elevating the status of everybody else. The more the person on the lowest rung of the ladder is lifted, the more his standard of living is increased, and the more consistently his income is maintained the more prosperity there must be in the community generally. Every shopkeeper in the community is beginning to realize the truth of that statement, and that is why honorable members opposite will never again occupy the treasury bench in this Parliament.
The Governor-General referred to the financial economy of Australia, which has been so well managed by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and said that it was admired by visitors from all over the world. When they compare the economy of Australia, especially in the financial sphere, with those of other countries they are astounded, and they wonder how the Government was able to prevent periods of inflation on the one hand or deflation on the other.
– The Australian people were taxed more heavily than the people of any other country of the British Commonwealth.
– It seems that it was wise to do that. I am trying to discuss the substance of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech rather than to attack honorable members opposite.
I preface the remarks I am about to make by saying to the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) that I am well aware that the best way in which to compare statistics is to compare quan- tities rather than money values, but figures’ are sometimes so striking that, even making allowance for variations in money values, it is possible to show that some advance has taken place. In 1939, 1,730,000 people were employed in secondary industries alone.
The value of the output that year, in round figures, was £500,000,000. In 1947, 2,280,000 people were employed in second ary industries, and the value of the output, again in round figures, was £1,000,000,000. These figures relate to secondary industries alone. Between June, 1939, and June, 1947, the number of people employed in secondary industries increased by 30 per cent., but the value of the output increased by 100 per cent. Apart altogether from the increase in the price of commodities during that time, that was a good result. There was an increase of £500,000,000 in the value of the output, or 100 per cent., while the number of persons employed increased by only 30 per cent.
Turning to rural industries, the number of employees has decreased, but the value of the output has increased. It will be said that the present prices of wool and wheat are almost unnatural, but the increase is so large that it is worth while to quote it. In June, 1939, 423,000 wageearners were employed in rural industries, InJune, the number was 406,160. orapproximately 17,000 less than in 1939. The value of the output in 1939 was £208,000,000, and in 1947, with less people employed, it was £331,000,000. The value of the output increased by over £100,000,000, with some 17,000 less people employed. I think that indicates good management. It shows that the general picture of Australia to-day is a bright one.I do not think any one wants to deny that. What worries me a little is that we do not seem to want to let the people know of it. Surely nobody should be sad to discover that his country is on a permanently stable basis, that it is more prosperous than ever before in its history, that no one is unemployed, that no business man is insolvent and that millions of pounds of rural debts have been discharged. As to savings bank accounts, I have not got the Treasurer’s latest deposit figures, but I am prepared to say that the total amount of savings deposited in all savings banks is approximately £1,000,000,000.
– The Minister is over-stating the amount by at least £300,000,000.
– The figure was £700,000,000 half-way through the war. I shall ascertain the correct figure, and, if my estimate is very much wrong, I shall make a statement later. For the sake of argument, I shall assume that my figure was wrong by £300,000,000 and that the correct figure is £700,000,000. There was a time in the history of Australia when we did not dream that the deposits in savings banks would reach that figure.
– Money was never less valuable than it is to-day.
– That is the picture. Everybody is regularly employed. The honorable member for Swan stated that there is a shortage of labour, and I agree with that statement. Every one is employed and in receipt of an income. Every one demands the goods and services that his fellow citizens are producing. There is hound to he a shortage of labour. I hope that we shall never return to the days when the shops and warehouses were bursting with stocks of goods of all kinds and when streets were full of people with not a three-penny piece in their pockets with which to buy them. Surely it is preferable to have a situation such as that which exists now, when there is a shortage of goods’ and when people have money to buy more goods if only they can get them. We can overcome that difficulty, but we did not seem to be able to overcome the other one.
I have compared the two decades. Surely there is no one in Australia or anywhere else who would desire a return to the conditions that existed before the war. There is a shortage of goods, as every one admits, and I think that some credit is due to the Government for the efforts it has made to overcome that shortage. During the war it was foreseen that there would be, at any rate for a good many years, an acute shortage of labour, and especially of skilled labour. When war broke out, Australia was full of unemployed unskilled people. Because of the periods of depression, the apprenticeship system was not operating fully. Employers were not taking apprentices because they could not afford to incur the risk. Business was not stable enough. We were not training enough men, and our labour market was filled with unskilled people. The Germans, however, had hardly any unskilled labour. Most of their workmen were technically trained. During the war period, in an attempt to overcome that difficulty, the Government trained 193,000 persons in all kinds of skilled trades, but mostly in the metal trade, which is the foundation of any defence scheme. Since the war we have trained or are in the process of training 213,000 ex-service men and women. That has been done, not only to rehabilitate the ex-service men and women, as we promised, but also to improve the quality of our labour force in order to compensate for the lack of quantity. That is what the Government is doing. It has already trained 19,000 people in the building industry. That is not enough, but surely some credit is due to the, Government for having done even that much. The Government’s intention is to increase the quality of labour to offset the labour shortage. The Government has also paid some attention to the social conditions of the people. During the depression and in the first years of the war there were many people who were afraid to get married because of their economic circumstances. The only instances brought to my notice of people in poor economic circumstances marrying during the depression concerned people who married so that they could obtain an increase in the dole paid by the various State governments. Australia at that time was losing heavily by not encouraging marriages and child-birth. The present Government adopted a policy of trying to overcome this cause of Australia’s low birth-rate. In 1939 the sum of £436,000 was paid out in maternity allowances. In June, 1947, the corresponding figure was £3,000,000, in prenatal and post-natal payments, the purpose of which was to attempt tq encourage more marriages, and marriages at a younger age, and thus achieve a higher birth-rate. The Government also tried to remove the fear that expectant mothers would not be able to afford the proper medical attention and to meet other expenses connected with motherhood. To that end the Government increased child endowment. Child endowment was introduced by the Government preceding the Curtin Government; the rate of payment was 5s. a week for each eligible child. When the present Government took office in 1946 it increased child endowment to 7s. 6d. a week and in a few days’ time it will make a further increase, which will raise the payment to 10s. The Government hopes by those means to encourage a natural increase in population and to remove the fear that many children might not receive proper training and maintenance. Another purpose of the Government’s attempt to increase the birth-rate is to overcome the shortage of labour which is certain to occur in the future. The Government is also attempting to increase the efficiency of the people by making technical and higher education available to the young. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr.
Dedman) has been responsible for planning opportunities for education which had never been given to the people before thisGovernment came into power. There is no answer to that statement.
– Only the true answer.
