18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister been advised of press reports’ that the possible assignment of H.M.S. Vanguard to active duty might cause the abandonment of the proposed Royal visit to New Zealand and Australia next year ? Is there any basis of authenticity for these press reports ?
– The High Commissioner for Australia in London has drawn my attention to the press reports to which the honorable member has referred. There is absolutely no authority for any one tomake a statement of that nature. No high Government spokesman associated with the arrangements for the Royal visit has made any such statement. I am informed by the High Commissioner that the authorities concerned have advised him that the statement is completely inaccurate and mischievous; and that, if necessary, it should be made clear that no newspaper has any authority to make any statement of that kind.
– During the last few days I have received representations from a number of exservicemen’s organizations in my electorate in which, whilst congratulating the Minister for Immigration on the firm stand he has taken with regard to action against one Lars Brundahl. they direct attention to the fact that sixteen days ago the Minister stated that proceedings would be launched against Brundahl under the Aliens Registration Act. The Minister then said that Brundahl’s “ contempt for the law was notorious “. Has any prosecution yet been launched against Brundahl!
– When I was in Sydney last week-end I’ discussed the matter with my departmental officers. They interviewed Brundahl last Monday morning and obtained certain information. When I left Sydney my understanding with the officials of the New South Wales branch of the Department of Immigration was that a prosecution would be launched immediately. I cannot say at this stage whether a summons has been issued. If not, one will be issued within the next few days.
– Recently the Minister for Information referred to a decision of the Federal Council of the Liberal Party of Australia in Adelaide, as reported in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 19th September but in no other newspaper in Australia, that the policy of that party is that wherever possible public utilities should be handed over to private enterprise. I ask the Minister : Does that mean that the Liberal Party of Australia is committed to the sale of the Post Office, the Trans- Australian Railway, Commonwealth railways in the Northern Territory, Radio Australia, the 30 odd radio stations of the Australian national network, State railways, TransAustralia Airlines, the Commonwealth Bank and every other form of Commonwealth and State government enterprise?
– The honorable gentleman is quite right. The Liberal Party of Australia is committed to the sale of public utilities.
– It is not.
– The decision of the federal council of that party in Adelaide about a week ago was as the honorable member has stated, and the only possible interpretation is that which the honorable gentleman has so sagely indicated. It is good that the position should be clarified so that the people may know exactly what attitude political parties adopt towards instrumentalities such as the Post Office and the Commonwealth Bank. The Australian Labour party stands for the maintenance of public utilities for the benefit of the people. I do not know what the attitude of the Australian Country party is yet, but the Liberal party champions free enterprise and rugged individualism against the interests of the people.
– Can the Minister for the Navy inform the House whether it will be possible to grant leave to Western Australian personnel on H.M.A.S. Kanimbla on arrival at Fremantle early next week, instead of bringing them to the eastern States and incurring the expense of returning them to their homes?
– It may not be generally known that Kanimbla has made a voyage to England and is now returning to Australia. The vessel is due to arrive at Fremantle some time next week. Immediately it reaches its destination in the eastern States, it will deposit its passengers and gear, and leave for Japan. Therefore, it may not be possible to grant leave to Western Australian personnel when the ship arrives at Fremantle. However, I shall examine the honorable member’s question and advise him of my decision.
Australians in Japan: Wives and Families.
– I address to the Minister for the Army a question relating: to the return of the wives and families of Australian members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, who have been moved to Japan during the last . two years in accordance with the Government’s policy. Can the Minister inform me how many wives and children of Australian servicemen have been enabled to visit Japan since the inauguration of the scheme? How many families have been returned to Australia in accordance with the Government’s plans to reduce progressively the Australian component of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force to a token strength ? What is the future policy regarding the sending of wives and families to Japan?
– Early in 1946, the Government decided to allow the wives and families of Australian members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force to join their husbands in Japan. Since then, approximately 370 wives and 460 children have gone to J apan. Following the decision to reduce progressively the Australian component of the British
Commonwealth Occupation Force, 44 wives and sixteen children have returned to Australia, and no more families will be sent to Japan.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to say when the War Gratuity Committee will meet to reconsider the eligibility of certain servicemen and ex-servicemen to receive the war gratuity?
– I shall try to arrange a meeting within the next fort.night. I have been very busy lately and have not. had an opportunity to gather .the members of the committee together or to invite members of the Opposition, who kindly assisted the committee previously, io attend a meeting.
– I direct a. question to the Minister for Works and Housing with reference to the ballots that are conducted from time to time by the New South Wales Housing Commission for the allocation of homes built on behalf of the commission. At one time the press published full details of the results of these ballots, but, for some reason, that practice has been discontinued. In view of the importance of these results to the thousands of applicants for houses, will the Minister approach the State Minister for Housing in order to ascertain whether the newspapers will publish the results of ballots? If the newspapers will not publish the details as news, will the Minister arrange with -the State Minister to have them published as advertisements ?
– I shall ascertain from the Minister for Housing in New South Wales why the practice of publishing the results of housing ballots has been discontinued by the newspapers. I shall discuss with the Minister the suggestion that the information be published in the form of advertisements if the newspapers will not publish it in the normal way.
– Recently, I witnessed a screening of , a Department of Information film dealing with housing. One scene showed new buildings in the housing scheme at Canberra and was prefaced by the caption, “ Slums of the Future?” Does that caption mean that the Department of Information considers that the houses are below a reasonably decent standard?
– I shall see the film myself and then answer the honorable member’s question.
– According to a report in the Melbourne Herald last Wednesday, an official of the Australian Consulate-General in New York has stated -
We have on our books cases nf certain Australians in distress.
He added that the records were confidential and that he could not state whether the cases included those of any of the girls who went away to work for the United States forces. Can the Minister for Immigration say how many Australians in the United States of America have sought assistance recently to return to Australia and how many of them are young women? What action does the Australian Government take to render assistance in such cases through the Australian Embassy at Washington and the Consulates-General at New York and San Francisco? What are the prospects of ships being made available to bring to Australia, at an early date, these persons and Americans wishing to settle here with their Australian wives? What steps have been taken or are in contemplation for the development and strengthening of good relations between Australia and the United States of America?
– I saw the Melbourne Herald’s reference to the statement said to have been made by an official of the Australian Consulate-General in New York. Numbers of Australians in the United States of America seek the assistance of this Government from time to time. I cannot give the exact figures, but I know that a number of Australian girls who married American soldiers were brought back with the assistance of the Australian Government, and I know that others want to come back. However, there is no shipping with which to bring from the United States of America stranded Australians, American exservicemen with Australian wives, American ex-servicemen with American wives, or single Americans. The problem of shipping is .engaging the attention of the Prime Minister’s Department, the Department of Shipping and Fuel and the Department of Immigration. The relations between Australia and the United States of America are so sound that we can discuss frankly our mutual problems and arrive at solutions that completely satisfy all interested parties. With regard to strengthening those relations, there is on .the American statutebook an act known as the Fulbright Act, but it has not yet been .ascertained whether, under its provisions, the Americans can, by establishing scholarships, .assist Australians who desire to study in the United States of America, or use money to re-open information offices in Sydney and Melbourne. It is to be hoped that those things can be done, because their effect would be very beneficial to both the Americans and ourselves. I mention, in passing, that at some time in the future the Roosevelt Wins; of the Australian National Library in Canberra will ‘be opened and stocked with books, many of which will be presented by the American Congress. In every possible way, we are trying to develop the closest and most friendly relations with the United States of America. There is no American in Australia to-day who is a better friend of this country and more anxious to achieve those aims than the present American Ambassador, Mr. Myron M. Cowan. He has created a great impression in Australia, and I am sure that the longer he stays here the better the relations between ourselves and the United States of America will become. I say, in conclusion, that unless we maintain the best and firmest relations with the United States of America, there is not much hope for Australia in the Pacific in the future.
– I have received a letter from a constituent in which he refers to the fact that money expended by a taxpayer upon fares when travelling between his residence and the place at which his taxable income is acquired is not at present allowable .as a deduction by the taxation commissioner, and points out that such expenditure is incurred in. the process of obtaining the income. Will the Treasurer say whether travelling expenses incurred by certain classes of taxpayers a<re allowed as a deduction for taxation purposes? If they are, does the right honorable gentleman consider that that concession should be extended to all wage-earners ?
