18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to inform the House that the Bight Honorable the Earl of Listowel, the Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs in the United Kingdom Government, is within the precincts of the chamber. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
The Earl of Listowel thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Social Services Contribution Bill 1949.
Entertainments Tax Bill1949.
Entertainments Tax Assessment Bill 1949.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to tomorrow, at 10.30 a.m.
AmericanInvestigation- Storage of Files.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the findings of the Hoover Commission, which has inquired into the United States of America Civil Service and made a report to President Truman? Has the right honorable gentleman noticed that, according to the report, federal files take up 18,500,000 cubic feet and occupy 18,000,000 square feet of federal office space, and that the commission has made specific recommendations regarding the methods by which the problem may be dealt with ? Has the Government any information about the amount of office space in Australia that is occupied by superfluous Commonwealth files and records? Will the Public Service Board be requested to make a survey of the position, after examining the recommendations that have been made by the Hoover Commission, in order that this noxious growth may be dealt with ?
– I have seen statements in the press regarding the findings of the Hoover Commission. Approximately twelve months ago I caused inquiries to be made regarding the amount of office space that was then occupied by Commonwealth files. Difficulties will arise if Commonwealth files are destroyed. If files which are, for instance, over two years old are destroyed, it may be that at alater date somebody will require information that was contained in them. It is often necessary to keep old files for statistical purposes.Recently a decision had to be made regarding which of the files of the Prices Commission should be destroyed and which should be retained. I shall ask the Chairman of the Public Service Board to consult with the heads of Commonwealth departments to see whether files are being kept for unnecessarilylong periods.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a cabled report that Australia is being excluded from important defence talks in London, that it is believed that Washington has exerted pressure to keep Australia out of the talks for security reasons, and that, in some instances, American military representatives in London have carefully screened Australian officers who have been sent there to take part in defence talks? If so, does this report conform to the disclosures made by the Leader of the Australian Country party in this House when he quoted from confidential documents which the Prime Minister described as having been either forged or stolen? Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the cabled report is correct, and if it is, does it not prove conclusively that the statements of the Leader of the Australian Country party were correct ?
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to debate the question.
– Will the Prime Minister now affirm the authenticity of the documents from which the Leader of the Australian Country party quoted and so remove for all time any doubts in regard to them which may have been created in the public mind ?
– In reply to the speech made by the honorable member for Wentworth relating to a report that Australia is being kept out of talks on defence matters in London, I do not want to say any more at this stage than that the report is not true. At a later stage I hope to be able to give proof of my assertion that it is not true. I assume that the honorable member has based his question on a report which has appeared in one of the morning newspapers. Honorable members opposite would find difficulty in framing questions in this House if they were not able to cull from the morning newspapers information on which questions could be based.
– The right honorable gentleman is becoming annoyed.
– That article referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth occupied most of the front page.
– Order ! The Prime Minister is entitled to be heard in silence.
– I am not angry, because I have a completely unanswerable reply to the honorable member’s questions which I shall make at a suitable time. In regard to the latter part of the question I have replied fully on other occasions to the statements made by the Leader of the Australian Country party. I have said that the documents or what purported to be documents from which the honorable gentleman quoted were either stolen or forged.
– Were they authentic?
– If the Leader of the Australian Country party had desired to ascertain whether the documents from which he quoted were authentic he could have done so, for it was his duty as leader of a political party in this House to have made the documents available to the Government. I have no more to say on the subject at this stage.
– Will the Minister for Defence say whether he has been correctly reported as having stated that since Australia agreed to assume a heavier burden in relation to British Commonwealth defence, a regional defence pact for the Pacific area, within the Charter of the United Nations, has been mooted? If so, will he inform the House when the discussions regarding the matter were first initiated by the Australian Government and which countries, British and nonBritish, have been approached upon it? Has the United Kingdom Government indicated its attitude to such a pact?
– I have not read all the press reports of the statement that I am alleged to have made, hut I can say in regard to some of them that the press representatives have let their imaginations run away with them. I have said nothing to the press that I have not said in this House on several occasions. The defence of this country depends, first, upon security arrangements that may be made through the United Nations; secondly, upon defence plans made in co-operation with the United Kingdom and other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations; and thirdly, upon the inherent right, under the Charter of the United Nations, of every country to develop whatever plans it considers to be necessary for the defence of its territory. The matter that has been raised in the press, and to which I made incidental reference recently, has relation to the defence plans that may be made through the United Nations. It was hoped that plans would be developed by means of an international force, the members of which would be drawn from the citizens of all member nations of the United Nations, by which steps could be taken to maintain world peace. The Charter of the United Nations also permits the development of regional pacts for the purpose of maintaining the peace of the world. The North Atlantic Pact, which is, I understand, about to be finalized, is an example of a regional organization of that kind. I have said frequently in this House that, although plans for a general security arrangement through the United Nations were proceeding very slowly, our own plans for defence through the British Commonwealth of Nations would, at some time or other, require to be integrated with whatever plans it was found to he possible to make through the United Nations. I have always made it clear that the ideal in the Pacific area is an international security force under the control of the United Nations. If that is not practicable the next best course for us to take will be to develop a regional pact in that area. Such a regional pact would be of the strongest character if there were associated with it not only the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations but also all other nations interested in the Pacific area. Since an international security force under the United Nations seems to be a somewhat distant objective, such a regional pact is the best we can hope for at present.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Information. While in Sydney during the week-end I visited the Sydney Domain and listened to a speech by a man named Percy McDonald, who stated that he was speaking as a member of the Liberal party. Is it a fact that that is the Mr.
McDonald whose name is included among the members of the Liberal party who have submitted applications for endorsement for the electoral division of East Sydney? Has Mr. McDonald been a member of the Liberal party for a number of years? Has he been collecting funds for the Liberal party and selling Liberal party and other anti-Labour party literature for the last twelve .years? fs Mr. McDonald a man whose criminal record includes convictions for perjury, receiving stolen goods, breaking and entry, assault and other serious crimes extending over the last 30 years?
– I do not know Mr. McDonald personally, but I read some comments in the Sydney press last weekend to the effect that he had submitted his nomination for selection as a Liberal party candidate for East Sydney. I understand that all the statements which the honorable member for Brisbane has alleged against Mr. McDonald are verified in the Sydney week-end press, but I do not propose to pry into the affairs of the Liberal party. If that political organization wishes to select as its candidates persons with criminal records, that is its business.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether negotiations have been completed for the sale of 25,250,000 bushels of Australian wheat to India at 14s. 8d. a bushel f.o.b. ? Is it a fact, as stated by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr. Cullen, that the views of the Government and the board about quantities and price have been reconciled? Can the Minister say whether the department was negotiating with India for some time over the head of the board, and that as soon as the board asserted its authority as the owner of the wheat and dealt directly with the Indian representatives, the sales were completed ?
– There was never any occasion for the reconciliation of the views of the Australian Government and the Australian Wheat Board in respect of negotiations for the sale of Australian wheat to the Indian Government. I am not. in a position to say whether the sales have been completed, but I am in a position to say that, in my opinion, a member of the Australian Wheat Board has prematurely announced that sales to’ India have been completed. The position is that whilst the Indian Government has announced that, in certain circumstances, it is prepared to meet the price stipulation and other conditions of sale announced by the Australian Wheat Board, no contract has been signed to date. In those circumstances, that member of the Australian Wheat Board who has announced that sales to India have been completed has committed a distinct breach of faith, and, indeed, a breach of confidence. The honorable member for New England may rest assured that, in the final analysis, in respect to all negotiations on a governmenttogovernment basis, the Australian Government will stand supreme and will never renounce the powers that the Constitution confers upon it.
– What does that statement mean?
– It means what 3 say. In all cases, these matters have been referred to the Australian Wheat Board for its opinion, and, to date, its opinion has been accepted, and negotiations have been conducted on that basis. I hope that that will continue to be thi. basis.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is true that approximate?* 30,000,000 bushels of wheat have been sold by Australia to India, and 54,000,000 bushels have been sold to the United Kingdom? What surplus remains to be sold?
– It is true that 27,750,000 bushels of wheat have been practically sold to India. It is also true that substantial quantities of this season’s wheat have been delivered to the United Kingdom. I cannot hazard a guess about how much remains to be sold, but I should say that it is between 50,000,000 and 60,000,000 bushels.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture give the House any information about the reports that an international wheat agreement will be completed next week on the basis of the latest offer of the exporting nations, which represents a compromise on all the principal terms of last year’s agreement?
– Not being able to project myself into the minds of the numerous delegates who have assembled at Washington to deal with the problems of an international wheat agreement, I am not able to give an estimate of whether an agreement will be brought to a successful conclusion along the lines that the honorable member has indicated.
– I ask the Prime Minister to inform the House of - the cost of petrol rationing administration to the Commonwealth.
– As I am able to give only an approximate figure at the moment,
I shall obtain the exact information from the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, and supply it to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister for j. Post-war Reconstruction seen the published report of a statement that “Dr. Lloyd Ross, the Public Relations Officer of his department, made to students of the Sydney University a few days ago? In that statement Dr. Ross said that the democracies were being crushed between the two authoritarianisms of America and Russia, and that if we were to follow either of them, war would be inevitable. Does the Minister agree with those sentiments which the Public Relations Officer of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction has expressed? If not, will he take care to ensure that Dr. Ross does not obtrude those anti-American views into his work as an officer of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction ?
– I have not seen the report to which the honorable gentleman has referred. I have had sufficient experience of the press to know that reports which are published and which purport to be statements that have been made are not necessarily what any individual has actually said. I shall find out exactly what Dr. Lloyd Ross said and then I shall give consideration to the matter raised by the honorable member.
– I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether additional accommodation can be provided for honorable members of this House? To illustrate my meaning, I instance the honorable member for Reid, who is an ex-Premier of New South Wales and is entitled to consideration. Cannot additional meeting rooms be provided so that the honorable member for Reid need not conduct his regular conferences with leaders of the Opposition parties behind showcases in the basement of this Parliament, to the embarrassment of other honorable members who come unexpectedly upon these whispered talks? I ask that privacy be provided for the giving and receiving of instructions between them for the pursuit of their joint design to bring about the downfall of a Labour government.
-If the honorable member is interested in an increase in the accommodation for honorable members he will have observed that extensions to this building are now being made.
– In view of the great disadvantages under which the small cattlemen are trying to develop their holdings in the far north of the Northern Territory, compared with the advantages possessed by the larger stations that have their own depot stations right across to the Queensland coast, where they can move cattle on the hoof and dispose of them in southern markets, I ask the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether he will, as the Minister specially involved in the work of the Northern Australian Development Committee and as the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, confer with that Minister with the object of providing suitable shipping services from Darwin to Borneo and the Philippines with refrigeration space for transporting first and second, and even third class meat to those areas ? Can services also be inaugurated to enable live cattle to be exported to Borneo and the Philippines, with ships so fitted that they will be able to carry on the return trip cargoes of logs that are necessary for the rebuilding of Darwin ? Will the Minister take immediate action to see that the design of the proposed new Darwin wharf is altered so as to enable the expeditious shipping of live cattle as well as the installation of a treatment plant, similar to that which exists at Brisbane, for the treatment of logs brought from Borneo and the Philippines by fumigation?
– The honorable member’s questions deal with matters that, I consider, do not come within the jurisdiction of my department.
– The Northern Australian Development Committee comes under the jurisdiction of the honorable gentleman’s department.
– The Northern Australian Development Committee is an advisory committee which profers advice to the Prime Minister. The implementation of any plans that may be evolved as a result of investigations by the committee depends on the activities of a number of departments, including the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I understand that the proposed new wharf at Darwin isa matter that comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Works and Housing or the Minister for the Interior, and I shall draw the attention of both Ministers to the honorable member’s question. The provision of shipping to take beef and cattle from Darwin to Borneo and the Philippines, and to bring lumber or other products back from those areas, is a matter for consideration by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, particularly in relation to the export of beef or cattle, more than it is for consideration by me. However, I shall consult my colleagues on the matters that the honorable gentleman has raised and provide him with an answer at the earliest possible date.
– Did the Minister for Immigration see the report in the week end press that on board a migrant ship that recently arrived in Australia from Europe with Italian immigrants, there were at least six self-confessed Communists ? In view of the desire of the Minister and the Government to keep out of this country the leaders and sub-leaders of Communists, fascists and nazis from Europe, will the Minister have the report investigated and take appropriate action?
– I did not see the report referred to by the honorable member. The latest Italian ship to arrive at an Australian port is, I think, Toscana, which arrived in Melbourne to-day. It may well be that there are six Communists on board that vessel. I do not know. I do know that Mussolini banned the Communist party in Italy in 1923 and that at the last general election in Italy one out of every three Italians voted for Communist candidates. I suppose that there would he a number of people coming to Australia from Italy who could be said to have Communist sympathies. I shall have the matter investigated to see whether any people who have landed show subversive tendencies. Any people of that character will he dealt with in the same way as we deal with other subversive elements.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Information a question about a man named Jeffery who was concerned in an incident at Bourke last week. Is he identical with the gentleman who was adviser of the Government on industrial matters during the war and who signed with the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Information, if my memory is correct, an appeal for funds to support the “ Yes “ case in the1944 referendum? Is this the same Jeffery as the Jeffery who figures so prominently in the book on communism in Australia written by Mr. J. T. Lang, which I have no doubt is well known to the Minister?
– I cannot tell the honorable member whether the Jeffery who was in Bourke last week is the same Jeffery who was referred to in a book written by some one who used the name of the honorable member for Reid. There is a
Norman Jeffery who at one time- was in the Australian Workers Union. He has been a perfect pest to the union, as its former president, the Minister for the Interior, no doubt, will agree. If it is the same person, all I can say is that neither he nor any other Norman Jeffery aver signed any appeal with the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and myself for financial support for the “ Yes “ case in the 1944 referendum. Nobody named Jeffery or Jeffreys - and there was an infamous Judge Jeffreys in history who hanged people some of whom might have been the honorable gentleman’s ancestors! - has signed any appeal with any member of the Labour party for any funds. The honorable member is taking quite an interest in country affairs once more and is apparently leading the Australian Country party from the back benches of the Liberal party, just as the honorable member for Reid is leading the Liberal party’s attack on the Government from the back benches on this side of the chamber. I shall have i be matter investigated.
– If it can be proved beyond doubt that many promotions of Australian Imperial Force officers in prison camps were recognized by the’ army authorities, will the Minister for the Army re-open the claim to promotion of other ranks who were promoted while prisoners of war?
– Yes, if it can be proved beyond doubt that soldiers were recommended for promotion prior to becoming prisoners of war, I shall recommend that the matter be re-opened.
– Will the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General say whether he has seen the report in this morning’s press of a speech made last evening by Mr. Justice Owen Dixon, of the High Court of Australia, in which the learned judge said that with one solitary exception - the Leader of the Opposition - members of the federal legislature were either fools or seekers of publicity) What action can be taken to prevent a repetition of such an outrageous insult to the elected representatives of the people? Will he advise the offending justice that such an intrusion into the political affairs of the nation is an abuse of his high office; that it has already caused, and will continue to cause, wide-spread bitterness and resentment? Is it a fact that the Leader of the Opposition, who was present at the gathering at which Mr. Justice Owen Dixon praised him so lavishly, later thanked the judge for his remarks, and inferentially agreed with His Honour’s insulting reflections on all other members of all parties in thichamber ?
– As I came into the House about half an hour ago, I was informed that Mr. Justice Owen Dixon at a function in Melbourne made some remarks in which he cast very grave reflections upon members of this Parliament. I assume that he was not speaking in his judicial capacity, but was either host or chairman at the function, and spoke as a private citizen. A somewhat similar situation arose earlier to-day in connexion with some remarks made by an officer of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and I then made it clear that I would not attempt to stop any one from saying what he chose to say in his capacity as a private citizen, so long as his remarks were not seditious or subversive. Any one who makes seditious or subversive statements will be treated in accordance with the law, no matter to what class he belongs. I do not propose to make any suggestion to Mr. Justice Dixon or to take any action in the matter.
– The question contains a gross distortion of what was said by the judge.
– I have said previously that I am not prepared to accept as accurate newspaper reports of statements that have been made. Even if the press reports of the justice’s remarks were accurate, I should not speak to him or make any comment about the matter. Mr. Justice Owen Dixon was speaking as a private citizen, and the members of the community are the judges of whether anything that is done by a private citizen is unworthy of him.
“Report to the Nation.”
– Last week I asked the Prime Minister a series of questions regarding the broadcasts that he makes each week over the Macquarie network, and I was then informed that they were made free of charge. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether the arrangement was made with the Australian Government or with the Labour party. Who, acting on behalf of the Australian Government or of the Labour party, made the arrangement with the Macquarie network, and with whom was it made? What is the money value of the air-time that is used by the Prime Minister? From how many stations are his talks broadcast? For how long is the arrangement to endure? Was the arrangement made with Mr. Clive Ogilvy? If so, was it made prior to the appointment of that gentleman to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board ?
– I have already said that in my talks over the Macquarie network I have been acting as a guest speaker, in the same way as persons are invited to speak as guests of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is quite common for American commercial broadcasting stations to invite visitors to the United States of America to broadcast over their networks. When the Minister for Information was in that country, he made a fairly lengthy broadcast as the guest of a commercial broadcasting station, and, doubtless, other Australian Ministers have done the same thing while in the United States of America. Probably the Leader of the Opposition did so while he was there recently. If he did not, the right honorable gentleman, doubtless, could have done so had he so desired. I have spoken on the Macquarie network as a guest speaker. There are no contracts, terms, understandings or obligations. My recollection is that the suggestion that I should broadcast as a guest speaker was made to me through the chairman of directors of the Macquarie Broadcasting Service, Mr. R. E. Denison. He has been subjected to a great deal of pressure since then. If at any time the Macquarie organization informs me that it no longer desires me to broadcast as a guest speaker, or states that, owing to pressure from outside organizations,I am to be excluded from broadcasting in that capacity, it will be all right with mo. There is no contract regarding the duration of the broadcasts. The matter is on a week-to-week basis. There is an understanding that during my broadcasts 1 shall not engage in political propaganda. Therefore, all the broadcasts have been of a factual character. That is proved by the fact that no person or newspaper in Australia has been able to deny that all the figures and facts that I have given in my broadcasts have been completely true. The facts and figures cannot be refuted. If a broadcasting station chooses to invite me toact as a guest speaker, as has been done by commercial broadcasting stations in other States, particularly in Western Australia, I appreciate the generosity of the offer and accept it in the spirit in which it is made. There is no obligation on their part or on mine.
– I ask the Prime Minister, who is acting for the Minister for External Affairs, whether any international relief fund has been established to replace Unrra or the Children’s Emergency Relief Fund? If so, what contribution to it will this countrybe obliged to make? Are steps being taken to ensure that any country which may receive relief from such a source will not be forced to transmit part of it to Russia or any other power by way of reparations?
– Australia wasa substantial contributor to Unrra, post-war Unrra relief and the Children’s Emergency Relief Fund. In addition, contributions to international relief organizations have been made by private individuals and organizations. Australia was the fourth largest world contributor to Unrra. When that organization ceased to function, the Australian Government considered that it was our duty to the war-stricken people of Europe to make further contributions through post-war Unrra relief. In view of the fact that millions of European children were undernourished, it was also considered that Australia should contribute to the Children’s Emergency Relief Fund, and that was done. In addition, contributions have been made for the relief of refugees in Palestine, irrespective of whether they are Israelis or Arabs. These contributions have been given on humanitarian grounds and have not been intended to further the cause of either the Israelis or the Arabs. Discussions have taken place regarding the .provision of further international relief, but the matter has not yet been finalized. The honorable member has referred to the ultimate destination of further relief supplies, if any are made available. I assure him that the matter to which he has referred is being carefully watched.
– Is the Minister for Information in a position to throw any light on the allegations made by the honorable member for Reid about the disappearance from Temperance Hall, Russell-street, Melbourne, of files of correspondence belonging to the AntiConscription League? Has there been any correspondence on the subject of the alleged disappearance of such files, and, if so, will the honorable gentleman inform the House of its contents?
– There has been some correspondence about the alleged disappearance of letters which had been signed by myself, the Postmaster-General, the late Mr. Maurice Blackburn, a former member of this House, and by other people, that belonged to what the honorable member for Reid referred to as the Anti-Conscription League. The secretary of a body calling itself tho League for Freedom, incorporating * the No Conscription Campaign, has written to flic Prime Minister. The letter is addressed from Temperance Hall. Russell-street, Melbourne, and is signed by K. J. Kenafick. Tt reads as follows: -
According to a statement in to-day’s Melbourne Herald, Mr. J. T. Lang has asked a question in the House concerning files apparently relating to this organization, which, according to the newspaper report, he :,irs have boon stolon from the Tcn) pera nco Hall.
As secretary of the organization, this is tha first I have ever heard of any such theft. In addition, if the newspaper has reported his remarks correctly, Mr. Lang must have been approached by some one who is deliberately misleading him, or who is very ill-informed. The organization has never been known as the “ Anti-Conscription League “, but as the “ No Conscription Campaign “ and, later, the “ League for Freedom “. Again, it was not formed till the 21st December, 1042, after Mr. Curtin had announced his intention of altering the Defence Act to permit the use of Militia forces in the South-West Pacific Zone. Consequently, it could not have functioned in 1941 and hardly started functioning till 1943.
What has apparently happened is that some person has given Mr. Lang a very garbled and quite misleading account of an incident that occurred as long ago as May, 1943, when as I find from the minutes of the organization, the then secretary, Mr. Leslie Harsant, reported to a committee meeting that the correspondence file had disappeared and waa presumably picked up with the rubbish and burnt. I understand that Mr. Harsant learned on further inquiry that as he had inadvertently left the correspondence on a table after a committee meeting in a room that the organization was then renting at the Temperance Hall, some cleaners at the hall had taken it for waste paper and placed it in the rubbish bin. This, of course, led to its being destroyed.
I did not sec this correspondence myself, . as I was not at that time secretary, but I should certainly judge that it was entirely private correspondence and in no way of a State or governmental character.
There is therefore no substance in Mr. Lang’s statements concerning theft, and furthermore the correspondence did not have the governmental character Mr. Lang attached to it, for my knowledge of the history of the organization convinces me that correspondence from the Ministers and members mentioned was in their private capacity. Mr. Calwell was not even a Minister at that time. The prestige of Mr. Curtin was not involved. It was merely a political difference on the advisability and the necessity or otherwise of his Militia Bill.
Mr. Lang, or perhaps 1 should say Mr. Lang’s misinformant, has given an altogether fictitious importance to this whole matter, with the intention apparently of creating mischief. T trust that this statement will he given to Mr. Lain: through von. so that he will realize that he has been misled.
Obviously this was just another mare’s nest discovered by the honorable member for Reid.
-Tn view of t]i e conflicting statements made last night by the Minister for Supply and Development and bv th> Premier nf Tasmania concerning the proposed site of the aluminium industry in Tasmania, is the Prime Minister able to state authoritatively whether or not a decision has been made in relation to the site? If no decision has yet been reached, when is it likely to be made?
– As far as I am aware a definite decision has been reached in regard to the site of the aluminium factory. As the honorable member has suggested that there is a conflict in statements made by the Minister for Supply and Development and the Premier of Tasmania on this subject, I shall have the matter definitely cleared up and will furnish exact information to the honorable member.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, with, I hope, restraint and reserve. At Ballarat on Saturday night, the 12th March, at a meeting of Labour supporters, at which incidentally the Mayor of Ballarat was present - not as a Labour man but as the first citizen of the city - I made some comments on the attitude of the members of the medical profession to the Government’s pharmaceutical and health benefits plans. During the course of my remarks I expressed at some length appreciation of and admiration for the great services that the members of the medical fraternity had rendered to the people of r.h is community, in particular to the poor.
– I heard the Minister do so.
– Incidentally, I also stated that, however much others might disagree with me, it was true that the members of the medical fraternity practised and largely gained skill in their profession by treating the poor.
– How did the honorable member express that thought?
