18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Prime Ministor say whether the Government’s attention has been directed to a statement that was recently published in New York by a prominent authority on foreign affairs to the effect that what is happening in the Far East represents nothing less than a Soviet land drive to Australia? Will the Government take early steps to co-ordinate administrative policy in order to ensure that Australia’s relations with friendly nations in South-East Asia are not jeopardized ?Will the Prime Minister undertake that any future public statements of government policy concerning foreign countries shall be made oither by himself or by the Minister for External Affairs?
– My attention has not been drawn to the statement referred to by the honorable member. For all I know it may have been made by some irresponsible writer or journalist, and in that eventI would not feel obliged to pay much attention to it. Before giving serious attention to it I should require to know by whom it was made and should also have to examine its complete text. In reply to the second portion of the honorable member’s question, concerning the maintenance of friendly relationships with nations whose goodwill is important and, in fact, essential to us, in the event of aggressive action by any nation in the north, where there are approximately 1,200,000,000 people, the honorable member can rest assured that the relations existing between Australia and the countries concerned are excellent, and that every step will be taken to ensure the continuance of those good relationships. Furthermore, I assure the honorable member that any action that may tend to produce peace in the East, and thereby forestall possible aggressive action by any nation in that area, will be taken promptly. With regard to the latter portion of the honorable member’s question concerning statements of government policy, I point out that from time to time I make statements of policy on behalf of the Government. I shall certainly not attempt to prevent any honorable member from expressing his views in the Parliament or any individual from expressing his opinions outside the Parliament.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether he can furnish any information in addition to that which has already appeared in the press concerning the strike which threatens to delay the export of wool from this country and. possibly, to cancel all wool sales? Can he inform the House of the reason why the strike occurred, and the action taken or proposed action to be taken by the conciliation commissioner concerned? Will he also intimate what steps, if any, the Government intends to take to endorse any action taken by the conciliation commissioner ?
– Dealing first with the last portion of the honorable member’s question, I point out that the Government cannot anticipate what will happen in the future, so that it is not necessary for it to make up its mind about something that may not occur at all. In reply to the first portion of the question, .t is correct that a conference was held in Sydney, but it is not correct that Mr. Commissioner Portus left Sydney without consulting the parties to the dispute, or that he departed during the conference without informing the parties that he was going to Melbourne. The commissioner held a preliminary conference, and suggested to the parties that they should confer privately and report back to him. They knew that he had to go back to Melbourne. He went there, and they failed in their private conference, which was held at his request. They have since communicated with him again. At yesterday’s conference it was pointed out that the fact that they had failed at their own private conference had given rise to another conference which, is scheduled to take place at 11.30 a.m. to-day in Melbourne, when representatives of the employers, the employees, and the commission will endeavour to reach agreement. The circumstances that led to the dispute related to casual rates of pay, as reported in yesterday’s press. Although the men did not go on strike they may as well have done so because whilst they are handling incoming goods they will not pass any out to the ships. No good purpose can be served by saying any more about this matter at present. It is to be hoped that the conference that will soon be in session in Melbourne will be successful.
Reconstruction Training Scheme - Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen - Rural Training.
– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction aware that many students who are taking engineering, law, medicine and other degree and diploma courses under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme which last longer than three years, have now reached the stage when they are no longer receiving an allowance from the Government, but have to borrow money to enable them to carry on? Will the Minister inform the House whether he has given consideration to the alteration of the regulations governing reconstruc tion trainees to provide that the whole of the courses shall be financed under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, or that more generous provisions are made for the students during the one or two years of their courses beyond the three years for which the allowance is paid?
– The cost of the first three years of a university course is a gift to reconstruction trainees, and the cost of tuition beyond three years is given by way of a loan to the students. It is not quite true that all of the allowances by way of gifts cease at the end of the three-year period. That applies only to the personal allowance to the individual; the allowance for dependants still continues. The Government gave very serious consideration to this matter when the scheme was inaugurated. In its present form the scheme is costing the Government a considerable amount of money. For example, the training of a doctor under the scheme may cost the Government well over £2,000. The Government considers that it has not been ungenerous in its provision of this training for exservicemen. However, in the light of what the honorable member has said, I shall review the matter to see whether something can be done along the lines suggested by him.
– I understand that ex-servicemen who are being rehabilitated under the war service land settlement; scheme have a priority for supplies of available fencing material such as steel posts and wire over ex-servicemen who arc rehabilitating themselves. If that is so, will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction grant to the men who are rehabilitating themselves equal priority with those who have been settled on the land under the re-establishment plan ?
– The matter is entirely within the jurisdiction of the State governments. All that the Australian Government does is to allocate materials to the States on a basis that was agreed upon by the States. What the State governments do with the materials when they receive them is entirely a matter for their own determination. It should be possible for the State governments to make material available to ex-service settlers who rehabilitate themselves just as they make it available to men who are being re-established under the war service land settlement scheme.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, is concerned with the problems of men who have completed their training under the rural training scheme, and are now at a loose end. In some instances, the men have been trained for a period of eighteen months. Will the Minister say whether, during that period, they received maximum payments of £5 15s. a week, less 5s. for rent? Were the farmers who trained them during that period paid a subsidy by the Government of £2 10s. a week for the first six months, £3 5s. a week for the second six months, and £4 a week for the third six months? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of extending the trainingperiod? In many instances farms are not ready for these men and may not be ready until nine or twelve months from now.
– I was not aware that any ex-servicemen who have received training under the rural training scheme are at a loose end. I do not think it is correct . to describe the allowances that have been paid under the scheme as “ subsidies “. I shall cause the matter to which the honorable member has referred to be thoroughly investigated and shall advise him later of what I propose to do.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether he was accurately reported in this morning’s press with relation to a statement that he is alleged to have made to the effect that the Government was doing all that it could to overcome the shortages of labour and materials for the Australian production of wire netting, and that some of the difficulty was due to the shortage of steel rods, but that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was installing a new rod mill ? Is it a fact that the existing rod mill owned by that company is only working at 70 per cent. of its capacity, because the lack of coal makes it impossible for the mill to be kept supplied with sufficient steel? What action is the Government taking to ensure that the company will receive sufficient coal to enable its plant to be kept operating at full capacity?
– I assume that the statement to which the honorable member has referred is one which I issued yesterday giving an outline of the Government’s proposals for the provision of wire netting to assist in the eradication of rabbits. It was issued so that the people might be well informed on the subject. I have made other statements relating to the importation of wire netting from America, but they do not cover the whole of the arrangements made by the Government for the provision of wire netting and fumigants. I shall furnish the honorable member with a copy of the statement which I issued yesterday so that he, too, may be well informed on the subject. With regard to the second part of the question, as I mentioned last week, both the Minister for Immigration and I have had several conferences with representatives of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, at which the provision of additional labour, not only for the steel mills but also for industries associated with the mining industry, have been discussed. It would take me too long to recite all that the Government has done and proposes to do in that direction. I assure the honorable member that portion of the additional labour to be secured will be allocated to the coal industry. Yesterday I discussed with the Minister for Immigration the plans for accommodation for these additional workers. The honorable member may rest assured that everything possible is being done to expedite the production, not only of steel, but also of coal.
Statement by Sir William Angliss.
– Has the Minister for Immigration seen an article which appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 21st February in which it is reported that Sir William Angliss, M.L.C., advocated the importation of coolies into Australia? If so, does the Minister believe that such action would constitute a very serious threat to the Government’s immigration policy and to the maintenance of the living standards of Australian workers?
– I saw in last night’s issue of the Melbourne Herald a statement attributed to Sir William Angliss, a member of the Liberal party in Victoria and a member of the Legislative Council of that State. Sir William Angliss is reported to have said, in answer to some statements that I made in this House last week, that he favoured the importation of coolie labour into the Northern Territory. He said that the use of coolie labour had made Queensland, and he saw no reason why we should not bring coolies into the Northern Territory. He added that, so far from watering down the White Australia policy, it would make Australia safe for people of European stock. I disagree entirely with the views expressed by him. Sir William Angliss still persists in speaking as a member of the Liberal party.
– The Minister would have the people believe that Sir William Angliss is the leader of the Liberal party. He would almost have them believe that he is the Leader of the Opposition in this House.
– The Leader of the Opposition has not repudiated his statements.
