18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. BLAIN presented a petition from 400 citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia and electors of the Northern Territory, praying that the circumstances of the dismissal of Dr. V. H. Webster, Medical Officer-in-charge, Tennant Creek Hospital, he investigated.
Petition received and read.
– I wish to inform the House that on Friday last I left the chair at 12.15 p.m. The chair was then taken ‘by one of the Temporary Chairmen of Committees. Shortly afterwards, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) addressed the House, and his remarks are reported as follows : - . . Referring to the suspension of Mr. Menzies on Wednesday night Mr. Fadden said it was a most disgraceful action . - .
I now ask the Leader of the Australian Country party to say whether he was correctly reported.
– I think I was correctly reported. In the height of my indignation I probably did make use of the words that you, sir, have just mentioned, but I remind you that you were in the chair at the time when we were debating the censure motion.
– I have no knowledge of .the right honorable member having made the statement while I was in the chair; it may be that it was made while I was leaving the chair and I did not hear it. The remark was a gross reflection on the Chair as well as on a vote of the House. If the right honorable member withdraws the statement I shall leave it at that. Will the right honorable gentleman withdraw the statement, if he made it, and apologize ?
– I refuse to apologize in the circumstances. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were in the chair; we were debating the censure motion; I am correctly reported ; and my remark expressed my indignation.
– Order ! The censure motion has no relation to the particular matter which the right honorable gentleman has mentioned. The Chair rules that his remark is a reflection upon the vote of the House. The Standing Orders provide that an honorable member must not reflect upon any vote of the House, and, therefore, I ask the right honorable gentleman to withdraw the statement, and apologize.
– I rise to order.
– There is no point of order involved. The remark by the Leader of the Australian Country party is a reflection on the Chair and on the vote of the House.
– My point of order is that, if there be any reflection upon the Chair, the matter should have been dealt with at the time the remark was made, [f the Chair permitted the right honorable gentleman to continue his speech, it must be assumed that he complied with the Standing Orders. Therefore, he should not be punished for something that the Chair permitted at the time he was speaking.
– I rise to order.
– There is uo point of order involved.
– I was present when the Leader of the Australian Country party made that statement. I looked to see who was in the chair, and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were not in the chair at that time.
– Oddly enough, I looked, and Mr. Deputy Speaker was in the chair at that time.
– Order ! I hope that the Leader of the Australian Country party will make the matter easy for the Chair by accepting its direction, otherwise I shall have to take otheraction.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I regret if I have reflected on the vote of the House, and on the Chair, and I withdraw.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel inform the House whether the allegation made last week that the New Zealand Government had agreed to the abolition of petrol rationing has any foundation in fact?
– The allegation which the honorable member has mentioned is only one of a number of allegations that were made last week by the Leader of the Australian Country party. In order to make certain that I am not misquoting or misrepresenting the right honorable gentleman, I shall read from the notes that I took at the time the allegations were made. The right honorable gentleman stated-
– Is this an answer to a question ?
– Yes. The right honorable gentleman stated that in New Zealand within the last few weeks-
– I said, “ I am informed “. Quote my statement correctly.
– I am quoting it properly.
– No. The Minister did not use those words.
– What the right honorable gentleman said was as follows : -
However, in New Zealand within the last few weeks, I am informed that the Minister of Finance, Mr. Nash, when receiving a deputation from motoring interests seeking abolition of petrol rationing, agreed that dollars were no longer the cause for continuation of rationing. He is also stated to have agreed with the deputation that petrol rationing should now be abandoned, but as New Zealand had agreed to comply with the request of the British Oil Trade Advisory Committee to continue rationing, he would now seek to have New Zealand released from that agreement.
– I rise to order. The Minister has stated that he is quoting now from notes which he took when the Leader of the Australian Country party was speaking. I submit that the Minuter is not quoting from notes which he took, and that he is misinforming the House when he claims that he is doing so. I believe that he is quoting from a Ilansard “ flat and that is not permissible. Therefore, the Minister is out of order, and, accordingly, I ask the Chair-
– Ask the Minister to lay on the table the document from which he is reading.
– It is suggested that the Minister should lay the document on the table, but we know that he always refuses such a request.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Indi to state his point of order.
– My point of order is that the Minister is not doing what he claims to be doing. In other words, he is not quoting from notes which he took when the Leader of the Australian Country party was speaking.
– Order ! I hope that the House will not place upon the Chair the responsibility of preventing honorable members from referring to quotations or statements that other honorable members have made in their speeches in a previous discussion, because honorable members adopt that practice in the House, and quote from notes that they have taken of other speeches in the chamber. It is not permissible to quote from the Ilansard “flats”. It is obvious that the Minister has not a copy of the “ flats “ with him and that he is quoting from detailed notes that he has made. The Minister is in order, and I ask him to continue his answer.
– I did take detailed notes of the right honorable gentleman’s statement because I intended to challenge it at a later stage. Continuing to quote from the notes that I made at the time, the honorable gentleman said -
Surely, Mr. Nash has access to similar information as the Treasurer on petrol supplies related to the over-all position, and yet lie agrees that it is not a question of the dollar shortage, according to information received by me.
The Prime Minister has received a cablegram from Mr. Nash, Minister for Finance in the New Zealand Government, which is as follows-
– I assume that this is also included in the Minister’s notes!
– I am not now looking at notes, but at the text of a cablegram, which I shall quote verbatim. It is as follows : -
The statement quoted as alleged to have been made by me is incorrect because I have not received a deputation of motoring interests seeking abolition of petrol rationing. Not having received a deputation, I could not have stated to them that dollars were no longer the reason for the continuation of rationing. To the contrary, I have, whenever necessary, emphasized that so long as the full requirements of petrol in the sterling area are not available from the sterling area, then any increased usage in New Zealand would entail the use of dollars. There is no record of any request from the British Oil Trade Advisory Committee to New Zealand. An organization so named is not known here. If there has been no request, we could not seek release from an agreement. Rationing in New Zealand hasbeen maintained at the request of the United Kingdom Government which has affirmed that, under existing conditions, the saving of petrol saves dollars. The Minister of Industries and Commerce (Mr. Nordmeyer) is in charge of rationing and he advises roe that he has made no such statements as referred to. Personally. I am satisfied that the need for conservation of dollars is so urgent and immediate that New Zealand will continue to ensure the minimum resource to purchases or other commitments that will entail their use.
The answer to the question asked by the honorable member for Herbert is that the allegations made last week by the Leader of the Australian Country party have no foundation whatever in fact.
– L direct a question to either the Prime Minister or the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, whichever is the appropriate Minister. Was the consumption of petrol in Australia prior to the cessation of petrol rationing on the basis of 33,000,000 gallons a month? Is it a fact, as alleged by the Australian Automobile Association, that with the cessation of rationing an increase of usage of between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 gallons a month may be anticipated? Is that amount approximately from 5 per cent, to 10 per cent, of the gallonage used during rationing? Has the Government formed any estimate of the likely increase in petrol consumption in the event of rationing not being re-imposed by the States?
– Estimates have been given by a number of people, with what knowledge or authority I do not know. Certain figures were quoted recently by the Leader of the Australian Country party which were said to have been supplied by a former official of the Liquid Fuel Control Board. I have also seen estimates made by certain officials of motoring organizations. Naturally I do not take much notice of estimates made by people who are not in a position to make any precise judgment of the matter. In fact, I do not know that anybody i3 in a position to make a precise judgment of it. I dealt with this subject at some length recently when the House was good enough to permit me to read a statement about it. I shall supply to him a copy of that statement, which indicates the estimate made of the possible increase in the use of petrol as a result of the abolition of rationing if, at the same time, import licensing were abolished and all the petrol available were allowed to enter Australia. I shall let the honorable member have a copy of that statement, although I do not know whether he will read it or not.
– by leave - Last week, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) made a powerful, reasoned, statement on petrol rationing which involved, of course, an examination of prospective imports of petroleum products into this country. The Prime
Minister (Mr. Chifley) replied. Indeed, the right honorable gentleman has made two or three statements on this matter. He has told the House that the reason for the continuance of rationing is the shortage of dollars and the dollar obligations that might arise from increased petrol purchases. After his last statement, the right honorable gentleman offered to show certain figures to me in confidence. Although I appreciate that offer, I have not availed myself of it, because I do not care to be the recipient of confidential information on a matter that has become of such widespread interest and importance. Since the statements of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Australian Country party were made - they attracted, quite properly, a great deal of interest throughout the community - the High Court has delivered a judgment, in the course of which, I gather from the press, it has by a unanimous decision found that petrol rationing by the Commonwealth under the National Security Regulations is no longer valid. That is not a matter, I pause to remark, which is affected by any referendum, because the referendums of 1946 and 1947 had no relation to the problem. In other words, petrol rationing by the Commonwealth has throughout been a matter which must some day come to an end when the defence power ceased to support it. Now the High Court has unanimously found that the defence power can no longer support petrol rationing, and so it has come to an end. I have observed also in the press that the Prime Minister has communicated with the Premiers of the States and invited them to replace the Commonwealth rationing, now invalid, with State rationing, which, it is suggested, might be valid. I point out to the Prime Minister that it is unreasonable to suppose that any State Premier or Government will undertake the business of establishing a rationing scheme for petrol without being informed by the Prime Minister of the facts which, in his view, sharply to be distinguished from the cogent arguments advanced by the Leader of the Australian Country party, make the continuance of rationing and other controls desirable. I cannot suppose for one moment that a State
Premier or Government will enter upon this disputable ground without having possession of facts adequate to support such action. Therefore, I have assumed that the Prime Minister proposes to put before the State Premiers facts which so far have not been put before this House. I point out to him that it is unreasonable that every member of the National Parliament should be denied information on this subject, which, as far as I can judge, must be given to State administrations if they are to take over the problem from the Commonwealth. If this were a matter of security, nobody in the House would discuss it. But there is no hint of any question of security. It is quite true that the economic security of Great Britain and other non-dollar countries is very much involved, and we all appreciate that. The Leader of the Australian Country party and I are completely at one with the Government in our desire to co-operate with Great Britain. No question of challenging that has ever arisen. But surely there can be no good reason why we should not be told in this House what the position is in relation to dollars, what particular transactions in relation to petrol from sterling areas are involved, and what effect those transactions would have upon the overall dollar position or the dollar position of Great Britain or Australia. Until we are put in possession of those facts, I greatly fear that this problem will be discussed by many people in the light of prejudice. It ought not to be discussed in the light of anything less than real knowledge. As the Prime Minister knows, the cancellation of Commonwealth petrol rationing at once produces a reaction in the public mind. People begin to form certain views about it. The Prime Minister’s reaction has been to say to the States, “ Now, you go ahead and take over this job I emphasize that the right honorable gentleman cannot reasonably ask a State to do that unless he gives it the case in support of rationing and that means all the figures. We have not had all the figures. We have had statements but the closest examination of figures that we have had in this House was the one submitted by the Leader of the Australian Country party.
We have had from the Prime Minister a sort of blanket answer, “Well, it cannot be done because of dollars”. If that is not a mere phrase, but means exactly what it says, the reason must be that there are the factors in the international balance of payments which render that conclusion necessary. We in this House will not be satisfied on this matter until we are informed of those facts. No State Government could reasonably be supposed to be willing to undertake this task unless it has the facts. Neither can the Australian public be expected to accept, either from a State or the Commonwealth, a continuation of shortages unless, it is put in possession of the facts. So far there has been no real reason advanced in this House why the facts, if and as they exist, should not be made known. This problem is not merely a problem of movement across this table but it is one which concerns millions of people in Australia. It ought to be settled on a sensible basis. The only facts that the people have been given so far are those that were put forward by the Leader of the Australian Country party to the limit of the resources available to him. There is no reason why the facts available to the Prime Minister should be secret facts. They should be made known.
Mr. CHIFLEY (Macquarie- Prime Minister and Treasurer). - by leave - I had prepared a statement on the subject of petrol rationing which has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). A unanimous decision of the High Court delivered yesterday has ruled the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations to be invalid. The High Court was not, of course, called upon to express any view on the relationship of petrol rationing to the sterling area dollar problem or on the necessity for limiting consumption of petrol in order to save dollars. The issue before the court was to determine whether the control of internal distribution of liquid fuel under the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations represented a legitimate exercise of the Commonwealth’s defence power. In setting out the reasons for the judgment invalidating the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations, the High Court made the following comment: -
The invalidation of these regulations will not reduce the power of the Commonwealth Government to co-operate with the Government of the United Kingdom in relation to problems arising from the dollar shortage. The Commonwealth Parliament by suitable legislation and the Commonwealth by administrative action can completely control imports into Australia. The power of the Commonwealth enables it to determine bow many dollars can be spent from Australia in buying either liquid fuel or other imported commodities. Federal control of dollar expenditure is not in question . . . The distribution and use and price of petrol within Australia can be controlled under State legislation.
The High Court judgment does not affect in any way the general financial situation which has made it necessary to limit the consumption of petrol and other petroleum products in Australia. I dealt with this situation in considerable detail in the statement that I made in the House on the 25th May and do not propose to repeat the details now.
In the course of his personal message to which I referred in the House on the 25th of last month, the United Kingdom Chancellor of the Exchequer said quite categorically - and I quote his own words -
Immediate increases in the consumption of oil generally in the sterling area are bound to lead to an increased dollar drain on the sterling area reserves . . . While a large expansion programme for sterling oil is proceeding, this will not bear fruit for a considerable time. In the meantime, I should be grateful for your co-operation in ensuring that petrol is not increasingly used for less essential purposes.
I am satisfied that at the present, and for some considerable time to come, it will continue to be necessary to exercise economy in the consumption of petrol and other petroleum products in order to avoid a further drain on the central gold and dollar reserves of the sterling area. It is the firm policy of the Government to co-operate to the fullest possible extent with the United Kingdom Government in the measures which are necessary to meet the sterling area dollar shortage. There is no question of any challenge to the Commonwealth’s power to control imports of petrol and other petroleum products. It i9 clear, however, that chaotic conditions could develop rapidly if no effective system of rationing is provided by the State governments to take the place of the Commonwealth rationing scheme which has now been declared invalid by the High Court. Accordingly I sent a telegram last night to each of the six State Premiers in the following terms: -
As a result of High Court decision announced to-day petrol rationing by the Commonwealth Government is no longer effective. To meet the extra demand for oil products generally, which is likely to result from this decision, would undoubtedly require a considerable increase in imports. However, despite recent reports to the contrary, any additional oil consumption by Australia would add to the net dollar cost of oil supplied to countries of the sterling area. The present acute dollar shortage, and. our obligation to the United Kingdom to playour part, as a member of the sterling area, inkeeping dollar expenditure to a minimum,, necessitates the continued limitation of oil imports to about the present level. In myview, therefore, it is most important that theStates should immediately consider instituting an effective system of petrol rationing as soon? as possible, otherwise chaotic conditions emnid! develop rapidly. The constitutional position is such that this matter can now be dealt with only by the States. I should be glad if you would give this question immediate, consideration and advise me of your views.