– As to that, I refer r he honorable member to the Mayor of Ballarat, who is a political opponent of mine. However much that statement might be disagreed with, it is as true as the statement that it is on the public of this community that politicians practise their profession. Notwithstanding .-his experience, a medical man is always improving his knowledge, and it can be said with truth that by treating the poor of the community in our public hospitals leading physicians and surgeons gain much of their experience.
Mr. Spender interjecting,
– You hold your tongue, you mug! This is a matter on which I do not want an interruption by a man who, when Minister for the Army, had the audacity to promote himself to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In an army hospital and in a public hospital in this country, as a poor citizen at the time, I have been practised on by very skilful surgeons. They were still practising, and, in my case, they were practising on a poor member of the public. Surely no surgeon can take exception to that statement, any more than I can take exception to a statement that, as a politician of twenty years’ experience, I am still practising on the public. However, the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial saw fit to publish a necessarily condensed report of my statement. With that condensed report, I have no quarrel. One appreciates that the press must condense its reports about events. The Sun News-Pictorial referred to my reference to the Christian attitude of the medical fraternity, and published other comments that I had made. Other newspapers treated my statement in a similar manner, and one of them, in particular, stressed the fact that I had said that I hoped that wisdom would prevail between the Government and the British Medical Association. However, the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial saw fit to place the following caption over its report of my statement, “ ‘ Practised on Poor ‘ - Minister’s Gibe at Doctors “. The dictionary defines a “ gibe “ as a “ taunt “ or a “ sneer “. One who, in a speech, has expressed the hope that wisdom will prevail between the Government and the British Medical ‘ Association and has gone to great length to express appreciation of the fine work of the medical profession is surely not making a gibe at doctors. I compared the report which the Sun News-Pictorial published with the report in the Melbourne Age. That newspaper gave a fair report under the heading, “Hopes B.M.A. Will Alter Attitude “. A less generous report appeared in the Melbourne Argus under the heading “ ‘ Practised on Public Hospital Poor’- Mr. Pollard Hits at B.M.A. Policy on Health”. I personally prefer to hit, or be hit by somebody than to sneer at or be sneered at by somebody. Immediately I ‘ read the report in the Sun News-Pictorial, I wrote a reply to the editor of that newspaper and delivered it to the office personally at 3.23 p.m. yesterday. I told the gentleman who received it that the statement was from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In this morning’s issue of the Sun News-Pictorial, I was astonished to read a letter by that eminent surgeon, Sir Hugh Devine, under the following heading: - “Eminent Surgeon’s Retort to Minister’s Gibe “. The letter contained Sir Hugh’s critical comment on my comment. The Sun News-Pictorial repeated the word “ gibe “, notwithstanding the fact that yesterday afternoon I had lodged at its office a statement of my objections to the original caption over its report of my speech, because I had not gibed at the medical profession of this country. As the Sun News-Pictorial has not seen fit to give to my statement the same publicity as it has given to Sir Hugh Devine’s comment, I shall read to honorable members the letter that I handed to an employee of that newspaper. It is as follows: -
In your issue of to-day appears a necessarily condensed, but nevertheless reasonably accurate report of my reference to the medical profession at Ballarat on Saturday night.
To the heading of the report, i.e., “Practised on Poor - Minister’s Gibe at Doctors”, [ take very strong exception. For those who heard my speech and those who have read its reported text either in your paper, the Age or the Argus, will see that in no sense could n gibe at the profession be found. On the contrary the major portion of my reported remarks were devoted to an adulation of a very great profession.
I am aware that in this busy age, large sections of the reading public absorb their news through headline reading - you are aware of this, too - hence your use of the method. Its abuse is repugnant and detestable and, unfortunately, is not unusual with the Bun newspaper.
My admiration of the medical profession has always been great and it is disturbing to have your paper endeavouring to construe it as otherwise.
It is obvious that my reference to “this busy age” had some application to the attitude of Sir Hugh Devine, who is a very busy man, because he evidently read the caption in the Sun News-Pictorial, and although the heading had no relevance to the text of the report,’ he immediately absorbed the implication that I had gibed at the medical profession, of which he is an honoured member. 1 make this explanation in order that the public may know how dastardly can be the attitude of a newspaper which claims, through its columns, to give fair and factual reports of events, hut when i: receives a letter that does not meet with its approval, suppresses the document, and, in my case, repeats a story that I. in my capacity as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, had uttered a gibe at a great profession. About a month ago I had the good fortune to be the guest at a congress of the British Medical Association at Ballarat. At that very great gathering, I passed-
– How much longer will this personal explanation take?
– We know that honorable members opposite will not offend the press, ;but the newspapers mean nothing to me. I do not care a snap of the fingers for them. At that great gathering .at Ballarat, I expressed the hope that wisdom would prevail and that the differences between the Government and the British Medical Association would be resolved. I also pointed out that I had been fortunate at the hands of doctors, but I also stated that, by the same rule, there were thousands of people in cemeteries who had not been so fortunate.
– Was that another gibe at the medical profession?
– Not one member of that very distinguished gathering took exception to my remark, but I make bold to say that, had a member of the staff of the Sun News-Pictorial been present, and written a factual report of my speech, it would, on reaching the head-quarters of the newspaper, have been mangled to my detriment, and I should have been accused of making a gibe at the medical profession.
– Has the Prime Minister received any information about the spread of armed communism in SouthEast Asia, and also about any connexion between the Communist organizations in thatpart of the world and the Australian Communist party? Can he say whether Communist organizations in South-East Asia and Australia are carrying out a common policy directed from foreign sources ?
– The honorable member for New England has asked a question to which I could give a lengthy reply. Briefly, however, I am not aware of any evidence to indicate any collusion between the Communists in ; South-East Asia and the Communists in Australia, or of any definite connexion between Communists inSouth-East Asia and Communists in other parts of the world. The evidence is rather to the contrary in regard to military assistance or real connexionbetween Communist bodies in various countries. I have no doubt that the gentlemen concerned in each country have similar aspirations, hut I know of no definite association between them.
– What about Sharkey?
– If the honorable member has any information about the matter, I do not know why he has asked me the question.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in connexion with the claims of New South Wales orchardists against the Australian Apple and Pear Board. Those claims have been outstanding for several years. Can the Minister say whether any payments have been made up to date and, if not, when payment is likely to be made to meet the claims?
-Claims were made, by a number of growers in New South Wales and other States, against the board in respect of apples and pears acquired by it during the years 1940, 1941, and 1942. Consideration of the claims was deferred pending the outcome of the case of Zerbe v. Australian Apple and Pear Board, which came before the High Court of Australia in 1944, and in respect of which judgment was delivered in 1946. Application of the judgment to the claims has been in course of preparation over a number of years and has required consideration of every sale made by the Australian Apple and Pear Board. This work is expected to be completed shortly and I can assure the honorable gentleman that settlement will be made at a comparatively early date. However, it is likely that the amount of the settlement, as it will affect a large number of the claims, will be small. In some instances there will be no amount to be paid. I can assure the honorable member that everything is being done to expedite the settlement.
-Can the Minister for the Army give me any information regarding thefts from Army stores that took place in Victoria some time ago in which, I believe, rifles, sub-machine guns and automatic rifles were stolen? Can the Minister say how many of those weapons in each category have been recovered as a result of action taken by him, and how many are still in the hands of unauthorized persons?
– I cannot give the honorable gentleman the actual figures, but I know that prosecutions took place and that much of the stolen equipment was returned. I shall examine the matter further and give the honorable gentleman the actual figures in relation to items stolen and returned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That Standing Order 70 - 11 o’clock rulebe suspended for the remainder of this week.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Shipping Bill 1949 is an urgent bill.
That the bill be considered an urgent bill - resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with i lie bill be as follows:-‘
For the remainder of the committee stage, until 0.45 p.m. this day. day.
For the remaining stages, until 10 p.m. this day.
. -I should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to inform the House why this hill has been declared to be an urgent Kill and why, at this stage, he has applied the “guillotine”? Is it because the amendment that has been moved from this side of the House has placed the Government in an unfortunate position, or is it because the Government at this stage will have to determine whether it proposes to make provision for the appointment of Communists to the Australian Shipping Board?
-Order! The only matter before the House is the question of the time to be allotted for the consideration of the bill. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) may debate whether the time allotted is sufficient or not, but he is not entitled to debate any other matter.
-Thank you, sir. My remarks on the bill were by way of a passing observation. If the Prime Minister will provide me with the time schedule I shall be in a more fortunate position. I consider that the Prime Minister should at least extend the courtesy to the House of letting honorable members know how much time is to be permitted to them for the discussion of this bill.
– The details have been circulated to honorable members.
– I had not received a copy when I spoke a moment ago. Let us examine, the time schedule that the Prime Minister has proposed for the discussion of the remaining stages of the bill. He has proposed that the time allotted for the remainder of the committee stage shall be until 9.45 p.m. to-day and for the remaining stages until 10 p.m. to-day. ‘ The committee, in that time, has to debate from clauses 17 to 41 - 24 clauses. Honor able members must realize how important this bill is. This House has considered it of sufficient importance to make it the subject of a major debate. The committee has debated the major clauses of the bill, one clause having taken a day and an evening to discuss. Now we have been informed that we must conclude discussion on this highly important measure by 10 p.m. to-day. An amendment has been introduced by the Government that would put the bill into the category of a defence measure. How can we possibly discuss that important amendment, which seeks to transfer the bill to the category of a measure of high defence priority, conjointly with the other 23 clauses? We have heard it said from time to time, and particularly during the last week, that the Opposition parties were desirous of concluding the session at an early date. It would appear on the contrary that the Government is desirous of concluding the session at an early date. I say to the Prime Minister that we should be given ample time in which to discuss this measure completely and reasonably. We represent the people of Australia and we are entitled to discuss, to the full, measures of great importance to Australia. The present measure is of vital importance to Australia and to Australians. Such is its importance that the maximum time for discussion must be given to it. I protest, therefore, at the cavalier treatment meted out by the Government in this regard.
-Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I regard the speech just concluded by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) as so much humbug.
– Then the honorable member should vote against the application of the “guillotine”.
– Last week this House had the spectacle of honorable gentlemen opposite rising and repeating the same speech ad nauseum. One speech would have been sufficient. Many honorable members opposite should have been called to order for tedious repetition. By seeking an allotment of time for the present measure the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) intends merely to prevent a repetition of last week’s occurrences.
Persons who listened over the air to the -debate last week have informed me that they were simply disgusted by the constant repetition. The people who told me that were not members of the Labour party. My only complaint is that the
Prime Minister did not introduce the present motion last week.
Mr. BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) £4.9]. - The debate on the clauses of this measure is approaching its most important phases-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not discuss the bill ; he may only discuss the question of the allotment of time.
– I repeat that the debate is approaching its most important phases and, in view of the often repeated statements by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that he would sooner have a longer sitting than curtail debate on important measures - and he has so far followed this practice by having four-day sittings each week - [ cannot see that he is justified in asking us to limit the time of debate on this important issue.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) f4.10]. - This .motion has come from out of the blue. I did not know it was coming. There was no indication in the Government’s dilatory attitude last week that it regarded the bill as urgent. The Government did not seem to care whether the bill was passed now or in two or three years’ time. I have spoken twice in committee, and I did not speak on the motion for the second reading of the bill. The honorable member for Werriwa (.Mr. Lazzarini), who has referred to what he called “ tedious repetition “, took part in the second-reading debate. I and others did not. We consider that certain provisions in the bill should be thoroughly discussed in committee. The time proposed to be allotted will not be sufficient to enable us to give full consideration to those important provisions. In addition to clause 15, there are other very important clauses. Consideration of clauses 29 and 30 could quite easily occupy a whole day. The preamble, too, is most important, and should not be allowed to be passed without full consideration. The Government is taking an unreasonable attitude. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) now has permission to bring in new legislation after 11 o’clock to-night or any other night this week. We will not know what is in Pandora’s box until he lift? the lid.
-Order! The honorable member is not entitled to proceed along that line. He must keep to the limitation of time.
– The suspension of the 11 o’clock rule has an important bearing on this matter. If the rule had not been suspended, there may have been some justification for the Government’s attitude. Ever since the present sessional period began, the attitude of the Government has been that it did not have much to put .before the Parliament. I wondered sometimes why we were called together so early in the year. This is the first really important bill that we have had put before us. Another one is being debated in the Senate to-day. The two subjects covered by these bills could easily be considered for the rest of the week. If the Government desired to treat the House as a deliberative chamber, instead of using its majority rather than its arguments on the Opposition, it would not persist in this course. I think the people are getting a little tired of its attitude.
-Order! I ask the honorable member to return to the subject before the Chair, which is allotment of time. At this stage he must not try to debate the bill.
– I am not trying to debate the bill. I am debating the procedure under which we shall have only a few hours to refer to the most important provisions contained in the bill. The Opposition does not think these matters can be given the consideration that their importance warrants in such a short period of time.
– That is very good. It comes within the ruling of the Chair.
– I am glad to have approbation from the Chair. We are not accustomed to such bouquets. Under the bill, the Government proposes to do things of a vital and- revolutionary character. The bill should not he hurried through the Parliament. There is no occasion for urgency. The Government can not have an appeal to the High Court in mind. In that respect the bill is different from the Banking Act and from impending legislation. At no stage until ibis afternoon did the Government give the slightest indication that it regarded the bill a9 urgent.
– Order 1 The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I add my protests to those already made. There are two important parts in the bill. One contains clause 15, which deals with the powers, functions and duties of the board to be established. We have considered that clause. Part III. deals with the issue of licences. We have said in the two or three days on which the Government has graciously permitted us to debate the bill that it was revolutionary.
-Order! The honorable member knows that he is entitled to discuss only the proposed limitation of time.
– I am trying to do that.
-If the honorable member does not get to the point, be will lose his opportunity to do so.
– We are to have only until 9.45 o’clock to-night to discuss most important clauses, including clauses 28, 29, 30 and 31. If we are to do our duty to the people, we must tell them about the important provisions contained in the bill. We cannot do that between now and 9.45 p.m. We could profitably occupy hours in analysing Part III. because it is revolutionary. It proposes to do indirectly, in a subtle and extremely clever way, something that the people do not want to be done. It requires careful analysis and criticism. Because we have criticized with success Part [I. of the bill, the Government desires to shut our mouths on Part III. It is infamous to expect us to consider such important matters within the time proposed.
.- It is strange to hear the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) complaining of the time proposed to be allotted for the consideration of the bill. The records of the Parliament show that when honorable gentlemen opposite were in power they rarely allowed more than a limited discussion of very important measures. We have allowed days to be occupied in the consideration of the bill. Now, because of the urgency of the case, we propose to limit the time allotted for the further consideration of the measure. Honorable members opposite could have had ample time to discuss every important clause in the bill had they not attempted to turn the discussion from the bill to the subject of communism. All sorts of red herrings have been dragged across the trail by honorable members opposite. They have preferred to discuss the appointment to various boards of men whom they term Communists.
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss, the proposed allotment of time.
– The Opposition has had ample time to discuss every aspect of the bill. Its delaying tactics have compelled the Government, in view of the urgency of the bill, to hasten its final consideration. It is most urgent that the bill should be passed quickly so that we shall be able to get on with our plans for stabilizing the shipbuilding industry. It is futile for honorable members opposite to complain now about the limitation of time when they have wasted many valuable hours.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 1412), be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mk. Deputy Speaker - Mk. j. !. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the11th March (vide page 1346).
Clause17 - (4.) The Board may appoint, to such positions or to positions of such classes as are approved by the Minister, persons who do not comply with all the provisions of the last preceding sub-section.
Upon which Mr. Harrison had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following proviso be added to sub- clause (4.) : - “ Provided that no known or suspected Communist shall be appointed to any position in the service of the Board.”.
. -When the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) was speaking on the amendment on Friday last, he confused the committeeby saying that the persons to be appointed under this clause would he appointed, not by the Minister, but by the Australian Shipping Board. I am not concerned with who will appoint them, but with who will be appointed. That is why I object to subclause 4. Sub-clause 3 provides that the appointee must be a British subject, and must be in good health. As I said on Friday, provided the appointee has the necessary brains, it may not bo so impor tant to insist upon a high standard of physical fitness. The clause also provides in paragraph c that the appointee shall make and subscribe an oath or affirmation of allegiance in accordance with the prescribed form. Then, in the very next sub-clause, to one to which I object, it is provided that the board may appoint persons who do not comply with all the conditions of sub-clause 3. Of what use is it to put sub-clause 3 in the bill if its provisions are to be immediately negatived by the next sub-clause? I ask the Minister to agree to eliminate sub-clause 4 from the bill. Sub-clause 3 has the approval of all loyal citizens, which includes all members of the Opposition. I should like the Minister to explain why he insists upon the retention of subclause 4.
– I explained it on Friday last.
Question put -
That the proviso proposed to be added (Mr. Harrison’s amendment), beso added.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. H. P. Lazzarini.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses18 to 28 agreed to.
Clause 29- (1.) The Minister may, in his discretion, grant licences for the construction of ships to which this Part applies. (2.) A licence under the last preceding subsection may be granted subject to such conditions relating to the tonnage, design, fittings, gear and time, place, standards and methods of construction of the ship as the Minister determines.
– I move -
That, after sub-clause (2.), the following sub-clause be inserted: - (2a.) The powers conferred on the Minister by the last two preceding sub-sections are conferred for the purpose of ensuring, in the interests of defence, that the shipbuilding industryis established in the Commonwealth on an adequate scale and is maintained in continuous operation, and, in particular, for the purpose of ensuring -
the use of the labour of persons engaged in the building of ships, and of the facilities of shipbuilding yards, to the best advantage;
the adoption of standard designs of ships and of the fittings and gear of ships;
the adoption of appropriate standards, and efficient methods, of construction of ships;
the building of ships of the tonnage or design most urgently required, in priority to the building of other ships ; and
economy in the cost of construction of ships and of the fittings and gear of ships, and those powers shall not be exercisedotherwise than for achieving one or other of the purposes specified in this sub-section.”.
The purpose of the amendment is to define more closely the powers conferred upon the Minister in relation to the granting of licences for the building of ships. The amendment makes it clear that these powers are to be used only in the interests of defence and that the Minister may exercise them only in order to attain one or other of the specified objectives and for no other purpose.
– It is almost impossible to consider the effect of this clause, which is designed to enable the Government to control the construction of ships in Australia, without considering also the effect of clause 15, which is designed to establish an Australian Shipping Board, and of clause 30, which is designed to enable the Government to control the use of all vessels engaged in the interstate shipping trade. The effect of any one of the clauses to which I have referred does not become evident until the provisions of the other two clauses are studied. This clause will give the Government a complete stranglehold on the shipbuilding industry in Australia. As originally drafted, in which form it indicated the real intention of the Government, it gave the Minister an uncontrolled discretion in respect of the granting of licences for the construction of ships, irrespective of whether the vessels were to he engaged in the coastal trade, the interstate trade or any other form of trade. If the clause had been passed in that form, the control of the construction of any vessels engaged in such trade wouldhave been in the hands of the Minister. It is proposed that extraordinary powers shall be given to the Minister. Under the terms of sub-clause 1, subject to conditions relating to tonnage, design, fittings, gear and time, place, standards and methods of construction, he may grant licences for the construction of ships. No wider power could be given to him. The way in which every portion of a ship is to he constructed and the manner in which labour is to be used will he under the Minister’s control. I suppose that it will not be very long before the Government will say that single-berth cabins are to be provided for seamen and that four-berth cabins are good enough for passengers. That is not. an extravagant statement. It is well known that the control of some industries is vested in the militant leaders of trade unions.
When it. became obvious to the Government that this clause was clearly open to challenge in the courts, this amendment was introduced. Its purpose is only to conceal the Government’s intention, which is to obtain complete control of the shipbuilding industry, irrespective of defence considerations. In order that the clause may be supported if challenged in a court, it is now proposed that the Minister’s powers shall not be exercised except, for specific purposes alleged to be connected with defence and for the purpose of ensuring, among other things, that the use of the labour of persons engaged in the building of ships, and of the facilities of shipbuilding yards, are used to the best advantage. If the clause, as now proposed to be amended, is passed, the Government will be able, in the name of defence, to exercise control over all the shipbuilding yards in Australia and direct and control labour in the shipbuilding industry. The people should realize that the Government has called the defence power to its aid for the purpose only of covering up a far-reaching socialistic provision. Other matters over which it is proposed that the Minister shall have control are the adoption of standard designs of ships and of the fittings and gear of ships, the adoption of appropriate standards, the efficient methods of construction of ships, the building of ships of the tonnage or design most urgently required and - save the mark - economy in the cost of construction of ships and of the fittings and gear of ships. The shipbuilding industry of this country, in short, is to be put into a straight-jacket, in the name of defence. This is another example of the dishonest use of the defence powers by a government for the purpose of exercising far-reaching authority over the people. The defence power is to be invoked in order to justify what otherwise could not be justifiable. The purpose of the Government is to control every activity of the shipbuilding industry of Australia which is concerned with the building of vessels in excess of 200 tons. Under the provisions of this clause the Minister could, in his discretion, refuse to grant a licence for an undisclosed reason. If he did so, it would be impossible for the person to whom the licence was refused to prove that it had been refused for a reason that had no relation to defence. At the appropriate time I propose to move an amendment which, if the intention is really that these powers shall be used only . for defence purposes, should commend itself to the Government. My amendment will seek to provide for the establishment of a board of shipping inquiry to which an appeal may be made by a person to whom a licence has been refused or who has been granted a licence subject to conditions that impose an unfair burden oi handicap upon him. There is a comparable provision in the Navigation Act. If a person applies for a licence for the pur pose of running a vessel on the coast and a licence is refused, he may, under the Navigation Act, appeal to a board of marine inquiry, and that body may gran t him a licence even though the Minister has refused to do so. This clause, even if amended as is now suggested, will give no protection whatever to applicant? for licences. The Minister will be able to exercise these powers for reasons unconnected with defence. Once they have been exercised, they will not be capable of challenge because material to establish that the refusal was in breach of the authority conferred by the legislation will not be available. The record of this Government shows that power that has been taken for one purpose has frequently been used for entirely different purposes. The Customs Act, for example, has been used to attempt to destroy private Australian airlines and to bolster up Trans-Australia Airlines. In view of the far-reaching nature of the powers which it is proposed shall be given to the Minister, there is no reason why there should not be a right of appeal to an independent authority such as I have indicated. It may be that in some instances the interests of defence would prevent an open inquiry being held.
– Hear, hear!
– A later clause of the bill provides for regulation-making power. It could be provided by regulation that, where the Minister certifies that a particular case is one which should be heard in camera, it shall be heard so. I agree that on some occasions it would not be desirable to hear a case in public, but the point I am struggling to make is that that is no reason for refusing a person who has been denied a licence recourse to an independent body before which to state his case. Officials rarely give an indication of their real reasons for refusing to grant a licence. If a person is seeking a licence and his application is refused, he should know the reasons for the refusal. I shall sum up my argument briefly. First, that the Minister will agree that this clause gives the Minister for Shipping and Fuel extraordinarily wide powers over the shipbuilding industry. I do not think that that can be disputed. Secondly, he will agree that the discretion which the Minister may exercise, although it must be confined to a number of matters, may be exercised generally without obligation to state the reasons why it has been so exercised. Thirdly, the Minister will agree that once a licence has been refused no right of appeal is open to the person who has been refused a licence. Notwithstanding that the refusal of the Minister to grant a licence may have no relation to defence needs, the person whose application has been rejected will have no remedy and will not be permitted to proceed with the construction of a vessel. In these circumstances, I ask why an independent board constituted of competent men, such as was established during the war, should not he created to consider applications for licences. I trust that the Government will not close its ears to every suggestion which emanates from the Opposition side. I have sought to advance my arguments rationally. They are worthy of consideration. Why should not provision be made to enable the Minister’s decisions to be reviewed by a competent authority ?
– The committee is dealing with clause 29, and not with clause 30 to which the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) relates.
– The amendment which I have foreshadowed applies to both clauses.
– The circulated amendment of which I have a copy relates only to clause 30.