– The honorable gentleman should join the Australian Council of Trade Unions. For many years, the trade union movement has been pressing that all money expended upon .travelling to and from work should be the subject of a rebate or deduction for taxation purposes. The Government has given a great deal of consideration to the matter. It has decided, as previous administrations also decided, that such a concession might be abused and lead to a wide discrimination in .regard to allowable deductions and rebates. Certain travelling expenses incurred in the course of earning an income are allowable for rebates and were previously allowable as deductions. That may give rise to some anomalies. I regret that I cannot accede to the honorable member’s suggestion that all expenses incurred in travelling to and from work shall be allowa.ble as deductions or rebates.
– -Some time ago, the Minister for the Interior, the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, the honorable member for Hunter and myself discussed the building of Commonwealth offices in Newcastle, and later a survey was made. Will the Minister for the Interior say whether a site for the offices has been selected and when it is expected that building operations will commence?
– In accordance with an agreement that I made with the Newcastle civic authorities during my last visit, I have had a survey made of that city, and a report containing certain recommendations has been received. I am having the report considered, and, next week, if possible, I shall send an officer of my department from Canberra to confer with the local officer at Newcastle, with a view to making a final selection of the site. When that has been done, the question of constructing the building will be considered by the Government, but in view of the shortage of man-power and materials, I do not expect an early start with this work. However, the honorable member may rest assured that the Government is most anxious that a suitable building, in keeping with the environment of the city of Newcastle, will be erected at the earliest possible date.
– The Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act provides for the allocation of certain moneys for the construction of roads in sparsely settled districts. As I have been unable to obtain any evidence of special funds being made available to local authorities under the provisions of that act, I ask the Minister for Transport whether he will obtain full particulars of the manner in which Queensland has expended that money, and make that information available for discussion when the proposed amendments of the act are under consideration.
– Each State has to submit a schedule of the works that it proposes -to undertake with the special grants made available for the construction and maintenance of roads in sparsely populated areas. Queensland has complied with that undertaking, and I shall provide the honorable member with the information that he seeks as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether he has any further information on the experiments that were being conducted at the University of Melbourne laboratory which was burnt down two days ago.
– Is this a “ Dorothy Dixer”?
– Yes, I have seme information on the work that is being undertaken at the University of Mel bourne. It so happens that Professor Martin is in Canberra at present. Knowing that the honorable member for Newcastle and other honorable members of this House are very much concerned about thu unfounded allegations that have been made by the honorable member for Deakin and the honorable member for Richmond in this regard, not only have 1 obtained the text of a statement made by ‘ Professor Martin, but also I have before me last night’s Melbourne Herald in which appears a statement by the detective in charge of the investigation of the cause cf the fire.
– Is that Detective Wilks?
– No. Senior Detective McKnight has made a full investigation, and, in fact, has interviewed Professor Martin himself. The Victorian Acting Chief Commissioner of Police, Inspecting Superintendent J. O’Keefe, said yesterday that the police would be delighted if Mr. Anthony could give them information which might help to determine the cause of the fire. It is to be hoped that the honorable member for Richmond will be a little more helpful in clearing up this matter than his leader has been in connexion with another matter.
– The Minister would be helpful to his party if he were to tell the truth occasionally, but I am afraid that he would only do that by accident.
– So far as the source of the fire is concerned-
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether, the Minister, in answering an inspired question by a Government member, is entitled to make an attack 11Don the Leader of ‘the Australian Country party in this House?
– I think that the first honorable member to interject during the Minister’s answer was the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). When a Minister is answering a question he should be heard in silence. If honorable members persist in interrupting it is natural for the Minister to answer their interjections. It is entirely disorderly for honorable members to interrupt a Minister when he is answering a question. The member who asks a question is entitled to a reply and no other member is entitled to speak while the answer is being given.
– I desire to raise a point of order.
– Does the honorable member’s point of order refer to the same matter?
– It refers to a matter affecting myself. A question has been asked and the Minister-
– Order !
– The Minister was asked whether he had any information concerning-
– Order ! What is the honorable member’s point of order ?
– My point of order is that a question and reply have been used as an instrument to enable the Minister to make a personal attack en rae.
– Order ! The Chair is not prepared to accept the responsibility of deciding what are propaganda questions and answers. If it disallowed questions on the ground that they were intended as propaganda, few questions would be permitted in this House.
– As far as the fire at the University of Melbourne and the nature of the experiments being conducted there are concerned, I shall quote to honorable members the text of a statement by Professor L. H. Martin, professor of physics at the university. Professor Martin said last night -
I feel quite sure that the fire in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research laboratory at the university last Tuesday was not sabotage by Communists. The work we were engaged on had nothing to do with defence work. It was just straight-ahead fundamental physics. Secret papers could not have been stolen for the simple reason that there were no secret papers there to steal. Files and papers were lost in the fire, but they were only ordinary scientific records. I am satisfied that the fire was just one of those accidents that happen even though every care is taken.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether, in the fire which occurred at the University of Melbourne last Tuesday, amongst the valuable materials destroyed were the notes from which a number of students were to have prepared theses for the degrees of master of science and doctor of philosophy ? Will he see whether steps can be taken to compensate those students, at least in part, for their great loss, which may also be a loss to the whole of the people ? Will the Prime Minister also take steps to ensure that in future this country will so finance its universities that research may be undertaken with adequate equipment and in safe and suitable buildings?
– It is regrettable that any notes which students wished to use in the future for the preparation of theses may have been destroyed in the fire at the University of Melbourne. I do not know what the Commonwealth can do to compensate them for the loss of the notes, but I assume that the experiments will continue, and I am certain that the university authorities will do their utmost to assist the students to obtain new notes to assist them to prepare theses. Insofar as the buildings are concerned, the arrangement by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research with the University of Melbourne to undertake the experiments was, of course, subject to the. limitation upon the availability of building materials, which applies generally throughout Australia. In the circumstances, it was not possible to erect a building possessing greater safeguards against fire risk. Generally, when the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research arranges for the erection of buildings within the grounds of a university, it sees that they are in consonance with the general architectural design of the other university buildings, and that they are as far as possible, fireproof. As building materials become more plentiful, I am sure that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will arrange for the erection of better buildings than the one which was destroyed in Melbourne. No one is blameworthy because a temporary building was used as a laboratory. In the circumstances, it was unavoidable.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is correct, as the secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. A. E. Menk reported to a meeting of that organization on the 18th September last, that Mr. Monk raised with the Prime Minister the policy under which Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioners have refused, up to date, to deal with industrial disputes while the men concerned are on strike? Is it correct that Mr. Monk was informed by the Prime Minister that, except in special instances, Conciliation Commissioners would not in future refuse to hear parties to disputes simply because the men were out on strike? If the Prime Minister has given such an assurance, reversing hitherto accepted policy and an important principle, will he inform the House of the reason for the change and state under what statutory authority he acted in making it?
– I have not seen the statement mentioned by the honorable member, but I .received a telegram yesterday morning from one of the employers’ organizations purporting to draw my attention to some statement that had been made in regard to this particular matter. I sent a telegram early this morning in reply to the request, contained in the employers’ telegram, for information on what had been done in this matter, and I made it perfectly clear that what a Conciliation Commissioner does in any dispute is a matter entirely for himself and that the Government has not, at any time, attempted to interfere. The law, as it now stands, makes it perfectly clear that the method to be adopted in dealing with an industrial dispute is a matter that is solely within the province of the Conciliation Commissioner.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a speech delivered by Colonel A. W. Sheppard at a Communist rally in Copenhagen in which he attacked the western democracies, and particularly Great Britain? Is it the Government’s intention to allow
Sheppard to continue to use an Australian passport while inflaming friendly nations against this country? In view of the Government’s attempt to extradite loyal Australian girls against their will from the United States of America, will the right honorable gentleman explain why no action has been taken to put a stop to Sheppard’s international Communist activities against this country? Will the Prime Minister have Sheppard extradited, or, alternatively, cancel his passport ?