– Never in history were universities subsidized so that poor people and their children could obtain higher education under such favorable conditions as exist at present.
– What about the University of Western Australia, at which institution education is free?
– That provision in Western Australia was introduced by a Labour government. The Australian Government is entitled to some recognition for what it has done-
– It will get it at the next election.
– That is true. At the next election the people will recognize the value of the Government’s efforts and return it to office. That is why honorable members of the Opposition were sad on hearing the Speech of the GovernorGeneral and of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) last week. For once, the Daily Telegraph told the truth when it said that the statement made by the Prime Minister was received in almost complete silence by the Opposition. Through the efforts of the Government the status of our growing citizens and the efficiency of our education system havebeen raised. Facilities for scientific and higher education were improved by the subsidizing of the universities so that members of struggling families who showed a capacity to appreciate higher education would not miss the opportunity of receiving it. Thousands of boys and girls from working-class families have passed examinations for degrees with flying colours. Governments will come arid governments will go, but this asset which the present Government has so greatly improved will always be of benefit to the nation. The Governor-General referred to those matters in an indirect way, and when the people of Australia think over that Speech, and compare conditions in this country with those in other countries in relation to its economic stability, and realize that Australia has not experienced ruinous inflation and shows no signs of a drift back to deflation, will be thankful for what the Government has done and will be heartened at the possibilities of the future. That will be so, especially when they appreciate the additional improvements that will flow from the enactment of the budget proposals. I am certain the people of Australia will, as the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) has just said, give recognition to the Government at the next election, though not in the way the honorable gentleman meant.
Mr.TURNBULL (Wimmera) [9.5].- I rise chiefly to join in the expressions of loyalty to Their Majesties the King and Queen and to Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret. I am sure that the Australian people will give the Royal visitors a great welcome when they visit Australia next year, and will demonstrate the loyalty of this Commonwealth to the Crown. Much has been said during this debate on the subject of communism, and I assume that that subject has come under discussion because many honorable members at present have their thoughts on loyalty to the throne. Communism is the enemy of royalty. I observed that during the debate no member of the Government, with the exception of one speaker, has on any occasion referred to communism as anything else but a menace. The one honorable gentleman who did so said that the Opposition had tried to delude the people of Australia into believing that communism was a menace. I think that all honorable members agree that it is a menace. Speakers have said that communism arose from conditions of poverty, and that its seeds were sown in those conditions. What the Opposition is trying to do is to rid this country of those who sow the seeds. The Government has taken no action in this respect.
I desire to reply to the statements of the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) about the Acting Premier of Victoria, Mr. McDonald, and as a means of enabling Mr. McDonald to reply in this House to the Minister I shall read the following item from yesterday’s Melbourne Herald: -
The State Government believes that the nature of legislation it has prepared to deal with Communists is well known to their leaders, and that it is restraining their activities.
This was stated to-day by the Acting Premier (Mr. McDonald) when commenting on a statement by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) that State Liberal governments could pass a ban oil Communists if they wished to do so.
Mr. McDonald said that the Victorian Government had dealt effectively with Communists in this State who had previously disrupted essential services. The Emergency Services Act had ended the tram strike.
Additional legislation had also been prepared to deal with Communists in the event of further trouble. “I hope”, said Mr. McDonald, “that if the Government has to. put this legislation into force it will receive more _ support from the Commonwealth than was given to the Queensland Premier (Mr. Hanlon) when Communists were attempting to paralyse life in Queensland.”
The 1-e.a.J. reason why the Chifley Government would not lift a finger against the Communists - and Mr. Calwell knew it - was that there was no difference between the socialistic policy of the Government and that of the Communists, Mr. McDonald said.
– I have read that report to give Mr. McDonald’s answer to the Minister for Information.
– Why did Mr. McDonald not ban the Communist party?
– I have given the Minister Mr. McDonald’s answer.
– There are other answers, too.
– I cannot help it if the Minister does not like the answer I have read. It has been stated in this House that we should face the problem of communism with a Christian-like attitude. Every one knows that communism is fighting against Christianity, and that everywhere communism moves it leaves behind the stench of atheism.
It has been stated that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) visited the coalfields and met with a very good reception. It has also been said that the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) visited the coal-field^ some years ago when he was Prime Minister and met with a harsh: reception. What matters, however, is not the reception the Prime Minister received, but what the result of his visit will be. On the I day following the Prime Minister’s visit to the coal-fields, the newspapers published the fact that while the right honorable gentleman was meeting the coal-miners there was talk of a strike by coal-miners in another part of New South Wales.
When one mentions the wheat industry, the coal industry, or any of the other great industries of the country one’s mind inevitably turns to some member of the Parliament and I shall take this opportunity of referring to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who has -been absent from this Parliament due to his being involved in a serious accident. All honorable members will be very pleased when the honorable member for Hunter is sufficiently well to. occupy his seat in the Parliament again. Whether one agrees with that honorable member’s policy or not, I and, I believe, all ‘members on this side of the House regard him as a fair fighter, and hope that he will make a speedy recovery.
On the question of shortages, a person often experiences the utmost difficulty in obtaining even such small items as the common nail. I have received a number of representations from my electorate to the effect that people there are unable to obtain nails. I waa in touch to-day with an authority in Melbourne and have ascertained that in that city nail manufacturers are unable to obtain nail wire for the manufacture of nails. I was also informed that nail factory employees in Melbourne are kept occupied in sweeping floors. There is wire in Newcastle, but shipping difficulties do not permit it to be sent to Melbourne for the manufacture of nails. I was also informed to-day by a man in Melbourne who knows a great deal about, this matter, that builders in Melbourne are going from shop to shop buying nails by the pound ‘wherever they can get them. This is a vitally important matter, as nails are essential to the building trade and to primary production.
The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is absent at the moment, but 1 desire to impress on him the urgency for an early announcement regarding the price for export lambs, because in my electorate and in many others grass is going to seed, and when that happens the lamb loses its sap and the quality of the growing stock deteriorates. Although people in Canberra and the other capital cities do not realize it, that is a most serious matter.
The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha), who is interjecting, does not know anything about this problem. “When he is speaking on medical matters I do not interject because I know nothing about them. He knows nothing about fat lambs, and he should, therefore, remain silent when I speak about them. A fat lamb must be marketed while the bloom is on it, and that lasts only a very short while. The actual period fluctuates according to seasonal conditions. If the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture cannot quickly complete negotiations with the Government of the United Kingdom for a new sale contract, the producers of fat lambs will incur tremendous losses.