– Not at all. The amendment proposes to insert, after clause 30, the following new clause: - 30a. (1.) Any person aggrieved by a refusal to grant a licence under sections 29 or 30
– The amendment will be dealt with by the committee after clause 30 has been disposed of. I do not know whether the Temporary Chairman will allow me to discuss the honorable gentleman’s proposition at this stage.
– The Minister may reply to the speech made by the honorable member for Warringah in which the amendment was foreshadowed.
– The Government cannot accept such an amendment. Honorable members opposite will agree, I am sure, that if they were occupying the Government benches they would not accept an amendment of the character of that foreshadowed by the honorable member for Warringah. The honorable member proposes to interpose an independent tribunal between a person who has a real or an imagined grievance and the appropriate government authority. No government could accept such a proposition.
– The Government has made a provision of that kind in other legislation.
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) will have an opportunity to speak to the clause later. I am dealing with the amendment on its merits. The Government makes no apology whatever for relating this hill to its defence powers. The measure is designed, first, to develop the mercantile marine in peace-time so that if we again find ourselves at war we shall have a larger and more efficient mercantile marine than we had at the outbreak of World War II. The second objective of the measure is to develop in peace-time a shipbuilding industry which canbe utilized for naval shipbuilding in time of war. The fact that during the inter-war period, between 1923 and 1940, no seagoing mercantile vessel was built in
Australia shows the extent to which the shipbuilding industry was allowed to languish and the degree to which the authorities of the day failed to realize their responsibility for building up a mercantile marine for possible use in war. The Government makes no apology for relating this measure in the most intimate fashion to the defence needs of the country. As honorable members opposite are so fond of doing, the honorable member for Warringah seeks to convey to the people an implication that every action taken by the Government is inimical to their interests. That is untrue. All measures taken by the Government are, in its opinion, dictated solely by the interests of the people.
– In its opinion!
– In the final analysis it is the people themselves who are the judges of the actions of all governments. On every occasion since my entry to this Parliament, when the people have been given an opportunity to indicate whether or not they consider that the Government has legislated in their interests, they have given an emphatically affirmative answer. I predict that they will give the same emphatic answer at the forthcoming election. It has been suggested that by this clause the Minister for Shipping and Fuel is seeking to take powers that will enable him to obtain a strangle-hold of the shipbuilding industry. For what reason would any government act against the interests of the Australian shipbuilding industry? The Government is not at all interested in nationalizing the shipbuilding industry or of unnecessarily interfering with it in any way. The mercantile shipbuilding industry is entirely carried on by private enterprise. The Government does not own a single shipyard that is interested in the building of mercantile ships. The companies that are now engaged in the mercantile shipbuilding industry are Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, at Whyalla, in South Australia; Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Company Proprietary Limited, Sydney; Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company Limited, Sydney; Evans Deakin and Company Limited, Brisbane, and Walkers Limited, Maryborough, Queensland. No advantage could possibly accrue to the
Government if it restricted the shipbuilding industry in Australia by refusing to issue a licence to any shipbuilding company or individual to build a ship. The sole purpose of this bill is to encourage the shipbuilding industry in a manner never attempted by previous governments. The contention that the Minister may use the powers conferred by this clause to restrict private enterprise in Australia is totally at variance with the intention of the Government. At present the whole field of mercantile shipbuilding is covered by private enterprise. The Government doe9 not own or lease a single dockyard in which mercantile ships are built.
– It will not be long before it does.
– The fears of the honorable member for Warringah are unfounded. Apart from defence requirements, one of the reasons behind the Government’s plans for developing the shipbuilding industry is the need for carrying out the Government’s policy of full employment. In order to implement that programme, it is necessary for the Government to provide a wide diversification of industry. When this bill is passed, we will be able to ensure not only that our defence requirements shall be met, but also an important Australian industry will be expanded and thus provide employment for large numbers of skilled men. The shipbuilding industry is thus linked very closely with our full employment programme. The Government also intends to ensure that orders for shipbuilding shall he distributed equitably between the shipbuilding yards of the Commonwealth. The introduction of the licence system in the shipbuilding industry is designed to ensure that all the shipyards throughout Australia shall be kept busy all the time and that the large orders that are placed under the shipbuilding programme are shared by the smaller companies, such as Walkers Limited, of Maryborough. I should like to hear the views of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) on the provisions of this” clause. Without the powers proposed to be conferred by this clause the Minister would not be able to arrange a balanced shipbuilding programme of the kind envisaged by the Government. The proposed amendment cannot be accepted.
Mr. BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) 1 4.57]. - The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) is anxious to hear my views on the provisions of this clause and on the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). This clause provides that no ships may be built in Australia except under licence from the Minister. The bill also provides that when ships reach a certain age they must be withdrawn from service. In view of these restrictive provisions, and of the policy of the Government to nationalize everything, is it any wonder that honorable members on this side of the chamber are suspicious? The Government is obsessed by its determination to nationalize and socialize every activity.
– Order ! The clause before the committee contains no reference to nationalization or socialization. It relates to the issue of licences.
– What the honorable member is seeking to point’ out is that-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair requires no assistance from the honorable member for Warringah.
– I was not endeavouring to assist the Chair.
– Order ! The honorable member must remain silent.
– I direct attention to a contradiction in Government policy. When we were debating the Australian National Airlines Bill the Government declared its intention to socialize civil aviation in this country. On that occasion, honorable members opposite extolled the virtues of the socialization of industry. But the Minister for Defence, in his second-reading speech on the Shipping Bill, stated that the Government has no intention of nationalizing the shipping and shipbuilding industries, and appreciates the value that is afforded -by the stimulus of competition. Because of those conflicting statements, members of the Opposition have become suspicious of the Government’s assurances. The Government has given, as an excuse for the powers that it proposes to take under clause 29, that it must ensure that Australia shall have an adequate shipbuilding industry in the event of war. Honorable members on this side of the chamber do not object to that precautionary aim. However, the bill does not give an assurance that ships that will be required in the event of war, will be available in such an emergency. Indeed, honorable members have no assurance that from the standpoint of shipping, in a future crisis the position of Australia will be better than it was before the outbreak of World War II. The Minister has described that position as unfortunate. The Government cannot guarantee that Australia will be able to manufacture sufficient materials to meet the requirements of an expanding shipbuilding industry. Evidently, the Government will require to import supplies of steel for that purpose, and the bill prohibits the purchase of ships, which have been constructed overseas, to augment the proposed Commonwealth shipping line. The Minister stated that during World War II., Australia’s shipping position was most difficult because this country did not have an adequate shipbuilding industry. He omitted to mention, although we are perfectly well aware of the fact, that the Australian Government has the power in war-time to commandeer any vessels in Australian waters. During World War II., successive Australian governments exercised that authority, and commandeered evenlarger vessels than those which Australian shipbuilding yards will be able to construct for many years. How, then, can the Minister reasonably claim that,, for defence purposes, Australia must build its own ships? When we are considering the nation’s shipping requirements in war-time, our first thoughts are for warships, because they protect the Commonwealth, and convoy troops, food and equipment to their destinations. If the Government does not improve the industrial situation, we shall be compelled to import all our requirements that depend upon coal production and transport. So far as production and distribution can influence Australia’s efforts in war-time, those factors are of greater importance than is a shipbuilding industry, hut the Government does not attempt to improve the present disturbed situation. The objectives of the Shipping
Bill cannot possibly be achieved until the coal-mining and transport industries refrain from wanton stoppages. In peace-time as in war-time, the national effort is subject to the whims of the coalmining and transport unions.
Under this bill, the Government will not be able to prevent the ships of other countries, even the vessels of the United Kingdom, from trading with Australia. However, the shipbuilding industry in this country will benefit in one respect from the legislation because it will have the assurance - so far as this measure and the word of the Minister can be an assurance - of continuous work. The Minister claims that the shipbuilding industry will enable the Government to maintain its programme of full employment. For some years, the assistance of the shipbuilding industry will not be required for that purpose. Industry throughout Australia is languishing to-day as a result of a shortage of labour. Even the progress of the Snowy River scheme and the unification of railway gauges, which are probably the greatest undertakings in which the Commonwealth has ever engaged, will be hampered by the lack of man-power and materials. Great Britain keenly desires to transfer some of its defence projects to Australia, but hesitates to do so while electric power is dependent upon the whims of the coalminers.
The Minister repeatedly referred to Walkers Limited, of Maryborough, Queensland, as a “ small shipbuilding yard “. I remind him that it constructed the last steel ships that were built in Australia prior to “World War II.
– How long ago was that?
– That point is immaterial, because from the time Walkers Limited ceased to construct steel ships until the outbreak of World War I L, the world was over-supplied with ships. During the period to which I refer, cargo ships aggregating 4,000,000 tons were tied up in many British and foreign ports. About the same time, a previous government sold the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. Before the outbreak of World War II., the various nations had more ships than they could use. For that reason Australia had not pursued a continuous policy of constructing ships. Indeed, ships could be purchased more cheaply than the price for which they could be constructed in Australia. After the outbreak of World War II., the surplus tonnage was rapidly absorbed, and as the allies’ losses mounted, the shipping position .became acute. Great Britain is now busily engaged in making good its losses, and the shortage of shipping is not so desperate now as it was at the time hostilities ceased. When I visited Great Britain, the United States of America and Canada during World W ar II., ships were being constructed on a colossal scale. In some shipbuilding yards, as many as ten or twelve vessels were being built simultaneously. That rate of construction was not achieved before the war. Industrialists such as Henry Kaiser, who possessed both brains and capital, entered the shipbuilding industry during the war in order to offset by new construction the tremendous losses that the allies were sustaining. The invasion of North Africa and Europe by British and American forces necessitated assembling an immense fleet to transport the troops and their weapons and stores. During World War II., the shipbuilding industry received an impetus unparalleled in history. Since the cessation of hostilities, the construction of ships has declined to some degree, but this Government has decided to license, and, in other ways, control ships engaged in the Australian coastal trade. Members of the Opposition have objected to the licensing proposal, and the Minister has submitted an amendment providing that all the provisions of clause 29, to which we take exception, are for defence purposes. Ostensibly for that reason, the Minister will have, inter aiia, power to make provision in order to ensure -
the use of the labour of persons engaged in the building of ships, and of the facilities of shipbuilding yards, to the best advantage;
the adoption of appropriate standards, and efficient methods, of construction of ships;
If the Government genuinely desires to encourage the most efficient methods of construction, it should send its experts to study new methods that have been adopted in the shipbuilding yards of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada. By that means, the Government will greatly assist the Australian shipbuilding industry. When I inspected a shipbuilding yard abroad, I saw fourteen vessels, each of 10,000 tons, in course of construction. For a part of the year, the ships could not enter the river because of ice, and were moved, as required, by a colossal launching crane and marine railways. Such modern machinery has yet to be introduced in Australian shipbuilding yards.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I direct attention to clause 28, which provides -
In this Part - “ ship to which this Part applies “ means a merchant ship the gross tonnage of which exceeds two hundred tons; “ to engage in trade “ means to carry passengers or cargo and “engaged in trade “ has a corresponding meaning.
I should like the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) to explain whether the provisions of this bill apply to the larger ferry steamers, such as those which operate on Sydney Harbour between Circular Quay and Manly. Until the 1920’s, most of the Sydney ferries were built in Australia. The Morts Dock Engineering Company constructed many of them. After that period, orders for the construction of the larger class of ferry, such as those that now ply between Circular Quay and Manly, were placed overseas, and the completed vessels travelled to Australia under their own steam. I should like the Minister to inform me whether this bill will apply to vessels of that type, because they do not operate on the Australian coast or engage in the coastal trade.
– This clause states -
Under the provisions of sub-clause 2 licences may be granted to ships that are defined in clause 28 which covers vessels with a gross tonnage exceeding 200 tons, and would cover vessels engaged in ferry traffic on Sydney Harbour.
– Does the Government require those vessels for defence purposes, too?
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) should not be facetious about this matter.
– I am not being facetious.
– The honorable member is being entirely illogical. I explained earlier in this debate that the defence power is to be invoked by this measure for two reasons.
Mr. Spender interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Warringah is keeping up a running fire of interjections, which must cease.
– The first reason is so that Australia will have an adequate mercantile marine should war again occur. An adequate mercantile marine would include, in the event of war, vessels engaged in ferry traffic on Sydney Harbour. The second purpose is to ensure that the shipbuilding industry in Australia shall be maintained on an adequate scale. The building of ferries in wartime could and would be undertaken by the Australian shipbuilding industry. Sydney harbour ferries, provided they were of more than 200 tons, would be included in the definition of ships to which this Part applies, which, in addition to being of more than 200 tons, have to be engaged in trade carrying passengers or cargo. Ferries are engaged in carrying passengers, and therefore come within the definition. Tugs, which carry neither goods nor passengers, would not come within the definition.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the Minister’s earlier explanation of his amendment. He said that the Government did not intend to penalize the private shipbuilding industry, but proposed to maintain an adequate shipbuilding industry, for which reason the defence power is being invoked. It would he difficult to recall a more arrant piece of nonsense ever having been placed before this House.
– Except the Minister’s previous utterances.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is a good judge of nonsense.
– Let us see how far the explanation takes the Minister. The honorable gentleman must know that this clause 29, with the addition of his amendment, has to be read in conjunction with clause 30. This clause states -
The Minister has used the words “ adequate shipbuilding industry “. He has told us that the Government does not intend to penalize the private shipping companies. Let him explain the position satisfactorily to the committee. It is common knowledge that prior to the last war it cost about £200,000 to construct a vessel of about 6,000 tons. Today it costs about £500,000 to construct a vessel of that tonnage. I shall be more specific. I have been advised - and this information will be made available to the Minister so that he can verify it if he desires to do so- that one of the private shipping companies obtained a quote from a leading shipbuilding firm in the United Kingdom. I am prepared to reveal the name of the firm if the Minister wishes to verify my statement, because the facts [ shall give are correct, and the figures that I shall cite will shatter the Minister’s argument regarding the penalization of shipbuilding companies.
Mr. Dedman interjecting,
– The Minister should allow me to continue my speech without interruption. I did not interrupt him and he should not interrupt me. The time allotted for the discussion of this measure is until 10 p.m. to-day and surely the Minister does not desire to take up the whole of that time in making interjections. A vessel to duplicate Barrigun was required, and a quote was sought from the United Kingdom. The quote received was £356,000 sterling, or £445,000 Australian, as against the indicated price from the Australian Shipbuilding Board of £711,350, or £266,350 more. Taking the present rate of exchange into consideration these figures show that the Australian cost of building ships is approximately 60 per cent, above the British cost. I ask the committee to consider the implications of that fact. Under this clause the Minister may grant licences for ships to be operated. Then we find that the cost of a vessel to be built in Australia is much higher than the cost of a similar vessel built in England.
– The cost in Australia is nearly twice as great.
– Bearing in mind that disparity of cost let us examine the provisions of clause 30 (2), which states -
A licence under this section shall be for such period, not exceeding four years, as, in each case, the Minister determines.
Here we have a Minister who states that he does not want to penalize unduly the private shipping companies, yet he proposes to force them to pay 60 per cent, more for the construction of a vessel in Australia than they would have to pay for the construction of a comparable vessel in Britain. The shipping companies are to be given a licence to operate such a vessel for a period of four years. Where would any one find a private shipping company that would take the risk of building a vessel for the operation of which it would receive a licence lasting only four years, knowing that the Minister is quite likely to- refuse to renew it? As the Government becomes more wrapped up in its socialistic ventures and obtains a greater monopoly of shipbuilding and the operation of ships along the coast it will further restrict licences for the operation of privately-owned ships. Therefore, it is nonsense for the Minister to make a statement about not penalizing the shipping companies when he knows that under clause 30 he will say to the shipping companies, in effect, “ You may be forced to pay 60 per cent. more for the building of a ship, but we are going to give you a licence for only four years for a vessel that may cost you about £711,000 “. I repeat, where would any one find a shipping company prepared to take the risk of building a ship under such conditions? Clause 30 (3.), which must be read in conjunction with this clause, reads -
The Minister shall grant a licence under this section, on application, in respect of a ship to which this Part applies if that ship-
is less than twenty-four years old at the date of application; and
was built in an Australian shipyard or was, at any time prior to the commencement of this Act, engaged in trade exclusively between places in the Commonwealth or in a Territory of the Commonwealth . . .
I say to the Minister that under the provisions of this clause he proposes, in the first place, to say to a private shipping company, in effect, “ You must only operate under a provisional licence for a period of four years, and then the axe may fall on you, but if the axe does not fall on you after that period you may receive an extension of the licence until the Government is in a position to close you up altogether, because in the long run you can operate your vessel only for a period of 24 years”. I ask the committee to consider the depreciation over a period of 24 years on a vessel costing £711,000. I ask it to consider also the whole effect of these provisions upon the cost of freighting goods by sea. It is useless for the Minister to say that the Government has no intention to penalize the private shipping companies, because this bill, by its very nature, is designed not only to penalize private shipping companies but also to force them completely out of business, and the Minister knows it.
– This clause deals with shipbuilding, and not with the shipping industry.
– I have been endeavouring to impress upon the committee the fact that this clause must be read in conjunction with clause 30. The Minister is an adept at drawing a red herring across the trail. He will explain, to his own satisfaction but not to the satisfac tion of the committee, what this clause means, then he will explain in a completely different way what clause 30 means. He will not correlate the two clauses, because correlation of them would present an entirely different picture. I propose to correlate the two clauses because they should be considered jointly. The Minister’s attitude is characteristic of the technique employed by the Labour party in connexion with measures of this kind. I listened to a speech by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) last Thursday, when he spoke about a vessel called Coramba. He stated that the Australian United Steam Navigation Company Limited had built, Coramba in England and had brought it out to Australia. He said that on arrival here the crew’s accommodation had had to be completely rebuilt to comply with Australian requirements. The Minister is like the honorable member for Martin in that he makes misleading statements that he thinks cannot be denied. Let us examine the facts associated with the vessel Coramba. Before the vessel was built the plan of the proposed accommodation was submitted to the Maritime Industry Commission and was approved by it. When the vessel arrived in Australia the Seamen’s Union of Australasia made a claim for two able-bodied seamen to be added to the crew, and after that claim had been considered by a manning committee one additional man was granted. An additional steward was also added to the ship’s complement. It was necessary to provide accommodation for those two extra men, which was done without any structural alteration of the vessel’s existing accommodation. That is a completely different story from the one that was told by the honorable member for Martin. The technique employed by that honorable member was typical of that used by honorable members on the Government side of the chamber. I say to the Minister that if he intends to provide for an adequate shipbuilding industry he must take certain factors into consideration. The honorable gentleman knows that the present production of steel in Australia is only 60 per cent. of normal production and normal requirements. He realizes that if he proposes to improve and enlarge the shipbuilding industry in Australia the necessary steel must be made available for that purpose. But the Communistcontrolled miners make it impossible to produce additional steel.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must keep to the clause.
– Steel is required for the building of all ships except wooden ships.For the production of steel, coking coal is necessary, and as it is almost impossible to get coking coal it seems to me that a discussion about steel is relevant to the clause. Australia is producing only 60 per cent. of its present steel requirements. Two ships that were to be built at the government dockyard at. Walsh Island, Newcastle, agreement on the building of which has been reported for more than twelve months, have not been started. Yet. the Minister comes before us with a cock-and-bull story about the need to establish an adequate shipbuilding industry. He knows that the cost to the shipping companies of ships built in Australia willbe prohibitive. The axe is poised over their necks and threatens to drop. The Minister airily disposes of our arguments by saying, in effect, “ Under the defence plan we need an adequate shipbuilding industry in Australia. We do not propose to penalize the private shipping companies “. The private shipping companies will be penalized and so will be the private shipbuilding companies.. Private shipping companies will not place orders for vessels without having security. If orders are not placed, the shipbuilding companies will be affected. It is obvious that the Government intends to monopolize, shipbuilding and shipping. Nationalization of the shipbuilding and shipping industries is the theme that, runs throughout this measure.
. -The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said that it was the. technique of the Labour party to mislead the people. It has no monopoly of that technique. The honorable member has. practised it himself. He told us about two sister ships, one built in England and one in Australia, and said that the one built in Australia cost 60 percent. more than the other. Yet the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in his secondreading speech, ridiculed the idea that, for the purpose of arriving at the amount of subsidy tobe paid in respect of a ship built, in Australia, one could establish what the ship would have cost to build in England. He talked about “ghost ships “ and said it. was not possible to decide how much more would have to be paid for a ship in Australia than in England. His deputy, the honorable member for Wentworth, has answered him. The next statement by the honorable member for Wentworth was that one clause had to be read in conjunction with other clauses. He said that no shipping company would he prepared to order a ship because of the possibility that it would not be allowed to operate it for more than four years. The honorable member, in endeavouring’ to bolster his argument that that was the position under the bill, quoted sub-clause 2 ofclause 30, which reads -
A licence under this section shall be for such period, not exceeding four years . . .
He dwelt at length on that provision, hoping to show that, after four yeasrs, a company might not he able to operate a ship. Whether intentionally or accidentally, he slurred Ms reading of sub-clause 3 of the same clause, which provides -
The Minister shall grant a licence under this section, on application, in respect of a ship to which the Part applies if that ship -
is less than twenty-four years old at the date of application;
I stress the mandatory character of the phrase” shall grant alicence … on application”. But the honorable member presented his case in such a way and in such tones as to lead people to believe that shipping firms, would have no incentive to order ships from shipbuilding firms because they would notbe sure of being allowed to operate them for more than four years under the licensing system.
– Why does the bill provide that licences shall be for periods not exceeding four years?
– Licences are always issued for limited periods and are. renewable, provided the applicants! comply with requirements. Licensed hotels are analogous. Hotel licencees have to reapply periodically for the renewal of their licences. So shall shipping firms have to re-apply periodically for the relicensing of their ships. The honorable member said that shipping firms wanted security. Shipbuilding firms also want security. At Port Adelaide, after World War I., the firm of Poole & Steele Limited established a shipyard, where several of our bigger coastal cargo ships were built. The enterprise lasted only a few years. To-day there is no trace of the shipyard. The same end came to other shipbuilding enterprises in Australia. In order to assure shipbuilding companies of continuity of operations, the Government must lay it down that ships shall be built for the Australian trade in Australian shipyards. The latest addition to our shipyards of any magnitude is at Whyalla. It is operated by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, a firm that has done a great deal to advance Australia in secondary industry. Perhaps the company has received a good return for what it has done; I do not know what its profits are; but, during the war, it co-operated with the Menzies and Fadden Governments and then with the Curtin and Chifley Governments in building ships. Most of the ships built at Whyalla during the war were corvettes, which were designed for war needs. I understand that the shipyard at Whyalla can construct five ships at the same time. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has expended a great sum of money in the equipment of the shipyard and the construction of huge buildings for the assembly of components. It must have a guarantee of continuity of operations. In fairness, the honorable member for Wentworth, when he referred to the need of shipping companies to have security under the licence system, should have referred also to the need for shipbuilding firms to have security. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) told us about shipyards in Canada at which he had seen ten ships under construction simultaneously during the war. If Canada and other countries can build ships on that scale and we have no law to compel Australian shipping firms to buy their ships from Australian shipyards, what will the future hold? To illustrate my point I cite the fact that, some years ago, an engineering firm in South Australia asked members of the South Australian Parliament to inspect its works and hear the views of its principals and their employees. A larger establishment in Melbourne was undercutting it. The South Australian firm had been making certain castings for the South Australian Government. The governmental system is that the lowest tender is generally accepted when contracts are called for the supply of goods or services. The Melbourne firm found that without appreciably adding to overhead costs it could produce at « smaller cost the same goods as were manufactured by the South Australian firm. So the contract went to the Melbourne firm. The South Australian firm could not profitably compete with it. Unless we protect our shipbuilding industry, it will not be able to compete with overseas shipbuilders. Fifty-one per cent, of the ships built last year were built in England. At the current shipbuilding rate, the shortage of ships will be made up in a few years. Then competition will be intense. So it is necessary that this bill be passed to ensure the continuance of the Australian shipbuilding industry. Thibill provides that the Minister shall have power, when necessary, to grant licences for the purchase of ships outide Australia. I do not challenge the declaration of the honorable member for Wentworth that, although the Walsh Island dockyards agreed more than twelve months ago to build two ships, the work has not yet started. I doubt very much whether the firm that ordered the two ships would have been able to have them built in England. Great Britain’s pressing need is for dollars, and sales in the sterling area take a second place to sales in the dollar area. With the position as it is to-day, the passing of this bill will not have much effect one way or the other. J do not think that, within the next year or two, more ships will be built in Australian shipyards than would have been built had the bill not been passed, but. unless the bill is passed, a few years hence the shipyards in Australia will be forced out of business by overseas competitors. During the war we built a large number of ships. Consequently more men were trained in shipbuilding than had ever been trained before. In Port Adelaide, there was a repair depot for corvettes. All overhauling, except that which required dry docking, was done at that depot. Because of the extra work that was offering during the war, the number of employees increased greatly. Now there is concern about the future, and I have introduced deputations to the Minister asking that the Government shall do something to keep the industry going so that the men may continue in the occupations in which they have been trained. This clause gives the Minister power to issue i licences for the building of ships. As has been pointed out, it is allied to clause 30, which provides that the special consent of the Minister must be obtained for the licensing of ships over 24 years old. I cannot see why honorable members opposite should object to these provisions, which refer to merchant ships only, not to warships. Government dockyards are concerned only with the building of warmips.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This clause provides that the Minister may, in his discretion, grant licences for the construction of ships up to a gross tonnage of 200. The clause then continues in its remaining sub-clauses as follows: - (2.) A licence under the last preceding subsection may be granted subject to such conditions relating to the tonnage, design, fittings, gear and time, place, standards and methods of construction, of the ship as the Minister determines. (3.) At the request of the licensee, the Minister may revoke a licence under this section or may revoke or vary any condition, or add to the conditions, to which such a licence ib subject. (4.) A person shall not, except under a licence granted by the Minister under this section, and in accordance with any conditions to which the licence is subject, commence or continue the construction of a ship to which this Part applies.
