18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. 8. Rosevear) took the cb air at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for the Army read in the press reports that Liberal party members of the United Kingdom House of Commons had tabled an amendment seeking the rejection of the National Service Sill on the- ground that the conscription system is a failure, and that it is wasteful and inefficient? If so, can the Minister say whether thai view is consistent with the view adopted by this Government in formulating its post-war defence policy?
– I have read the report mentioned by the honorable member, and I have also received a letter from (iri officer of my department in the United Kingdom informing me of the amendment. The tone of the amendment moved by members of the Opposition in the House of Commons coincides with the policy of this Government in relation to conscription. I suggest that members of the Opposition in this House should study the reasons for the decision made by their counterparts in the United Kingdom And apply them to conditions in their own country.
– “Will the Minister for Repatriation take action .to secure for the Repatriation Commission supplies of a drug for the relief of asthma called hapamine? Repatriation doctors in Queensland prescribe this drug for ex-servicemen of World War II. who are suffering from ‘ asthma, but it is not obtainable in that State. Some prescriptions specifying hapamine are dated the 12th July of this year. Repatriation patients and exservicemen’s organizations have inquired at chemists’ stores and wholesale drug establishments in Queensland but have been unable to obtain the drug. Will the Minister ensure that the commission shall be able to obtain hapamine, either in Australia or overseas, so that asthma sufferers may obtain the relief which the commission’s doctors say will be available to them if they have the drug which they cannot get?
– I shall ascertain why supplies of that drug for the relief ‘ of asthma sufferers are not available, although prescriptions allegedly specify it. I should be very surprised to learn that the Repatriation Commission has no supplies of any drug that is procurable either in Australia- or overseas, because it keeps abreast of the times and usually obtains stocks of new drugs as they become available in any part of the world. I shall ascertain the cause of the trouble and take steps to have it, remedied if that be possible.
Bradman Testimonial Cricket Match
– Wil 1 the Minister Representing the Postmaster-General say whether it is the duty of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to encourage the Australian way of life? Has the honorable gentleman seen a report in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald that the Bradman testimonial cricket match, which is to begin to-day, will not be broadcast because the Australian Broadcasting Commission has refused to pay £200 to the Victorian Cricket Association for the broadcasting rights? The Australian Broadcasting Commission is alleged to have paid £400 recently to Chico Marx, the American comedian, for one performance. In view of the fact that Bradman has been a world figure in cricket for twenty years and that thousands of people would like to hear a broadcast of the testimonial match, will the Minister, who is, I understand, a trustee, of the Melbourne cricket Ground, do his best, by making personal representations to the Australian Broadcasting Commission jointly with the Postmaster-General, to secure a review of this decision?
– I have not yet read this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, but I accept the honorable gentleman’s statement of the facts. For the past seventeen years I have been a trustee of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The great virtue of that appointment is that it is a life appointment. With the Leader of the Opposition, who is also a life appointee, I have taken part in many discussions on payments by broadcasting stations, both commercial and national, for the right to broadcast cricket and football matches. We have always found the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations to be very difficult.
Generally speaking, they want to broadcast everything for nothing; but fortunately, the Melbourne Cricket Ground is situated in the centre of a big park and they cannot just look over the fence or rent adjoining properties from which they could broadcast proceedings. If they cannot get their own way, they frequently refuse to broadcast matches. I agree with the honorable gentleman that the Bradman testimonial match is one to which Australians would like to listen. Bradman is a very big figure in cricket. It has been suggested that he might become the leader of the Liberal party at the next elections. I shall certainly do my best, jointly with the Postmaster-General, if possible, to ensure that the fame of Bradman, as a cricketer at least, is enhanced in the eyes of the Australian people by enabling them to listen to a broadcast of this match.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Commonwealth Investigation Service has kept any records of the approximate membership of the Communist party in Australia both during and since World War II? If it has done so, do the records confirm the statement that was made by Mr. L. L. Sharkey in his book, An Outline History of the Australian Communist Party, that, after the party was declared to be illegal -
There was a noticeable fluctuation in the membership; a drift out of the party; some of which no doubt was attributable to the difficulty of maintaining organizational con tact under illegal conditions.
In view of the concern that was expressed by the Prime Minister yesterday regarding the menace of communism in China and its growth in Indonesia, will the right honorable gentleman heed the menace of communism nearer home, in Australia, and reconsider his longcontinued refusal to declare the Communist party an illegal organization?
– The Commonwealth Investigation Service maintains a list of all known Communists. Of course, it has been suggested that in addition there are a number of people who are sometimes referred to as “ fellow travellers “ or “ cryptos “ ; but, generally speaking, satisfactory surveillance has been maintained over their activities. In reply to the latter portion of the question asked by the right honorable member, I thought that I had previously made my view perfectly clear; but, in case I have not, I shall repent what I have said previously. In my opinion, nothing whatever is to be gained by declaring the Communist party illegal and it would be completely futile to do so. We shall not suppress communism in . that way. I do not think that . the views which T hold on this matter could be better expressed than they were in a recent utterance by Pandit Nehru, who stated that the most effective check against the growth of communism is the improvement of social conditions in the democratic nations of the world. Pandit Nehru made that comment when referring to the dangers of communism not only to India and to Asia but also to other parts of the world. Pandit Nehru, who has given a great deal of thought to problems of this nature, is regarded as one of the half dozen most able men in the world to-day. The declaring of a particular organization as illegal will never prevent th” development of moral support for such an organization.
– Sharkey said it did.
– If the right honorable gentleman is prepared to accept the views of Mr. Sharkey as correct, I am not. Indeed, I am not prepared to accept Mr. Sharkey’s views on any matter as correct.
– Does the Minister for Immigration realize that the absorption of migrants in rural areas will assist in the assimilation of the large number of migrants which the Government is bringing to Australia? If he does, will the Minister state what action should be taken by people in. country districts, many of whom have ample accommodation for migrants, to obtain their services ?
– Officials of the Department of Immigration have conferred with some success “with representatives of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, and other rural interests with h view to having migrants absorbed on farms in country districts. However, it is necessary for us to go much farther. Before long, I hope to announce that in addition to settling Baltic migrants in areas where their skill and labour can be employed in the production of housing materials, the Government has also arranged for them to be employed in greater numbers in primary production. I shall have a statement prepared on the matter and lay it on the table before the recess.
– I have received u letter from a war widow in my electorate protesting against the gross misrepresentation of a statement made by the Minister for Repatriation, which was given wide publicity in the press, in the course of which he said that war widows with six children, three of whom are over the age of sixteen years, and three under that age receive n pension of £9 16s. a week. The writer of the letter has six children, and 3he says that instead of receiving £9 16s. a week, she receives only £5 2s. a week. The letter states -
No stone should bc left unturned to bring ^ this Minister to his senses-
– Order ! The honorable member must not digress from his question to read a letter.
– Will the Minister state how he came to make such a misstatement? If the sum of £9 16s. is paid only to war widows in exceptional circumstances, why ‘ did not the Minister make that clear when he made his statement ?
– I made no misstatement whatever concerning war widows’ pensions. The honorable member’s question is not a “Dorothy Dix “, ‘but I happen to have with me a copy of a statement that was issued to the honorable member, from which he himself could have supplied correct information to the lady who wrote the letter referred to, had he taken the trouble to do so. The facts are that a war widow with three children receives £6 2s. 6d. a week. That amount includes child endowment.