– Nonsense ! The Minister did not hear my speech in this House.
– I heard the Leader of the Opposition say that he believed profoundly in the White Australia policy. It is not good enough for the right honorable gentleman to say that he believes in one thing when half of his followers preach a different doctrine.
– What is the Government’s attitude towards the White Australia policy ?
– I do not want to stir the consciences of or worry honorable members opposite in any way. In some degree, Sir William Angliss is just a little worse than is the honorable member for Fawkner, who also wants to water down the White Australia policy.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel. I understand that at yesterday’s power conference in Sydney, the New South Wales Minister for Works, Mr. Cahill, said that power plants could be greatly assisted if private firms were permitted to use their auxiliary plants. In view of the approach of winter and the likelihood of the intensification of black-outs, is there any possibility of the Commonwealth making dollars available for the importation of additional quantities of diesel and other fuels for these auxiliary plants?
– Representations on the matter raised by the honorable member have been made to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel and myself during the last few weeks. The story is rather involved and relates to the supply of electric power in not only Perth, but also Adelaide and Sydney. In Sydney the shortage is due to the incapacity of the plant at Bunnerong. In this instance, the cause of the difficulty is not shortage of coal but the inability of the plant to produce sufficient power. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel and I have arranged a conference to be held in Canberra on Monday, when the use of auxiliary plant in New South Wales will be examined.
– What about the position in other States?
– The difficulty will be examined in the light of conditions existing generally throughout the Commonwealth. I shall endeavour on Tuesday to supply to the honorable member for Calare the information he has sought.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed reports that 3,000,000 persons are unemployed in the United States of America to-day, and that soup kitchens have been opened in that country for the first time in many years to feed the distressed ? Does not this fact contradict the statement often made in this House that full employment exists in all countries which were not actually devastated by war? Is it not a fact that the present volume of unemployment in the United States of America is due mainly to an uncontrolled economy, rising prices and inflation ? Further, has not the avoidance of such a state of affairs in Australia, as evidenced by present full employment in this country, been due to the sound economic policy and administration of the Government?
– The matter raised by the honorable member is of great interest to all who desire that the peoples of the world shall enjoy security. However, as the question relates directly to government administration in the United States of America I shall not comment upon it except to say that I have seen, not newspaper statements, but official statements that 2,900,000 persons are unemployed in that country at present, and that the position is causing concern to the American Government. I understand that in the main unemployment is confined to a number of pockets and is not general throughout the country. The Australian Government, in conjunction with the governments of other countries, is anxious to see full employment maintained throughout the world because we believe that only by such means can we give to the people the measure of justice to which they are entitled and at the same time combat the menace of communism about which so much has been said.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether when, at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, he was asked for a. greater tax reimbursement to the State of Victoria, he referred to Victoria’s railway fares and freights and said that they should be increased? Is it not a fact that an adequate tax reimbursement would enable a State to keep its railway fares and freights at a reasonable level and thus help to prevent the cost of living from rising? Is the right honorable gentleman prepared to give further consideration to Victoria’s request for an adequate reimbursement under the uniform income tax scheme?
– I do not remember the exact words that I used at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in reference to the matter which the honorable member has mentioned, but
I shall tell him what I had in mind on that occasion. The Premiers were speaking of their budget deficits, and I suggested that the States should enact, as New South Wales had already enacted, legislation to make their business undertakings payable as far as possible. I realize that it is not always possible, with developmental lines and works, to make such undertakings pay, but I told the Premiers that I was unable to see why people who were doing better than at any other time in our history from the sale of their products, whether wheat, wool or any other commodity, should have those goods transported at a loss to the community. At the time of that conference,. New South Wales had already done a great deal, by increasing fares and freights, to make its railways more financially sound, and my remarks were directed to some of the other States that had not taken similar action. Since then, however, I have been informed that all the States have taken some action to make their business undertakings more payable than they had been. I am not at liberty to disclose the precise details of such adjustments. Obviously, there is no reason why growers, who are receiving high prices for wool, wheat and other primary products, should not pay the reasonable cost of transporting those commodities. The Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, stated that at one stage the more wheat the railways carried, the greater was their financial loss. I understand that since the conference the States have made some adjustments of fares and freights in order to make their railways more financially sound.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the Standing Orders Committee of this House proposes to hold meetings for the purpose of arranging standing orders and rules of debate for the next Parliament? If so, will the committee consider amending Standing Order 354, which permits the payment of only 10s. 6d. a day to a witness before a select committee of this House? Such a payment is entirely inadequate at the present time.
– I have not received any intimation to date from any of the leaders of the political parties to the effect that they desire a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee to consider the revision of the Standing Orders and rules of debate for the next Parliament. However, I have not the least doubt that, with the larger Parliament, it will be necessary to make an attempt to streamline the Standing Orders. When the committee does meet, suggestions by honorable members in relation to that matter will be treated on their merits.
– My question to the Prime Minister is based upon an extract from an article that appeared recently in the Malay Mail, dealing with the situation in Malaya at the present time. The article states, in part -
Unless the public and the Government realize how desperate is the race for time in Malaya, this year may well see the collapse of the British regime in that country.
Having regard to the obvious importance to Australia of the strategic position of Malaya and to our obvious obligations to our fellow Britons in that area, I desire to ask the Prime Minister the following questions : - What representation has Australia in that country at the present time? Have any conferences been held recently of members of the British Commonwealth in that part of the world to deal jointly with the Malayan situation? What assistance, if any, has Australia offered in terms of personnel and equipment to the administration in Malaya? Does the Australian Government propose to initiate, or has it been invited to attend, any conference of governments directly affected, which can usefully deal with the problem ?
– No suggestion has been made for holding a conference of countries interested in Malaya. Australia has a representative at Singapore, Mr. Massey, who is a most capable officer. He keeps us fully informed about happenings there, and he, in turn, confers with Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, who is Governor-General of Malaya and Special Commissioner for South-East Asia. I have had discussions with Mr.
MacDonald on two occasions about the position there, and the Minister for External Affairs has had other conversations with him. The Australian Government has made no offers of personnel, but any requests that have been made by the Malayan authorities, through the United Kingdom Government, for supplies of material or equipment required for the preservation of law and order have been met. On a previous occasion I enumerated the arrangements that had been made by the Minister for Air and the Minister for the Army to send equipment to Malaya in response to requests that had been made by the administration of Malaya through the United Kingdom High Commissioner at Canberra. Other consignments have been sent since then, but I gave no publicity to them because I am a great believer in creating goodwill by actions rather than by words. According to my memory, we despatched, on the 1st August, 1948, another consignment of material that the Malayan authorities needed. A further request has since been received for additional material, and the Minister for the Army informed me about a week ago that it had been despatched by ship, the quantity involved having been insufficient to warrant the sending of a special aircraft.
– Has there been any request for personnel ?
– No, and no offer of personnel has been made. All official requests from Malaya for the supply of equipment needed for the preservation of law and order have been met by the Australian Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral in connexion with the regulations that govern the granting of bulk postage concessions for certain types of postal matter. The regulations provide that pamphlets and journals may be forwarded at bulk rates if a charge is made for them. Many church institutions publish monthly gazettes which are financed by general donations from parishioners. However, no specific charge is made for such journals, although., in effect, they are paid for by the recipients by means of general contributions. Consequently, such publications are denied the benefit of bulk rates. Because most church institutions have rather slender finances, will the Minister confer with the PostmasterGeneral, to whom’ the matter has already been referred, with a view to amending the regulations so that the publishers of such journals may enjoy the privilege that is at present extended to journals published for profit, and not solely for the good of the community?
– I shall convey the honorable gentleman’s views to the PostmasterGeneral and will ask him to give sympathetic attention to the suggestion that has been made. A lot of papers have the benefit of bulk postage rates. Church journals, which breathe Christianity over the land in a way that some other publications do not, seem to me to be more entitled to preferential treatment than some other journals that I could mention.