Penalty: One thousand pounds or, if the offence is a continuing offence, One thousand pounds for each day during which the offence continues.
I do not think that any honorable member on this side of the chamber would object to some degree of supervision over the shipbuilding industry. Anti-Labour governments have, in fact, introduced legislation providing, in some measure, for the regulation of the shipbuilding industry, but there is a difference between regulating an industry and exterminating it. Under this clause, the Minister will have untrammelled power to control the industry as he thinks fit. Bearing in mind the doctrinaire leanings of the Government, we need have no doubt that the Minister will use his power to destroy private shipping interests in Australia. The Government, having recently burnt ite fingers over some of its attempts at socialization,- realizes that there is some doubt about whether it really possesses the power to go to the extreme lengths to which it would like to go. Therefore, it has attempted to invoke the defence power under the Constitution to justify what the bill proposes to do. I regard that as humbug. It is the same kind of humbug as has been trotted out by this Government again and again during the last four or five years, and as was included in the preamble to proposals submitted to the people in two referendums. It is merely windowdressing. The Government cannot bring a proposal under the defence power of the Constitution merely by saying so. The proposal must, in fact, be related to defence. Those who are charged with the interpretation of statutes must find the necessary relation to the defence power in the legislation itself. An examination of the amendment submitted by the Minister shows how hollow and hypocritical is the claim that this clause may properly be enacted under the defence power in the Constitution. The amendment commences as follows: - “ (2a.) The powers conferred on the Minister by the last two preceding sub-sections are conferred for the purpose of ensuring, in the interests of defence, that the shipbuilding industry is established in the Commonwealth on an adequate scale and is maintained in continuous operation, and, in particular, for the purpose of ensuring -
Thus, the amendment relates to the shipbuilding industry - not to a socialized government shipbuilding industry. It would give power to the Government to encourage the shipbuilding industry as a whole, and not merely to exercise powers of strangulation. The amendment continues -
I wonder what some members of the Labour party think of that. Does it authorize the Government to conscript labour? Paragraph 6 authorizes the Government to adopt standard designs of ships. The amendment does not restrict this power to warships, so presumably it is to apply to ships in general. In any case, it is a nebulous and amorphous provision, just so much hot air and flap-doodle. Paragraph c provides for - the adoption of appropriate standards, and efficient methods, of construction of ships;
Such phrases as “ appropriate standards “ and “ efficient methods “ had no place in legislation until the appeared in this Government’s propaganda legislation. Paragraph d is as follows : - the building of ships of the tonnage or design most urgently required, in priority to the building of other ships; and
What does that mean? Under war conditions, the Government may allot what priorities it likes. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) reminded the Government that in war-time it assumed power to control shipping absolutely. However, even in time of peace, the Commonwealth may, under the Constitution, exercise its defence powers in regard to matters which clearly come within those powers. Therefore, there is no need for legislation of this kind in order to co-ordinate shipping activities. Paragraph e provides that the power of the Minister may be exercised to ensure - economy in the cost of construction of ships and of the fittings and gear of ships,
What has that to do with the defence of the country? Economy in ship construction means, I suppose, the building of ships more cheaply. That, of course, is desirable in itself, but has it anything to do with defence? Apparently, the Government is attempting to persuade the people that it is engaged on some innocent escapade when, in reality, it proposes, as the Minister for Commerce and Agricul- ture (Mr. Pollard) revealed the other day, to nationalize the shipping industry if it can. That Minister openly expressed his regret that the Government lacked the power to nationalize the shipping industry. Of course, I heard the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) say that the Government did not intend to nationalize private shipping; but sometimes the truth pops out. I think it popped out of the mouth of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture when he, as a senior Minister, said what he would like to do with the private shipping interests.
There is no need to invest the Minister with such complete power as is proposed in this bill, whether it be done under the defence or any other power. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has foreshadowed an amendment which will, in some degree, if agreed to, ameliorate the severity of the clause ae it now stands. He proposes that there shall he a right of appeal from the decision of the Minister. The Minister for Defence declared that no government, could accept such an amendment. The honorable gentleman is somewhat naive at times in his choice of words. He declared that no government could agree to interpose an independent body between itself and aggrieved citizens. As a matter of fact, it did that very thing in its banking legislation, which provided for the setting up of a court of claims to hear appeals by persons divested of their property. The honorable member for Warringah proposed that a similar body could be set up to hear appeals bv persons who believed that they had suffered injury by the unjust or wicked refusal of a licence to build ships. He suggested that an impartial body should be set up to protect the interests of citizens, but the Minister objected to the proposal, saying that the Government could never accept such a situation. Of course, it never does accept such situations if it can avoid doing so. I suppose the Government had to do so in the banking legislation because at was necessary to apply that provision of the Constitution which stipulates that property may be acquired by the Commonwealth only on just terms. There is nothing in the projected amendment of the honorable member for Warringah of which the Government need be afraid. Surely the Government does not object to providing citizens with the opportunity to obtain justice. Have we reached that stage in the slide down the Gadarene slope that citizens are no longer to enjoy their proper rights under the law? As the clause now stands, a citizen who is half-way through building a ship may have his licence arbitrarily and abruptly taken away from him after he has already spent, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of pounds- Is he to be given no protection against the whim of the Minister? Unless such protection is afforded, every principle of fair play will be violated. I cannot understand why the Minister will not agree to accept the amendment. He says that he will- not have an impartial body interposed between him and the citizen. The way things are going now, the sooner there are impartial bodies to protect the interests of citizens, the ‘better.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- Part III. of this bill deals with the issuing of licences. Clause 29, which contains some of the most important provisions in the measure, provides that ships shall not be constructed in Australia except under licence, and that such licences shall be issued at the discretion of the Minister, lt has been made clear by government pronouncements that in future all ships that are to be used round the Australian coast will be built in Australian shipyards. A virtual embargo is to be placed upon the purchase of ships from overseas shipyards. That has been stated categorically in a letter that the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) addressed to a ship’s committee in August of 1948. In reply to complaints by the committee that two ships constructed in Australian shipyards had been delivered to private owners, the honorable gentleman wrote as. follows: -
In view of the Government’s intention to introduce legislation that in future only vessels constructed in Australia shall be used on the Australian coast, the only source of supply of vessels for the private owners is from Australian shipyards.
The pattern is clear. An embargo is to be placed upon the procurement of ships from other than Australian shipyards. The private shipping companies, being unable to procure their vessels elsewhere than in Australia, will be compelled to apply to the Minister for licences for the construction of vessels in Australian shipyards. Under this legislation, the Minister, in addition to having the power to issue licences, will be charged with the responsibility of conducting a Commonwealth-owned shipping line. That line will require ships, and will make demands upon Australian shipyards. One can imagine how low will be the priority of private shipowners when increasing demands are made upon Australian shipyards by the Commonwealth-owned line. What security for the future will commercial shipowners have? What encouragement will they be given to provide expanded and more efficient shipping services? The sword of Damocles will be hanging over their heads. They will not know whether licences for the construction of ships will be issued to them. They have good reason to believe that they will be slowly strangled by this socialist Government, which is determined to crush them so that in future no shipping lines other than the government-owned line will be in operation.
There has been a remarkable development in relation to this clause. Although the Government has had months in which to prepare this legislation, the Minister to-day moved an important amendment to the clause that is now under consideration. I do not propose to read the whole of the amendment, which goes into considerable detail, but the gist of it is contained in the opening lines. They are as follows: -
The powers conferred on the Minister by the last two preceding sub-sections are conferred for the purpose of ensuring, in the interests of defence, that the shipbuilding industry is established in the Commonwealth on an adequate scale and is maintained in continuous operation.
The amendment specifies the purposes for which the powers vested in the Minister by this clause are to be exercised. I direct the attention of the committee to the fact that, the Government has again stressed the defence aspect. It is remarkable that there should have been such delay in introducing an important amendment. The bill has already been debated in the Senate, and before that it was considered by the Government for many months. The reason for the moving of the amendment is the Government’s socialistic policy, which is recited in the Federal Platform and Objective of the Labour party. The opening sentence of that platform states that the socialization of industry and the means of production, distribution and exchange are the objectives of the Labour party. In the portion of the platform which deals with defence there is no reference to the conduct of a government shipping line for defence purposes, but in the portion dealing with the methods by which the policy of socialization is to be implemented the nationalization of shipping occupies a prominent and proud place. I have no doubt that had it not been for recent proceedings in the High Court the Government would have gone full steam ahead with the implementation of that policy. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has stated that if the Government had full power to socialize the shipping industry, it would not hesitate to do so.
– I did not say that.
– The Minister has a habit of qualifying his statements. I invite the honorable gentleman to deny that that is not the sense and substance of what he said. The remark has been freely quoted in the course of the debate on this bill. The honorable gentleman is occasionally indiscreet, but he has the virtue of being rather more frank than are some of his colleagues. It is fresh in my mind that quite recently he told a Labour audience that the Government would go on and on with its programme of socialization until it had established a vast co-operative Commonwealth. I hope that the Minister does not dispute the accuracy of that statement. His remark that if the Government had had full power to socialize the shipping industry it would have done so, is in line with the statement about going on and on and on to a vast co-operative Commonwealth and in conformity with the programme of nationalization set out in the platform of the Labour party, to implement which the honorable gentleman and his colleagues have pledged themselves.
– Order! The honorable gentleman must return to the bill.
– I submit that my remarks are relevant to the clause. In those circumstances, this amendment, which seeks to proclaim that defence is the Government’s motive for bringing down this legislation, can be seen in its proper perspective. It is the means by which the Government hopes to support the constitutionality of the measure. We must not blind ourselves to the fact that if the bill is passed containing provisions whereby the Minister may issue licences at his discretion, and if only ships constructed in Australian shipping yards are to be used around the Australian coast, a very serious limitation will be placed upon the ability of commercial shipping lines which are now operating in Australia to add new and improved vessels to the shipping services of the Commonwealth. In addition, the measure will adversely affect the people of Great Britain. I do not want to be accused of wishing to destroy or impede the development of the Australian shipbuilding industry. I was a member of the Menzies Government at the time when it introduced legislation to constitute the Australian Shipbuilding Board and to establish the administrative structure whereby ships could be built in Australia by government order during the last war. An earlier Australian government, the Lyons Government, made yearly financial provision for and yearly additions to the establishment at Garden Island in order to maintain shipbuilding operations there. The view of the Liberal party is that it is desirable to ensure the continuance of a shipbuilding industry in Australia. That view conforms to our general policy of protection for Australan industries. Such a policy, however, does not entail the placing of an embargo upon the importation into this country of manufactured articles in respect of which Australian manufacturers enjoy a degree of protection. For how long could we maintain markets in other countries for our primary products if we reduced the purchasing power of the people of those countries by imposing an embargo upon the importation of their manufactured goods? That is an important factor when considering the position of Great Britain. That country is a large consumer of Australian primary products and a customer of long standing, to which we must look in the years that lie ahead to consume the bulk of our exports of primary products. Notwithstanding that, the Government proposes that an embargo shall be placed upon the importation into Australia of the products of British shipyards. I remind the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that, at a conference which he attended in October of last year, Sir Stafford Cripps, representing the British Government, appealed to the other countries of the British Commonwealth not to expand their secondary industries if the effect of doing so would be to reduce their capacity to send foodstuffs to Great Britain. Sir Stafford Cripps expressed the view that, if the other countries of the British Commonwealth wanted Great Britain to continue to purchase their primary products, they should enable it to accumulate sterling credits with which to finance its purchases. The Prime Minister has not reported that important appeal to the Parliament. The right honorable gentleman should have done so, because it is of great importance in framing our future policy in relation to Great Britain. Instead of heeding the appeal, the Government has proposed . that an embargo shall be placed on the use in Australia of the excellent ships that are produced by British shipbuilding yards.
The sweeping powers that will ‘be provided by this clause are to be exercised entirely at the discretion of the Minister. I do not propose to repeat the comments that I made about that matter last week. The fact that tremendous power will reside in the hands of one man makes it very desirable that the committee should accept the amendment that has been foreshadowed by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). We should appoint a tribunal to which appeal can be made against decisions of the Minister. The Minister should be required to state the reasons for his refusal to grant a licence to construct a vessel, and those reasons should be capable of challenge before an independent tribunal ft is a fundamental principle of British justice that if a commercial organization is prejudiced in the conduct of its affairs by the decision of a Minister made under the authority of legislation and if the impact of the decision operates unfairly upon it, it should have the right to go to the courts of the land and endeavour to show cause why the decision should be varied or set aside. By refusing to allow an appeal against the decision of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, the Government is acting contrary to the principles of British justice.
– The amendment proposed by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) is designed to promote the defence of the Commonwealth. Its purpose, as the honorable gentleman explained it, is to define more clearly the powers that are to be conferred on the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) in relation to the shipbuilding industry and to the granting of licences for the building of ships. The amendment makes it clear that these powers are to be used only in the interests of defence and for no other purposes. The Minister may exercise his powers for attaining one or other of the objectives set out in the proposed new clause, and for no other purpose. The amendment improves the bill very considerably. The provision about which honorable members opposite are making so much noise and indulging in so many irrelevancies is designed to ensure that a planned programme of shipbuilding shall be undertaken in this country. The Government does not intend to place an embargo on the importation of ships from overseas. The Minister is to be given power to grant licences for the importation of ships in exceptional circumstances. Already the Government has indicated that it is prepared to grant licences for the importation of several ships. It is amazing to hear the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) tell us that the Liberal party believes in the policy of stimulating the shipbuilding industry in Australia. The Liberal party, or its predecessors under one or other of the many aliases under which it has functioned - it changes its name after the commission of every new crime against the community - was the party which when in office in the Commonwealth sphere and particularly in the State sphere of New South Wales, waa responsible for closing, the shipyards.
– The Liberal party was responsible for closing’ the shipyard at Walsh Island.
– The: shipyard at Walsh Island, was allowed to fall into a disgraceful condition. After World! War II. broke out a considerable time elapsed before anything could be done there. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) has said, a very important shipyard in South Australia was allowed to fall into disuse as the result of the failure of the anti-Labour Government of that State to realize its responsibilities.
– It went out of existence.
– The shipyard’ at Whyalla, South Australia, owned by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, is functioning to-day because of the orders placed with it by this Labour Government. “ River “ class vessels and other ships built at the Whyalla shipyards are performing useful work around the Australian coast.
– Who was responsible for the establishment of the shipyards at Whyalla?
– If the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) had anything to do with their establishment it must have happened entirely by accident. The anti-socialist protagonist from Wentworth wants to proclaim now that he has done something for socialization. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) spoke about socialist enterprises. The honorable gentleman cannot make a speech without mentioning socialism. Indeed, I do not know what he would do if the word “socialism” disappeared from the dictionaries of the English language. He complained that this so-called socialist Government is doing certain things and that whilst the party to which he belongs believes in a shipbuilding programme it does not consider that the clause now before the committee is a good one, or that the Government is going about the develop ment of the shipbuilding industry in the. right way. Whether or not the honorable member for Wentworth had anything to do with the establishment of any shipyard in. Australia, he should be prepared to congratulate this Government, for the marvellous success that has attended its administration of the shipbuilding programme during the 7$ years it has occupied the treasury bench. A. new 12,000 ton vessel is about to be launched at Whyalla.
– The. vessel is to be launched next month..
– As the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell), who very efficiently represents the residents of Whyalla in this Parliament, reminds mc by interjection, the new vessel will be launched next month. No one has done more to emphasize the importance of the Whyalla shipyards than has the honorable member for Grey.
– Credit for what ha.been done at Whyalla is entirely due to private enterprise.
– This Government works hand-in-hand with private enterprise. It does not contemplate the nationalization of every industry, as honorable members opposite would have the people believe. It stands for the nationalization only of those industries which in the interests of the people it believes would be better owned communally than by private enterprise. Honorable members opposite have the advantage of the presence in the chamber to-night of the honorable member foWarringah (Mr. Spender) and the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale). Both of those honorable members know that under the constitution Australian governments have very limited powers to nationalize any industry. No matter not specifically mentioned in section 51 of the constitution and it sometimes seems, judging by High Court decisions, not even all the matters mentioned in that section are matters in respect of which the Australian Parliament may make laws. The High Court has given judgments at different times which to the layman seem to make section 51 of the constitution in some respects meaningless. We cannot go beyond the provisions of that section no matter what we may desire to do. All the nonsense talked by honorable members opposite about the Government wanting to nationalize the shipbuilding industry is so absurd that I wonder why they even discuss that subject among themselves. If they will examine the share lists of the shipping companies as quoted on the stock exchanges of Australia, and if they will observe the dividends declared by those companies, they will see that the gentlemen who operate those instrumentalities have no fear that this legislation will drive them out of business. The dividends of shipping companies and their share values remain at a constantly high level. The very shrewd and sagacious men who guide the destinies of the shipping companies of this country have scheduled programmes for development for years ahead. They are not at all frightened by the vaporings of honorable members opposite about the danger- of this legislation or of the particular danger of the provisions of this <clause. The clause is, as L have said, designed to ensure that we shall be able to plan ahead and make the greatest possible use of Australian shipbuilding yards. A shipbuilding programme cannot be implemented if from time to time those who want ships for use in the Australian trade are permitted to place an order in an Australian yard on one day and on the following day another order in some other part of the world. If the shipbuilding industry is to be established in Australia as an adjunct to the defence of the Commonwealth we must take steps to ensure that every ship ordered for use on the Australian coast shall be built in Australian shipyards. How otherwise could we keep the Australian shipyards functioning and train the requisite skilled personnel ? How else could we ensure that the shipyards of Australia shall be kept in operation to the fullest possible extent? Honorable members opposite are the hand-maidens of private enterprise. They would do anything to wreck a government undertaking. A very interesting meeting of the Federal Council of the Liberal party was held in Adelaide recently.
– What has that to do with the clause?
– In a few days the honorable member will no longer be a member of the Liberal party; willynilly, he will soon become a member of the Liberal-Country party. The Federal Council of the Liberal party in Adelaide recently adopted as a plank of its platform the sale of all government enterprises. Members of the Liberal party therefore cannot be expected to vote for this clause or for the establishment of shipbuilding yards in Australia. They will seek to destroy the shipbuilding industry if it is established in Australia by this Government, just as they sought to sabotage the Commonwealth Bank, and as they sold the woollen mills and committed many other crimes against society when they were in office. The honorable member for Warringah might care to use his legal talents to extricatehis lawyer friend, the honorable memberfor Fawkner, from the difficulties ia which he has placed himself by his criticism of the clause now before the Chair. In the planning that will accompany the’ shipbuilding scheme, the Government proposes to allocate orders for the build. ing of ships and to increase the capacity of all the yards established in the Commonwealth. Is there any wonder that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) should absent himself from a vote on clause 15 of the bill relating to the powers of the Australian Shipping Board? The honorable member did not want to .be associated with his colleagues in their attempt to close or to prevent the development of the small shipbuilding yards. The Government proposes to allocate orders for new vessels between the different yards in accordance with their ability to construct ships of certain types and bavins: regard to the orders which they already have on hand. It proposes to allocate orders in such a way as to ensure that vessels most needed on the Australian coast will be built first. The total volume of building will be regulated so that orders may be spread over a period of years. This will enable the industry to be established on a permanent basis. Unless some form of regulation of this kind is effected a large volume of orders may be placed in the early years to replace old tonnage and vessels lost during the war, followed by a dearth of orders in the succeeding period, thus reducing activity in the ship”building industry. The Government’s plans will involve some deferment of building in the early years. Whilst the Government fully realizes the need to replace old tonnage it also believes that in the interests of the shipbuilding industry orders should be spread over a period of years in order to prevent a slump and consequent dispersal of resources and trained man-power. The Government also proposes to adopt a certain degree of standardization in the construction of ships. The average Australian will want to see such a programme implemented. If honorable members opposite want a hint from this Government in relation to their election policy, which they have not yet been able to formulate, I shall give them one. I suggest that they should campaign against the establishment of a Commonwealth shipping line and go all out in favour of private enterprise against the interests of the community.
.- We have listened to the usual “ blurb “ from the so-called Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who is engaged in a constant struggle with the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) for the eventual leadership of the political Labour party. The honorable gentleman takes part in the debates in this chamber at every opportunity notwithstanding the fact that he does not know what he wants to say. It is important to him that he should take part in all debates. To-night the honorable gentleman spoke on this bill, about which he obviously knows nothing. After he had dealt with the depression and other occurrences of ten or more years ago, he concluded his speech by reading passages that had been prepared for him by his department. His speech was of the kind that we are accustomed to hear from him. It is well that Ministers and, indeed, all honorable members should examine a bill and endeavour to understand its provisions before they make a speech about it. Both the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Information have assured us that the Government has. no intention to nationalize the shipbuilding industry. What is meant by the word “ nationalization “ ? Nationalization is not necessarily confined to the com plete ownership of an industry; it also means the exclusive control of an industry. It is clear that under this bill exclusive control of the shipbuilding industry will be vested in the Minister foi Shipping and Fuel for the time being in office. I was intrigued by the statement of the Minister for Defence - I understand that the honorable gentleman still looks after defence matters - that the Government cannot constitutionally nationalize an industry. We all know that whilst the Government cannot legally nationalize an industry it can seek by every possible means, dishonest or otherwise, to overcome the constitutional limitations which prevent it from doing so. That is precisely what the Government is seeking to do in the bill now before 116. I shall examine it, remembering always that the amendment was introduced only when it was quite obvious to the Government’s legal advisers ‘ that the bill, as drafted, could not withstand a challenge in a court of law, because it gave to the Minister complete discretion to refuse to grant a licence to a person to build ships. Obviously, somebody has said, “We cannot get away with this proposal, hut if we insert a sub-clause to the effect that these powers can be exercised only for the purposes of defence, we may be able to get away with it “. In short, by robing the matter in the cloak of defence, the Government will he able to say, when a challenge is made, “ We have refused our consent, it is true, but since the assumption always is that the Minister exercises his powers strictly in accordance with his authority, there is no ground upon which our refusal can be challenged “. Every one knows perfectly well that this Government has been flagrantly defying the Constitution ever since it has been in office. In pursuing that policy, it has been led by a man who was previously a Justice of the High Court. Knowing the legal difficulties, but determined to achieve its socialist objectives, the Government has so framed its legislation as to achieve those objectives without disclosing its hand. The ingenuity of the parliamentary draftsman is almost limit? less. That practice has been followed in this clause. The Minister has refused to allow to an aggrieved person the right to appeal to an independent tribunal against a decision rejecting bis application to build a ship. “Why? If the Government’s acts of administration are in the interests of the country, and if, as I have suggested, an appeal can be heard in camera, when secrecy must be observed, what is the reason for denying to an aggrieved person the right to appeal to an independent tribunal? 6
– He will get a fair deal.
