18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service regarding the wool handling dispute in Sydney. Has there been any further development in the negotiations on this dispute?Can the Minister inform me of any developments?
– There were further negotiations yesterday in Melbourne between the federal secretary of the Storemen and Packers Union and a representative of the Employers Federation, Mr. Gibson, in the presence of a conciliationcommissioner. As a result of that conference, which was a long one, an official conference will take place tomorrow morning in Melbourne at 11.30 o’clock when, it is hoped, a settlement will be reached.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the Government has received any of the proceeds from the sale of the Burma-Siam railway? Have Australian prisoners of war who helped to construct that railway under the most appalling conditions, of have their relatives, shared in any such proceeds? If the Government has not shared in the proceeds of the sale will it make the necessary representations to obtain its due share and distribute the amount received among the Australians who helped to build the railway, or their next of kin?
– The answer to the first question is that the Government has received no payment in respect of the sale of the Burma-Siam railway. The answer to the second question, concerning the distribution’ of any amount among Australian soldiers who worked on the railway, is also “ No “. I shall have some inquiries made regarding the third question raised by the honorable gentleman, andshall supply him with an answer later.
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing give the House any information about the availability of heavy road-making plant so urgently required by many shire councils?Can the Minister assist shire councils to obtain heavy road -grading machinery?
– For a period the heavy equipment referred to by the honorable member was controlled by my department, but that control has been discontinued because of the result of the referendum on prices control last year. The distribution of heavy road-making plant is now the responsibility of the various States. There is an allocation made by the dollar committee for a certain quantity of this type of machinery to be imported each year. I shall endeavour to discover the amount of such machinery being imported, and the identities of the importers, and inform the honorable member accordingly.
The honorable member for Bendigo having asked a disallowed question,
– Order ! The honorable gentleman knows the rules governing the asking of questions. The honorable gentleman’s question is quite out of order.
– May I recast my question ?
– Honorable gentlemen who continually ask questions of the character of that which I have just disallowed will have great difficulty in obtaining the call to ask a further question.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed in this morning’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald a report of what purports to be an account of an interview between himself and Mr. Anthony Eden that took place yesterday? “Will the right honorable gentleman say whether in the course of that interview Mr. Eden discussed the relations existing between Australia and the Netherlands, and expressed concern at the situation? If so, I ask whether Mr. Eden is here as an envoy of the United Kingdom Government, and whether his approach is official ?
– My press secretary drew my attention to the article in question immediately prior to lunch, and I told him to inform those who were responsible for it that it was a complete fabrication. It is quite true that Mr. Eden and I conversed for an hour yesterday after noon and that our conversation covered a number of world events, but no reference was made to the discussions which have taken place between the Netherlands Government and the Australian Government or to our attitude towards that Government. I understand that Mr. Eden is visiting Australia as a private citizen to make observations and to gather impressions, possibly in the interests of his own political party. However, I think that those who know Mr. Eden at all realize that in the circumstances under which he is visiting Australia he is too decent to make any observations of the kind mentioned in the newspaper report.
– In view of the treatment meted out by the Department of Repatriation to ex-servicemen who are suffering from war neurosis, and of the fact that many of them who are patients in public asylums, as well as exservicemen’s associations, have repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the administration of the department by the Minister for Repatriation, will the Prime Minister investigate the situation with a view to obtaining justice for all ex-service men and women?
– I have not seen any published statements concerning the matters mentioned by the honorable member, but I have been informed that certain resolutions were adopted by one of the ex-servicemen’s organizations. 1 merely remark that my colleagues and I have complete confidence in the Minister for Repatriation. I have previously been informed by representatives of exservicernen’s organizations that he is the most sympathetic, understanding, and informed Minister who has yet administered the Department of Repatriation.
– Can the Prime
Minister say whether the Commonwealth Investigation Service has been ordered to examine certain documents produced in this House last night by the Minister for Information with a view to ascertaining whether they have been stolen or are forgeries?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “ No “.
– With regard to the disclosures made last night by the Minister for Information relating to the source of the Lang party funds, has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the statement in to-day’s press, by Mr. H. D. Ahem, deputy chairman of the New South Wales Constitutional League, that the Australian Constitutional League of New South Wales does not now exist and that his organization had no association with it? Will the Minister elucidate the nature of the organization referred to by him in these disclosures?
– I saw a statement in this morning’s press that the Australian Constitutional League of New South Wales no longer exists and that the New South Wales Constitutional League is an entirely different body. That may be right - I do not know. I have a pretty shrewd idea - what Carlyle called a preternatural suspicion - that the people who ran the first-named organization also run the second one. I know that the documents which I produced here last night were genuine because each one of them is stamped with a rubber stamp which reads, “Audited by David Fell and Company, Auditors, Sydney”. I presume that that company was the auditor of the Australian Constitutional League of New South Wales and is also the auditor of the New South Wales Constitutional League. The change in the name of the organization is just like the change of name that occurs when the Liberal party becomes the LiberalCountry party, or, in short, the Dutch party.
– Has the Minister for
Works and Housing had time to examine the complaints mentioned yesterday by the honorable member for Wentworth about the construction of a war service home in Sydney?
– Yes. Within a few hours of the complaints being mentioned in this House, the contractor concerned, who was very incensed at the reflections passed upon his work, offered to buy back the home, which has been lived in for three months, for £300 more than was paid to him for building it. That is evidence of his confidence in the way the house was constructed. The design of the house was chosen by the applicant.
– I did not refer to the design.
– Order ! Yesterday, the honorable member for Wentworth read a long extract when asking his question, and if there was no reference in it to the design of the house, it was about the only thing that was omitted.
– The design was not one of those in the book of standard designs, but was especially adapted to meet the wishes of the woman herself. In fact, three separate designs were made before she was satisfied. It was a good design, and more trouble was taken over it than over most others. It was said that the roof leaked. The roof is constructed of first-quality Wunderlich tiles, and the general standard of workmanship was stated to be 100 per cent. by the two architects who inspected it. The woman complained that the colour of the walls - which, incidentally, she had chosen herself - gave her a headache, and she blamed the War Service Homes authorities. She complained that the shelf in the medicine cupboard was made of compressed paper which bent when weight was put on it. The shelf is of ordinary masonite, 4 inches by 15 inches. As for complaints about the damaged copper, the evidence is that the damage was done by the tenants themselves. After a complete inspection of the house had been made, the occupier signed a declaration on the 17th August, 1948, that he was completely satisfied with it. The contractor is a first-class man and, so far as I am concerned, I hope that he will build many more houses for returned servicemen. Questions asked by irresponsible members of Parliament-
– The Minister must not refer to members of this House as irresponsible.
– I withdraw the word “ irresponsible “. Questions of the kind asked yesterday by the honorable member for Wentworth tend to make good, honest building contractors refuse to build houses for the War Service Homes authorities. Those who ask such questions are doing a disservice to exservicemen, for whom we are trying to provide homes.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Immigration. I have received inquiries from people of German descent living in Australia who wish to bring to this country relatives at present living in Germany. When they inquired of the Department of Immigration, they were told that, because a treaty of peace had not yet been concluded with Germany, Germans could not be admitted to Australia unless they were of Jewish stock, and had relatives in Australia. That is the information that has been given to me by the Minister’s department. In view of the probability of a very long delay in the drafting of a peace treaty, due to differences between Russia and the Western Powers, cannot some steps be taken by the Austalian Government to ensure that desirable types of German immigrants will be permitted to come to Australia?
– I wish that the honorable gentleman would take notice of what officers of the Department of Immigration tell him. He could then recite the facts faithfully and truthfully to this House.
– I rise to order. I have endeavoured to relate the facts as faithfully as possible.
– That is a personal explanation, not a point of order.
– The Department of Immigration has never informed the honorable gentleman or anybody else that the only people who can be’ admitted to Australia from Germany are those of Jewish faith. That is an anti-Semitic outburst on the part of the honorable gentleman. The truth of the matter is that the honorable gentleman was told that the only people that are admitted from Germany at the present time are female relatives of persons already settled in this country, whether they are of Australian birth and British nationality, or of German birth and now either stateless citizens of one sort or another or persons who have become naturalized British subjects. All such stateless persons have been admitted from Germany, provided that they suffered persecution at the hands of Hitler for religious, racial, or political reasons. If the honorable member puts the interpretation on that information that only Jewish people are admitted, he is entirely wrong, because quite a number of socialists of pre-war Germany, both Austrians and Germans, have been admitted to Australia. Numbers of people who have suffered persecution for political reasons and have no Jewish blood at all have been admitted. We have no antagonism towards the German people, and have adopted the same attitude towards Germans as we did to Roumanians, Bulgarians, Italians, and other ex-enemy people who have expressed a desire to come here since the end of the war. We did not regularize the admission of any of those people until peace treaties had been signed. There may be some merit in what the honorable gentleman has suggested in regard to the delay in signing a peace treaty with Germany. Because of the long delays that have occurred in the signing of that treaty, perhaps some more sympathetic attitude might be adopted with relation to the numbers of German people who desire to come here. While I was in Germany in 1947, I saw the plight of the German people. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction have also had an opportunity to visit Germany since the war and have observed conditions there. Under the Potsdam Agreement, as the Prime Minister was told recently in England, 11,000,000 people have been displaced from their homes in various parts of Europe, and many of them are congregated in the American, British and French zones of Germany. Probably the Leader of the Opposition also heard of their plight when he was in Germany last year. There are 3,000,000 people from the Russian zone of Germany now living in the Western zones, and there are hundreds of thousands of people known as Volksdeutsch, as distinct from Reichdeutsch, who are both homeless and helpless, in the British,
American and French zones of Germany. We are anxious to render what assistance we can, but before we can do anything for these people, who are covered, I presume, by the honorable member’s question, we must have some guarantees of housing accommodation. We insist upon that in respect of all aliens, except those who come here under the displaced persons scheme. I view sympathetically every request made by people in Australia who wish to bring female relatives to this country out of what is left of wartorn Europe. If the honorable gentlemen will give me specific cases, I shall be very glad to see whether I can help those of whose behalf he makes representations.
– I desire to make a personal explanation arising out of a statement that the Minister has just made that I did not truthfully and faithfully represent this matter. I referred to a specific case which had been taken up by my secretary in .Sydney, a young lady in whom I have great confidence, and who is well known to you, Mr. Speaker. She sent to me the following note in regard to the case of a man named Gerard Baer : -
I rang Immigration and was told that only daughters, sons and fiancees, if Jewish, were permitted to come in.
– That is deliberately untrue.
– I do not say that that statement correctly sets out the position. I am merely repeating what my secretary was told. If other people throughout Australia are being similarly advised by the officers of the Department of Immigration, how are they to ascertain the position? I was completely within my rights in trying to obtain from the Minister himself a proper explanation of the Government’s policy.
– Why not come up and see me sometime?
– In view of the decision that all applicants for a passport must produce a birth certificate, will the Minister for Immigration say whether the same rule applies to persons applying for admission to this country? Or, is that ruling to be interpreted as meaning that a birth certificate must be pro duced by persons before they leave Australia, but not by persons about to enter it? If not, will he give an assurance that all recent entrants have been able to produce their birth certificates? In the future will persons who have entered without producing such papers be denied a passport to leave for that reason; or does the Government’s ruling apply to Australian citizens only and not to aliens?
– I think that I explained last week that the requirement that Australians shall produce .birth certificates is complementary to the legislation passed in the last sessional period to establish Australian citizenship. Since this matter was raised last week I have found that all countries require their citizens about to travel abroad to produce birth certificates before they can be issued with passports. Australia is really only coming into line with all other countries in that respect. We are trying to make it as easy as possible for people who want passports to meet our requirements. The difficulties that have been created by the new legislation are not very serious after all, and when the transition period passes there will be no problem for anybody. The honorable member, therefore, need not be concerned about people who desire to go out of Australia being required to produce their birth certificates or about people who come into Australia, possibly, not -being required to produce birth certificates to the authorities in the country to whic’h they belong before they are issued with passports. I cannot give him any guarantee that people brought here under the displaced persons scheme will be able to produce their birth certificates, because they are living in countries other than their own and it will be impossible for them to obtain their birth certificates. They are brought here under certificates of exemption and must remain here for two years and work where we require them to work. They have to be “ vetted “ by medical and investigation officers before they pass into our transit camps. We have to be certain of them before we decide even to put them on the schedules of persons coming to this country. The honorable gentleman need not worry. Everything is being done that ought to be clone to protect the interests of this country in respect of those who leave this country and those who come here.
Tennant Creek Town Site and Water Supply
– Will the Minister for the Interior state whether it is true, as reported in the press, that it is the intention of the Government to remove the residents of Tennant Creek to another town site? Is the honorable gentleman prepared to make a statement regarding the domestic water supply at Tennant Creek? Is it the intention of the Government to build a dam in the hills near the town, or does it propose to develop a more comprehensive scheme by locking Haywood Creek north of the town?
– It is true that there has been some agitation regarding the town site of Tennant Creek but no decision has been made by the Government to remove the residents of the town to another centre. In order to ascertain the views of all interested people, the Administrator of the Northern Territory agreed to the appointment of a local committee to make recommendations on the matter. The recommendations made by the committee will be submitted to me by the Administrator before any decision is reached in relation to the site of the town. As the honorable member is aware, the problem of providing an adequate water supply at Tennant Creek has been disturbing the minds of the responsible authorities for a considerable period. Additional bores have been sunk with a view to increasing the supply. Recently, an experimental dam was constructed and I understand that immediately it was completed it was filled with water as the result of heavy rain. No final decision has yet been made concerning the provision of a permanent water supply at Tennant Creek, because that matter cannot be determined until a decision has been made with respect to the selection of the town site. Immediately the report of the committee which is at present investigating the position is made available, I shall be glad to inform the honorable member of its contents.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether anything has been done with a view to settling the present dispute affecting slaughtermen in South Australia?
– Yes, steps have been taken with a view to settling that dispute which threatens to cause a meat famine in South Australia. Representatives of the employers and employees concerned met in private conference all day yesterday but failed to reach agreement. Later, the matter was referred to the Arbitration Court and it will probably be submitted to Conciliation Commissioner Kelly, who usually deals with matters appertaining to the meat industry. I trust that a settlement willbe the result.
– A fortnight ago I asked the Attorney-General whether his department had made any inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the alleged disappearance of Ainslie St. Aubyn Kingsford, and he replied that he had no personal knowledge of the matter but would investigate it and would supply me with a full statement. As I understand that the Attorney-General will leave shortly for abroad, I ask the Prime Minister whether his colleague will be in a position to make that full statement before he leaves ? If not, will the Prime Minister supply to the House the statement which the Attorney-General has promised ?
– I remember the honorable member addressing his question to the Attorney-General who indicated that he had no knowledge of the matter at that time. I am not aware whether he has had inquiries made, but I presume that he has done so. I shall take up the matter immediately and supply to the honorable member whatever information is available.
– Many councils and municipalities are finding that the taxable property within their boundaries is diminishing, owing to the acquisition of properties by the Australian Government. Will the Minister for the Interior inform me whether the Government intends to proceed with the acquisition of a whole block of land and buildings in the City of Melbourne?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is “Yes”.
– The big national undertakings, especially dams for hydroelectric and irrigation schemes, which the Government proposes to carry out, will require large quantities of iron and steel. Will the Prime Minister endeavour to ensure that States like Tasmania, which is committed to vast hydro-electric schemes requiring iron and steel, shall not suffer a reduction of their steel supplies ?
– When I dealt briefly with steel supplies >a few days ago, I indicated that our production capacity was 500,000 tons per annum, and I said that it was still possible to produce an additional quantity. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which is engaged in the production of steel, I understand, has plans for further expansion. The difficulty, quite frankly, is the provision _ of the necessary coal, and every effort is being made to accelerate coal output. The allocation of steel supplies among the respective States rests entirely with the company, but representations have been made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and, on some occasions, by me, to (insure that the various States shall receive, in special cases, extra supplies or at least a reasonable share of the available steel.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to a report that a new underground telephone cable is to be laid between Melbourne and Sydney. As there are many tens of thousands of applicants for telephones, will the honorable gentleman ask his colleague to consider delaying the construction of that cable and diverting the labour and materials that would be utilized on that work to provide telephones and the necessary installations for those people? One of the two main reasons that have been given why the demand for telephones cannot be satisfied is the great shortage of labour and materials.
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Postmaster-General, but I cannot accept his proposition that the laying of the cable between Melbourne and Sydney is an alternative proposal to the provision of facilities for people who require telephones and telephone services and who, possibly, will not be supplied with them because of the decision of the department to construct the underground cable. There may be good defence reasons why telephone cables should be laid underground. I assure the honorable gentleman that, even while the cable is being placed underground, the department is providing more telephones as rapidly as possible.
– It is very slow.
– It is not. The Postmaster-General’s Department has achieved a most creditable performance.’ Since Senator Cameron became PostmasterGeneral, more telephones have been installed in Australia probably than in any other similar period of years since federation. I shall obtain the information that the honorable member requires as soon as I possibly can.
– As a result of the desperate shortage of Australian manufactured cement, people in Queensland, particularly in the northern part of the State, have found it necessary to place orders for cement in the United Kingdom. That cement will cost about £2’ 10s. a ton more than Australian cement. Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs ask his colleague to give consideration to the waiving of customs duty on such cement in order that it may be imported at a cost near the price of Australian cement?
– I shall be glad to convey the text of the question to the Minister for Trade and Customs and ascertain ‘his view of the request.
Mr. j. Healy.
– In the absence of the Attorney-General, I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact, as reported, that because the Communist member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, Mr. Healy, left for Perth he prevented the commission from sitting to consider whether certain disciplinary action should be taken in relation to a Queensland strike matter. Is it a fact that Conciliation Commissioner Mr. J. A. Portus left New South Wales for another State without notifying the parties to a Sydney dispute of his departure? Is it a fact that Mr. Portus had previously asked the parties to report back to him? Is any direct supervision exercised over conciliation commissioners or are they at liberty to wander throughout Australia regardless of urgent duties in connexion with the settlement of strikes? Is the Communist member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission also at liberty to hamper conciliation?
– I cannot supply the honorable member with full information on all of the questions that he has asked. The Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral tells me that the suggestion regarding the conciliation commissioner is quite wrong. However, as a number of questions are involved, I had better obtain full information on all points and inform the honorable member as soon as possible.
– Is it correct to state that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has stated in a recent speech that poisoning is the most effective method of dealing with the rabbit menace and that wire netting is not effective?
– What I said in the speech referred to was as follows: -
If all the wire-netting in the United States was brought to Australia we could not end the rabbit plague, because it would take donkeys’ years to erect it. Wire netting alone cannot overcome the plague. What is required is poisoning, fumigating, digging out and trapping.
Those are the exact words that I used. I have noticed that the Young Pastures Protection League was reported in the
Sydney Morning Herald of the 13 th February as having declared that a simple remedy for the rabbit plague was ceaseless killing by every available means. That supports my view. I have noticed also that Mr. J. Gorman, vice-president of the Victorian Wheat Growers Association, was reported on the 3rd February as having said-
If all the netting in the world was imported it would not destroy one rabbit unless it fell on it.