– Last week I addressed a question to the Minister for Repatriation concerning the shortage _ of medical practitioners in the Repatriation Department in Brisbane. In the course of my question I pointed out that returned ex-service men and women are applying at the’ rate of 450 a week for medical examinations, having claimed that the disabilities from which they are suffering are attributable to their war service. I asked the Minister to examine the possibility of transferring to Brisbane medical practitioners who are in excess of requirements elsewhere in Australia so that they may keep up to date with these examinations. The honorable gentleman promised to make urgent inquiries to see whether that could be done and to advise me of their result, but I have not yet received a reply from him. I ask the Minister whether I may expect a reply to be given to-day in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
– I recollect the question to which the honorable member has referred. I immediately asked the Repatriation Commission in Melbourne to inquire into the practicability of hia suggestion and to inform me of the result, but so far I have not received the information for which I asked. I can inform the honorable gentleman now that there is no hope of obtaining doctors from other parts of Australia, where they are alleged to be in excess of requirements. At the present time there are no surplus doctors in any State of the Commonwealth, and we must make do with those who are available. I have undertaken to do what I can to ensure that the doctors in this country shall be distributed equitably to meet the needs of ex-servicemen in all States. I shall ask the Repatriation Commission to expedite its inquiries.
– -Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a report in the Melbourne Herald in which Sir Henry Turner is stated to have said that the delay in concluding a meat agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom is the fault of Australia, and that although the United Kingdom Government has communicated with the Australian Government it has not received replies to its communications? In view of the great interest of meat producers in this matter and its importance to the industry, will the Minister try to expedite the conclusion of an agreement?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member referred but in any case, I should not be influenced by it because any representations that Sir Henry Turner might wish to make would be made in official comunications to the Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the disclosure of the Government’s intentions in respect of the medical profession under the medical benefits scheme was authorized by the Government. If not, by whom was it authorized ?
– As far as I am aware the Minister for Health has not issued any official statement to the press on this subject. Certainly I have not done so. The Minister has made one report to Cabinet on the matter and is to make another.
Reference to PublicWorks Committee.
.- On behalf of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - Building for an automatic telephone exchange at St. Kilda, Victoria.
The proposed exchange is necessary to serve as the main switching centre for the telephone network consisting of branch exchanges at Elwood, Elsternwick, Gardenvale, Brighton, Sandringham, Cheltenham, Highett and Mordialloc, known as the “ X “ group, and also to serve 4,000 local subscribers within the St. Kilda area. A site in Inkermanstreet, St. Kilda, situated between Barkly and High streets, was acquired in February, 1946, for the dual purpose of a line depot and an automatic exchange building. The frontage to Inkermanstreet is 101 ft. 3 in. with an average depth of 197 feet. A four-story structure has been designed, the ground, first and second floors being for exchange purposes, and the third floor for engineering offices. In the initial stage, however, it is proposed to erect three floors only, the ground and first floors to be used for exchange requirements, and the second floor for engineering staff.
The building will be a steel-framed concrete-encased structure, with reinforced concrete floors, stairs, &c, and having brick in-full walls. The lift will be concrete-encased and partitions generally will be 4-in. terra cotta lumber with glazing to offices. The ground and first floors will be airconditioned which service will subsequently be extended to the second floor when the third floor is completed in the second stage of the work. The estimated cost of the project is £97,952. I lay on the table the plans of the proposed building.
– The supply of automatic telephone exchanges is very important to Australia. The number of unsatisfied applications for telephones is continually growing. The Postmaster-General’s Department is unable to obtain sufficient labour to operate telephone exchanges, and in some areas exchanges have for that reason had to be closed down. The time has come when the Postmaster-General ought to make an authoritative statement disclosing to the people how long he thinks it will be before it will be possible to supply telephones to those who have applied for them, and also how long it will take to provide country areas with very necessary automatic telephone exchanges. I note that the PostmasterGeneral has stated that he hopes to have television operating in Australia in three years from now. It is time that the people told the Postmaster-General that they want first things first. They want telephones connected to meet the outstanding applications for them and they also want automatic telephone exchanges installed throughout the country. After the Postmaster-General has attended to those matters he might start tinkering at such matters as television.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 24th February (vide page 651), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill has been introduced to the House in the circumstances outlined by the Prime Minister in his second-reading speech. As many honorable members will recall,the Royal Commissions Act is of very doubtful and very limtied validity. It was successfully challenged 35 years ago before the Privy Council. Accordingly, whenever a royal commission is appointed and questions arise concerning its power to enforce answers to questions asked before it, or to deal with witnesses, it has now become the practice for the government of the day to put through a specific measure authorizing the royal commission in each particular case.
As, in the royal commission with which this bill deals, there has apparently been a challenge to the power of the royal commissioner, the bill is a necessary bill if the proceedings of the commission are to have validity. So the first thing that I have to say about the measure is that it is a necessary one if the royal commission is to be fully empowered to do its work. In the second place, I should like to say that I agree with the statement of the Prime Minister that the royal commissioner who has been appointed in this instance may safely be trusted to exercise his powers with wisdom. The royal commissioner, Mr. Justice Ligertwood, is a man whose reputation is of the highest throughout Australia, and everybody will have the most complete confidence in his ability, integrity and wisdom. So that, on that ground also, I find myself in agreement with the Prime Minister.
But the preamble to the bill cites the terms of reference. Honorable members know better than I do, as I was absent from Australia during a great deal of the discussion that arose on the matters into which the royal commission is inquiring, that there is not by any means complete public satisfaction with the terms of reference. The terms of reference relate to several matters, but there are some other matters that have occasioned a great deal of discussion and that, I put it to the Government, ought to be included in the terms of reference. I make it perfectly clear that I do not make that statement with any desire to make any allegations. As I understand it, the inquiry was sought by the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) himself, and it is of the first importance that when the inquiry has concluded the whole matter should be closed. It is also of the first importance that when the royal commissioner has reported to the Government there should be no ragged ends. No one should be able to say, “ They did not inquire into so and so.” I genuinely desire that the whole matter should be placed beyond doubt or conjecture by having all relevant matters completely in vestigated by the royal commissioner, who enjoys the complete confidence of the community. The terms of reference to the royal commission, which are referred to in the preamble to the bill, relate to the transactions between Raymond Parer, Harcourt Garden, Edward Farrell and John Smith Garden and Hancock and Gore Limited in relation to timber rights. The royal commissioner is then directed to inquire -
Whether the honorable Edward John Ward, Minister of State for External Territories, was party to any of the transactions abovementioned.
The next matter for inquiry is whether the Minister signed, or authorized John Smith Garden to sign, a notification that a timber licence would be approved. The commissioner is then directed to inquire whether the Minister obtained any financial benefit, or was promised any financial benefit. Those questions appear to be reasonably comprehensive. The next question is -
Whether the Minister -
is or was financially interested, either directly or indirectly, in Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited;
has received, either directly or indirectly, any financial benefit from that company.
It will be within the knowledge of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and of honorable members generally that in the course of the earlier proceedings suggestions were made that influence had been used by the Minister to secure important concessions for Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited. That allegation ought not to be left unanswered. While the royal commissioner is investigating other specific matters in relation to Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited, it would be no great matter for him to go further and investigate the suggestions that everybody knows have been made that the Minister did, in fact, use his ministerial influence to obtain from another Commonwealth department a concession for Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited to import certain goods. Two other matters also arise. The terms of reference contain no mention of William Urquhart, who was a man-power officer employed in the Department of Labour and Industry.Urquhart was very closely associated with the Minister, a fact which is not controverted because even the Minister admitted it in the course of other proceedings.Urquhart spent several nights each week at the Minister’s home attending to political matters for him. He is the individual who was nominated by the Minister for appointment as managing director of Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited after the Minister had himself refused that appointment. Beyond all doubt there was the closest co-operation between the Minister andUrquhart. Furthermore, it is part of the record of the proceedings, and is, therefore, not controverted that Urquhart had six different bank accounts. Over a period of two years, he passed through those accounts sums totalling £29,000, which he related, I understand, to betting transactions. We cannot delude ourselves into the belief that there is not, in the public mind, considerable doubt aboutUrquhart, his activities and associations. I mention that, because when the Minister gives evidence before the royal commission, he ought to be in a position to deal with the allegations concerning his association withUrquhart, so that the royal commissioner may return a clear and unequivocal finding concerning them. If the Minister is not given that opportunity shoulders will be shrugged, and after the inquiry people will say, “What became ofUrquhart? We have read a great deal about him, but there does not appear to have been any real inquiry about him “. Therefore, I put it to the Prime Minister that some questions concerningUrquhart and the Minister’s association with him should be added to the terms of inquiry.