– The Minister for Information should not speak about fair deals, because he is the most fascistminded Minister in the Government. The Government has an opportunity to show its willingness to exercise this provision solely in the interests of national defence. But what do we find? When this bill becomes law, a person will not be permitted to build even a small ferry to carry passengers across Sydney Harbour unless he obtains the approval of the Minister. That position will be established, mark you, in the interests of defence. The Minister’s approval will be dependent upon any one of a number of matters. He can say, “I do not like the proposed tonnage, your design, your fittings, your gear, when you desire to build the boat, and the place where you propose to construct it. I do not even like your standards or method of construction”. Let us briefly examine those matters. The Government says that because it proposes to develop the shipbuilding industry in the interests of defence, no vessel may be constructed in Australia in future unless the builder obtains the approval of the Minister.
The Government has complete control of broadcasting, as an instrument of propaganda in this Parliament, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has control of most of the commercial broadcasting stations, by a strange arrangement, into which we shall later inquire, but, little by little, the public is beginning to understand the significance of the Government’s socialist aims. It is odd that this Government, which pretends that it does not propose to nationalize the shipbuilding industry, is taking control of all the things which matter in that industry. If a person is not permitted to determine the tonnage, design, fittings and gear of a vessel, the time he will build it and the place where he will construct it, what power is left to so-called private enterprise in the shipbuilding industry?
The Minister for Information, who has the strange faculty of revealing the truth when he is speaking in heat, has told us precisely what the Government intends to do. It proposes to allocate the work among those who are engaged in the shipbuilding industry. To that statement, honorable members opposite say, “ Hear, hear ! “ I shall examine where that intention will lead. The unions will say, “We do not like Maryborough, in Queensland, as a shipbuilding centre, because the conditions there are not what we want “. The result will be that the Government will allocate the work to those shipbuilding yards that the unions select; of course, always in the interests of defence, although we know that the Federated Ironworkers Association is controlled by a Communist who belongs to an organization that is traitorous to this country ! Will the Minister, with that great courage which has been so characteristic of him, resist the dictates of the unions when their proposals conflict with the interests of defence? Of course, he will not! Ever since this Government has been in office it has given way to the unions. Of course, Ministers talk a good deal, and say that the rule of law must be obeyed and that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act must be observed, but they immediately go behind the backs even of the courts, and persuade persons charged with judicial functions to make arrangements with recalcitrant unions. That is the way in which the rule of law, and arbitration have been debased in this country. That is precisely how the provisions of this bill will be administered.
When I examine the bill, as I am doing, in contradistinction to the Minister, I find that complete powers are given to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, and that an aggrieved person will not be allowed the right to appeal against his decision. A person who desires to build a vessel of 200 tons, which is not a large ship, must apply to the Minister for approval, and go through the hoops of the department. It does not matter whether he proposes to run the vessel from
Cremorne to Circular Quay, or between any other places in Sydney Harbour. He must apply to the Minister for approval ito build the vessel, and the fantastic proposition is that, in the interests of defence, the Minister can either grant of reject the application. I say quite deliberately, and without any reservation whatsoever, that the Government’s amendment, which pretends to confine the exercise of such powers merely to defence purposes, was introduced only when it was realized that clause 29 was under challenge. The Government’s purpose has not changed. By reducing the purport of the power in accordance with the amendment, it is able to confer upon the Minister an absolute discretion to either grant or reject an application for permission to build a vessel, and an aggrieved person, whose application has been rejected, will not have the right to challenge the Minister’s decision in a court of law. If I may use the vernacular, this proposal is a snide trick, which iis characteristic of the Government in respect .of nearly every piece of legislation tfes* it hss introduced.
Honorable members opposite have declared in the debate that has taken place on this bill that the Government is not in favour of nationalizing the shipbuilding industry. What is wrong with the platform of the Labour party? Labour members are pledged to support the socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange. They have advocated their platform for years, or at least have given lip service to it, and have declared that they fervently believe in the nationalization of industry. Since this bill has been introduced, the Government has asked members of the Opposition to believe that it does not propose to nationalize the shipbuilding industry. It is perfectly clear that if the Government had the necessary power, it would nationalize the whole of the shipbuilding industry.
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) declared that the Government intended to nationalize the shipbuilding industry.
– Some honorable members opposite have made that statement, and, in this bill, the Government clearly has the power to nationalize the shipping industry. Of course, honorable members pretend that they cannot exercise that authority except for purposes associated with defence. What are the facts? The Government will have absolute power to reject an application for permission to build a vessel, and no court of law may inquire into the reasons for the refusal. Always, and. in my ^opinion, quite wrongly, it is assumed that Ministers of the Crown exercise their powers strictly in accordance with the mandate that is given to them by the Parliament. As aggrieved persons will not be able to challenge the Minister’s decision upon that ground, the result will be that the Government will have complete control of the shipbuilding industry, whether the work is related to defence or not. I should like to know why the Government, if its purposes are clear and above board, will not agree to appoint an independent tribunal to hear an appeal by an aggrieved person. If secret matters were involved, the appeal could be heard in camera, but the tribunal would sit in judgment upon any departmental decision. Why did the Minister refuse to allow that right of appeal? A taxpayer has the right to appeal to the Taxation Board of Review against a decision by the Commissioner of Taxation, and it does not follow that the commissioner is any less efficient because sometimes the board determines that his decisions are wrong. So it is with any department. It is a wrong, and, indeed, a dangerous notion that a department is always right. The amendment that I have foreshadowed merely asks the Government to appoint a board of inquiry to which an aggrieved person may appeal against the Minister’s decision. The Government cannot reasonably object to that proposal on the ground that secrecy must be preserved regarding some matters that may arise, because the Minister may make a regulation providing that, when he so directs, the hearing shall be in camera. I warn honorable members and the people that whether they know it or not, draftsmanship has now reached the stage at which parliamentary draftsmen are watching every decision of the High Court, and, in order to achieve the Government’s objectives, which cannot be achieved honestly, are deliberately being directed to draft legislation in such a way as to evade the provisions of the Constitution. May I remind honorable’ members; that the Constitution i» the fundamental document of this country, and that in this Parliament it should be referred to more frequently than it is.
– ‘Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Being a lawyer, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) should not talk such nonsense as he has uttered this evening. He said that the Government and the Parliament operate under a written Constitution which clearly defines the powers of the legislature, yet he went on to make the ridiculous suggestion that, as the result of drafting the provisions of a bill ira a particular way, the Government can “ walk around the Constitution “. Those were his precise words. It is complete nonsense to argue that that is possible. I shall examine the propositions that members of the Opposition have advanced in respect of this clause; I agree that clauses 15, 29 and 30 constitute the kernel of the bill. Without those three clauses, the legislation would be completely worthless. Members of the Opposition have declared that they have been so drafted as to enable the Government to nationalize the shipping industry. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has even claimed that the clauses, as drafted, will enable the Government to nationalize the shipbuilding industry. Earlier,. I pointed out that the Government has no proprietorial interest in the shipbuilding industry. It does not own any shipbuilding yards, with the exception of the dock at Williamstown, where naval craft are constructed. Therefore, it cannot be said that the Government has any intention of nationalizing the shipbuilding industry.
The general contention of honorable members opposite is that this bill is so drafted as to enable the Government, in a roundabout way, to nationalize the shipping and shipbuilding industries. The truth is that the Government has no intention of nationalizing either of those two industries. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) recognized that fact clearly last week, when he said that everybody knows that the Constitution prevents the Government from nationalizing any industry. So the honorable member for Wide Bay, at any rate, is at variance with his colleagues in regard to this particular matter. The three clauses around which the present discussion has centred - the clause with which we are now dealing, the clause regarding which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has foreshadowed an amendment, and the clause that we have already dealt with to-day - are designed to give effect to a definite policy on the part of the Government in connexion with the development of the shipping and shipbuilding industries and the maintenance of an adequate mercantile marine. The bill is not designed to nationalize either the shipping or the shipbuilding industry. In order to show that that is so I desire to take the committee back to the genesis of this particular measure. I said in my secondreading speech that the genesis of this bill was the submission of a particular scheme by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction a long time ago. At the meeting of the War Cabinet that considered that submission, an interdepartmental committee was formed, the personnel of which were : Mr. A. V. Smith, Chairman of the Department of Supply and Shipping; Mr. G. G. Sutcliffe, of the same department; Mr. N. K. S. Brodribb, of the Munitions Department; Engineer Rear Admiral P. 0. McNeil; and Dr. H. C. Coombes and Mr. F. T. Merrett, of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. Those gentlemen are very efficient and capable public servants. They were not bound by any advice tendered by the Government. All they were asked to do was to investigate the problem of the shipping and shipbuilding industries, and its relationship to the defence of Australia. In due course, that committee submitted a report. I quoted some paragraphs from the report in my secondreading speech, and I shall quote more of the report, as it relates to certain matters that have arisen during the present debate. What the Government desires to do is to ensure that there shall be an adequate mercantile marine in Australia and that an efficient shipbuilding industry will be maintained in this country to meet the position that will arise in the event of war breaking out again. No honorable member can deny that both of those objectives are closely related to the defence of Australia. Unless we have an adequate mercantile marine and shipbuilding industry, it will be quite impossible to defend Australia. This is not a need that has been suddenly realized by a Labour government. It was realized by anti-Labour governments before the war, when they instituted an investigation and, in fact, proposed to take certain steps. A bill was brought down in this House. I shall outline the steps taken by anti-Labour governments prior to the war, including the passage of legislation by this House, and shall show that the net result of what they did was nothing at all. They talked very loudly and instituted investigations. They did everything to inform their minds of the need for an adequate mercantile marine and the maintenance of a shipbuilding industry. But, as I have said, the net result was absolutely nothing. I mentioned in my second-reading speech that between 1923 and 1940 no merchant ship was built in an Australian shipyard. One can well imagine what the state of the shipbuilding industry was in those days. During the 1930’s the Tariff Board conducted an investigation to find suitable ways and means by which the then government could render assistance to the shipbuilding industry. The board recommended that a bounty be paid in respect of vessels capable of economic construction in Australia. It is true that there may be some argument about the best way to assist shipbuilding in Australia, whether by way of bounty or a subsidy or by the imposition of restrictions regarding where ships may be built. I pointed out in my second-reading speech that the United Kingdom Government paid a subsidy to the shipping industry on ships built in the United Kingdom. If it is good enough for the United Kingdom Government to make a provision of that kind, surely it is good enough for the Australian Government. The Ship Bounty Act was passed to implement the Tariff Board’s recommendations. The bounty was limited to an amount of £50,000 in any one year and was operative for three years. The bounty was payable on vessels of from 101 to 1,500 gram tons. Vessels of greater tonnage wen1 apparently not to be subsidized. The amount payable varied between £10 and £12 10s. a ton. That appears to have been a very good proposition. What was the net result? Not one penny was ever paid as a bounty to the shipbuilding industry. The promises of the Opposition parties regarding shipping when they were in power were similar to their promises about the provision of housing. They promised the workers of Australia that they would build houses, but not a single house was ever built by them-
– The Minister himself once stated that the Government did not desire the workers to own houses and thus become little capitalists.
– When they were on the Government benches honorable members opposite recognized, as this Government recognizes, the necessity to develop a shipping industry in Australia, to develop an adequate mercantile marine and to maintain a shipbuilding industry on an appropriate scale. Between 1935 and 1939 they considered what ought to be done. Then they introduced a measure that provided for the payment of bounties, but under it not one penny was ever contributed to either the shipping industry or the shipbuilding industry.
Mr. Adermann interjecting,
– I cannot hear what the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has interjected. I am merely telling the truth about this matter. I have given the committee the record of the Opposition in relation to maintaining an adequate mercantile marine and shipbuilding industry in this country at a time when the need for such services was even greater than it is to-day because, in spite of all that honorable members opposite may say, the danger of war, in the years between 1935 and the outbreak of the last war in 1939, was very much greater than it is to-day.
– The Labour party gave no indication of knowing anything about that during those years.
– I am dealing now not with the Labour party but with the record of a former government of which the honorable member who has just interjected was a member.
– And a very vocal member, too.
– That record proves, first of all, that the Opposition, while it was on the government benches, recognized the need to do something to maintain an adequate mercantile marine ; that it tried to do it ; that it talked about it for a long time; that it took action; and that then, under a measure passed by this Parliament, it did not put one penny, by way of bounty, into the shipbuilding industry. As I said earlier, there may be different opinions about the methods that should be used to assist the shipbuilding and shipping industries of Australia. The method adopted by the Government in the present measure may be criticized, but, at least, it can be said that it will result in something being done to maintain the shipping and shipbuilding industries, whereas the Opposition, when it was in office and had the opportunity to do something concrete, was able to achieve nothing in that direction. The honorable member for Warringah, supporting the honorable member for Fawkner, said that the present measure was a roundabout way to achieve nationalization of the shipbuilding industry. During my reply to the debate on the second reading I told honorable members that the question of nationalizing the shipbuilding and shipping industries had had my close personal attention, at any rate when the matter was before the Government, and that the Government and I had deliberately rejected that method on principle.
– The Government adopted nationalization of banking to achieve the same results as are intended, regarding shipping, in the present measure.
– It did not. There is a difference between the two propositions.
– No one will believe the Minister.
– The trouble with the honorable member for Warringah and his colleagues opposite is that nobody has believed them since the last time they were in office, and the people will not believe them at the next election either. The honorable member can talk as much as he likes, but the people will approve what the Government is doing. We shall wait for the next election to see what the people think. The honorable member has suggested that there should be established a special tribunal to deal with complaints laid by people who have been refused licences under clause 29. I say that such a method would be entirely wrong. But, of course, his proposal is in line with the attitude adopted by the Opposition in connexion with legislation generally. Honorable members opposite, when in office, were fond of establishing semigovernmental institutions or tribunals, and then when a tough problem came forward being unprepared to take the responsibility of making a decision. They threw the responsibility on the tribunals so that, in the event of the electors blaming them for having made a wrong decision or having taken a wrong step, they could point to the tribunal and say that the decision had been made not by the Government but by an independent body. That is exactly what happened in connexion with hanking in this country. Honorable members opposite, led by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who is not present to-night, established a Commonwealth Bank Board-
– Order! The Minister must return to the clause.
– I am drawing a parallel. I am pointing out that the honorable member for Warringah suggests in his amendment that an independent tribunal be established; that the Minister who, under this clause, has been given certain powers, shall not have the final voice in relation to the policy of the Government but that it shall be given to such a tribunal. I am pointing out that those proposals are in line with the tactics adopted by the Opposition generally, and that honorable members opposite are not prepared to take responsibility for decisions that are adopted.
– The present Government set up such an independent body under thebanking legislation.
– The Government did not. It established an advisory council, which is an entirely different thing.I am drawing a parallel between what the honorable member for Warringah suggests in his amendment to this clause, and the attitude adopted by the Opposition upon legislation and legislative matters generally.
– The Minister is not drawing the parallel very well.
– The Opposition likes to establish semi-independent bodies and then, when a particularly knotty problem comes up, pass it on to that authority. If the decision turns out to be wrong, and does not meet with the approval of the people, the Opposition absolves itself of all responsibility and blames the tribunal. This Government takes the responsibility for everything that it docs. The Minister is empowered, under the clause, to grant licences and, under the amendment, he may withhold a licence only for a reason related to the defence of the Commonwealth. Certain factors mustbe taken into consideration and only those factors must weigh with the Minister in making his decision.
– The amendment does not say so.
– It does.
– It is very easy to prove that it does not.
– I shall read the amendment in order to show what I say is correct.
– I wish the Minister would do so, if only for the first time.
– The amendment reads -
The powers conferred on the Minister by the last two preceding sub-sections-
Those are the powers to grant licences for the construction of ships. A licence may be granted subject to such conditions relating to the tonnage, design, fittings, gear, and time, place, standards and methods of construction, of the ships as the Minister determines - are conferred for the purpose of ensuring, in the interests of defence, that the shipbuilding industry is established in the Commonwealth on an adequate scale and is maintained in continuous operation, and, in particular, for the purpose of ensuring -
– Does the Minister think he understands it now?
– I think that proves that what I have said is correct. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that I was making an untrue statement. That is why I read the amendment and explained again the purpose which the bill is designed to achieve. The Government is prepared to take the responsibility for its actions.
– Chancing your arm !
– It is not a question of “chancing your arm “ in this measure, which is clearly related to the defence of Australia. We can with complete justification invoke the defence power for the purposes of the bill. The point that I was making is that this Government, compared with other governments of other political parties, is always prepared to take full responsibility for its actions.
– That is about the fifteenth time the Minister has said that.
– I know that the honorable member for Warringah does not like this, because he has other ideas, as I have already explained. The Minister will have certain powers under the bill. He will be prepared to exercise them. The Governmentdoes not want any independent tribunal ofany kind to be standing between a Minister and his responsibility to the Parliament. If the Minister acts wrongly andinsuch a wayas toaffect detrimentally the interests of either the shipping industry or the shipbuilding industry, the Minister and the Government, in due course, will receive the censure of the community at large. The Government is prepared to stand on its record in relation to the conduct of its Ministers and the responsibilities that they assume. Honorable gentlemen opposite havesaid-
– Do not be in a hurry.
– I am not in a hurry. I still have another 55 minutes to go.
– This is the Minister’s idea of fair play.
– It is characteristic of him.
– Honorable gentlemen opposite have said that the purpose of the legislation is to nationalize the shipping industry and the shipbuilding industry. They have said that it was introduced for that particular purpose.
– So it was.
– It was not. It was introduced to ensure that the defence requirements of Australia shall be met. It was not introduced without complete investigation by the Government of all the problems associated with shipping and shipbuilding. I have mentioned that an inter-departmental committee inquired into the matter and devoteda whole chapterof its report-
– That is the confidential report, the one that the Minister will not lay on the table. I thought so.
– The Leader of the Opposition is always complaining about confidential documents.
– I complain about the singularly dishonest practice of Ministers in quoting selected passages from them.
– The right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that if he were in my position he would not table a confidential document.
– I would not. Neither would I adopt the miserable trick of quoting from it bits that suited me. I call that a thoroughly dishonest trick.
– I am not picking out bits that suit me. Honorable gentlemen opposite complain about my wasting the time of the committee. I consider it necessary to quote from the document in order to substantiate the case that I am puttingbefore the committee. If the Leader of theOpposition desires me to do so, I will quote the whole of the document. I deny the accusation by the Leader of the Opposition that I am picking bits out of the report.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. Standing Order 276 states-
The Speaker or the Chairman of Committees may call the attention of the House or the Committee,as the case may be, to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition, or the taking up oftime by a speech of such unwarrantable length as to obstruct the business on the part of a Member, and may direct such Member to discontinue his speech . . .
I direct your attention to the fact that the Minister is going over and over the same ground, is continually being irrelevant, and is making a speech that has no relation to the clause before the Chair. I ask that he be required to resume his seat.
– I do not think any point or order is involved. I have listened attentively to the debate and I have heard many things said. I think the Minister is quite in order.
– One big advantage that would accrue from quoting the whole document would be that it would entirely disprove thestatements of the honorable gentlemen opposite that the purpose of the billis to nationalize still another industry. That is not its purpose. Its purpose is related to the defence of the Commonwealth. It was introduced solely for that purpose. Lengthy quotations from the report will prove that what honorable gentlemen opposite say is entirelywrong. An entire chapter of the report is devoted to the post-war policy for shipping and shipbuilding. I propose to read some extracts from the chapter.
– Who wrote it?
– It was compiled by an inter-departmental committee. I have named the members of the committee.
– What has it to do with the clause before the committee?
– It has a great deal to do with clauses 29, 30 and 15, which are the kernel of the bill. Honorable gentlemen opposite say that those clauses are intended to nationalize the shipping and shipbuilding industries. I admit quite freely that, without those clauses, the bill would be worthless. In order to substantiate the need for clauses 29 and 30 and to rebut the argument advanced by the honorable member for Warringah about the amendment that he foreshadowed, it is necessary to prove that the intention of the Government is to provide for an adequate shipping industry and an adequate shipbuilding industry in Australia.
– Why does the Minister not be decent and stop wasting the time of the committee?
– I said-
– How does the Minister propose to get the necessary iron and steel in Australia? He has not answered that question yet.
– It is true that there is a shortage of steel in Australia. Honorable members opposite know the reasons for it. There is a shortage of coal and a shortage of labour. Perhaps the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) does not know that, because of the shortage of coal and labour, the steel industry is working at only 65 per cent. of its capacity. When we get more labour into the country from the displaced persons who are being brought inby the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), we shall be able to break some of the bottlenecks in the coal industry and the steel industry and get more steel for shipbuilding purposes. I shall now quote some extracts from the report of the inter-departmental committee on the post-war policy for the shipbuilding and shipping industry. Paragraph 51 contains the committee’s recommendations. It reads as follows: -
In planning for the future of the Australian shipbuilding industry, the committee feels that there are three main dangers which must be avoided -
Undue fluctuation in volume of work in order to maintain a reasonably stable industry;
That is, of course, related to the provisions of this clause, under which the
Minister may grant licences. As explained by the honorable gentleman, the programme will be planned in order that there shall be a stable level of production in the shipbuilding industry. The report proceeds -
– The honorable gentleman is only wasting the time of the committee. He knows that the “ guillotine” will soon fall. I therefore move -
That the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) be not further heard.
Question put. The committee divided. ( The Temporary Chairman - Mr. T. N. Sheehy.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
The committee considers that the only way in which this position can be met is by the imposition of a maximum age of vessels licensed to operate on the coast, as the first step towards programming post-war merchant shipbuilding. The committee is of the opinion after considering all the relevant factors, chat this age limit, unless in exceptional vases, should be 25 years and recommends chat the Navigation Act be amended accordingly. It is noted that in this connexion for taxation purposes shipping companies are permitted to write off the capital cost of ships over twenty years. The question of the disposal of over-age ships either overseas to foreign operators, or in Australia or overseas for scrap should be a matter for determination by the shipping and shipbuilding authority in accordance with circumstances at the time.
It will be necessary to provide a regular long-term programme of construction for the shipbuilding industry. In the early stages of the programme, particularly, it may not he practical for all vessels to he replaced immediately they reached 25 years of age if hu ordered programme is to be maintained. The shipping and shipbuilding authority, therefore, should be empowered subject to the Approval of the Minister to permit vessels to continue in operation after they have reached the age of 25 years in cases where the local shipyards are unable to undertake the necessary construction immediately the vessel is required. It is possible also that shipowners may not be able to dispose of their old vessels at the end of the 25 year period and the shipping authority should therefore be empowered to acquire and dispose of over-age vessels where necessary.
In considering the proposed future programme of shipbuilding for the post-war years set out in the next chapter, the committee is of the opinion that a shipbuilding programme which relates only to maintaining the coastal fleet at the pre-war level will not h<» sufficient to maintain the shipbuilding industry over the long-term period on a scale sufficient to enable it to operate economically »t to provide for the defence needs of the country
To avoid the dangers set out in Paragraph 51, the ideal arrangements would he to spread replacements evenly over the life of the Australian mercantile fleet. Pre-war, this amounted to approximately 450,000 gross tons (see Appendix 1), and as it was proposed that the life of the ships should he 25 years, the total tonnage to be constructed each year if this course were followed, would be about 18,000 tons, or 1/25 of the 450,000 tons. Such a demand, however, would reasonably occupy only two of the eight yards now engaged on shipbuilding, and, in the opinion of the Shipbuilding Board, such a level of production would not be on a sufficient scale lo enable the industry to attain the necessary efficiency of production and consequent lowering of costs. The committee, therefore, was faced with the fact that if the Australian Mercantile Marine post-war were to be no bigger than it was pre-war there was hardly justification, ignoring any other considerations, for establishing the industry in Australia in peace-time.