During this debate, wehave heard speeches from members of the parliamentary delegation which visited Japan. As a rule, I do not have much to say about Japan, but I feel constrained now to point out that those who visit Japan under present conditions, when the country is occupied by a military force, must necessarily gain a different impression of the Japanese from that gained by those who saw them when they were the big men holding the gun. One honorable member said that the Japanese were just like children. I smiled when I heard that, because I knew the Japanese when they were playing a very different kind of game, and there was nothing childlike about them. That honorable member also said that the Japanese were prepared to co-operate with the Allies, and were just about ready to accept democracy. I ask honorable members not tobe deceived. The Japanese have always been good actors. The ordinary Japanese soldiers in Singapore did not know of the surrender of Japan for ten or twelve days after the news had come by secret wireless to the prisoners in Changi camp. The prisoners did not betray their knowledge, and when they went out on working parties they bowed to the Japanese guard as they had always done in the past. However, the very day that the Japanese soldiers knew that Japan was out of the war they bowed to us before we had a chance to bow to them. They were immediately willing to “ co-operate “. I believe that we must ensure that Japan shall never be able to rise again. The Japanese will try to deceive us. They will pretend to accept democracy, but we should not allow ourselves to be deceived.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) placed two pictures before us, one of Australia in a time of prosperity and another of Australia in a time of economic’ depression. I was reminded of the posters which were displayed during World War I. depicting a shirker and a man in khaki, with the caption, “ Which picture do you think is right? “ I was pleased to hear the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) give due praise to the primary producers-
– He always does.
– No, he does not, and he only did so to-day because he was forced into it. Some honorable members opposite are always digging into the past, but it is of no use to compare conditions to-day with those of ten or twenty years ago. For one thing, the world is a much smaller place to-day because of improved methods of communication. The question which the people of Australia must answer in the future is whether they want socialism or private enterprise. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) said that the only thing which the Opposition had against the Labour party was its attitude towards communism. That is a mis-statement of the position. Over and over again, the Opposition has criticized the Government on many counts. Reference to banking was made in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral, and other socialistic moves by the Labour Government were also referred to.. However, there was nothing in the Speech to the effect that the people of
Australia resented the socialistic activities of the Government, nor was any reference made to the gigantic meetings that were held up and down the country in protest against the Government’s banking proposals. Neither was it mentioned that the Government was unwilling to consult the people by way of referendum.
The Minister for Labour and National Service referred to the vast amount of money in the savings bank. It is true that the amount is very large, and I was reminded of the poet’s warning against the threat to a country’s welfare, “ When wealth accumulates and men decay”. If we coddle people with free medicine, and other methods adopted in the socialist programme, we shall not produce men and women of the calibre of those who developed Australia. The fact that the people have large credits in savings banks is not necessarily a sign of progress. Thirty years ago, the people of Portland, in Victoria, which is where Henty landed, had more money per capita in the savings banks than those of any other part of the State, yet Portland was then one of the least progressive towns in the whole of Victoria. Things have changed 3ince then, and Portland has become a progressive town. The Government is conducting an active loan campaign, and everywhere we see posters urging the people to “ save for security “. Let me remind honorable members that the mere saving of money will not of itself ensure economic security. It is the legitimate and wise investment of money which is important. The man who saves money, and buries it in a tin in the ground, is doing nothing to promote security and prosperity. For years past, the people have been investing money in Commonwealth loans, and the Government has been spending it, but with what result? The other day, I was talking to a wheatgrower in my electorate who is paying lOs. in the fi income tax. On an income of £4,000 he pays nearly £2,000 in tax. He pointed out to me that, if he did not have to pay so much, he would be able to improve his holding, and thus produce more. The Government is collecting huge revenues, but it has done nothing to provide against the time when prices for our products decline. The Minister for Labour and National Service also said that, in the past, there had been periods of boom and burst “. That is true, and there will be a period of “bust” again if the prices of our products should fall. In a time of prosperity the Government, should make provision for the inauguration of such undertakings as water conservation schemes and the provision of pipelines in dry areas to tide the country over periods of drought and economic depression, but nothing has been done. Therefore, I cannot agree that we have attained security by saving money and placing it at the disposal of the Government which spends it in a way that must alarm all thinking people. Honorable members opposite have attempted to answer all criticism from this side of the House by saying, “ What did you do when you were in power ? “ What could be done to provide for the future when the price of our primary products was so low? At one time in the period of the last anti-Labour administration the overseas price of wheat was only ls. lOd. a bushel? Since the end of the war, the Labour Government has had an unparalleled opportunity to develop the country’s economy, and to provide against lean times, but it has done nothing. It has spent a lot of money on such tomfoolery as the free medicine scheme. I was in a town of 4,000 inhabitants, and the other day the local doctor told me that not one prescription has been made up on the Government’s free medicine form. He said that the Government was making a great mistake in providing for the supply of free medicine for colds and other minor complaints. It should, he said, begin a campaign against some of the grave diseases that are real menaces to mankind and lay men aside for months at. a time. Now, the Government proposes to raise the hospital subsidy from 6s. a bed to 8s., although in Victoria it is costing 21s. a day to maintain a hospital bed. It has become abundantly clear that this Labour Government should be defeated.
I refer to the wheat industry. The wheat-growers want the stabilization of their industry, but they object to interference by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in matters of policy and marketing.
Mr,.Calwell. - The scheme will be carried in Victoria by a three-to-one majority.
– Perhaps, but that is because the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has adopted a takeitorleaveit attitude. I believe that the AustralianGovernment is the right authority to control the Australian wheat industry.
– The honorable member is back-pedalling now.
– Not at all. I have always said that, but I think the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has interfered with the industry to a degree to which it has never been interfered with before. He has overridden primary producer control of primary production in every way possible, and the wheat-growers are fearful that he will do so again.
– In the interests of the nation as a whole.
– The Labour Government has said that it believes in producer-control, but the moment a board of producers is , set up to control a primary industry, the Minister wipes it aside with a brush of his hand and does just what he likes.
The Governor-General’s Speech contains a lot that should have been left out and a lot was left out of it that should have been init. So tha t the people should have an idea of what is coming to them, the Speech should have given the complete details of the Government’s programme to socialise Australia, I am sure that the people stand for the maintenance of our Australian way of life with free private enterprise and at the first opportunity they will show that they will have nothing whatever to do with Labour’s plan of socialism.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Mr. Lang’s amendment) be so added.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - MR. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Excellency the Governor-General to receive the Address-in-Reply, and honorable members will be informed accordingly.