Then there is the matter of the missing witness, Ainslie St. Aubyn Kingsford. Honorable members may say that, in one sense, Kingsford’s disappearance is of no great importance. He was an employee of the Bank of New South Wales who was engaged in the security department of that bank. During the preliminary proceedings he was called as a witness, not to give positive evidence of facts, but on what lawyers call “subpoena duces tecum” to produce certain documents and he produced to the court certain documents relating to the Minister’s safe deposit box. He did that on the 23rd January, 1948, and on the 28th January, five days later, he disappeared. Apparently, in spite of search, he has not been seen since. It is permissible to say that there is certainly no record of his death, and, therefore, the presumption is that he is living somewhere in Australia. His wife, I noticed, is credited with having made the observation that nobody need worry about him. What that curious remark means I am as unable as any other honorable member to say. Such a dramatic event as Kingsford’s disappearance has occasioned interest, and it may easily give rise to speculations, including quite fantastic conjectures. However, the matter has been mentioned, and it has received considerable publicity. I put it to the Prime Minister that an inquiry by the royal commission into that matter can dispose of a mass of rumour and discover whether there is any association between Kingsford’s disappearance and the other subjects for investigation. Therefore, I desire to move-
That all words after “That”be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ the billbe withdrawn until such time as the terms of reference of the royal commission are amended to provide for inquiry into and report upon the following additional matters : -
(a) Whether the Honorable Edward John Ward has obtained or assisted in obtaining any contract, concession or benefit for Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited.
) The circumstances associated with the appointment of WilliamUrquhart to that company.
The conduct by the said William Urquhart of his position as Manpower Officer at Newtown and Glebe and his financial affairs including the operation of his various bank accounts since that time.
Whether there was anything improper in the circumstances of the association between the Minister and the said WilliamUrquhart.
The circumstances associated with the disappearance of Ainslie Aubyn Kingsford, and whether there is any connexion between his disappearance and the matters within the scope of the inquiry “.
I submit the terms of my motion to the House, not with any dogmatism as to the phraseology employed, because the drafting of documents in such matters is always open to further consideration, but because I feel that the particular matters referred to in the motion should be investigated by the royal commissioner while he is examining the other aspects of this matter. Having appointed as royal commissioner a judge of outstanding probity and fitness for the task, the Government should seize every opportunity to have investigated all matters of any relevance so that when the royal commissioner has concluded his investigations and made his report there will be no room whatever for speculation or malicious rumour.
Mr.SPEAKER (Hon. J. S.Rosevear). - I have carefully examined the proposed amendment of the right honorable gentleman, and I rule it out of order.
– Ha, ha !
– Order ! This is a serious matter, and if the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) again interjects I shall havehim removed from the chamber. I point out that yesterday, pursuant to notice, the Prime Minister moved -
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.
In my opinion that was the stage at which any proposal to extend the terms of reference of the royal commissioner should have been made, and the motion for leave might then have been amended to include within the scope of the bill the suggested additional terms of reference. No discussion took place at that stage and no suggestions were made for the extension of the terms of reference to the royal commission, and consequently the House carried that motion in the terms which I have stated. May’s Parliamentary Practice, fourteenth edition, is very clear on this point. At page 395 this passage appears -
The fundamental rule that debate must be relevant to a question necessarily involves the rule that every amendment must be relevant to the question on which the amendment is proposed.
Even more definite is this statement at page 499 -
The principle of relevancy in an amendment governs every such motion. . . . The amendment must “ strictly relate to the bill which the House, by its order, has resolved upon consideration “. . . .
As I have already said, the order of the House yesterday referred to “ certain matters in relation to timber rights in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea “. Paragraphs a and b of the first part of the right honorable gentleman’s proposed amendment are, I think, already covered by the provisions of the bill. The conduct of WilliamUrquhart, in his position of man-power officer at Newtown and the disappearance of a witness who gave evidence in the case, have no connexion with the order of leave given by the House yesterday. The bill cannot go beyond the terms of the order of leave, and consequently an amendment cannot do so. I rule, therefore, that the amendment is out of order.
– I wish to speak to your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
– Although I do not wish to be discourteous to the honorable gentleman, that is my ruling. If a point of order is raised it is quite competent, before the Chair gives a decision, to rediscuss it, but after the Chair has given a ruling an honorable member may only move dissent from it.
– I am not seeking to do that. I merely point out that this legislation is to give the royal commission power to compel witnesses to give certain evidence. In my opinion the effect of your ruling is that the only evidence that would come within the scope of the proposed legislation is evidence relating to timber rights in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea. Although I understood Mr. Speaker to put to the House that the order of leave related only to matters concerning timber rights in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea, the Government is seeking to give authority to the royal commissioner to compel answers, and to compel witnesses to give evidence in relation to those matters. However, from the terms of reference set out in the preamble to the bill, it is quite clear that the matters before the royal commissioner go considerably beyond the question of timber rights in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea. If the Parliament passes this legislation will the position be on the ruling that
Mr. Speaker has given, that the royal commissioner will be able only to compel witnesses to give evidence in relation to those matters appearing in the terms of reference which deal with timber rights in the Territory of Papua-New Guinea, or will he also be able to compel witnesses to give evidence in relation to the other matter mentioned in the terms of reference set out in the preamble?
– I have not the least doubt that the royal commissioner will conduct the proceedings without any reference to my opinion about his scope. All that I have ruled is that a bill must be in conformity with the order of leave given by the House. I have examined this measure very carefully and my opinion is that it is within that order of leave, but the other matters that I have referred to, contained in the right honorable gentleman’s proposed amendment, are not within the order of leave, and the proposed amendment is therefore ruled out of order. I shall hear no further argument on the matter. I have given my ruling, and honorable members have a right to dissent from it if they so desire.
-i rise to order. Paragraph v of the terms of reference reads -
Whether the Minister -
is or was financially interested, either directly or indirectly, in Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited ;
has received, either directly or indirectly, any financial benefit from that company:
No reference is made therein to the Papua-New Guinea timber rights in any way. I point out that Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited was not involved in any way in the Papua-New Guinea timber rights transaction. This is another matter which apparently the Prime Minister has decided that the royal commission shall investigate. The amendment that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) desired to move was designed to extend the term? of reference, in a. vital way. If you would consider that point, Mr. Speaker, you would realize, without any stretching of the imagination, that the affairs of Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited could not be brought within the scope of the Papua-New Guinea Timber Rights Royal Commission. By a strict interpretation of the Standing Orders I submit that that part of the reference is not in accordance with the title of the bill.
– I realize the great responsibility that I accept in ruling such an important amendment out of order, but I assure the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that, so far as I can see, there is no point that I have not covered in making a decision on this matter. It is quite clear that the earlier terms of reference suggest some connexion by the Minister, financial or otherwise, with Sydney Pincombe Proprietary Limited. An opportunity is now given by the terms of reference contained in the bill to discover what happened to the money. I think that it is quite in order.
.- There is growing public uneasiness that the terms of reference of the present royal commission are unduly restricted. If that is so, when the report is tabled there will still be many important questions unanswered. That will be unfair to the Minister for External Territories (Mr.Ward), his department and the public. The action now being taken should have been taken at the outset. The terms of reference were not dictated by the commissioner, but by the Government. This measure seeks to make legal the inquiry that has now been proceeding some weeks. The Government’s legal advisers must have known all along that the present situation would arise, and therefore the Government was unfair to this Parliament. This is not the time when the Parliament should be called upon to debate this matter. The Government hoped to avert a discussion of the terms of reference by not introducing a bill, which was unfair to the commissioner, who was placed in an impossible position. From the outset he knew that any interested party could challenge his jurisdiction. But the Government was interested only in stifling public discussion regarding the terms of reference. Its objective was to restrict the inquiry to the narrow field of the Hancock and Gore Limited deal with the so-called syndicate.
It was most anxious that there should be no general probe into the Government’s administration. Yet that is what the public is demanding. At present the scope of the inquiry is limited to what happened to Hancock and Gore’s £50,000. That is only a secondary consideration. Whatever the commissioner decides on that matter will be of minor consequence. There have been previous stories about timber speculation in this country. This inquiry is concerned with graver issues than that. The question that this Parliament must answer is whether this bill will provide the commissioner with the necessary powers to make an exhaustive inquiry into every important issue that has been raised. That is a matter of public concern.