The establishment of the industry, however, is necessary from the defence aspect. The committee was informed by the Australian Shipbuilding Board that to establish the industry on any reasonable basis in peacetime it would be necessary to plan for an annual output of between 30,000 and 35,000 gross tons. If such a level of activity were established in peace-time, it is estimated that three of the five larger yards could continue full time on shipbuilding exclusively. If two nf the smaller yards were to discontinue building, and concentrate on repair work and one of the larger yards (preferably Cockatoo) were, as regards shipbuilding, devoted entirely to Naval construction, it appears that the industry could be reasonably established on a peace-time basis with prospects of achieving reasonably low costs of construction. Based on the requirements of the pre-war coastal fleet alone, such a level of activity could he maintained for about ten years after the wor. Thereafter, however, the demand from this source could be for no more than about 10,000 tons annually for a period of fifteen years.
I have read enough to show that the subject was investigated very closely by the Government. This clause in the bill, and others also, were inserted in order to give effect to a planned programme relating, first, to the mercantile marine, and secondly, to shipbuilding. I repeat that those are the only intentions of the Government. The bill is related to defence requirements. We believe that it is absolutely necessary that we should have in Australia, in the event of war, an adequate mercantile marine and a shipbuilding industry able to undertake the construction and repair of naval ships. Those are categorical imperatives, from a defence point of view, and their achievement is the sole purpose of the bill, which has nothing whatever to do with the nationalization of shipping or of the shipbuilding industry.
– I think that the appropriate first sentence for me to utter in the present circumstances is, “ I do not believe’ a word of it”. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has given us his usual mixture of dogmatism and abuse of the Opposition, pointing out what he chooses to regard as the defects of antiLabour governments in the past, but he did not condescend to discuss the subject before the Chair. That subject is an amendment submitted by the Government to the clause under consideration, together with an intimation by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that he has another amendment which he hopes later to move, but which he almost certainly will not have an opportunity to move. The Minister, in his speech, wandered far and wide, but he made two or three remarks that must be answered. He said - and he kept on repeating it on the principle, I suppose, that if he. says a thing often enough somebody will believe it - that the Government lacked the power to nationalize any industry. And, of course, what the Government cannot do it would never dream of trying to do! I am waiting to hear whether the Government has withdrawn its appeal to the Privy Council on the banking case. Is that appeal to be discontinued ? I understood that some scores of thousands of pounds of public money was being expended in an attempt to establish the claim of the Government that it had the power to nationalize banking. Is that appeal to be abandoned ? The Government has ideas about nationalizing the insurance industry. Are they to be abandoned? When the Minister makes statements in this House, he might as well see that they are accurate. The fact is that, to the extent that the Government can nationalize the shipping industry, the Government will do so if it is left in office. This bill, on the face of it, does not profess to be a bill to nationalize the shipping industry, and we know that the Minister himself has expressly disavowed any intention on the part of the Government to nationalize the industry, but the exercise by the Minister of the powers which are fo be taken under this legislation will’ undoubtedly lead to the extinction of the private shipping industry, and if that is not nationalization, school children will hare to be given some other understanding of the word.
Warming to his work, the Minister made a glancing reference to the Government which I had the honour to lead. He said that, after an investigation had been made by the Tariff Board into the shipbuilding industry, certain legislation was passed by the Parliament, but that not one penny had ever been paid in bounty to the industry under that legislation. His whole intention, was, as usual, to mislead his audience, and to create the impression that my Government had made an empty gesture in regard to shipbuilding, and had then forgotten about it. The legislation was assented to on the 8th December, 1939, which was two months after the war broke out. Within a few weeks of the passing of the act, circumstances were such that we, as a Government, found ourselves immersed in a naval and civil shipbuilding programme greater than anything ever before contemplated in the history of Australia. No one can honestly say that during 1941 and 1942, the shipbuilding capacity of Australia was not being strained to the utmost, or that it was not being helped by every conceivable means at the disposal of the Government. I can speak of those two years with some knowledge. Yet the suggestion is made that we had passed an act through the Parliament,, and the.n forgotten about it.
– That is characteristic of the Minister.
– It is. He very carefully tried to create the impression for propaganda purposes in the future that the Opposition is opposed to the shipbuilding industry. Therefore, it becomes necessary to say, even at the risk of tedious repetition, that the Opposition is all in favour of a shipbuilding industry in Australia. The question before the committee is not whether the shipbuilding industry should be supported, but how it should be supported. The gravamen of our attack upon the Government has been that it has chosen to support the industry, first, by placing an absolute embargo upon the importation of ships built abroad, particularly in Great Britain ; and, secondly, by putting into the hands of the Minister the untrammelled power to decide who shall have the right to have a ship built in an Australian shipyard.
That brings me to the question before the Chair, which is the amendment that has been moved by the Minister for Defence. It was circulated when the secondreading debate was well advanced. The honorable gentleman told us just now that the whole point of the amendment is that the Minister will not have an unfettered discretion and that he will not be entitled to refuse to grant a licence to build a ship except on one or other of the grounds that are set out in the proposed new sub-clause. I say deliberately that that is not so. The Minister’s power to refuse an application for a licence will still be completely unfettered. All1 that the amendment does, and it does it with great subtlety, is to say that the Minister shall not exercise his’ power to grant a licence except on one or other of the grounds that are specified. If the Minister were to say that he did not propose to exercise his power to grant a licence, how on earth could that decision ever be tested or how could anybody discover what’ was in the Minister’s mind when he refused to exercise his power? What is there in this amendment or in the bill that requires the Minister’ to formulate or state a reason or to take any of the element’s referred’ to in1 the amendment into1 account before refusing an application1 for a- licence1? Before granting1 a licence, he wilt be1 required to takeone or other of these matters into account, but he1 coul’d refuse1 it”, on any ground, or on no ground. Let us- examine the amendment. There has been a great’ song and dance about the’ ““interests of defence “. Ite is an aura of respectability that has been cast around this very dubious billL If I may adopt a phrase that is known in another jurisdiction,, it is- an attempt at legitimation by subsequent amendment. The Government has- said, “ We must put in< something about defence because that will be ai trump card if we come to argue’ about, this measure to-day. It will- be’ grand to> be able to say tha# all this’ is’ related to- the defence of the country”. If I may adopt ai celebrated! phrase of the> honorable’ member for Werriwa (Mr.
Lazzarini), words still mean what they say. What does the amendment say? It says -
The powers conferred on the Minister- that is the power to grant a licence- by the last two preceding sub-sections are conferred for the purpose of ensuring, in the interests of defence-
That phrase is a little placard. It has no relation to the purposes that are set out later. Those purposes are specified with great care. As a little side-show, the Government has said, “ Let it be understood that this is for the purposes of defence “. It might just as well have said that it was for the good of the country, or for the benefit of Australia, or for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth. Any of those phrases would have served just as well as “ the interests of defence”. The operative words of the amendment are1 - conferred for the purpose of ensuring . . . that the shipbuilding industry is established in the Commonwealth on a’ri adequate seato and- is maintained in continuous’ operation - -
We are all in favour of that, and there iti really no need to put it in. The1 amendment” continues- and, in particular, for the purpose of ensuring- -
The: five purposes are set out one by one Then1, remarkably enough, the following words appear? - and! those powers shall not he exercised otherwise than for. achieving one or the other of’ the purposes, specified in this sub-section.
Any one of them willi do. If- the Minister were to1 say that he was prepared to grant- a licence’ to build ai ship for the purpose of encouraging efficient methods of ship- construction, that would be goodenough. It would also be sufficient if he were to say that he would’ grant a licence for the: purpose of encouraging’ economy in’ the1 cost of construction of ships. He could say, “I am satisfied’ that we can handle this job better than1 they could’ handle rt in the- old days and it will be more economical if I grant” a- licence tothis’ particular yard to build a ship “.
The Minister need only pick out one of the purposes. This Government, especially when its case is being expounded by the Minister for Defence, never seems to know quite where it is. The preamble of the bill states -
Whereas the Parliament of the Commonwealth has power to make laws . . . with respect to -
trade and commerce with other countries and among the States; and
the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States :
The real basis of this legislation is the interstate trade and commerce power in the Constitution. The reason why the defence power has been dragged in should be clear to everybody. Under the interstate trade and commerce power, the Government could not control the building of ships for intra-state trade. It could not deal with the Manly ferries or with ships that trade to the northern rivers of New South Wales. Then some one said suddenly, “ By jove, those things are away from us. How can we get them in? How can we complete the monopoly in the hands of the Minister ? “ That is what the Government is after all the time. It desires a monopoly in the hands of the Minister. In a flash, the answer was given, “ Let us put in the words, ‘ in the interests of defence ‘ “. It would be an insult to anybody who may hereafter have to interpret the language of this clause to suggest that the words “in the interests of defence “ afford any qualification whatever of the discretionary powers of the Minister. They have been put in solely in an attempt to prop up a piece of legislation that is otherwise obviously bad. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made a rational proposal. This is a vital matter. The refusal to grant licences to build ships would inevitably force shipping companies out of business. This is a power which could be used to destroy a business, or to destroy all private companies in the shipping trade. It is a vast power. When the honorable member for Warringah suggested that a tribunal should be established, the Minister for Defence, with holy horror and with the usual modesty of members of this Government, said, “ We are never afraid to accept responsibility. We do not believe in delegating these powers to outside bodies. We believe that a Minister should be able to deal with these matters “. When the Minister was saying that, I thought, “ How is it that there is a Maritime Industry Commission and a Stevedoring Industry Commission ? How is it that the Government has set up so many of these bodies, including a coal authority? Has the Government seen the light, and are we to understand that these bodies will be abolished next week? “ They will not be abolished, of course. That was just a little flim-flam that was produced at the last moment. The truth of the matter is that there is one reason only for rejecting the proposal for the establishment of a tribunal. It is that the purpose of this legislation is to give a monopolistic control of- one of the vital industries of Australia to the Government and the Minister. No amendment that cuts across that scheme will be accepted by the Government.
– The committee is discussing a clause which relates to the issue of licences for the building of ships. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) stated that the Opposition has a policy in regard to shipping, but he went no further than that. The right honorable gentleman also said that the Opposition is not opposed to the continuance of a shipbuilding industry in this country, but only to the methods by which the Government proposes to maintain it. The Government has proposed a scheme which it contends must be implemented if the Australian shipbuilding industry is to make good progress. The Opposition has opposed the Government’s proposal and stated that it has a shipbuilding policy of its own. Honorable members opposite should explain their policy and how they propose to implement it.
The issue of licences for the building of ships is not new. A scheme similar to the one that is proposed in this measure was put into operation in the United States of America, which is the home of capitalism, over 40 years ago in relation to the United States mercantile marine. It is strange that this Government should be accused of implementing a policy of socialization when it proposes no adopt a policy which has been in operation in the United States of America for the past 40 years. Shipbuilding cannot be separated from defence. If our defence plans are to be successful, the Australian shipbuilding industry must be stabilized. The Government proposes that ships which trade on the Australian coast shall be built in Australia and that before ships in excess of 200 tons can be built permission must be obtained from the Minister. Who will benefit from these proposals? The Government has only one shipbuilding yard. All the other yards throughout the Commonwealth are maintained and controlled by private interests and those interests have earned lucrative profits in the past from this field of activity. Although honorable members opposite have engaged in an almost fanatical defence of the shipping companies of this country, they are apparently prepared to allow the shipbuilding industry to go to the wall. The Opposition has claimed that it is prepared to implement a shipbuilding policy. Honorable members opposite should explain that policy in precise terms, and state how they propose to develop the industry. Are we to follow the laisser-faire doctrine that the Opposition is very fond of espousing?
– What does the honorable gentleman mean by laisser-fairel He does not know what the words mean.
– The honorable member for Warringah may not know. Honorable members opposite, in their attempts to destroy the principles of the bill, have gone from fantasy to fantasy. An important industry in this country is concerned with the outcome of this debate, but the future of Australia is bound up with the stability of the industry. The only way in which the Australian shipbiiilding industry can be stabilized is by implementing the policy that the Government has proposed. The country suffered severely as a result of the policy which was consistently followed by the antiLabour parties that all industries should be left in the hands of private interests and that private interests were to determine what the industrial potential of this country should be. As a result, the shipbuilding industry was allowed to run to seed, and at one time it was almost on the point of extinction. As a result of the war, the industry has been resuscitated and is now enjoying a measure of prosperity that it has never before enjoyed.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the committer stage has expired.
– I wish to ask a question, Mr. Temporary Chairman. As the result of the truncating of the debate, am I to understand that an important amendment which I foreshadowed will not be submitted to the committee?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I regret that that is so. The question i? that the proposed new sub-clause bp inserted.
– Shame !
Question put -
That the sub-clause proposed to be inserted ( Mr. Dedman’s amendment ) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (This Temporary Chairman - Mb. T. N. Sheehy.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the clause, as amended, and the remainder of the bill be agreed to, and that the bill be reported with an amendment.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. T. N. Sheehy.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed-
That the report be adopted.
.- I submit that the report should not be adopted because of the procedure followed during the consideration of the committee stages of the bill. During the debate in committee I foreshadowed an. amendment which would have affected two clauses of the bill, but I was prevented from submitting it by the expiration of the time allotted for the committee stage. For that reason I submit that the report should not be adopted.
-Order ! The honorable member knows that on the question “ That the report be adopted “ the only matter permitted by the Standing Orders to be discussed is whether the report is correct or otherwise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I oppose the third reading of the bill. To-night the Government has given us a clear indication of the manner in which it abuses the privileges of the Parliament by ignoring completely suggestions that have been made by honorable members on this side of the chamber in relation to important matters affecting the liberty of the subject. In fact, most honorable members were not in the chamber during the debate in committee.
-Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the remaining stage of the bill has expired.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. j.j. Clark.)
Majority . .15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 3rd March (vide page 968), on motion by Mr. Johnson -
That thebill be now read a second time.
.- The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), in his second-reading speech, has given honorable members a detailed account of the proposals made in this bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act. After the storm and tempest of the debate on the Shipping Bill, it is a relief to come into the more placid waters of this electoral legislation, which, I think, will find support from both sides of the House. That comment certainly applies to the principal provision, which for the first time, will confer upon many Australian aborigines the right to vote at Commonwealth elections. However, that right is somewhat restricted, because it does not apply to all members of the aboriginal race in Australia. Many aborigines are in settlements, and others are still living under primitive tribal conditions. It would not be practicable to confer upon aborigines the right to vote irrespective of the conditions under which they are living. Consequently, the Government has adopted the practical course of conferring the right to vote at Commonwealth elections upon those aborigines who have the right to vote at State elections, or who happen to be, or were formerly members of the defence forces. The effect will be that those aborigines who reside in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia will have the right to vote at Commonwealth elections because they already, possess the right to vote at the State elections. The Western Australian legislation provides that an aboriginal who complies with certain conditions, and has been granted what, in effect, amounts to a certificate of citizenship, is entitled to vote at the State elections, and, consequently, he will be able to vote at the forthcoming Commonwealth election. No similar legislation exists in Queensland, but we have been informed that the Premier of that State, Mr. Hanlon, proposes to introduce legislation that will adopt, in substance, the practice of the other States. Consequently, the bill that we are now considering will introduce a uniform practice, in relation to voting at Commonwealth and State elections, for those Australian aborigines who may be regarded as being competent to record an effective vote. It is proper to say that, among all shades of political opinion represented in this Parliament, there is a feeling of uneasiness at the way in which we, as a people, have treated the aborigines who are the true natives of the Australian continent. To the degree that this legislation will advance a little further a programme of social justice for them, it will receive the wholehearted commendation of all honorable members.
The outstanding provision in this bill is that which deals with postal voting. I thought at first that such a provision might reflect the uneasiness that some members of the Labour party and their supporters apparently feel at the preponderance of postal votes which have been recorded for non-Labour candidates at various elections. I do not know whether that result has been due to the more effective organization of the nonLabour forces in recent elections, or to the circumstance that the postal voter is either a person who lives in the more remote parts of the Commonwealth and finds it difficult to record a vote in the ordinary way through the ballot-box at a polling booth, or who comes within the category of aged and infirm persons who cannot conveniently record a vote in the normal way. Generally speaking, the vote from the outback areas is predominantly non-Labour, and it is fair to comment that, the older elements in our community who have had a good deal of experience and learnt wisdom as they have gone through life, tend to vote for non-Labour forces. Whatever the causes may be, it appears that in recent elections the postal vote has generally favoured tho non-Labour forces, and, at first, my suspicious mind caused me to incline to the belief that the Government was introducing this amendment in order to defeat the advantage or superiority that non-Labour forces had demonstrated in securing a greater share of the postal votes. However, I am given to understand that the amendment has not been urged, solely, at any rate, by those who speak for the Labour side of politics. In fact, it has been urged for many years particularly by the representatives of primary producers, who have claimed that it is frequently most inconvenient for people in outlying areas m> travel to polling booths and record their votes through the ballot-box. Consequently, the postal vote has been a great boon to them.
Irrespective of the political party which we represent, honorable members will agree that the prime object of the Commonwealth Eelectoral Act should be to enable as many Australian citizens as is practicable to record an effective vote on polling day. The Government claims, with justice, that, by liberalizing the provisions in relation to postal voting, this legislation will enable more people to record an effective vote. The Government, in order to achieve that objective, has extended the field of authorized witnesses. Certainly the number of authorized witnesses under the existing act is extensive, and I should have thought that it was satisfactory for most purposes. Whilst that may be true of the city areas, it does not always work out satisfactorily in outlying country districts. I understand that some confusion has arisen in the past, because whilst any elector may witness an application form for a postal vote, only an authorized witness can make that actual vote formal. There have been people, particularly in country districts, who, having an effective witness for an application in ‘ the person of an ordinary elector, have thought it proper to have the same person witness their postal votes. Under the existing act, those votes would be informal. The effect of the proposed amendment will be to make such votes formal.
The bill also includes one or two machinery provisions dealing with the postal vote, and I consider that it is worth while to devote a few minutes to considering the proposals. I am astonished at the considerable number of postal votes that are recorded at a general election. In the voting for the Senate in 1946, approximately 117,000 postal votes were recorded. That number was a substantial, and certainly a significant, proportion of the total votes cast. Therefore, we should not yield to the view, which, I understand, is held by some supporters of the Government, that postal voting should be eliminated. We should endeavour to confer the right to record a postal vote on as many people as possible, whilst always safeguarding the recording of such votes against any improper practice. The Government has set out to establish those safeguards in the provisions to which I have referred. The effect should be that more postal votes will be recorded, and more people who desire to indicate their preference for one political party or another will be able to so do. There is, however, a reference in the measure which, I think, requires some clarification by the Minister or which perhaps should be expressed in different terms. In attempting to avoid any malpractice on the part of overzealous canvassers who may try to persuade, too vigorously, elderly or infirm people to record their vote, a provision has been inserted that makes it an offence to induce or persuade a person to record a postal vote, or even to be associated with somebody who induces or persuades a person to record a postal vote. The objective that the Government has in mind may be admirable, but I can see difficulties that will arise in practice if the language of the clause stands as it is now. As I interpret the language used in clause 8 of the measure, it would be an offence for a political candidate, for example, to be associated with one of his canvassers who, in an excess of zeal, persuaded an elderly or infirm person to record a postal vote.
– That provision is nol varied greatly from the existing provision.
– I shall make reference to the Minister’s interjection when the bill goes into committee, but I think that the Minister will find that the particular provision to which I refer will vary considerably from the similar provision in the principle act. It would be a revelation to me to discover that a candidate, without any knowledge of what one of his canvassers was doing, found himself in the position of having committed an offence for which a penalty of £50 or imprisonment for a month could be imposed upon him.
– The candidate would bave to be associated with the other person in an improper manner.
– I assume that he would have to be so associated, or that it would have to be proved that he gave instructions to such a person to persuade or induce a person to record a postal vote. lt might not bo easy to prove an offence of that nature. The Minister may give the House some information on that particular aspect when he replies, or at the committee stage. I should like to know whether a candidate would commit an offence if, while going about his business of interviewing electors during an election campaign, found himself in a home in which there was an invalid or infirm person and said to that person, “Do you require a postal vote?”, or, “Are you aware that you may record a postal vote?”. Thai would be a very natural inquiry for a candidate or one of his canvassers to make, and yet on a strict interpretation of this clause such an inquiry could be taken as an endeavour to induce or persuade a person to record a postal vote, and would thus place the candidate or his canvasser in danger of having a substantial penalty imposed upon him.
– The measure provide? that a person may not persuade or induce another person to even make application for a postal vote.
– That is correct. I put ii to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) who, I imagine, has been assiduous to the needs of his constituents, particularly as an election is drawing near, that that would be a natural and proper inquiry for him to make if he found himself in a gathering of people who were ignorant about electoral matters, or in a private home in which there was a person who would obviously require to record his vote by -post. Ii would be a natural thing for him to say. “I can arrange a postal vote for you”. He might then find that that innocent inquiry would place him in danger of having imposed upon him the penalties provided in this legislation. That would be a most unwelcome discovery. I do not think that the Government either desires, or means, to go as far as I have indicated would be possible under th<legislation. I think it could safeguard the position without making such a stringent provision, and I suggest to the Minister, in all friendliness, that he should re-examine the clause in that light.
All I can say about the remainder of the measure is that it is principally of a machinery nature which makes certain amendments that are consequential upon the operation of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1949. There are in the measure several other machinery amendments to the principal act that facilitate the work of returning officers and electoral registrars. I do not desire to delay the passage of the measure. It may be that, as the Minister hopes, the amendments to the principal act now proposed will improve the position regarding postal voting and remove whatever element of abuse may be said to exist at the present time. Frankly, I regard the Minister’s allegations about such abuses as highly coloured. In all the time that I have been in politics and fighting elections I cannot recall any protest ever having been made by my opponents or by officials on my own side against the methods adopted by people who endeavour to assist in the recording of postal votes, and I question whether the abuses referred to by the Minister in his second-reading speech exist on the scale that his remarks would imply. Still, an effort is being made to remove a cause for complaint and there is a distinct possibility, as I see it, that more people will be able to record postal votes than are now able to do so.If the legislation has that effect it will be worthwhile. We can only wait and see how it will operate in practice and then, if it is not satisfactory, the Government of the day - which may be a government drawn from this side of the House - will be able to deal with the position. I speak for the Opposition and I can assure those of my colleagues who may have doubts about this measure, that I have investigated its provisions thoroughly with the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr. Turner, and have also examined the principal act, and that the legislation should not be opposed.
.- I wish to make a few remarks in connexion with matters that were dealt with by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). It will be noted that several important changes regarding postal voting are proposed to be made under the provisions of this bill. It is also interesting to note, that, as stated by the honorable member for Fawkner, the number of people who take advantage of the postal voting facilities at elections is rather large. From the records that I have, I think that about 40,000 people in New South Wales took advantage of the facilities for postal voting at the 1946 general elections. The first criticism of the measure that I wish to make is that I consider that the reasons for which persons may obtain a postal vote are altogether too wide. It is an undeniable fact that many people are taking advantage of the provisions, which are rather elastic and extensive, to record postal votes whereas, if there were a general tightening-up in this respect, they would have to go and vote at the polling booths, as they are quite able to do. Section 85 (1) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act reads -
An elector who . . .
will not throughout the hours of polling on polling day be within the State for which he is enrolled;
will not throughout the hours of polling on polling day be within five miles by the nearest practicable route of any polling booth open in the State for which he is enrolled for the purposes of an election ; (bb) will throughout the hours of polling on polling day be travelling under conditions which will preclude him from voting at any polling booth in the State for which he is enrolled; or
is seriously ill or infirm, and by reason of such illness or infirmity will be precluded from attending at any polling booth to vote, or, in the case of a woman, will by approaching maternity be precluded from attending at any polling booth to vote, may make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper.