That also supports my view. I assume that the honorable member’s question was based on a letter published in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald which misrepresents what I said. Incidentally, I have noticed a report that the Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr. Treatt, has said that the Liberal party has started a State- wide agitation for control of the rabbit menace and has “ swung Federal and State Ministers into action “. In a report to the Bathurst Pastures Protection Board, a rabbit inspector said that the property of Mr Treatt-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Hume has asked the Minister whether it is correct that he said that poison was the most effective method of dealing with the rabbit menace and that wire netting was not effective. The matter with which the Minister is now dealing is completely foreign to the question.
-There is no point of order involved.
– In a report to the Bathurst Pastures Protection Board, a rabbit inspector said that Mr. Treatt’s property was heavily infested with rabbits, although it was all netted. The property consists of 200 acres, so it is a very nice block. If it is all netted, it is quite obvious that the netting of properties does not solve the problem of the rabbit plague.
– Order ! The Minister has netted sufficient information.
-Willthe Prime Minister say whether, having regard to the notorious shortages of building materials, cement, wire netting, rabbit poison, telephones and other necessities, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction has justified its existence, and, if so, in what way?
– The honorable gentleman’s question is a facetious and not a serious one. It is recognized by all who have had any dealings with the Department of Post-war Reconstruction that it has done a magnificent job and is continuing to do so. A leading executive of the Returned Servicemen’s League has expressed to me his very deep appreciation of the department’s activities.
Mr BARNARD (Bass- Minister for
Repatriation) [3.7]. - Pursuant to the provisions of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Repatriation Commission - Report for year 1947-48. and move -
That the paper be printed.
It has been customary in the past to have a report such as this printed and copies made available to honorable members. I have not been able to have that done on this occasion.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harbison) adjourned.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say whether the Copabella and Yarara estates are to be acquired for use under the war service land settlement scheme?
– The two properties to which the honorable member for Hume has referred are to be acquired for the purposes of the Commonwealth war service land settlement scheme. Proposals to this effect were submitted to me by the New South Wales Government and I have this week approved of the acquisition of the properties for that purpose.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, with the statement that I have received representations from several shire councils regarding the shortage in Australia of . 22 rifle ammunition. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has advocated the killing of rabbits by all possible means, and shooting is a very important means of destruction. Will the Minister give serious consideration to the granting of licences for the importation of supplies of . 22 rifle ammunition from hard currency and other areas in order to assist in dealing with the rabbit menace ?
– Not only is local production of . 22 calibre rifle ammunition increasing, but also the Department of Trade and Customs has issued licences for the importation of this ammunition in large quantities.
– For country areas ?
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Sessional Order relating to the Order of Business be suspended to enable Notice of Motion No. 1, Government Business, to be proceeded with forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to facilitate the proceedings of the royal commissioner appointed to hold an inquiry with respect to certain matters in relation to timber rights in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As all honorable members are aware, His Excellency the Governor-General, on the 11th January last, appointed a royal commissioner to inquire into and report upon certain matters relating to timber rights in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea. Those matters relate to the administration of the Minister for External Territories. The authority for the appointment of the royal commissioner was, in part, the Royal Commissions Act 1902- 1933, and, in part, the inherent executive power residing in the Governor-General. The validity of the Royal Commissions Act was considered some 35 years ago by the Privy Council in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited against the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. In that case it was held that the Royal Commissions Act was invalid to the extent that it attempted to authorize a royal commissioner to compel answer to questions generally, or to order the ‘production of documents generally. As a result of that decision, there is a doubt whether the present royal commissioner lias power to compel the attendance of a.nd the answering of questions by witnesses, or to order the production of documents. It was made clear, however, by the Privy Council, that if a specific act were passed by this Parliament authorizing an inquiry into a specific matter related to the powers of the Commonwealth, that act would be valid
The present royal commission is of great importance and it is essential that there should be no doubt about the powers of the royal commissioner. All honorable members will, I am sure, agree that the royal commissioner should have all the powers required for the effective prosecution of his inquiry. This bill, therefore, proposes to strengthen the powers of the royal commissioner in the matter indicated by the Privy Council. It will place beyond doubt the commissioner’s power to require a person to give evidence or to produce documents. The royal commissioner is a judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia, and there is no question but that the powers .proposed to be given to him by this bill will be wisely used.
On at least three other occasions bills such as this have been passed to strengthen the powers of a royal commission. I refer to tie Royal Commission on the Meat Export Trade in 1914, the Royal Commission on Petrol in 1933 and the Royal Commission on Wheat in 1935.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Notice of Motion No. 1, in the name of Mr. Spender - Objection to Deputy Speaker’s ruling - called on, and not moved, withdrawn.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the Commonwealth Constitution be amended to provide for the Initiative, the Referendum and the Recall, and that at the next general election there be submitted to the people a proposal for alteration of the Constitution accordingly.
Legislation has recently been passed for the enlargement of this Parliament. It has been claimed in support of an increase in the size of the Parliament that the new Parliament will be an extension of democracy through the representatives of the people being brought nearer to the people. I have moved my motion so as to make this extension of democracy even more effective. I have moved my motion in terms of immediate action along a line that has already been approved. The general election to be held later this year will provide us with an opportunity to make improvements in our democracy even more complete. Here is an improvement long overdue. I believe my proposal to be non-party and non-controversial, and also to be a measure that is not only Labour party policy bat also history as far as Labour party policy is concerned.
– Order ! The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) is indulging in too much conversation.
– I did not open my mouth.
– Moreover, thismethod of achieving a more complete democracy has already been reaffirmed quite recently at a Federal conference of the Labour party. I can see no reason why this suggested alteration of the Constitution should not be acceptable to the Opposition parties. The first occasion on which I attended a political meeting was in 1911. At that meeting I heard this subject fully discussed, and at almost every election meeting that I have attended since that time I have beard some member of the audience ask a question or questions about the initiative, the referendum and the recall. Quite often the question took the following form: “ Is this not Labour party policy, and why is nothing done about it?!”
Some honorable members of this Parliament who represent the Labour party have, in the past, kept this issue fresh in the people’s minds. Some of the honorable members who have had long service in the. Parliament will remember the enthusiasmfor it of the late Dr. Maloney who was member for Melbourne in this Parliament and who was honoured and well beloved by the people of Melbourne. This issue was a matter of great moment to him, as it was also to my husband, Mr. Maurice Blackburn, who represented in this. Parliament the electorate ofBourke that I now represent. These men. believed that the day would come when, those greater powers would be in the hands of. the people of Australia. In the past, however, no such opportunity to, effect these changes has. presented itself as that which presents itself now, whenthe Labour party is not only in office but is also in power, and when other improvements are under consideration. The people of Australia have the right to vote in a referendum only in relation to proposed amendments to the Constitution, or to other questions, referred, to them by the legislature. The effect of the new provisions indicated in my motion would be that the people could ask to have referred to them questions with which the legislature was not dealing, or could ask for the opportunity to vote on matters with which the legislature was dealing. In effect, a majority of the people would have the right to amend legislation. I have obtained information on the subject from other parts of the world where such provisions are in operation. I did so because I did not consider that I knew enough of the subject. Twenty of the States of the United States of America have the initiative and the referendum in operation in one form or another, and several have also the recall provisions in operation.
Itisnecessary for me, in support of my motion, to give to the House some idea of the material that I have obtained from overseas. There are honorable members of this House who are well acquainted with the provisions for the initiative, the referendum and the recall because they are acquainted with Labour party policy in general. I believe, however, that there are other honorable members, even on the Labour party benches, who know little of the working of this system in other countries. I shall therefore give the House some of the details about the system from the material that I have obtained from overseas.
The powers and provisions relating to the initiative; the referendum and the recall vary in the twenty American states in which they operate; just as they vary in different countries of the world.I now quote a passage from the constitution of the State of Idaho, Article III., paragraph 3 of which reads-
The people reserve to themselves the power to approve or reject at the polls any act or measure passed by the legislature.This power is known as the referendum, and legal voters may, under such conditions and in such manner as may be provided by acts of the legislature, demand a referendum vote on any act or measure passed by the legislatureand cause the same to be submitted toa vote of the people for their approval or rejection..
The people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws, and enact the same at’ the polls independent of the legislature. This power, is known as the initiative, and legal voters may, under such conditions and in such manner as may be provided by acts of the legislature, initiate any desired legislation and cause the same to be submitted to the vote of the people at a general election for their approval or rejection provided that legislation thus submitted shall require the approval of a number of voters equal to a majority of the aggregate votecast for the office of governor at such general election to be adopted.
Article VI of the same constitution deals with the recall provisions in these words -
Every public officer in the State of Idaho, excepting the judicial officers, is subject to recall by the legal voters of the state or of the electoral district from which he is elected. The legislature shall pass the necessary laws to carry this provision into effect.
Interesting information gleaned from the constitution of the State of California shows that the initiative and referendum provisions are similar to those in other States. In regard to the initiative, a petition signed by not less than 8 per cent. of qualified electors must be submitted directly to the electors at the next succeeding general election, even if the election occurs relatively early. However, if the petition is signed by only 5 per cent, of the electors, the proposal must be brought before the legislature as soon as it is convenient, and the legislature may either accept or reject it. If the legislature rejects the proposal, or takes no action within 40 days, then the proposal must be submitted to the people at the next general election. The legislature may, however, propose to the electors a different measure dealing with the subject, and, in that event, both measures must be submitted to the people at the next general election. In regard to the referendum, the law in California and elsewhere provides that no act shall come into force until 90 days after the adjournment of the sessional period during which the measure was enacted, unless it be an act to provide for a general election, for raising taxes or levying appropriations for the usual current expenses of the State, or for dealing with a matter of extreme urgency. If, within the prescribed period of 90 days, 5 per cent, or more of the voters so petition the Government, the entire measure, or any part of it, shall be submitted to the electors for approval or rejection at the next general election or at any special election appointed by the Governor for the purpose. As I have already pointed out, the powers of State legislatures to repeal or amend initiated or referred laws approved by the people vary considerably. I have obtained detailed information from all American States and also from Switzerland, where the “ initiative-referendum “ is in vogue. In the State of California the legislature may amend such laws at the following session, but in the State of Washington a period of two years must elapse before an amendment may be made. Some American States place no restriction on the kind of legislation which may be initiated by the people, but other States provide that legislation concerning only certain matters may be initiated in that manner. For instance, in Colorado the voters have either directly initiated, or petitioned to have referred to them, since the initiative and referendum was instituted, 48 legislative proposals, 19 of which have been approved by popular ballot. A survey prepared by the legis lative reference officer of that State makes some interesting comments on “ initiated “ and “ referred “ legislation in that State. One paragraph of the document states -
Social welfare is the basis of ten of the nineteen acts voted approval in the period. Acts concerning labour conditions, wages and hours, and the care and treatment of the sick, blind and insane have been written in: the State statutes by the vote of the people.
In fact, the legislature of that State seems never to have referred a proposal, otherthan one which involved an amendment of the Constitution, to the electors. Asan example of the kind of legislation that has been initiated by the people I mention that legislation has been enacted to deal with the following subjects: Women’s eight-hour employment law; mothers’ compensation act and aid to dependent and neglected children; eight-hour law for work in underground mines, smelters^ mills and coke ovens ; the care and treatment of insane persons ; and relief of adult blind people. A long list was sent to me of measures that have been enacted as the direct result of the exercise of the “ initiative “ by the people, and I am in possession of a great deal of other matter of considerable interest, with which I do not propose to trouble the House at the moment. However, I shall be only too pleased to make the information available to any honorable member who desires to examine it.
I have already defined the “ recall “, as defined in Article VI. of the constitution of Idaho. The operation of the “ recall “ in American States usually provides that at least 25 per cent, of the American voters must file a petition if they desire any elected public officer recalled. The term “ elected public officer “ includes senators, representatives, and other public officers. The grounds on which recall is desired must, in most instances, be stated. A perusal of the documents in my possession and conversations which I have had with persons who have lived in the United States of America, indicate that the “ recall “ is not greatly used, but its existence surely establishes an added protection for the liberty of the people in a democratic State. At least the people are able, if they so desire, immediately to refuse representative rights to those who have come to be regarded by a majority as unsatisfactory.
I appeal to the Government not to let pass this opportunity to effect a much needed constitutional reform. I urge it to introduce a measure such as that which I suggest, with the principle of which it is already in agreement, and to place the matter before the people at the next election. My proposal is, I am sure, one constitutional amendment of which the people would approve. The measure that the Government has already introduced, and which has been enacted, to enlarge the Parliament, and so bring it closer to the people, should be simply the first step towards the attainment of a truer democracy, and the implementation of my proposal would represent the second step towards that ideal.
– I informed the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) privately n short while ago that I did not propose to speak at this stage on the proposal of the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn). In the meantime, however, I have had a look at the policy of t’he Australian Labour party. As one who has been a member of the Parliament for some years I have become accustomed to looking to a particular group of members in this chamber whenever I wanted to hear an enunciation of any particular aspect of Labour policy. Latterly I have listened to the honorable member for Bourke and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), two outstanding and independent individuals, expounding Labour policy, and they have bad occasion every now and again to bring up the present Australian Labour party and this so-called Labour Government with a round turn and to ask them to view themselves in that mirror of Australian political realities. The image that greets Labour members when they view themselves in the mirror is not, I should imagine, always exactly beautiful. Certainly none of them appears as a political Adonis. The honorable member for Bourke has just referred to a matter that has been part of the policy of the Australian Labour party for as long as I can remember. I ‘have knocked round the bush, and I am no stranger to the camps outback. I have heard this subject debated over a long period. I am entitled to ask where the sincerity of the Australian Labour party is when it can embark upon so many undertakings that are not covered by its policy, whilst it does nothing to give effect to a vital matter which is part of its policy. Since I have been a member of this chamber, which is now a considerable time, I heard this subject- discussed on many occasions by a former honorable member for Melbourne. As a matter of fact I thought that the item about the initiative, referendum and recall had been expunged from the policy of the Labour party about 1943. However, according to the official record of the proceedings of the seventeenth triennial conference of the Australian Labour party held at the Trades Hall in Melbourne, commencing on the 16th November, 1945, it was agreed that in order to achieve the objective of the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange, the party should seek to amend the Commonwealth Constitution “ to embody the principle of the initiative, referendum and recall “. That decision was made on the 17th November, 1945. If the Constitution had been so amended, I have a strong suspicion that the constituents of many honorable members opposite would have taken advantage of the provision, and hardly one member of the Labour party would have escaped being called upon to resign as soon as the Government introduced its legislation to nationalize banking. However, no attempt has been made to amend the Constitution in this direction because members of the Labour party are not prepared to take their own medicine. Were the provision in operation certain other persons - I shall not name them now because they are being dealt with elsewhere - would be called before their masters. Under the system of initiative, referendum and recall the rank and file of the electorate would have control over those whom they sent to Parliament. That is in contradistinction to the method which I support, but then, as I have explained before, I am rather conservative. I believe that the purpose of an election is to enable the people to send representatives to Parliament. During the three years for which I am elected I do what I think right. If the electors disagree with me, they have an opportunity at the end of three years to put some one else in my place. That, however, is not the belief of the Labour party, which says that the Labour candidate must be backed by the rank and file of the party. He must sign the party platform, and pledge himself to observe it to the best of his ability, and to alter his mind every time he is told to do so, as I saw honorable members opposite alter their minds on the conscription issue. Although the policy of the Australian Labour party is to give the rank and file complete control over their representatives, so little control does the rank and file exercise in fact that in one preselection poll all the votes of the participating unions were cast by one man. I should like the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) to tell me how many votes were cast in the pre-selection ballot for the candidate who is to represent the Australian Labour party in that electorate in the forthcoming election.
– More than one for every union.
– Then that is against the policy of the party, but departures from Labour policy are becoming common. We are entitled to ask why, since the item about the initiative, referendum and recall has been a part of the Labour policy for nearly 50 years, nothing has been done to give effect to it when Labour governments have been in office. The honorable member for Bourke stated a good case. She supported orthodox Labour policy, but I can tell her and the electors of Bourke that she will not get one Labour member to vote for the motion unless it be the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang). Like the Levite, they will pass by on the other side. They are prepared to leave this foundling on anybody’s doorstep but their own. Among the 40-odd members of the Labour party in this House only two will be found to offer the foundling a teaspoonful of the milk of human kindness.
Motion (by Mr. Williams) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this House has no further confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker on the grounds -
That in the discharge of his duties) he has revealed serious partiality in favour of Government members;
That he regards himself merely as the instrument of the Labour party and not as the custodian of the rights and privileges of elected members of this Parliament;
That he constantly fails to interpret correctly the Standing Orders of the House; and
Of gross incompetency in his administration of parliamentary procedure.
These are very strong words, and this is possibly the strongest motion that has ever been moved in this House against any occupant of the chair in any capacity. The circumstances which gave rise to this motion were of considerable moment. The entire House, particularly the Opposition, was completely fed up with the gross partiality that was shown by Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Clark) relative to the matters complained of. So that we shall be clear in our minds about the circumstances I shall outline them to the House. Honorable members are aware that Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) was absent overseas. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) had been appointed to occupy the chair during his absence. It soon became evident that that honorable gentleman was completely incapable of interpreting the duties of the high position to which he had been elected. The incident that culminated in the decision of the Opposition to move in the strong terms that I have outlined arose out of events on the 17th November, 1948. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and several honorable members had spoken during the second-reading debate of the Audit Bill 1948. The Prime Minister was permitted by the Chair to refer to many subjects associated with the measure, or as it subsequently transpired, not associated with it. These related to the powers and duties of the Auditor-General, Trans-Australia Airlines, and various companies in which the Government was interested, including National Oil Proprietary Limited and Waddington Proprietary Limited. All these matters were traversed by the Prime Minister without one objection being raised by the Chair. The right honorable gentleman was allowed a wide scope, and in traversing it he indulged in considerable publicity. Although the Chair is supposed to be completely impartial, the right honorable gentleman was treated with great partiality by Mr. Deputy Speaker. But what happened when the call was given to the Opposition? The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was concerned about Trans-Australia Airlines, which is a subject on which he is well qualified to speak.For the information of honorable members I refer to Hansard of the 17th November, 1948, which reads as follows : -
.- . . . I propose to analyse the accounts of TransAustralia Airlines in order that what the Prime Minister has said may not go unanswered and uncorrected, and to show how a government can conceal–
– Order !
– I suggest–
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to suggest anything when I am on my feet. The House is discussing a bill to amend the Audit Act. Honorable members are entitled to discuss the Audit Act and its relationship to the financing of certain companies by the Government, but they are not entitled to go into details of the operations of any such company.
I point out that there was no attempt to go into the details associated with the company. However, the honorable member for Balaclava continued -
With respect, I point out that the accounts of Trans-Australia Airlines are subject to Commonwealth Audit.
This was a debate on the Audit Bill. The honorable gentleman continued -
I intend to show that there is a need for greater scrutiny of this State enterprise.
Thereafter Mr. Deputy Speaker and the honorable member for Balaclava tossed the ball backwards and forwards, and finally Mr. Deputy Speaker said -
If the honorable member persists along the line he has taken, I shall ask him to resume his seat.