– The widow to whom I have referred has six children.
– A war widow with six children is in receipt of £9 10s. a week, which includes child endowment [f one of the children it attending the university—
– ‘The Minister is citing an exceptional case.
– The honorable member for Balaclava has asked a question, but does not like to hear the facts. The position has been misrepresented to the public, and the honorable gentleman is one of those who consorts in that misrepresentation. I shall cite, not a hypothetical, but an actual case of a war widow with three children over sixteen years of age and two under sixteen years of age who are attending educational institutions. She receives a total weekly payment of £9 0s. 6d. Her pension is £3 a week, and the domestic allowance is. Gd. a week. In respect of the first child, who is studying architecture at a university, an educational allowance of £2 a week is paid. An allowance of 30s. a. week, paid for the second child, who is attending a technical college, has been discontinued because of increased earnings. The third child, a girl, who is learning dressmaking at a technical college, receives an allowance of £1 7s. a week. For the fourth child, a pension of 1.7s. 6d. and an educational allowance of 6s. a week are payable. A pension of 12s. 6d. a week and child endowment of J.Os. a week is paid for the fifth child. A war widow with six children under sixteen years of age receives a total weekly payment, including pension and child endowment of £9 10s. a week, which, in the view of the Government and myself, is not ungenerous. The honorable member has probably cited the case of a widow with six children under the age of sixteen years.
– Three of the children are over sixteen years of age, and three of them are under sixteen years of age.
– The pension and child, endowment payable to a war widow with six children is £9 10s. a week. The widow is also entitled to the special allowances to which I. have referred in respect of children who are attending a university ‘ or are in receipt of the facilities provided through the education department of a State.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether discussions are profeeding with representatives of the British aluminium combine to squeeze out the Tasmanian Government and admit the combine into joint control with the Australian Government of the proposed plant in Tasmania? Did this move follow discussions in London by the Prime Minister, the High Commissioner, and the Minister for Supply and Development? Was the Government informed that British and Canadian interests proposed to invest £10,000,000 on an aluminium ingot production plant at Lake Manapouri, in New Zealand, if the Commonwealth did not agree to the proposed terms? Is it proposed to repeal paragraph ; of article 3 of the original agreement with Tasmania, which provides that the Australian undertaking must remain independent of any trust or combine? Are the British interests now in Canberra directly connected with the Canadian Aluminium Corporation and Alcoa, which was found guilty in the United States of being involved in a world cartel to control the production and price of aluminium?
– So far as I am aware, there are no representatives of any aluminium interests in Canberra at the moment. Mr. Cunliffe was in Australia, but he left yesterday or the day before. I had certain discussions with him, but I do not remember the High Commissioner having anything to do with the matter. It is possible that during my discussions in London the Minister for Supply and Development was present. It is hoped to develop large-scale production of aluminium in Australia. To do that highly qualified technicians are necessary. In other words, we must have what is known in engineering circles as the know how “. One of the greatest difficulties confronting the- two governments concerned is to acquire staffs that have the high technical skill necessary for the development of the industry on a large scale. The original proposal was to establish in Tasmania a plant capable of producing about 10,000 tons of aluminium a year, but it was thought that to meet existing demands the production of 5,000 tons a year would be sufficient. There have been great developments in the use of aluminium throughout the world. It is the desire of the British Government to foster the production of essential material such as aluminium within the British Commonwealth, and most certainly within the sterling or the “soft” currency areas, thus saving dollars. All that has happened up to date is that discussions have taken place between the British aluminium interests, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, myself, and certain Treasury officials who have examined proposals that hay( been advanced. I made it perfectly clear originally that before consideration could be given to any proposal that might be advanced, it would be necessary for the Commonwealth to hold a majority pf the shares in, and a majority of the directors on, any joint organization that might be established. One reason why we believe that it may not be possible to develop aluminium production in Tasmania on a. large scale is that it would involve a financial responsibility which the Tasmania^ Government would not he able to bear. The capital required would be so great that the Tasmanian Government would have to subscribe a huge sum to maintain its proportion of the investment. T do not suggest that the discussions have been completely fruitless. I am merely recounting the circumstances. As I indicated previously in this chamber, I spoke to the Premier of Tasmania personally on the matter. The Cosgrove Government in Tasmania supported the proposal in the first place because of its desire to establish secondary industries in that State and so achieve a more balanced economy. Hitherto Tasmania has been dependent mainly upon primary production. The policy of the Curtin Government and of the present Government in the Commonwealth sphere has been to balance the economies of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia by expanding secondary industries in those States, so that they will not be entirely dependent for their economic welfare upon only one form of production. While some success has been achieved in relation to Tasmania and South Australia, such has not been the case in Western Australia due to the long distances that raw material has to be conveyed. The Government of Tasmania has three representatives on the Australian Aluminium Commission. Speaking from memory, they were Mr. Benjamin, Mr. Bennett, and either Mr. Park or some other officer of the Premier’s Department of Tasmania.
– The right honorable gentleman should make a full statement on this subject at some time.
– Many questions have been asked about this matter.
– Since no limitation was placed on the question- asked by the honorable member for Reid, no limitation will be placed on the Prime Minister’s reply.
– The Premier of Tasmania has a full knowledge of all of the discussions that have taken place on this matter. At the suggestion of three Tasmanian representatives in this House - the honorable member for Darwin, the honorable member for Wilmot, and the honorable member for Franklin - I have written to the Premier of Tasmania intimating that, if this proposal is given effect to. a guarantee will be given to the Tasmanian Government that the amount of industrial activity originally envisaged in the joint arrangement between Tasmania and the Commonwealth will bc implemented. With regard to the latter portion of the honorable member’s question, I have a full knowledge of the activities of British and Canadian aluminium industries, and also the American interests to which the honorable member referred. I am also aware of the association of those industries with Australia, the Australian fabrication company. The honorable member for Reid cannot tell me any more than I already know about this subject.
– In order to obviate the considerable wastage of perishable fruit and vegetables in this country, owing to alternate periods of glut and shortages due to seasonal conditions, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether the Government has considered the establishment of quickfreeze or snap-refrigeration centres throughout Australia? I point out that refrigerating machinery is still installed in many of the smaller butter factories which have been closed down during the last twelve months, and it could be made available for the purpose. If the Government has not already investigated this matter, will the Minister undertake to make inquiries about what has been done in this regard in the United States of America, and investigate what could be done in Australia in order to put these industries on a stable footing, and at the same time ensure that prices to the consumers shall Be reasonable?
– I have heard something of the virtues of quick-freeze methods in relation to the processing of fruit and vegetables. Most of what I have heard has been from representatives of companies interested in that type of processing, and from the honorable member for Gwydir. I have not received any request from the proprietors of butter factories that have closed down - and they would be so few that the number could be counted on the fingers of the right hand - for assistance to enable them to convert their factories for use in connexion with the quick-freezing, of fruit and vegetables. I was under the impression that matters related to the quickfreeze of perishable foodstuffs could best be handled by private enterprise, and that that was the right honorable member’s philosophy on the subject. However he can rest assured that, should any request for assistance be received, it will be considered on its merits.
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform the House whether it would be possible for women migrants to be made available as resi- dent housekeepers in the homes of medical practitioners, whose work is at present being rendered more difficult because of the lack of domestic assistance?