If the commissioner is not given sufficiently wide powers his report will be worthless. If important questions remain unanswered, it will be because of the failure of the Government to arm the commissioner with the necessary authority to answer them. It now becomes the responsibility of this Parliament to see that he is given sufficient authority to make a full investigation. Three important steps must be taken to ensure that the commissioner is placed in the position that he should have occupied from the outset. First, the Parliament should in this bill clothe the commission with all essential powers. The next step should be to widen the terms of reference to cover every major matter of public interest. Nothing should be withheld from the inquiry. Nothing should be concealed. The probe should cover not only the affairs of Hancock and Gore, but also the administration of the department charged with responsibility for the administration of New Guinea, and any other government department whose work has been brought under review as a result of evidence already given, or of allegations made in these or previous proceedings. The third step should be that new counsel should be appointed to assist the commissioner. Counsel engaged hy the Crown is a man of unassailable character, but as he prosecuted in the previous proceedings, he should not again have been briefed to assist the commissioner. Counsel appointed to assist the commissioner should he able to approach his task with a completely detached mind and without any previous fixed convictions. The, re-appointment of the same counsel was unfair to the commissioner and to counsel himself. Even at this stage additional senior counsel should be assigned in order to bring to bear on the matter an entirely new mind. Counsel assisting the commissioner should be completely objective in his approach. His job is to get at the truth, whoever may be injured in the process. His job is not to maintain a stand taken in any previous proceedings. However impartial and however honest he might be in his approach, he would hardly be human if the fights he had waged in other jurisdictions did not colour his outlook on this occasion. I have no doubt that he did not seek the brief. When approached, he no doubt acted quite correctly in accepting it. Why did the Government offer him the position, when it was fully aware of all that had preceded this inquiry? That action appears to be unparalleled in the history of the ‘bar. There is no reason why the Government should not have briefed him to appear before the inquiry, hut hot in the semi-judicial position of counsel assisting the commissioner with authority to decide what witnesses should be called and what questions should be asked. That is entirely wrong. As it stands at present this inquiry is a very sensational affair, and we are surely entitled to ask where it will end. Will it reach any definite worthwhile conclusions ?
What if it does reach most definite conclusions about a man named Farrell, a man named Parer, a man named Garden, and even a man named Ward ? Will that be the end of it? If we can accept the word of the commissioner when ordering Farrell into the ‘box there will be no further prosecutions. Are not the real matters of public importance which in themselves would justify the establishment of this commission in danger of being excluded from the ambit of the inquiry? Was not Urquhart an official of the Manpower Department ? Were not the really serious allegations made about him in his capacity as a man-power official, not as a friend of the Minister? Why, then, should the Government have failed to extend the terms of reference to cover his position as a man-power officer ? Why did it not request the royal commissioner to report upon his betting activities while he held that important position? In those days men’s futures were decided in the man-power office. A man-power official decided whether a man had to go to New Guinea - whether he liked it or not; - or stayed in Australia and made hi3 livelihood on the race-course. All that was left to the discretion of the man-power official, and if there were the faintest suggestion that one of those important officials became wealthy, should not there be an inquiry into that insinuation ? Garden also was a public servant. He was employed as a liaison officer to the then Minister for Labour. Should not the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) insist that an inquiry be made into the administration of that section of his department so that the honesty and character of the officials concerned may be vindicated?
Then there is. the position of the Government itself. Did it not know what was happening before the “ show “ blew up in 1947? If so, did any member of the Government fail to bring the matter before the proper authorities before Ward called in the Deputy Crown Solicitor? That aspect is not included in the present terms of reference. Yet one witness, Raymond Barer, has given evidence that at an interview in Canberra on the 5th June, 1947, his brother informed the Minister for Trade and Customs. (Senator Courtice) of what was happening. Is that a statement of fact? If so, did that Minister take any action to inform the Prime Minister or any other member of the Government of the allegations that had been conveyed to him? Ward was out of the country at that time. There is evidence that five months later, Ward told the representatives of Hancock and Gore “ Bulolo is out “. Was there any connexion between the interview with the Minister for Trade and Customs on the 5th June, 1947, if it took place, and Ward’s decision five months later in those specific terms? If so, were any other members of the Government involved in Ward’s decision? Surely that phase of the matter should be inquired into by the commissioner. At this stage he has no reason to call the Minister for Trade and Customs or to concern himself in any way about what Parer is alleged to have asked the Minister to convey to the Prime Minister. That should be remedied immediately.
Then, there is the question as to why certain evidence now being tendered was not disclosed earlier if it were available to the Crown. That also is a proper matter for judicial investigation. Parer mentioned the Courtice interview only after Mr. Shand asked him why he had not volunteered certain other evidence at Garden’s trial. He then said that there were other things of even greater importance that he had attempted to bring out but had been stopped. When asked to mention one of those matters he told of the Courtice incident. Then, because the terms of reference did not cover such a matter, counsel assisting the commissioner immediately dropped the matter. That is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs.
There are other major matters that should be inquired into. There is the suggestion that Queensland plywood manufacturers have created a combine for the exploitation of their product. If Hancock and Gore had £50,000 to hand out without making any more detailed inquiries than those disclosed to date, they must have been engaged in a very lucrative business. Should there not be some inquiry to determine how plywood distribution was effected during the war years, and whether excessive profits were made by members of the combine?
It has also been alleged that “ Jimmy “ Brett, E. G. Theodore and MacAdam were involved in some New Guinea plywood deal. Surely, that allegation should receive more than passing notice. Brett is a member of the Government’s plywood panel. He is the same James Brett who was involved in allegations that were investigated by a select committee of this House in 1920 concerning the saleof Queensland timber areas to the War Service Homes Commission for £245,000 free of Federal and State income tax. Later, the income tax free clause was deleted from that contract, but Brett was given rights to all the tops of the trees in the areas he had previously sold amounting to 30,000,000 super, feet of timber. At the same time, Brett acted as valuer for Laheys Limited, who sold their timber rights to the Commonwealth for £243,600. Previously, they had offered to sell the same rights to Theodore, when he was Premier of Queensland, for £150,000; but when Theodore was called as a witness he could not find the memorandum covering the offer, and could not remember the details. Shortly afterwards, Brett bought back those timber rights from the “War Service Homes Commission at a fraction of the amount he had received from the Commonwealth. The select commitee in its report, which was tabled in this House on the 26th November, 1920, also mentioned that a timber combine was operating to control output and regulate prices. If Brett has been involved in New Guinea, surely there is every reason why his activities should be investigated by the royal commissioner.
If there is a plywood combine, the reason for the delay in working the Parer leases becomes apparent. What Brett did to the Commonwealth in the 1920’s is only a circumstance to what the so-called syndicate did to Hancock and Gore. Therefore, the Government should take this opportunity to widen the inquiry immediately. The Prime Minister has stated that he will widen the terms of reference if the royal commissioner requests him to do so. I contend that he should widen the terms of reference at the request of this Parliament. If the Government has nothing to hide, the royal commissioner should be empowered to cover every phase of the transactions. He should be called upon to inquire into the matters contained in the question which I asked in this House recently. On that occasion, I received an assurance that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) would consider the matter. I do not know whether the Attorney-General is still in Australia, but whether he is or not, I am still awaiting his reply.
– This bill raises a question that is of vita] concern to every honorable member. An inquiry is now being conducted into the administration of a Minister of the Crown, and irrespective of our political views, it is vital to the preservation of our democratic institutions that any distrust or suspicion about the workings of * our parliamentary system shall he cleared up and removed. I remind honorable members that the Lynskey inquiry in Great Britain recently was similar to the Ligertwood inquiry which is now proceeding in Sydney. Mr. Justice Lynskey was appointed to inquire, inter alia, into the operations and activites of Mr. John Belcher, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. I shall compare the approach of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Attlee, to the challenge to the integrity of certain Ministers and public servants with that of the Prime Minister of Australia to the present inquiry into the New Guinea transactions. When presenting to the House of Commons the bill authorizing the establishment of the tribunal, Mr. Attlee said -
Democracy cannot thrive in an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust.