In other words the Prime Minister and honorable members on the Government side of the House could discuss this matter, but the Opposition was not permitted to discuss it because Mr. Acting Speaker, instead of being impartial, in the best traditions associated with the chair in democratic countries of Britishspeaking people, displayed gross partiality towards the Government. Then the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who is always uprising in the matter of the rights of honorable members on both sides of the House, rose and said -
I rise to order.
That is as far as he had got when Mr. Acting Speaker said - .
Does the point of order refer to the matter on which I have ruled?
The honorable member for Richmond, replied -
-Order! For the purpose of correctness the honorable member should use the term “Mr. Deputy Speaker “.
– I regret my error, Mr. Speaker. I feel sure that this incident would not have happened if you had been in the Chair.
– That has no bearing on the matter.
– It was a very pointed question at the time the incident occurred. “We respect your wide knowledge of the Standing Orders and of the forms and procedure of this House. Unfortunately, sir, you cannot transmit that knowledge to those who are appointed to take your place. In the course of his duel with Mr. Deputy Speaker, the honorable member for Richmond said - 1 was dealing with the powers of the Auditor-. General. I claim the same rights and privileges as you, sir, accorded to the Prime Minister who dealt in general with many aspects of the duties and the powers of the AuditorGeneral. In addition, the right honorable gentleman referred to Trans-Australia Airlines and various companies in which the Govern ment has invested public funds, including Smith and Waddington. In fact, he dealt with almost every activity of the Government he cared to touch upon without your calling upon him to state the clause to which he was addressing his Ternaries.
That, as honorable members on both sides of the House will recall, was a very reasonable statement, but Mr. Deputy Speaker, who was not impressed by it, said -
Order! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. The honorable member is reflecting on the ChaiT.
Reflecting on the Chair! It was commonly known to all honorable members that the Prime Minister had referred to those matters, yet when the honorable member for Richmond made a brief re ference to them his remarks were regarded by Mr. Deputy Speaker as a reflection on the Chair. Is the House to have to put up with that sort of treatment by a man who proved himself to be incapable of carrying out the high dutiesthat were entrusted to him? His high-handed treatment of this matter cast a reflection on honorable members, not only on the Opposition side but on the Government side as well. The occupant of the Chair must exercise a nice balance in carrying out his duties. Such nicety of balance can be exercised’ only by a person who understands and is competent to administer the Standing Orders. In this in~ stance, an honorable member was ordered to resume his seat because he dared to. refer not in detail but in a general way, to. subjects which had been dealt with by the Prime Minister. The honorable mem> ber for Richmond then said -
I shall submit in writing a motion of disagreement with your ruling, Mr. DeputySpeaker.
Mr. Deputy Speaker directed the honorable member to resume his seat and said -
I have not given a ruling on the mattei. I have merely asked the honorable .member to resume his seat because he has reflected on the Chair. I call upon the next speaker to rise.
At that stage the honorable member for Richmond, exercising his rights under the Standing Orders, rose to order, but Mr. Deputy Speaker, who would not listen to him, said -
No point of order is involved. If the honorable member does not resume his seat immediately I shall name him.
Regarding that threat as a gross violation . of the recognized procedure of this House, the honorable member for Richmond then sought to raise a matter of privilege, whereupon Mr. Deputy Speaker named him. The honorable member then said -
You may name me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I shall still stand up for my rights in this Parliament. You have accorded to the Prime Minister certain rights which you have denied to me.
He then made a statement to the accuracy of which all honorable members on this side of the House will testify. He said -
You winked at the other side of the House when you sat down the honorable member for Balaclava. I challenge you to deny that.
So low had the control of the proceedings of this House descended that Mr. Deputy Speaker, who had been appointed to an office in which strict impartiality was absolutely essential, blatantly winked at honorable members on the Government side of the House after having succeeded in scoring a point over an Opposition member. That action clearly demonstrates the depths to which he had descended. Following the division upon the motion for the suspension of the honorable member for Richmond from the service of the House, and after the honorable gentleman had withdrawn from the chamber, I, as Acting Leader of the Opposition, felt it to be my duty to ascertain the correct procedure of the House in matters of that kind so that honorable members, at least those on this side of the House, could in future conform to it. I rose to order, but 1 did not get very far. Mr. Deputy Speaker interrupted me and said -
No point of order is involved in the naming of an honorable member.
I had not mentioned the naming of an honorable member; but Mr. Deputy Speaker was so puffed-up with his importance that he would not allow me to continue. He did not even seek to ascertain the substance of the point of order that I wished to submit to the Chair. We hear and read a good deal about the freedom of speech and other democratic principles to which the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) subscribes at meetings of the organizations associated with the United Nations, yet in our own legislature honorable members, even with the support of the Standing Orders, are denied those rights. I then directed attention to Standing Orders 283 and 284. Standing Order 283 reads-
Any Member may rise to speak “ to order “, or upon the matter of Privilege suddenly arising.
Standing Order 284 reads -
All Questions of Order and matters of Privilege at any time arising should, until decided, suspend the consideration and decision of every other Quest-ion.
But before I had an opportunity to state my case, I was interrupted by Mr. Deputy Speaker, who said -
Order! I am prepared to give a ruling on the point of order raised by the Acting Leader of the Opposition. 1 replied that I wanted an opportunity to state my case; but Mr. Deputy Speaker said -
Order! There is no need for the honorable gentleman to do so. No matter of privilege has been raised. I ask the Acting Leader of the Opposition to resume his seat.
Again, we were given an example of the use of the Hitlerite method of stifling criticism. Even though I was then Acting Leader of the Opposition, I was not given the right to cite the Standing Orders in support of a case which vitally affected the procedure of this House. My submission was ruthlessly brushed aside by a person so grossly incompetent as to be totally incapable of interpreting the Standing Orders, a man who,’ after serving in his exalted office for but a relatively few hours was so puffed-up by his own importance that he was incapable of dealing with the matter in a proper manner. Subsequently, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) indicated that he desired to submit a motion as a matter of urgency. At that time we were all concerned about the way in which the control of the proceedings of the House had drifted and the manner in which the Standing Orders were being interpreted. The honorable member for Warringah said -
My action is taken in accordance with Standing Order 407-
He quoted the Standing Order, but Mr. Deputy Speaker, who would not allow him to continue, said -
Order! The second reading of the bill has . been agreed to.
The honorable member for Warringah then said -
As a matter of urgency, I am asking for leave to submit a motion in accordance with the Standing Orders.
Again Mr. Deputy Speaker interrupted him and said -
Order! The honorable member is entirely out of order. No point of order is involved. The second reading of the bill has been agreed to. I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. If he wishes to be suspended from the service of the House. I shall name him, too.
Thereupon the honorable member for Warringah said -
I move -
That I be further heard.
- Speaker then named the honorable member. I ask the House to take note of the circumstances of this regrettable incident and to consider it3 implications with the calm reflection which the passing of time should now make possible. The House can view this matter calmly and without any of the heat which was associated with these incidents, and I am confident that viewing them dispassionately at this juncture honorable members will agree that the conduct of Mr. Deputy Speaker at that time violated the privileges of honorable members. The honorable member for “Warringah was also suspended from the House. Subsequently the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) endeavoured to raise a matter of privilege under Standing Order 283, but he was able to utter only three sentences before he was ordered to resume his seat. He was given no opportunity to pursuade Mr. Deputy Speaker to look at the question before the Chair in an impartial manner. Then, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) endeavoured to raise a point of order, but he made no progress with the Chair. He was peremptorily tossed out of the House. He was not given an opportunity to state the point of order he proposed to raise. All he was allowed to say was, “ I rise to order “ ; and when he renewed his attempt, he was named and emptied out of the House. Thus, Mr. Deputy Speaker had a field day. He succeeded in lopping off three Opposition heads within a few brief moments.
I repeat that his conduct in relation to those incidents is a matter of grave concern to the House. It is of vital concern to members of the Opposition whose privileges are gradually being denied to them. If the privileges of His Majesty’s Opposition go, then the few that remain to be enjoyed by Government supporters will also be lost. I have outlined the circumstances which have impelled me to submit this motion which is in terms the like of which have not previously been submitted to the House. But the motion expresses accurately the view held by members of the Opposition regarding the conduct of Mr. Deputy Speaker at that time. We believe that, in the terms of my motion, he “ regards himself merely as the instrument of the Labour party “ and does not observe the high traditions associated with the honorable position he occupies. He has revealed “ serious partiality in favour of Government members “. In view of the incidents which I have related it goes without saying that Mr. Deputy Speaker “ constantly fails to interpret correctly the Standing Orders of the House “. In the instances I have cited he simply brushed aside attempts by honorable members to protect their privileges, and his conduct was repugnant and nauseating to members of the Opposition. Honorable members, therefore, are forced to the conclusion that Mr. Deputy Speaker shows “gross incompetency in his administration of parliamentary procedure “.
.- I second the motion. Different countries have adopted various forms of government. We have chosen to govern this country in accordance with the British parliamentary system. Under that system, the party which has the majority of members returned at a general election shall form the Government and that which gains a minority of the seats shall form the Opposition in the Parliament and shall be guaranteed the opportunity, not to govern, but to criticize the Government. Under our system of government, the Opposition cannot make, repeal or alter laws, but an opposition would be completely futile if it were denied the opportunity to criticize the Government, to expose the shortcomings and failure of the administration or to expose anything which it deemed to be improper. That is how the form of government which we have chosen, and upon which we pride ourselves, is designed to function; and that is the purpose of a parliamentary opposition under it. The Parliament functions’ in accordance with Standing Orders which provide that the balance of justice between the Government, or majority party, and the Opposition, or minority party, shall be held by an umpire, who is Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of Committees, or the person who for the time being may be discharging the duties of those high positions. . If that umpire is not scrupulously fair in carrying out the duties of the Chair we can have no confidence in our system of government, which in such circumstances cannot function properly. If the Opposition has cause to lose confidence in the umpire because he is incompetent, biased, unfair or grossly unjust, it cannot function properly, and, ultimately, the people will lose confidence in our parliamentary system and, possibly, turn to some other system. If we are to preserve democratic government in this country, it is essential that the occupant of the chair in the Parliament must be competent and unbiased and capable of holding the scales evenly between the majority party and -the minority party.
This motion has been proposed in order tlo direct attention to the incompetence and gross unfairness of Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Clark). The submission of such a motion is a very serious step 5for any opposition to take. If motions of this kind were to be submitted frequently very little notice would be taken of such challenges to the impartiality of the Chair, but throughout the history of this Parliament such motions have been submitted only on very rare occasions. That fact shows how seriously the Standing Orders are regarded by all honorable members. This motion has :been proposed not by a back-bench member but by the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who was Acting Leader of the Opposition at the time of the incidents to which he has referred. It is significant that we should now be debating those incidents many months after they actually happened. “Whereas at the time of their occurrence they were regarded as being of tremendous importance, to-day their importance has faded. The fact that we have not been given an opportunity earlier to debate the motion shows thai: the Government, which has the prerogative of arranging the business of the Parliament, treats the Parliament with contempt. A government that did not treat the Parliament and the British parliamentary system with contempt would have followed precedent and permitted the House to debate the motion without delay. Previous governments have invariably done so.
– That is not so.
– I contend that a motion which questioned the impartiality and competence of Mr. Deputy Speaker should have been discussed without loss of time. However, it is not a novelty for this Government to treat the Parliament with contempt. The long delay that has occurred in permitting the House to debate this motion is another indication of the contempt that this Government feels for our parliamentary system. During the debate on the Audit Bill on the 17th November last, three members of the Opposition, representing approximately 200,000 electors, were turned out of the chamber and thereby deprived of the opportunity to represent their constituents here. The then Acting Leader of the Opposition immediately submitted a motion questioning the partiality and competence of Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the Government deliberately deferred the debate for many months. The honorable member for Wentworth has related this afternoon the full details of the incident. By extensive references to the Hansard report, he Iia.1proved that Mr. Deputy Speaker acted with bias and gross impropriety. I myself saw Mr. Deputy Speaker wink at Government supporters when he scored a point.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker did wink on that occasion. Many of my colleagues and I saw him.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Indi is allowing his imagination to run away with -him.
– I saw Mr. Deputy Speaker wink a second time.
– I repeat that the honorable member is allowing his imagination to run away with him.
– Order ! The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) should set a good example to other honorable members by refraining from interjecting.
– I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for calling the Minister for Repatriation to order. I say that Mr.
Deputy Speaker winked a second time at Government supporters. I shall recount the circumstances. Two members of the Opposition had risen to speak on a certain matter.
– That is a figment of the honorable member’s imagination.
– It was well known that one of the honorable members who rose was more familiar with the matter under consideration than was the other honorable member, -but Mr. Deputy Speaker ‘called the member who was not so familiar with the subject, and, as he did so, he winked at Government supporters. I am recorded in Hansard and in the press as stating that Mr. Deputy Speaker gave a leering wink to members on the Government side, so I am not drawing on my imagination.
– Show us a leering wink. ‘
– The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) should be an expert in executing a leering wink. The occupant of the chair does not allow an honorable member to accuse him of giving a leering wink to government supporters without rebuking him, unless he has been caught in the act. I accused Mr. Deputy Speaker of giving a leering wink to Government supporters, and he did not rebuke me.
– The Chair was very tolerant to the honorable member.
– I have not the slightest doubt that Mr. Deputy Speaker felt guilty on that occasion. He knew that he had been caught out. The incident supports the charge of gross partiality that the honorable member for Wentworth has made against Mr. Deputy Speaker. Members of the Opposition may debate subjects vigorously, but they have as much regard for observing the Standing Orders as have Government supporters. The suspension of three honorable members, who are noted for their gentlemanly conduct and observance of the Standing Orders, was unprecedented. Speaking from memory, I believe that I was the Acting Leader of the Aus tralian Country party on that occasion, and, in that capacity, I attempted to voice my protest, but Mr. Deputy Speaker did not permit me to speak more than a dozen words in taking a point of order before he ordered me to resume my seat. Had I attempted to complete my point of order, I should have made the fourth member of the Opposition to be suspended from the service of the House in the space of a few minutes.
To suspend an honorable member from the service of the House is to impose a severe penalty upon him. Therefore the occupant of the chair should not lightly name an honorable member. It is serious indeed to deprive an electorate of the services of its parliamentary representative. If we are to experience a repetition of that kind of umpiring by Mr. Deputy Speaker, we cannot expect to have reasoned conduct of debate. The honorable member for Wentworth this afternoon recounted the complete story. He showed that during the debate on the Audit Bill, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) referred to Trans-Australia Airlines, and to the firms of Waddington Proprietary Limited and National Oil Proprietary Limited. Byrderence to Hansard, the honorable member for Wentworth refreshed our memories of the incident. He recalled that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) attempted to continue the same line of debate from his own extensive knowledge of TransAustralia Airlines and the conduct of airlines generally, but the Chair intervened. Evidently Mr. Deputy Speaker considered that it was proper for the Prime Minister to discuss the accounts of Trans-Australia Airlines and to refer to Waddington Proprietary Limited and National Oil Proprietary Limited, but that it would not be proper for members of the Opposition to do so. In the circumstances, Mr. Deputy Speaker obviously showed gross partiality, and the motion which the honorable member for Wentworth has submitted is completely justified.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Dedman) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 22nd October, 1948 (vide page 2059), on motion by Mr. Harrison -
The the following paper be printed: -
War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal No. 1 - Report for period 1st July, 1947. to 28th February, 1948.
– As the paper was laid on the table on the 14th October, 1948, and as its contents were debated on a formal motion for the adjournment of the House on the 28th October, no good purpose would be served by continuing the debate. Therefore, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the paper be printed.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Australian PRISONERS of War: Promotions and allowances - antarctica: “ Wyatt Earp “ Expedition - Red Cross: Parcels; Funds - Defence - P.A.S. Drug - Communism - War Gratuity - Kino Island Shipping Services - Poultry - Eggs - Tractors - Meat.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.
.- I desire to bring to the attention. of the House a matter to which I have referred on many previous occasions. It is the Government’s inability or unwillingness to recognize the promotions of Australian prisoners of war in Japanese prison camps and to pay them at the rates appropriate to those ranks. I have in my possession new evidence showing that these payments should be made which has been placed at my disposal and that of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) by Colonel Pond, who was an Australian officer in a Japanese prison camp.
At the time of the fall of Singapore, Colonel Pond was the commanding officer of the 2nd/29th Australian Infantry Battalion, which formed part of the 8th Division. By reason of the special circumstances which then obtained, he promoted certain prisoners of war to higher ranks. They performed the duties of those ranks, but the Army authorities have refused to recognize the promotions or to pay the men at the rates of pay equivalent to their higher ranks. Colonel Pond has pointed out that the policy of the Japanese Army in regard to the management of prisoner-of-war camps under their control, at any rate so far as the first two years at Singapore were concerned, was to leave the Australian officers with their men and to place full responsibility for the administration and discipline of Australian prisoners of war upon the Australian officers. As a result, Colonel Pond retained under his control and was in close personal association with the majority of the men of his battalion during the major portion of their three and a half years of captivity. He has stated that it will be readily appreciated that, owing to casualties in action, his unit was well below the authorized establishment of officers and non-commissioned officers at the time of the fall of Singapore. Later, through sickness and death while in captivity, further vacancies occurred in the various grades. He has explained that if discipline is to be maintained and an efficient administration preserved, the number of. non-commissioned officers in a unit must obviously be adequate, having regard to the number of men to be cared for. Accepting this principle, a number of senior officers of the Australian Imperial Force in Malaya, of whom Colonel Pond was one, acting with the full approval and support of Lieutenant-Colonel, now Brigadier, F. G. Galleghan, the senior Australian Imperial Force officer in captivity in Singapore, made a number of promotions which were considered to be essential for the purpose of preserving morale and maintaining discipline and unity among the troops. As a result of this policy, the morale of the personnel of the 2nd/29th Australian Infantry Battalion, which was very low when the men were taken prisoner, rose to a high level during the course of their captivity and was, upon their release, very high indeed. Colonel Pond has said -
I venture to say that upon our ultimate return to Australia in October, 1945, the 437 men of my unit who disembarked with me constituted as well-disciplined a unit as ever returned to Australia. Although there were large gaps in our ranks, we returned with our battalion, company, platoon and even section organization still complete and Functioning efficiently - a state of affairs which we had maintained during nearly all of our captivity. To achieve this, it was obviously necessary that companies should have company sergeant-majors and quarter-masters, that platoons should have platoon sergeants, and that sections should have section leaders. The basis of appointment of non-commissioned officers to vacancies during the period of captivity was to maintain roughly the same proportion of non-commissioned officers of the various grades as in the normal establishment figures for an infantry battalion at the time when we were taken prisoner. The appointments which I made to fill vacancies occurring in captivity were at no stage in excess of authorized establishment for an infantry battalion. I may add that complete nml accurate details are held by me of all appointments which I made, and there is no shadow of doubt as to the fact of’ the appointment in any case as to which I have certified.