– What the honorable member suggests is already being done. The scheme has been in operation for six months. We are particularly anxious to help medical practitioners, especially those with yoting children.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware of the shortage of proteinous foodstuffs in Australia for livestock and that there seems to be no prospect of any appreciable increase of production? Is he also aware that meatmeal, which is one of the main sources of protein for livestock, is also scarce and that the prospect of an adequate increase of supplies is not encouraging ? In these circumstances, will the Minister consider ways and means of encouraging the production of vegetable protein such as linseed, peas and beans? I mention those three; because the other sources of vegetable protein, like soya beans, which at one time gave an indication of satisfactory yields, cotton seeds and peanuts, do not give much hope of any great increase of supplies.
– It is true, as the honorable member for Flinders says, that there is a shortage of protein meals that are required urgently for the Australian poultry industry.
– And the pig industry.
– Yes, and the pig industry. That shortage applies particularly to the meatmeal protein. There is also a shortage of the protein that normally comes from vegetable products. This is serious for the poultry industry and the other industries, including the pig industry, that need protein for meal mixtures. There does not seem to be any prospect of any substantial increase of production of protein by the meat industry. If would appear that the greatest prospect of increased supplies lies in the production of peas, beans, soya beans and linseed. I am aware of the seriousness of the position. Representations have been made to me by the Poulterers Association, the honorable member for Flinders, and others. I intend to place the matter on the agenda of the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. It appears that the best prospect of dealing with the problem lies in bringing it to the notice of the State Departments of Agriculture in the hope that they will publicize the situation in order to encourage primary producers and others to go into the field of protein production. The honorable member may rest assured that I shall give the best assistance I can.
– Last week I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs a question about a customs auction sale in Sydney at which a certain lot, consisting of various articles, including key chains and watches, was sold. I asked him the name and address of the purchaser of that lot. I also asked him to describe its contents. Has he any information for me ? If not, when will he be able to give it to me?
– I regret that I did not quite hear the honorable gentleman’s question. I gather, however, that it affects the Minister for Trade and Customs, to whom I shall be glad to convey the honorable gentleman’s request for information, which will be supplied in due course.
Suicide of Australian Delegate
– I should have liked to defer my question until the honorable member for Darwin was present.
– The honorable member has been audibly complaining about not being called. Now that he has been called he wants to defer his question. Let him proceed with it.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question. I refer to Statements made in this House, particularly one that was made by the honorable member for Fremantle last night, that the recent suicide in Mexico of one of Australia’s delegates to the Unesco Conference occurred because of the effect on him of statements in this House that he was a Communist or had Communist sympathies. Is the Prime Minister aware that the medical evidence is that the suicide was due to mental derangement caused by high altitude flying on the trip to Mexico, to which the person concerned was susceptible owing to a brain injury which he had suffered in World War I.? Has the Prime Minister seen the medical report? If not will, he have the matter examined in fairness to honorable members?
– I have not seen any statements about the matter raised by the honorable member, nor did I hear anything about it last night. I presume that the gentleman to whom the honorable member has referred was Mr. Medworth who attended the conference of Unesco held in Mexico, as one of the Australian representatives. At the time, some suggestions were made by the honorable member for Reid that he was a Communist or had Communist sympathies. Probably similar statements were made also by other honorable members. I understand, as the honorable member for Parramatta has said, that Mr. Medworth was an ex-serviceman of World War I. and suffered war injuries which necessitated a head operation involving the replacement of portion of bone with a plate, and that his case was rather sad. The allegations that he was a Communist were not substantiated by evidence that Mr. Medworth, himself, ever made any statement to that effect. I was informed that after those allegations were made he was very worried and troubled and that such worry seriously aggravated his war injuries. More than that I do not know. What the Commonwealth did in the matter was to confer with the Government of New South Wales to see whether, in view of the circumstances, any compensation could be paid to his widow as an ex gratia payment, and on behalf of the Australian Government I agreed to make such a payment to Mrs. Medworth I asked the State Government to join with the Australian Government in making such a payment, but the State Government believed that, whilst it had certain obligations in the matter because Mr. Medworth had been a State employee, the circumstances did not warrant it setting a precedent by making such a payment. All I can say is that the allegations made against the late Mr. Medworth were quite unfair.
– ‘What about the medical evidence ?
– I have not seen any statement of medical evidence. I regard the whole matter as unfortunate. I have been unable to find any justification for the allegation that Mr. Medworth was a Communist or had Communist sympathies, but whether there was or was not any justification, I regard the action taken by certain honorable members in this House in respect of the matter as most deplorable.
– In view of the great dissatisfaction that exists among the citizens of Darwin because of the priority given to public servants in the allocation of houses recently constructed there, I ask the Minister for the Interior whether any order of priority has been laid down for the allotment of the next batch of houses to be built? In respect of such houses will he give priority to citizens whose houses were either bombed in the air raids in 1942 or destroyed while occupied by the armed forces and to those persons who have been ordered by the Minister to shift their abode to new sites under the new plan? Has the Minister evolved any plan to give priority in the allotment of new houses to citizens who are not public servants? If so, is it his intention, in view of the high cost of replacement, to write down the cost of new houses to purchasers by at least 50 per cent.?
– Darwin, like every other large centre throughout the Commonwealth, is suffering from a shortage of homes, though, perhaps, the shortage is more acute in Darwin than in most other centres. In order to ensure that houses shall be allocated on a fair and just basis a local committee consisting of persons with a knowledge of local conditions has been appointed to carry out that task.
– I am referring to new houses.
– And I am speaking about new houses. That committee was appointed in order to ensure that fair treatment should be meted out to all applicants. As far as I am aware, the method by which allocations have been made up to date has been fairly satisfactory. People who do not obtain houses when allocations are being made always feel that some preference has been extended to the successful applicants. I assure the honorable member that all the facts are taken into consideration before an allocation is made. I am hopeful that, as time goes on, in Darwin, as in other centres, we shall be able to overtake the leeway of house construction and house all the people as comfortably as possible.
Austra alians in japan.
– “Will the Minister for Immigration state whether it is true, as reported in this morning’s press, that Australians working for the British Commonwealth Occupation Force Army Canteens Service have been asked to hand in their passports to be endorsed “Valid for Japan and Australia only”? If the report be true, what is the reason for this high-handed attempt to limit the scope of the passports as originally issued to those Australian citizens? Does this action explain the Minister’s resistance to recent attempts to place safeguards upon the arbitrary powers at present vested in him?