– I believe that the honorable member for Reid referred to Colonel Sheppard in a question that he asked some time ago, when he mentioned an alleged association between Colonel Sheppard and General Blarney in relation to military activities. I have not seen the report of the speech referred to by the honorable member, but following the honorable member’s previous question on the matter-
– The speech to which I referred was made yesterday.
– Following the honorable member’s previous question concerning Colonel Sheppard, I made inquiries and discovered that Colonel Sheppard has no association with the Government, but is travelling abroad in some private capacity or possibly for a private business concern, and is responsible for payment of his own expenses. I understand that he has some business associations elsewhere. When I discovered that I did not consider it necessary to make any further inquiries about the matter. The honorable member has now suggested that steps should be taken to extradite Colonel Sheppard to Australia because he is a Communist. That does not seem to be consistent with the request generally made by members of the Opposition that the Government should deport all Communists.
– The trouble is that the Government intends to bring him back.
– I wish that the honorable member for Reid and members of the Opposition would get together and make up their minds as to what they want done. If they want the Government to bring Communists, back to this country, they should say so. All that I can say to the honorable member for Reid is that I have not seen any report of the speech referred to, and that at the moment the Government would not be justified in seeking the extradition of Colonel Sheppard. Of course, if the country in which he is temporarily residing chooses to deport him I suppose that we shall have to receive him, and if he has all the defects indicated by the honorable member for Reid-
– He is not an Australian.
– Yes, he is; he was born in Victoria.
– No, he is not an Australian, he is merely an impostor.
– It has even been suggested that Colonel Sheppard is one of the constituents of the honorable member for Balaclava, and I suggest to that honorable member that he should take some actionin the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether it is correct, as the press this morning has reported, that 25,000 tons of lowgrade wheat have been sold to Japan? If it is correct, will the Minister state the price received for the wheat?
– I have no doubt that the question asked by the honorable member was handed to him by a representative of the press because representatives of the press asked me this morning what was the price of the wheat that had been sold to Japan and I refrained from telling them. It is evident that they are using the honorable member to obtain the information.
– The honorable member is entitled to ask a question. Is the Minister afraid to tell, us the price received ?
– Whilst the honorable member’s question is perfectly legitimate, I am not prepared at the moment to divulge the price of the low-grade wheat sold to Japan.
– In reply to the honorable member for Indi, I point out that negotiations for the sale of other wheat overseas are proceeding, and they might be prejudiced by disclosure at the present stage of the price charged for low-grade wheat sold to J apan. I am sure that the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Indi would not like that to happen.
Transport of Steel Products
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that serious dislocation is facing industries in Victoria which are dependent on steel products, because of the slow turn-around of ships at that port? Is he aware, also, that in pre-war days three ships maintained a weekly service between Newcastle and Melbourne, whereas to-day six vessels are required to provide that service? Can the Minister say whether that has been caused by an insufficiency of waterfront labour and the working of fewer hours? Is the Government in a position to take action which will remedy the position, and enable maximum production to be reached in industry?
– This matter does not come within the province of my department. I am not aware of the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member for Deakin and I do not know whether six ships are now required to do the work that three ships did before the war, but there are fewer ships running now than there were then, so that I cannot for a moment believe that what the honorable member suggests in that connexion is correct. I shall refer the matter to my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, and endeavour to obtain the required information.
– Last week, in the absence of the Minister for the Navy, I directed a question to the Minister for Defence relating to recruitment for the Royal Australian Navy. At that time, the honorable gentleman was not aole to supply a final answer. I now ask the Minister for the Navy whether it is the intention of the Royal Australian Navy to adhere rigidly to a twelve-year recruitment of sailors? Many men enlist in the Royal Australian Navy at the age of fourteen years, and subsequently become worried as to their civil career after leaving the Navy at the age of 30 years. There is a general desire on the part of naval men in Fremantle for the introduction of a shorter term of five or six years as an alternative.
– The matter of recruitment of personnel for the Royal Australian Navy for periods of less than twelve years has been examined from time to time. The experience of naval authorities in other parts of the world, In addition to our own experience, has been that any period of less than twelve years is unsatisfactory. When the new plan was being drawn up this aspect was fully considered. It was decided that it would be inadvisable to enlist personnel for less than twelve years initially, but that the maximum period for reenlistment would be six years.
– Provision is made in the Estimates, under the heading of “ Miscellaneous “, for various research projects, the first mentioned being a seminar for teachers in Paris. Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say what is the nature of that seminar? Under whose auspices was it conducted, and who represented Australia? A further amount of money is provided for a survey of intelligence levels of university students. Can the Minister state the reason for such a survey,, and can he not think of another institution in which a survey of the kind would be of more benefit ?
– The honorable member waxes a little sarcastic in asking a question. Perhaps she desires that an investigation be made of the intelligence of members of the Opposition in this Parliament, as well as of university students ?
– I should be glad to submit to such an investigation.
– The seminar at Paris was conducted under the auspices of Unesco, which arranges for the holding of the seminars at various places from time to time. I cannot remember the name of the Australian who was delegated to attend the one in Paris, but I shall finl out, and inform the honorable member later. The survey of the intelligence levels of university students in a part of the fundamental work of the Office of Education, and is designed to find out whether persons who attend the universities are those who are most capable of benefiting from a university education. Such research will, I believe, prove highly beneficial.
Motion (by Mr. Pollard) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the Stabilization of the Wheat Industry.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the transfer to the Commonwealth Service of certain employees of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and for other purposes.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations and other International Organizations, and for other purposes.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, namely: - The construction of a new wharf at Darwin.
The proposal involves the construction at the port of Darwin of a wharf 650 feet in length and 140 feet in width to replace the existing town jetty which was severely damaged in the bombing of Darwin and was temporarily repaired to enable its continued use. The new pier will be supported on mild steel piles with a steel-framed superstructure and hardwood decking. Provision is being made to lay down railway tracks if required at some future date whilst three cranes, two travelling and one of a stationary type, will be installed. The estimated cost of the project is £540,000, including £80,000 for the cranes. I now table the plans of the project.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Considera tion resumed from the 7th October (vide page 1385).
Proposed vote, £1,179,200.
Proposed vote, £909,300.
Proposed vote, £2,701,000.
Proposed vote, £4,500. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– The proposed vote for the Northern Territory includes the following items: General Services, £556,000; Works Services, £396,000; Courts Office, £11,000; and Health Services, £214,800. Having regard to the magnitude of those sums, the provision of only £1,400 in respect of the audit of accounts is totally inadequate to enable the Government to exercise proper supervision over its expenditure in the Northern Territory.
In the brief period available to me, I draw attention to the excellent work that is being carried out on soil erosion in the Australian Capital Territory. In this matter, Commonwealth officers are working in conjunction with com mittees in all States. I also congratulate the Government upon its forestry policy in the Australian Capital Territory and the work of the central administration particularly with respect to national mapping and corps surveys. Of course, in those spheres, the Government is simply continuing the policies laid down by its predecessors. However, I should like greater provision tobe made for such activities. The expenditure proposed is inadequate having regard to the importance of such work. I hope to have an opportunity later to deal in detail with those matters.