I venture to suggest that the general consensus of opinion would be that people who are not within five miles of a polling booth on election day should be the only persons allowed to vote by post. Arrangements could possibly be made for people who are sick, to vote by other methods than are provided in the legislation. It is an undeniable fact that serious exploitation is taking place through unscrupulous persons obtaining votes by methods that are allowed by the act. I hope that amendments will ultimately be introduced that will eliminate some of the reasons that make a person eligible to vote by post. and restrict the remaining reasons to a great extent, thus decreasing the number of postal votes cast at elections and obviating the exploitation that is connected with this form of voting. There are numerous people in rest homes and hospitals who cannot go to a polling booth and record a vote. I know from practical experience that a political candidate who happens to be friendly with those who conduct such establishments undoubtedly obtains the preponderance of votes cast in the institution. My colleague the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will no doubt speak on this measure, and relate to the House his own experiences regarding such matters. I speak from personal experience. During every election there are instances of people obtaining other people’s votes by false pretences. Last Saturday an election was held in the STew South Wales constituency of Concord, which is in my electorate. The number of votes separating the two leading candidates in that election was only about ten. But the Liberal party organization, which had more .money at its call than the Labour party organization, was able to employ a great number of canvassers to go through the length and breadth of the constituency for the sole purpose of collecting postal votes. The result was that, whilst the votes recorded for the two leading candidates at polling booths were more or less even, out of about 1,200 postal votes the Liberal candidate obtained a majority of almost two to one. In other words, the postal votes showed a startling reversal of form on -the part of the electors compared with the form shown in votes cast at polling booths. That state of affairs prevails in practically all electorates because of the large funds available to the Liberal party for the employment of canvassers. This personal approach made, possible by reason of the possession of larger campaign funds gives that party, in borderline cases, great advantages that it would not otherwise have. H the records of various elections were examined it would be found, as the honorable member for Fawkner has admitted, that postal votes favour non-Labour candidates -to a .great extent. That is because the non-Labour (parties have .greater facilities at their disposal to influence people who are inmates of rest homes and hospitals, and so to bring them around to the Opposition’s way of thinking. For that season, I consider that the provisions permitting various types of individuals to apply for postal votes should be tightened, .and .that many of those now so -entitled .should have to vote at polling booths. Pressure is undoubtedly applied in some instances, and in others we know that postal votes are lost. The act is so elastic that it is possible for postal votes to be altered. Such abuses may still occur when the present measure operates. Whilst in some respects this measure may tighten the provisions it will not have the general approval of the people, particularly those connected with the political machines, because we know that in many respects it will loosen the electoral machinery for postal voting. In selection ballots for Labour party candidates in various constituencies no provision is made for postal voting. As a result there is practically a full vote cast by those entitled to vote. Many of them, although they may be sick or crippled or out of the electorate somehow manage to get to the polling booth, because of the provision that there is to be no postal voting. In an important matter like a Federal or State election we should not leave the destiny of a constituency in the hands of the people who can afford to employ canvassers to influence people to vote an a certain way. We should tighten the act to ensure that postal voting shall be a true reflection of the will of the majority of the electors. In nine cases out of ten, the postal voters express the complete reverse of what is thought by the majority of the other voters. The new Liberal member for Concord can thank the .enthusiasm and persuasive powers of his canvassers for his election rather than his policy. I do .not .say that in a harsh spirit, but .to indicate what can be done by people gifted with persuasive powers. Because of the weakness of the postal voting .system, we nearly lost the honorable member for Parkes .(Mr.. Haylen) at the last general election-
– I desire to support the bill to the degree that it has had the support of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). The attitude taken by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) astonishes me. It is evident that .the result of the by-election at Concord lias upset him. He is squealing. He, ‘with his pocket-handkerchief electorate, .does not know the conditions in Borne country electorates in Australia. So vast and <so sparsely settled is the electorate that I have the honour to represent that one political party cannot do any more than another in canvassing for postal votes. lt is almost impossible to canvass for postal votes in that electorate. The honorable member for Martin would like some of the conditions on which postal votes may be obtained and lodged eliminated from the act, but I regard as fair and necessary all the conditions set out therein. A resident more than 5 miles from a polling booth is entitled to a postal vote. The tendency of the Electoral Department in my electorate and in other parts of Queensland is to reduce the number of polling booths. I know that the department is loath to continue polling booths at places where only twelve or fourteen votes are recorded. The divisional returning officer in my electorate has justified the closing of polling booths on the ground of fewness of votes recorded and the eligibility of the people- concerned to vote by post because they reside more than 5 miles from a polling booth. I know that the divisional returning officer has difficulty in securing the necessary staff for such polling booths. He is always at his wits’ end to get men to do the job. People who vote by post are exercising their lawful right. I am sure that no member of the Government would wish to debar them from enjoyment of that right. Why worry if more postal votes go to one party than to another? I am astounded that the honorable member for Martin should want to deprive people who are ill of the right to vote. In certain large hospitals in the city, I suppose, polling booths could be set up, but that would not be possible for many reasons in country hospitals. If ever the Government seeks to deny the right to vote to people in ill health, I shall strongly oppose the move. I am concerned with proposed new section 87a which reads -
A person shall not persuade or induce, or associate himself with a person in persuading or inducing, an elector to make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballotpaper.
I hope that that provision will not be construed as I think it may be. The matrons or members of the staffs of hospitals might consider it their duty to remind patients of their obligation to vote and of the provision for postal voting. The relations of sick people not in hospital might act similarly. I hope that such persons would not be regarded as having persuaded or induced an elector to make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot paper. In some parts of the Maranoa electorate, it taker three weeks to get an application for a postal vote certificate and to get the postal ballot-paper into the hands of the divisional returning officer, not three minutes as it would in the electorate represented by the honorable member for Martin. The desire of the honorable member for Martin to deny to genuine electors the right to vote, if given effect to, would amount to another form of suppression of the rights of Australian citizens. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) represents an electorate even vaster and more sparsely settled than mine is. So he would know the difficulties that a great many people would be placed under if postal voting were abolished. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure me, when he closes the secondreading, debate, that it is not intended to interpret proposed new section 87* in the manner in which I fear it may be interpreted. Let the Government keep canvassers out if it so desires. I have not worried about the employment of canvassers and neither have my Labour party opponents.
– The honorable member would be worried if he were ever beaten by ten votes.
– I know that the intelligent people in Maranoa will continue to vote for me. They know the good work that the party does on behalf of the people of Australia.
I agree with the extension of the vol* to aborigines. I am unaware of what conditions will be imposed on the extension of the vote to aborigines in Queensland. I understand that the vote will be given to aborigines whom we describe at “ free “, that is, the aborigines who have progressed sufficiently far to leave the State institutions and more or less fend for themselves. They are regarded as dependable and able to win high respect, for themselves. I readily support th* extension of the vote to them.
.- I have not very much to say and will not speak any length of time on this matter, but I feel impelled to make some comments about postal voting. I can talk about postal voting with considerable feeling, because die manipulation of postal votes almost lost my services to the nation. In those circumstances, my remarks will be tinged with some poignancy. In view of the attitude of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) in supporting the measure in principle, I think it can be said for both sides that postal voting, as practised in the cities of Australia, is a racket. The postal vote is the only part of the total vote of the Commonwealth that can be manipulated, subverted and twisted. It is amazing to find that when the normal votes are counted in an electorate of, say, 70,000 electors and the votes are almost equally divided between the candidates, 1,500 postal votes may sway the electorate. As the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) has pointed out, in the Concord by-election, the normal votes were almost equally divided but two of every three postal votes went to the Liberal candidate. The postal vote is open to intrigue and canvassing against the best interests of the community. Surely none of us want to see a system perpetuated under which 1,000 or 1,500 votes can change the voting strength of 50,000 other voters. Such a system is intolerable. That is why the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) went into the pros and cons of the postal voting system. We say that in the best interests of the country the postal voting system should be abolished despite all that can be said about the need to provide voting facilities for sick and aged persons who cannot reach a polling booth on polling day and who yet desire to record their votes. In the country, as the Minister pointed out, the position is different. In isolated areas some electors may have no way of recording their votes except by post. As we know, three weeks elapses in some instances before all the postal votes come in. The average intelligent elector, however, will admit that, so far as city electorates are concerned, the system of postal voting has produced anomalies and abuses. For instance, in my own electorate for the 1946 election the postal votes were nearly 10 to 1 against me in some boxes, whereas the ordinary vote was about 50-50. We know that, in general, there is little room for criticism of our electoral system, but the method of postal voting undoubtedly gives rise to grave dissatisfaction. In the recent Concord election in New South Wales, the canvassers for one political party were dressed in white, like hospital orderlies. They were transported by car to certain areas, which they systematically worked like high pressure vacuum cleaner salesmen. That sort of thing has been done in the past, and it will be done in the future unless some action is taken to prevent it. If the system of postal voting is to be retained it should be voluntary. Electors should not be compelled to vote by post. We know that far too many people claim the right to vote by post. For instance, let us say, Mrs. Murgatroyd, who had a bad cold in 1928, still votes by post. She records her vote in the morning, and then goes to a picture show in the afternoon so as to avoid the crowd at the booths. That is a disgrace. One person in my electorate told me that she could not allow one of my workers to collect her postal vote because she had to wait for “ Mr. So-and-So “ to call. She believed, she said, that unless she waited for him it would be an offence against the act. I pointed out that it might be an offence against the Liberal party’s idea of the act, but it would certainly be no offenceagainst the law of the land. We must do something to ensure that the system of postal voting in city electorates does not become an utter farce. Some candidates,, contrary to the provisions of the act, spend £200 or £300 on getting the postal vote alone. Then they say boastfully, “No matter which way the poll goes, we have 300 votes in the bag’ already “.
– Who does that, the Labour party?
– I do not think it is confined to any party. The sick and worried elector confined to bed is vulnerable to the influence of high pressure canvassers. Clause 8 of the bill provides -
After section eighty-seven of the Principal Act. the following section is inserted - “ 87a. A person shall not persuade or induce, or associate himself with a person in persuading or inducing, an elector to make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper.
Penalty: Fifty pounds or imprisonment for one month.”
If that provision is applied in the letter and the spirit, it should do much to abolish the chicanery that is associated with postal voting. Under such a provision, there should be no canvassing and standover tactics would be eliminated. In my electorate,I was not allowed to visit electors in several private hospitals. The matron of one hospital pointed out; reasonably enough, I suppose, that she could not have her patients disturbed twice a day by persons hunting for postal votes. This has not been an easy bill for the Minister to have drafted, and I do not think that it is entirely satisfactory even yet. Our aim should be to ensure that all electors entitled to vote are properly represented in the Parliament. No one can feel very proud of having won an election as the result of the efforts of highpressure canvassers.
– Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker-
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that it is a rule of the House that honorable members shall be called alternately from one side and then from the other. A Government supporter has: just spoken. Immediately he sat down Irose; but you called the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). I submit that the rule should be observed.
– Order! The Chair does not recognize sides in the House. However, for the honorable member’s information, I can inform him that, on the list of speakers which has been prepared, there are some names in front of his among members of his own party. However, the practice is that when a Minister rises he shall get the call.
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) is to be complimented upon having presented this bill. For the first time in the history of Australia, aborigines are to have the right to vote, a right which should have been given to them long ago. The name of the Minister for the Interior will always be associated with this belated but progressive legislation. It is true that in some State elections aborigines have had a vote for years.If is also true that in Queensland elections they have no vote even yet, but the Premier of that State has promised to bring in legislation shortly to correct that position. We now propose, even before Queensland takes action, to give aborigines a vote in federal elections. That is an important step forward, and the Minister for the Interior is entitled to credit for bringing the matter first before Cabinet, and then before the House. We, and those who have gone before us, have perpetrated many injustices upon the aborigines. Our record in the treatment of natives is probably as disgraceful as that of any other people of European origin. However, it is of no use to repine: To oureternal shame, we have not treated the aborigines properly; but this measure, together with others which have admitted them to social service benefits, will do something to remedy the position. Only in recent years have the claims of the aborigines been recognized. At last, our consciences have been stirred, and we are now admitting some of our obligations to the descendants of Neanderthal man, whether he be full-blood,half-caste or three-quarter-caste.
It is also proposed in the bill to tighten the provisions in the Commonwealth Electoral Act relating to postal voting, and when the amendment is made it will be of great service to the electors. This legislation will stop a lot of racketeering such as occurred in the last election, and in every federal election before it. My venerable predecessor in this House, Dr. Maloney, of happy memory, was elected as the result of a petition which he lodged with the Parliament in 1904 protesting against the election of the former member, Sir Malcolm Donald McEacharn. He lodged his appeal in the Court of Disputed Returns, and it was upheld. The court declared the election null and void, and a new election was held. The ground of the petition was that there had been corruption in connexion with postal voting. It was proved that the law had been flagrantly violated by the paid hirelings of the political party to which Sir Malcolm McEacharn belonged. That so incensed the Labour party that the second Fisher Government six years later abolished postal voting, and established the system of absentee voting. A later government retained the absentee system and restored postal voting, but it has never operated successfully. An attempt has been made in the framing of this bill to ensure that every one entitled to vote, particularly the sick and infirm, shall be given an opportunity to do so, without being subjected to pressure from the paid organizers of political parties. The Labour party has no paid organizers, so it is immune from criticism. The returns submitted in respect of the last election prove that, in many electorates, undue influence was exercised, because the postal vote does not reflect the general vote, which it ought to do. The figures for Corangamite, in Victoria, where the successful Liberal party candidate received twenty postal votes fewer than the Labour candidate, cannot be criticized. In Corio, also, the voting was fairly well balanced, hut in Deakin the Labour party received only 585 postal votes as against 945 received by other parties. There was also a large disparity in Gippsland, Flinders, Indi and Maribyrnong. In my own electorate of Melbourne, I received 932 postal votes against 408 received by my opponent, but in the poll my majority was three to one. For Melbourne Ports, although the Labour candidate was returned with two and half times as many votes as his opponent, he received only 892 postal votes against his opponent’s 6i0. In “Wannon, the Labour candidate received 832 postal votes, and his opponents received 749. In Wimmera, the figures were respectively 290 and 463.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) received 831 postal votes and his opponent received 528. In those electorates I believe that the postal votes faithfully reflected the general trend of voting. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) received 2,032 postal votes and the Labour party group re- ceived 939.
– I have a lot of old people in my electorate.
– So have I. There are probably more old people in my electorate than there are in Fawkner. One of every six of my electors is an age or invalid pensioner, but the pensioners managed to go to the polling booths to vote. In the Fawkner division, where many of the electors have motor cars to take them to the polling booths and the majority of them do not suffer from the disabilities of poverty to the same degree as do the electors of the Melbourne division, the postal votes cast in favour of the honorable member for Fawkner numbered 1,587 and those in favour of his Labour opponent only 578. In a number of electorates a great deal of pressure was exercised on postal voters.
– 1 have not received one complaint about postal voting1 from a voter in my electorate.
– I am telling the honorable gentleman how the postal voting in his electorate was organized. These provisions are to be inserted in the act to prevent that sort of thing from occurring again. It is proposed that, instead of an authorized witness being required to fasten down the ballot-paper - and that is where a lot of funny business takes place - an elector who votes by post shall be obliged to fasten the ballot-paper down himself. In the past many people who acted as authorized witnesses did not seal the ballot-paper in the presence of the elector. Sometimes they took it away and altered it, sometimes they threw it away, and sometimes they posted it so that the vote would be received too late to be recorded. Authorized witnesses have done all kinds of things that were grossly improper. Let us examine the voting in some of the electorates that are now represented by honorable members who were returned to the Parliament by slender majorities. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) won the election in that division, but in the postal voting he was defeated by 1622 votes to 932. Nobody can say that that was not an organized vote. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), who represents the Adelaide division, was elected to this House by a substantial majority, but in the postal voting he was beaten by 1,225 votes to 980. In the Barker electorate, the postal vote tallied with the general vote. There was nothing to complain of in the Grey division. In some electorates, persons of a certain mentality set out to secure postal votes by hook or by crook, and mostly by crook. It is in order to try to prevent those practices that the Minister desires that the provisions of the act shall be tightened up. The antiLabour parties have more authorized witnesses than the La’bour party, and they have gone round organizing the vote from the day on which the writ for the elections has been issued. The anti-Labour parties got votes because it was easier for them to find authorized witnesses than it was for the Labour party to find them. The result was that they obtained an advantage. Now it is proposed to amend the act to provide that any elector may witness the vote as well as the application. No one can object to that provision. It will ensure that when old, sick or infirm persons cast a postal vote in future some one in their own households will be able to witness the vote as well as the application. The elector himself will fasten down his ballot-paper and ensure that it is posted. That will preserve the secrecy of the ballot. The Minister has done something exceptionally good in proposing those amendments. He has done something that is equally praiseworthy in proposing that in future a person may make application for a postal vote up to an hour before the closing of the poll. Previously a postal vote could not be obtained after 6 p.m. on the Friday before the poll. A consequential amendment of the act is proposed to provide that postal votes may be recorded when the Chief Electoral Officer is satisfied that they have been posted before the conclusion of the poll. Furthermore - and this will stop the corrupt person who steals votes from electors - it is proposed that instead of the names of applicants for postal votes being posted at the electoral office from time to time as the applications are received, they shall not be posted in future until the poll is over. Then they may be queried or examined. The provisions of this bill in relation to postal voting are designed to tighten up the system to prevent a re-occurrence of the abuses that have occurred in the past and to ensure that the aged and the sick as well as those who are blessed with good health - the greatest possession that a man can have - shall have the right to vote for the candidate of their choice.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) said that as- far- as he knew the postal vote in his electorate had not been organized. The figures that I have show that whereas the Labour candidate in the Maranoa division received only 419 postal votes, the honorable gentleman received 990 postal votes. He did not win the seat by a two and a half to one majority. Somebody went round organizing the postal votes very well on his behalf. Apparently the honorable gentleman received votes that would not have been cast in his favour if the voters had gone to the polling booths. In respect of Brisbane, Capricornia and Griffiths, the postal voting was fair. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Hadley) received 727 postal votes and won the seat, but his opponents received 1,770 postal votes and lost the seat. That shows the organization that existed in that division. The honorable member for Griffiths (Mr. Conelan) was fairly elected to the Parliament. He received 1,450 postal votes and his opponent 1,220. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) was treated fairly in the postal voting, and so were the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmunds) and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). Everything was fair and above board in every electorate in Western Australia with the exception of Perth. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke), who won the seat, received only 809 postal votes. His opponents received 1,001, and lost the seat. In Tasmania, the only evidence of organizing of postal votes by those with money, motor ears and spare time, was in Denison, where 751 postal votes were cast for the unsuccessful candidate and 625 for the successful Labour party candidate; and in Franklin where the Labour party candidates received only 405 postal vote3, while his opponent received 679 votes. The Labour party lost the Franklin seat by only a few votes. What the Minister has proposed will be beneficial to this country, and I am sure that the people will have no reason to object to it.
The honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member for Fawkner made great play about a person not being allowed to persuade or induce, or to associate himself with any person in persuading or inducing, an elector to make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper. What the Minister has proposed is designed to make the language of the act more definite, but he has merely copied a provision which already exists in section 87 (3.) of the act. The new proposal is worded rather differently and will make the provision more general in that it will prohibit not only an authorized witness from persuading or inducing an elector to make application, but also any person. There is no merit in the arguments that have been advanced by honorable members opposite. I hope that the bill has a speedy passage and that it will prevent the corruption that has taken place in regard to postal voting. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was elected to the Parliament at the last general election by a small majority. Of the postal votes, 1,305 were cast against him and 525 for him. When I say that 90 per cent, of a certain packet of postal votes was registered against the honorable gentleman, there cannot be the slightest doubt in the mind of any fair man that those votes were tampered with, altered and doctored in an attempt to defeat him. When the act is tightened up it will be less easy for the forces which think they can steal elections instead of convincing the people to vote in a certain way to do the corrupt things that they have been doing since federation. In the early days of federation an election result was set aside because of malpractice. The first Labour member for Melbourne was returned to the Parliament after a new election had been ordered by the Court of Disputed Returns. I do not agree with those who say that postal voting should be abolished. I think that the solution proposed by the Minister is the correct one. Let us see how it works in practice. I am sure that there will be less grounds for objection in the future than there have been in the past. Those who have been indulging in these practices will find little solace in the knowledge that this Government will not allow them at the 1949 general election to indulge in the nefarious schemes in which they indulged in 1946.
– The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has shown that he believes that a section of the people which has used the postal voting system in the past is not a section that supports the Labour party. The honorable gentleman has made it clear that he has urged that difficulties should be placed in the way of that section of the community in order to prevent them from again exercising their right to vote by post thus denying them a service that has always been available. The Minister has used extravagant language. He has referred to “ corrupt practices “ and “ stealing votes “. I have never known of any irregularities in postal voting. I have never had to complain that I have not been allowed by a matron to visit a hospital. I have never attempted to canvass the votes of sick persons during my political career. In my long experience, I do not know of any Labour party candidate who has broken the law relating to postal voting. By this bill the Government is seeking to withdraw from the aged and the sick and from those who live at great distances from prescribed polling places a privilege which they have enjoyed in the past. It is doing this for no other reason than that the records disclose that such people have, in the main, voted against the Government. In institutions rest homes, and hospitals throughout the country are many aged and sick people, who, in the past, have been accustomed to seek the asistance of others in securing a postal vote- as they were entitled to do under the ‘Commonwealth Electoral Act. In future, no person will he permitted to offer them such advice. The Minister for Information made it very clear in his speech that this amendment of the act has been introduced simply because it has been found that the majority of postal votes are recorded by electors whose political convictions are opposed to those of this Government. The principal act has not often been amended. One would have thought that in this amending bill the Government would have taken advantage of the opportunity to embody worthwhile amendments. No candidate is permitted now to canvass or to witness a vote, and only authorized persons may witness a postal vote. In Queensland, where Labour governments have been in office for many years, every member of the Parliament has the right to nominate every quarter three or four persons for appointment as justice of the peace. Because Labour has been in office in Queensland for many years, the number of justices of the peace who support the cause of Labour has increased very rapidly. I do not complain of that. T have not heard any complaints that justices of the peace have abused the trust, reposed in them by endeavouring to influence a voter in favour of any particular candidate. Under the principal act justices of the peace, among others, are authorized to witness postal votes for Commonwealth elections. Why should that system be changed? Polling places established for the recording of votes in a Commonwealth election are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. In the elections for the Queeusland Parliament the authorized polling places close at 6 p.m. In these days of shorter working hours what need is there to prescribe an 8 p.m. closing hour for polling places? In the authorized polling places in many remote centres the only form of illumination after dark is a kerosene lamp. The officials have to work under these primitive conditions, often waiting for the few people who record their votes after dark. I suggest that polling should cease at 6 p.m. Ministers have complained that the law relating to the recording of postal votes has been administered loosely, and that persons advising postal voters may know a candidate and advise the voter to vote for him. There is little substance in that complaint. There are other aspects of administration that might very well be tightened up. When the closing hour is reached, the presiding officers and poll clerks in all but the principal centres of electoral subdivisions are prevented from counting the votes. For instance, there are 300 polling places in the Wide Bay electorate, but the counting of votes is restricted to only sixteen principal polling centres. In all other places the presiding officers count the total votes recorded and no more. The votes are then replaced in a ballotbox, which is sealed and in remote places, taken home by the presiding officer. Elections usually take place on Saturdays, and the sealed box frequently remains at the home of the presiding officer throughout Saturday night and Sunday before being despatched to the central office of the subdivision. In some instances, because of the curtailment of train services due to coal strikes and other factors, the presiding officers have to retain the sealed boxes in their homes until the following Tuesday. I do not suggest that any of the presiding officers are dishonest. I certainly have not heard any suggestion of such dishonesty in my own electorate. I merely say that this system offers possibilities, for a dishonest person to interfere with the votes. Why should not the presiding officers at all polling places be trusted to count the votes recorded under their supervision? The Commonwealth system differs from the State system in that at State elections the presiding officers at all polling places count the votes recorded under their supervision.