– Most of the honorable member’s question is entirely irrelevant to the matter of the girls employed by the Army Canteens Service in Tokyo who are members of the Australian Army. I shall discuss the matter with the Minister for the Army, and we will do the right thing.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I regret that the Opposition has indicated that it proposes to debate this bill. I had been hopeful that honorable members opposite would allow it to be passed without delay* The purpose of the bill is to authorize the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to fix a foundational or basic rate of pay foi adult females: Tinder paragraph d of section 25 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act the court is empowered to alter the minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in an industry. In a judgment delivered on the 29th July last, the court held by a majority decision that that provision refers only to the basic wage element or factor in any prescribed female rate. Where any such prescribed rate did not specifically fix or disclose the basic wage element or ‘ factor, its fixation was in the jurisdiction of the appropriate conciliation commissioner. Once such a fixation had been made, however, its alteration became a matter for the court. The judgment of the court particularly concerned the metal trades, motor-body and coach building, furniture trade, and rubber industries. In each case the court decided that there had been no fixation of an adult female minimum wage, and that accordingly the matter was one for determination by a conciliation commissioner. Many other industries, however, are affected by the court’s decision. There are fifteen conciliation commissioners and each commissioner has had assigned to him certain industries in which females are employed. The views of the commissioners may differ about the element of the rates of pay of adult females which could be regarded as an adult female basic wage analogous to the basic wage for adult males. It is desirable that there should be a uniform approach to such an important matter and therefore this bill proposes to authorize the court, and the court alone, to fix what will be, in effect, a basic wage for adult females. The necessary alteration of section 25 involves a corresponding alteration of section 13. The only power residing in the court in relation to the female wage is the power to alter the existing female basic wage. As there has never been any female basic wage fixed in this country, the court :held ‘that it had no power with respect to the female wage. The act uses the words “ alter only “. The Government desires to amend the act so that the court will have the power to fix, as well as to alter, the female basic wage. The only alternative would be to refer the power to a conciliation commissioner. But there are fifteen conciliation commissioners, and it is necessary to have some uniformity. Neither the commissioners nor the Government regard as wise any suggestion that the fixing of a female basic wage be left for determination by the commissioners. In an extreme instance, we might have the absurdity of each of the fifteen conciliation commissioners fixing a separate and different adult female basic wage. The Government desires to give the judges of the Arbitration Court the same power to fix a female basic wage as they have to fix a male basic wage.
– Will the Minister say what effect, if any, this will have on those industries which came under emergency fixation of rates. The Minister knows to which industries I refer.
– The emergency regulations to which the honorable member has referred were made under defence powers to meet the war situation only, and they will cease to operate altogether. When they do cease to apply, there will be disharmony and discontent if we have no foundation on which to fix minimum rates for adult females. The Government wants this power to be given to the Arbitration Court to allow a majority of the justices of that court to fix the female basic wage. We thought previously that that power existed, but discovered that it did not, and we now desire to bring it into existence-
– Will the bill give the court power to deal with intra-state disputes ?
– The right honorable gentleman knows probably better than most of us that, technically, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court can deal with interstate disputes only, but he must also know that disputes very rarely remain intra-state nowadays, but very soon become interstate.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Holt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 2nd December (vide page 3963), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– in reply - This is, in essence, a very simple measure. It is an enabling bill, which provides for any division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the work of which, in the opinion of the Government, can be more appropriately performed in a department, to be transferred to that department. I have made it quite clear that at the present time the only decision that has been made by the Government is to transfer the research Division of Aeronautics Division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Department of Supply and Development. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) commended the bill. He had only two reservations. The first was that, in his opinion, the bill did not go far enough and should provide also for the screening of all officers of the Aeronautical Research Division upon their transfer to the Department of Supply and Development. I can dispose of that reservation immediately by informing the honorable gentleman that the officers of the Aeronautical Research Division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have already been “ vetted “ by the Commonwealth Investigation Service. The second reservation related to an amendment that has been foreshadowed by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) to provide that the bill should apply only to those divisions of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research which have a defence significance. I propose to deal with that in the committee stage when the right honorable member submits his amendment.
The first point that I want to make is that, by their commendation of the bill subject to the two reservations, one of which has no significance as I have already explained, all members of the Opposition who have spoken during this debate have tacitly admitted that security measures can be more adequately safeguarded in a departmental structure than in a semi-autonomous organization such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is obvious that that is so because all members of the Public Service have to take an oath of allegiance and are bound by regulation not to divulge information obtained during the course of their work. The relevant regulation states -
An officer shall not -
Then follows a proviso which is not germane to the matter under discussion. Neither of those two safeguards applies to officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research under the present act. I refer now to the statement made by Sir David Rivett in March, 1947, which was quoted by the right honorable member for Cowper. The right honorable gentleman was good enough to give me a copy of that statement, and I assume that it is correct. Sir David Rivett is reported to have said -
If national sovereignty demands the right to prepare secretly for the destruction of other sovereignties, let those who take the responsibility of making a decision to that effect keep their projects clear of those national scientific institutions in which the traditional freedom of science must be maintained.
I have no objection whatever to that statement by a distinguished scientist. In other circumstances, I might even have made it myself.
However, in the light of after events - of course, it is easy to be wise now - I think that Sir David Rivett was unwise to have made that statement at the time when it was made. First, it conveys an impression to the outside world–
– And to students.
– Yes, but I am not so much concerned with students as I am with the impression conveyed to persons overseas who are interested in these matters. The statement might convey the impression that the Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was laying down the policy of the Government. It referred to “ national scientific institutions “. It is true that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, applying the term to the organization which we have established in Australia to conduct scientific research and not restricting it only to the members of the council itself, can be described as a national scientific institution. But it should never be forgotten that the council is an instrumentality of this Parliament, established by this Parliament, and that it is for this Parliament to decide what policy shall be adopted in relation to scientific research generally. I leave the matter there because the subject is a rather delicate one and I do not want to appear to be unduly critical of ,Sir David Rivett or any other officer of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I have the very highest admiration for those officers, and I should have had no objection to the statement which I have quoted had it been made merely by a distinguished scientist. However, its association with the particular distinguished scientist who happens to be the Chairman of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research may, in my opinion, have been rather unfortunate.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition said that this measure was forced upon the Government by Opposition criticism. The honorable gentleman flatters himself unduly if he is conceited enough to believe that anything that the Opposition has done in this matter, and I include the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) with the Opposition, has forced the Government to take any action along the lines of the bill. I propose to trace the course of events leading to its introduction in order to refute the contention of the Acting Leader of the Opposition. The bill had its origin in the Government’s decision to expend £33,500,000 on defence scientific research. That decision was made a long time ago. It required the Department of Defence to undertake a form of defence activity never before undertaken in Australia, and, upon the recommendation of the head of the department, Sir Frederick Shedden, I established a defence scientific advisory committee. That was done as long ago as 1946, before the last general election and long before there was any mention in this House of questions of security in relation to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. That fact should have been known to all members of this Parliament, because I issued a pamphlet dealing with the subject. I have a copy of it here. It bears the inscription, “ Memorandum on Defence Scientific Advisory Committee: Constitution and Functions “, and is dated the 30th March, 1946. I shall read only the following extract from the pamphlet : -
The Defence Committee lias submitted the following recommendations : -
That the functions of the Defence Scientific Advisory Committee be to maintain a general survey of the scientific field and bring before the Defence Committee, the Chiefs of Staff Committee, or through the Council of Defence to the notice of the Government, scientific developments having either direct ot indirect bearing upon national defence.