One cannot have regard for the future of our territories as a whole without commenting upon the disparaging remarks made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) concerning the white settlers in Malaya and other countries to the north of Australia who, he said, had no right to be there. We shall be wise to remember the history of the development of those lands. The trail for the white man in those countries was blazed by the great missionary, Francis Xavier, and nothing will stop the white man from continuing the work which he commenced. The Prime Minister, apparently pays no attention to the facts of geography. He also said that when he visited Japan he found things in that country unreal. As he takes an unrealistic view of so many important facts, one, perhaps, is not surprised that he found things unreal in Japan. Australia cannot scorn the value of a nucleus of white people in the countries that abut our territories. However, the Government has displayed little interest in encouraging the settlement of those territories by white people, although, at the same time, it is pouring money down the sink in Papua-New Guinea. The proposed vote for miscellaneous services in. that territory amounts to £2,701,000. But how many white people are being encouraged to follow in the footsteps of the great Francis Xavier and the other missionaries who are carrying on his work of civilizing those lands and trying to improve the intellectual and living standards of the natives of those countries? Missionaries are carrying on that work throughout all the lands to the north of Australia right up to Japan itself, hoping, apparently, that within the next 200 years, perhaps, those .barbarians may be converted to the Christian Anglo-Saxon way of life. In view of those facts I am amazed that the Prime Minister should scorn any settlement of those lands by the white race. I had many white friends in Malaya,- particularly professional men, such as surveyors and engineers, who fought and died in the Malayan Volunteer Regiment during the war. The lack of interest in this problem on the part of the National Parliament is a disgrace to the nation and to the white race. We must remember that Australia is a white continent in a yellow sea. Although the proposed vote for the Northern Territory amounts to £1,179,200, what is the Government really doing to encourage more white people to settle in that part of Australia ? I remind the committee that Hitler and Goebbels stirred up the people of Germany by developing among them an inferiority complex in regard to colonial possessions which impelled them to fight for the recovery of lost German colonies, including German New Guinea. The Germans were most keen to get back colonies situated near the Equator. Yet, it would appear that Australians scorn the fact that the lands under their control stretch from 12 degrees to 40 degrees south of the equator. I have been amazed to hear the opinion expressed in this chamber that Australians should not be allowed to settle in New Guinea. Settlers have been described as “ exploiters and not developers “. The Prime Minister stated that white people had settled in Malaya for their own advantage, and not necessarily for the true welfare of the country. The inference to be drawn from that opinion is that we must behave like ostriches, put our heads in the sand, and be blind to the presence in the islands to the north of Australia of millions of people whose standard of living and ideology are completely different from our own. That ideology has spread southwards from Russia through China to Malaya and has reached Jogjakarta, in Indonesia, which may be described as the approach to our door. The Government must heed the danger if it desires to be remembered in history as an administration worthy of the people’s trust.
It is generally thought, perhaps with some truth, that the Northern Territory was pioneered in the 1860’s and 187 0’s by men who were imbued with a spirit of adventure. Some sceptics say that the pioneers were running away from their debts, or their wives, or the police. I do not subscribe to that cynicism, and believe that they went to the Northern Territory as adventurers. Those days have long since passed, and many people in the Northern Territory are now seeking to establish family holdings for agricultural and pastoral pursuits, or to engage in raining. The mining fields were explored many years ago by prospectors, referred by me in my maiden speech in this chamber as the “ periscopes of the desert “, who were forced to remain in the outback areas for years without the amenities offering in the southern cities. I am not able to subscribe to the implication in the song, “ Advance Australia Pair “, that this continent is . a hospitable, kindly land. To me, Australia is a grim country. Our great grandfathers experienced its grimness when they began to settle in the southern areas, and, in my view, it is still grim. That grimness is accentuated as one travels west and north. But there is always the grim pioneer who has the intestinal fortitude and the inner metabolism to venture into that grim country. There have always been people who have been worthy of that task and willing to face it. Such people are now pioneering the Northern Territory, where conditions are still grim. I believe that “ Australia Fair “ is a misnomer.
– Australia is a great country.
– I am not saying that it is anything but a great country, but it is also a grim country, and only grim people can conquer it. That is why I “ dips me lid “ to the greatness of the grim pioneers who developed the country which, they found on their arrival, was so inhospitable. The jocular interjection by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) reminds me that I desire to ask him a question. For some time, I have been endeavouring to obtain from the Minister for Transport, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) a statement about proposals for constructing railways in the Northern Territory. As the result of my activities in 1936 and the generosity of ; the then Minister for the Interior, Mr. Paterson, an excellent report was complied on the Northern Territory by a Mr. Payne, of Queensland. I was able to supply . factual data which neither boosted nor decried that area. Some of the land is good, and some of it is bad, but it has a potential carrying capacity in respect of small farms and small cattle holdings which has not yet been capitalized. The Minister for Transport has had two and a half years in which to make up his mind whether railways of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge will be constructed in the Northern Territory. The Minister for the Interior has already given me certain information outside the chamber. I am not one of those who -ever uses in the chamber information which has been given to me outside it. 1 do not believe in doing so, and I hope that I shall never be guilty, as some honorable members have been, of doing so. Perhaps the Minister for the Interior will repeat in the chamber what he has -told me outside it, but it is the function of the Minister for Transport to state whether the Government intends to construct a railway from Alice Springs to “Tennant Creek and then north-east, splitting the Barkly Tableland in two and continuing to a port on the Gulf of Carpentaria either at Roper, Borroloola, Burketown or Massacre Inlet. Another line should be built from Mount Isa through the Barkly Tableland to the Kimberley district in Western Australia and thence to Wyndham.’ That work should be a part of the Government’s developmental policy. I recommend the construction of railways of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge. People who claim to be experts express the opinion that within 50 years, railways will be out-of-date and that ali transport will be by air or by motor vehicles using bitumen roads. However, in the meantime, a 3-ft. 6-in. railway would be of almost inestimable value, and ;the money expended on the construction would not be wasted as if it were poured down the sink.
The building of bitumen roads in the Northern Territory will merely entrench the great pastoralists. According to press reports, the Minister for the Interior is about to renew their leases until 1980. Bitumen roads will not solve the problem of placing new settlers in the Northern Territory. At this point I desire to congratulate the Government on keeping the north-south road from Darwin to Alice Springs in good order. That road is a defence link, and I know that the maintenance is expensive. I do not believe that any of the great pastoralists has asked for the construction of a railway through the Barkly Tableland The reason is that they know perfectly well that, in the public interest, the Government would not dare to incur that great expense without settling more people in the Northern Territory in order to justify it. I challenge the Minister for Transport to say whether he has received any representations from the pastoralists of the Barkly Tableland for the construction of a railway in that area. Some of them have asked for a railway to be built from Wyndham to the Wave Hill and Victoria River Downs country, but if the Minister can produce any record of representations from those great pastoralists for the construction of a 3-ft. 6-in. railway from Mount Isa to the Barkly Tableland, I shall be greatly surprised. I constantly advocate the provision of a suitable port on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The products of the Northern Territory should find an outlet through a northern port. At present, cattle from that great area must be driven across Queensland after the manner in which the Chaldeans drove their stock in biblical days, following the pastures as the seasons favoured different areas, and the journey occupies nearly three years. That is nonsensical. The pastoralists of the Barkly Tableland do not desire the fattening potentialities of that area to be known. The cow, and the vealer are fat at the same time, and are both ready for the knife. Does not that indicate that the land is good - that it is sheep country? The country is excellent for fattening and is too good for breeding. The “ cow” country, as it is called, is the spear grass country which abuts on the gulf adjoining. The factor which is preventing the development of north-west Queensland and the gulf country is the simple fact that Townsville is the leeching place for northwest Queensland. The soil of the environs is poor, and the Townsville Harbour Board, in 1934, employed a smart journalist to write a series of articles for the North Queensland Register stating that no outlet should be provided on the gulf for the Mount Isa district. The Townsville Harbour Board has adopted that attitude because such an outlet would take away much of its income from port dues and would not boost Townsville, which is only a commercial centre draining north-western Queensland. Because of its rich pastoral and mineral resources the region embracing the gulf country of northern Queensland and the Northern Territory is great enough to be a dominion in its own right. The boundary line between north-western Queensland and the Northern Territory, which passes about twelve miles to the west of Camooweal, is merely an arbitrary division. The entire area should be a part of the Northern Territory. It is a selfcontained economic region in which a new state could be established extending eastward to embrace the Leichhardt River basin. Queensland has neglected its own gulf country. I notice that no Queensland representatives are present on the Government side of the chamber, although they are supposed to represent the far north. Of course, they are not interested in the development of remote areas.
– Where are all the Opposition members?
– I speak of Labour party members who represent north-western and northern Queensland. They are not here. The cow country adjacent to the Gulf of Carpentaria is being neglected by the Queensland Government. One has only to read the Brisbane newspapers to learn about the spreading revolt against the way in which the State Government is neglecting northern Queensland, just as this Government is neglecting the Northern Territory.