Associated Dominions Assurance Society Proprietary Limited - Power Kerosene - Charges Against Minis ters- International Conference on Trade and Employment : Tabling of Documents - Royal Australian Navy: Medical Officers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- On the 2nd June I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) a .series of questions about .the Associated Dominions Assurance Society Proprietary Limited. I directed lis attention to the actuarial valuations of tie company’s liabilities. I .pointed out that in the last .balance-sheet the .total mim of assets was far below the .amount of the company’s liabilities. I -wanted to ‘know whether the Government proposed to take any action to safeguard the interests of policy-holders, most of whom are workers and their families. I also asked -whether the ‘Treasurer “was aware that He last balance-sheet of the company was signed by Mr. “William H. Lamb, Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, as a director. Mr. Lamb issued a press statement that he was not a director of the company, and that he had acted for only a short space of time as a representative of the employees of the company.
I now produce to the House the last printed balance-sheet and the directors’ report of the Associated Dominions Assurance Society Proprietary Limited, dated the 4th November, 1947. It is signed by W. H. Lamb as a director. At that time’ also Lamb was Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. The report states -
Tn accordance with the articles of association, Messrs. W. H. Lamb and H. Hayes retire by rotation from the board, have given requisite notice of their candidature and are eligible for re-election.
Mr. Lamb was reelected a director for 1.948. He was then Speaker of the New South Wales Assembly, and had occupied the position since the 28th May, 1947. The actuarial liability of the company is shown in the balance-sheet at ?549,783. Assets to cover that liability are shown at ?409,647, of which ?119,911 is in the establishment account. So the company has real assets amounting to no more than 60 per cent, of its liabilities.
While Mr. Lamb was a director the company was charged in the City Court, Melbourne, with having failed to reinstate one of its returned serviceman employees, and it was fined ?50, with ?21 costs, and ordered to pay ?52 compensation. It had offered the man a position at a lower salary than when he enlisted - ?4 a week plus a small commission.
I also produce a series of statutory declarations from former employees of the Associated Dominions Assurance Society Proprietary Limited. These declarations .show that Mr. Lamb was a party to the victimization of the entire adult male staff of Associated Dominions Assurance Society Proprietary Limited, because they joined the Insurance Staff Officers Federation. They show that, while he -was Speaker of the New South Wales Assembly, Lamb was drawing directors’ fees from the assurance company and ?10 a week as manager of its ordinary business department. T’hey also show that after promising to assist the employees in obtaining an independent audit of the affairs of the company, he betrayed them to the managing director, against whom they had made very serious charges in connexion with certain vouchers. These employees were then suspended, without holiday pay, without pay in lieu of notice, and without references.
The statutory declarations I hold are made by Mr. C. E. Andrew, formerly in charge of accounts; J. Haroldson, in charge of claims; E. K. Williams, secretary of the ordinary business department, and K. Galbraith, accounts clerk. The other three former male employees are also available for any investigation into the affairs of the company. I propose te read two of the declarations. The others are available whenever required. The first is as follows: -
I, Robert Kenneth Williams, of 10 Norfolkavenue, Beverley Hills, do solemly and sincerely declare that I am a shareholder in the Associated Dominions Assurance Society Ltd. and was employed by that office in various capacities from its inception until April, 1948.
In view of a statement by Mr. W. H. Lamb, Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, published in the press, in reply to a question asked by Mr. J. T. Lang, M.H.R., in the House of Representatives, I wish to state the following facts.
Mr. W. H. Lamb, M.L.A., was a director of the A.D.A. Society from 1945 until about March, 1948. He was also an employee from about 1932 until April, 1948, mostly as manager 3f the Ordinary Department. He had an office at the head office of the society at 17 Castlereagh-street, Sydney, and attended there regularly to carry out his duties. He continued this work after his election as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in addition to his director’s duties.
He did not resign from the board after becoming Speaker, but sought re-election to :t at the annual general meeting of the society held on 6th December, 1947, and was reelected, together with Mr. Herbert Hayes, the managing director being William Thaddeus Page.
In February, 1948, I heard that certain vouchers being passed through the accounts of the society were considered to be irregular and asked Mr. W. H. Lamb to have them investigated, in the interests of the society. He subsequently convened a meeting of the male staff of the head office and promised that he would arrange an investigation by an independent mid ito! and that there would be no victimization of the staff pending its outcome. Two weeks afterwards in reply to my inquiry he said there was to be no investigation and that he had resigned from the board and intended resigning as manager also. The staff who had requested the investigation were all dismissed and I was also dismissed in April, 1948, by Page, the managing director, without reason after almost twentyyears’ service.
No industrial awards were made applicable to the society, during Mr. W. H. Lamb’s terms as a director, and the society was fined under the Commonwealth Re-employment and Reestablishment Act for. failure to re-instate a returned soldier employee whilst he was in office.
The declaration concludes with the usual paragraph and is signed “R.” K. Williams “. The next statutory declaration I propose to read is that of Charles Edward Eric Andrews. It reads as follows : -
I, Charles Edward Eric Andrews, of 52 Victoria-road, Punchbowl, Sydney, New South Wales, do solemnly and sincerely declare:
I was until March, 1948, employed by Associated Dominions Assurance Society Pty. Ltd. and constituted with J. Haroldson, V. Corish, R. Williams, R. Galbraith, G. Cambridge and J. Rolls, the full adult male staff with the exception of the directors.
In view of a statement made by W. H. Lamb, Speaker of the Legisative Assembly, in replying to a question asked by Mr. J. T. Lang, M.H.R., in the House of Representatives, I desire to place the following facts on record.
Mr. W. H. Lamb, M.L.A., was director of A..D.A from, 1945 to March, 1948 In that capacity he drew director’s fees of £2 2s. a week. He was also manager of the ordinary department of the society from 1934 to March, 1948, drawing a salary of £10 a week. He had an office at the head office of the company, 17 Castlereagh-street, and attended there regularly carrying out his work as manager of the ordinary branch, his reference number was 3. He continued such work after his election as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Lamb was previously managing director of the Australian Benefit Life Assurance Society Ltd., whose business was absorbed by A.D.A. in 1931. On its liquidation he joined A.D.A.
At no time was Mr. Lamb ever authorized t>. speak on behalf of the staff. He was not the employees’ representative on the board.
The directors of the company were William T. Page, managing director; H. Hayes, general manager, and William H. Lamb.