A meeting of representatives of the Commonwealth Government and the oil companies has been called in Melbournt for to-morrow afternoon to consider the situation.
I hope that another meeting will he held to-morrow morning. I am quite sure there are many people in this country, particularly those with vested interests and the spokesmen of vested interests, who do not realize how critical is the position with relation to dollars, and the necessity for the continued limitation of oil imports to about the present level. I point out that when a dollar deficit has to be met, it is not our own dollars we use, but it is the dollar reserve of the United Kingdom Government.
I shall make a further statement to the House as soon as the position has been clarified with the State Premiers and the oil companies. In the meantime I make a strong appeal to all users of petrol and other petroleum products not to buy greater quantities than those to which they would have been entitled had the Commonwealth rationing scheme remained in operation. Companies and retailers engaged in the distribution of petrol and other petroleum products will be acting in their own interests as well as in the interests of the community at large if they confine sales to normal quantities and continue to ration available supplies as equitably as possible. As I intimated to the Leader of the Opposition the other day, the information supplied to me confidentially by the British Chancellor of the Exchequer was based on figures prepared by the Bank of England, which controls foreign exchange. Therefore, it would not be reasonable to doubt such information. If it were desired to disprove those figures it would be necessary to analyse the trading of every country dealing in petrol and also the sterling and dollar cross-payments, and to study the private affairs of various companies. Banks always endeavour to avoid disclosing the affairs of their clients, and I follow a similar policy in respect of private companies. The Leader of the Australian Country party stated last week that I had received an offer of petrol from a new oil company at 10.30 p.m. one day, and was able to make an involved prepared statement to the House at 4 o’clock on the following day on that subject. The right honorable gentleman used those times as the basis for a conclusion that I had not made a sufficiently detailed verification or investigation of that offer. However, the position was that I knew the name and the exact ownership of the company, so that when I received the letter, I knew the firms that the company represented.
I did not intend originally to make this statement to the House. I proposed to issue it to the press, because I know that the House does not like long state.ments. I assure the Leader of the Opposition that I realize the difficulties which are associated with the point that he has raised. Last week, I said that it would suit me nicely to be able to disclose all the detailed figures. I should do that with the greatest pleasure, because I agree with the comment by the right honorable gentleman that a few figures are more informative to the public than general statements on a particular subject. Therefore, I should like to be able to release the precise figures computed by the Bank of England and supplied to me by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, the public does not want detailed statements about crosspurchase actions, particularly in relation to the European recovery plan, which if also involved in this matter. What 3 have done is to intimate to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, in view of the decision of the High Court yesterday, this Government is not in a position, by means of local rationing, to keep down the consumption of petrol. However, the High Court has made it perfectly clear that the Commonwealth’s power to control imports is not questioned, and, therefore, the quota of petrol that is admitted to this country can be, and will be, controlled by the Government under the provisions of the Constitution. But the Government is anxious to ensure a fair distribution of petrol within Australia. I informed the Chancellor of the Exchequer that I had asked the State governments to consider taking control of petrol rationing. I said almost precisely what the right honorable gentleman has stated. I think that the States would hardly agree to institute rationing unless they were in possession of the relevant figures. I certainly feel that in order to convince the State Premiers, that is, if they can be convinced, I must give them those figures confidentially. Naturally, I do not disclose information that has been given to me confidentially, although very often I should like to be in a position to do so. It would be politically advantageous for me if I could publish information that has been given to me confidentially about certain matters. However, one cannot break a confidence, and continue to enjoy the confidence of other countries. This morning, J spoke to the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, and intimated to him that if that State were prepared to carry on petrol rationing, the Commonwealth would meet the cost. A similar intimation will be conveyed to the other State Premiers. Petrol rationing is carried on principally by State officers, and only a small percentage of Commonwealth employees are engaged in it. I require the permission of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make available the relevant figures to the States if they desire some proof about the need for continuing petrol rationing and are not prepared to take our word on the matter. I should also like to ascertain from the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether those figures may be released to the public of this country. I assume that the Bank of England and the other authorities to whom I have referred, know their business, and I believe that a two-line statement of the position 19 sufficient to knock the bottom out of the argument advanced by the representatives of vested interests.
– In view of the report that the High Court has decided that the petrol rationing regulations are bad in law, does the Prime Minister propose to return to those people who have been prosecuted the fines imposed upon them, and to compensate those who were imprisoned for breaches of the regulations? Many of those who were prosecuted had to close their businesses and have suffered considerable worry and trouble.
– Naturally I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Acting Attorney-General, but I should not like him to be optimistic concerning the answer. The mere fact that the petrol rationing regulations were declared invalid by the High Court yesterday does not indicate that those who broke the law while it was in force should not be subjected to whatever penalties they incurred for breach of the law which was in force at the time.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say whether the inquiries at present being made by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board concerning the broadcasting of political talks over commerical radio stations are being undertaken with a view to restricting such talks?
– I am not cognizant of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board making any inquiries of the nature indicated, and so far as I am aware no report concerning any such inquiries has been made to the Postmaster-General. However, I shall convey the honorable member’s question to my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and obtain a reply for him as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that a large number of American ex-servicemen who married Australian girls while in Australia are anxious to return to this country? Has the honorable gentleman taken steps to ensure that they are covered by the Government’s immigration policy? Having regard to the recession that is taking place in the United States of America, will the Minister inquire whether it is possible to bring these men to Australia quickly ?
– I should be most happy for all the people in the United States of America who want to come to Australia to come here.
– What about Gamboa?
– I would even swop Gamboa for certain honorable gentlemen opposite, though it would be exchanging one nuisance for another. I shall inquire of the Australian Consul-General in the United States of America to ascertain how many Americans are anxious to come to Australia immediately. The great problem is that of shipping. No American shipping line has been operating on the Pacific run for many months past.
– What about ships from Vancouver?
– We tried to get a number of berths allocated to us on Aorangi, on its first and subsequent sailings, but we had less success with the British-owned line than we were having with the American line regarding the allocation of berths. Some people have adopted the practice of going to the United Kingdom and travelling on vessels leaving British ports for Australia. We are doing our best to help those who try to come here via the United Kingdom. We could secure many more immigrants from the United Kingdom and the United States of America if sufficient ships were available. I shall take the matter up and see what information I can give to the honorable gentleman later.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the word “ British “ is to be deleted from the expression “British Commonwealth of Nations”? Would that be contrary to the terms of the second paragraph of the preamble to the Statute of Westminster? If the word “ British “ is. no longer to be used, is it the intention of the Government to introduce amending legislation? If amending legislation is not to be introduced, will a debate on the subject be allowed before the end of this sessional period?
– The term “British Commonwealth of Nations” has no legal significance. Those who speak on behalf of the Dominions are free to use whatever term they choose to use. I have already said in answer to a question addressed to me in this House that I ;propose to continue to use the expression
British Commonwealth of Nations “. Other dominions may or may not continue to use the word “ British “. When the House is considering the item on the notice-paper which deals with the declaration that was made at the conclusion of the recent conference of Empire Prime Ministers, the question to which the honorable gentleman has referred will be open for discussion. The Government does not intend to introduce legislation covering the matter and, as far as I know, there is no necessity for such legislation. Three very distinguished lawyers were present when the matter was discussed in London, but apparently they did not regard legislative action as being necessary. It was agreed generally at the conference that each dominion should use the term that it considered to be appropriate. I do not know of anything in the preamble to the Statute of Westminster that affects this question. The term “ British Commonwealth of Nations “ does not appear in Commonwealth legislation or on bills submitted for the royal assent. On behalf «f Australia, I intimated at the conference of Empire Prime Ministers that we should continue to use the term “ British Commonwealth of Nations “.
MR. w. m. j. Mcnamara.
– Will the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs say whether Mr. William Morris Judson McNamara, Australian representative on the United Nations sub-commission appointed to deal with discrimination against and protection of national minorities, left Australia last Saturday to attend a meeting of the sub-commission at Lake Success? Has the attention of the Government been directed to Mr. McNamara’s condemnation of its actions in the O’Keefe and Gamboa cases, which he voiced at a meeting of the United Nations Association of Australia held in Sydney within the last fortnight? Will Mr. McNamara he briefed on the official Government viewpoint, or will he, as an Australian delegate, be free to join in any United Nations action designed to protect the interests of individuals, like Mrs. O’Keefe and Sergeant Gamboa, against the Minister for Immigration, if the subcommission decides to intervene to carry out its obligations under the Charter of Human Rights?
– I understand that Mr. McNamara holds an office in an overseas organization, of which he is either the vice-president or a committee member. He has not, however, any authority to represent Australia. He is an Australian citizen and was originally elected to a position in an overseas organization. As the honorable member will remember, I answered a similar question some time ago regarding Mrs. Jessie Street, and I then intimated to him that such persons did not represent the Australian Government and carried no credentials whatever to represent it. That position obtains regarding Mr. McNamara. He is certainly an Australian, but the views that he will express will be his own. Mr. McNamara was issued with an ordinary passport and we have no control over him. I shall examine the latter part of the honorable member’s question regarding any credentials or any brief that might be given to Mr. McNamara. Nobody should be briefed for the Government who is not an official delegate.
– In view of the statement in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald that four choice pastoral leases on the
Barkly Tablelands, in the Northern Territory, had been allocated after applicants had been waiting since the 24th April, 1948, can the Minister for the Interior say whether the Northern Territory Land Board exercised its right to choose the most suitable applicant for each block, or whether it was unable to separate the qualifications of desirable applicants, and resorted to the ballot system? In view of the fact that at the conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which was held at Townsville last Tuesday, delegates from Western Australia submitted proposals urging the Queensland Government to allocate at least 50 per cent, of newly opened land in that State to returned servicemen, will the Minister instruct the Northern Territory Land Board to grant a similar concession to ex-servicemen when allocating choice pastoral leases in the Northern Territory?
– It is true that the newly created Northern Territory Land Board has recently dealt with a number of applications for blocks on the Barkly Tablelands. As the honorable member knows, the board was created in order to avoid the necessity for holding ballots. While I have not seen the board’s decisions regarding the blocks recently dealt with-
Mi’. McEwen. - They have been published in the newspapers.
– I am answering this question. While I have not seen the official decisions, I take it that the board would make a firm recommendation to the Administrator regarding applications. There has never been any bar to the application of ex-servicemen for land.
– That is not an answer to my question.
– If ex-servicemen who apply for blocks can satisfy the board that they have the necessary qualifications to enable them to develop the land, they will in every instance receive preference. That policy has been announced in the Parliament on several occasions, not only by me, but by other Ministers also, and is neil known to the honorable member for the Northern Territory.
– Can the Minister for Defence state what is the present position regarding reparations to Australia from Germany ?
– Shortly after the end of hostilities we sent a technical and scientific mission to London and, at a later stage, a mission was sent to Germany to deal with the reparations there. Such reparations as are available are submitted to a committee of the Western allies, and those countries which are competent to participate in them are then asked to make bids for the items in which they are interested. Australia has made, bids from time to time. In fact, reparations to the value of approximately £750,000 already have been received in Australia. An additional 1,000 tons of machinery items is on the water at present. While Australia was entitled to only approximately 1 per cent, of the total reparations made available, up to the present it has already received about li per cent. These cover a very wide diversity of articles, ranging from small machine tools to very large items, such as a big steel press, of which there are few equals in the world. This has been received and set up at Newcastle. We have also received a modern diesel-engined coastal vessel which will soon be operating in the Australian coastal trade. When the items now on the water have been received they will he distributed to industry in the usual way.
– On the 19th May, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture announced that a survey, which had been carried out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, showed that the cost of the production of eggs was 2s. 7d. a dozen, which figure included 3.39d. attributed to marketing costs. In assessing the f.o.b. cost to producers of eggs for export, will the Minister take into consideration charges incurred in getting the eggs from the grading floor to the ship, including cartage, oil and cool-storage charges, and the levy and pulping charges imposed by the Australian Egg Board ? No allowance has been made for those charges in the survey. If the Minister will give consideration to the inclusion of those charges, as I trust he will do, will he also see that full consideration is given to the recent increases in those charges?
– The report of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics on the cost of production of eggs has been received. It indicates that the cost of production is 2s. 6id. a dozen. That figure, I understand, assumes that all the eggs marketed are first-grade eggs and it includes the handling charges of the respective State egg boards. It is based on a low production figure of 10.07 dozen eggs per hen per annum. Might I explain to the House that that figure Ls based on deliveries to the State egg boards. It is known that, apart from deliveries to the State egg boards and sales by produce agents, there is a leakage which may or may not amount to a quantity in excess of one dozen eggs per hen. These leakages find their way to retail shopkeepers and others and include sales from roadside stalls and consumption on commercial egg farms. In view of the opinions expressed t.y those engaged in the commercial egg industry it is not unfair to suggest that a reasonable assessment of the production per hen per annum in Australia would be approximately twelve dozen.
– Perhaps !
– If the honorable member made a calculation, on the basis of twelve dozen eggs per hen per annum he would be able to ascertain that the commercial cost of production of eggs does not amount to 2s. 6$d. a dozen. My view is that, to help commercial egg producers in this country, and, at the same time, to assist the British Ministry of Food, it is reasonable to assess egg production throughout the Commonwealth at eleven dozen per hen per annum and at the same time to make compensating allowance for leakage and down grading in quality.
– What about the extra charges?
– Order ! There is far too much “ cackling “ by honorable members.
– I have pointed out to the British Ministry of Food that it may be necessary to give consideration to a higher payment for Australian eggs.
The honorable member may rest assured that the Government is not unconscious of the necessity to assist both the Australian egg producers and the United Kingdom Ministry of Food in its endeavour to obtain increased quantities of eggs.
– The Minister has done everything but answer my question.
– My attention has been drawn to the fact that an English widow who came to this country under the assisted passage immigration scheme had to forfeit her widow’s pension upon arrival here. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services whether a reciprocal agreement for the payment of social services has been reached between Australia and the United Kingdom? Is there any special provision whereby immigrants to this country must forfeit their pensions upon arrival?
– So far, only Australia and New Zealand have reached a reciprocal agreement on social services. A conference on this subject, was held in London in 1947 between representatives of the United Kingdom and Dominions, and delegates agreed to endeavour to work out a formula for a reciprocal agreement, but so far no agreement has been concluded and British immigrants lose their pensions when they come to Australia..
– In reply to a question that I asked last year, the Minister for Repatriation stated that the benefits applicable to the widows and dependants of ex-servicemen in Australia also applied to the widows and dependants of former civil servants in New Guinea who lost their lives in the Japanese invasion of that territory. I wrote to him in March, and pointed out that the concessions were not fully in operation; and he promised to make an early reply. To-day is the 7th June and I have not yet received a reply. Will he ensure that the matter is adjusted at once in order to relieve from further hardship worthy people who have already suffered greatly?