In common with various other commanding officers, Colonel Pond has made all representations possible through regular channels since his return, with a view to persuading the military authorities to recognize the promotions that he made and to pay the men accordingly, but so far he has met with no success. I am, therefore, bringing this matter before the Parliament to-day to see whether it is possible to awaken the Government to the sense of responsibility that the Australian people expect of it in matters such as these. The refusal of the Army authorities to accept the validity of promotions and reductions of rank - there were reductions of rank as well as promotions of Australian soldiers while in captivity - amounts to a vote of no confidence in the persons who made the decisions, that is, Colonel Pond and his fellow commanding officers. Colonel Pond has written as follows : -
These promotions in the circumstances really a mounted (so far as my own unit is concerned) toa contract of service between the personnel affected and myself as the implied agent of the Commonwealth. I have been approached many times since the cessation of the war by personnel of my unit who have been adversely affected by this decision of the Army, and I have undoubtedly lost face with the men whom . I asked to accept responsibility, who did accept responsibility and do the work required of the ranks to which I promoted them, and who now are refused recognition of the fact.
The officers and non-commissioned officers stood between the private soldiers and the Japanese. A man who accepted promotions could be reasonably sure that if anything went wrong with the party of which he was in charge he would be blamed for it by the Japanese and would probably suffer physical violence as a result. Many men who accepted responsibility of that kind when Colonel Pond promoted them to higher ranks did, as a result, suffer physical violence. Some of them lost their lives because they wore themselves out looking after the men who were in their care. Colonel Pond cites the following cases in support of his representations : -
Class I. I then appointed a substantive Sergeant, one Sergeant B. J. Mettam, to take his place and this Sergeant was on our return to Singapore at the end of 1943 confirmed in his appointment as W.O. Class II. as R.S.M. of 2/29 Battalion by the Senior A.I.P. Officer in Singapore. This N.C.O. actually acted as R.S.M. of the unit (which at all times material still consisted of some hundreds of men to whom on occasion other units were joined), for a space of approximately two years. He accepted full responsibility for administration and for the last fifteen months when officers were taken away and my control was indirect he was in effect solely responsible for from 250 to 400 men of the unit. During this time he maintained esprit de corps and discipline at a high standard, administering discipline himself and enforcing it too - a very real test of leadership and ability in a prisoner-of-war camp. This man was, in spite of all my representation’s, discharged and paid as a Sergeant.
Is it any wonder that those of us who have fought for the rights of these men are so disgusted at the Government’s attitude? Colonel Pond’s letter continues -
Colonel Pond then says that he could cite a dozen such cases. He concludes his letter by saying -
For the reasons which I have set out I feel very strongly that grave injustice is being done to the men concerned and their families and also to the officers who in good faith and relying on the common sense of the Authorities in Australia made the appointments which they considered to be necessary and which, I venture to assert, were absolutely essential in the circumstances. I maintain that no one who was not in the peculiar situation in which we found ourselves can have any true appreciation of the real necessity for making the promotions that we did make.
I emphasize the final portion of that quotation -
I maintain that no one who was not in the peculiar situation in which we found ourselves can have any true appreciation of the real necessity for making the promotions which we did make.
How can the Government persist in its refusal to recognize the promotions? There are some men in this Parliament who have personal knowledge of the “ peculiar situation “ to which Colonel Pond refers. They include ex-Sergeant Blain, the honorable member for the Northern Territory. I make it clear that I have no financial interest in this matter, although I received two promotions after our forces had withdrawn to Singapore Island. I was made first a sergeant and then a staff-sergeant on the same day. That was about ten days before the capitulation. My promotions went through Part 2 orders, and while I was a prisoner of war, I was paid as a staffsergeant. However, like Colonel Pond, T. want justice done to these men. As a commanding officer, Colonel Pond believed that he could act on behalf of the Australian Government in the “ peculiar situation” and make the necessary promotions. The promoted men took working parties into the field and received the bashings when some member of a party did not act in a way that pleased the Imperial Japanese Army. The noncommissioned officers had charge of the men nearly all the time. In mostinstances, officers were not asked to accompany working parties. The noncommissioned officers shouldered that responsibility and toiled for many hours a day on jobs such as the BangkokMoulmein railway, digging holes into which the Japanese hoped to crawl in the event of an invasion, and constructing the big air-strip near the Changi gaol. We returned to this country after having been three and a half years “ out of circulation “. After a few months I came into this Parliament, and, in my maiden speech, made on my second day in this chamber, I had a chance to bring to the attention of the Government the manner in which it had overlooked the claims of these men who had been lost from civilization for so long. If I remember correctly, some ex-servicemen in the ranks of Government supporters claimed interest in the matter, and said that all that had been needed was some one to tell the story so that the wrongs could be put right. They offered to assist in my advocacy on behalf of the former prisoners of war;, but things have changed. Government supporters are silent on the matter. Nothing has been done. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) has refused to re-open the subject. I forwarded to him the paybook of a friend of mine who lives in Canberra, showing the man’s promotion signed by a highranking officer. I asked that a full investigation be made so that the man might receive his just due. However, after keeping the book for many months, and after I had asked a question in this House on the subject, the book was returned to. me and the Minister stated that the subject would not be re-opened. Why should these things happen in a country, the Government of which apparently has plenty of money to spend ? They should not happen even if the Government were short of cash. I have said before, and I say again most definitely, that any government that will not honour and uphold the rights of those who fought for their country and ensured its freedom, is a blot on the face of the earth. I regard the concluding portion of Colonel Pond’s letter as most appropriate. He points out that people who were not placed in the situation in which the prisoners of war found themselves can not properly understand the circumstances. I do not condemn the Government absolutely because I do not want to classify it as a blot on the face of this earth. It could easily reconsider this matter and grant what we are seeking in the light of the full story that I have told. That is what I am asking to-day.
– Is this the first time that the honorable member has quoted the letter from Colonel Pond ?
– Yes. The original letter was sent to the Lea.der* of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) while he was overseas recently. A copy was immediately sent to me. I had my first opportunity to-day to raise the question. The right honorable gentleman has been good enough to allow me to put the case. I can assure honorable members that the Leader of the Opposition is strongly in favour of the case as I am putting it to-day. I am sure that I can confidently include other honorable members of the Opposition parties, and an overwhelming majority of the Australian people, among those who agree with me on this issue. The Government is always talking about submitting issues before the people by way of referendum. If the Government were to ask the people whether this money should be paid or not how would they answer? Every decent man and woman throughout Australia would support payment of the money. They would also support another claim, that I have made on previous occasions, regarding the claim for1 the payment of 3s. a day subsistence allowance to former prisoners of war. But for some unknown reason, perhaps because it might upset some departmental routine, the Government is unwilling to accept responsibility in this matter. Does it think of the upsetting of their routine to which those former prisoners of war were subjected when they were caught in the trap that was Singapore? T honorable members of this Parliament, most of whom sat on the comfortable benches in this chamber during the three and a half years that these men were prisoners, thought of what these prisoners went through, no question of the upsetting of departmental routine or the extra work involved would prevent justice from being done. If this Government will not recognize the justice of these men’s claims another government in the future will. Whether I am in or out of this Parliament, I shall continue to advocate the granting of these claims’. I shall ask the Leader of the Opposition and th<s Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) to make this issue a definite plank in their policy at the coming election. After all, the granting of these claims will not mean merely the payment of a few pounds to these men. It will indicate whether we recognize the sacrifice of men who gave their all, anc] whether we stand for justice and right.
I do not desire to raise any other issue to-day although I could do so, because 1 wish to focus on this matter all the attention possible.
– Has the honorable member had a written refusal regarding this matter?
– That is a reasonable question/ I have had a -written refusal from the ‘Minister for the Army. That refusal is supported by the Cabinet. I shall not say it is supported by every honorable member on the Government side, because I do not think that the honorable -member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), for one, would take such an attitude, especially as, I understand, his brother died as a prisoner of war in Malaya. The point is that the Government has refused these claims, and it is up to every honorable member on the government side, whether .a back-bencher or a Minister, who stands for justice, to rise and say so and to advocate the granting of the claims so that the Government will remove this blot from its record. A continued refusal to make these payments will go down in history as the greatest injustice any government in any country could perpetrate.
I could confidently call for the support of many honorable members of this Parliament but I am very anxious to be supported by one particular honorable member, a man who was a prisoner at Changi gaol in Singapore. I refer to the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). I saw him myself on many occasions subsequent to his release when he could not stand upright, and had to crawl along on all fours. That man was in that hell gaol in Singapore, known as the Outram-road gaol, and returned to Changi gaol - a mere shadow of a human being. I ask him now to try to obtain the call to-day to support me, because, as Colonel Pond has said, there are special circumstances involved. The honorable member knows those circumstances and can put the true case to the Government with force and conviction. Finally, I appeal to the Government in the name of justice and of the freedom that those men helped to maintain, to grant the claims. After all, this Government has said that had it not been for the telecommunications expert who listened-in a t about the time of the battle of the Coral Sea, the Japanese might have landed in Australia. That is only part of the story. Had it not been for the Australian 8th Division holding up the Japanese for week after week in the Malayan jungles the telecommunications experts would not have had an opportunity to listen-in. Any reasonable Australian knows that. I ask the Government to give real consideration to this case and to give justice to men who gave freedom to us.
.- I feel constrained to make some remarks on the subject-matter that has just been canvassed by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull). Since I have been a member of this Parliament I have greatly admired the consistency with which he has advanced the claims of those who were prisoners of war in Malaya. I am bound to say, however, that I consider that he does them no service by advancing their claims in the terms that he has just used. His point seems to be that payments should be made to former prisoners of war who were appointed to non-commissioned ranks while in captivity or whose commanding officers entrusted them with the responsibilities of such ranks. Although I have the utmost sympathy with the case I am bound to say that one thing, and one thing only, entitles any soldier to pay for any rank. That is, that he carry out the duty of that rank in the field. Once a soldier has been taken prisoner of war he cannot be promoted or appointed, because nobody has the power to make such a promotion or appointment.
– Some officers were appointed while prisoners of war.
– I shall not go into that matter at the moment. I merely say that it is of no use for the honorable member to hammer this question. I do not believe that the honorable member, himself, really thinks that other governments will grant these claims. Other governments will not do anything of the sort, and well the honorable member knows it in his heart, and it is not politically honest for him to pretend that he thinks otherwise.
– The honorable member is on the wrong track. The question can be raised when other governments are in office.
– I had no wish to be side-tracked on to that issue, but I considered it only fair to express my view about it. I may add that I see no point in indulging in invidious comparisons between one army division and another. It is quite pointless and will not help the honorable member’s advocacy of the claims.
I desire to deal with two subjects that I might class as domestic matters. They concern the department administered by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). It seems to me that that Minister has taken upon his shoulders far too many responsibilities and is unable to carry out any of them in a completely satisfactory manner. Recently we had an example of that in the debate in this House on foreign policy. The matters that I wish to raise are both examples of high-handed, unsympathetic and ill-considered action on the part of the Department of External Affairs. The Minister must accept some responsibility for the department’s attitude. The first matter I shall mention concerns the inadequacy of the compensation payments made to Mrs. C. H. Scoble, who is the wife of a diesel. engineer who lost his life while he was at Macquarie Island with the official Antarctic expedition. Undoubtedly, Mr. Scoble lost his life in the course of his duty, and his status at the time of bis death cannot be controverted. Mr. Scoble had a wife and two children, who were completely dependent upon him for support. After a good deal of negotiation between his widow and the department the Government agreed to pay her ia total amount of £850. The sum of £385 wa<s paid to Mrs. Scoble in cash and an allowance of 15s. a week will :be paid for the support of her two children until the balance of approximately £470 is exhausted. I have seen the correspondence that passed between Mrs. Scoble and the department, and it exhibits an utter lack of sympathy on the part of the department. Mrs. Scoble’s home was mortgaged for £700, and even after repayment of the £385 paid to her a large amount must be paid by her before the mortgage will he discharged. The eff ect on her financial position of the death of ‘her husband is that, while she is under a big liability, her only asset is an income of 15s. a week for a limited period. As I have been reminded by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), the Commonwealth calculated to the last halfpenny the amount to which the widow was legally entitled. The department calculated its liability by ascertaining the exact hour and minute at which Mr. Scoble was signed on, and striking him off the pay-roll from the very minute of his death at Macquarie Island, where he was drowned. It informed Mrs. Scoble that her claim would be treated in exactly the same way as that of the dependant of a postman, a Commonwealth railway employee, or any other public servant who lost his life while on duty on the mainland of Australia. It must be apparent to any fair-minded person that in joining the expedition her late husband must have realized the risks attending it. That is borne out by Mrs. Scoble’s statement that her husband was assured, prior to his departure with the expedition, that all members and their dependants would be guaranteed compensation of not less than £2,000 in the event of their death occurring. I realize that the department has denied that any such guarantee was given, and I do not suggest that the department is deliberately misrepresenting the case; but I am sure that a guarantee of some kind must have been given to the members of the expedition. It is incredible that a young married man, of considerable skill, would have embarked on such an expedition without a guarantee of security for his wife and family. I admit that the Minister was not in Australia when the matter of compensation to Mrs. Scoble arose, and, in justice to the right honorable gentleman, I feel sure that he would ‘have taken a more liberal and just view of the widow’s claim. After all, the decision to send an official expedition to the Antarctic reveals the existence of some imaginative spirit in the Minister, and I believe that the right honorable gentleman would ‘have treated the dependants of a deceased member of that expedition with, at least, some decency, if not generosity. I do not propose to labour the point, and I do not make any out- rageous demand for compensation for Mrs. Scoble. However, I appeal to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), who .is in charge of the House, to interest himself in the matter. Finally, I desire to utter -an emphatic protest against the curt and uninformative nature of the department’s reply to my written representations. I repeat that it is a pity that the Minister for External Affairs is not in Australia more often in order to keep an eye on the administration of that department.
The second matter which I mention also concerns the Department of External Affairs. The facts have been related to me by a Mrs. Chappelow, who resides in my constituency. She is an Australian who, before the recent war, was earning her livelihood in China as a music teacher. When the Japanese invaded the part of China in which she was residing she was placed in a civil internment camp, where she remained until the termination of the war. During the period of her internment she, in common with other internees, received Red Cross parcels from the Swiss Consul, who represented the International Red Cross in that part of China. Some time after she had been repatriated to Australia at the conclusion of hostilities she was requested by the Department of External Affairs to repay the value of the Red Cross parcels which she had received during her internment. I point out here that the parcels did not comprise luxury goods, but merely some of the bare necessaries of life. In view of the fact that this woman is a British subject and a native of Australia, I think that the demand made upon her was outrageous. All that she received was the minimum national service to which any British subject was entitled in such circumstances. As honorable members are aware, music teachers do not accumulate vast fortunes, and Miss Chappelow is quite unable to repay the amount of £40 3s. 2d. which has been demanded of her. I shall be glad to give to the Vice-President of the Executive Council the correspondence that has passed between Miss Chappelow and the department if the Minister will interest himself in the matter. Examination of that correspondence indicates the menacing, “ stand-over “ attitude adopted by the department. Miss Chappelow also informs me that after she received the first letter from the department concerning the matter, an officer of the Commonwealth Investigation Service called on her, requested her to produce her hank pass book for examination, and interrogated her concerning her private affairs. The entire procedure adopted by the department in this matter appears to be unjustifiable, and I ask the Minister to investigate it.
I turn now to the subject of defence which was brought to my mind by a recent announcement that the British Government proposed to spend £760,000,000 on defence over a period of twelve months. In Australia, it is proposed to spend only £60,000,000. On the basis of comparative populations, we should spend not less than one-fifth of what is being spent by the British Government, but on the basis of the relative wealth, and the threat to Australia’s security, we should, I believe, spend much more than one-fifth of Britain’s outlay. Australia’s position in regard to defence has never been worse. Never before were we so open to attack, and never before was our position so bad, so far as our traditional allies in this part of the world are concerned. When any one on this side of the House mentions defence, some one on behalf of the Government immediately begins talking about the guided weapons range. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) never tells us about the state of our defences, but talks about the guided weapons range in Central Australia, or the Snowy River scheme, as if they would save us if we were attacked. Government spokesmen seem anxious to convey the impression that so long as we are working on the project in Central Australia - and progress does not seem to be very rapid - there is no need to worry about having an efficient Navy or Air Force or Army. If that is the belief of members of the Government, it is not shared by the public. Ministers may believe that Australia can be defended with rockets, but it clear to any one who studies the newspapers intelligently that the Russian Government is not putting all its faith in rockets and atomic energy.
It has an army, which is being steadily increased. The Labour Government in Great Britain obviously believes in the need for a navy, an air force and an army. Recently, such an unlikely pair as Mr. Churchill and Mr. Shinwell spoke from the same platform urging the need to raise Britain’s defences, other than scientific defences, to a higher standard. I cannot speak with authority about our Navy or our Air Force. I do not know enough about them, and it is very difficult to get any information from Ministers when we ask how many squadrons are ready to take the air, or how many ships are ready to put to sea. The Government does not attempt to tell the people about the defences of Australia. Every now and then, however, we are able to observe very disturbing symptoms. For instance, when an expedition to the Antarctic was being organized, it turned out that the Navy was so short of sailors that an attempt was made to ship one man who was practically a cripple. One of his legs was shorter than the other, and he had been certified by a doctor as unfit to go. As a matter of fact, he deserted, but the naval authorities tried to compel him to sail. It is time the people were told the truth about our defences.
That is all I propose to say about the Navy or the Air Force, but I have something more to say about the Army. We are repeatedly being assured that, for the first time in the history of Australia, we have a permanent trained force, a regular army. We are told that it will always be there ready to take the field at any time; that it is the nucleus upon which we can build our Army in time of war. At the present time, this permanent force makes up the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, and it is not as big as a metropolitan police force. Actually, it is not even up to its established strength. Indeed, I challenge the Minister to say that it is even one-third of that strength. I do not believe it is. The strength of an infantry battalion, of which there are three in the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, is about 850 men. Recently, when a British Commonwealth Occupation Force battalion was brought back from Japan, and went into camp at Seymour, it could muster only 160 men, of which nearly half have already asked for their discharge. That is the miserable handful which is described as our permanent Army.We have no more than a few hundred men ready to take the field. Recently, Sir Thomas Blarney said that not for 30 years had Australia been in such a terrible state of unpreparedness. We have a militia scheme, but not one unit is up to full strength. A militia battalion has been formed in Canberra, where there are plently of young men to fill its ranks if they were given encouragement. Nevertheless, it has gone into camp at about a quarter its nominal strength. And yet the Minister for the Army has the complacency to tell us week after week that recruiting is going on satisfactorily, that there is nothing to worry about and that the trade unions are co-operating. The fact is that never before was our position so dangerous. Never before were we so liable to be called upon to defend ourselves and never were our resources so weak. Never before did any government so misrepresent the true defence position of the country as this Labour Government has done.