Employees were C. Andrews, in charge of accounts; J. Haroldson, in charge of claims; V. Corish, in charge of statistical department: R. K. Williams, O.D. secretary; R. Galbraith, accounts clerk; G. Cambridge, cashier, and J. Rolls, outdoor representative
In February, 1948, Cambridge and Haroldson joined the Insurance Staff Officers Federation. Page immediately started a heresy hunt to find out who were members of the” organization and threatened to take drastic action. All male staff then became members.
Lamb, as director, called a meeting of the staff, in March, regarding certain irregularities brought to his notice by Mr. Williams. He said that he would not act as policeman. On being pressed further he promised to obtain an independent audit, without victimization.
Instead he ‘ reported the matter to Page and Hayes. The vouchers were sealed and removed from, the offices of the company.
A meeting was then called by the managing director, and an attempt was made to get the staff to make charges. They refused unless they were granted permission to obtain legal opinion.
The next step was the suspension of four members of the staff and the dismissal of one.
Mr. Lamb then resigned his position with the company as director, and then later resigned as ordinary branch manager. Those suspended were refused references or pay, and have not since been reinstated.
No industrial awards were ever made applicable to the company while Mr. Lamb was director. Any member threatening to join an industrial organization was threatened with instant dismissal by the managing director.
The other statements are on similar lines. In the interests both of the policyholders and the former employees there should be an immediate investigation into the affairs of this company. On the evidence that I have produced Mr. Lamb, is not a fit and proper person to hold office, either in any public company or in any Parliament.
[9.50 . - I know something about insurance matters. In 194.5 this Parliament passed the Life Insurance Act which, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, regulated the business of life insurance, particularly industrial life insurance. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), who has just embarked upon the second stage of his vendetta against the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, was Premier of New South Wales when the company to which he has referred was amalgamated with a number of other companies. He refused to bring down any legislation to regulate the business of industrial life insurance. Ee refused also to introduce legislation to give. to policy-holders a statutory right to a paid-up policy, or a right to the surrender value of their policies. He is the gentleman who, in the New South Wales Parliament, refused to give either the employees or the policy-holder the slightest protection against the activities of a number of companies of which Associated Dominions Assurance Society Proprietary Limited forms one of a group. All these companies were formed by former agents of the bigger companies, and all of them have created trouble for policy-holders and governments all over Australia. Their head offices were located in New South Wales, and as there was no legislation to govern their activities or to curb their rapacity, they were able to do what they liked with policyholders in other States. It was not until this Parliament passed the Life Insurance Act in 1945, as it was able to do under the powers conferred upon it by section 51 of the Constitution, that the slightest protection was given to policy-holders. If there is any trouble to-day about the company to which the honorable member has referred, it should have been corrected when the company was first formed. Legislation should have been passed by the New South Wales Parliament to govern the activities of companies such as this, but nothing was done. In the course of my career, I served as secretary of a royal commission on industrial insurance in Victoria. As a result of that royal commission’s inquiries and report the business of life insurance was placed on a satisfactory basis in Victoria for the first time in the history of that State or, for that matter, of any State. It was the only royal commission that I have ever heard of that had the satisfaction of having all its recommendations implemented by legislation.
– What government did that?
– The Government which the Labour party supported in Victoria.
– What government?
– The Dunstan Government, which was formed by the party to which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) once belonged, and which, indeed, he once led. In 1945, the Chifley Government placed upon the statute book of Australia, with the unanimous support of the Parliament, an act containing the principles embodied in the Victorian legislation. The Victorian royal commission was presided over by Mr. T. S. Clyne, now Mr. Justice Clyne, of the Bankruptcy Court. The honorable member for Reid when he was Premier of New South Wales, precipitated his own defeat when he tried to seize the policy-holders’ money, amounting to approximately £10,000 in respect of each company, which had been deposited by the companies with the New South Wales Treasury. The less he has to say about industrial life insurance, or about any other form of insurance, the better for his own reputation, if he has any reputation left.
– He has not much reputation left. Since the passage of the legislation by the Labour Government - I repeat, with the unanimous support of this Parliament - the interests of policy-holders all over Australia have been protected. Anything that Mr. Lamb might have done, or failed to do, is beside the point. Whether or not he is a director of the company to which the honorable member for Reid has referred is not a matter that concerns this Parliament. Whether or not the employees of the company have been victimized has nothing to do with this Parliament. If the employees have a case, they have the right to place it before the appropriate industrial tribunal. They have an organization which is registered in the Arbitration Court, and it is the job of the organization- to protect its members. The honorable member is. no more concerned about the interests of the workers in insurance companies than he is about anybody else.
To-night he has merely pursued his vendetta against Mr. Lamb. Mr. Lamb can defend himself if he is attacked outside this Parliament. Let the honorable member for Reid repeat his charges, out-side this Parliament and stand up to his responsibility for them if Mr. Lamb is prepared to take action against him. Associated Dominions Assurance Society Proprietary Limited has never been a satisfactory company. Very few of the little companies which were formed by agents and registered in New South Wales have been satisfactory. In 1945 the Government had to decide whether or not it would wipe them out altogether or whether it would place them under the control of the Commonwealth Actuary in order to ensure that their affairs were conducted in such a way as would ensure to policy-holders the benefits they had contracted to receive. Associated Dominions Assurance Society Proprietary Limited has been prosecuted on a number of occasions. As a matter of fact, there is a court case proceeding against the company at present. I do not propose to canvass that case. I merely say that such evils as flow from these companies which were formed in New South Wales are in the final analysis the responsibility of the honorable member for Reid, who, as Premier of New South Wales, refused to take action against graft and corruption in the conduct of the business of life insurance. Having failed in New South Wales, that honorable member lays his charges here, not because he is concerned about anybody, but because he desires to pursue his vendetta against Mr. Lamb. Many of the people who were associated with the honorable member in New South Wales now regard him as a leper. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who is interjecting, had better keep out of this fight or he, too, might get hurt. The business of life insurance is properly regulated now under a Commonwealth statute. I leave the matter there.
.- On Thursday last I interviewed the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) regarding the position that has arisen as the result of the inability of farmers to secure supplies of power kerosene. I asked the Minister to deal with the problem as a matter of’ urgency. To-day, I received a reply from him’ stating that- he proposes to investigate my complaints. On Friday last the honorable member- for Richmond (‘Mr. Anthony) also asked, the Prime Minister what was being done to improve the supply of power kerosene in country districts, and indicated that the stocks of certain companies had been frozen, as the result of which farmers were in dire straits. The farmers are unable, to secure supplies from other companies because those companies have refused to supply new customers. Is the Government totally indifferent to the needs of the farmers? Is it not concerned that primary producers are unable to plough their land ? The Minister for Shipping and Fuel cannot get away with the reply, a week after I interviewed him, that he proposes to investigate the matter. The supply of power kerosene is a vital matter. It is of no use for the Government to talk about increased production while it remains completely indifferent to the needs of the primary producers. I ask the Government to take immediate action to correct the position.