– The honorable member has raised this matter on a number of occasions, and I have pointed out to him that all those persons who come within the province of the Repatriation Department have received all the benefits to WhiCh they are entitled. If there are any gaps in the provisions which cause hardship to people who have suffered as the result of the ravages of war, that matter comes within the province of the Minister for External Territories. I shall ascertain whether I can provide the honorable member with any additional information on the subject.
– I address to the Minister for Repatriation a question relating to the cancellation of a pension that had been paid to the widow of an ex-serviceman on the ground that it was not desirable to continue to pay it. What is the principle and what are the circumstances in which a widow’s pension may be discontinued on that ground? fs the Minister responsible for the adoption of that principle? If not, will he inform me who is responsible for it? What particular investigations did the honorable gentleman make into the case to which 1 refer in order to ascertain whether an injustice has been perpetrated? Did he, in particular, seek evidence from the widow herself and, if so, what evidence?
– The widow to whom the honorable member has referred enjoyed a war widow’s pension, until very recently, when certain information concerning her was received by the Victorian branch of the Repatriation Department. The local repatriation board, which is the appropriate authority to consider claims -for pensions or to review pensions already granted, reviewed her case, and the pension was cancelled. When the matter became public I called for a report, which I have now obtained. I have also examined the departmental file, and to-day I read twelve pages of a letter which I received from the widow. I propose to give further consideration to her case. I have already pointed out that if the lady concerned is able to satisfy the Victorian branch of the Repatriation Department that she complies with the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and regulations, which have been operative ever since repatriation pensions have been granted, and that she is a proper person to receive a pension, it will he restored to her immediately.
– Will the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General explain to the House the effect of the recent decision of the High Court which invalidated regulations that prevented the eviction of ex-servicemen and gave them certain other privileges in relation to housing? A statement has appeared in the press that the Government of Victoria has proclaimed regulations to replace the defunct Commonwealth regulations? Is the Minister in a position to inform me whether any other States have been able to take immediate action?
– The same position will arise in this matter as that which has arisen in relation to petrol rationing. I do not know whether any action has yet been taken as the result of the decision of the High Court, but the Minister for Works and Housing administers the few remaining Commonwealth regulations relating to the housing of ex-servicemen, and I assume that he will negotiate with the States for the purpose of endeavouring to strengthen the position, and protect the interests of exservicemen.
– I remind the Minister for Labour and National Service that on several occasions I have sought to have female rates of pay adjusted so as to remove certain anomalies, and I ask the honorable gentleman whether he recalls the replies that he made to me and to the honorable member for Cook, who has also asked questions of the Minister concerning this matter? Can the honorable gentleman now say what awards relating to female rates of pay have not been reviewed and incorporated permanently in awards by the courts will be affected by the recent decision of the High Court?
– The brief answer to the honorable member’s question would be “ No “, but I do not think that such an answer would be satisfactory to her.
– Well, say “ Yes “.
– I am afraid that such an answer would be equally unsatisfactory. I remember the questions asked by the honorable member and similar questions asked by the honorable member for Cook. I said that the defence power of the Constitution, under which the female rates were fixed, was becoming weaker and that sooner or later the High Court would invalidate the relevant regulations. For that reason I continually warned the unions concerned to approach the courts to have the special rates obtained for their female members incorporated in awards. I discussed the matter with some of the judges of the Arbitration Court, and they said that that could be done and that they were quite willing to do it. I should say, at a guess, that approximately 90 per cent. of the unions concerned accepted my advice and approached the court. A small minority of unions did not do so, and now that the regulations have been declared invalid, they have lost the legal backing which maintained the female rates at 75 per cent. of the male award rates, but I doubt whether any employers will take advantage of their right to reduce female wages now that the regulations have been declared invalid.
Bill presented by Mr. Calwell, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. Calwell, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 3rd June (vide page 531), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the Government -
by the use of its majority in this House is unreasonably and improperly restricting the Tights of private members and the electors they represent;
is disregarding the status of the Chair by permitting to remain for months on the notice-paper, partly debated, but undetermined, a motion of no-confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker;
is permitting and encouraging personal defamatory and threatening attacks upon Opposition members by Ministers, and so violating the decencies of political controversy;
is exhibiting a contempt for the institution of Parliament and its function as the democratic forum of the nation; and therefore that the Government is deserving of the censure of this House.
– The motion of censure moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) becomes “ curiouser and curiouser”, to quote from Alice in Wonderland, the more one analyses it and, in fact, the Opposition parties were as far removed from reality when they drafted the terms of their motion as was “ Alice in Wonderland “. I begin my remarks by directing the attention of the House to paragraph c of the motion, and I propose to subject its terms to some analysis. That paragraph recites -
That the Government -
Consider the use of the word “permitting “. Every honorable member knows that no government can either permit or prevent any member of the House, irrespective of whether he happens to be a Minister or a private member of its own party or of the Opposition from saying anything that he pleases. Subject to the Standing Orders every honorable member is entitled to say whatever he thinks fit. The inclusion of the word “ permitting “ implies that the motion of censure is directed not so much against the Government as against the Standing Orders or against the manner in which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have conducted the proceedings of the House. It is clear, therefore, that the word “ permitting” has no proper place in the motion. Next, I invite attention to the use of the word “encouraging” in the same paragraph. For a government, or an individual, to encourage a certain course of action is a very different thing from permitting such a course to be adopted. However, the fact is that no evidence has been adduced that the Government has encouraged any member of the Ministry or any of its supporters to adopt a particular course of action. The only statement that might be accepted as evidence in support of that charge was the assertion of the Leader of the Opposition that my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), was “ put up “ to reply to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). If that is the only evidence in support of the allegation that the Government has encouraged its members and supporters to adopt a particular line of action, it does not substantiate the charge. In any event, I say that the assertion that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was “ put up “ to reply to the honorable member for Maranoa is completely false. I was sitting very close to the Minister when he decided to speak on the matter. His action was quite spontaneous. It did not require any encouragement by anybody, and every honorable member who knows the honorable gentleman personally is aware that he does not need any prompting by any one. On most of the occasions when the honorable gentleman has risen to speak in this chamber, he has done so quite spontaneously. So it was on this occasion. My reaction was the same as that of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. If he had not risen to make a statement then I should have done so, also spontaneously.
– To make the same statement?
– It would have been much to the same effect. I shall give my reasons for saying that. The reaction of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and myself was a reaction to the statements of the Leader of the Opposition, who painted a picture of the honorable member for Maranoa as a saint with a halo around his head. I do not accept that description of the honorable gentleman, although I have nothing against him. When he first entered the Parliament, I thought that he presented his arguments very fairly, hut since then he has spent a long time in the company of a number of honorable gentlemen opposite who persistently misrepresent facts in this chamber. The honorable member for Maranoa has learned quite a lot from the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and other members of the Opposition. I am not prepared to accept the picture of the honorable member for Maranoa that was painted by the Leader of the Opposition. I would describe the honorable gentleman’s standards of integrity, honesty and sincerity in this House as “ f.a.q.” and nothing more.
No evidence has been adduced by the Opposition to prove that the Government has encouraged Ministers or other honorable members to take a particular line of action. It is alleged in the motion that the Government has permitted and encouraged personal defamatory and threatening attacks upon Opposition members by Ministers. The rank and file are excluded. They are quite innocent. The motion refers only to “ Ministers “. No Ministers are mentioned by name. Is the allegation intended to cover two or more Ministers or all of the Ministers? The only evidence that has been adduced by the Opposition in support of the allegation is that on one occasion certain statements concerning the honorable member for Maranoa were made, and in my opinion justifiably made, by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). All that my colleague did then was to read a letter containing allegations from which the inference could be drawn that the honorable member for Maranoa had been guilty of certain misdemeanours. Instead of alleging that one Minister has been permitted and encouraged to make personal defamatory and threatening attacks upon honorable gentlemen opposite, the Opposition has made a general charge against all Ministers. At any rate, the motion uses the words “ by Ministers “, and we are left to draw our own conclusions on whether the charge is laid against two or three Ministers or all Ministers. An allegation that Ministers are making personal defamatory attacks upon members of the Opposition when the only evidence, for what it is worth, adduced in support of the allegation concerns one Minister only is a persona] defamatory attack upon every Minister with the exception of the one to whom the evidence relates. The Opposition is therefore, guilty of the very offence with which it has charged the Government in this censure motion.
Having disposed of some of the propagandist trimmings in this part of the motion, I pass to the words, “ personal defamatory and threatening attacks “. I have never heard language used in the House or outside it by any Minister or honorable member on this side of the chamber which has threatened any member of the Opposition. It is apparent that there never has been any utterance of a kind that could be said to constitute a threat against honorable gentlemen opposite. Therefore, the word “ threatening “ has been included in the motion as padding, and in order to make it read a little better than it otherwise would read. I find it very difficult to differentiate between a personal defamatory attack and what honorable members opposite would probably argue was a legitimate political attack. I make bold to say that no such distinction could be drawn. Honorable gentlemen opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), have at times been guilty of making upon honorable members on this side of the House political attacks that were in fact personal defamatory attacks. I say, therefore, “ He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”. A considerable time ago the Leader of the Opposition coined the slogan, “ The eyes of Hitler are on Corio”. It might he argued that that was a legitimate political attack, but is it not true to say that it could also be described as a defamatory attack upon the character of the Labour party candidate for Corio at that time, who was myself? The inference to be drawn from that slogan, which was coined deliberately by the Leader of the Opposition, was that the Labour party candidate for Corio was a traitor to Australia. Is that inference worse or better” than the inferences that can be drawn from the statements concerning the honorable member for Maranoa that were n-ade by the Minister for Information?
The coining of chat slogan by the Leader of the Opposition was as much a personal defamatory attack upon me as the statements made by the Minister for Information were a personal defamatory attack upon the honorable member for Maranoa. When the slogan was coined I was nol a member of the Parliament. Therefore, 1 did not have an opportunity to denounce in this House the statement* that were made by the Leader of the Opposition. If I had said that the public could judge whether I was a traitor to this country or the British Commonwealth of Nations by comparing the records of the Leader of the Opposition and myself in relation to military service in two world wars, and had gone into the details of the military record of the right honorable gentleman, that would have been said to be a personal defamatory attack upon him.
– It is now.
– I am not making any attack.
– Of course the Minister is doing so.
– All that I am saying is that if the use of that slogan was not a personal defamatory attack, hut a legitimate political attack upon me, and if my answer to it had been to invito a comparison of the records of the right honorable gentleman and myself in relation to military service in two world wars, that would have been alleged to be a personal defamatory attack upon the right honorable gentleman. It is impossible to make a clear-cut distinction between what constitutes a legitimate political attack and what constitutes a personal defamatory attack. I shall quote a. statement made by the Leader of the Australian Country party during the course of this very debate, following an interjection that I had made. The purport of the interjection does not matter. After my interjection the right honorable gentleman said - and his word9 were broadcast to hundreds of thousands of listeners and will be printed in Hansard -
There is another interruption-
– Did the Minister take notes of that, too ?
– Yes, I took a note of it. The statement by the Leader of the Australian Country party was -
There is another interruption, this time by the Minister who cannot be believed because he speaks the truth only for an ulterior motive or by accident. [f that is not a personal defamatory attack on a Minister I do not know what is. So the Leader of the Australian Country party, who has taken part in this debate and has alleged that what was said about the honorable member for Maranoa was a personal defamatory attack, himself has used phrases in this debate in which he made a personal defamatory attack upon me. Therefore, [ consider that we do not require to pay very much attention to the arguments advanced by the two Opposition leaders during the course of this debate.
I shall leave paragraph c of the motion and turn to the first paragraph, which alleges that the Government -
by the use of its majority in this House is unreasonably and improperly restricting the rights of private members and the electors they represent ; [t is assumed that this allegation is based on the fact that the Prime Minister moved a motion last week that had the effect that Government business took precedence over private members’ business, and that on “ Grievance Day “ only two private members were able to address the House. We then returned to consideration of the bills on the noticepaper. Let me point out that the bills under discussion were Supply and Approbation bills, during debates on which honorable members may discuss anything in the wide world. In fact, anything that they could discuss on “ Grievance Day “ they could also discuss in debating those particular bills. Honorable members were therefore not curtailed or restricted in their remarks by the fact that “ Grievance Day “ was allowed to continue for only a short period of time and that the House then reverted to the discussion of the bills that were on the notice-paper. Every government with a majority has always used its majority to ensure that government bills, and particularly urgent government bills, receive prior consideration. On looking back through the Hansard records I found that the Leader of the Opposition himself, immediately after he became Prime Minister in 1939, did exactly what this Government is doing, and of course, with the same justification, on the first “Private Members’ Day” to which Parliament was entitled after he had become Prime Minister. The occasion to which I refer occurred in April, 1939. The House divided when the right honorable gentlemanmoved that government business should take precedence over private members’ business. He was supported by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) and the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson). At that time there were a number of motions on the notice-paper. There was one by the then honorable member for Lilley who sought to revive the Public Accounts Committee. That was regarded as a very important matter. There was also a motion by the present honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the administration of the Repatriation Commission. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) will be interested to know that dissatisfaction with the operations of the Repatriation Commission is evidently not new. There was also a motion by the present Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into the Commonwealth Public Service. Not only did the Leader of the Opposition take the action that I have indicated when he was Prime Minister, on the first “ Grievance Day “ to which the Parliament was entitled after his assumption to office, but he also took the same action on the second “ Grievance Day “. The plain fact, as I have said, is that any government which has a majority naturally uses it to see that urgent measures on the notice-paper are given priority, and nobody can blame this Government for taking that particular line of action. Other incidents to which I shall refer show that Opposition members, when they have been on the treasury bench, have taken action that has been very restrictive of the rights of private members. I shall cite figures relating to the number of sittings of this House while the present Opposition parties were in office. In nine years of antiLabour government, from 1932 to 1940 inclusive, the Parliament was allowed to sit for only 496 days, or an average of 55 days a year. In the last seven years of Labour government the average number of sittings has been 69 days a year. That is to say, in a period of seven years, Labour governments have given honorable members almost the same opportunity to express their own and their constituents’ views on legislation and administration, as anti-Labour governments vouchsafed them in nine years. It is interesting to note also that there was a time when honorable members opposite, while occupying the treasury bench, “guillotined “ measures through this House at a much faster rate than this Government has ever done. There was an occasion when the honorable member for Balaclava applied the “ gag “ about 30 times in one night. Those were the days, also, when a former anti-Labour Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons, was afraid to call the Parliament together because he was not sure how his own supporters would react to a particular international crisis that had arisen. I remind honorable members that when Czechoslovakia was seized by Germany in 1939 this Parliament was not in session, and as I have said, the then anti-Labour Prime Minister was not game to call it together because he did not know what action his own followers would take about that crisis. So it ill becomes honorable members opposite to criticize this Government, which has given the representatives of the people in the Parliament far greater opportunity to discuss problems, both domestic and international, than anti-Labour governments have ever given them. Another part of the motion states that the Government -
The fact is that the Opposition has got into the habit of submitting motions of want of confidence against Mr. Speaker, and it does this so frequently that the Government is entitled to treat the motions as frivolous. Let me make a comparison between the practice in Australia in this matter and that in the House of Commons. In Australia, the Opposition seems to think that it is a very small thing to make a motion of censure against Mr. Speaker, and it does so even if its charge against him is no more than that he has departed somewhat from customary procedure. In the House of Commons, however, the making of such a motion is regarded as a very grave matter, indeed, and is resorted to only when the circumstances are regarded as almost unprecedented. The last occasion upon which a motion of censure of Mr. Speaker was submitted in the House of Commons was in 1902. The time before that was in 1882, and for a third occasion we have to go as far back as 1777. Thus, during a period of 175 years, the Opposition in the House of Commons has on only three occasions moved that the ruling of the Speaker be disagreed with, or that his conduct was worthy of censure. In the Australian Parliament, the Opposition has submitted motions of that kind on four occasions in the last five years. Members of the Opposition in the Australian Parliament have at times been very unruly in their conduct. That is why I took notice of the remarks of the Leader of the Australian Country party. He apologized for them to-day, and therefore, I suppose, I should make no further reference to them. It is because members of the .Opposition are at times so unruly, and their conduct so disorderly, that Mr. Speaker and Mr. Deputy Speaker have had to take action. Had they not done so, they would have been recreant to their duty. Thus, it has been the misconduct of members of the Opposition themselves that has made action by Mr. -Speaker or Mr. Deputy Speaker necessary, and such action, when taken, has become the subject of motions of censure from the Opposition. Therefore, it is in order for the Government to treat as frivolous the motion, .of censure now on the noticepaper. Indeed, the Minister for Repatriation interjected to that effect when the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, and the Leader of the Opposition replied to this effect, “ Well, if the Government thinks that the motion is frivolous, why not discharge it from the notice-paper? Why allow it to remain there for so many months ? “ In order to get the motion discharged from the notice-paper, the Government would have to move to that effect. If it did so, obviously the Opposition would contest the motion, and the ensuing debate would cover the very same ground as if the original motion were being debated, and time would be wasted. Therefore, the Government is entitled, since it came to the conclusion that the motion was frivolous, to ignore it by allowing it to remain on the notice-paper until a later date.