– I rise to endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) about the claims of those men who were held as prisoners of war at Singapore, and, let me add, of the relatives of those who lost their lives there. It is strange that the Government should have so consistently refused to admit those claims. Indeed, it was indicated in a report in the newspapers last year that, no matter what government was in power, the claims would never be granted. With that I disagree. I was surprised to hear the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) also say that the money claimed would never be paid by any government, even a conservative one. We should consider what has been said on the subject by some of the senior officers who believed that they were in duty bound to promote men while they were prisoners of war to carry out the duties of those noncommissioned officers who had died. The officers concerned expressly told the men who were promoted that their new rank would be recognized after their release. I have pleasure in referring to some senior officers who survived the ordeal. One is a noted doctor, Major Bruce Hunt. Unfortunately, I have not before me the correspondence that passed between the present Government and Major Bruce Hunt relating to his request respecting the unfortunates who were prisoners of war in Malaya. If I were able to read the correspondence to honorable members now I am certain that it would stir not only Government members but also some members of the Opposition who are beginning to waver in their support of this just claim. Major Bruce Hunt is a specialist, who is in practice in St. George’s-terrace, Perth. Colonel Pond is a well-known solicitor practising in Melbourne. During the war he was in charge of the 2/29th Battalion. The correspondence that passed between him and the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) clearly sets out the colonel’s views on this matter. Unfortunately the legal basis of the argument that has been quoted by the Government with much gusto, and particularly by the Minister for the Army has now been reiterated by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett).
– He was very courageous, if that is his view.
– No courage is required to refrain from supporting, or to refute, a just claim. Now that courage has been mentioned by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), I repeat what I have said on other occasions, that the Government has already committed itself very clearly in connexion with these promotions. At question time to-morrow I intend to ask the Minister for the Army to furnish me with the names of four or five senior officers who were promoted after their release from Changi. I understand that Lieutenant-Colonel Galleghan received a promotion, although to my knowledge he did not leave the Changi prison camp. He did not go with about 3,600 Australian troops from that prison camp who were assigned to the building of the infamous Siam railway line and to Sandakan in Borneo, the scene of our greatest tragedy and horror. When General Lloyd arrived in Changi prison camp to arrange for the release of the
Australian prisoners of war, LieutenantColonel Galleghan was seen in close conversation with him. Subsequently, when the troops that were released arrived in Sydney, Lieutenant-Colonel Galleghan walked off a troopship wearing a brigadier’s ‘badges of rank. If, as I have been informed, that officer’s promotion to the rank of brigadier was back-dated to the time that the Australian troops were captured, and he received the pay of a brigadier from that date, it is a standing disgrace to this Government. If that is not true, the Minister for the Army should refute it. As I have already indicated, I shall forgo my opportunity to-morrow morning to ask questions relating to the Northern Territory, and instead ask the Minister for the Army to furnish me with the names of the officers whose promotions were dated back to the time of their capture in Singapore. If my information is correct Lieutenant-Colonel Galleghans promotion took effect from the day that Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett left Singapore. I contend that the Government is already committed to promotions that were made in Changi. What is good for the officers is good for the men in the ranks who were promoted by Colonel Pond and Colonel Dunlop. Those promotions should be honoured by the Government. Those men gave their services voluntarily during the great scourge of the Siam railway construction work. The work done in Borneo will never be known. During the cholera epidemic they volunteered to heap the bodies of the unfortunate Australian troops who died on that job, and burn them. They were promoted in good faith by the senior officers that I have mentioned. One such young fellow who was referred to in Colonel Pond’s correspondence was a territorian from Darwin, and is now performing good service in the police force at Alice Springs. He would not like his name mentioned. Although he was promoted by Colonel Pond, the Army authorities did not subsequently recognize the promotion, although he was granted the O.B.E. I fail to see how the Government can justify its promotion of Lieutenant-Colonel Galleghan whilst at the same time refusing to recognize promotions of other ranks that were made at the time of the cholera epidemic. I suggest that when officers are promoted in the way that Lieutenant-Colonel Galleghan was promoted they are thereafter expected to be creatures of the Government. Whilst I shall not deal with that aspect of the matter at length now, I point out that the officers to whom I have referred have not failed in their willingness to be creatures of the Government. Several honorable members are fully aware of what I ‘ am referring to. I shall probably again refer to this aspect when reparations from Japan are being discussed, and when the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) is present. I support the contention of the honorable member for Wimmera that as the officers received field allowances right through, subsistence of 3s. a day should not be denied to the men in the ranks. That is little enough to ask the Government to grant to these unfortunate men. If the Government cannot give it to all of them surely it could pay that amount to the relatives of the men who paid the supreme sacrifice. If approval were given for that amount to be paid in all cases, I for one would immediately hand the amount received over to Legacy. I might mention that I have already paid £90 to Legacy. I consider that my debts in Changi were more than discharged by my donations to Legacy. I can marvel at the resilience of the human’ body because I am one of the fortunate individuals who survived the terror of those days of captivity. Of course, the creatures of this Government learned the truth about me too late, and only when certain matters were discussed in this House. I remind the Government that that matter is not yet finished. If a conservative government should be returned at the next general election I shall remind its members of the facts. I was astounded at the cruel statement that was made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), who is himself an old soldier. He had the audacity to say in this House that if the 3s. a day subsistence were paid to the prisoners of war for the period that they were in captivity, that would be an inducement to soldiers in the future to lay down their arms and become prisoners of war. No more maligning statement than that has ever been made by any member of any parliament in Australia. I assure the Minister that such a vile statement will not be forgotten by the people of Australia at the next general election, particularly in his electorate. If the Government cannot see its way clear to pay 3s. a day to the whole of the members of the 8th Division for the period that they were prisoners of war, I suggest that out of the reparations which will be received from Japan in due course, the first payment should be made to the relatives of the soldiers who died as a result of Japanese barbarity while they were prisoners of war.
I regret that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard.) is temporarily absent from the chamber because I desire now to refer to the disposal of a fund collected from, the public for the benefit of exservicemen who were taken prisoner by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore. I have had lengthy correspondence with the Australian Red Cross Society on this subject. Some weeks ago, the Minister asked me to inform him of my views about the disposal of the fund. I told him that I took a very dim view of the fact that in a letter to me the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers1) had disclaimed any knowledge of the existence of the fund. It is common knowledge that after the fall of .Singapore sympathy for our servicemen who fell into the hands of the Japanese was so whipped up that the people subscribed most generously to the appeal to aid them. Collections continued for many months. A very successful street adoption scheme was initiated, every .resident in countless thousands of streets throughout the Commonwealth being asked to subscribe and the public response was very generous indeed.
– “Were the proceeds of the fund paid into a special fund or into the general fund of the Australian Red Cross Society?
– They were paid into the general funds of the society. I dealt with that matter last year when a measure was introduced into the House seeking the, authority of the Parliament to dispose of approximately £5,000,000 which then stood to the credit of the Services Canteen Trust Fund. I then asked that the money which had been specially collected after the fall of Singapore for the benefit of prisoners of war be set aside for the special purpose of rehabilitating those prisoners of war who were fortunate enough to survive. My appeal went unheard, and the balance standing to the credit of the fund was paid into the general fund of the Australian Red Cross Society. According to the press, the society is now in financial difficulties and I fear that these special funds may have been dissipated. I have not yet received a reply from the Minister to my representations that, if possible, the money so paid to the Australian Red Cross’ Society should be recovered and utilized for the rehabilitation of former prisoners of war. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) and I have done our best to secure a fair deal for those who were fortunate enough to survive the ordeal to which they were subjected by a barbaric enemy. All intelligent Australians who have read the books, Nanking Road and The Menace of Japan, by Taid O’Connor, know that the men of the 8th Division who were captured by the Japanese were treated brutally and were very much worse off than were their comrades in arms who were captured by the Germans. A gentleman who is now the chairman of the Australian Potato Board - I sh.9.11 not mention his name as he may not desire publicity - took a very keen interest in the welfare of these unfortunate men and was responsible to a great degree for the success of the street adoption scheme and that general appeal for funds. I am still pressing the Minister to do everything possible to obtain a refund of the money from the Australian Red Cross Society. When the subject of the reparations that are to be demanded from Japan is being discussed I shall press the claims of returned prisoners of war for payment of sustenance allowance of 3s. a day during the period of their imprisonment by the Japanese. I wholeheartedly support the honorable member for Wimmera in this matter. I trust that the Government will at least honour its obligations to pay the appropriate additional rates of pay to those who were promoted to higher ranks following the tragic deaths of their noncommissioned officers and officers from cholera and other diseases while they were in the hands of the Japanese.
.- I wish to .bring to the notice of the Government some facts concerning the drug para-amino-salicylic-acid, commonly known as P.A.S., which ha9 been used during the last five years in Sweden, Great Britain and America for the treatment of tuberculosis. In a statement relating to the drug, which he issued towards the end of last year, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) said -
Recent reports from England and America of experimental work on the use of this drug in conjunction with streptomycin are encouraging and promising for cases resistant to other forms of treatment, especially those of tuberculosis empyemas (pus in the pleura] cavity ) .
The drug has not up to the present been used in Australia. I have now approved of the Repatriation Commission purchasing a quantity from England for clinical research at the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg. The research will be under the direction of Dr. Penington, specialist in tuberculosis, in conjunction with Professor Rubbo, of the Melbourne University. Dr. Penington is at present in America attending a conference of the Society of Chest Physicians, of which he is a member, and he will be making detailed inquiries into the use of this drug in other new forms of treatment being developed in that country.
I have received a letter from a sufferer from tuberculosis, who is an inmate of the Edward Millen Home, Victoria Park, Perth, in relation to this drug. My correspondent had read in Hansard my comments in the House regarding the drug. As his letter caused me some concern I wish to bring it to the notice of the Minister. In order to explain his case properly I shall have to quote freely from the letter. It reads as follows : -
I read in Hansard your interest in the drug P.A.S. I am under this treatment at my own expense but under the medical officer here. I am an ex-serviceman and having a great Swedish friend in Stockholm I was able to get 1,000 grammes (2i lb.) sent to me at half the cost through my friend’s efforts. I had to wait six months to get it, already knowing that Dr. Penington was trying it out at Heidelberg. My friend sent me all instructions … It was not till 1947, after they improved on it, that a panel of doctors sat and made the instructions of treatment. I saw Dr. Penington before 1 got it and he informed me it was no good as it nauseated the patient. This is untrue. I have taken 200 grammes to date and the improvement is marvellous. I have the 800 grammes to take which, as chronic as I am, will clear the baccili from my body. I have temporarily left off on account of gastric trouble, but will continue when this trouble is easier. I again sent to Sweden to find out how they take it, as it was omitted in the instructions, and to my surprise it is taken as it is- dry - and washed down afterwards.
It is not a liquid; as the writer says later, it is like “ bird seed brown “ -
I have informed Dr. Penington to that effect as I have reason to believe the doctor (as the doctor here) did not know and by soaking it before taking it, it would nauseate any one.
That is how he was originally instructed to take the drug. The letter continues - lt is made by Aprosam, Malmo, Sweden. Ireland and England have also something similar. The new P.A.S. I got was like bird seed brown owing to me being a layman and was fortunate enough to obtain it. The doctors here as expected are not interested in the remarkable healing powers it has. It could be easily made here as the formula is on the packet. It is only good for acute and chronic cases and also intestine troubles.
The total cost to me was £24 in all, and it ie a crying shame that I, a war pensioner, have to pay for this when I received this complaint by war services and knowing there is a free medicine scheme in Australia.
We know why he is unable to obtain the drug free of charge, even though the Parliament has approved a free medicine scheme. The writer continues -
For fifteen years I had a distressed cough and nearly choked. Now my cough has practically gone and my breathing is better. Had it not been for my gastric trouble I would have been up out of bed, where I have been for about twelve months now. This medicine is taken by mouth which saves injection.
The drug is taken dry. I shall read a letter which Mr. Fricker received from his friend, Percy Tamm, in Stockholm, in which instructions are given for taking the drug. This letter, which is dated the 1st February last, reads -
P.A.S. is taken just as it is. The patient gets his day’s ration on a small saucer or dish and then divides it into four portions for himself, taking about one-fourth by a teaspoon into his mouth and swallowing it down with water or anything after each meal. That is all. No chewing or dissolving or anything else. Just swallow it down like a lot of small pills at the time.
Obviously, Mr. Fricker was given the wrong instructions by the repatriation authorities in Perth when he started to take the drug. I raise this matter because it is our bounden duty, and that of every medical research officer in the Commonwealth, to investigate each new drug as it appears in order to see whether it can be used to relieve tuberculosis or other dreadful diseases. I hope that the Minister for Repatriation may be able to arrange to compensate Mr. Fricker for the cost he incurred in obtaining the drug from Sweden. I give the department credit for appointing Dr. Penington to go into this matter. He has just returned from the United States of America, where he investigated this drug. Our medical men should encourage the use of drugs which are proved to be beneficial. Prevention is better than cure. If P.A.S. is suitable for the treatment of certain cases of tuberculosis, it should be made available in adequate quantities in all such cases, including both civilian and war pensioners. We should not allow any drug to be monopolized by any one group, and sufferers should not be obliged to go on their knees to beg for treatment with a suitable drug. I know of an inmate of Heidelberg Hospital who had the greatest difficulty in obtaining supplies of this drug for treatment of his complaint. I sincerely trust that Dr. Penington’s research in this field will ba crowned with success. I have not seen his final report on this drug. I trust that it will be used in repatriation and civilian hospitals throughout the Commonwealth for the treatment of cases of tuberculosis in which it is efficacious. No claim has been made that P.A.S. is suitable for the treatment of all cases of tuberculosis; but that limitation applies also to streptomycin and, perhaps, penicillin. However, no section of the medical profession should be permitted to deny to sufferers from tuberculosis a drug which offers a reasonable chance of prolonging their lives. I have just cited the f.ase of a man who benefited very greatly from this drug. After having been bedridden for twelve months, he hopes soon to be able to move about. But he had to act on his own initiative to obtain supplies of the drug from Sweden. Some medical men are inclined to look askance at new methods of treatment, but it would be inhumane for any doctor to deny any drug which gives reasonable promise of relief to victims of disease.
– There is danger in overpublicizing new drugs.
– I realize the danger that the usefulness of a drug may heoverrated. However, that has not happened with respect to P.A.S., which isentirely new. Although it is some timesince I drew attention in this House to its discovery, I have not seen any pressreports dealing wth the drug.
I propose now to deal with the subject of communism. Radio sessions and: serials broadcast on behalf of the Opposition parties still feature the chargethat this Government is a Communist Government. In many broadcasts which I have heard from radio stations in Tasmania, spokesmen for the Liberal party have made vicious attacks on individual’ members of the Labour party, and havealleged that they are associated with Communists. That charge has beenrefuted on many occasions in this House. It is most unjust that anybodyshould be alleged to be a Communist simply because he, or she, does not support the Liberal party. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has been accused of saying, “ Communism is just another political philosophy “. The Prime Minister has not said that. What he did say is recorded in Hansard. Replying to at question by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) somemonths ago he said, “Amongst otherthings, communism is a politicalphilosophy “. That is totally different from saying, “ Communism is just another political philosophy”. Members of the Labour party are just asconscious of the menace of Marxian communism as are honorable members opposite. We have repeatedly informed thepeople and the members of the Opposition that no person who is a member of’ the Communist party can be a member of the Labour party. Communists arecompletely debarred from membershipof the Labour party. Should a person join the Labour party and be found subsequently to be a Communist, he, or she; will be immediately ejected from theLabour party.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I now propose to discuss methods of combating communism’..
The Australian Labour party repudiates Communism neck and crop. The three political parties represented in this Parliament agree on one big issue in Australia to-day, that is, the menace of Kremlin communism to freedom of worship, freedom of criticism’ and freedom of thought, and to the democratic party system of government. Communism, as a political and economic system, may suit the Russian people, but it is taboo in Australia. All three political parties represented here agree on that point. The Prime Minister, when addressing an important conference of the Australian Labour party last September, expressed our views in the following words1: -
Wo do not want imported ideologies in this country whether they he of the Extreme Left, as in Russia, or the Extreme Right, as in Nazi-ism, and in Fascism. We will work out our own destiny.
Therefore, the political parties in Australia differ only about methods of combating communism. What is communism ? It is an economic way of life that aims to overthrow capitalism by violence and intrigue. As an economic system, it dates back to Karl Marx and Engels about 1.00 years ago. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was the first country in the world to adopt communism as a national policy 32 years ago. Communism is also a philosophy - a study of economic affairs and human behaviour. But communism is even more than an economic way of life and a philosophy. It is a religion, but a religion without a God, believed in with intense passion and fervour by its disciples. Its methods of advance are by study, research and training, by missionary enterprise, through papers, literature, cells in factories, conversation - we may call it personal evangelism - organization, leadership in industry, elections, and so on. That briefly describes communism.
How and where does communism emerge? We must have that knowledge before we can combat it. Communism emerges in every place and country where there is economic and social chaos and instability. The soil in which communism germinates is unemployment. Communism flourishes where 100 men are looking for 80 jobs; where there is financial depression, fear, hunger, misery, poverty, disillusionment and despair; where men, bitter and frustrated, line up in dole queues, work queues, food queues and hunger lines; where men sleep under bridges, in haystacks and barns, in freight cars and under trees ; where men “ hump the bluey” and “jump the rattler”; where men eat out of garbage tins and live in hovels, slums and bag shanties. Those conditions prevailed in parts of Australia only sixteen years ago. Wherever depression stalks the earth and men lose their souls, their dignity and their willpower through jobless months and years, there is the soil in which communism germinates and grows. During the financial and economic depression of 1929-35, which is not remembered in Australia to-day by the rising generation, poverty, hunger and unemployment were common throughout the world, and communism developed at an alarming rate. In Germany, 6,000,000 persons were unemployed in 1933. Hitler came into power on the empty stomachs of those people. A hungry man will absorb any “ ism “ that promises him food and work. Approximately 13,000,000 persons were unemployed throughout Europe at that time. There were also 15,000,000 persons in America, 3,000,000 persons in the United Kingdom and 750,000 persons in Australia looking for work. Indeed, communism found its most fertile soil during those five years, and grew in every country that was affected by the depression. To-day, after the setback of the war years, communism is growing in central Europe, China, France, Italy, the Balkans and even in the United States of America. What is the reason? It is because of the mad inflation in those countries, and the misery, malnutrition, hunger, homelessness, economic instability and all the other dread and grim aftermaths of total war. The American correspondent, John Gunther, wrote about conditions in Italy recently, and last Tuesday the Hobart Mercury published an extract from his article, as follows : -
Will communism get control in Italy? One Cabinet Minister told me, “ The great ally of communism is misery - Italy is miserably poor. There is a party of 2,250,000 Communists. Italy cannot by itself save itself from communism. The E.R.P. must be increased in Italy. We must give them more than bread - ideas and education as well to defeat communism. Italy is doomed if it cannot reform and create a better distribution of wealth “. Another Cabinet member said, “If unemployment rises another 1,000,000, it will mean handing Italy over to the Communist leader on a platter “.
In China, France, central Europe, and even in the United States of America, communism is gradually spreading as the result of economic instability and chaos.