– I intend to intrude into the discussion between the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) and the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). I do not want to inquire into the delectable duels which take place from time to time between the two honorable gentlemen, who probably know much more about each other than I know about either or both of them.
– I know a good deal about the honorable member for Barker, too!
– That may be, and the Minister is at liberty to disclose his knowledge if he feels inclined to do so. I have nothing to worry about. Certain matters have been raised from time to time by various honorable members including the honorable member for Reid. I hold no brief whatever for that honorable gentleman. I expressed my views about him in the first speech that I made after he entered this chamber, and those views still stand. But when the honorable member produces certain evidence which, as in this instance, is supported by statutory declarations and he names a person who, he alleges, has broken the Commonwealth law, the Minister should not disregard it. Incidentally, the Minister considers the passing of the law a great tribute to himelf, although he made an admission that was only extracted from him in answer to an interjection, that he was following in the footsteps of that worthy gentleman, Sir Albert Dunstan, a. former Premier of Victoria.
– I helped him.
– That may be, but at any rate, the Minister was quite satisfied to put his ideas into a Commonwealth statute. All that the honorable member for Reid has asked tonight, and it is not the first time that he has done so, although on this occasion he has reinforced his request, is that the Commonwealth shall take certain action under its own law, of which the Minister claims to be very proud. I warn the Minister that there are too many matters raised in this chamber in which certain members of the Australian Labour party have been named, and to which no effective reply has been made.
– Does the honorable member think that we should take any notice of mud-rakers?
– Wait until I have finished. The Minister should not be too precipitate. Two of these matters have been raised during the last 24 hours. I heard the speeches on both of them and no attempt has been made to reply to the charges that have been made. I do not know anything about the evidence on which they were based, but the honorable member for Deakin (ifr. Hutchinson) read from a newspaper a statement which mentioned the name of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), for whose integrity I personally have every consideration.
– Order ! The honorable member knows that he is not in order in referring to a previous debate.
– I should be in order if I were to move the adjournment of the House to-morrow for the pur pose of discussing this matter. I am not referring to a previous debate other than to ask for the clarification of certain points. The newspaper article which the honorable member for Deakin read contained certain statements. _ To my knowledge, those statements have not been commented on by any other honorable member.
– Order ! The honorable member must not proceed along those lines.
– Then I shall proceed along other lines which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, must rule as being in order because the matters arose in a previous session. I shall refer specifically to the Keane case. This is the first time that I have mentioned it. That case involved certain legal proceedings. During the last session, an admission was made by one of the occupants of the treasury bench - and this statement, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is in order - that the goods which were the subject of the litigation are still held in bond by the Department of Trade and Customs. I read the evidence given in court, I believe on oath, by witnesses for the Commonwealth, who stated that Miss Rosetta Kelly was an employee of the Commonwealth at the time, and, therefore, had had certain things entrusted to her. I then placed certain questions on the notice-paper, and the Prime Minister replied that, for some three weeks before these happenings took place, Miss Kelly had ceased to be an employee of the Commonwealth. Now I ask, who was lying on that occasion? Are these happenings of such a nature that Ministers can dismiss them by saying that they simply do not matter? There are certain other subjects to which I should like to refer but they are still sub judice, and I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. would rule out of order any remarks that I made on them. However, I shall give the Ministry certain advice, and I do so not in any partisan or unfriendly spirit, I hope, but because I believe that there are standards of conduct which should be followed by all men who hold public office. I was a member of this Parliament when the political party which I support was in office, and I saw three Ministers, in their turn, go out because they did things which were a fraction as objectionable as what Ministers in this Government have been accused of doing since the last election.
– Nothing has been proved against any Minister.
– Nothing was proved against the three Ministers to whom I refer, but the allegation was enough. The moment it was made, those men had to step down. The Minister knows what I am talking about. I succeeded in office one of those who had to step down. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) were actors in those happenings, and certain others. The standard of conduct which hitherto has been observed in this Parliament has gone to pieces very badly.
– That is not true.
– It is true. During the last session - and, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am in order in referring to this matter - I referred to the position of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), and said that, according to the standard of conduct laid down in the United Kingdom and Canada and followed hitherto in Australia, he should not have been administering his department.
– That is grossly unfair to the Minister.
– When I made that statement to the Prime Minister, he did not regard it as being unfair. He stated that he appreciated the way in which I had approached the subject and it is in the same spirit that I approach it now. Certain matters are raised in this chamber from time to time, and a simple statement by the Minister that he hates and detests the honorable member for Reid, and disbelieves the word of some members of the Opposition, does not answer the case.
– The honorable member hates and detests the honorable member for Reid.
– I said that the Minister for Information hated and detested him.
– So does the honorable member.
– No, I have no feeling against the honorable member for Reid other than a political feeling. I have always regarded him as being one of tho greatest nuisances in Australia.
– Hear, hear!
– That is my view.
– And he still remains in that category.
– It makes me laugh when the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) and some of his colleagues indulge in their childish tactics of trying to link the honorable member for Reid with the Opposition. There is only one party in which the honorable member fits, and that is the Australian Labour party. He sits on that side of the chamber, where he is entitled to sit, and whether honorable members opposite like it or not, no other party in this chamber wants him.
– The Liberal party can have him.
– There was a time when the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) slavishly followed the honorable member for Reid.
– I regret it.
– The honorable gentleman may regret it, too. Every sinner should regret his sins and do penance for them. Having made those remarks within the strictures that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so promptly laid down, I put it to the Ministry that certain of these matters cannot be left where they now are. If there is no truth in the allegations, let the men against whom they have been made deny them and produce their proof in rebuttal. I am not asking honorable gentlemen opposite to do anything which has not been done by members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party when certain of our colleagues got into difficulties. I also remind honorable members opposite, both those who were here in those days and those who, unfortunately, have arrived since, that I remember some of the debates that dealt with the matters to which I refer. The older members will know what I mean. I remind them that there was no modesty or mercy about their attitude on those occasions. This Government has been shown mercy by the Opposition to a degree which, I think, is completely and utterly unpardonable.
– Go your hardest !
– If I did, the Minister would not be here for very long.