There are certain considerations that the Government cannot overlook. The public are concerned, but most important of all, there should .be a just regard for the rights of the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) and others involved in the inquiry. At this juncture, no honorable member should express an opinion as to the Minister’s complicity or otherwise in the New Guinea transactions. If he has not been involved in a fraudulent deal, as has been suggested, he is entitled to have his name so cleared that afterwards it will not be possible to say that certain evidence which would have caused the royal commissioner to alter his findings had been excluded from the inquiry. But the Government desires so to confine the terms of inquiry that certain matters which many members of the public consider to be highly relevant to the investigation, are excluded. Even if the findings of the royal commissioner exonerate the Minister for External Territories, he will not be exonerated in the eyes of many people. Therefore, the Government should widen the terms of reference.
– In view of the fact that the royal commission is now sitting, the whole discussion about this matter is politically indecent. I am referring not to the motion that has been submitted or to the speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), but to what has happened since,
– I hope that the Prime Minister is not referring to my remarks, because I have not touched on the guilt or innocence of any party. The right honorable gentleman has stated that this discussion is politically indecent because the royal commission is now sitting. I remind him that the Lynskey inquiry in Great Britain, which concluded only a few weeks ago, investigated allegations that were comparable to the allegations in the New Guinea case. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade had been accused of having accepted gifts and presents from a person named Stanley, and of having exercised his influence in the granting of licences and other governmental concessions. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Attlee, when presenting to the House of Commons the bill authorizing the appointment of the tribunal, said that, in the interests of the public, there should be the utmost expedition in investigating the allegations. He explained that the matter had first been brought to his notice last August, and that the Metropolitan Commissioner of Police had also referred it to him a month or so later after having conducted investigations. On the 27th October, Mr. Attlee introduced a bill to authorize the appointment of a tribunal consisting of Mr. Justice Lynskey .and two eminent king’s counsel to inquire -
Whether there is any justification for the allegation that payments, awards, or other considerations had been sought, offered, promised, .made, or received ‘by, or to, Ministers of the Crown, or other Public Servants in connection with the granting of licences, or permission, required under any enactment, regulation, or order, or with the withdrawal of any prosecution and, if so, in what : circumstances the transactions :took place and what persons were involved.
Thus the tribunal had the widest ‘possible scope in conducting its inquiries. I direct particular attention ito the words in the terms of reference -
If so, in what (Circumstances the transactions took place and what persons were involved.
That provision has been excluded from this bill. The royal commissioner is per- mitted to inquire only into matters that the Government allows him to investigate. The Prime Minister has said that certain injustices may result from the debate on this bill while the royal commission is sitting. As I stated earlier, there are various considerations involved in the matter. For example, there is the liberty of a man who is now in gaol. He claims that he has been improperly placed in prison, and that evidence, which would probably have resulted in his acquittal, had not been produced. I refer to Mr. J. S. Garden-
– He has his remedy..
-A few days ago, a notice of motion was filed in the High Court seeking a stay of proceedings in connexion with the royal commission until Mr. Garden’s appeal had been heard. This bill, I assume, will place the royal commission beyond such restraint.
– The purpose of the bill is to ensure that the royal commissioner shall have complete power to obtain all the information that he desires on this matter.
– I should like to know whether this bill will prejudice the fair trial of any citizen. Again, I quote the words of Mr. Attlee to the House of Commons. He pointed out that the Government had drafted the tribunal’s terms of reference in such a way -as to enable it to inquire into other and apparently unconnected matters which might come to its notice and which it might .consider -to be within the scope of its inquiry. He proceeded -
No doubt they will ensure that the interests of justice are safe-guarded and that neither ‘the prosecution or the .defence pf any ^ person prosecuted will be prejudiced by the .inquiry. If on the other hand, no prosecution is launched or .contemplated, the inquiry will proceed.
I direct -attention particularly to the words -
If on the -other hand, no prosecution is launched or contemplated, the inquiry will proceed.
The implication of the statement was that the inquiry would not proceed if a prosecution were launched or in contemplation. ‘ -Certain proceedings are before the High -Court of Australia at present, and this bill is designed to short-circuit the counsel for the accused person-
– Order ! The honorable member has no right to say that in this House, and he knows it.
– Very well. I regret it, and withdraw.
– It was very deliberate.
– I will say-
– ‘Order ! This is a very unfortunate occasion. During the course of an inquiry by a royal commission and other legal proceedings, a bill that requires full discussion has come before the House. Freedom of speech and the right to discuss a bill are unlimited in this Parliament, but there are well-established precedents to the effect that, when a case ;« before a court, nothing should be said in this House to prejudice the case one way or the other. The honorable member knows that.
– I simply point out that the bill is designed to give the royal commission undoubted legal authority to do what it is doing and that application has been made to restrain the commission from proceeding at the present time. Many other considerations that call for investigation are attached to the inquiry into the administration of New Guinea, and the public is entitled to know the truth about them. All that is desired is to establish the facts. The Government has resisted every attempt made by the Opposition during the last two years to extract from it the truth regarding the administration of New Guinea. Three months before the New Guinea timber story broke, I asked for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the administration of New Guinea. A few months prior to that, I directed a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) regarding the relationship between the Government and Mr. “ Jock “ Garden. I asked him what position Mr. Garden occupied in the Commonwealth offices in Sydney, whether he had a room there for his own use, what his duties were, and a number of other questions designed to elicit certain information. I received a reassuring reply from the Minister as to Mr. Garden’s duties, remuneration and activities. I asked those questions because, throughout the City of Sydney, a great deal of talk was then current concerning Mr. Garden’s association with members of the Government in many different ways. We want to uncover the truth about the New Guinea timber deal and everything associated with it. If the royal commissioner, whose integrity, I think, would not be questioned by anybody inside or outside this Parliament, is to be obliged to make his final decision upon evidence that has been confined to very narrow channels, the public will not be satisfied, whatever the decision may be. It is vital that the Minister’s name should be cleared if he is innocent. I, for one, would not seek for a moment to have him indicted improperly. If he is clear in connexion with this matter, he is entitled to complete exoneration, but he must be exonerated not only by the royal commission hut also by the public, which will form its opinion according to whether or not certain evidence has been excluded from the inquiry. That is where, the matter will stand.
– Royal commissions and court 9 do not make any difference to the honorable member as long as his friends say something. Is that right?
– No. The inquiries of royal commissions are confined to the matters that are referred to them. They cannot go outside their terms of reference. If matters are not placed before a commission, even though everybody in the community may know that such matters would be relevant to its inquiry, and if it is called upon to give judgments only upon the evidence that it is permitted to receive, the results of its inquiries can not be satisfactory to the public. Therefore I say that, if the Government wants to establish the truth and to give the Minister the opportunity that he is entitled to have to vindicate his good name, it ought to consent to the widening of the scope of this inquiry.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question he now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
– The preamble is quite unsatisfactory from my point of view. I desire to refer to the terms of reference that are published in the preamble and to make certain observations thereupon. This set of terms of reference as drawn up at present is, I suppose, the greatest bucket of whitewash ever to be presented to the Parliament. The Government was well aware of the flaws in the Royal Commissions Act when it appointed His Honour to adjudicate on this royal commission. It knew the precedents that had been set by the royal commissions which inquired into wheat and petrol. It knew, as the result of a decision of the Privy Council, that it was very doubtful whether His Honour could go very far in this instance. It knew, further, that the Opposition had very definite views on what ought to be the terms of reference of this royal commission. I refer to my own statement last May, when I made myself fairly clear on this matter. If these are the only points that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is prepared to permit to be discussed, the royal commission will be a waste of time, because it will not be able to get to the kernel of the matter at all.