Two of the members of the Defence Scientific Advisory Committee were to be the chief defence scientific adviser to the Australian Government and a representative of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. That experimental approach to what was a new function for the Department of Defence proved to be unsuccessful, and the committee was abolished some time ago. It was contended that the representative of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the Defence Scientific Advisory Committee was answerable to his four colleagues on the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Under the Science and Industry Research Act, for which the right honorable member for Cowper was responsible, the five members of the executive of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are answerable to the 21 members of the council itself. It will be recognized at once that if the representative of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the Defence Scientific Advisory Committee had to be answerable to and consult with, in the first place, his four colleagues on the executive and then go down the line from them to the full council of 21 members, it might quite easily make it impossible for adequate security measures to be enforced. I make bold to assert that no officer who is engaged in scientific research, the funds for which are provided under the authority of the Parliament, should be in a position to dictate to the Government which employs him the conditions under which he will advise that Government on defence scientific research problems. At a later stage it was agreed with the Government of the United Kingdom that we should undertake certain secret defence scientific research projects, particularly in the field of aeronautics. Once again, it became crystal clear that the semi-autonomous or near autonomous nature of our scientific research organization militated against adequate security measures being taken to safeguard vital information. Neither of the two difficulties to which I have referred, and which, I, as Minister for Defence, had to face, would have arisen if I had been able to exercise over our scientific research organization the same control as that which a Minister exercises over a government department. Some Minister, whether he be the Minister for Defence, the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, or the Prime Minister, ought to be in a position to direct those who are responsible for scientific research in this country and who are paid by the Government on the conditions under which they will co-operate in defence scientific research generally.
I have gone into some detail and gone back some way in order to make it clear to the House that this bill has not been introduced because of the criticisms that have been made by the Opposition. It did not have its origin in the slanderous attacks that have been made by honorable members opposite on the integrity and loyalty of members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It goes back to the basic problem of how to secure co-operation between the Government and a body that enjoys a large measure of autonomy in relation to the conduct of scientific research in this country,, but which was established by the Parliament itself. The introduction of this measure has nothing to do with the allegations that were made by honorable members opposite and by the honorable member for Reid regarding the integrity and loyalty of the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Cabinet discussed this matter long before questions relating to forged or stolen secret documents were asked in the Parliament. All that honorable members opposite have succeeded in doing is to undermine the confidence of the Australian, public, and, to some degree, of people overseas in the integrity and loyalty of the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. There is no question whatever as to the integrity and loyalty of Sir David Rivett and other members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. There is not a scintilla of evidence that there has ever been any leakage of information from the council in relation to the work it is doing which is of a secret or defence nature. There has been a difficulty, and I have endeavoured to explain to the House what it has been. In my opinion, it stems from the fact that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is a government instrumentality which enjoys a far wider measure of autonomy than does a department which is responsible directly to a Minister. Those are the basic reasons for the introduction of this measure. At the moment, the decision of the Government is confined to the transfer of the Division of Aeronautics from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Department of Supply and Development. I say quite frankly that that is not an ideal solution of the problem. The Division of Aeronautics has been engaged upon a variety of problems, many of which are not related to defence. I refer honorable members to paragraph xiv. of the table of contents of the twenty-first annual report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for the year ended June, 1947. That paragraph is headed “ Aeronautical Investigations “, and the objectives are set out as follows : -
Not all those matters relate to defence, and when the Division of Aeronautics of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is transferred to the Department of Supply and Development it is obvious that there can be no certainty that scientific investigation into matters not related to defence will continue to be made by the division. Honorable members will appreciate that the Department of Supply and Development is concerned only with scientific research insofar as it relates to defence. In the first place, the volume of research on matters affecting national defence which will be undertaken when the division is transferred to the Department of Supply and Development may be so heavy that sufficient scientific personnel will not be available to undertake research on matters not related to defence. Under the present arrangement the division is able to conduct research on all matters related to aeronautics whether or not they are concerned with national defence. One solution of the problem would be to retain within the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research a nucleus of officers who have been trained in this particular work, and allow them to continue to conduct investigations into matters not related to defence, and to transfer the remaining officers to the Department of Supply and Development, where they would be engaged on research connected solely with defence. However, as I have already pointed out, that would not be an ideal solution of the problem. Quite frankly, I do not know what will happen to the investigations which are at present conducted into matters not related to defence by the division. The urgency of the problem in relation to aeronautical research on defence matters is such that the Government has decided to take the step proposed in this measure. That, of course, raises a much wider consideration. The division into two separate parts of an organization of highly qualified experts, one part of which will deal only with matters not concerned with defence, and the other solely with matters relating to defence, must inevitably involve a wastage of scientific personnel. We can ill afford such a wastage under present conditions. The disadvantages attaching to the separation of the Division of Aeronautics into two parts must also apply to any other divi- sion of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research which is separated as the result of the enactment of this measure. That is why I say that the present proposal is not an ideal one. However, as I have said, the Government has been forced to take this action because of the urgency of the problem which has confronted it concerning scientific research in aeronautics related to defence which we have undertaken to carry out in agreement with the Government of the United Kingdom.
In the course of the speech which he delivered last night, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made it clear that up till now the Government had decided to transfer only the Division of Aeronautics. However, the right honorable gentleman also said that an inquiry was being made by two highly qualified individuals as to what ought to be done concerning some other divisions of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I make it quite clear that I can give no guarantee to the House that no other division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will be transferred to some other Commonwealth department. That will depend entirely on the report made by the two gentlemen who are inquiring into the matter, and on the Government’s views after considering that report.
– That is already provided for in clause 5.
– Provision for that is made in the form in which the measure has been drafted. I have dealt with broad issues-
– Who are the gentlemen making the inquiries?
- Dr. Coombs, the Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction, and Mr. Dunk, the Chairman of the Public Service Board.
– And 50 officers of the Division of Industrial Chemistry are objecting !
– I do not know how many are objecting. I have already said that the measure is an enabling one, and that, as the Prime Minister pointed out last night, the use which we will make of it will be decided only after the Government has received the report that is being prepared for it by the two gentlemen mentioned.
I have dealt with the broad issues which gave rise to the introduction of the bill, and I have endeavoured not to be too critical of members of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I can appreciate their outlook on the conduct of scientific research generally, and the need to have as large a measure of freedom as possible in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. At the same time, 1 want to make it quite clear that I have yet to be convinced that there is any great difference between the type of organization necessary to undertake scientific research and the type of organization required for the conduct of other governmental activities. If it be true that scientific research can be successfully undertaken only by an organization that enjoys a large measure of autonomy, then it is equally true that complete autonomy should be conferred on those who are entrusted with the defence of the nation, because they may be presumed to know most about defence matters. It might be suggested that we should establish an autonomous organization composed of officers from the armed services without any control-
– That is a very poor piece of reasoning.
– The reasoning may not be so poor. Anyhow, I shall not pursue the comparison. I have said that I have yet to be convinced that scientific research undertaken by the Government needs to be entrusted to a body which enjoys the autonomy possessed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I have not made a decision in the matter. Indeed, the decision will be made, not by me, but by the Government when it considers the report which is being prepared by the two gentlemen to whom I have referred. I also desire to make it clear that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has, in the past, been extremely successful in the field in which it has functioned. It has done its utmost to make available to this country all the scientific resources of Australia when they were required most in war-time. I shall read an extract from a memorandum which the executive of the
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research submitted to the Defence Committee on the matter of co-operation between the council and the defence authorities in the field of defence scientific research. The council made the following point: -
Although defence research directed to specific objectives must be undertaken, the encouragement of free general research may be of great importance to military affairs. Such war-time triumphs of applied science as radar, penicillin and the atom bomb were all based on fundamental research conducted in several laboratories before the war.
My comment on that observation is that, whilst fundamental research leads to new knowledge and creates the fund from which practical application of new knowledge must be drawn, there may be cases in which a fundamental discovery should, be kept secret because of its great importance to defence and the need to withhold it from a potential enemy.