I may sum up by saying that the Opposition had no cause to move that Mr. Deputy Speaker was worthy of censure. They, themselves, by their conduct, made it necessary for Mr. Deputy Speaker to take the action complained of. Otherwise, it would not be possible to keep order in the House. Further, the Government has provided more opportunities for the discussion of domestic and international affairs than had ever previously been given in Parliament to the representatives of the people. Therefore, I believe that the House, should, by its vote, show conclusively that there is no reason why the Government should be censured for such action as it has taken. It will continue- to act in the same way.
– The motion under discussion proposes that the Government be censured on three major grounds First, that it has, by its conduct, prostituted the institution of Parliament; secondly, that it has permitted, and condoned and encouraged the personal vilification of honorable members; and, thirdly, that, by its general conduct in the House, it has destroyed real liberty of speech, and brought the Parliament into contempt.
No one who goes among the people to-day can escape from the conclusion that the average man in the street thinks that the Parliament has been much lowered in its dignity and status during the last seven years. It is hardly incidental that this period is the one during which Labour has been in power. Public estimation of the Parliament reflects in a real sense its appreciation of what goes on in the Parliament. To-day, it is no longer regarded as a privilege, or as a matter for pride, to represent the people in the National Parliament. On the contrary, this Government more than any other in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament, has contributed to the genera] acceptance by the people of the belief that a man who goes in for politics is either a fool or a knave. He is a fool because he neglects his own interests in order to go into Parliament, or he is a knave because he uses Parliament for the advancement of his interests. Since that is the opinion held by so many people, it is necessary to look for the reason, and I believe that the reason can be found in the terms of the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies).
I listened carefully, and with growing mystification, to the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I had assumed, wrongly as it turned out, that on this occasion he would have faced squarely the issues before the Parliament but, in truth, he followed his usual tactics of evasion. He refused to face the issue, but not all his mental squirmings could conceal the fact that, involved in the motion before the House, there is a serious charge, namely, that Ministers of the Government, from the Prime Minister down, have never sought to impose any restrictions on Ministers and supporters who resort to personal vilification and abuse of members of the Opposition. I believe that a great majority of honorable members, and I include members of the Labour party, endeavour to perform their duties in this Parliament to the best of their ability, but their efforts are nullified by the conduct of certain members of the Labour party, and particularly of certain Ministers, who should set a shining example of how members of this Parliament should conduct themselves. We have witnessed the Prime Minister not in any way seeking to condemn the conduct of honorable members on his own side of the House in indulging in personal abuse, not in any way seeking to find ways and means to prevent a repetition of such conduct, but instead raising a false issue. The right honorable gentleman made it appear that members of the Opposition parties were merely concerned with altering the Standing Orders. He said smugly, with tongue in cheek, that he was prepared to waive parliamentary privilege. Parliamentary privilege must be maintained if the Parliament is to function. I would be the last to surrender one iota of parliamentary privilege. Parliamentary privilege goes back deep into the institution of parliamentary government, long before it was incorporated in the Bill of Rights. It is the very keystone of parliamentary government. But because parliamentary privilege gives to honorable members an opportunity to say what they will, so the responsibilities of members of Parliament become greater. This is not the first occasion that attention has been drawn to abuses of parliamentary privilege. On a previous occasion I endeavoured to have set up special machinery in the Parliament to deal with honorable members who abuse the great privileges attaching to their membership of the Parliament, hut I got no support whatsoever from the Parliamentary Labour party. I sought to establish a committee of three members which would have vested in it by statute power to preside over inquiries into breaches of privilege in the course of which members of the public or members of tin-. Parliament were charged with corruption or criminal or other serious misconduct: That proposal, however, did not meet with support from the representatives of the Australian Labour party. It is strange that, whether knowingly or not, the Australian Labour party has done its utmost to destroy the parliamentary institution which we are all sworn to preserve. If this Parliament were destroyed as the result of the use of the technique of character assassination, and the vilification of its members and the lowering of the confidence of tho public in their elected representatives, it would not be the first time that that kind of thing had happened. During the last ten years, the Communists have developed and perfected the weapon of character assassination which has been so freely used by members of the Australian Labour party in this House. Indeed, it fits the technique of the members of that party like a glove. The representatives of the Australian Labour party speak with the voice of Labour, but the tongue they use is the tongue of communism. It does not require very much evidence to support that statement. I shall instance one particular matter which the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who has just concluded his speech, justifies. The culminating point which gave rise to this motion of censure was an attack made by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) on the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). It was said by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction that that was the only instance to which reference was made. Many honorable members on this side of the House have been made the subject of attacks of that kind. Attacks have been made by Ministers of the Crown, not only on members of the Parliament, but also even on members of their families. They have been tacitly supported by the Prime Minister, who comes easily into the House and says : “ This is all over nothing”. That his Ministers have engaged in personal abuse of and attacks upon members of the Parliament is apparently of no consequence to the Prime Minister. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction asked, “What do permitting and allowing mean - who permits and who allows ?” Is the Prime Minister of so little consequence that he cannot control gross misconduct on the part of his Ministers? If he cannot do so, he has no right to lead the Government of this country. If he can control such misconduct - and I believe that he can - he stands arraigned at the bar of public opinion for having failed to do so. On more than one occasion honorable members on this side of the House have been intimidated. A message was conveyed to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) by devious means indicating that if he acted in a certain way allegations which were known to be untrue would be made against him. Not long ago allegations of a most scandalous nature were made against the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). Was that action ever condemned by the Prime Minister? Not at all. At all times the right honorable gentleman has stood by those who have made these scandalous attacks and has never exhibited his authority a9 leader of his party. On another occasion a certain high-ranking Minister, now overseas, conveyed to the honorable member for the Northern “Territory the information that, if he did not withdraw a question standing in his name on the notice-paper his conduct as a prisoner of war would be raised in this House. These are not isolated instances. They are merely illustrations of the kind of intimidation that has been going on for a long time past. The message is usually conveyed to the honorable member concerned by some runner, saying, “ You do this or do that and these things will he done “. Most honorable members are well aware of such occurrences. That is the technique of communism. It is the method by which the means of democracy are used to destroy democracy. That is precisely what is taking place to-day. I remember, for example, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction challenging the _ Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) with having been false to his oath as a Privy Councillor by revealing secret information. I also remember a statement by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) which contained the gravest reflection on Australian troops who surrendered to the Japanese in Malaya.
– I rise to order. I ask for a withdrawal of that statement. It is untrue and personally offensive to me. Tt is worse than untrue ; it is a dastardly lie.
– As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has complained that the statement made by the honorable member for Warringah is untrue and personally offensive to him, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, and withdraw the words.
– I shall refute the honorable member’s statement on the floor of the House.
– Order !
– Throw him out !
– The Minister may conduct himself as he pleases knowing that nothing will happen to him. Confirmation of the statement to which he has objected will be found in Ilansard of the 25th March, 1947, at page 1102. and of the 19th September, 1947, at page 100. I do not make allegations which 1 cannot support by concrete evidence. The Minister regards my statement as offensive. What he said then was very offensive to those against whom it was directed. I remember another member of the Australian Labour party saying of a certain justice of this country that when he had entered the Parliament he had been a member of an anti-Labour party, and that there was no more vicious and anti-Labour appointee on the High Court than the present Chief Justice. Statements of that kind are made by honorable members opposite with impunity. They are not regarded by Government supporters as being offensive but when attention is drawn to them they immediately become offensive. Let us have regard to the incident that occurred in this House last week which the Prime Minister has sought to justify. The honorable member for Maranoa was charged on two counts by the Minister for Information. The Minister charged the honorable member with having induced people to invest their money in a co-operative concern and, after his re-election to the Parliament, having made a corrupt arrangement with Dalgety and Company Limited as the result of which the investors lost their money. That was a charge of corrupt conduct. The Minister said further that the honorable member for Maranoa had used his position as Chairman of the Peanut Board to urge a head grader to grade the honorable member’s third-grade peanuts as first-grade nuts, and that when the grader refused to do so he was sacked. What does that amount to? Let us not bandy -words. It means that the honorable member for Maranoa, when holding the responsible position of chairman of the Peanut Board, sought corruptly to get more money than he was entitled to for his peanuts by bringing pressure to bear upon an official to give the honorable member’s crop a higher grading than that to which it was entitled. If that is not an attempted criminal conspiracy, I should like to know what is. The Minister for Defence, who came so spontaneously to the aid of the Minister for Information, said that the Minister for Information had not made any charges against the honorable member for Maranoa, but had only repeated something that he had been told in a letter. My answer to that is that if we on this side of the chamber were to repeat all the information that we receive, both anonymously and otherwise, from the public about Ministers of the Crown and other Labour supporters, we should be doing nothing else for weeks ; but we knowthat such charges should never be repeated in this House. If any person wishes to make a charge against a man in public life, let him get to his feet and say so. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture also said that the Minister for Information had not made any charges against the honorable member for Maranoa, but had merely repeated information that had come to him in a letter.
– The Minister did nol say that at all.
– He did.
– What did I say?
– In defending the Minister for Information, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said, in substance, first that the Minister for Information had not levelled any charge against the member for Maranoa, and secondly, that the Minister for Information had only repeated something that he had been told in a letter. That is all, and it is enough. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture nods his acquiescence. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), too, is silent. The words of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, were, substantially, those of the Minister for Defence also. When a
Minister of the Crown who receives a letter from some scurvy nameless person is prepared to be the mouth-piece of that person to traduce another member of the Parliament, the standard of politics has indeed sunk to a low level in this chamber. It is not unusual for Communists to employ just that technique. I recall an occasion on which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) drew the attention of the House to the activities of a certain individual and charged him with being a Communist. The Minister for Defence used the privilege of the Parliament, not merely to endeavour to prove that the person was not a Communist, but also to read a letter from him proclaiming his own integrity, and saying how vile the honorable member for Reid was to have made, such an allegation. Subsequently, the charges made by the honorable member for Reid were substantiated. On more than one occasion, information that has come into the hands of honorable members opposite, anonymously or otherwise, have been used to vilify and intimidate members of the Opposition. Every one of us on this side of the chamber knows that the Government has a dossier on him, prepared presumably by government employees whose salaries are paid by the public. I have no doubt that the dossiers contain every libellous statement that can be gathered from muck-raking letter writers. The attack by the Minister for Information on the honorable member for Maranoa was not something that came out of the blue in the heat of the debate. His words were not hasty utterances which, having been made, were withdrawn. The attack was premeditated. The Minister’s attitude was not, “ Here is something I have heard; it may or may not be true “. That would have been bad enough. He intended to convey the impression that what he had heard was true. He said that the honorable member for Maranoa had a few friends in Queensland who did not like the methods which he had adopted in regard to a number of matters. What did that mean? Clearly that was a charge that the honorable member for Maranoa had adopted certain methods which were not liked by certain people. The Minister then quoted from a letter that he had received, containing the two charges to which I have referred. Then he said -
Wl] at I have said is what was stated to rae in the letter to which I have referred. I have made those remarks in answer to the charge of dishonesty that was laid by the honorable gentleman. I lay those charges only in a counter-attack.
So he did make charges. Does any honorable member of this chamber suggest that the Minister, when he rose to speak on that occasion, did not intend to vilify the honorable member for Maranoa personally? Of course that was his intention and we all know very well that any one who attacks the Government in this chamber will receive the same treatment. Honorable members opposite believe that if they can intimidate their political opponents they will prevent criticism of the Government. It is quite a common technique these days and it is strange indeed that the Labour party, which pretends to fight communism on all occasions, should use in this House the technique of the Communists who engage in a sinister sabotage of democratic institutions. I venture to say that before this debate has concluded, other personal things will be said by honorable members opposite. It is one thing in a parliament to hit hard, but only in terms political. It is an entirely different thing, although apparently the Minister for Defence does not understand the difference, to attack a man personally. The attitude of the Prime Minister to the incident was, “ What can I do? “ I suppose he thought that he should “ let the boys have a go “. I regret very much to say that, when personal attacks have been made in this chamber, I have seen the Prime Minister sitting on a back bench not merely unconcerned, but on occasions apparently quite amused with what was going on. I recall one occasion when the Prime Minister himself made a personal attack on the private secretary to the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). Those things should be remembered. Only by precept and example will debating standards be improved.