The first Minister who should be on the carpet before this royal commission is not the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) but the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). It is the bounden duty of that latter Minister publicly to disclose how it was that an officer of his department in the person of John Smith Garden was attached for so long to the office of the Minister for External Territories under the conditions which have since been disclosed. Those conditions were known to honorable members of this House and were the subject of comment by way of question from time to time in the Parliament. Mr. Garden’s record is well known. It is probablymuch better known to the Government than it is to honorable members on this side of the committee. The Prime Minister could hardly rise in this chamber and say that he was unaware of the existence of an arrangement whereby an officer who was paid by one department and was responsible to that department was in the office of another Minister in circumstances which were, to say the least, extremely peculiar.Haditnotbeen for that association and had the Minister for Labour and National Service not allowed John Smith Garden to remain in the office of the Minister for External Territories, this issue could never have arisen. One fault of which the Minister for External Territories cannot be accused is that he has a slow mind and is not quick in the up-take. One of the matters that the honorable gentleman will have to explain when he returns to the Parliament, because the royal commission will not deal with it, is whether he is such a dunce that a thing like this could go on inside his office for two or three years without his knowledge. If the Minister’s answer is, “I knew nothing about this. I was entirely ignorant of everything connected with it “, there is only one conclusion to which honorable members of this committee and the Prime Minister can come. It is that the honorable member for East Sydney should not, owing to his lack of perspicacity, be included in a Commonwealth Cabinet. We do not want men in a cabinet who need to have royal commissions to advise them of the fact that something is wrong inside their own offices.
Another Minister’s name has been mentioned in the evidence that has been given before the royal commission. One of the vital issues is whether the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) had information in approximately June, 1947, of the existence of this deal and, if so, what he did with it.
– ‘The names of two members of the Opposition have also been mentioned.
– I am not concerned with that. I do not care whose names have been mentioned. Ministers of State are in a different position from members of the Opposition, because they are carrying out the functions of administration. It is of prime importance - although I doubt whether the point will ever be cleared up under the preamble that the committee is now discussing - to know whether Senator the Honorable Benjamin Courtice had the information that he is alleged to have had. If he did not have it, that fact ought to ‘be disclosed to the royal commission. If he did have it, he ought to disclose to the royal commission what he did with it. The obvious course was to convey the information to the Prime Minister. If the information was conveyed to the right honorable gentleman, the Parliament and the country are entitled to know what the Prime Minister- did in regard to something that has turned out to be one of the gravest scandals in the history of Australian politics.
We all remember the famous case in which John Smith Garden is alleged to have told the Minister for External Ter ritories - and I believe that the allegation was not denied - that if “ Jimmy “ Brett had asked for this concession it would have been given. I had never heard of that gentleman before then.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who is supposed to be discussing the ‘preamble to the bill, is referring to matters that are the subject of a royal commission, and, therefore, sub judice. I submit that the honorable gentleman has no right to discuss them.
– This bill was brought down not at the behest of the Opposition, but toy the will of the Government. Having brought the bill down and having put into the preamble the words that are now contained in it, the Government cannot logically and fairly limit debate on it. I point out for your benefit, Mr. Acting Deputy Chairman, that the person to whom. I have referred is not mentioned in the preamble. That is my grievance. I submit that the point raised by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) has no substance. Mr. Brett is not mentioned- in the preamble.
– I uphold the point of order that has been raised by the honorable member for Herbert, and rule that the remarks of the honorable member for Barker are irrelevant to the preamble.
– I know the meanings of certain names. Doubt.less the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who, I believe, comes from the lowlands of Scotland, understands the lowlands word “ board “. The gentleman who carries the name of Brett ought to he boarded up in this preamble.
There are many matters that should be included in the preamble. It is short, it is unsatisfying, it does- not touch the root of the matter and it is in striking contrast with the terms of reference that were read out by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and which were drafted by another Labour Prime Minister when he was faced with conditions similar to these. If people betray a trust that is reposed in them ,hy a Minister of State; they should be dealt with, tout this bill will not allow that to be done. If the Minister for External Territories has done anything wrong, there should be no limit to the powers that are vested in the royal commissioner to see that that matter is corrected, and that the proper remedy is applied and the appropriate penalty imposed. My reasons for speaking as I do is that this preamble satisfies none of those considerations and objectives.
.- The preamble to this bill includes a statement of the terms of reference of the royal commission. This is the first piece of legislation to come before the Parliament which has dealt with this matter and that, in itself, calls, for comment from this side of the House. The terms of reference were determined while Parliament was in recess. There was no particular urgency for the royal commission to sit. I do not suggest that the matter was not one of very great importance, but surely it was of less importance than that the Parliament should have an opportunity to voice its opinion on the terms of reference of a royal commission which was to inquire into a matter involving the administration of the Minister of the Crown.
Honorable members will recall that the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) himself requested the fullest inquiry. There was no suggestion from the Minister that he desired in any way to have the terms of reference limited, and, in view of the public anxiety and the interest in this matter, the attitude of the Government becomes all the more remarkable. It is not suggested by the Opposition that the royal commissioner should be permitted to go on a general fishing excursion. What we have suggested is that specific matters mentioned in evidence in earlier proceedings call for clarification if the Minister’s request for a full investigation is to he met. One might ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) - and I hope that he will take an opportunity to reply to these matters - why the Government proceeded with the announcement of the terms of reference without first placing before the Parliament a motion embodying those terms. That would have been a fair course to adopt. It would have satisfied the Minister’s request for a full inquiry, and given Parliament an opportunity to indicate the matters that it considered should be fully investigated. The Parliamentary recess was not long. Parliament met early in February, and it was some time during the Christmas holiday period that the terms of reference were announced.
The principal clauses of this measure give the royal commissioner power to compel certain witnesses to give evidence. Undoubtedly, that is a necessary provision, having regard to the attitude already adopted by one important witness, Mr. J. S. Garden. It is obviously desirable that the commissioner should be given that power when we consider that one man who conceivably may have a significant role to play in this matter has not been found so far. I refer, of course, to the bank official, Mr. Kingsford. Yet, although the royal commissioner is being given power to compel witnesses to give evidence, and although this man Kingsford may prove to be a significant witness, no mention of him has been made in the terms of reference stated in the preamble to the bill nor has the Government adopted the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that that matter should be investigated. Whilst it may be a matter of procedural ruling by Mr. Speaker that certain subjects should not be intruded into the debate on this legislation, that does not relieve the Government of its responsibility. It may be that in the legislation now before the Parliament, the matters indicated by the Leader of the Opposition could not be included as an extension of the terms of reference set out in this preamble, but that does not shield the Government from responsibility. There is no limit placed by that ruling on the capacity of the Government to bring forward further legislation extending the terms of reference on the lines indicated by the Leader of the Opposition. So far, we have had no comment by any representative of the Government as to the importance of the observation made by the Leader of the Opposition. The only Government voice has been that of the Minister who moved the closure of the debate on the second reading. The fact that the preamble does not at present include the matters to which I have referred and the fact that it would not be proper, according to the ruling of Mr. Speaker to debate them now, does not excuse the Government or relieve it of its responsibility to bring them forward. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot have the Minister for External Territories saying that he wants the fullest possible inquiry, and the people believing that the fullest possible inquiry is being made, if, in point of substance, there are important issues which are not before the royal commission and which apparently this Government does not intend to place before it. Neither the Opposition nor the public will he satisfied with a situation in which the Government apparently, without making any explanation, is prepared to seek refuge behind a ruling given by Mr. Speaker, and will not face the issues of substance raised in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition earlier to-day.
– It may be well for us at this moment to re-examine the events that led to the appointment of the royal commission, and therefore, to the introduction of this bill to legalize certain powers of the royal commissioner. With those events clear in our minds, we may be able to form some idea of whether the terms of reference of the royal commission are wide enough to encompass those matters which we consider they should encompass. Honorable members will recall that when this matter first “broke” in the press, the Opposition sought a royal commission. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) brushed the request aside lightly as being of no account. Subsequently, however, court proceedings took place and Mr. J. S. Garden was convicted. I am dealing with the matter in broad terms at the moment, and do not propose to refer to the evidence in that case. Honorable members will also recall that, following the conviction of Garden, letters appeared in the press. One was from no less a person than the foreman of the jury which had convicted Mr. Garden. It may be that that gentleman did act injudiciously in writing a letter which cast doubt on the veracity of the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward). Then followed another court case in which a charge of conspiracy was levelled against Garden and Parer. Declaring
Garden and Parer innocent of the charge, the judge said -
You have the tests of documents and of their (Garden and Ward’s) demeanor in the witness-box, and you have to decide whom you accept out of the two.
Could there be anything more serious in community life than offering a Minister a bribe?
It strikes at the whole of the Government of the country and the running of the country.
Garden was cross-examined on the handing over of £5,000 to Urquhart, which he «aid he did on the Minister’s direction.
I ask the House to note that last sentence. The judge continued -
It is a matter for you to decide whether the £5,000 was handed over. . If it was not, it seriously reflects on the credit of J. S. Garden.