How are we to combat communism? First, we must examine it as an ideology, a religion, and a philosophy. How can communism he combated on the basis of that definition? I believe that we should strive to make democracy Christian, take an intelligent interest in our own ideology and religion, and throw off our mental laziness in unions, churches, the Australian Labour party and the parties constituting the Opposition in this Parliament. We must out-think the Communists, and match their enthusiasm with a greater enthusiasm, their sincerity with a greater sincerity, their discipline with a greater discipline; and their interest in industrial affairs with a greater interest. We should meet their capacity for oratory and organization with a greater capacity for oratory and organization ; and replace their ideology with a better one. I believe that we have a better ideology than communism, and it behoves us to make it work.
I have now described the means which we can combat communism from the stand-point of ideology and philosophy. The challenge of communism as an economic system can also be met by a continuance of Marshall aid to western Europe for at least another five or six years. It can also be met by giving assistance to the Far East, as Australia has been doing. Marshall aid will keep the European economy stable, and prevent Russia from making a bloodless advance to the English Channel, as it maydo should Marshall aid suddenly cease.
– Whose opinion is the honorable member quoting?
– I am expressing my own opinion. We must destroy the seed bed of communism, and create a democracy containing economic and social security with freedom. We must give the people a better social system than com munism offers. We can do so by maintaining our democratic party system of government. Many people scoff at party government, but a glance at the Russian system should be sufficient to convince them of the virtues of our system. We should also widen the franchise. This Government and the Australian Labour party have been following those methods during the last four years since the cessation of hostilities, and communism is weaker here than it is anywhere else. Members of unions must take a keener interest in the affairs of their industrial organizations, and equip themselves for leadership so that they may out-manoeuvre the Communists. Why are Communists elected to positions of leadership in some of our trade unions? Is it because they are Communists ? No. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have a brother-in-law who serves in the merchant navy. He is a member of the Seamens Union, and I have had many conversations with him about Communist union officials. A Communist leads the Seamens Union. The members vote for him, not because he is a Communist, but because of what he has done for them over the years. He has interested himself in their affairs and has fought successfully for better conditions on ships trading in Australian waters.. My brother-in-law said, “ We vote for him not because he is a Communist, but because of what he has done for us as a union member “. If Communists like Brown, Sharkey, Thornton, Healy or Bird nominated for a State election in Victoria or New South Wales in an industrial area against an Australian Labour party candidate, they would be overwhelmingly defeated in a straightout contest. The Communists have no influence whatever in politics in Australia. However, if the Labour party cannot produce unionists with the experience, organizational qualities and willingness to battle for better conditions, then in some instances Communists will gain positions of leadership in our unions. My brother-in-law told me that he had never known more than three Communists to be included in any crew of 40 men on any of the ships on which he had’ worked on the Tasmania run during the last few years. Every one of those Communists was known tohis fellow workers..
The seamen on our coastal ships, whom many Australians regard as Communists, are not Communists. They will not tolerate Communists.. Their Communist leaders have been selected because of their activity in, fighting for improved conditions, not because of their politics.
– That is a serious reflection upon Labour men.
– Labour men have told me that.
– It is a great reflection upon them.
– It is nothing of the sort. It shows that they recognize good industrial’ qualities in their leaders. The banning of” the Communist party would never destroy it. If a way of life could be wiped out of existence by tyranny, victimization and imprisonment, there would not be one Jew or Christian in the world to-day. Jews and Christians have been persecuted for 2,000 years, but there are stillmillions of them in the world. Nevertheless, people with infantile minds continue to declare that communism would he destroyed if the Communist party were banned. Such people should study history and learn how oppression has failed in the past. Certain State Premiers - Mr. Hollway in Victoria, Mr. Playford in South Australia and Mr. McLarty in Western Australia - all of whom are anti-Labour Premiers, have not banned the Communist party although it is the policy of their party to do so. Neither have the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the President of the United States of America adopted such a measure. Such methods would be childish. When the Communist party was banned in 1941, some of its members contested election campaigns in NewSouth Wales under the banner of the State Labour party and secured the votes of thousands of people who did not know that they were merely Communists calling themselves by another name. When their newspaper the Guardian was banned, they produced another journal called Progress and I bought it for six months before I realized that it was a “ Commo “ paper, so watered down had it been. Several unions in New South Wales and Victoria have already rejected their Communist leaders and, in Tasmania,
Labour men at the Boyer paper mills recently outmanoeuvred the Communist, Frank, who had been sent there from Victoria to take over control of the weak Builders Labourers Union and the Carpenters Union. He failed to gain influence in either organization. President Truman gave the economic answer to communism at Chicago in June, 1948, when he said -
The only way to defeat communism is to build bigger and better democracies. You cannot destroy an, idea by passing a law against it. Any nation that provides economic and social security, good health services, good education, good food and good housing, superior working conditions, and fair and just wages need never fear communism.
That is the attitude of the Australian Labour party, and all. the ridicule and unjust’ criticism of honorable members opposite who try to brand us as Communists will not deter us from pursuing our method of dealing with the menace. Communism can have no chance of germinating, growing or surviving under a democratic system.. To say that the Communist party can be destroyed by banning it is infantile in the extreme.
– I wish to deal with a problem related to the payment of war gratuity. My story concerns two ex-prisoners of war. One of them owns a farm, and the other is a. carpenter by trade Because the carpenter could not find accommodation for himself and his wife and his child, he wrote to his farmer friend, who offered to lease him half of his property and allow him to build a. cottage on it. He suggested that the carpenter might obtain his war gratuity in. advance as a means of helping to finance the building of the cottage. They both approached their local bank manager and were told that money would be made available because they believed that the carpenter could obtain his gratuity on the terms suggested. Acting on that assurance, the carpenter overdrew his bank account to a small amount and began the building of a house. However, he was then informed that he could not obtain his war gratuity because he did not have the title to the land on which he had begun to build. That situation was covered in this instance, though admittedly not in accordance with the terms of the War
Gratuity Act, by reason of the fact that the two men had had a joint agreement of lease drawn up giving the carpenter rights over the piece of land on which that house was to be erected until the date on which the gratuity payment would become due in any case. I wrote to the responsible Minister on behalf of the men and was informed by him that the matter would be referred to an appeal tribunal. That was done and, after considerable delay, I was told that the case had been considered unfavorably and that the gratuity would not be paid. Then the farmer, who had been sharing his small home with his friend, whom he was most anxious to help, offered to make a loan if he could draw his own gratuity in advance. He made application but was told that his gratuity could not be paid in advance because he would not be living in the house that was to be financed with the money. The decision, of course, was in complete conformity with’ the “War Gratuity Act, but it created a distinct anomaly. In this instance some deviation from the normal could very easily have been allowed. A sum of £450 is due to these two men, but they cannot get a single penny of it. The Government is not being asked to give or lend money to them, but merely to pay them their war gratuities prior to the date on which the gratuities would normally become due for payment. I urge the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) to make representations in the right quarters so that some means may be found to over.rome this difficulty.
– The rules governing this matter were drawn up by a parliamentary committee composed of honorable members on both sides of the House.
– I can see no reason why a case such as this cannot be put right quite easily. The non-payment of this money is causing these two men considerable hardship.
– Did the honorable member say that the men had a lease of the property?
– One of them owns the property, but he has arranged a joint lease in respect of the portion on which the other man’s house is being built.
– It would have been different had there been joint ownership.
– A joint lease was arranged because the owner did not wish to break up his farm permanently. He merely desired to help his friend. I have a copy of the joint lease if the Minister wishes to examine it.
I now propose to deal with shipping services to King Island. I am aware that objections may be offered to my raising this matter. I shall probably be told that shipping is no longer controlled by the Australian Government and that the arrangements which need to be made should be made by the Tasmanian Government, but before I conclude my remarks I shall give a particular reason why this Government should be directly interested in the provision of adequate shipping services to the island. According to information that I have received from King Island Dairy Products Limited, in 1936 William Holyman and Sons Proprietary Limited provided a weekly service between Currie and Melbourne and a fortnightly service between Currie and Launceston. The company was paid a subsidy of £6,000 a year. Between July and December of 1936 the company’s ships made 29 trips between Currie and Melbourne and carried 591 tons and 41,908 cubic feet inward and 517 tons and 14,593 cubic feet outward. In the same period thirteen trips were made between Currie and Launceston, and the ships carried 61 tons and 14,155 cubic feet inward and 38 tons, 3,057 cubic feet and 392 head of cattle outward. From May to October, 1948, fourteen trips were made beween Currie and Melbourne. The ships carried S67 tons and 82,252 cubic feet inward and 417 tons and 26,540 cubic feet outward. In the same period eight trips were made between Currie and Launceston. The ships carried 336 tons and 52,703 cubic feet inward and 1,565 tons and 4,882 cubic feet outward. It will be noted that there is no record of the total number, of cattle that were carried in 1948. The reason for that is that cattle are now recorded on a tonnage basis. In addition to the trips to which I have referred in 1948, eight trips were made by outside vessels, which carried between Currie and Melbourne 56,151 cubic feet inward and 147 tons and 27,718 cubic feet outward, and between Currie and Tasmania 3 tons and 3,087 cubic feet inward and 25 tons and 10,524 cubic feet outward. It will be seen that although the service to the island has been curtailed by 50 per cent., the amount of cargo carried has increased by almost 100 per cent. At the present time the trade of the island is being seriously hampered by the lack of shipping services. Cheese is a notable export from King Island, but on many occasions cheeses have deteriorated through having to be kept for lengthy periods on the island in unsuitable conditions. On one occasion when I was there I saw a large number of cheeses in a state of semi-decomposition or in a condition that would not warrant their classification as first-class cheeses. That was due to delays in transporting them from the island. Another notable export from King Island is cattle, but the islanders are experiencing great difficulty in getting the cattle away at the most suitable periods. Delays are frequently caused by the unsuitability of some of the ships or by very rough weather. In addition, great difficulty is encountered in getting to the island the supplies that are necessary for the comfort and well-being of the residents. The Public “Works Department of Tasmania and the Agricultural Bank of Tasmania, both of which have special interests in the island, have each had to charter vessels to carry necessary supplies to the island. The Australian Government should take an interest in the affairs’ of King Island because a large ex-servicemen’s settlement scheme is in progress there. Although the Tasmanian Government is the body which is directly concerned in the development of that scheme, it is working under an agreement with the Australian Government and the necessary finance is supplied largely by the Commonwealth. “When the scheme is completed and ex-servicemen are settled on the island, the men will be greatly hampered in their activities if proper shipping services are not provided. Some of them may be hampered to such a degree that they will be unable to carry cn. This is no figment of the imagination, but a pressing problem confronting the people of the island. I have known them to go for some time without, for instance, petrol supplies. The scheelite mine there is of tremendous importance in relation to the dollar position, because all the products of the mine are exported to America, but it has had to close down for a week or two at a time because of lack of supplies. Unless the shipping services to King Island are considerably improved there will be little chance of the island’s industries making good progress and little hope for the success of the ex-servicemen’s settlement scheme, which the Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government hope will prove to be of great benefit to the men concerned. The only time when the island was served by a satisfactory shipping service was during the period when the shipping company received a direct subsidy, and I see no reason why a direct subsidy should not be made available to it now. The residents of the island say that they do not mind under what direct auspices the service is operated, provided that they get it. I suggest that this matter is not one which should be treated as being wholly the concern of the Tasmanian Government and I ask this Government to give serious consideration to it.
.- I desire to take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the House the extraordinary and uneconomic position that has been developing for some- time in the Australian egg and poultry industry. I am privileged to represent a very great number of poultry-farmers and I have been concerned for a long time with the serious problems with which they are faced. Although I have raised this matter very frequently in the House, I consider it to be my duty to refer to it again to-night. The cost of wheat and pollard, bran and other by-products of wheat has steadily increased during the last few years. The recent further increase of the price of wheat has seriously increased the costs of the foods required by poultry-farmers and is seriously threatening the development of the industry. The scarcity of wire-netting, wire, piping and other commodities has accentuated the difficulties of the situation. There has been no opportunity for an expansion of the industry. Less and less young stock is coming forward. The future of the industry iB being seriously jeopardized by the inac tion of the Australian Government. The industry is gradually, but surely, getting into most serious difficulties. Producers Are abandoning poultry farming for more lucrative undertakings. They are unable to pay the increasing costs of poultry feed and still make a reasonable living. This depletion of the industry will mean that we shall be unable to provide the quantities of eggs and poultry that we have contracted to send to Great Britain at fixed prices. We should, at all costs, avoid dishonouring this obligation to the Mother Country. I believe that there is a duty resting upon the Australian Government to draw the attention of the United Kingdom authorities to the difficulties confronting the poultry industry in this country. Export prices for both eggs and poultry must be increased if the industry is to remain stable. The price of eggs within the Commonwealth is, of course, a matter for the State authorities, but export prices are within the jurisdiction of the Australian Government. I emphasize that I am not suggesting the repudiation of our obligations to Great Britain. The people of the United Kingdom are in urgent need of food and we must send as much as possible to them, but poultry-farmers in this country cannot meet the ever-increasing prices of feed and still produce their commodities at an economic figure. Great Britain is paying to Canada, Denmark, Holland and Ireland 50 per cent, more than Australian poultry-farmers are receiving for eggs. Those countries are, of course, closer to Great Britain, but I am sure that if the problems and difficulties of the Australian poultry industry were placed clearly before the United Kingdom authorities, they would have no hesitation in increasing payments for Australian eggs. The Austraiian poultry industry cannot stand further uneconomic production. I am convinced that if the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) were to make urgent representations to Britain on this subject poultry-farmers in this country would be given relief. As I have said, many poultryfarmers are leaving the industry. A great number of them are sacrificing their life savings and the fruits of their life’s work. Under the Governments re-estab- lishment scheme, many ex-servicemen took up poultry-farming after the war. They looked to this industry for a reasonable living for themselves and their families, but their hopes are being blighted because of the unfair disparity between production costs and the return that they are receiving for their products. At the root of their difficulties is the high cost of farm materials and poultry feed. Some time ago, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that he would arrange for the Bureau of Agricultural Economics of his department to inquire into the cost of production in the poultry industry. I ask that this inquiry be expedited. It should not take long. The increase of production costs has been obvious to every one, and a protracted investigation would not be necessary. I trust that the committee will undertake this task at an early date, and that when its report has been made, the Minister will take immediate action to ensure a fair and reasonable return for eggs and poultry to Australian poultry-farmers who are suffering so seriously to-day. Another advantage of holding such an inquiry would be that the information that it produced could be made available to poultry farmers in support of their applications to the State prices commissioners for increased home prices for eggs and poultry. I am afraid that the industry will go under unless early action is taken and that, of course, would be a serious blow to the United Kingdom. Again I appeal to the Minister to ensure that there shall be no further delay in getting the Bureau of Agricultural Economics of his department to work on this industry.
In Queensland to-day, there is a serious shortage of tractors. All agricultural organizations and farmers generally are emphasizing the serious effect of this shortage upon primary production. The lag in the supply of agricultural tractors in Queensland at present is estimated at 5,000, and I urge upon the Government the necessity to make greater dollar allocations for the importation of these vital machines from the United States of America. Improved primary production is one of the most urgent necessities upon which this Government should focus its attention. Any one who ha9 studied the economic problems of this country knows that production must be increased. We are under an obligation to Great Britain to send to it as much food as possible, and one of the most serious drawbacks to food production in this country to-day is the shortage of farm tractors. At the present rate of importation, it will take many years to meet the demand for tractors. As the years go by the position is becoming worse. A recent report issued by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction shows that twelve months ago the total outstanding effective Australian demand for wheel tractors for all purposes was between 16,000 and 17,000 units. Replacement needs would require perhaps another 10,000. That report clearly shows the urgent need for tractors in this country. If the Government is not prepared to ensure increased primary production by making greater dollar allocationsfor tractors, our promises to Great Britain cannot be fulfilled. I appeal to the Government to examine this matter.
Two of our most important food exports to the United Kingdom are poultry and eggs, and meat, and as I have said, increased production costs in the poultry industry are threatening our exports of those commodities. Recently the price of wheat was further increased. Only yesterday I read in the press that Great Britain was faced with the prospect of paying 40 per cent. more for Argentine meat. Australia to-day is not able to send to the United Kingdom all the meat that it has promised to supply. Serious droughts have retarded the meat industry, particularly in Queensland. So serious are the droughts that those associated with this industry fear that soon there will probably be a shortage of beef in Australia for home consumption unless there is an improvement in seasons and unless the Government helps the industry by extending railway lines and increasing facilities for the carriage of stock to market. We cannot meet that problem to-day, but we can meet the problem of the poultry-farmers, and also assist agriculture generally by the provision of tractors. I urge the Minister to ensure that those problems will ; be dealt with by the Government at the earliest possible moment.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fuller) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 15th February (vide page 247), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That a tax be imposed upon incomes at the following rates . . . [vide page 243).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Chambers do prepare and bring ina bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
There is a wide field for debate in this bill, but first I desire to bring before the House a matter that should be consideredby the Government. I refer to what amounts to the imposition of a surreptitious tax. Some time ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that he would consider this particular matter and report back to the House on it.I refer to the practice, in vogue for many years, of permitting employers who “ find “ employees to claim a nominal rate only as deduction for the keep of an employee. For, I believe, the last 30 or 40 years and until four and five years ago. it was the practice of the Government to assess the value of the keep of employees “found” at £1 a week for board and quarters. The employer was allowed to show an amount of 15s. a week, in respect of each employee “ found “, as a deduction from taxable income. Five years ago, when heavy taxation was imposed, the Government deviated from this oldestablished custom and accepted as the value of a man’s keep the amount set forth in any Arbitration. Court award applicable to any industry. That amount was added to the employee’s wages for the purpose of establishing his assessable income. While 30 or 40 years ago£l a week for keep would have been considered reasonable it is not so now. I should like the Government to explain why, when the recognized value of keep is now placed at about 30s. a week, the employer is still allowed a deduction of only 15s. a week for taxing purposes. Four or five years ago the Government adopted a different attitude that meant, in effect, that it made a surreptitious increase in taxation by administrative action, without any public notice being taken of it. At that time the value of keep was about 27s. or 28s. a week. To-day, I do not think there is one award in force in Australia that would establish the cost of keep at less than 30s. In the majority of instances it would be 31s. or 32s. Let us suppose that an employee is earning £6 a week. The value of keep has to be added to his wage for the purposes of taxation. If the value of keep is 30s. a week the assessable wage of the employee is £7 10s. a week. The employee therefore has to pay the rate of tax applicable to a wage of £7 10s. a week. The addition of the value of the keep to his wage, in the majority of instances, lifts the employee into a new income group, and the Government collects extra taxes thereby to add to its already swollen revenues. But the employer is still held fast to the old rate of 15s. a week. In other words, the Government taxes the employee on the rate established by the Arbitration Court in any award, but allows the employer as a deduction only the nominal 15s. a week that has been allowed for at least 30 years.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman should connect his remarks with the proposed rates of tax. So far, he has dealt only with assessments, with which the bill does not deal.
– I claim, Mr. Speaker, that this bill affects the assessment of income.
– Speaking very broadly, it may. This bill, however, deals with rates only. If the honorable member can show me one clause that affects the matter that he is discussing I shall allow him to continue.
– I shall make my remarks during the debate on the bill to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act.