It is significant that during the lifetime of the 17th and 18th Parliaments there have been 21 suspensions, of which eighteen have concerned ex-Ministers of the Crown. Probably there is no need for me to stress that every one of the 21 members suspended has been a member of the Opposition parties. The assumption must be that we on this side of the chamber are guilty of disorderly conduct justifying the penalty of suspension, and that Labour supporters are never guilty of such conduct. Fortunately, for the Opposition, however, parliamentary proceedings are broadcast, and people are able to form their own judgment on such matters. I venture to say that the Opposition always endeavours to deal in strictly political terms with matters that come before this chamber. We may hit hard, but we do not make personal attacks. The contrary approach is made by honorable members opposite.
On the notice-paper there is a motion stating that Mr. Deputy Speaker has not the confidence of the House on a number of grounds. The first is -
That, in the discharge of his duties, he has revealed serious partiality in favour of Government members.
The second is -
That he regards himself merely as the instrument of the Labour Party…..
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehy). - Order! The honorable member cannot discuss something that is on the notice-paper.
– I am not discussing it; I am reading it. I shall read the motion that is now under discussion. It states -
That the Government -
is disregarding the status of the Chair by permitting to remain for months on the notice-paper, partly debated, but undetermined, a motion of No-Confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker; and therefore that the Government is deserving of the censure of this House.
I am not canvassing the matter. I how to your ruling, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. I know that I must do so. I am drawing attention to the fact that one of the grounds of this motion of censure is that the motion of no confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker has been allowed to remain undebated for many months. That motion states -
That this House has no further confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker on the grounds -
That in the discharge of his duties he has revealed serious partiality in favour of Government Members;
That he regards himself merely as the instrument of the Labour party and not as the custodian of the rights and privileges of elected Members of this Parliament;
That he constantly fails to interpret correctly the Standing Orders of the House; and (fi) Of gross incompetency in his administration of Parliamentary procedure.
The Minister for Defence said that, in the last five years four motions similar to that which we are now discussing had been placed on the noticepaper. Because of that, he said the Government was entitled to treat this motion as being of no consequence. The honorable gentleman sought to draw the most extraordinary parallel between the Mother of Parliaments and this Parliament. It is well, therefore, that the difference between the conditions applying respectively in the United Kingdom Parliament and in this Parliament should be pointed out so that the people will not he confused by the Minister’s obvious attempt to mislead them by claiming that the two are comparable. The Speaker in the British House of Commons represents a constituency, it is true. But when he has been elected to the high office of Speaker, he holds that office, subject to good conduct, and is unopposed in his constituency by any political party. Consequently, he is in office, in effect, for life as a man who sits as a judge over the assembly of the Parliament. This Parliament, on the contrary, has an entirely different procedure, and that is quite sufficient to justify us in submitting a motion of no confidence in Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy Speaker whenever we feel inclined to do so. It may be assumed that when the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) submitted a motion of no confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker some months ago, he did so with a sense of responsibility, which was indicated by the grounds on which it was suggested in the motion that the House had no confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker. I listened with amazement to what the PrimeMinister had to say. As -I understoodhim, he said, “ The Parliament elected him “. Technically, that is true. In truth, only one election takes placefor the appointment of Mr, Speaker, and that takes place outside this Parliament. The right honorablegentleman’s view apparently was, “ We elected him and, whatever he does,, we are going to support him”. Therefore, I gather that it does not matter, as far as the conduct of this Parliament is concerned, whether Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy Speakerdoes or does not reveal seriouspartiality, does or does not support the Government and crack down upon the Opposition, does or does nol regard himself as the instrument of theLabour party instead of as the custodian of the rights and privileges of this House,, and does or does not interpret correctly the Standing Orders of the House.
– Order! The honorable member is proceeding to discuss a motion that is already on the notice-paper, He is entitled to refer to the attitude of the Government in not debating that motion, but he is not entitled to discuss its rights and wrongs.
– I am not attempting to do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am merely repeating what the Prime Minister has said upon the matter and seeking,, in my own way, to answer his statements. 1 understood him to say that, once an honorable member is placed in the chair as Mr. Speaker, it is the duty of the Government to uphold him in all circumstances. With great respect, that is a proposition which I very strongly resist. I am not speaking of any individual case,, nor am I seeking to canvass the motion on the notice-paper. ‘ At any time in this Parliament, if a question arises as to whether the Speaker for the time being is deserving of the confidence of the House, he should not be blindly supported by the government of the day. Indeed, there was an occasion when the parties now in opposition, but then in power, did not support a Speaker who had been their own nominee. When the late Sir George Bell was Speaker, the Prime Minister of the day, the late Mr. Lyons, moved disagreement with the ruling of Mr. Speaker and the motion was carried. That was an indication that it was not the function of a government to support the Speaker in all circumstances whatever his qualification or disqualification might be. In point of fact, the Standing Orders provide that any motion by any individual member who claims that the Speaker has lost the confidence of the House may come before the chamber at any time.
I shall say only a few more words about this matter, as it is not possible to deal with the entire motion within a period of 35 minutes. I refer briefly to the proposition that this Parliament is being brought into contempt by the action of the Government in .preventing it from functioning as a democratic parliament should function. I shall mention a number of matters. In the first place, this House has appointed a number of Deputy Chairmen of Committees. Some of these gentlemen have been drawn from the Government side of the House, and some have been drawn from the Opposition. I shall ask only one question and leave the subject at that. Can anybody remember how many times in the last ten years any of the Deputy Chairmen of Committees from the Opposition side have been asked to act as a Deputy Chairman of Committees ? I make no more comment. Secondly, I draw attention to the denial of information to members of Parliament who, in the pursuit of their public duties, are entitled to obtain information. This is of prime importance. As an example, I refer to one recent occurrence in connexion with a report upon the Northern Territory medical services. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has asked for a copy of that report, not once, but a number of times. He went to the Parliamentary Library and sought to obtain a copy by using the facilities that are open to every member of the Parliament. But he could not obtain a copy. A public document to which, by some means, the press gained access is denied to a member of the Parliament. Why? There is one reason and one reason only. The object is to stifle criticism of the Government. The report reflected gravely upon the Government’s conduct of medical services in the Northern Territory.
– It is awkward, and therefore confidential.
– That is so. Whenever members of the Government quote from such a document in this House, the Government - in my opinion quite unwarrentably - claims that it is priviledged. It does so, not because the document is in fact confidential, but in order to prevent members of the public from reading it. We have experienced such conduct time and time again. Information sought by honorable members on this side of the House has been refused. In truth, when we seek information at question time, which is a very ancient privilege, we rarely obtain any real information from the Government. Apparently Ministers consider that they are here, not to dis; charge their duties to the country, but instead to engage in propaganda. Therefore, this Parliament now acts merely as a rubber stamp. It no longer has control over the finances of the country. It no longer functions as a deliberative assembly. We, in opposition, are here merely because the Constitution demands that we be here in order to pass legislation, whatever the word “ pass “ means. It is true that we have met in this House on 230 days during the life of this Parliament, but it is not the length of time that we spend in debate that matters. It is what we do in debate and how debates are conducted that is important. I contend that this motion has been fully justified. To-day we are witnessing a great deal of degradation of the functions of the Parliament. That degradation has been principally due to the fact that the Australian Labour party has permitted some of its Ministers - although I excuse the majority of them - to engage in vilification, personal abuse, and intimidation of honorable members for the purpose of preventing criticism and advancing, so they think, the interests of the party. If the Government does not clean out the Augean stable, I hope, the public will do so very soon. I believe that the public will demand a better standard in the conduct of the business of the Parliament.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The indignation of honorable members opposite could be understood if they had practised in the past what they now preach. This criticism applies particularly to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender). Although the honorable member has spoken about the degradation of the Parliament honorable members can recall many instances of repeated interjections and misbehaviour by him when members on the Government side of the House were endeavouring to put a case or place facts before the House that were unpalatable to him. He has repeatedly been called to order by the Chair. I admit that in the past I have similarly offended. In this instance, however, I am defending the charge, not making it. In many instances the honorable member for Warringah has advanced second-hand information when addressing the House, and he has one of the worst records of attendance.
– I rise to order. I submit that the Minister is contravening the Standing Orders by making such a statement.
– What the Minister says is quite true.
– I think that the Minister is slightly out of order.
– If the records of this House were examined I am sure that the record of attendance of the honorable member for Warringah would be found to be among the worst. This is a statement of fact and is relevant to statements that have been made by the Opposition during this debate. The honorable member for Warringah has said that the Parliament is merely a rubber stamp for recording decisions. So far as he is concerned that may be so, because in his absence he is paired with a Government member who, in respect of this motion, has not protested. En that sense the honorable member brands himself as a party “ rubberstamper “ so far as this Parliament is concerned. The honorable member re ferred to the inability of the Parliament to discuss the motion of censure of Mr. Deputy Speaker that was moved during a previous sessional period of the Parliament. Honorable members opposite are experiencing an irritation because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was suspended from the service of this House last week.
– That is not true.
– In the past the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has taken a fiendish delight in either being suspended from the service of the House himself, or helping towards the suspension of other honorable members. Some honorable members can take suspension without protest. Last week the Leader of the Opposition was warned by Mr. Deputy Speaker to cease interjecting. As the right honorable gentleman continued to interject, Mr. Deputy Speaker took disciplinary action. I recollect an incident that occurred in this House in 1938 or 1939 concerning myself. The then Speaker, Sir George Bell, although a rigid disciplinarian, was a very just Speaker in every way. During the course of a debate he warned me to cease interjecting.
– Sir George Bell was a very good Speaker.
– Yes. The necessity to maintain discipline is something that the Opposition is not now prepared to admit when its members offend against standing orders, thus bringing down on their heads the disciplinary rules of this House. On the occasion to which I have referred, Mr. Thorby, the then Minister for Agriculture, was addressing the House. Under provocation, I ignored Mr. Speaker’s warning and was duly suspended from the service of the House. However, I took my medicine and did not complain. It is evident that some honorable members opposite are incapable of taking their medicine. During this debate the honorable member for Warringah has accused me of reflecting adversely on Australian prisoners of war. Although he mentioned specifically the debate in this House on the 25th March, 1947, a reference to Hansard proves that the honorable member is a “ mud-slinger “ of the worst kind. Speaking to the motion by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), for the formal adjournment of the House on that date, as reported in Hansard, volume 190, at page 1101 I said -
This is a matter on which one speaks without any relish or enthusiasm. It is a difficult subject to speak on impartially and factually, if one takes a certain point of view, without being described aa unfair and unsympathetic towards the prisoners of war. I am convinced that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), in stating the claims of the prisoners of war as ho has persistently done, is sincere, and that he believes that they have a legitimate claim against the Government; but I point out that all the men and women involved have been back in Australia for a considerable time after their trying experiences. Subject to correction, I say that they were all back in Australia prior to the last general election; yet not one political party, nor one candidate - unless it was the honorable member for Wimmera himself, for whom I have great respect in this regard - included this issue in a policy speech, nor stated that if his party were returned to power it would pay sustenance money to the persons concerned.
Et is proper that I should remind the House at this stage that when the honorable member for Warringah was Minister for the Army in a previous government he appointed himself a lieutenant-colonel. The honorable member for Warringah, who is a disorderly individual, interjected -
What relevance has that!
The Hansard report of my speech continues -
I am now stating the facts. This was a vital question, and it had been raised in this House previously, I think. There were in the parties represented by honorable members opposite some very eminent generals arid other officers who had served in the two wars. Apparently, they were unmoved by this claim, and did not bring any pressure to bear on their leaders to include it in the party platform.
The honorable member for Warringah interjected -
I cannot see what this has to do with the matter.
He was at it again. The report of my speech proceeds -
This is a subject upon which I could very well have dodged expressing an opinion. As for the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) we know that he never took, any risks of being a prisoner in any war.
The honorable member for Warringal! had provoked me, and I admit that my remark was not very nice. I continued -
Notwithstanding that, he promoted himself to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. I speak with a considerable amount of emotion on this subject.
The honorable member again interrupted, and said -
And with a good deal of stupidity.
He had no hesitation in expressing the view that I was a stupid person. Then you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, informed the honorable member for Warringah that he must remain silent, and I continued -
The honorable member for Warringah bought into this, and now he does riot like it. After the 1914-18 war and again after the recent war, the parties opposite consistently pointed to the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act as a measure which provided full compensation due to all returned soldiers, whether prisoner* of war or not. If, as the result of his war service, an ex-serviceman suffers physically from wounds, sickness, or disease which prevent him from resuming his civil occupation as efficiently as he would otherwise have resumed it, he is entitled to the compensation provided under the terms of the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act.
– Could not all that be taken into account by an impartial investigation!
– It could, but that is a feature of this subject which must not be overlooked. The claim has been made on behalf of men who suffered acutely and desperately in durance vile at the hands of the Japanese. If it were allowed, however, would not similar consideration have to be given to those who escaped from Greece into Albania and other countries and were finally rounded up by the Germans, and, similarly to those who were captured on other fronts, and those who suffered maltreatment in German hell-ships and upon whom grave mental and physical strain was also imposed during their incarceration in enemy camps? It will be recalled that during World War I. the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was captured by the Turks, deprived of his rations, lived as best he could on what he could “ scrounge “ from the Turks, and finally, when he escaped into Russia, had to pay out of his own pocket such sums of money as were necessary to buy food to keep him olive.
I notice that the honorable member for Warringah is leaving the chamber. He “ cannot take it “.
– I am not leaving- the chamber.
– I hope not, because I have not finished with the honorable member yet. The report of my speech continues -
The government of the day, however, did not recompense him for the loss of his rations during the period of his imprisonment and escape. There are other factors surrounding this case which so far have not been brought to light. My recollection of World War I. - and I refer to it with great diffidence - is that at that time King’s Regulations laid down that to bc taken prisoner by the enemy was a court-martial offence.
– What is the Minister trying to prove?
– I am trying to prove that my statements in that debate were not a reflection upon any ex-servicemen. My speech continued -
When I say that I do not wish it to be thought that I am reflecting in any way upon the nien who were the victims of the capitulation at Singapore or upon those who were captured earlier during the campaign on the Malay ‘Peninsula. The plain fact is that military authorities view surrender to an enemy as a court-martial offence.
– The Minister should be fair; at Singapore the troops obeyed an order to surrender.
– I am stating the facts a3 I understand them. Lt is possible - God forbid that it should ever happen - that we may be involved in another war at some later time and if this proposal te agreed to it may constitute an inducement, in the eyes of the military authorities-
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), another unruly member, interrupted me before I completed my sentence, t said -
The honorable member ran out of the Army and never went back to it to fight for his country. If he reflects upon my motives I am justified in indicting him. The plain fact is that the military authorities may view-
I emphasize the words “ may view “ - a demand for compensation of this kind as a precedent which may encourage men to become prisoners of war, perhaps in the hands of an enemy more merciful than the Japanese. These factors cannot be overlooked. I am willing and anxious-
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) then interjected, and, therefore, was unruly. He said -
To besmirch the name of your fellow Australians-
The honorable member tried to put into my mouth words that I had no intention of using, and, indeed, would never think of using. However, I continued -
During the last few weeks the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) has besmirched the names of many decent citizen? under the cover of parliamentary privilege. Honorable members will realize that this is a difficult question which must be tackled without bias. I have just as much sympathy for the men and the women concerned as has the honorable member for Wimmera, but we have to consider the degree of misery and suffering endured not only by those held in durance vile in the prison camps of the Japanese, but also by those who served right throughout the war on the battlefronts in which our forces were engaged. We must also consider the precedent established during World War I., when men similarly circumstanced were not compensated for the loss of their ration allowance.