It would show him to be a man who would resort to almost anything, even to endeavouring to tear down a very old friend.
Of course, on the other hand, if you come to the conclusion that the Minister did accept it, then he must be guilty of a most reprehensible and despicable act.
There can be no half-measures - it is a definite perjury on the side of one or the other and whoever is perjuring himself, it is a very dreadful act.
That was the summing up of the judge to the jury, and the jury, in the knowledge of what its verdict might imply, brought in a verdict that the Gardens and Parer were innocent of conspiracy. By bringing in that verdict the jury must have raised the most grave doubts in the mind of every person in Australia as to the integrity of the Minister. The verdict necessarily followed the terms of the judge’s summing up. Since the jury considered the Gardens and Parer not guilty of conspiracy, I repeat, it must have had grave doubt about the integrity of the Minister. Indeed, the jury’s decision could suggest that the jury did not believe what the Minister had sworn on oath to be true. That inference is in conformity with what’ was stated by the foreman of the jury that convicted Garden in the earlier case, that there were grave doubts as to the veracity of the Minister. The first jury had not heard the Minister in the box as the second jury had. Immediately the second jury brought in its verdict the Minister sought a royal commission.
– He sought “ a full inquiry “.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is referring to matters that are now under consideration by a royal commission. It is most undesirable that this committee should discuss the matter in the terms that have been used by the honorable gentleman.
– Then I shall not proceed on that line any further, but shall deal with the royal commission that has been appointed. The Minister sought the widest possible inquiry, and the preamble to the bill is supposed to set out the “ widest possible terms “ that the Minister sought.
– It does not.
– No, it does not, in view of the summing up of the earlier case. Urquhart was said to have received the sum of £5,000. The Opposition would like to know what were the relations over a number of years of Urquhart, Garden, and the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward). It is perfectly true that Urquhart, who was named in the first case that was the basis of the royal commission, had played a very prominent part in that case. It was stated then that he was in receipt of a certain sum of money handed to him to be paid to the Minister. We know that Urquhart’s association with the Minister while the latter was Minister for Labour and National Service was such that it caused a great deal of comment and gossip in the City of Sydney. On the other hand there was another gentleman, named Garden, who also was associated with the Department of Labour and National Service and is now reaping th«benefits of his contacts with Ministers other than the Minister for Labour and National Service. The honorable member for Barker has raised a perfectly pertinent point. The Minister for Labour and National Service should be called upon to explain why Garden wars appointed by him as his liaison officer. Who exercised the persuasive powers necessary to get the Minister to appoint Mr. Garden? We know that there was definitely had blood between the Minister and Mr, Garden. We, in New South Wales, know that well and we know also that some persuasive power had to he exercised to get Mr, Garden appointed as the Minister’s liaison officer. Who exercised that power ? Then, having been appointed, why should Mr. Garden become the close associate of a Minister administering another department, so close an associate that he could use the offices of that department, as he did, and bring about this sorry state of affairs in connexion with that other Minister, who might, or might not, be a guilty party to something that is now being inquired into? That close association cannot be cleared up by the terms of reference set out in the preamble.
Those are matters of great importance and public moment and I say to the Prime Minister that instead of helping the Minister for External Territories by giving him a complete and open inquiry he is prejudicing him in the eyes of the general public. Notwithstanding what the decision of the royal commission may be, that must be ‘ the result of having all those matters of an unsavoury nature so cloaked up that it is impossible for the royal commissioner to make the deep probing into them that should, if the Minister is innocent, subsequently clear him completely, not only in the eyes of the commission, but in the eyes of the general public.
, - It seems to me to be politically indecent to carry on the kind of discussion that has occurred this morning. I except from that criticism the opening remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I should have thought that a matter of this kind, that is under review by a royal commissioner, who, as the Leader of the Opposition has stated, is admitted to be a man of very high repute and great integrity, might well have been left for the royal commissioner himself to deal with. I am not criticizing what has been said regarding the appointment of Mr. Garden to a particular position, but I am deploring any statement that impugns the honour of the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward). Let us examine the statements made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). He said that the Government should have waited until
Parliament had discussed the terms of reference before announcing them. I can remember that the daily press was demanding to know why the Government did not announce the appointment of a royal commission and also the terms of reference. That clamour was supported by the honorable gentleman who apparently could not wait two or three days for those announcements to be made.
– Why did not the Government consult the Opposition about the terms of reference? That would have been the honest thing to do.
– There is much that I could say about why the Opposition is so active in this matter, and I would say it except that it would prejudice the inquiry now being held. I know why the Opposition is so anxious and so vicious about this particular matter, but I am not going to join in comments of the nature that have been made this morning. The Government has appointed a royal commissioner who is a very able lawyer. The terms of reference have been drawn up after very careful consideration at the beginning of January, and after consultation with very eminent legal men, and were approved by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) so that at the earliest possible moment the people would know what the terms of reference were and so that the inquiry could begin. All I can say is that had the terms of reference not been decided until they had been discussed by the Parliament the discussion would have gone on for about two months judging by what has happened to-day. The terms of reference were not entirely a matter for decision by the AttorneyGeneral and myself and they concerned more than the various suggestions which impugned the Minister’s reputation. The drafting of the terms of reference was widely considered, and very able lawyers examined the Government’s proposals before the royal commission was appointed. The present measure was introduced in order to confer wider powers on the royal commissioner and also to afford legal protection to him. I should have thought that the present was a most inappropriate time to canvass the matters mentioned by members of the Opposition this morning.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) agreed to -
That the question be now put.
Preamble agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the remaining stages being passed without delay.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act- Appointment - Department of Supply and Development - E. R. Smith.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) ActNational Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (14).
National Security (Prices) Regulations - Order- No. 3420.
Order - Control of new commercial motor vehicles and Control of new motor cars - Repeal.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - Mr Gravatt, Queensland.
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 9.
Stevedoring Industry Act - Orders - 1949, Nos. 1-3.
Whaling Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 10.
House adjourned at 12.55 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n- asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 5. The Crown Law authorities have had under consideration a copy of the document concerned, but no complaint has been received from Mr. Gallagher or any of the other persons criticized in the document. The Crown Law authorities have advised that the contents do not offend against any law of the Commonwealth.
n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 3. The Commonwealth Investigation Service furnishes from time to time reports covering such matters as the activities and strength not only of the Communist party, but also of Fascist movements at present active in Australia. It would be contrary to security practice in any part of the world to make public reports of this character. As has already been stated in the House, there is evidence that the number of Communists in Australia has declined in the past few years to less than 15,000.
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Firstly, I cannot accept responsibility for making this statement the honorable member has attributed to me.I have said, However, that no aeroplanes - and in fact no mechanical contrivances - are proof against defects and I have also indicated that defects in the engines do occur occasionally with the aircraft of all operators. The attached table as Appendix “A” indicates the defects which have caused regular public transport aircraft to land on one engine when another has failed together with other relevant particulars as requested. It should be noted that of a total of 22 defects. - The aircraft returned to aerodrome of departure on thirteen occasions marked thus (a). The aircraft landed at an intermediate aerodrome on three occasions marked thus (b). The aircraft completed the flight to the destination aerodrome on six occasions marked thus (c). It will be noticed that of the 28 defects listed, nineteen concerned D.C.3 Aircraft and three Convair aircraft. 5. (a) All multi-engined aircraft registered and certified as airworthy and operated on the main regular public transport services in Australia, are restricted to maximum all-up weights which will ensure the efficient operation of an aircraft should one engine fail under the most critical conditions of flight. This condition applies to the D.C.3, D.C.4, Lodestar, Convair and Constellation aircraft and, in fact, it is an inherent feature built into these aircraft in order that safety may be maintained even if an engine should fail during take-off or along the air route. Further, it is the policy of the Government to prohibit the use in airline operations of all aircraft which do not possess this safety feature. However, this policy cannot be implemented immediately with the smaller feeder line aircraft because an aircraft suitable to the small operator and having this safety characteristic is not available. The Government, recognizing this situation, has encouraged the production of an aircraft in this country which is being built by the De Havilland Company and which has been very aptly named the “ Drover “. Should this aircraft perform to our present expectations, we will be in a position to apply to all our airline operations the same standard of safety.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 February 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490225_reps_18_201/>.