– The Parliament has not yet had the bill to amend the Income Tax
Assessment Act before it. Until honorable members know the basis on which the taxes to be imposed under the present bill are to be assessed, I say that it is most inopportune and absolutely unfair and illogical that the Government should ask them to pass this bill. If ever there was a case of putting the cart before the horse, this is it. To me it seems only logical that the House should know the basis on which taxes are to be imposed before it can determine the rates. In this instance, however, the Government merely says, in effect, “ We propose to levy income tax at certain rates, and when the House has agreed to our proposal we shall permit it to discuss the basis upon which the rate of tax is to be levied “. If there is any logic at all in the present Government - and I am very doubtful whether there is - it should realize that the procedure which it is now adopting is the reverse of normal. I have been a member of the House for many years, but I cannot recall a single instance of an administration having followed the procedure which the Government has now adopted. Like the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) I propose to say something about the assessment of tax, but my attitude towards the assessment of tax will be determined, to some degree, by the attitude that the Government adopts towards certain proposals concerning the basis of income tax that I intend to submit to it. I trust that when I resume my seat the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will not speak immediately, because that will, of course, conclude the debate. He should make arrangements for one of his colleagues to explain the Government’s attitude and we could then discuss it. The House is entitled to more generous and logical treatment than it has received from the Government this evening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Provisional tax).
– I should like the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who is representing the Treasurer (Mr.
Chifley) during the passage of this measure, to explain the basis upon which income tax is now assessed on income derived from property and on that derived from personal exertion. Schedules showing the incidence of the proposed rates of tax have been circulated amongst honorable members, but no statement has been made to the committee of the principle on which the Government has based the schedules. Whilst I understand the schedules perfectly, I cannot understand the principle upon which they are based. I should like the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to elucidate those principles.
– Order ! At the moment the committee is not dealing with the schedules, but with clause 7 of the bill, and the honorable member’s remarks are therefore out of order.
Clause agreed to.
– I have already expressed my desire for some information concerning the principle of the taxes proposed to be levied. I now ask the Minister to give me the information I desire.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) inquires about the principle underlying the imposition of the proposed taxes. The principle is simply that of progressive taxation, which means that a rate of tax is fixed for the lowest amount of taxable income and that the rate of tax increases progressively with the amount of income that becomes taxable. There is nothing more to explain.
– The remarks of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) furnished no real explanation of the principle behind the Government’s proposals. It may be, of course, that the Government is not acting on any discernible principle, or that the Minister himself has not studied the proposals and, therefore, has no knowledge of the matter.
However, the fact remains that during the passage of this measure he is deputizing for the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), and therefore he ought to know whether the Government of which he is a member is working on a principle, on the catchascatchcan system, or on the method of pulling a number out of a hat and using that as a basis for determining its rates of taxation.
First Schedule agreed to.
Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 15th February (vide page 247), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That, in lieu of the basic rate of contribution and the concessional rate of contribution set out in paragraphs (1.) and (2.) of the First Schedule to the Social Services Contribution Act 1945-1948, the following rates apply:- (vide page 247).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Chambers do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I protest against the method adopted by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in presenting this measure to the House. I know of no previous occasion when a Minister has presented taxation measures to the House in such a cavalier manner. He brings to the House a series of resolutions on which bills have been founded and throws them before honorable members without any adequate explanation of the how, why, when and wherefor of them. He does not treat the House as being of any importance at all. A few minutes ago when honorable members on this side of the chamber sought information regarding an important matter, the Minister did not offer any explanation. When the committee stage of that measure was reached he was asked a series of questions, but the only reply he made to those questions was to indulge in some airy-fairy nonsense, which got us nowhere. He has now brought before the House a bill to amend the Social Services Contribution Act, and the proposed legislation may have far-reaching consequences for the people of Australia. Honorable members are entitled to know something about the measure, and the Government should be ready to supply all relevant information to them. However, the Minister, in his usual cavalier fashion, disdains to furnish any adequate explanation of the necessity for introducing such a measure, but sits down at the table, chuckling to himself at the way he is fooling the House. His behaviour reflects no credit on him or on the Government of which he is a member. Of course, it is possible that since he is merely deputising for the Treasurer to-night during the consideration of these financial measures, he knows nothing whatever about them. It is customary for a Minister, when presenting a bill, to offer some explanation of it; whether the information be compiled by his own department, or by one of the planners who advise the Government. However, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has ignored the custom by failing to act courteously to honorable members and, indeed, to the general public. He tells us that it is proposed to amend the taxation law in certain respects, hut no explanation is offered. The bill has been submitted to the House without any explanation and we are required to take it or leave it. On behalf of the Opposition, I protest against the Minister’s action.
– I add my protest to that of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). This bill deserves some study, because its purpose is to impose upon a large proportion of the population a tax known as a social services contribution. On the first page of the bill, we are informed that it is a bill for an act to amend the Social Services Contribution Act 1945-1948. Sub-clause 2 of clause 1 of the bill contains this information - (2.) The Social Services Contribution Act 1945-1948 is in this Act referred to as the Principal Act.
There is an asterisk after the figures “ 1945-1948 “, and at the bottom of the page the following explanation is offered : -
Act No. 40, 1945, as amended by No. 33, 1946; No. 13, 1947, and No. 51, 1948.
The bill was put before us only a few moments ago, after the Minister had got the House to agree to certain special procedure to facilitate its passage. Evidently, we are expected to have a full working knowledge of acts No. 33 of 1946, No. 13 of 1947, and No. 51 of 1948, and to be able to relate this hill to those acts. The cleverest draftsman in the Attorney-General’s Department, starting from the top and working down, could not perform that feat in less than an hour, but we are expected to do it in a moment. I object to the passing of this bill to-night. Honorable members are entitled to more time to study it. Clause 2 of the bill begins as follows: -
The First Schedule to the Principal Act is amended -
That, of course, is so crystal clear that no one could possibly misunderstand it. I do not object to mental arithmetic, but that passes beyond the range of mental arithmetic. We now come to the rest of the clause which reads -
As a matter of fact, only the final paragraph is understandable. Any one who has an income of £500 after rebates have been allowed - and he can be sure of that only when he gets his assessment - will be taxed at the rate of1s. 6d. in the £1 under the provisions of this bill, which is to amend the Social Services Contribution Act 1945-1948, as amended by acts No. 33 of 1946, No. 13 of 1947 and No. 51 of 1948! The task of working out just what the effect of the bill will be upon taxpayers and their commitments will involve a feat of mental gymnastics beyond the capacity even of the experts who adorn the treasury bench, or sit hopefully behind it.
.- Honorable members of this House are accustomed to study legislation, and some of us are lawyers whose business is to study carefully the legislation passed by the Parliament from time to time, but I suggest that there is not one member from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) upwards or downwards who is able to understand our taxation legislation. Yesterday, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) said that the Treasurer was like Levante, the magician. A magician, as honorable members know, is a person who says “ abracadabra - now you see it, now you don’t ! “. The average taxpayer has as little understanding of the processes of taxation as has the spectator of the operations of a magician. We wait in trepidation for our assessment, and if the amount comes within a measurable distance of that shown in the table which we have assumed applies to our case, we sigh with relief and do our best to pay. Hardly any one, however, understands the significance of the taxation formula. Surely, therefore, when a Minister brings in a bill which is designed to amend existing taxation legis lation, we are entitled to something more than to have the bill thrown in our teeth without a word of explanation. I agree with those honorable members who have protested. None of us is able to tell, without studying the principal act in relation to the bill, just what effect the amendments will have. Not only members of this House, but also the public who must pay the tax, are entitled to a reasonable explanation.
– I admit that it is difficult to understand, by simply reading the bill, what its effect will be, but we have been informed that its purpose is to ensure that a. person, whose taxable income amounts to £500 after rebates have been allowed, shall pay social service tax at the rate of1s. 6d. in the £1. That is in line with previous practice. Our taxation legislation is necessarily complicated, but books have been published by authorities outside the Taxation Branch, which fully explain just how the present position was reached. For the most part, complications have arisen out of attempts to make special provision for particular classes of taxpayers. For instance, honorable members complained from time to time of the sudden increase of a taxpayer’s liability when an increase of £1 in his income brought him from a class which was tax-free into one in which he was liable to pay tax at the rate of1s. in the £1. It was argued that such a sudden increase was unfair, and that the rate should be graduated. The amount can be worked out, and if honorable members opposite will take the trouble to study the provisions, as I have done, they will be able to check the amount.
.- Under this bill the people of Australia are to be called upon to contribute £74,000,000 to the National Welfare Fund. Whilst that may not sound much to a Labour Minister, it is a lot to those who have to pay it.
– How did the honorable member ascertain the amount?
– I had to refer to the budget to discover the amount involved. Unless I am making a mistake, that is the estimate of the amount to be collected this year, but one is capable of making a mistake, in the absence of an explanation by the Government. If I have made a mistake on this point, that will serve to explain to the people of this country the circumstances in which we, as parliamentarians, are being asked to vote upon this measure. To the best of my knowledge, this is a bill intended to impose a levy of £74,000,000. It is to be imposed upon the people merely upon the formula of the Minister, “That the bill be now read a second time “. After moving the formal motion he sat down. I point out that, if the broadcasting system that has been installed in this House is to serve any useful purpose at all, it should enable the people of Australia who are listening to this debate to learn the circumstances in which their laws are passed. What does the formal moving of the motion communicate to any person in Australia listening to this parliamentary debate ? Nothing at all. The only inference that I can draw from the Minister’s action is that this Government treats not only the Parliament but also the people of Australia with the utmost contempt. If the people are not entitled to have explained to them by the responsible Minister the circumstances attending an impost of this description, I do not know what they can expect to have explained to them. If the Government intends that political diatribes attacking the Opposition shall be launched, Ministers, with all the accoutrements of their secretaries and entourages, come into the House fully equipped to speak for an hour; yet, when it seeks to impose a levy of £74,000,000 upon the Australian people it does not even ask a private secretary to write out an explanatory speech for the Minister. It seems evident that the Minister did not intend to explain this measure. Even though the Minister was provoked by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) on an earlier issue, and prompted by questions, he allowed the measure to go to the vote without rising to his feet. Taking that as a guide, it is evident that he intended to allow this measure to go to a vote without offering even twenty words of explanation. I hope that it will not go to a vote without some explanation. I know perfectly well that this is a bill to implement a resolution of the House, and that some explanations were made about a week ago relating to the whole mass of tax proposals. We may have cluttered up in our minds some mixed impressions of the general conspectus of taxation intentions of the Government. I point out, however, that this is the point at which the law is to be passed, so far as this House is concerned. We can learn nothing by studying the extraordinarily involved language of the bill, that the honorable member for Barker has read to us. It does not seem to me to matter very much whether it is read from the bottom to the top, from the top down, sideways, or even if one were to have an ice-pack upon the head when reading it. It is extremely difficult for one to glean from the language of the bill a picture of the impost, and there is no explanatory statement by the Minister to which we can refer. I add my voice to the protest that has been made by my colleagues at this contemptuous treatment of the Parliament by the Government. Although the Government can find plenty of time to have prepared for it by its various staffs long dossiers about members of the Opposition and upon the alleged political record of the Opposition, which may provide them with some enjoyment, and may even be interesting to the listening public, nothing is so interesting to the listening public as an explanation of the circumstances in which a law of this kind is introduced into the Parliament and passed. Probably an explanation has been made to the Labour caucus. I know that under the system governing the functions of the Australian Labour party, a Labour government dare not come into Parliament and propose any legislative measure without the authority of the Labour caucus.
– Hear, hear!
– i note that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) says, “ Hear, hear “. In the minds of the Australian ‘Labour party, the Labour caucus comprises the Parliament. The proceedings in this House are merely to implement its decisions. I know, of course, that the real test is applied in the party room, and that is where the explanations are made, but the Opposition parties and the listening public have been privileged to hear only a formal motion moved by the Minister “ That the bill be now read a second time “. We are apparently expected to be mere automatons so far as the vote is concerned. Although we may not be able to force the Government to supply an explanation, at least we can expose the practices indulged in by it. I hope that the protests from this side of the House will have the effect of compelling the Minister to rise and make a reasonable explanation of the measure, before the House is asked to vote upon it. I move, by way of amendment -
That all words after “be “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ read a second time in one week’s time in order to give the Government time to explain to the House the purposes and effects of the bill “.
– in reply - Listening to the speeches made by honorable members opposite one would imagine that something unusual had happened in relation to this bill. That is not so. The procedure uniformly adopted in connexion with all taxing measures has been adhered to. That procedure was established long before this Government took office. The purpose of the bill is merely to give effect to the rates resolution which was moved on Tuesday of last week. One would also imagine from the speeches made by honorable members opposite that the purpose of this bill is to impose new taxation on the people. On the contrary, as in the case of the bill which the House passed a few minutes ago, the purpose of this bill is to reduce the social services contribution levied on the people. It seems that honorable members opposite do not want to assist the Government to reduce the rates of tax or the amount of social services contribution.
– The Minister does not himself believe that.
– What other purpose can there be behind the attempt by honorable members opposite to delay the passage of the bill? If they want a detailed explanation of the purposes of the bill it will be necessary for them to refer to the rates resolution and to study the speech which I made when I introduced it. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has complained that he has not been given sufficient time to study the bill. As the rates resolution has been before honorable members for more than a week they should have had ample time to study its effect. This bill simply gives effect to that resolution. The rates resolution sets, out the position quite clearly. It provides - (1.) The basic rate of contribution for every £1 of the contributable income shall be Threepence, increasing uniformly by three-eightieths of one penny for every £1 by which the contributable income exceeds £100,but the rate shall not in any case exceed One shilling and sixpence. (2.) The concessional rate of contribution for every £1 of the contributable income shall be-
– What does that mean?
– If the honorable member does not understand it, he should study it more closely. The resolution explains how contributions are to be levied and the rates at which they are to be levied. The schedule provided for the information of honorable members shows exactly the amounts to be contributed by individual taxpayers according to their income level. There is nothing further to explain about this measure. The resolution continues -
The rates set out in the resolution are lower than those which apply at present.
It is true, as the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has said, that this bill will impose a levy which will result in the raising of £74,000,000, but its sole purpose is to reduce the rates of contribution to be levied on the people. There is nothing further to explain to the House.
– I remind the House that within the last half hour it has agreed first to a contingent motion, proposed by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, “ That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without delay”, and, secondly, to a motion that he and another Minister “do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution “. Because the House has agreed to those two motions, the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is obviously out of order. The House having passed a motion designed to ensure the passage of a bill without delay, no honorable member may submit a motion designed to delay the passage of the bill.
– I rise to order. I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to clause 3 of the bill, which reads -
The amendments effected by section two of this act shall not apply to assessments for a financial year prior to that commencing on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and forty-nine.
This bill will not come into operation until more than four months have elapsed. It is a little difficult to understand the Government’s reason for treating such a bill as an urgent HU.
– I aim not concerned about the Government’s reasons for so doing. “What I am concerned about is that within the last half-hour two motions have been agreed to by the House, the principal one being designed to facilitate the passage of the bill without delay. The Chair cannot accept an amendment the effect of which would be to delay the passage of the bill for a week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 15th February (vide page 250), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That, on and after the sixteenth day of February, 1949, in lieu of the rates imposed by the Entertainments Tax Act 1942-1946. the rates of the Entertainments tax he - (vide page 248).
– Is it the intention of the Government to adopt in connexion with this bill the procedure which was followed in respect of the two bills which have just been passed ? If so, I register my protest against such tactics. The entertainments tax in particular is the subject of a letter which was delivered by me to the Treasurer this morning in which a number of South Australian people have placed before the Government a case for the review of certain aspects of the entertainments tax as affected by this measure. The Treasurer cannot possibly have had an opportunity to study those proposals because I handed them to his private secretary only at 11 o’clock this morning. As this measure will not come into force until the 1st July next, I protest against any attempt by the Government to suspend the Standing Orders to enable it to be passed through all stages without delay. Being aware of the varied and onerous duties devolving upon the Treasurer, I am certain that he has not yet had an opportunity to study the case I submitted to him only this morning on behalf of certain persons in South Australia.
– This measure is already in operation.
– Although Parliament has not yet passed it?
– These proposals operated as from the date on which they were announced to the Parliament.
– That being so, where is the urgency to pass the bill through all stages immediately? We should not proceed with it until the Treasurer has had an opportunity to consider the information which I have placed before him. Otherwise, should he agree to the suggestions which I have made on behalf of the people in South Australia to whom I have referred, it will he necessary to amend this legislation. Obviously, the proper course to follow is to delay the passage of the measure until the Treasurer has considered those proposals.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without delay.
– I take this opportunity to make it clear to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that the Opposition will not tolerate the manner in which he is treating the House with respect to this bill. Earlier, when we were considering a cognate measure, an amendment was moved but it was nullified because a motion similar to that now before the Chair had previously been agreed to. We do not propose at this juncture to allow the Minister to “ cover up”, as he will be enabled to do if this motion be agreed to. In that event he will avoid giving an explanation of the measure not only to honorable members but also to the people. This is a “ cover-up “ motion which, if agreed to, will take procedure in respect of the subsequent stages of the bill completely out of the hands of honorable members, because no amendment can then be proposed. Earlier, I deplored the cavalier and high-handed attitude of the Minister. I now remind him that other Ministers who followed this procedure did so with a degree of charm and courtesy which he lacks. I say emphatically that the Minister should have regard to the rights of honorable members and the people by enabling the Parliament to consider legislation of this kind in a proper manner. He should tell the Parliament and the country the specific purpose for which this measure has been introduced and what results will flow from it. In the light of such an explanation honorable members would be enabled to assess its full implications. It is all very well for Ministers, as they have done from time to time, to talk about high economic councils superseding the
Parliament. The procedure now being followed will nullify the real purpose of the Parliament as the protector of the interests of the people. Therefore, the Opposition will avail itself fully of the forms of the House to ensure that this measure shall not be passed unless the Minister has fully explained its purpose.
.- I support the protest made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has proposed a motion of which contingent notice appears permanently on the notice-paper. I have always understood that that motion should be invoked to expedite the passage of emergency measures only, because the forms governing the normal procedure of the House are designed to prevent legislation from being rushed through in the manner now proposed by the Minister. Under those forms it is customary for a Minister to give notice of his intention to introduce a particular measure which, usually, is not introduced until the following day, when it is also read a first time. Then, at least another day elapses before the motion for the second reading of the measure is proposed and such a motion is accompanied by an explanation by the Minister of its purposes. Subsequently, a debate proceeds for a day, or a number of days, and later the motion for the third reading is proposed. That procedure has been designed deliberately to delay the passage of legislation at least to a reasonable degree, and the reasons for it are obvious. Its object is to afford to honorable members an opportunity to study bills properly, and to prevent the Government from hustling legislation through the Parliament. That procedure is also a feature of the British parliamentary system. The motion of which contingent notice permanently appears on the notice-paper, therefore, should only be invoked in the spirit of the Standing Orders, that is, in respect of emergency legislation only. This is a simple bill and honorable members have no difficulty in understanding it. Nevertheless, the procedure now proposed is a repetition of that followed in respect of the preceding two measures which honorable members should have been given a fuller opportunity to study. The Minister has said that the proposals embodied in this measure have been in operation since the 16th February. In view of that fact he has still less reason to invoke this contingent motion. However, in view of the Government’s numerical strength, I have no doubt that the motion will be agreed to, but it will deprive the Opposition from submitting any amendment. Such a procedure abrogates the privileges of honorable members as a whole. I make this protest against the contemptuous attitude which the Minister adopted towards the Parliament, particularly the Opposition, in respect of the two preceding measures. Those bills, which involved the imposition of taxes amounting to £156,000,000, were passed through all stages within a few minutes. I again protest against the procedure proposed by the Minister.