.- The subject in which T am interested is somewhat in line with that which the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has mentioned. I refer to the deception which is practised by some Ministers when giving answers to questions. Earlier this week, I asked the Minister for .Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), as the Minister who was negotiating trade treaties at Geneva and Havana, whether he had received a document called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and other documents relating to it, including an important protocol. I have not the Hansard report of his reply, but although I stated that this agreement had been laid on the table of the House of Commons and the table of the New Zealand Parliament the Minister led the House to believe that that was not so. I have gone to the trouble to obtain the House of Commons Hansard, which shows that the document was laid on the table of that House last April. I have also obtained the New Zealand Hansard, which shows that the document was laid on the table of that Parliament on the 22nd June. Yet the Minister had the audacity to lead honorable members to believe that I had wrong information, or was deceiving the House. The Minister spent months at Geneva and later at Havana discussing trade arrangements. He has, I believe, and I indict him for it, bartered away our Empire preferential trade system. This week the newspapers have published a news item from Geneva stating that Mr. J. Fletcher, an officer of the Department of Trade and Customs, had said that Australia would resist any proposals which would give trade advantages to Japan. Mr. Fletcher, who is an excellent officer, resisted signing an agreement in Geneva recently, but the Minister for
Post-war Reconstruction in this Labour Government is a party to these international agreements and has kept secret the important statement made at Havana. He does not propose to allow Australia to know what has happened. The Labour party, of which he is a member, does not know that the protectionist policy of Australia has now been jettisoned, and that, as the newspaper item from Geneva shows, the Minister has accepted an international agreement for multilateral trade. The Department of Trade and Customs fears that Japan or Germany will have equal treatment in trade with Great Britain, or that Australia may lose some of its export trade to Great Britain. The Minister has been secretive and deceptive. He should lay all the papers on the table of the House and should introduce the bill, which he forecast in reply to my question, as swiftly as possible.
– Did not the Minister say-
– If the loquacious Minister for Information will only remain silent-
– The intelligent Minister for Information is endeavouring to clarify the position. Did not the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say that he had laid all the documents on the table of the House, and would do so again when the bill was introduced? I question whether the honorable member is in order in making a statement which, on reflection, he will recollect is not right? The honorable gentleman stated that the Minister said that the documents had been laid on the table of the House of Commons, and on the table of the New Zealand Parliament. The honorable member said also that the documents had not been laid on the table of this House.
– The Minister stated that he had laid all the documents on the table of this House. I say emphatically that he has not done so. He has not laid on the table the document that was laid on the table of the House of Commons and on the table of the New Zealand Parliament. That document should have been laid on the table of this. House during the last session. The Minister is holding it back, because he does not want the public to know about the changes that have been made. Some time, he will produce this document, and introduce the bill to ratify the Havana agreement, and probably the measures will be passed by the House in the dead of night, and Australia’s economic sovereignty will thus be given away. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has come into the chamber. Let him speak for himself! Let him deny my statement, if he can ! He is holding back the document, and when the bill is introduced honorable members will not be fully informed about the position.
Mr. ANTHONY (Richmond) [10.15L A new and privileged class has arisen m this country. It is composed of Labour party politicians, who can break the law and very often go to the extent of having criminal proceedings instituted against them, or close to that point, and evade any examination of their actions.
– The honorable member must use parliamentary language.
– I suggest that I am using temperate language.
– The honorable member started off with rather hot language. He must use language that is acceptable to the House.
– I wish to know what words I used that are not parliamentary.
– They will be found in Hansard.
– I should like you to correct me, sir. I am using language that is, I hope, parliamentary, correct, and fitting to the occasion. I say that a new privileged class has arisen, and that when the members of that class get into trouble they are protected by Ministers of the Crown. I know nothing of the case presented by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) to-night, but I know that he is a member of this House who represents 60,000 or 70,000 electors. He has the right, as every honorable member has, to present a case for the consideration of the House and of the Government. I speak now as a private member, insistent upon the right of all honorable members to have any case that they put forward listened to with some respect by Cabinet Ministers. A case was presented by the honorable member for Reid to-night. Statutory declarations were read which affected the Speaker of the New South “Wales . Legislative Assembly, Mr. Lamb, whom I do not know at all, in a business or any other capacity. The reply given by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who was apparently entrusted by the Government with the task of answering the honorable member for Reid, was nothing but a tirade of abuse. The Minister made no effort to reply to a single point that was raised. All that he did was to go back seventeen years to the time when the honorable member for Reid was the Premier of New South Wales and to treat us to a dissertation upon what the honorable member should have done then. We are becoming accustomed to members of the Government, who are rightly and properly attacked in the public interest, turning upon the attackers and abusing them. I say that on every occasion when that occurs I shall protest against it. I shall do my utmost to inform the people of Australia of the kind of administration under which the country is suffering. The Ministers of this Government are not prepared to stand up to charges that are properly levelled. When they have no answer to a charge, they either evade theissue altogether, or, by mere abuse, attempt to divert the attention of thepublic from it.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has indulged in his favorite pastime of “ flogging his joss “. We know that he is addicted to these outbursts, and consequently we do not pay much attention tothem.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) raised the question of what was done at Geneva and Havana. In answer to a question addressed to me recently, I said that whatever documents had been signed at Havana had been, up to the time that the matter was last discussed in the House, tabled in the House.
– The Minister said that all the relevant documents had been tabled.
– There was a debate on this subject last session and I said that all relevant documents in relation to both Havana and Geneva had, at that time, been submitted to the House. As far as the Havana Charter is concerned, any signature that was affixed to that document at Havana was affixed merely for the purpose of authentication of the text. As far as the Geneva Agreement is concerned, all that the Parliament has done so far is to ratify the agreement provisionally. The agreement has not yet been ratified definitely and, before it is so ratified the Parliament will be given an opportunity to debate it. Since Australia’s commitment is only provisional, the honorable member can have nothing at all about which to complain. As I said in answer to the question that he addressed to me, this matter will soon be debated in the House once more. I shall introduce a bill to authorize the Government to deposit instruments of final acceptance in relation to both the Geneva Agreement and the Havana Charter. When that bill is introduced every one of the relevant documents, including those that have already been submitted to the House and those that were considered at a later date, will be laid on the table. Until this Parliament finally deals with the matter Australia is not filially committed to anything at all.
– ‘Could not those documents be laid on the table some time before the debate takes place ?
– The documents will be submitted in ample time for all honorable members adequately to study them.
– Why is the Ministetrying to conceal them?
– The great majority of the documents have already been submitted to the Parliament.
– The one to which I have referred has not.