Other paragraphs in the report make it quite clear that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is prepared, should the need arise, to place the whole organization at the disposal of the Government for the purposes of defence scientific research work generally. I want to make it clear that there has never been any question of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research or its members endeavouring to withhold from the Government all of the laboratories and staffs which are at its disposal and come under its jurisdiction, if they are required by the Government. But there remains the difficulty with which I dealt earlier as to precisely how far the great measure of autonomy enjoyed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research can be integrated into a defence policy when the Department of Defence requires certain security measures to be taken.
I have dealt with this subject on broad lines. I do not propose to reply to the arguments advanced by certain honorable members, including the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). I have come to the conclusion that that honorable member makes so many misstatements in this House that the best course for a Minister . to adopt is to ignore them. He has made accusations against Mr. Don Mountjoy, just as in the past he has made accusations against other members and officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. As I have already stated, I have been advised by the Commonwealth Investigation Service that it has nothing whatsoever against Mr. Mountjoy, and that, so far as it is aware, he has no connexion with the Communist party. I could deal with that matter in greater detail, but as the honorable member for Reid has made so many misstatements in this chamber, I have come to the conclusion that no one inside or outside the Parliament pays any attention to his remarks. For that reason, I shall not answer the allegations which he has made. That is why I have confined my remarks to broad issues.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Parts).
– This clause deals with the transfer of certain employees of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to the Commonwealth service. It reads -
Section three of the Principal Act is amended by inserting after the words “ Division 9d. - Transfer to the Commonwealth Service of certain employees of the Commonwealth.”the words “ Division 9e. - Transfer to theCommonwealth Service of certain employees of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.”.
When officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are transferred to the Public Service, they will automatically come under the control of another department and another Minister. We understand that they will be transferred to the Department of Supply and Development.
– Order! The remarks of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) are more applicable to clause 5.
– I ask the Minister (Mr. Dedman) to explain briefly whether the officers to whom I have referred will continue to conduct their researches in laboratories associated with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, or will work in separate laboratories. In other words, will laboratories be established for them as distinct from the laboratories of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research?
– I can furnish the information which the Acting Leader of the Opposition seeks when we are considering clause 5.
– If the Minister will supply the information now, it will assist me in any remarks which I may make on clause 5.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair is of opinion that the remarks by the Acting Leader of the Opposition are not strictly relevant to this clause, but are more appropriate to clause 5.
– If the Minister will reply briefly to my inquiry, I shall be satisfied.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Officers transferred from other employment under the Commonwealth).
SirEARLE PAGE (Cowper) [11.58]. - I am pleased that the Government has adopted proposed new section 33a, which will ensure that persons employed on secret defence projects shall be natural born or naturalized British subjects, and shall make and subscribe an oath or affirmation of allegiance in the form prescribed in the fourth schedule to the bill. I understand that, later, this provision will be applied to temporary employees as well as to permanent employees of the Public Service.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 -
After Division 9d of Part III. of the Principal Act the following Division is inserted: - ” Division 9e. - Transfer to the Commonwealth Service of certain employees of the Commonwealth Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. “ 81zi. The Governor-General may, from time to time,by notice published in the Gazette, declare that any work or class of work specified in the notice which is being performed under the control of the Council is work which should, on and from a date specified in the notice, be performed under the control of such Department of State of the Commonwealth as is specified in the notice and, on and from that date, that work shall accordingly be performed under the control of the Department so specified.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison) has asked whether the laboratories in which defence research work will be undertaken will be transferred from the jurisdiction of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to that of the Department of Supply and Development. That matter will depend upon whether laboratories in which the work can be done are already in existence in the Department of Supply and Development. If the department has laboratories suitable for the requirements of, say, the Division of Aeronautics, it will be possible to leave the laboratories now used by that division under the jurisdiction of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to be used for research in other branches of science. I understand that, for purposes of security, the building in which this work is undertaken is sufficiently isolated from other buildings under the jurisdiction of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The building contains certain equipment which, probably, cannot easily be transferred to any other laboratory under the jurisdiction of the Department of Supply and Development. Therefore, the existing aeronautical research laboratory will continue to be used.
– I am satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman). He has given the committee an assurance that the building in which this work is to be carried out is sufficiently isolated to guarantee complete security. That was the matter with which I was particularly concerned. Obviously if only a transfer of personnel was involved, and no steps were to be taken to preserve security, the transfer would have little or no value. The Minister has said that some of the equipment in the building does not lend itself to an easy transfer. That may be so, but I am concerned mainly with sufficient security measures being taken to give full effect to what is contemplated by this measure. I accept the Minister’s assurance on that point.
.- I move -
That, in proposed new section 81zi, after the word *’ work second occurring, the following words be inserted: - “having defence significance “.
The clause would then read - 81zi. The Governor-General may from time to time, by notice published in the Gazette, declare that any work or class of work having defence significance, specified in the notice which is to be performed under the control of the Council is work which should, on and from a date specified in the notice, be performed under the control of such Department of State of the Commonwealth as is specified in the notice, and on and from that date, that work shall accordingly be performed under the control of the Department so specified.
In moving this amendment, I wish to emphasize the point that was made by the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Mr. Dedman) in this chamber, that during the war, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research devoted all its energies to scientific aspects of war work. Dealing with this matter, Sir David Rivett himself pointed out that in wartime complete secrecy was justified and that in an all-in war effort, all available resources had to be utilized to the best advantage. He said - “ Total war “ is a horrifying phrase when it implies as it does, the unrestricted application of human knowledge to the technology of destruction of man’s life and man’s entire works.