At that stage, the time allotted to me expired. However, honorable members will realize from the speech that I have read that not once did I reflect on the prisoners of war concerned. Following that speech, I received a letter from the New South Wales ex-Prisoners of War Association, and on the 29th May, 1947. I addressed to that organization the following reply : -
Your letter of 26th instant to hand, conveying the text of a resolution carried at a meeting of members of your association and relating to a speech I. made in the Parliament in respect to a proposal to pay subsistence In ex-prisoners of war.
I note also the comments stated to have been expressed by those at the meeting and th* expressions of opinions over your joint namoi.
I naturally regret the attitude adopted b your organization and feel it can only have occurred as a result of a lack of opportunity on the part of all the members present at thi meeting to read exactly what I did say at reported in Ilansard. It may be that some members had only heard quoted And/or lead part of my remarks and consequently consider them out of their relationship to other portions of my speech.
I then referred to certain passages in my speech, and continued -
My expression of opinion as to the view point that may be held by military authorise* is, after all, only an opinion - perhaps an unjustifiable opinion and in no way a reflection on such authorities who may or may not hold such an opinion.
Your statement in reference to portion of in; speech “ you take shelter behind them and parliamentary privilege to justify your attitude “ - is uncalled for. I have never sheltered behind parliamentary privilege. A tactic of that type is not one of my characteristics. Every word of my speech, if necessary, 1 would willingly repeat outside the Parliament, conscientiously believing that I made no reflection on any one. particularly not prisoners of war. many of whom, both of the last war and this war, are my very close personal friends.
Notwithstanding the direct accusation contained in the final paragraph of your letter and which, on reflection I hope you will withdraw, f write you in the hope that your officers and members, after further and calmer considerawill realize your attitude is based on an incomplete analysis of my remarks.
The honorable member for “Warringah, after having accused the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) of all kinds of things, read passages from Ilansard in an endeavour to convey that I had reflected on prisoners of war. That was grossly untrue and uncalled for. My best answer to the honorable member is that, if required, I shall quote two members of the Opposition in my defence. They wrote to the New South Wales ex-Prisoners of War Association defending me in no uncertain manner. I shall not read their letters without their permission, but I have them. If the honorable member for Warringah desires to see those letters 1 shall show them to him.
– Why not read them ?
– Honorable members opposite do not readily come to the defence of honorable members on this side of the chamber unless they consider that we have been wrongly and unfairly treated. That is my answer to the honorable member for Warringah. We are familiar with his heroics, and his infrequent attendances here. The people will not be misled by his attempts to convey that honorable gentlemen opposite are paragons of excellence in their conduct and demeanour here. In the nature of things the members of a political party that is in Opposition tend to be more unruly than are members of the party that supports the Government. That remarks applies equally to a comparison of my conduct as a member of a former Opposition with my behaviour as a member of the present Government. It is only natural that the Chair should experience more difficulty with members of the Opposition than with members and supporters of the Government. At times the conduct of members of every opposition is such that it incurs the displeasure of the Chair and they have to be dealt with. Honorable members opposite have complained that supporters of the Opposition have been victimized by the Chair. Talk about unruly conduct and victimization ! I recall an occasion in this House, not so very long ago, when I was subjected to a continuous barrage of interjection from the Opposition from the moment that I commenced to speak. In fact, I could not make myself heard above the din. Subsequently, I received a large number of letters from people who had heard the broadcast of the proceedings, in which they complained that the conduct of members of the Opposition was a standing disgrace. I had a case to present but I was not allowed to explain it. I shall not mention the name of the honorable gentleman who occupied the Chair on that occasion, but I must say that it was not you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable gentleman concerned was probably asleep at the time, but in any event he was certainly partial to the Opposition. Among the members of the Opposition who persistently interjected on that occasion and prevented me from expressing my views were the honorable member for Warringah, and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who have complained so bitterly of the alleged prejudice displayed by you, sir, against the Opposition. After I had been so unfairly treated by the Chair on the occasion to which I refer, I did not complain and accuse the occupant of the Chair of bias against the Government; I just had to put up with it. It is nothing more than sheer humbug and foolery for honorable members opposite to endeavour to persuade people outside this chamber that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, favour members and supporters of the Government rather than members of the Opposition. Concerning their complaint of your alleged bias, let me recall the occasion not so long ago when you, sir, did me an injustice.
– Order ! The Minister must not reflect upon the Chair.
– I shall be generous, sir, and say that I do not know whether the injustice was conscious or unconscious. The fact is that I rose to speak on the third reading of a bill, but before I had an opportunity to say a single word, the question that the bill be read a third time was put and carried. I protested at the time and uttered some words of remonstrance. Had I been a member of the Opposition, it would have been alleged that the reason why you did not permit me to speak was that you were prejudiced against the Opposition. It is about time that members of the Opposition, who have been kicking up a terrible shindy for some time, realized that over a lengthy period they have been guilty of disorderly conduct in the chamber. The time has come for them to review their conduct so that they may behave a little more decently in future and cease making allegations such as those made by the honorable member for Warringah this afternoon. That honorable member behaved in a dirty, despicable and dastardly manner when he endeavoured to blacken my reputation in the eyes of the ex-servicemen of this country. In the course of his remarks the honorable member also referred to the Government’s refusal to make available a particular report. I remind him that when our respective positions in this chamber were reversed and he as the Minister for the Army was occupying the seat which I now occupy, I had occasion to ask him to make available for my examination a particular departmental file. He declined to do so, and I protested vociferously. I certainly made an emphatic protest against his refusal. Those honorable members who are sufficiently interested will find a report of what I said in Hansard. At the time I pointed out that in the Parliament of Victoria, of which T had formerly been a member, the practice of all governments was to make official files available for examination by honorable members who expressed a desire to peruse them. Of course, with the knowledge of procedure that I have obtained since becoming a Minister of the Commonwealth, I do not now blame the honorable member for the attitude that he adopted. However, the point is that although I felt aggrieved at the time and vented my indignation, I did not accuse the Government of doing me some grave injustice or the Chair of partisanship. Contrast my attitude then with that adopted by the honorable member to-day. He indulged in a lot of mock heroics, and complained most bitterly and dramatically of the Government’s refusal to make a document available for his perusal. Of course, all these grievances of the Opposition spring from the fact that they are suffering from a sense of political frustration. They have been in Opposition for nearly eight years, and there is not even a glimmer of political hope for them in the future. Indeed, they are doomed to extinction, with the Labour party in office in perpetuity. Under those circumstances they have to “ kid “ themselves that the people who are listening to the broadcast of their bedtime stories, such as those which they have been telling during this debate, will believe their tearful protestations of injustice.
.- I do not propose to intervene in the dispute between the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), but I think that I might be able to throw a little light on the matter. The Minister, who has taken such umbrage at the suggestion that he reflected on those mcn who were taken prisoner while fighting with the armed forces-
– You are going to repeat it! That is one of your tactics-
– Order ! - The Minister must not interrupt.
– I would suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Minister has already said much more than did the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) before he was thrown out of the House.
– Order ! The honorable member must make no reflections on the Chair.
– I was reflecting on the Minister-
– Order ! I hope that when the honorable member resumes his seat he will abide by the advice he has tendered so freely to supporters of the Government.
Government members interjecting,
-Order! The honorable member for Indi has the floor, and I will see that he is heard in silence.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Your remarks seem to have had the desired effect. I was saying that I was not going to put my interpretation on the remarks made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture concerning the prisoners of war, but merely proposed to remind the House that the prisoners of war have placed their own interpretation on them I leave it to the people to judge what interpretation should be placed on the Minister’s remarks. A circular letter was sent to me and to all my colleagues on this side of the House, and, apparently, to the Minister also, by the New South Wales Ex-Prisoners of War Association, Sydney. The circular, which is dated the 20th May, 1949, reads-
On behalf of the members of this Association I am forwarding a copy of letter sent to Mr. Pollard, M.H.R.
You will no doubt recall the implications made by Mr. Pollard on the floor of the House of Parliament as reported in Hansard, No. 7, dated25th-27th March, 1947. The letter to Mr. Pollard was as under - 17th May, 1949.
The Executive and Members of this Association still await your reply to our letter dated16th July, 1947.
We are of the opinion that you have had sufficient time to think of a reply, and we once again demand that you unreservedly withdraw the implication of your remarks made on the floor of Parliament as reported in Hansard, No. 7, dated 25th-27th March, 1947.
I notice that the Minister, who was so prompt to draw attention to the retirement from the chamber of the honorable member for Warringah while he was speaking, has now left the chamber. The circular continues -
We trust that sane thinking on your part will bring to a close this unpleasant incident and clear the name of such a fine body as the Australian Imperial Forces,who were, and are, like yourself - Australian.
That circular is addressed to the respective members of the Parliament, and it concludes with the following words : -
I shall be glad to have the assurance of your personal support to achieve the result demanded therein. Thanking you in anticipation,
Shadlow, Hon. Secretary.
That is the construction that the New South Wales Ex-Prisoners of War Association has placed upon the remarks of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture concerning men who were prisoners of war. If it is necessary to choose either the Minister’s or the association’s interpretation of the remarks, I and my colleagues on this side of the House prefer to accept the association’s point of view. Until the Minister complies with the request to withdraw the charge in the chamber in which it was made, a blemish will remain upon his reputation. Those remarks may seem to be rather wide of the motion that is now before the House.
– If they are wide of the motion, I remind the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) that the entire speech that was made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was equally wide, if not very much wider, of it.
The motion that is before the House claims that the Government is deserving of censure. The first charge contained in it is that the Government, by the use of its majority in this House, is unreasonably and improperly restricting the rights of private members and the electors that they represent. We know that that is so. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has referred to two glaring examples of the suppression of the rights of members of this House by the Government shortly before he gave notice of his intention to propose a motion of censure. It is not often that a private member introduces a bill into the Parliament. In fact, I can remember only two or perhaps three such bills being introduced during the last fifteen years. It is the right of members of the Parliament to introduce private members’ bills.
The Leader of the Opposition is now seeking to avail himself of that right, not only in his personal capacity but also on behalf of the whole of His Majesty’s Opposition. The right honorable gentleman has given notice of his intention to ask leave to introduce a bill to deal with a matter of the utmost urgency and importance. It is within the competence of the Government, recognizing that an Opposition in a British Parliament has certain rights, to provide an opportunity for that bill to be brought before the Parliament and at least to be explained if not debated to a conclusion. However, upon the decision of the Government, and, I believe, the personal decision of the Prime Minister, the bill that the right honorable gentleman desires to introduce has been placed in such a position on the notice-paper that there is no earthly hope of its objects even being explained to the Parliament. If that is not a suppression of the rights of private members by the use of the Government’s majority, I do not know what is. The Leader of the Opposition referred to other instances of the rights of private members and the electors they represent being negatived by the Government’s use of its majority in this House. I shall return to that matter shortly.
The second charge that is made in the motion is that the Government has disregarded the status of the Chair by permitting to remain for months on the notice-paper, partly debated but undetermined, a motion expressing want of confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker. The most elementary requirement for the proper functioning of a deliberative assembly such as a British Parliament is that the Chair shall be occupied by a man of whose competence and impartiality at least a majority of the members of the assembly have no doubt. There is on the notice-paper a very strongly worded motion that was proposed by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) when he was acting as Leader of the Opposition. It was proposed, not by an irresponsible newcomer or backbencher, but by a spokesman of His Majesty’s Opposition. The motion contains a grave charge-
– Order! The honorable gentle- man is not entitled to refer to that motion.
– I do not propose to refer to the details of it.
– It is on the notice-paper and cannot be discussed now.
– There is a motion on the notice-paper impugning the competence and impartiality of Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Government has treated that motion with contempt. It has not even sought to use its majority in the Parliament to bring the matter to a conclusion by taking a vote on it and discharging it from the notice-paper so that the Chair may be occupied by one whose competence and impartiality is not under challenge from within the Parliament. I am quite sure that this is not only without precedent in the history of this Parliament, but that it is completely in defiance of the established practices and traditions of British parliaments everywhere, to allow such a charge against a Speaker or Deputy Speaker to remain undischarged. The third count in the censure motion is, in effect, that the Government is permitting and encouraging personal, defamatory and threatening attacks upon Opposition members by Ministers, and so violating the decencies of political controversy. We know that that is true beyond argument. The records of Parliament are stiff with instances where Ministers as well as other Government supporters have made, and have continued to make from day to day, personal, defamatory attacks upon other honorable members, thus, as I have said, violating the decencies of political controversy. As the Leader of the Opposition said when he was speaking on this matter, it is not possible to dissociate the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) himself from this continued practice of his own Ministers of levelling defamatory attacks against other honorable members. We, who go into political life, are not thin-skinned. Surely none of us who come here expect to be immune from criticism. Those of us who take criticism of a legitimate kind too hardly will have a very unhappy life in politics. But surely there are some limits to criticism dictated by decency, which distinguish legitimate political criticism from personal, scurrilous abuse and defamatory attacks. Surely if the reputation of a government is to stand examination at all, and if a government has any regard for its own reputation, we could expect that its Prime Minister would not be content to endure a continuous succession of this kind of attack by his own Ministers. Surely we should not expect the Prime Minister, when his Ministers are challenged, to stand up, as we have seen the Prime Minister do time after time, and give encouragement and incitement to them and to other Government supporters, by justifying, supporting and succouring them in every defamatory attack that they care to engage in. The final charge which is levelled in this motion is that the Government - io exhibiting a contempt for the institution of Parliament and its function as the democratic forum of the nation.
The establishment of the three other charges certainly constitutes establishment of the final charge, because for a government to employ a majority of the Parliament to restrict the rights of private members and for its Prime Minister to encourage and support defamatory and intimidating attacks upon honorable members, is in itself to bring the institution of Parliament into disrespect. It is absolutely imperative, if we are to remain a well-governed country, if we are, in fact, to remain a practising democracy, that there shall be established, and continuously maintained, a respect for the institution of Parliament itself.
Silting suspended from 6 io 8 p.m.
– In order to appreciate the reason for such a strongly worded motion of censure, honorable members ought to consider the character of this Parliament, how it is composed and what its functions are. In a parliament elected under the British democratic system there is a Government and an Opposition, the House itself being presided over by a Speaker. Members of the Parliament, whether they be Government supporters or members of the Opposition, have their duties, and what is no less important, their rights. The Opposition, as such, has certain established and positive rights, a fact which distinguishes our form of government from the totalitarian systems. Out of this situation arises the fact that the Parliament consists officially of His Majesty’s Government, and also of His Majesty’s Opposition, the latter possessing rights, limited it is true, but just as clearly recognized as those of the Government. Of all the duties that devolve upon the elected representatives of the people, none is more important than that of preserving the character of the parliamentary institution that we have inherited, and which ha9 evolved through the sacrifices of our forefathers, many of whom suffered imprisonment, and some even death, in asserting their rights.