I have indicated to the Minister for Transport the routes along which light railways should be laid in the interior.. I hope that he has some knowledge of the subject and will be able to add tomy remarks and announce whether theGovernment intends to build developmental railways while, at the same time,, maintaining the bitumen road link between Alice Springs and Darwin for usein case of need. The Minister for theInterior informed me last night that hehad ordered a survey to be made between Alice Springs and Port Augusta for a 4-ft. 8^-in gauge railway line. I should’ like to know the proposed location of that line. The Government should heed therepresentations of the old hands of theNorthern Territory, such as Mr. Pearce,. “ Mine Host “ of We of the Never Never, who still lives at Adelaide. Mr. Pearcegave evidence in 1911 that the northsouth line should have been laid to the west of the sand hills in the Finke River country. I know that region. A lineshould be laid to Alice Springs from Kingoonya, and the small settlements, along the existing railway should bemoved to the west and their residents compensated. A new line along that route would pass through far better country than is traversed by the present north-south line. It would avoid the worst of the Finke River sand hills and would touch only the head-waters of the river. This would obviate the recurring expense caused by the destruction of sections of the tram-line - for that is all that it is - from Alice Springs to Quorn whenever five inches ‘ of rain falls, which usually happens in January or February. It was fortunate for us that there was no heavy rain in the area during the war, when that railway gave such remarkably good service to the country. I was caught by floods there in 1939 and again in 1946 after the war had ended. I ask the Minister for the Interior to instruct his railway location surveyors and engineers to give very serious consideration to my suggestion that the new line should be laid to the west of the existing railway in order to avoid the sand hills and the recurring floods in the Finke River, which collects the waters of four other big rivers. 1 am seriously concerned about the activities of the Department of “Works and Housing at Darwin and the lack of audit supervision of actual expenditure. Yesterday I asked the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) whether the Director of Works at Darwin had resigned from the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. I hope that he will give me an answer soon. Whilst I congratulate the Government upon acceding to my request for the establishment of a legislative council to help in solving the problems of the Northern Territory, I consider that it should place the territory under the authority of one Minister again. At present, the Minister for the Interior and the Minister for Works and Housing have a hand in the control of the territory. In fact, it has become a shuttlecock between the two of them. A fight is on between the two departments to the detriment of the Northern Territory. It should be controlled by the Minister for the Interior, upon the advice of the Administrator. It is an insult to the Administrator that he is not allowed to have charge of the affairs of the Northern Territory. His appointment was at first subjected to a great deal of criticism, but I believe that that young man will become one of the best administrators that we have if he is not subjected to unnecessary interference. He must not be allowed to remain there just as a rubber stamp, making requisitions for the construction of houses, bitumen roads and other developmental works and hoping that the Director of Works and Housing will carry OUt’ the works. I dislike causing strife between senior officers and therefore I have not discussed the situation with either of them, but there are rumours in Darwin that all is not well and that the Administrator and the Director of Works are jealous of each other’s authority. That must end. One man should be in charge of the policy of the territory. The Minister for Works and Housing has enough to do already in controlling the work of his departments in the States without trying to extend his activities to the Northern Territory. His department has a silly planning committee with head-quarters in Collinsstreet, Melbourne. That body, above any other government organization, is disliked in the Northern Territory. It is a menace. I have often described how it has mutilated the town of Darwin by means of its plan. The man responsible for this shocking plan, which he prepared after a brief visit to Darwin, was engaged in some interesting activities during the war. I shall not mention his name, but the Minister knows that his chief activity during the war was to criticize, the conduct of the war and to collect money on behalf of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Union for the erection of a big building in Flinders-lane, Melbourne.
– Who is he?
– I shall not mention his name here, but I shall tell it to the Minister privately. In the light of his activity in collecting money for the Marx House of Melbourne, we can scarcely be surprised that he has made a design for Darwin in the Russian style. The few new houses that have been built according to his plan are huddled together, only about 12 feet apart. The Minister for Works and Housing visited Darwin recently and saw the three or four houses that have been built under the scheme and are occupied by senior officers. The occupants cannot cough without being heard by their neighbours. Those buildings are being criticized throughout the Northern Territory.
– It is one of the biggest territories in the world.
– Yes. There is plenty of space, but the new houses are being cramped together. In the cul-de-sacs at the ends of the streets, according to the new plan, houses will abut one another and have party walls. The Minister for Works and Housing is shaking his head. Naturally! He knows that this asinine planning committee in Melbourne has pulled his leg for so long that now he dare not retract and must brazen out the situation.
– I know what a distance of 12 feet is.
– Does the Minister challenge my statement?
– It may be that I am in error by a few inches. However, the houses are very close together. Officials do not wish to occupy them, and they are going out of town in order to get a little privacy.
I understand that the Public Works Committee will shortly visit Darwin to take evidence with regard to the construction of a wharf and a hostel there. If the committee does not take advantage of that opportunity to inquire into the whole of the operations of the Department of Works and Housing in the Northern Territory, it will fail in its duty and its members will, with justice, be classified as tourists. Two years ago a building in Darwin was taken over by the administration and converted into a temporary post office. A local building contractor told me that he could have carried out. the conversion for £7,000. I challenge the Minister to say that the actual expenditure was less than £25,000 or £30,000. The real expenditure on undertakings of this kind is hidden in trust accounts. That is why I suggest that the Commonwealth Auditor-General should make an investigation and give evidence before the Public Works Committee when it visits Darwin.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) dealt -with the estimates for the Northern Territory in a very fair manner. [Quorum formed.’] A developmental programme such as that which has been evolved for the territory is open to criticism, because, owing to shortages of man-power and materials, no real move forward has yet been made. The honorable gentleman suggested, however, that the proposed vote will be inadequate to meet the needs of the situation. I point out that it exceeds by £386.397 the sum that was expended last year.
Mi-. Blain. - I criticized the way in which the money is spent.
– That may have been the honorable gentleman’s intention, but I did not interpret his remarks in that way. He congratulated the Government upon its policy for the solution of the problems that are associated with the development of the Northern Territory.
– That was a slip of the tongue.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was Minister for the Interior for two or three years, but there .are no visible results in the territory of his activities. When thisGovernment came into power, there was not even the semblance of an organization in the Northern Territory that was capable of coping with the problems that required to be dealt with, and upon the cessation of hostilities, it was my responsibility, as Minister for the Interior,, to create an organization. It is possible that because of my intimate knowledge of the Northern Territory I have a greater faith in its future than have many other honorable members on this side of the chamber. In my opinion, it offers great possibilities for development. The Government has grappled with the problem and produced a developmental programme. I feel sure that substantial results will be achieved in the near future.. Certain leases in respect of large areas of land in the territory still have sixteen years to run. That is not due to any action of this Government but to theactions of previous administrations. The Government has been criticized because it has entered into negotiations with the largest of the leaseholders, but, as a result of these negotiations, an agreement has almost been concluded under which they will not be allowed to continue toexploit the natural resources of the territory without putting anything back into it. That is the history of the Northern Territory. The large stations depended upon natural water suppliesand natural feed. They erected no fences and made no improvements. They exploited the natural resources of the country, and did nothing to improve or develop it. As a result, their runs got out of hand. As the honorable member for the Northern Territory knows, on practically every station in the territory one can see cattle that have roamed around without hindrance. Consequently the standard of the beef that is supplied from the Northern Territory is not what it should be. By the payment of subsidies, the-
Government is encouraging stationowners to take stud stock into the territory. As far as lies within its power, it is compelling owners to improve their properties. By negotiating with Lord Luke and Lord Vestey, the Government took the only practical step to ensure that the development of the land in respect of which their organizations hold leases will proceed as early as possible. The only alternative is stagnation for another sixteen years. I recommended that the Government should proceed, and the negotiations have resulted in the immediate surrender of 9,000 square miles of country, which will be opened to new settlers. Written into the leases will be certain conditions, non-compliance with which will result in forfeiture.
– Developmental leases?
– Tes. We have never before had authority to insist upon the provision of bores, stock-yards, fencing and so on. Those improvements will enable stock to be properly supervised. I believe that every member of this Parliament, regardless of his political affiliations should co-operate in the development of the Northern Territory. It is more a national problem than the problem of any particular government. Instead of destructive criticism, the Government should have the co-operation of all parties in its endeavour to formulate a progressive plan that will bring population to the Northern Territory.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory referred to railways. This matter has been discussed for many years. There has been a division of opinion on what routes should be followed. Some people believe that the lines should enter the Northern Territory from the Queensland side, and others believe that they should come in from the Western Australian side. No decision has been reached, but the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has had numerous conferences about the matter, and has had certain surveys made. I maintain, however, that until there is some development, there is no justification for railways. When we subdivide those huge holdings and so increase the number of settlers, the supplies of beef will increase, and there will be some call for rail transport. In regard to meatworks, again I am in agreement with the honorable member for the Northern Territory because I believe that all the export beef in the Northern Territory at least should go through either Darwin or Wyndham. To do that, we must have meatworks capable of coping with supplies. I believe that the Government should give serious consideration to the construction of meatworks at Darwin. I should not be happy a.bout, and I am sure that other members of the Government would not favour, control by private enterprise of meatworks which will have such an important bearing upon the development of the Northern Territory. However, that is a matter to which the Government has not yet given consideration. It is discussing the various problems and, in the near future, some decisions will be made.