– Any further documents that have to be submitted are only slight amendments of the original docu ments that have already been submitted and which have been, I presume, considered by all honorable members. .1 make it quite clear that the Government has done nothing whatever behind the back of the Parliament. It is proposed to bring a bill before the House, and, until that bill is passed by the Parliament, Australia will not be finally committed definitively to anything at all in connexion with either the Geneva Agreement or the Havana Charter.
Mr. ABBOTT (New England) “10.24.] - I have never heard such a lame explanation of an attempt to conceal documents from, the people of Australia and the members of this House, as that just made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). He first tried to evade the issue by saying that certain documents had been filed up to the time of the completion of the Geneva Conference, and, with regard to other documents relating to the Havana Charter, up to the time of the raising of the question. Weeks have gone by. This is a vital issue that may imperil the whole of the trade of the Empire. It is wickedly wrong of the Minister to conceal these documents from the Parliament and the Australian people. It is said that honorable members will have ample time in which to study the documents to which the Minister has referred, but what is ample time? The documents are not of such a nature that they can be tabled on the day before the debate takes place and be fully digested in that short space of time. They concern the trade relations between the various dominions. As the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has said, the Minister has consented to the surrender of Imperial preference, which is one of the economic safeguards of the British Empire, .and he has done so without the approval of the people of Australia and without giving honorable members an opportunity to study the whole of these very intricate documents. I do not think that any one will deny that the documents are intricate. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said in reference to the documents relating to the International Trade Organization, that many of the clauses contained in them were almost impossible to interpret. “ However, the Minister says that we shall get them in due time. The analogy that springs to my mind is that of a dog howling all night for its bone and being given it in the morning at its master’s pleasure. Why does the Minister not give us our bone at a time when we can make best use of it? I say that the Minister is concealing these documents from the House because he wants to table them at a late hour and, by the use of the large majority that the Government uses so brutally, to slip the whole business through before the people know what has been done. In the ensuing months the people of Australia will not be allowed to forget what the Government is doing, not only in this sphere but also in others. [ mentioned earlier to-day one of the acts which the Government has committed, and I propose to mention others later. The people will not be allowed to forget this, and when the general election comes round electors will smash this Government and put it1 in the position in which it deserves to be.
.- A year ago the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) was asked a question about medical officers who were retained in the Royal Australian Navy. When war broke out, these men joined the Royal Australian Navy as medical officers in order that they might serve their country in the manner in which they were best fitted to do so. When the war ended, although almost everybody else was discharged, their services were retained, and it appears that that state of affairs may continue indefinitely. It seems that nothing can be done by honorable members on this side of the House that will hasten their discharge. A year ago it was suggested that the Minister should endeavour to release these men by getting personnel from the Royal Navy - which was, we were told, reducing its establishment of medical officers - or graduates just out of universities to take their places. If medical officers cannot be obtained for the Royal Australian Navy under the present conditions of employment, it is the Minister’s duty to make the conditions such that medical practitioners will volunteer for service’ and replace these unfortunate officers who have been held in the service since the cessation of hostilities. At the time the Minister was questioned he said that he would consider the matter and attempt to find ways and means of filling the places of these men so that they might be released. Yesterday the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) again asked the Minister a question on the subject, and again all the Minister could say was that he was considering the matter and would attempt to find ways and means of effecting these releases. Time marches on. These officers are being held in the Navy against their will. The Government professes to be opposed to conscription or to the forcing of people into military service, but it appears to have no objection to retaining a small number of officers in one of the armed forces, regardless of the wishes of those so held. The Government has taken no steps to effect their release. It is time that the Minister took some action. He considers this and he considers that, and when he is asked a question, he shouts, bellows and roars, but he does not take steps to get anything done.
I have in mind the case of a son of a medical practitioner in the Gippsland district who Ls being held in the Navy. He has a long and distinguished record and has repeatedly asked to be released. Recently his father died and it was imperative that some one should take over his extensive practice in this area, in which there is a great shortage of doctors. In consideration of the fact that his father had died, and that it was necessary for him so to arrange the practice that there was a doctor to care for the people of this district, the Navy granted this medical officer six days leave, and no more. I say that that is a perfect outrage, as the district” has no doctor. When the Minister for the Navy is asked what he proposes to do about releasing doctors from the Navy, all he can say it that he will give the matter consideration. The time has come for us to put the direct question to the Minister. I ask the honorable gentleman therefore whether he will name a definite date for the release of these doctors and whether he will take some positive steps to effect their release.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Balance-sheets of Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank as at 30th June, 1948; together with Auditor-General’s reports thereon.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - AppointmentsDepartment of the Interior - E. L. Sim.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– On the 7th September, the honorable member forWimmera (Mr. Turnbull) asked a question concerning the proposed reduction of petrol rations. The Minister for Shipping and
Fuel has supplied the following information . -
The proposed reductions in petrol rations to become effective from the 1st October, are 20 per cent. in the case of private motorists and 10 per cent. to holders of other types of licences. To obtain the necessary saving in petrol consumption, users other than private motorists must be included in the reduction. The amount of petrol to be issued to business, commercial and primary producer users will be less than formerly. Should the reduction cause hardship in any individual case, the licence-holder may make application to the Liquid Fuel Control Board for a review of his allowance. In such cases, the distance of the user from a market town would he taken into account.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, upon notice -
– The Minister for Ship ping and Fuel hassupplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
No official statistics are available relating to the number of vessels and the total tonnage employed on the Australian coast and in the Tasmanian trade in 1939, but the following in formation has been compiled from such par ticulars as are available at present: -
Australian registered shipping engaged in trading operations on the coast in 1939 -
Interstate, 106 vessels of total deadweight 414,024 tons.
Intra-state, 77 vessels of total deadweight 58,026 tons.
Total, 183 vessels of total deadweight 472,050 tons.
Australian registered shipping engaged in trading operations on the coast as at the 1st September, 1948 -
Interstate, 129 vessels of total deadweight 676,296 tons.
Intra-state, 21 vessels of total deadweight 15,381 tons.
Total, 150 vessels of total deadweight 691,677 tons.
Vessels regularly engaged in the Tas- manian trade in 1939, 21 vessels of total deadweight 34,142 tons.
Vessels regularly engaged in the Tasmanian trade as at the 1st September, 1948, 25 vessels of total deadweight 44,169 tons.
In addition, four or five vessels averaging 7,000 tons deadweight maintain an intermittent service as circumstances require between Tasmanian and mainland ports and a fleet of small ketches operates across Bass Strait.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 September 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19480909_reps_18_198/>.