This censure motion does not come out of the blue; it results from a long series of incidents which, taken together, provoked the Opposition to protest against an attitude of the Government. The cumulative effect of those incidents has been a lowering of the status of the Parliament, and a loss of that respect in which it should be held, together with a loss of efficiency. Those incidents culminated the other evening in the suspension of the leader of His Majesty’s Opposition, an almost unique occurrence, which finally caused the Opposition to draw public attention to the arrogant behaviour of the Government towards the Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition was ejected from the chamber because he made three interjections. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), in the course of his speech, said that not one Communist was installed in the “ cooler “ by the Menzies Government, and not one had been prosecuted. We know that that statement was not in accordance with fact, and I should be very surprised if the Minister for Information was not also aware of that. The Leader of the Oppo=sition interjected to say -
We put quite a few in the “ cooler “.
That was not a particularly devastating interjection. It was certainly a statement of fact. Then, after some further exchanges, Hansard records, in italics -
Mr. Menzies interjecting,
The fact that the words were originally recorded in italic type indicates that the remark of the Leader of the Opposition was not audible to the reporter, and so was not . recorded, but everyone who is familiar with, the behaviour of the right honorable gentleman in this House will know that his interjection was not offensive. Finally, after the Minister for Information had repeated his statement, the Leader of the Opposition said -
The Minister must not tempt me or lie will get me into trouble.
Upon which, Mr. Deputy Speaker said -
Order! The right honorable gentleman will get into trouble if he does not desist.
The Leader of the Opposition then said -
Well, I do not want to be tempted by the Minister.
Mr. Deputy Speaker then said ;
Order! I name the right honorable member for Kooyong.
That is the form of words used as a preliminary to the suspension of a member and that was the incident for which the Leader of His Majesty’s Opposition in this Parliament was thrown out of the chamber. Every one who is familiar with proceedings in this Parliament knows that practically every speech evokes more interjections than those which lead to the ejection of the Leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member for Indi must now return to the subject before the Chair.
– In deference to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall make no further reference to that matter, other than to say that the Leader of the Opposition was deprived of his rights-
-The honorable member knows that interruptions during the course of an honorable member’s speech are disorderly. I ask him to discuss the subject before the chair.
– The Standing Orders provide that if an honorable member is suspended from the service of the House for a second time during a session, the suspension shall be for a week, and if for a third time, the suspension shall be for a month. It may not be important to an honorable member or his constituents for him to be suspended for a day, but it would be a serious thing for him to be out of the Parliament for a week. It would certainly bc a serious thing for the Leader of the Opposition to be out of the Parliament for a week, particularly in the short period during which the Parliament will be sitting before the next general election, which will be of a critical character, a factor which has important bearing on the incident. Members of the Opposition are familiar with the attempts made to intimidate them. Only this afternoon, a Minister of the Crown attempted to make reflections on a former Minister for the Army with no purpose other than to frighten him into silence. Fresh in our memories is the attempt to intimidate the honorable member for the Northern Territory into silence. I have a vivid recollection of an attempt to intimidate the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) into silence by saying that, during World War I., he was not a fighting soldier, hut was a clerk in the stores. The honorable member had to come into the Parliament, recount his military record and explain that he had served as a sergeant in a fighting unit. We are accustomed to attacks of that kind. One of the most recent examples of such conduct was the attempt made by the Minister for Information to intimidate and silence the honorable member for Maranoa by alleging that the honorable member had engaged in unscrupulous practices. I, too, have been the subject of intimidatory attacks of that kind. These attacks are part and parcel of the technique of the Australian Labour party, at the head of which stands the Prime Minister of Australia. Whenever we have a Blain incident, a Menzies incident, or any similar incident, the Prime Minister comes into the House to justify the intimidatory attacks of his own Ministers and, by so doing, incite them to continue their practices. The classic example of intimidation was the attack made on my leader, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), when he made a revelation which was inconvenient to the Prime Minister. Within 24 hours after he made his revelation two Commonwealth investigation officers, acting under the direction of the Prime Minister called upon the right honorable member for Darling Downs and attempted to interrogate him.
– No arrest has been made even yet.
– We knew the purpose of the Prime Minister then, just as we know the purpose of other Ministers who engage in these nefarious practices. They hope to silence the Opposition but they will never succeed, no matter how often they try to do so. Consider the change that has been brought about in the procedural course followed in the Parliament on the naming of an honorable member by the Chair. Before the regime of the present Prime Minister, when an honorable member was named, all business ceased until the Prime Minister came into the chamber to move for the suspension from the service of the House of the honorable member concerned. That practice was followed by the late Mr. Lyons and by the late Mr. Curtin. Indeed, it was followed by every Prime Minister in the Commonwealth Parliament until the present Prime Minister took office. The present Prime Minister, however, signifies his contempt of parliamentary precedent and practice, and of the very institution of the Parliament itself, by not bothering to come into the House, even when a very prominent member of the Opposition has been named by the Chair. I cannot refrain from referring to the fact that during the regime of the present Prime Minister, without whose consent and approval no member of the House should be ejected from the Parliament, 21 honorable members have been ejected from the House, every one of them a member of the Opposition. Of the 21 honorable members ejected no fewer than eighteen were former Ministers or Prime Ministers of this country, which shows that the penalty of suspension has been imposed not on irresponsible or inexperienced honorable members, but to a large extent on those who have been members of the Executive Council of His Majesty. We take this opportunity to draw attention to this Chifley contempt for the Parliament. The motion of censure proposed by the Leader of the Opposition has the solid support of all honorable members on this side of the House.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Harrison) put -
That the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- It is quite obvious that this motion of , censure has been moved because the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was ejected from the House last week for disorderly conduct. Until that incident occurred matters had been proceeding very smoothly in the chamber. This motion is being used as a counter-attack upon Mr. Deputy Speaker and upon the Government because Mr. Deputy Speaker has done his duty in the high office that he occupies. This is the usual technique of the Opposition. Last November, three Opposition members, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) were suspended from the services of the House within a relatively few minutes ‘ for disorderly conduct arising out of the same incident. Immediately, the Opposition moved a motion of no-confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker which has never been excelled for malice, rashness and spite. Later, two Opposition members spoke to that motion. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) said that the motion was the strongest ever moved in this chamber on that subject.
-Order! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to comment on that motion.
– I am merely making passing reference to it. I do not intend to go further into the matter except to say that the Government is being charged to-day with having reduced the status of the Chair; yet, Opposition members, by their own action in attempting to hold Mr. Deputy Speaker up to public hatred, ridicule and contempt, have done more to reduce the status of the Chair than anything that the Labour Government could ever do.
Opposition members do not confine their attacks to members of this legislature. Public servants and private citizens have been the subjects of their calumny and vile innuendoes. Let us consider this newest piece of political humbug on the part of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition has accused Government members and supporters of being character assassins. That is a fine phrase. According to the right honorable gentleman, we can all be roped together and branded as character assassins because last week the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) cast some reflection on the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). That honorable member immediately denied the Minister’s allegations flatly, and there, apparently, the matter ended. Later, however, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was asked whether he would appoint a royal commission to inquire into the Minister’s statement. The Prime Minister said, as he had always said on such occasions, that members of the Parliament make their own rules for their own guidance and for the conduct of the business of this House, and that they must be prepared to abide by those rules. The Opposition has made some play on the fact that the Prime Minister refused to appoint a royal commission or a select committee. Notwithstanding the humiliation that honorable members opposite have attempted to cause Mr. Deputy Speaker by the motion now on the notice-paper, the Leader of the Opposition, speaking to this motion of censure, again inferred bias and partiality on the part of Mr. Deputy Speaker. He said, in effect, that the Minister for Information had used words that were offensive to the honorable member for Maranoa, and that he should have been ordered to withdraw them. He then proceeded to deal with Standing Order 272. The House will recall that, when the incident occurred, the Minister for Information was reading a letter which he said he had received from a constituent of the honorable member for Maranoa. The honorable member for Maranoa interjected, “ That is a lie “. J do not think that any honorable member inferred that the honorable member for Maranoa was calling the Minister a liar. He was referring to what the person had written in the letter. What he meant was that the statement contained in the letter was a lie. Without reflecting on the subsequent action of Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think that the words were offensive not to the Minister, but to the writer of the letter. However, the honorable member for Maranoa was called upon to withdraw the words. It is suggested now that after the honorable member for Maranoa had been called upon to withdraw his offensive epithet, the Minister, too, should have been asked to withdraw his remarks. But I point out that the Minister was not using offensive epithets. He was making statements. Rulings given in this chamber since my membership of it lead me to the conclusion that offensive epithets must not be used, but that matters can be raised by a statement of facts. Such statements may, of course, be most humiliating to the honorable member about whom they are made. They may hurt him, but he cannot ask that they be withdrawn. If he so desires, he may later rise and make a personal explanation. Some people say that that ruling is wrong. It is a matter of opinion, but it is the precedent that has been established in this Parliament and it was followed by Mr. Deputy Speaker at the time in question. The matter, seemingly, was then ended. But what happened after that? The Leader of the Opposition moved a motion of censure of the Government based on the charges made against the honorable member for Maranoa. Further, when speaking to his motion, he altered certain words that were used by the Minister. He magnified them, wrapped them up in his own cogent oratorical phrase “ fraudulent rogue “ and broadcast them throughout the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member regard the words as a reference of good character?
– I know the meanings of words just as well as does the honorable member for Barker. He will realize that it was objected by the Leader of the Opposition that the honorable member for Maranoa had been, referred to as “ a fraudulent rogue “. Those were tho words used by the right honorable member. He altered the meaning of the Minister’s words, magnified them and broadcast them. The honorable member for Maranoa can scarcely be beholden to the Leader of the Opposition, who has done him a great disservice indeed. The Minister’s charge against the honorable member, if it were a charge, was vague and indefinite. It was something that had been mentioned in a letter written by a person who so far remains anonymous to this House. The charges wore denied in a personal explanation, but the Leader of the Opposition, seeking to emphasize the importance of his censure motion against the Government put forward in his rhetorical manner, the cogent phrase “fraudulent rogue”, and repeated his misinterpretation in a voice that made the words ring like a tocsin around the country. The Opposition has published the slander, if there was one. It has defamed itself by spreading the slander. What the Minister for Information said about the honorable member for Maranoa is the Minister’s own affair. He does not consult the members of the Government party about what he proposes to say in the House. We did not encourage him to say what he said. Nevertheless, it is charged against us by the Leader of the Opposition that we did encourage him. That is not so. Furthermore, since Mr. Deputy Speaker has charge of this House and controls its conduct, we cannot bo said to have permitted the Minister to make the charge. It i3 a unique and strange situation that a government should be the subject of a censure motion because of some action taken by the presiding officer. The Opposition is carrying on a feud against you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a most unedifying spectacle that is degrading to our parliamentary institution. The technique is simple and it may be stated in the following way: - “Quarrel with Mr. Deputy Speaker, and if you do not get your way, move a vote of no confidence in him. If you do not get satisfaction that way, then move a censure motion based upon the complaint and holding the Government blameworthy because rulings from the Chair do not suit you.”
The Opposition alleges that the Government is improperly restricting the rights of honorable members in this House. In answer to that, I say that the Government is very sensitive about the rights and privileges of honorable members and has constantly gone out of its way to arrange that the Opposition leaders should have the limelight in the House at hours nominated by Opposition members themselves. They have demanded and have been accommodated, like prima donnas, with the most favoured broadcasting hours. Yet they say that the Government is restricting the liberties of honorable members! Every honorable member with a knowledge of the Standing Orders knows that it is possible for him to be heard in Parliament on any subject that he may care to raise. Furthermore, the present Government has met on an almost record number of days. Like most honorable members, I deplore personal attacks on individuals. There is too much of that sort of thing from .both sides in all ‘parliaments. But I do not think that the Government can reform politicians overnight. That sort of thing has been going on ever since democratic government has been established. What we can do is amend the Standing Orders to provide for disciplinary action to be taken against any honorable member who makes false statements regarding any person outside this House. I do not think that the people regard very seriously what one honorable member may say about another honorable member inside this House, because an honorable member who is maligned, can answer the charges on the spot. He has the right to counter attack here and make his reply immediately. But persons outside the House have not the same rights and privileges as we have. Irretrievable harm might be done by statements relating to people outside the Parliament. Fortunately, in my opinion, this does not often occur. However, as a member of the Standing Orders committee, I should welcome an opportunity to suggest some amendments to the Standing Orders of this House that are badly needed. Members of the public might very easily get a wrong impression of the Parliament from what they hear over the air and what they read in the newspapers. Generally there is a splendid feeling of friendship and understanding between honorable members of this House, whatever their political views happen to be, and there is no man in Australia with a more amiable, pleasant and charitable nature than that of the Prime Minister. I am sure that he would not condone an injustice of any kind. He has told honorable members opposite that, if they do not like the Standing Orders, he will be very accommodating and help them to reform the rules of conduct and debate. The censure motion is really an attack upon our Standing Orders, and the matters that have been debated have no great significance except in relation to much-needed amendments of the Standing Orders As I have said, honorable members opposite, with a knowledge of the Standing Orders as they are, can raise almost any subject that they want to air in this House. This Parliament has sat on almost a record number of occasions, and Opposition mem- bers have had plenty of time and opportunities to discuss matters in which they are interested. A member cannot be prevented from raising any matter that he wants to raise. The passing of motion; is another matter. But can honorable members opposite complain that the Government is blame-worthy because the electors did not return them with a majority in this House? The censure motion is unwarranted, unjustified, reckless, ill considered and ill advised. It deserves to be dismissed with contempt.
. ‘ - I have never before listened to so much humbug and nonsense in this House as was contained in the address of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams). The honorable member went to great length to explain his contention that the censure motion now before the House was intended by the Opposition to destroy the dignity of the Chair. He suggested that the Minister had every right to rely on the contents of a scandalous anonymous letter when attacking the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). I remind the House that the Minister prefaced his remarks by saying that he had waited for a long time to “get” the honorable member for Maranoa. That proves .conclusively that the Minister was making a premeditated attack upon the honorable member’s character. The honorable member for Robertson endeavoured to show that that remark by the Minister was made merely by chance and did not mean anything.
– It was not an anonymous letter.
– As lots of things have had a flavour of anonymity about them recently, perhaps I had better not deal too deeply with that aspect of the matter.
-Order! The honorable member for Wentworth should not encourage interjections.
– I am merely defending myself because the Chair did not take notice of the interjection.
– I , ask the honorable member to withdraw that reflection on the Chair.