– I could understand the attitude of the Government this evening if the Senate were sitting and waiting for the bill, but that chamber will not meet until next Wednesday afternoon at 3 o’clock. Meanwhile, this House will meet to-morrow at 10.30 a.m., next Tuesday at 3 p.m., and next Wednesday at 10.30 a.m. In those circumstances, it is difficult for the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to plead the necessity for suspending so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent the remaining stages of the bill being passed without delay. His explanation that the provisions of the legislation will be retrospective to the 16th February, does not alter the fact that the bill cannot become law until the Senate has passed it. Even if the members of the Opposition walk out of the chamber, or remain perfectly silent for the rest of the evening, this bill cannot be transmitted to the Senate until next Wednesday afternoon. Then, again, it is most unlikely that the bill will be the first business with which that chamber will deal, because I understand that the Government has one or two other tangles that it must first try to unravel.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to assume what will happen in the Senate. I ask him to confine his remarks to the motion.
– I shall not proceed further with that line of argument. We shall await events, but I consider that the circumstances completely refute the Minister’s claim that he is entitled to ask the Opposition to agree to the motion. For that reason, I contend that the Opposition cannot agree to the motion, and so far as I am concerned, the Government must use its brutal majority to suspend the Standing Orders.
Question put -
That so much of the Standing Ordersbe suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without delay.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
That Mr. Dedman and Mr. Chambers do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Dedman, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. - I direct attention to the peculiar construction of the schedule that is incorporated in clause 4. I believe that I am entitled to debate the schedule on the motion for the second reading. If honorable members will examine the schedule, they will see-
– Order! The honorable member knows the procedure of the House sufficiently well to be aware that the general principles of the bill are discussed in the second-reading debate. If the honorable member desires to deal with the schedule, he may do so more appropriately in committee.
– I am not fussy whether I direct attention to the schedule now or later in committee.
– I have merely directed the attention of the honorable member to the general procedure. I do not desire to deprive him of his right to speak on the motion for the second reading, and he will be in order in proceeding.
.- This bill, which amends the Entertainments Tax Act, makes some minor adjustments in respect of sporting contests that are not conducted for profit. I point out to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that the entertainments tax was one of those indirect taxes, or, perhaps, in a sense, a very direct tax that was increased substantially during the war years. It was increased for the purpose of assisting the Government to finance Australia’s war effort. The rates of increase were such as to impose a substantial burden upon family men who had been accustomed to take their wives and children to moderately priced entertainments each week. “When hostilities, ended several years ago most Australians hoped that excessive government legislation and activity which could not be appropriately related to peace would be reduced, with a consequent reduction of government expenditure. They hoped further that, as government expenditure decreased, the levies exacted by the Government in the form of taxes, in various fields would likewise be reduced. It may not be appropriate to survey the whole field of taxation in this debate, but the cold fact is that, far from reducing expenditure since the end of the war, the Government has progressively increased it. The number of Commonwealth employees has steadily increased. Whereas the last pre-war budget provided for an expenditure of about £95,000,000 in 1938-39, the Treasurer’s budget for the current year provided for an expenditure of £494,000,000, approximately five times as much as the total envisaged in 1938-39. I could advance many reasons in favour of a reduction of Commonwealth expenditure, but honorable members who debated the Treasurer’s financial statement earlier this week have already stated those reasons in detail and in a very convincing fashion and I have no occasion to retrace their arguments now. Entertainments tax is a substantial item in the average Australian’s domestic budget. Almost every household feels the need for some degree of paid entertainment on which tax is levied, and the Government ought to give relief to citizens in the moderate income groups by reducing this charge, which was initially an emergency tax based on the necessity for financing the nation’s war effort. I believe that the Government will make a further substantial reduction of the tax, but it will probably do so shortly before the next election in the hope of currying favour with the voters. In the light of its present financial position, there is no reason why that reduction should not take place immediately. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, repeating the treatment which he accorded the House earlier this evening, has not considered it necessary to make the customary explanatory secondreading speech. He has not told us the purposes for which the remission provided for in the bill is to be made. Perhaps he considers that to be unnecessary, having regard to the fact that the Prime Minister stated his reasons when he submitted his financial statement to us. However, neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction attempted to explain why the Government considers a reduction of the general rate of entertainments tax to be impracticable at present. If my memory serves me correctly, entertainments tax was levied principally by the State governments before the war, and the revenue derived from it was used for activities that the State governments considered to be necessary. However, the Commonwealth Government intervened during the war and levied greatly increased imposts for war purposes, at the same time depriving the States of the opportunity to exploit a useful source of revenue. By continuing the entertainments tax at its .present level, the Commonwealth Government both maintains a charge which bears heavily upon the community and also continues to deprive the State governments of their right to draw upon this source of revenue in order to supplement incomes which have been seriously depleted by Commonwealth activity in other fields. I hope that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction will see fit to state the policy of the Government on this matter before the debate ends. If he is not in a position to say whether the tax will be further reduced in the near future, he might at least enumerate the Government’s reasons for persisting with an emergency rate of tax under peace-time conditions.
– All honorable members have received letters and deputations during recent years from sporting bodies which have asked that they be placed on the same footing as live-artist shows in theatres with respect to entertainments tax. I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to introduce this bill to reduce the tax on admittance charges levied by such organizations to the level of the tax on fees for live-artist shows and also to increase the amount exempt from tax from ls. to ls. 3d. At present, patrons of football matches and athletic meetings, which attract large crowds, have to pay a tax of 3d. in addition to every amount of ls. paid as an entrance fee. The bill provides that clubs and other organizations may charge a fee of ls. 3d. free of tax. Of course, if they wish to maintain their revenues at present levels, spectators will benefit by an amount of 3d. for every admission fee. I received a letter to-day from the authorities which control trotting races in South Australia. They are disappointed because the exemption for which this bill provides will not be extended to their charges. They claim that their organization is not a profit-making concern, and therefore they consider that they should be classified with athletic clubs and other sporting bodies of a like nature. I have not answered the letter yet, but I shall certainly point out that there is a vast difference between a trotting club, which has great facilities for earning funds, and athletic and football clubs. That letter demonstrates that, as soon as one section of the community is granted a concession, other sections begin to clamour for relief. However, when this ‘legislation has been passed by the Parliament all honorable members will be able to take pleasure in informing athletic bodies in their electorates that the concessions which hitherto have applied only to performances given by live artists have been extended to their activities and that the Treasurer has taken heed of their requests.
Cinemas have recently been given permission to increase their charges. The schedule to the bill provides that the rate of entertainments tax payable upon such charges shall remain unchanged. If people visit a cinema, in addition to the 2s. 6d. that they may pay for admission they must also .pay 9d. entertainments tax. In that way a fairly heavy burden is imposed upon a large section of the community. I live in an industrial district. Almost the only places of amusement to which the people of that district go are the cinemas, and when they do so this tax is imposed upon them. I consider that the time has come when the taxation authorities and the Treasurer should give consideration to the rate at which the tax should be imposed. I do not lose sight of the fact that this measure proposes that concessions shall be made in certain instances, and honorable members should always be prepared to express their appreciation of benefits of that kind. By means of this measure the Government is acceding to the requests that ‘have been made by athletic bodies throughout Australia.
– On behalf of the cricket, football and racing fraternity of this country, I make a plea to the Treasurer. (Mr. Chifley) for u substantial reduction of the entertainments tax that is charged in respect of such activities. The Beaconsfield Trotting Club, which has been extremely interested in proposals for a reduction of entertainments tax for some time, addressed the following letter to the Treasurer: -
In July last, representatives of Launceston sporting organizations met Tasmanian federal monitors of Parliament in Launceston, when we made the request that patrons of sporting fixtures should pay entertainments tax on the same .basis as those who attend “ live artist “ entertainments. Subsequently, the case was put to you.
We have read in the press that it is your intention to have the Entertainment Tax Assessment Act 1942-1944, amended to provide that patrons of certain types of sporting fixtures pay entertainment tax at the special rates shown in the schedule. However, it appears to us from press reports, that supporters of racing will not share in. the proposed reduction.
At a conference of dog racing, galloping and trotting representatives held in Launceston to-day, I was directed to write you to ask that you give sympathetic consideration to making the reduction applicable to supporters of racing. We feel that people who patronize racing are entitled to share m any reduction in entertainment tax.
In this country racing in its various forms, cricket, which is immensely popular throughout Australia, and football, particularly Australian Rules football, which is our national game, are deserving of some real recognition by the Parliament. I ask the Treasurer to give serious consideration to reducing the entertainments tax that is imposed upon charges for admission to grounds in which cricket and football are played and racing takes place. These sports are the entertainment of the average man.
– Non-profit-making cricket and football organizations are covered by this measure.
– I am asking for a more substantial reduction than that which is proposed.
– If the Government adopted all the suggestions that were made in this chamber, the Treasury would not have sufficient money to pay the salaries of members of Parliament.
– I shall be pleased to forgo a part of my salary if the right honorable gentleman agrees to make a substantial reduction of the entertainments tax that is chargeable in respect of racing, football and cricket. I ask the Treasurer to give serious consideration to the proposition that I have put forward so that the people who regard attendance at these sports as their normal entertainment may obtain admission to them at reasonable prices.
– The Australian people are very disappointed that greater relief in respect of entertainments tax is not to be given to them. This tax imposes a very heavy burden upon the citizens of Australia who seek relaxation after a day’s work. During the last war new taxes were imposed and existing taxes were increased from time to time. The entertainments tax is one of the taxes that was then increased, but there is no longer any necessity to continue to impose it at the present exorbitant rates. Many children go to picture shows with their parents, on Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening. I do not see why the Government desires to extract entertainments tax from those children or their parents. When the children are inside the cinema they buy chocolates, which are subject to sales tax at the rate of 20 per cent. If the father wishes to smoke a cigarette during the interval, he pays sales tax on his cigarette and also upon his matches. The Government’s action in giving a small entertainments tax concession to football clubs and similar organizations has- been described as generous. We have been told that their activities will be treated in the same way as live shows have rightly been treated. At the present time the entertainments tax that i3 payable upon admission fees to live shows is less than that which is payable upon admission fees to football matches and other healthy sporting activities. The present position is that entertainments tax is payable upon admission fees to live shows of ls. or more. By this measure, the generous Australian Government proposes that admission charges up to ls. 3d. shall not attract tax, but charges in excess of that amount are to be subject to tax, as they are in live shows. If a man pays his humble 2s. to attend an interstate football match, he will still have to pay 7d. entertainments tax in addition. That applies to many other forms of entertainment. At a seaside resort in my electorate, the local authorities have invested thousands of pounds in land for use as amusement parts. They have, of course, paid sales tax on the materials used ‘ to provide those facilities; yet, although the profits are used to beautify the locality and to provide improved amenities for visitors, the Commonwealth Treasury places a severe impost upon admission charges. In this way, the Commonwealth is taxing a local authority which is doing its best to improve its own finances. The imposition of entertainments tax upon admission charges to sporting fixtures is unjust. It is retarding rather than developing healthy sports and penalizing sporting organizations which are playing an important part in our community life by rendering a service which is not provided by any government. These impositions might have been necessary in time of war, but they are not necessary to-day, and I contend that the people of Australia have reason to feel most aggrieved at their continuance. I share with the people of this country their disappointment at the Government’s failure to permit amusements to bc provided free of tax for children at least. This tax is an imposition on the fi’ i hers and mothers of this country who wish their children to have some fun at week-ends at picture shows or wholesome outdoor sporting fixtures.
– 1 join with the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) in protesting against this severe impost which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is placing upon all classes of the community. A lot of “ballyhoo” has been talked about what the Government is doing to reduce taxes; but this form of indirect taxation remains and continues to place a heavy burden on people of limited means. Although the money is extracted more or less painlessly, the impact of the tax upon the family man in particular is severe. According to the schedule to this measure, on an admission charge of ls., the entertainments tax is 3d. We all know that, to-day, only children would pay an admission charge of ls. There ‘are few entertainments to which adults are admitted for that sum. Particularly is that true of picture shows. If the admission charge is ls. 3d., the tax increases to 5d., so that of the extra 3d., the Treasurer takes 2d. In other words, from every child who pays ls. 8d. to see a “ Wild West “ show, the Treasurer takes 5d. That is a further striking example of the proprietary interest that the Government is taking in industry and property in this country. Out of the ls. 3d. that remains of the total admission charge, the picture theatre proprietor has to pay the cost of the upkeep of the hall, labour, hiring charges for films, and, of course, income tax. What the Treasurer does with his 5d., of course, is anybody’s guess. I am not permitted to dwell on that matter at this juncture because of the limitations placed upon me by the Standing Orders ; but let us go further down the schedule. 1 have shown that oh low admission charges the entertainments tax must inevitably be contributed by the pennies cf the children. I come now to adults. On an admission charge of 3s. 6d., the Treasurer imposes a tax of ls. Id., making a total of 4s. 7d. When we think of the bulging Treasury-probably the Government will have to build a superstrongroom in a new secretariat to hold all its funds - one wonders whether it is really necessary for the Treasurer to grind the pennies out of people who wish to enjoy some relaxation from their work-a-day life by attending various entertainments. Even dances are not forgotten. Perhaps honorable members opposite do not approve of dancing; but I assure them that in the country districts of Australia particularly, the small town dances or ^’weekly hops” as they are called are important parts of the social life which does much to keep people in the remoter districts. If the admission charge to a dance is 2s.6d., each young lady finds that the Treasurer is her partner and takes 9d. from her.
Mr.Chifley. - Only in spirit.
– Only in spirit, that is true. I have no doubt that the right honorable gentleman would make a gallant and captivating companion if he were there in person, but I think that the young lady would prefer the 9d. On an admission charge of 3s., the tax is l1d., on 4s. 6d. it is1s. 5d., and on 5s., it is 1s. 7d. I. do not propose to deal further with the subject other than to say that the schedule to this measure is a typical example of undercover or invisible taxation, which the community has to pay to the Treasurer, who to-day virtually admits thathe does not require the money.
– in reply - Honorable members opposite have suggested that still greater reductions of the entertainments tax should be made. The resolution and this bill give effect to a relief in taxation for people who attend certain kinds of entertainment. It does not provide for a reduction of the general rate of entertainments tax. Honorable members opposite have suggested that the general rate itself should be reduced because, they say, entertainments tax is an oppressive form of taxation. However, the fact of the matter is that the Treasurer (Mr.Chifley) has to meet certain expenditures and must raise revenue to do so. Some of that revenue is raised by income tax, some by sales tax, some by customs receipts, and some by company taxation. Quite obviously, if the Treasurer is to meet necessary expenditures, he must raise the necessary amounts in some way or other, and the corollary of a greater measure of relief from entertainments tax is that high rates of income tax would have to be maintained. When the income tax rates were under discussion, honorable members opposite did not say that they should not be decreased so that the entertainments tax rate could be reduced.
They accepted the reductions offered. Because those reductions of income tax were made, it is necessary to retain the general rate of the entertainments tax. Honorable members opposite cannot have it both ways. As the Treasurer has said time and time again, and particularly at the last election, taxation rates are under constant review, and if it is found possible to give some greater measureof relief the Treasurer can be relied upon to give it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator. &c. - 1949 -
No. 15 - TrainedNurses’ Guild.
No. 16 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
No. 17 - Australian Theatrical and Amusement Employees’Association.
Commonwealth Public Service Art - Appointment - Department of the Interior - J. K. E. Doolan.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes - Corunna Downs, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
Dandenong Ranges, Victoria.
New Norfolk. Tasmania.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Crown Lands Ordinance - Reasons for resumption of reservation of the Bagot Aboriginal Reserve.
House adjourned at 10.23 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
All these items are in short supply but because of their great variety of end uses it is impossible to make a reliable estimate of the extent of the shortage.
The Government has been able to assist in increasing the output of the commodities in question -
Some 400 displaced persons have already been employed in the production of bricks, tiles and cement products. Recent increases in output reflect the contribution of this labour. As they become available additional displaced persons will be allocated to these and other industries.
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
Has his attention been drawn to Commonwealth Office of Education Discussion Brief No. 27 which, after quoting statistics regarding houses, states -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
It should be noted that during the three and a half post-war years during which it has beenpossible to devote our energies to the solution of thehousing problem, there has been a steady and continuing improvement in the level of output. Measures by the Commonwealth Government contributing to this development include - (a) training of skilled labour under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme - some 18,000 ex-service- men have already been placed in various skilled building trades; (6) supply of displaced persons for employment in industries supplying key materials - 400 displaced persons are at present employed in industries supplying bricks, tiles and cement; (c) admission at concessional rates of duty and removal of sales tax on certain essential building materials; (d) development of building research services through the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; (e) provision of special hostel accommodation for workers in basic industries; (/) in addition to an expanding War Service Homes Programme, the Commonwealth has advanced £40,000,000 to the five States operating under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Expenditure during the current financial year is likely to reach £16,000,000. These measures are, of course, additional to any being developed by the States themselves.
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : -
Strength of -
Official target strengths planned to be achieved within the five-year programme -
Particulars of enlistments and discharges, related to the closest dates within the period from 8th September, 1948, to date, for which statistics are maintained by the services, are_
d. - On the 17th February the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked, without notice, whether the Minister for Trade and Customs could (a) do anything to restrict the importation into Australia of inferior quality leather goods; (6) warn Australians against press advertisements by overseas manufacturers seeking agents to sell their goods on a commission basis and against misrepresentation with regard to the quality of such goods. ‘
The Minister for Trade and Customs has advised that protective rates of duty are imposed on manufactured leather goods so that Australian manufacturers can produce quality goods without fear of competition from cheap, inferior, imported goods. In the past, protective rates of duty have tended to restrict the importation of inferior grades of leather goods. As regards part (b) of the honorable member’s question, the fact that unknown overseas firms are forced to advertise in the local press for agents, should of itself be sufficient warning to businessmen to be extremely careful before entering into any commitments to such firms.
Customs Seizure of Films.
d. - On the 9th February the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked a question concerning the seizure by customs officers of some- exposed cinematograph films from a. passenger arriving from New Zealand. The Minister foi Trade and Customs now desires me to inform the honorable member that the answer to his question i9 as follows : - The film’s were detained in conformity with the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations for the purpose of censorship. The; have been passed by the Censor and are available on application by the owner, who has been advised accordingly. Still films are detained only if they are of an .obscene nature or contain advertising matter relating to a cinematograph film. The Customs (Cinematograph Slims) Regulations apply to all films irrespective of the country of origin. These regulations have been in force since 1932. Experience has shown that unless the regulations are strictly enforced there iB a danger that obscene or objectionable films will be imported and distributed surreptitiously.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 February 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490224_reps_18_201/>.