Then he went on to point out that as the war had ended, those who were engaged in civil scientific research should be free to communicate their knowledge to other people, particularly other scientists. Because of that, the Government, quite rightly in my view, is altering the constitution of its defence research services, and bringing them under the Department of Supply and Development or the Department of Defence itself, where they should be. That is the recognized practice in almost every other country. The attitude of Russia to defence secrets is one of the main difficulties in securing a final peace settlement with the conquered nations. In view of the extraordinary potentialities of atomic energy it is essential that those engaged in atomic research should be trustworthy, highly respected, and hound to secrecy in every possible way. That is possible only in a defence organization. The whole tradition of defence organizations is the observance of secrecy. There is, of course, wide scope for other forms of research the results of which cannot constitute a danger to our country, or to the Empire. In fact, much of the work of that kind that is being done, has only been made possible because of the contribution in the field of research that has been made by other countries. For that reason, I believe that it is quite right to separate these defence and civil research organizations, but what is even more necessary, is to ensure that the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research shall not be hampered by any action which might diminish our chances of obtaining the service of eminent scientific men. Last night, I drew attention to some of the reasons for this view, and I propose now to state some more. When the original conference took place between parliamentarians, scientists, State authorities, and others associated with scientific research in Australia, the conclusion was reached that if we were to attract the best scientific minds to this country, we would have to offer more freedom than is possible in a public service. That conference recommended that the administration of the Council ‘for Scientific and Industrial Research should be in the hands of an independent council of scientific authorities, with the daytoday administration being carried out by an executive committee, appointed by the Government, but again composed of men of the highest scientific attainments. The conference also made a special point of recommending that the council’s officers should not be under the Public Service Board. That system has been adopted in Great Britain by the Medical Research Council and the Agricultural Research Council, in Canada by the National Research Council, and by the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In view of the splendid record of the Council for .Scientific and Industrial Research in this country, it would be most unfortunate if some action were taken to impose upon that body restrictions to which the other organizations that I have mentioned are not subjected. Therefore, I urge the Government to adopt my suggestion. I take it that it is the intention to follow that practice if it is at all possible to do so. I admit that there is some point in the contention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) last night that there are in such organizations as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research many people,including administrative staffs generally, who have no real connexion with scientific work, and do not see any reason why those staffs should not be subject to ordinary Public Service conditions. However, the work of scientists is individual and personal. It must be carried out under conditions that are completely satisfactory to the scientists themselves, or they simply will not do it. Most of them are not so much concerned with their remuneration as with the work that they are doing. Many scientists are men of complete abstraction. However, they have very definite views about the work that they are doing and the freedom that they need to carry it out. Therefore, I venture to say that, if these men are dealt with in a routine way, as are other administrative staffs who have a desire for permanent tenure of office, they may not be anxious to complete the work that they are now willing to do. We would attract fewer scientists, and those that were attracted might be of inferior standard, rather than scientists of the highest standing, as are those who are now engaged, and who have become worldfamous in their respective spheres. I urge the Government to consider the amendment that I have moved, because it is designed to reassure the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that there will not be any sudden or capricious taking away from them of any particular sections, and that such taking away will be ordered only after the fullest consideration, and proof to every one’s satisfaction, that it has definite defence significance. In this connexion, I shall cite the third report of the .Select Committee on Estimates in 1946-47, which was presented to the United Kingdom Parliament. I point out that that body was not composed of scientists. It merely looked at the results that could be obtained. The relevant portion of the report reads -
Your Committee are disturbed by the impression they have gained that the conditions of Government Service do not always create an atmosphere attractive to research workers or conducive to the achievement of scientific progress. This is not a matter of adjusting salaries and grades. Certain cherished freedoms are lost. Departmental control tends to have a deadening effect. Administrative routine, though an essential part of the machine, sometimes gives the impression of being devised for no better reason than to harass and put a drag upon advances. Many young scientists were temporarily employed :n Departments during the war. Some have stayed, attracted by administrative work; others have left with a sigh of relief.
That is not the position that we should desire to see eventuate in this country. There are enormous problems connected with primary and secondary industries in Australia, and we require all the help and assistance that we can obtain from every part of the world.
– Although I support the amendment that has been moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), I see the difficulties that are likely to be associated with this matter, and shall recapitulate some of them. The development of crops within Australia, and methods to combat diseases associated with the various crops in this country, form most important parts of the research carried out by scientists in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. From the information that has reached us from overseas, it is apparent that bacteriological warfare is being developed, and is now at a highly secret stage. It is possible that the home fields of an enemy country could be subjected to attack by the release of bacteria to destroy the crops and foodstuffs of that nation. Counter action would have to be taken by that country to offset such an attack. It may be that a section of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research which is experimenting with methods to combat diseases in crops, and develop greater crop production in Australia, may be switched over to a defence project. In that event it would have to shelve all of the experiments in progress, because it may be considered an integral part of the defence scheme to immediately evolve ways and means of raising and developing bacteria for offensive purposes, and to develop counter techniques. Although the committee may not know the precise strides that are being made ‘ in bacteriological warfare, it is known that great concentration is taking place in regard to it. It seems to me that until such time as it is necessary for a section to be transferred to defence research work, it should be permitted to maintain developmental work within the department, untrammelled, and unhampered by any controls which may flow from the transfer of a section for purposes other than defence. Indeed, because of the extraordinary sensibility of scientists engaged in this type of work, the mere threat that their activities might subsequently be controlled by a department other than that to which they have already been subject, may have an effect on the work that they are carrying out. We know the sensitiveness characteristic of those who devote mental energy to the solution of intricate problems. Normally they would rather be untrammelled in their investigations and the interchange of views which must, of necessity, take place throughout the world in regard to matters of great domestic moment to every nation. We should not aggravate the position in any way. We should make it perfectly clear that the system which has paid great dividends to Australia . in the past relating to the employment of scientists in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Eesearch shall be continued in the future. If, as time goes on, the transfer of a section for defence purposes is warranted, that in itself would deny to us the right to consult again with and other nation in regard to the particular developmental researches on which they were engaged, because it would become highly secret, and subject to controls to maintain secrecy. Whilst I support, without qualifications, the amendment that has been moved by the right honorable gentleman, I recognize the possibility of an immediate move becoming necessary on the part of the Government if preparation for bacteriological warfare develops to the extent .that we must concentrate on it for defensive, and counter-offensive purposes. If this amendment is adopted, the clause will provide fully for any power that the Government may wish to exercise in that connexion. The Government could take over a section for defensive purposes, having proven that that was necessary for the security of this country.
– Whilst I support the amendment that has been moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), I contend that the proposed new section should be deleted. That would have the effect of relieving the minds of officers who have already voiced their concern in this matter. They are wondering whether they will be permitted to carry on the research that they have in hand. But I sympathize with members of the Government, particularly the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) in the dilemma in which they find themselves. This “ interference Government “, as it can aptly be called, is so determined on a policy of regimentation that the clash is on. Through the years honorable gentlemen opposite have decried defence and inculcated in the minds of the youth of Australia the belief that defence is to he scorned. Then suddenly finding that Australia is no longer an isolated continent and that defence or war is global, they do not know how to get out of their dilemma. Because America and England came to our rescue during the crisis, they feel now that they must play a part in global defence, but, not being willing to bring the youth of Australia to a sense of responsibility, they must depend on others -particularly the scientists, to help them out of their difficulty and give them. a semblance of a defence policy. Being ignorant of the mental outlook of scientists, they are applying their policy of regimentation to the last gasp. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been criticized. I was not a party to that criticism. In view of it, however, it was pleasing to receive a letter signed by 50 members of the Industrial Research Division of the Council for
Scientific and Industrial Research Every one of us received a copy. That letter gave me the greatest confidence in the officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It shows how much they differ from the communistic outlook of this Government and the Minister for Defence. The Government believes that in order to obtain co-operation from these scientific workers, it must convert them to its own ideology. In other words, it must make Communists of them before it can regiment them.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Clark).Order !
– Well, that is the position.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the clause and the amendment. He is carrying the discussion far too wide of the subject before the Chair.
– These men have objected to being regimented. They have set out their objection in bold type in a letter sent to every honorable member. Both the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) and I quoted from the letter in our second-reading speeches yesterday. I support the amendment, but I hope that the Government will delete the proposed new section so that the scientific workers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research shall be assured of flexibility and be removed from the fear that by this hole-in-corner method they will be transferred from their individualistic work and regimented, as the Government proposes to regiment the rest of the Australian people.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). As a matter of fact, the Government did consider whether the bill should be drafted to include the very words that the right honorable gentleman proposes to insert, but it discarded that idea for two reasons. One reason was ably explained by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), when he said that divisions of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research engaged on work of a purely peace-time character might discover something militaristically important, necessitating their transfer to another department. The right honorable member for Cowper suggests the insertion of the words “ having defence significance “ in order to give some kind of assurance to officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that they will not be transferred to some Public Service department unless the work on which they are engaged has defence significance. The 21st annual report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for the year ended the 30th Tune, 1947, has a table of contents containing 23 main heads under which there are many sub-heads. Let honorable members choose at random any one of them and try to decide for themselves whether any of the matters mentioned could not at some time or other have a defence significance. Consider for example “XII. Electro technology “. Under that heading, there are nine subdivisions - “General”, “Direct Current”, “Alternating Current”, “Audio Frequency “, “ Radio Frequency “, “ Properties of Materials “, “ Applied Electronics “, “ Mathematical Instruments “ and “ Publications “. Under the next heading, “ Physics “ there are eight items. There are also eight items under the heading, “ Aeronautical Investigations “. There are ten items under the heading, “ Industrial Chemistry”, fourteen under the heading, “ Radio Physics “, six under the heading, “ Tribophysics “, and eight under the heading, “ Other Investigations”. If honorable members examine all the subject-matters that are now being investigated by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. they will see that it is possible that every one of them could at any time have defence significance. So the inclusion of the words proposed to be inserted would not protect officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research against transfer, because their work at any time may have defence significance. Moreover, if we were to accept the amend ment and later transferred a division of the Council for .Scientific and Industrial Research to some Public Service department, we should give notice to the world, including potential enemies, that it had discovered something of defence significance. The fact of its transfer would show that the division was engaged on work intimately associated with defence. In other words, we should give vital information to our enemies. For that reason, as well as for the earlier reason explained so well by the Acting Leader of the Opposition, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment.