Recently, by way of interjection, the honorable member for Indi suggested that the properties that were being surrendered by Vesteys were the worst in the Northern Territory. That is not correct. He will find for instance, that property adjoining the Western Australian border is considered to be equal to the best in the Northern Territory.
– That is not so.
– I think I can claim to know the Northern Territory as well as do most members of this Parliament. I have always been of the opinion - and my view i9 supported by stockmen in the Northern Territory - that Gordon River Downs is one of the best properties in that territory.
– When 25 per cent, of it was resumed, not even the station property took it up again. It has been vacant for fifteen years.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Papua-New Guinea and Norfolk Island has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Lemmon) proposed -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: - That, including the sum already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1948-49, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £176,714,000.
– There are many matters that one could deal with on this motion, that one has not had an opportunity to discuss during the debate on the Estimates because of the application of the “guillotine “. For instance, I was most anxious to refer to activities in the Australian Capital Territory. I notice that a vast excavation is being made not very far from this building. Great blocks of concrete are being removed, and huge holes are being dug in the ground. A barbed wire fence is being erected around the area, and electric wires are running in all directions. I should like to know from the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) whether this is the site of a concentration camp and a dungeon to be constructed by the Government. Bulldozers are at work clearing an area which resembles a parade ground. Seeing all those things - the barbed wire fence, the great hole in the ground, the huge concrete blocks to which men could be tied by both legs if they were suspected of having engaged in certain activities - my suspicious mind leads me to the belief that the Government may have in mind something in the nature of a concentration camp, and I invite the Minister to tell us just what is proposed. The new structure, as I have said, will be in close proximity to Parliament House, and members of the Parliament would not have to be taken far before they could be brought under control. The huge parade ground could be used to provide inmates with an opportunity for a little physical exercise, recreation for such miscreants, of course, being out of the question. These things may seem rather trivial to the Minister, but when we come to examine various other activities that are going on in the Australian Capital Territory, it is only natural that one should expect the Government to complete its work. For instance, salaries and allowances of the Australian Capital Territory Police Force, for which £14,500 was voted last year will cost £22,000 this year. There is no explanation of this increased expenditure. Then we see that in the Australian Capital Territory the Government is carrying on afforestation, providing general land services, eradicating noxious weeds, exterminating rabbits and dingoes, preventing bush fires, carrying out river gaugings and other hydrometric work, making surveys, removing and disposing of garbage, providing sanitary services and grants in aid of social services, maintaining a swimming pool, printing ordinances and regulations, carrying out tourist bureau publicity, entertaining visitors, caring for aborigines at the Jervis Bay settlement, cleaning streets, maintaining a fire brigade, and making payments under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1934. “Significantly, the cost of the Canberra cemetery this year is estimated at £15,000 compared with £12,000 last year, and that naturally makes some honorable members wonder. The estimates for the industrial tribunal wages and expenses of workmen’s representatives, will increase from £50 to £300. Other items are : alleviation of distress, although I understood there was no unemployment; land valuation ordinance, loss on city omnibus service; soil erosion; housing’ loans; payments as acts of grace; reappraisement of rent and rate increases; Australian Capital Territory hostels, loss on operations, which was £29,000 last year and which is estimated will be £25,000 this year; Canberra City Band, which is to cost £1,800; orchard and agricultural extension service; water conservation; fisheries; social welfare activity; ti-tree and briar destruction; safety measures at rural swimming resorts, £300; firewood supplies ; Zoological Advisory Committee; incidental and. other expenses; University College scholarships and bursaries; secondary school bursar-it-?; conveyance of school children; cleaning schools; school books; cultural and community activities - I do not know to what this item refers, as it has not appeared in the Estimates before, or whether it is to be culture of microbes or of ideas; repairs and maintenance of several departments; maintenance of roads and bridges; electric supply ; Canberra Community Hospital ; health and dental services ; abattoirs services, the cost of which is to rise from £5,900 last year to £8,000 this year, which makes it appear that somebody is going to be killed; compensation for the destruction of cattle infected with disease; mothercraft sub.sidy, which is the one hopeful thing; and other miscellaneous services.
– Bead the next page, which is very interesting.
– If ever I were sent to the nether regions and had to undergo the worst penance of all, I would have to read the unexpurgated version of the only speech the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) has ever made.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– With all these activities taking place in the Australian Capital Territory, and in view of events of which honorable members all know but of which they are not allowed to speak during this debate, and of other events foreshadowed for the week-end, I sincerely hope that the Government will come clean and inform the House of the reason for the activities on the building site that I have mentioned. I say that because, although I have had no experience of concentration camps, from the information I have gained from reading and from what I can see at that building site itself I should imagine that everything there is admirably suited to the construction of a concentration camp, with dungeons, concrete blocks, exercise ground and everything else. Being a person with both an imagination and some of the spice of suspicion, I naturally fear the worst.
.- The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has asked certain questions as to the purpose of the work now proceeding on a certain building site. I am quite sure that the only building that could be built on that site suitable for the honorable member would be a lunatic asylum. The honorable member rose and stated that he wished to discover what was being built on the site. If he had read the report of the Public Works Committee appointed by this chamber, on which his own party has a representative, he would have found in it all the answers to his questions. The representative of the honorable member’s party was, in common with the other members of that committee, charged by this chamber, and not by the Government, with the responsibility of examining those works. They have been examined and a report on them has been submitted to the chamber. The chamber has accepted it, but yet we have the spectacle of an honorable gentleman who is presumed to be a responsible member of this Parliament and who in the past has held the responsible position of a Minister of the Crown, rising and going on with a lot of humbug and nonsense. I have not risen to answer the honorable member’s question for the benefit of other honorable members, who already know the answer, but because this debate is being broadcast all over Australia and I consider that it is my duty to endeavour to explain the position to the public and also to expose the nonsense with which some honorable members take up the time of the chamber. The new works under construction on the site are a new administrative building. We have again had an instance, similar to many which have occurred recently, showing how honorable members opposite decry works which are being carried out in this country. The plans and specifications for this building have been reproduced in one of the largest engineering magazines in the world, published in America, which goes to every country in the world. That journal stated that the design and specifications of the new administrative block showed that it would be the finest building in the southern hemisphere. This is the work which we find an honorable member of this Parliament using as an excuse for uttering a lot of nonsense about dungeons and concentration camps. That honorable member’s speech demonstrates very clearly the complete lack of balance and of respect for the important deliberations of this Parliament which is a characteristic of some honorable members of the Opposition. The large blocks of cement to which the honorable member referred are on the site because of the inefficiency and lack of supervision shown by a previous anti-Labour Government, and because of the dishonesty of some private contractor. Because of that inefficiency and dishonesty the foundations have had to be rebuilt. The original foundations were examined by responsible architects and engineers, and finally by the Public Works Committee whose report the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) submitted to the chamber.
– The concrete was as rotten as the government official who accepted it.