The Minister for Information has referred to the extension of the franchise to certain aborigines. The value of the vote of our aboriginal population will be determined when we are informed of the qualifications that will be required of an aboriginal who seeks to vote. After listening to the Minister for Information one would think that all aborigines will in future enjoy the right of the franchise. Will the right of an aboriginal to exercise a vote be restricted to those whom the Government thinks will vote in its favour? In introducing this bill the Government is guilty of committing a fraud on people who have assisted postal voters to record their vote. It has been said that those who assist a postal voter might be friendly with a particular candidate and be tempted to influence a vote in his favour. Almost everybody is politically a friend of one candidate or another. It is obvious that this amending bill is aimed solely ‘ at a section of the community which, in the main, has voted against the Government in the past.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– I rise to order.
– Order! No point of order is involved.
– I submit that the Chair should hear my point of order before ruling that no point of order is involved. My point of order arises out of a matter that was mentioned while you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were temporarily absent from the chair.
– Order ! No point of order can be taken in relation to the call from the Chair. That matter rests entirely with the Chair. The honorable member for Hindmarsh has the call.
Mr. Beale interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Hindmarsh has the floor.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) characterized this bill as a fraudulent attempt on the part of the Government to prevent certain people from recording a postal vote. That charge is ridiculous. Under the original legislation, among other persons, a justice of the peace was authorized to witness the recording of a postal vote. I have very vivid recollections of how difficult it is to induce a justice of the peace to attend at a big hospital in the metropolitan area in order to witness the recording of postal votes. On occasions it is practically impossible to obtain the services of a justice of the peace for that purpose. This bill introduces a very desirable amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act that will make it possible for many people to record a vote who, in the past, have been unable to do so-
– The matron of a hospital is authorized to witness a postal vote. Her services are always available for that purpose.
– -The matrons of our big public hospitals are almost invariably too busy to do so. The honorable member for Wide Bay is thinking of hospitals containing only twenty beds. He has completely overlooked the difficulties that exist in large institutions containing 700 or 800 beds. As the result of this bill, the sick and the aged in our institutions will be able to record a postal vote without difficulty. In the past the right to witness a postal vote was limited to persons authorized by the act for that purpose. Under the provisions of this bill any elector may witness such a vote. An elector whose wife is ill or approaching maternity may witness her vote. In the past such a woman could not have recorded her vote unless it was witnessed by an authorized person. In the past many men have come to me on the night prior to polling day and have said, “ My wife has been taken ill. It is now after 6 p.m. and she is not entitled to a postal vote. What is her position? Will she be fined for failing to record a vote ? “ I have advised such persons to write to the Electoral Office and explain the reason why the vote was not recorded. In spite of such explanatory letters, however, the electoral officers have frequently sent letters to the voter concerned asking why a vote was not recorded. Under the provisions of this bill a postal vote may be recorded at any time up to the closing hour for polling. As the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has stated, some people who live in remote areas and considerable distances from returning officers may not be able to do that, hut the new provision will he of great assistance to many people. This proposal will not make it more difficult for people to obtain a postal vote.
I also do not agree with the statement by the honorable member for Martin (Mt. Daly) who has said that he is in favour of restricting the issue of postal votes to persons who live more than 5 miles from a polling booth. “We have a responsibility to ensure that people have an opportunity to exercise their right to vote at an election. I also do not agree entirely with opinions that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has expressed about the preponderance of postal votes cast for the non-Labour parties. One of the explanations of that disparity is simple. Many postal votes are cast by persons who expect to be absent from their electorates on polling day. The majority of them are not Labour supporters, and have means bo enable them to travel. Clause 8 of the bill provides a penalty for inducing an elector to apply for a postal vote. I recall that while I was a member of the Parliament of South Australia the government of the day introduced legislation providing postal voting in municipal elections, but I was not enthusiastic about it, because I considered that many difficulties would arise. My forecast was justified. During the last few years, the Liberal government in that State has introduced amending legislation a number of times in an endeavour to stop abuses. Under the system of postal voting, some abuses cannot be avoided, and, parenthetically, I inform honorable members that voting in local government elections in South Australia is not compulsory as it is in Commonwealth elections. A tightening up of the legislation was necessary in order to prevent irregularities. I do not foresee much difficulty in respect of clause 8 of the bill. There is nothing to prevent any one from saying to a sick person, “ Saturday is election day. Do you want a postal vote ? “ That form of approach can not be regarded as inducing the sick person to vote. However, I have heard “A”, in a municipal election, telephone “B” and say, “What about your vote on Saturday?” “B” has replied, “I thought that I would go to the polling booth and vote “. “ A “ has then said, “ There is no need for that. I can send you a postal vote “. When “ A “ has sent the postal vote, he has> enclosed a “how-to-vote” ticket. In my opinion, that method may be regarded as inducing people to apply for a postal vote. There is no necessity for it.
– Suppose a person approaches an elderly lady, who is ill, and asks her whether she wants a postal vote. Oan that be regarded as inducing the lady to vote?
– I am not aware of the precise legal position, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) may be, but I express the opinion that such an approach could not be regarded as inducing the elderly lady to vote. If I try to persuade a person to vote who does not want to vote, I am definitely inducing him to vote. The imposition of a penalty upon a person who induces another person to vote will not rectify abuses in postal voting, but the provision that will enable any elector, instead of an authorized person, to witness a postal vote will be of great advantage. People who live in areas near a returning officer will have the added advantage of being able to obtain a postal vote up to the closing of the poll. A person who is taken ill suddenly on polling-day may be unable to go to the booth. Under this amending legislation, a relative will be able to obtain an application form for him, and he will be able to exercise a postal vote.
– A person who is as ill as the honorable member has suggested is not fit to vote.
– Some persons may not be fit to vote at any time.
– Hear, hear! The honorable member should know that.
– On many occasions, when divisions have been taken in this chamber, some honorable members who have voted have not been really fit to vote, but because of that, I do not condemn the system. I would not say that, because an honorable member went to the bar and got in such a state that he did not know what he was doing, we should prevent him from voting in this House. I would not say that any more than I would say that the Commonwealth Electoral Act should provide that only very intelligent people should be permitted to vote at a general election. Some people believe that only those citizens who have certain educational qualifications should be permitted to vote.
– Hear, hear!
– The Parliament has decided that every person over the age of 21 years shall have the right to cast a vote at a Commonwealth election, and the law does not differentiate between the educated and badly educated people, or men with brains and the idiots whom we meet in all walks of life. The act confers the right to vote upon all adults, and we should make the necessary provision to enable them to exercise the franchise.
The provision in the bill that will enable certain aborigines to vote will not give rise to the general satisfaction that I should like. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) who has had considerable experience of this matter, is endeavouring to meet the position, as far as is practicable, in a reasonable manner. However, once we extend the right to vote to aborigines of a certain standard, we shall have to draw a line of demarcation. Those honorable members who are legal practitioners are well aware that in law, a line of demarcation leads to many kinds of difficulties and anomalies. When a privilege is granted to one person, there is immediately a demand that it be extended to another person in an almost similar category. This provision will give rise to some difficulty, but I regard it as a genuine attempt by the Minister to recognize the responsibility that we owe to aborigines. In this bill, the Parliament is asked to grant to those aborigines with certain qualifications the right to vote at Commonwealth elections. I hope that honorable members will not heed the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), who has claimed that this proposal to alter the conditions for casting a postal vote will deprive certain persons of their right to vote. Such is not the intention of the Minister, and, in my opinion, the legislation will not have that result. I support the bill.
.- I should not have spoken in this debate had it not been for three extremely immoderate speeches which, I think, disgraced this House. Speaking on a bill which has received general assent from both sides of the chamber, three speakers, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) have deliberately seized upon the opportunity to indulge in blatant propaganda for their own purposes. The Minister for Information quoted reams of figures, some of which suited hia purpose and others which did not. Those that suited his purpose he took to his bosom ; others that did not suit his purpose he passed over, with little comment. He proved nothing, and could prove nothing from his figures. His thesis was that in some mysterious way postal votes were rigged by antiLabour interests, and that therefore there was a racket going on. I love the way people like the Minister use the word “ racket “. He employed it in some way that now escapes me, as the basis of his argument in favour of this bill. The Minister was preceded by the honorable member for Martin, who usually takes his medicine and accepts victory or defeat in a sunny spirit. On this occasion, however, he made a disgraceful “ squeal “ about the result of the recent New South Wales by-election in Concord. His second name should have been McGirr, because a celebrated gentleman of that name has been regaling us with that sort of reaction in Sydney in relation to the last three by-elections.
– The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) is making a political speech now.
– I am taking this opportunity, long after the time when my remarks could have been heard over the air by the people of this country, to answer something that I am sorry was ever said by the honorable member for Parkes, and by the honorable member for Martin. It was worthy of neither of those honorable members. Both of them are well experienced in politics. They know that human nature being what it is, there will be irregularities wherever there are postal votes. To say that postal voting is manipulated to the advantage of one side of politics is rank hypocrisy.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member for Martin said it, and the honorable member for Parkes implied it, but when pressed by somebody on this side of the chamber, he ran away from the charge. I remind him that in the electorate of Parramatta during the last federal election, we had to put the police on a Labour organizer for doing the very thing about which honorable members opposite have complained to-night. He was going around the houses picking up postal votes and tearing them up. The postal votes were disappearing before they reached a returning officer. The honorable member for Parkes knows the name of the organizer concerned. As I have said, whenever there is postal voting, there will be irregularities. Much depends on fair play and good taste. We all approve the bill because in some measure it will have a tightening effect.
– The honorable member should not be so smug. He knows that there was racketeering in postal voting at the Concord by-election.
– “ Racketeering in postal voting at the Concord by-election “ is a fine phrase. The honorable member for Parkes is starting to squeal again. After boasting that Labour’ had won Concord, he found that it had been lost to his party. Labour has lost three by-elections in New South Wales in recent months. The honorable member for Parkes has to have an excuse for the failure of his party. I thought that there was more sportsmanship in the Commonwealth Parliament. Irregularities in postal voting are not confined to one side of the House. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) put the ease fairly when he repudiated the sug gestion made by some of his colleagues, and said that abuses occurred rarely, but that when they did occur, they applied to both sides of politics. It is true that postal votes usually favour the side of politics that I represent. There is a very good reason for that. Usually the aged and infirm do not want socialism. They have learned their lesson. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh said, people who travel around the country may also be regarded as supporters of my side of politics. Postal voting has been the subject of close analysis over the years, but the general conclusion is that postal votes generally favour first the sitting member, and secondly, the side of politics to which I belong. However, for honorable members opposite to argue that because postal votes do not favour their party, there is something crooked about them is-
– “ Q.E.D.”
– Yes a “ Q.E.D.” worthy of the honorable member for Parkes in his highest flight. The honorable member for Parkes seeks the abolition of postal votes merely because such votes do not favour him or his party. That is understandable because not long ago he nearly lost an election because of postal votes. The point is that it is impossible to devise a perfect system of postal voting. The entire system depends on fair play. In some electorates, Labour or Liberal, there will be fair play, in others there will not be fair play. To suggest that postal votes are manipulated by the Opposition parties because these parties are generally favoured by such votes is not logical. It is so much bunkum and humbug. It is not even good propaganda because I am sure that the one and a half persons who listened to honorable members opposite were not taken in by the gutter talk that they heard.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blain) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I am not in the habit of replying to personal attacks made on me under privilege of the Parliament. I have my own way of dealing with such attacks. With one or two present and more recent exceptions, those who have attacked me are no longer in the political life of this country. But the day of even those exceptions ls coming. I resent any attack made under cover of parliamentary privilege upon a group of good Australian unionists, especially when the characterassassin happens to be .some one who claims to be a member of the Australian Labour party, who has found a career inside the Labour party without knowing much about its traditions or. its rules - a political “ Johnny come lately “. In the particular instance to which I refer, the workers concerned have been accused of the worst crime in the industrial calendar. They have been accused of being what are known as “ scabs “. I propose to give the lie direct to that accusation. Speaking in this House during the discussion of an adjournment motion regarding a Communist named Sharkey, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) had this to say -
The honorable member’s book Communism in Australia was printed in Sydney at the office1 of the Land newspaper: That office is a 48-hour shop, which employs non-union labour.
That is what the honorable member said, but here are the facts. The book, was printed at the. plant of the Land news’paper. At that time the official organ of the official Labour party in. New South Wales; - the Standard - was also- printed at the. Land office.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) will have to apologize again.
– The- honorable member for Parkes was the editor of that news1paper until he was sacked for introducing personal spleen into the affairs, of the newspaper, resulting in the issuing of a. writ that brought an end to his editorial career in. charge of the. Government party’s, official organ.
– Breathe out!
– The honorable member for Parkes wrote a cock-and-bull story and then had to write an abject apology to get rid of the writ. The official Labour party quickly got rid of him. While editing the Government party’s journal, the honorable member sought, and was given, every assistance by the printing chapel of the Land newspaper, the members of which are all members of two unions covering their calling - the Printing Industry Employees Union of Australia and the Amalgamated Printing Union. They all observe strict union conditions. They are not “ scabs “. They are good unionists. They observe award conditions in every respect. The day-shift works a 40-hour week and the night-shift works a 38-hour week. That printing shop was, in fact, one of the first shops to introduce the 40-hour week. There is no non-union labour employed in it. To suggest that it is- a non-union shop was a scandalous libel on every unionist employed in it. But that is nothing unusual from the honorable member for Parkes. He seems to specialize in attacks: on trade unionists.. He recently libelled members of his1 own union,, the Australian Journalists’ Association. He used the privileges of this House in an attempt to take away the characters of journalists with good war records, who were not in. Australia at the time to defend themselves. He resorted’ to gutter epithets. A report that appeared in a newspaper following his attack described the honorable member’s statements thus -
Ex-journalist Haylen, described Australian journalists in Japan as “renegades’ to their country . .. . eager to get ai couple- of bob- regardless of what happens “.
The honorable1 member’s’ own trade union took up the matter on behalf of its absent members. If. the employers of those journalists had believed that their employees deserved such an attack they would have been sacked immediately. The Australian Journalists Association summoned the honorable member for Parkes to appear before its’ ethics committee. The honorable member previously had been a great adVocate of the Australian Journalists Association ethics committee. But as soon as he was called upon to justify his foul, filthy and lying attacks on fellow unionists, he started to squeal for immunity. He claimed that, because he spoke in this House when he made the offending statement, he was a privileged character. He refused to face his own union. So, if that is how he acts towards his own union, it is not surprising to find him attacking other good unionists. He is a product of a new kind of Labour movement. His attack on the Land was also due to personal spleen. “When he first stood for election for the Parkes electorate in 1943, he had his manifesto, his how-to-vote cards and other literature printed at the Land office by the very men whom he later accused of being nonunionists and “ scabs “. But there was a small oversight on the part of the honorable member. He overlooked the elementary detail of paying on delivery. When the printing account had dragged on unpaid into the third year, and all attempts to obtain payment were still unsatisfied, the management decided that something had to be done about it, and notified the honorable member that it proposed to sue for recovery of the debt. That happened just before the election in 1946, so the honorable member for Parkes paid up. That explains his spleen, but it does not justify his vicious lying attack on good Australian unionists.
.- Would you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, give me a ruling on whether I may proceed to deal with this matter on the motion for the adjournment, or whether I should make a personal explanation?
– The honorable member is entitled to deal with the matter on the motion before the Chair.
– I should like to say, in connexion with the matters that have been raised by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), that I withdraw nothing of what 1 said concerning the issuance of his book. As the honorable member will see if he reads the Hansard report, that I said that the book was produced in a 48- hour shop and that it was produced at the Land newspaper office. He has not denied that. He made certain scandalous asseverations concerning my career. If there is anything rotten in any Australian career the honorable member for Reid will be the paramount judge of it, because there has never been a man who has assassinated so many characters as the honorable member has done. I did, under instructions, edit the Labour party’s newspaper the Standard where I was told to edit it, and where it was published, because, it being war-time, there was no other opportunity of expressing the Labour party’s voice and no other place to print the newspaper except at the office of a firm which prints the official organ of the Australian Country party. Honorable members cannot blame me for feeling ill at ease at having to do that. I shall remind the honorable member for Reid that his own newspaper Century had been printed at that plant for three years before the war. I shall also remind him that, pinned across the printing press, or forme as it is known in the trade, in the Century office, and probably still there to this day, is a copy of a £50 advertisement for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, that I refused to accept for the Standard, but which the honorable member, the great unionist, the great loyalist who is also a great money-grubber, rushed to get his hands upon. There is no warrant for his attack on me, and I can sustain the statements that I have made. The matter of payment of my electioneering expenses is just too silly to be discussed in this chamber. My Federal Council will readily answer the honorable member for Reid on those things. The House is labouring under a tremendous delusion concerning the honorable member. The attacks which he makes are not prepared by himself-
– The honorable member might tell us more about his electioneering expenses.
– I shall in due course, but in the meantime I suggest that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) should be silent. This scandalous attack made upon me by the honorable member for Reid suggests that he has been flicked into anger because of what I said about him, which was quite true. He referred to treachery and “ Johnny come latelys “ in the Labour movement. I admit that I am a comparatively new member of the Parliamentary Labour party, but the honorable member must admit that he is old and shrivelled in villainy. Only to-day we witnessed the final results of his association with the Liberal party. Six free broadsheets laden with full-page advertisements of the honorable member were paid for by the publicity department of the Liberal party as part of the Lang plan for Labour in Concord. Surely honorable members do not think that Lang would pay any money for his candidate’s campaign if it was believed that, he had no hope. The honorable member very gratefully accepted help from the Liberal party in violation of all political ethics. If there are ethics to be broken, he has broken every one in the calendar. If there are scandals, he has been the prime mover in scandals that have stunk in the nostrils of every one. Therefore, whilst I regret the necessity, I feel obliged to defend myself against the malicious and unfounded charges made by the honorable member. As one who has some pretensions to a literary calling, I object to being attacked at second-hand by a stooge who lurks behind the honorable member for Reid. The individual to whom I refer knows that he will be adversely affected by the measure which was recently enacted to control broadcasting, and he is writhing in agony. He spends a considerable portion of his time speaking into a dictaphone in order to vent his spleen upon me through the honorable member for Reid. So far as the honorable member for Reid is concerned his attack is unwarranted and childish; he is not a man; he is a simulacrum, the image of a man, who has been forced on the .people of this country. He is the greatest “ phoney “ Australia has known. If he ever wants to debate 1 shall take no advantage of him outside the House. Because I have been accused of sheltering under parliamentary privilege, let me say that on my return from Japan I stated what I believed to be an honest estimate of the truth. That my state ment happened to criticize some of my fellow journalists is undoubtedly true. The statement that I sought privilege is a lie. I was told by the constitutional authorities that one cannot slough parliamentary privilege on or off like shedding a skin; either one has it or one does not have it - as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) realizes. So I would not be afraid to face my fellow unionists-
– Why does not the. honorable member tell us about his electioneering expenses ?
– I was simply trying to explain the situation to the House, but I realize that it would be necessary to speak in pidgin-English to include the honorable member for Henty in the discussion. Anything that I said was spoken in all sincerity. It is just coincidental that I happened to be a member of the Parliament and in possession of certain privileges. I had something to say concerning the press, and I said it because I believed it to be my duty to do 60. The press set itself out to take a very summary revenge - and revenge it has been - by blackguarding me in the newspapers of this country. The honorable member for Reid has joined in the chorus. I reaffirm what I said previously, that this brilliant story, which was written by a stooge for a stooge, was printed in a shop that at that time worked 48 hours a week. That is all J shall say. I have happy memories of my association with my fellow journalists, who know me for what I am, and I do not need to boast of my connexion with “ the unions and the people “, about whom the honorable member for Reid is for ever speaking. In fact, he grinds out that particular phrase, “ the unions and the people “ with particular relish, and in doing so he articulates from one side of his mouth. On one occasion he actually spat out a tooth, which did some damage to the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) who happened to be sitting beneath him. The whole point is that he had been flicked on the raw. What I have said substantially is that the honorable member cannot “take it”.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth PublicService Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation- R. P. Hansen, A. B. McFarlane, W. L. Milne.
External Affairs- F. B. Cooper, R. N. Hamilton,G. M. Hooker, D. J.Horne, M. L. Johnston, M. McPherson, D. R. G. Packer, A. R. Parsons.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security(Industrial Property)
Orders - Inventions and designs (9).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for-
Lighthouse purposes -Cape Jaffa, South Australia.
Postal purposes -
Binalong, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 12.5 a.m.( Wednesday) .
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Ministerfor Works and Housing, upon notice -
Mr.LEMMON. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1.Partial accommodation for 30 forestry students was given on the 7th March. Complete accommodation is expected about the 18th April, 1949.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
-The answers tothe honorable member’s questionsare , as follows: - 1.Yes.
War Service Homes.
Mr.Harrison asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
What supervision is exercisedbythe WarService Homes Division over the building of homes for whichloans are advanced;how many inspections are made by the division during erection, at what periods, and by whom?
Was the home ofMrs. S.Brown, of19 Sunny-crescent, Punchbowl, designedbya WarService Homes Division architect?
On how man; occasions was the construction work inspected, and waa it reported to be satisfactory t If not, were alteration* ordered; what were they, and were they effected by the builder in a satisfactory manner f
Were complaints made by the occupant as to the standard of building, workmanship and fittings; were they investigated, and with what result! 6. (a) When waa the last inspection made, and what did it reveal; (b) has a final inspection been made?
On what date did Mrs. Brown occupy the home?
Were complaints made by Mrs. Dillon, of 15 Sunny-crescent, Punchbowl, regarding the condition of her war service home, and were the defects remedied? On how many occasions was her home inspected in course of construction t
When did Mrs. Dillon occupy the home?
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Postal Department : Wage Increase.
y. - On the 2nd March the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked a question on the subject of wage increase payments in the Postal Department in New South Wales. Further to my interim reply on that date, I now wish to advise the honorable member that the salary increases referred to affected approximately 21,000 officers and employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in New South Wales. At Sydenham, 170 officers and employees, covering two male designations, were involved. . Because of the relatively small staff and the fact that two designations only were concerned, payments to Sydenham employees would have automatically commenced at an early date, irrespective of any representations or “ stop work “ threat made on their behalf. All payments at Sydenham, however, would not have been completed until the 10th March when 50 permanent officers would have received the increases due to them. In regard to the Mail Branch staff in Sydney, it has not as yet. been practicable to finalize paymentsowing to the large numbers affected and the differing adjustments to be made in respect of varying designations of’ both sexes. All temporary employees in the Mail Branch have been paid the increases however, with the exception of approximately 40 employees who will receive the increases on pay day, the 24th Maron, 1949. In the case of permanent officers in the Mail Branch, 754 have been paid the increases, and the remaining 240 will receive the increases on the 24th March, 1949. Of the approximately 21,000 officers and employees affected in New South Wales, the great majority of temporary staff has already been paid at the increased rates. After the 10th March, 1949, approximately 4,000 permanent officers will remain to be paid and these will receive the increases over the four pay days immediately following the date mentioned.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Power Plant : Duty ok Imports.
– On the 23rd February the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked me a question relating to the importation of capital goods for use in connexion with the production of power. Further to my oral reply to the right honorable gentleman on that date, I now wish to state that, in any case where it is found necessary to import goods required for use in the development of an Australian industry or for other essentia] purpose, and those goods are subject to protective rates of duty, the Minister for Trade- and Customs may allow admission under a concessional customs by-law of such goods, free of duty, when admissible under the British preferential tariff, and otherwise at 12-J per cent, ad valorem, provided he is satisfied that, by so doing, no detriment would accrue to Australian manufacturers. Further, if the goods be of a class or kind not commercially manufactured in Australia or the United Kingdom, he may allow their admission free of duty irrespective of origin. Many requests for the admission at a concessional rate of duty under a customs bylaw, of goods which have been imported in the circumstances indicated, have already been granted. If full details of equipment it is desired to import are supplied to the Comptroller-General of Trade and Customs, consideration will be given as to whether such equipment may be admitted free of duty, or at a concessional rate of duty, under a customs by-law.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 March 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490315_reps_18_201/>.