– The last statement of the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Mr. Dedman) was the most ludicrous ever made in this Parliament. It indicates that the Government is like an ostrich with its head in the sand on the subject of scientific research. The Minister should know that every scientific journal makes known the progress of science all over the world. The Minister referred to 20 or 30 divisions of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and said, “ Sooner or later one or other of them will come within the ambit of defence and therefore we shall have to take them over”. That statement is equivalent to giving notice to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research that it will be wound up. This bill has been described as an enabling bill. It certainly is an enabling bill, for it enables the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to have its throat cut. The excuse given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was that the GovernorGeneral would have to do this particular work of homicide. What is the position ? All honorable members who have been Ministers know what really takes place. A Minister submits certain recommendations to the Cabinet, and if he is competent he is seized with all the relevant facts and is able to get his recommendation approved. Thus, the Minister, not the Prime Minister, who will exercise only general supervision over the work, will determine the action to be taken. I am surprised at the attitude the Government has adopted towards the amendment. At first, the Government said that it was worth considering, but the Minister has just given two paltry reasons for rejecting it.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Sir Earle Page’s amendment)be so inserted.
The committee divided. (Thechairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - byleave-read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 26th November (vide page 3592), on motion by Mr. Pollard -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Under this measure it will be possible for the board to commandeer all stocks of hides in Australia. It appears that the freedom of the individual producer will be completely ignored in areas which may be proclaimed under the measure. All hides within any area so proclaimed will be taken over completely, and will be appraised and sold through the board. The board is to consist of six growers’ representatives and, in addition to the chairman, five other members who will represent the employers and employees in the tanning industry. This bill will take away from the producers freedom to sell or dispose of their hides in Australia and overseas. I regret that in framing it the Minister has made no attempt to remove an anomaly which has been the cause of a great deal of irritation amongst hide-growers. In making up their invoices for saddlers and other purchasers of leathers, tanners add a line at the bottom which reads “ Plus surcharge of 20 per cent “. None of the proceeds of the surcharge goes to the growers of the hides. The surcharge represents a big factor in the purchase price of manufactured leather goods. It is reflected in the price of boots and shoes for school children about which so much complaint is made to-day. The whole of that surcharge should not be retained by the tanners. The price of tanned hides should be fixed on the basis of the price paid to the growers. The bill provides for the acquisition of hides by the board and for the licensing of persons to buy, sell, or otherwise deal in hides, and for the licensing of exporters of hides and leather. Only such hides as the board permits may be exported. The board is to consist of a chairman and eleven members representative of cattle raisers, brokers, hide merchants, meat works, tanners and the employees engaged in the industry. The members of the board are to hold office only during the pleasure of the Minister. Whilst the hill has some features which commend it, I regret that opportunity was not taken to remove the anomaly Which results from the imposition of the surcharge to which I have directed attention.
SirEARLE PAGE (Cowper) [12.45].- The purpose of this measure is to carry into peace-time for an indefinite period a war-time arrangement for the handling of hides and leather. Although that arrangement had a great deal to commend it as a war-time measure, its continuance indefinitely in the post-war years, should not be authorized until all those connected with the cattle and stock industry have signified their approval of the proposal. They should have been consulted in this matter as were the wheat-growers in respect of the wheat stabilization plan. For a long time the Government refused to consult the wheatgrowers about its stabilization plan, but it was finally forced to do so and was fortunate that a majority of the growers favoured the plan. When the Dairy Products Export Control Board was first established the dairy-farmers were similarly consulted. They were again consulted when the control of dairy products was extended in 1934. Shortly after the commencement of the war all hides, yearling and calf skins were acquired by the Government at ceiling prices fixed by Professor Copland. The board then established to control their acquisition and distribution is still in existence. The acquired hides were distributed to tanners for the production of leather for local consumption, a percentage being reserved for export. The price then fixed for leather was based on the local ceiling prices for hides and skins. A levy was imposed on all leather exported from hides distributed to tanners at local fixed ceilings the proceeds of which were paid to the board. Later, hides available for export were purchased fromtheboard by tender at the export parity price, the difference between the local ceilings and export parity being paid into the funds of the board. Distributions of the funds standing to the credit of the board were made to the producers of hides and skins by way of a percentage addition to the fixed localceilings over the values originally fixed by Professor Copland. That addition varied from5 per cent. to 25 per cent. The costs of administration and distribution of hides, yearlings and calf skins were made a first charge on the funds of the board. That scheme was of great assistance in stabilizing the price of hides and skins in Australia. It enabled hides and skins to be sold here at very much lower prices than obtained in other parts of the world. In Australia the price varies between 6d. and 8d. per lb., compared with more than 20d. per lb. in other countries. The difference between the local price for hides and that which would have been obtained had all hides been sold at export parity amounted to approximately £50,000,000 during the years 1940 to 1947. That indicates the value of the contribution made by this industry towards price stabilization in Australia. I would have no objection to the measure if that stabilization scheme were still in operation. Unfortunately, however, the scheme was abandoned some time after the end of the war. What I wish to ascertain from the Minister iswhether, should this board come into existence, there is to bo discrimination between the price obtainable in Australia for hides and what could be obtained overseas, and whether there will be any embargo on the export of hides to available markets overseas. I consider that, if there is to be a restriction on the export of hides overseas, the Government shouldvery definitely provide a subsidy to make up to the producer the difference between the homeconsumption price and what could be obtained overseas. I also consider that it should be made certain that, if the producers of hides are to receive less for their product by selling it on the home market instead of overseas, the difference in price should be passed on to the people through lower prices for footwear and other leather goods. I am in favour of orderly marketing, and if the Minister can assure me on those points I am willing to support the measure.
Mr.TURNBULL (Wimmera) [12.52]. - I support the remarks of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). If the Minister can show that this bill will be of benefit to the producers of hides I shall support it, but it appears to me that the board is tohave very wide powers and that its members will be appointed by the Minister from nominations submitted, in certain instances, by the appropriate Ministers in the States. I ask for leave to continue my speech at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Twentysecond Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1947-48, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Twentythird Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1047-48, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Twentyfourth Annual Report of the Dried Fruits Control Board, for year 1947-48, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
House adjourned at 12.62 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 December 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481203_reps_18_200/>.