– The government in office at the time when this rotten concrete was used in these foundations was an anti-Labour government. The report of the Public Works Committee which was presented to the chamber recently, condemned these foundations and recommended to me, as Minister, that they should be removed and that new foundations should be built. It was on the recommendation of the Public Works Committee, and also of the engineers and architects of the Department of Works and Housing, that the Government decided to remove the existing foundations and replace them with others. The honorable member for Barker, who made many fantastic statements and talked a lot of nonsense, tried to connect his suggestion that the basement of the new building was to he used as a dungeon with the increased vote for the Commonwealth Police Force. The honorable member for Barker spends a lot of time walking around Canberra, and his observation and knowledge of developments in Canberra is as least as good, if not better, than that of other honorable members, so that he must realize the extent of the increase of population in Canberra. In order to provide housing accommodation for the influx of residents, the Government has constructed during the last twelve .months accommodation for 3,000 additional people. Because of the greatly increased number of people now residing here it is necessary to provide more police protection, as the residents of Canberra are at least entitled to similar police protection to that given to residents of other closely settled areas. Furthermore, I point out that the function of the Commonwealth Police Force is not only to prevent and detect criminal offences, but also to render various other services to the community. For that purpose, it has been necessary, as I have said, to increase the vote for the Commonwealth Police Force, but the honorable member’s attempt to connect the increased vote for the police force with the sinister suggestions which lie has made, indicates the fantastic attitude which he adopts in regard to matters which have a party political aspect.
– I propose to mention a matter which I did not have an opportunity to discuss earlier. I have received a letter from Mr. N. C. Osborn, honorary secretary of the Lae sub-branch of the New Guinea branch of the Returned Sailers Soldiers, and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. That letter, and the copies of correspondence which accompany it, relate to an ex-serviceman named Tyler, who went to New Guinea some time ago in the employ of the Department of External Territories. I stress the fact that he was employed originally by the Department of External Territories, and not by the Department of “Works and Housing. Later he resigned from the latter department and accepted a position as a truck driver with a private contractor who was doing work for the Department of Works and Housing. When lie appeared on the job as an employee of a private contractor, the officer in charge of works at that particular place, Mr. Griffiths, who is an officer of the Department of Works and Housing, informed his employer that if he continued to employ Mr. Tyler on the job his contract would be terminated. The reason Mr. Griffiths is alleged to have advanced for the attitude which he adopted was that the Department of Works and Housing has difficulty in retaining employees in New Guinea, and that if the department did not exercise such disciplinary control over employees they would be unable to retain their employees. In the letter from the Lae sub-branch of the league it is stated that members of that organization investigated the facts of this case, and that, as the result of their investigations they are of the opinion that the action taken by Mr. Griffiths was, to say the least, unjustifiable, and amounts to victimization of an ex-serviceman, who has been debarred from taking whatever employment he believed himself qualified to accept in what should be a free country. They point out that Mr. Tyler is a man of good character, and that there is not the slightest suggestion that he should not be employed because of inefficiency or anything else detrimental to his character. The only reason advanced by the Department of Works and Housing was that it considered that it had a prior claim to Mr. Tyler’s services. If the facts are as outlined, the matter is a most serious one, and in order to make the position quite clear I shall read a copy of a letter which was sent by the Returned Sailors Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon).
– I know the facts of the case because I received the communication referred to by the honorable member a few days ago. I think that the honorable member must have received his letter from that organization at the same time because he has not yet had the time to approach me on the matter.
– In the course of the letter, the league states that it has been in communication with Mr. Griffith, the engineer in charge at Lae, and that although it was at first inclined to consider that Mr. Griffith’s attitude was justified, a further investigation of the circumstances has convinced the league that Mr. Griffiths had no justification for his action and that the ban imposed on Mr. Tyler, who is an ex-serviceman, should be considered by the Minister for Works and Housing. Mr. Tyler has furnished in writing a statement of the happenings connected with his dismissal, which is as follows : -
Hereunder is set out what actually was said during my conversation with the officer in charge works and housing, Mr. G. A. Griffiths. I took it on myself to interview the above in order to point out to him the fact that I was never at any time an employee of Works and Housing.
I stress that portion of his statement. The statement continues -
On my person I had my correspondence with the Department of External Territories hefore my arrival in the territory, i.e., my date of appointment, my acceptance of the position,, date of departure per Qantas, and &c. With these papers, together with a copy of my resignation and also the acceptance of my resignation by the Government Secretary, Port Moresby, I did endeavour to prove my argument supported hy the above-mentioned documents. However, Mr. Griffiths did not event as much as look at them. I asked him straight. out what I had done to deserve such treatment. He replied that I had left the department in the lurch. I then asked him how? . . .
I do not propose to weary the Minister by repeating the remainder of Mr. Tyler’s statement, which contained a detailed recital of all the material facts. The engineer in charge, Department of Works and Housing, Lae, had written to Mr. Tyler on the 6th July, 1948, informing him that -
The Government Secretary, Port Moresby, has accepted your resignation to take effect as from 27th April, 1948 . . .
So that it is quite clear that Mr. Tyler’s resignation had previously been accepted by the Government Secretary. I mention that in order to emphasize that Mr. Tyler was not dismissed from a government position, but resigned voluntarily. After his resignation had been accepted and he had obtained other employment, he was debarred from continuing in that employment by the Department of Works and Housing. In the course of its letter to the Minister the league stated -
Mr. Tyler, although he has lost ?.15 in wages, showed commendable discretion by approaching the R.S.L. in preference to other bodies. His request was quite mild under the circumstances; he wished merely to be left alone and not suffer persecution at the hands of authoritative persons. However, in view of these circumstances, our request is that Mr. Griffiths’s decision be reversed and that Mr. Tyler be granted the right to occupy any position he desires; furthermore, that a suitable admonition be conveyed to Mr. Griffiths.
A very important principle is involved, namely, the right of an Australian to follow the occupation of his own choice. From time to time it has been alleged that we are approaching a condition of affairs in this country when a person will be directed to a particular job by the Government and that he will have no option but to remain at that job. The correspondence I have produced in this chamber appears to indicate the beginning of the introduction of such a policy in the territory of New Guinea. I am not alleging at the moment that the Minister is responsible for that policy being followed in respect of Mr. Tyler, and I am hopeful that, as a result of the matter having been brought to his personal notice, a solution will be evolved consistent with the rights of Australians in any part of the Australian territories.
I shall recapitulate the facts of this matter. This man went to New Guinea-
– If the facts are as stated, he will be allowed to continue to do the work.
– In view of the Minister’s assurance I shall resume my seat. I trust that the Minister will see that suitable action is taken later on.
– I take advantage of the presence of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) in the chamber to obtain a little more information on some of the items in the Estimates that were referred to by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). Western Australian members of the Parliament spend much more time in the Australian Capital Territory than do most other honorable members.
– Except those from South Australia.
– During the periods we have spent in Canberra we have used some of the facilities provided for residents. The honorable member for Barker referred to the intention of the Government to build another swimming pool in the Territory. I should like to know if that is to be of standard Olympic measurements. The present swimming pool, which is only 30 yards long and 15 yards wide is the only pool provided for 14,000 or 15,000 people. I think it is an extremely unhygienic pool. My experience has been that, within a day or two after swimming in the pool, my throat has become ulcerated. I cannot attribute that to any reason other than that the juvenile population of Canberra have only such a small pool available for their use. Why should the National Capital have only such a wretched swimming pool? It compares unfavorably with pools in New South Wales country centres not far from Canberra. I cannot understand why a deviation was made from Olympic standards. I should like to know, also, if the new pool will be equipped with a more suitable water cleansing system than is installed in the present pool?
I should like, also, to be informed of the intention of the Government with regard to the erection of corner shops in Canberra. I cannot imagine a worse fate for a housewife than to be compelled to live in Canberra, where the facilities for women are appalling. Recently, my wife was ill, and it became necessary for me to do the household shopping. Unlike Ministers, I did not have a motor car at my disposal, nor did I have a refrigerator. Consequently supplies had to be obtained from, the shops regularly. The experience had to be endured to be believed. First, it was necessary to catch a ‘bus, and, I point out, that a wait of 45 minutes may be involved in this connexion, if one has just gone. Then there is a journey of 2 or 3 miles to the shopping centre. A mad scramble ensues, because if the shopper does not catch the next ‘bus back a further long wait is involved. Altogether, it might take two hours to procure only a pound of chops. I think the present plan for Canberra would not be adhered to if Ministers for the Interior were to live in a house in Canberra, and be deprived of the use of a motor car and a refrigerator. The shopping facilities of the city should, be improved considerably. It seems to me that there has not been provision of a plan to serve the people, but, rather, subordination of the people to a plan. ‘Something should be done for the sake of the housewives. This centre has the highest birth-rate in Australia, and many young women have to carry small children round with them while they do their shopping. The present state of affairs should be remedied as soon as possible. I hope that shops will be erected in the new suburbs which are springing up in Canberra.
The only other reference I wish to make is to the milk and bread available in the Australian Capital Territory. I and other members from “Western Australia invariably contract some form of gastritis during the first week of our stay in Canberra. Doctors attribute that to the milk. They say that in no circumstances should the milk here be consumed unless it has first been boiled. Why this should go on for year after year I do not know. I presume that some supervision is exercised over the dairies, yet the authorities have not succeeded in combating the “ wog “.
I say without qualification that the bread manufactured in Canberra is the worst that I have encountered anywhere in Australia. I should be glad to find that some of the bread served in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms is even cooked. I do not know whether lack of competition gives the bakers here a mandate to perpetrate these atrocities on the members of Parliament, and Canberra people generally, or whether inefficient baking and inadequate supervision is responsible for the poor quality of the bread in the Territory. The Canberra health authorities should be a little more strict in their supervision of dairies and bakeries to ensure the maintenance of a reasonable quality of essential commodities such as milk and bread.
.- The curtailed nature of the debate has prevented my speaking fully on major items in the budget, such as defence and repatriation. In the few remaining minutes available, I wish to mention two matters which are of importance, not because of. the magnitude of the department concerned, but because of the matters involved. I refer to the treatment of ex-prisoners of war, many of whom have died since their release. First, I shall refer to the deduction of income tax from the estates of deceased members of the merchant navy, who were prisoners of the Japanese. The same treatment has not been accorded to them as was accorded to the service troops. I refer particularly to the late Captain A. W. Creese, who was the master of theUnion Steamship Company’s vessel Haraki These men represent a distinct group within the merchant marine in that they were taken prisoner with members of armed forces and were subjected to the same treatment as members of other services. Captain Creese died in August, 1947, as a -result of theeffects of his maltreatment when he was held as a prisoner of war by theJapanese. After his death, a taxation assessment was issued against his estatefor £756 4s. lid., which included a fine of £17 14s. 6d. for late payment. Over half of his estate, which was to have gone to his wife and daughter, was taken by the Treasurer. I have a lot of correspondence on this matter. I think that men who rendered valuable service to the Empire during the war should not be treated in this way. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has just asked for permission to approve the expenditure of millions, yet from the estates of dead men hundreds of pounds are taken in this way by the Treasurer, who is taxing the people to the amount of £500,000,000 a year. This is the concluding paragraph of the Prime Minister’s letter, which is dated the 12th August, 1948-
I have given very careful consideration to your request in the light of your representations, but I find myself unable, having regard to the factors which I have mentioned, to offer any support to the amendment of the law which would be necessary to enable your request to be granted. It will be appreciated, I. feel sure, that this conclusion does not reflect any lack of sympathy or realization of the hardships undergone by the prisonerofwar members of the mercantile marine and others who were similarly placed, but is due to the necessity of preserving a fundamental principle of taxation, which, if departed from, would give rise to anomalies in relation to the many other civilians who were engaged directly in the nation’s war effort.
I do not want to say that that was a shameful thing to write, but it is an indication of inherent harshness in the Prime Minister if he cannot see that there is something above fundamental principles of taxation. In this case, as he admits, that was hardship, and an ex gratia payment should be made. For years, I fought to get deferred pay for Royal Australian Air Force instructors repaid, and finally an ex gratia payment was made to them. Probably, the Prime Minister does not realize the satisfaction . and joy with which his action on that occasion was received.
– In his letter, the Prime Minister gave reasons justifying the final paragraph which the honorable member has quoted.
– Once more, the oleaginous Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) seeks to divert criticism from the Government. I have “not time to read the whole of the Prime Minister’s letter, but there is nothing in it to justify the attitude which the Prime Minister took up.
I come now to the case of VX27248 Private L. A. Shiells who lost an eye in the early fighting, and sustained other severe wounds. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese at Amboina on the 3rd February, 1942, and, later in the year, in company with other prisoners, was moved to Hainan Island. Early in 1944 he, with other prisoners, was moved some miles inland to Hoban. On the 8th April, 1944, he was one of a party of 24 Australians who were attacked by Chinese guerrilla troops. Nine Australians were killed and ten others, of whom Private Shiells was one, were captured by the Chinese. Since the conclusion of hostilities efforts have been made to trace these men, but without success, and it is presumed that all of them must have died some time after their capture by the Chinese, but there is no evidence that any of them died on the 9th April, 1944, the date on which Shiells has been presumed to have died. On that assumption, the army authorities stopped his pay from that date and declared that Shiells’s allotment was over-paid to the amount of £234 4s., and his mother was required to refund the amount. Subsequently, it was taken by the authorities from the deceased’s estate, and the mother was paid the residue, £19 2s. 6d. I am sure that members of the Labour party are not aware that things of this kind have been happening. If they had any feeling for the men who gave their lives in defence of Australia they would not allow the dependants of those men to be robbed - one cannot use a milder word. No doubt the authorities have been merely applying a regulation, but I understood that the principle that a prisoner of war was to be assumed dead from the date of his disappearance had been abandoned while Mr. Forde was Minister for the Army. I again appeal to the Minister for the Army to review this and similar cases. The Government is spending millions of pounds in other directions without justification. .Surely it can afford to treat humanely the dependants of prisoners of war.
– I endorse everything that has been said by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) on. the subject of war prisoners and their dependants. On numerous occasions, I have drawn attention to the unfair treatment of prisoners of war by the Government, which seems to be incapable of grasping the situation. When Australian prisoners of war first gained freedom atChangi camp, representatives of the Government came amongst them, and told the men just what the Government proposed: to do for them. Having heard what was said I know that the mengained the impression that the Government intended to. treat them well. Just three years ago to-day I returned to Australia, and three months later I entered this . Parliament: Since then, I have become convinced that the Government is unsympathetic towards prisoners of war. We rememberthat the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). said that it was’ not the Government which had refused the claim of prisoners of war to 3s.a day sustenancefor the term of their imprisonment. It. had been refused, he said;by the Parliament, which had voted on the issue. That is untrue.
– The House voted on a a. motion for. the adjournment of the House to discuss the issue.
MrTURNBULL-Novotewastaken on theissue, and I challengethe Minister to prove otherwise. I am surethe public is in favour of generous: treatment of prisoners of war, . and; there is no reason why such treatment should not be given to them, when the Government is spending, money so freely in other directions. For instance, last year an amount of £146,660 was voted to defray the cost of holding a referendum on proposals for the alteration of the Constitution - something which the people did not want. In the present. Estimates it is proposed to appropriate, a further. £6,000 for the same purpose.. When: will. the. referendum be paid for? It. costs nearly as much to hold a referendum as to conduct a general, election. The Government expends money on projects: against the will of the people but in respect of matters, which “the people unanimously support, such as the provision of allowances to prisoners of war, it remains absolutely unsympathetic and. takes no action whatever. I do not say that all. honor able members oppositeare unsympathetic, but that it is the policy of the Govern ment to ignore such requests.
– Order! The time allotted for the. consideration of the remaining stages has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Lemmon), agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the service ofthe year 1948-49; there be grantedout of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £101,986,000.
Resolution reported, and adopted.
ThatMr.Lemmon and Mr. Ward do prepare and bring in a bill to carryout the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Lemmon, and read afirst time.
Motion (by. Mr. Lemmon), put -
That; the bill benow read a second time.
(MR.DEPUTYSPEAKER - MR. J. J. CLARK.)
Ayes . . … . . 31.
Noes . . . . . .21
Majority … 10
Question go resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without
Amendment or debate.
– I lay on the table rhe following paper : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Repatriation Commission - Report Cor year 1946-47.
I regret that printed copies of the report are not yet available for distribution to honorable members, who, I am sure, will appreciate the difficulties confronting the Government Printer. I table the report at this juncture in order to give to honorable members an opportunity to peruse it prior to the debate on the bill to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
Ordered to be printed.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department-
Labour and National Service - M. K. Gibson.
Shipping and Fuel - A. G. Bayly, H.G. Chesterman, J. R. Collins, E. R. Curtin, R. S. Faulkner, A.G. Maxwell, C. T. Shepherd.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Homebush, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 12.55.p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 October 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481008_reps_18_198/>.