– I withdraw the remark and hope that I shall be protected by the Chair from any further interjections. The honorable member for Robertson then made play on the fact that when the honorable member for Maranoa used the expression, “ It was a lie “, he was forced to withdraw the remark. I shall parallel that occasion with an incident that occurred earlier in this debate to-day. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made a certain statement concerning the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, although the Minister replied that it was a dastardly lie he was not called upon to withdraw that remark. If the dignity of the Chair is to be destroyed it will be done either by the Chair itself or by the Government. The honorable member for Robertson said that the Leader of the Opposition had applied his own interpretation to the statement of the Minister for Information concerning the honorable member for Maranoa and had used the words “ a fraudulent rogue “. The honorable member for Robertson then said that the term “ a fraudulent rogue “ was not to be compared with the expression “ Its a lie “ which was used by the honorable member for Maranoa. He then asked what other inference could be drawn from the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition than that the honorable member for Maranoa was a “ fraudulent rogue “. The honorable member for Robertson therefore appeared to be using the very technique which he asserted the Opposition was using.
I point out that all of the 21 suspensions from the service of this House during the present session have involved Opposition members,eighteen of whom were ex-Ministers. It is apparent that if there is any intimidation of Opposition members, it must be attributed to the government which takes such action with relation to the suspensions. Moreover, we have noticed repeatedly the cunning and knowing leers of honorable members on the Government side of the House when something happens to the detriment of the Opposition. In fact, this leering combined with the subsequent action usually taken by the Government, has come to be accepted by the general public. This technique and form of intimi dation is well recognized as being adopted by Ministers particularly. Not long ago the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) was warned that if he persisted with a certain line of attack, matters associated with him would be exposed in this House. That was an attempt to prevent the honorable member from carrying out his duties. It matters not whether the implications inherent in these incidents are true or otherwise. I also recollect that on one occasion the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) was told by a government official who is now occupying a high post overseas that if he did not remove a certain question from the notice-paper he would be subjected to some form of exposure with regard to his actions whilst a prisoner of war. The in timiddatory action that has been taken against the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), who is subjected in this House to great personal attacks by Government members, is well known. An attempt has been made to intimidate him because- he dares to attack the Government on political lines. The honorable member for Reid has been forced to take action on his own behalf to protect himself. In the past censure motions have been moved by the Opposition against the Government ‘because of acts of omission and commission. At times they have been moved because of lack of administrative action, and at other times because of some specific administrative action that has been taken. Censure motions have also been launched against the Government because of the way in which it has implemented its policy. But this is the most serious form of censure motion that can be directed against any government. It is a censure motion directed against the Government for attempting to interfere with parliamentary procedure. Indeed, the destruction of the Parliamentary institution itself is involved in our attack. There is no more serious form of censure that can be levelled against a government than that which has been adopted on this occasion. It is epitomized in the last paragraph of the motion which accuses the Government of exhibiting a contempt for the institution of Parliament as the democratic forum of the nation. Although this is the most serious form of censure possible it will not be given serious consideration by the Government. I am only the fifth member of the Opposition to be afforded an opportunity to speak on this motion, and I am confident that the Opposition will be gagged before the debate has run its full course. Being fully aware of the Government’s technique, I shall be astounded if the debate is not gagged later this evening. Judging by the expression on the face of the “ Minister for Gags “, he appears to be sharpening his teeth in anticipation. I am quite sure that this serious matter will be passed over in a cavalier fashion as being of no great moment.
It has been suggested by honorable members on the Government side of the House that this motion has been moved in a fit of pique because last week the Leader of the Opposition was suspended from the service of the House. That is entirely untrue. The moving of the motion may be regarded as the culmination of numerous incidents in this House which have caused the Opposition to view with concern the trend in connexion with parliamentary procedure and the maintenance of the parliamentary institution. I shall now examine the terms of the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. The first paragraph of it reads -
That the Government -
by the use of its majority in this House is unreasonably and improperly restricting the rights of private members and the electors they represent;
We have had some experience of the way in which the Government has used its majority in this House to restrict unreasonably and improperly the rights of private members and the electors whom they represent. The Leader of the Opposition has already made a dissertation in this matter. He pointed out that as the representative of the political parties constituting the Opposition in this chamber, he gave notice of his intention to introduce a private member’s bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The bill relates to a matter of considerable public importance, because it is directed against control of unions by Communists. But this Government, true to its policy and technique, decided to deny the Leader of the Opposition the right to introduce the bill, and resorted to political tactics to achieve its end. By the use of its majority, the Government ensured that government ‘business should take precedence over private members’ business, although only one day a month is allotted to private members to introduce bills or discuss matters of importance to their constituents. The Government also restricted the debate on “ Grievance Day” last week. On such an occasion, private members have an opportunity to ventilate the grievances of their electors, but after the debate had proceeded for about an hour, the Government gagged it. Those examples demonstrate the way in which the Government is unreasonably and improperly restricting the rights of private members and the electors whom they represent. In my opinion, and, I believe, in the opinion of most thinking people, responsible government rests upon certain fundamental principles, such as the obedience of a government to the people; obedience to the tradition of collective Cabinet responsibility, and the recognition of the Parliament as the body in which the will of the people may be expressed and obeyed. But this Government has completely disregarded that principle, and it is treating the Parliament with the utmost Contempt. In a speech in this House recently, the Prime Minister said that he would determine what was to he debated and how long such a debate should proceed. Honorable members opposite may claim that the Prime Minister, as the leader of the Government, has the right to determine those matters, but I submit that the right honorable gentleman uses that right to excess. Repeatedly when bills are introduced, honorable members are told that the Government will not accept any amendments, because caucus has already considered and approved those measures. Under such conditions, this Parliament is no longer a responsible deliberative body, because supporters of the Government are pledged to follow the dictates and decisions of caucus. When the Prime Minister says that he will determine this matter and that matter, he is disregarding the rights of His Majesty’s Opposition, because he is assuming the role of a dictator, and saying, in effect, “ I will determine these matters and members of the Opposition have no right whatever in this chamber, even though they represent a large number of people “.
The time allotted to me in this debate is rapidly running out, and I know that the Government will not grant me an extension of time. Therefore, I hasten to make a few observations about the second paragraph of the motion, which reads as follows: -
That the Government -
is disregarding the status of the Chair by permitting to remain for months on the notice-paper, partly debated, but undetermined, a motion of no-confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I have an excellent reason for referring to that matter, because I submitted that motion of no-confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker. After a brief discussion, the debate was adjourned and the Government has not permitted the House to continue it. Is it to be wondered that a member of the Opposition has submitted such a motion? I remind the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear), who is Mr. Speaker, has violated the Standing Orders by criticizing very bitterly the justices of the High Court. The honorable member for Dalley - I speak of him in that capacity, not in his capacity as Mr. Speaker - is reported as having said in this House on the 9th October, 1947-
In defiance of the mandate of the people, the trading banks had appealed to the High Court against the order to public bodies to bank with the Commonwealth IBank. The Government and the people had been knocked back by seven incompetent septuagenarians.
My comment is that if the source of the stream is muddy, the stream can never run pure. I mention that matter in passing, because I have not derived any pleasure from submitting a motion of noconfidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, I consider that I should make that observation because it gives some indication of the reasons that prompt the Opposition to criticize the Government on this occasion.
Replying to the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister said that some honorable members of ‘this chamber, including myself, had made charges in the House against public servants, and had gravely reflected upon private citizens. The right honorable gentleman then stated that an honorable member who made such statements in this chamber should be subject to the ordinary processes of the law. In his anxiety to defend the defamatory statement by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), and while he was still smarting under the attack by the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister forgot his own vulnerability. If his suggestion were adopted, the Prime Minister himself might be forced to defend utterances that he has made in this chamber, which ho described as a “ coward’s castle in Canberra “. Honorable members will recall that, after seeking to intimidate the Leader of the Australian Country party in the secret documents . case, the Prime Minister referred to a public servant, the private secretary of the Leader of the Australian Country party, as an “ urger “. The victim of that attack did not have the right to defend himself in this chamber. The general meaning of “ urger “ is a low-down heel “, the “ lowest of the low, found on race-courses “, or a “ tout “. The Prime Minister was well aware of the implication that might be placed upon his use of that term. But the right honorable gentleman did not stop there. This Simon Pure of politics referred to Mr. Simon Isaacs, who was conducting tha defence of Mr. “Jock” Garden in the New Guinea timber lease case, as a “ larrikin lawyer “. The Prime Minister made that statement, not outside the House, but in this so-called “ coward’s castle”. What is a “larrikin”? _ The dictionary states that a larrikin is an Australian hooligan. If the Prime Minister were to repeat outside the Parliament the remark that he made concerning Mr. Isaacs he would probably find himself in a court of law. His scathing reference to Mr. Isaacs not only antagonized the bar but also aroused resentment in five members of the jury that was empanelled to try Garden on a charge of forgery. The jurors concerned said that Mr. Isaacs did his job well, and commented favorably on his conduct of the case. I venture to say to the Prime Minister that if the parliamentary privilege that he has criticized had not been operating when he made those references he would in all probability have been the defendant in an action for defamation. The right honorable gentleman, who visualizes himself as an Australian edition of the homespun Lincoln, and sets himself up as a Simon Pure, would establish one rule for himself and another for other honorable members. The right honorable gentleman should reflect upon his own utterances before he castigates other honorable members for the statements that they have made in this House.
How did the Prime Minister react to the Mountjoy case? Honorable members will remember that in 1945 Mr. Mountjoy, who was then a member of this House, and is now a member of the Executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, placed a question on the notice-paper which implied that Mr. A. R. de Barclay, the secretary of the Sane Democracy League, held an interest in a select house of assignation in Sydney, and that he was also financially interested in what was described as “ a similar business at King’s Cross”. Can any one imagine a more dastardly assertion, particularly when Mountjoy must have realized that the tenant, apart altogether from the owner of the premises, must suffer for the libel? Indeed, the tenant wrote to me and said that he had no knowledge whatever of Mr. de Barclay and, of course, indignantly repudiated the other allegations. The statement was defamatory, not only of de Barclay, but also of the owner of the premises. How did the Prime Minister react to that incident? Did he discipline Mr. Mountjoy? No, he gave him a position on the former Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which was a position of trust and one of the highest posts in the public service. When the incident to which I have referred took place I attacked Mr. Mountjoy in the House. Do honorable members suggest that conduct such as his should go unchallenged ? The Prime Minister made no attempt to dis- cipline the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) for the slanderous statements that he made concerning the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). Indeed, the Prime Minister went out of his way to advise the honorable member for Lang that he should not speak in the House on the matter because he alleged that the Leader of the Opposition had “ double-crossed “ him. The right honorable gentleman knew perfectly well that there was not the slightest foundation for the statements made by the honorable member for Lang concerning the honorable member for the Northern Territory, who was a man of excellent character and possessed an impressive record of service in two wars. Eventually, of course, the honorable member for Lang had to retract his baseless allegation, but I emphasize that he did so only after the Privileges Committee had inquired into the matter and made a certain recommendation. The Prime Minister did not emerge too well from that incident. The right honorable gentleman, also criticized me for having made statements in the House from time to time concerning certain matters. I made those statements because I believed that the matters to which they related were scandals that should be exposed in the public interest. The duty of revealing such matters devolves more upon members of the Opposition than upon supporters of the Government because, as the Prime Minister appears to have forgotten, the purpose of the official Opposition is to exercise a check upon the activities of the government of the day. I remind the right honorable gentleman that had I not exposed those scandals, which reflected most unfavorably upon the Government and some of its members, the public might never have learned of them. Take, for example, the Keane trunks case. Trunks containing £1,230 worth of dutiable goods were seized by the customs. Those goods belonged to the late Senator Keane, who, until his death a short time previously, had been Minister for Trade and Customs. I first raised this matter during the election campaign, and outside the House. I was liable to the full force of law.
– The man. concerned was dead!
– But there were others alive who could easily have taken legal action against me, as the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) knows.
– The honorable member did not name them.
-Order! The Minister must not interrupt the honorable member who has the floor.
– I made a number of statements in connexion with the Keane trunks case outside the House, and my allegations were not challenged. I asked questions in the House concerning the matter, and the Government admitted that the information on which my questions were based was correct. The Government has taken no action to make a thorough investigation of that matter, which can only be regarded as a public scandal. The reason why I revealed that scandal was that it was a matter of very serious public concern, and it was necessary that it should he exposed. However, the Prime Minister suggested that we should have remained silent about it. To have done so would have been to betray the trust that we hold as the official Opposition, and indeed to have condoned the offence.
Consider the case of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), which was another matter that probably irked the Prime Minister. In 1945 or 1946, the honorable member, who is a barrister-at-law, was given a licence to import £2,700 worth of Swiss watches. At that time regular jewellers and watchmakers could not obtain watches or watch parts. Does the right honorable gentleman suggest to-day that I should not have exposed that matter? If so, then I should like to know exactly why the Prime Minister, as head of his political party, took action to withhold from the honorable member the endorsement of the Australian Labour party for the forthcoming election. I am not dealing in any detail with the matters that I have mentioned, but they are most pertinent to the criticism that the Prime Minister has made of my actions. Let me deal for a moment with the dismissal, in April, 1947, of four officials of the Prices Branch. Some of those officials were prosecuted as the result of the revelations that I made. Had I not exposed the malpractices of the officials concerned, who were employed to protect the public by ensuring that butchers did not retail meat at more than the fixed price, a number of housewives would ultimately have had to pay higher prices for their meat to offset the cost of the bribes given to the officials concerned. Does the Prime Minister suggest that I should have remained silent and permitted the housewives to be exploited? Let me recall another scandal connected with the sale by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission of surplus military clothing. That clothing was sold to a dealer as rags. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), who was a member of the Government at that time, was involved in the matter, .because the commission was under the control of the department that he administered. The malpractices of certain individuals were exposed by the materials officer, who gave me permission to use his name. When I referred to the matter in the House I quoted his name, and his allegations were supported by members of the Minister’s own advisory panel. The officers responsible for disclosing those dishonest practices were dismissed, and although some of them were subsequently reinstated, the honorable member for Werriwa had to admit that most of the allegations made against his administration were justified. Furthermore, the operations of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission were severely criticized in a report of the Auditor-General. Because of that criticism the Government appointed an officer to investigate matters, but he did not even deem it worth his while to get in touch with my informant before he furnished a white-washing report. Does the Prime Minister suggest that rackets of that kind by which the Australian taxpayers were defrauded should not be exposed ?
I turn now to the disclosure that I made that the Commonwealth Disposals Commission had sold aircraft to an individual who was one of the legal owners of Marx House, which is the head-quarters of the Australian Communist party. That individual was then the managing director of an airline company known as Asian Airlines Proprietary Limited. I remind the House that for some time Asia has been the hunting ground of Communists, and that as the result of their activities, revolt and murder were at that time replacing the orderly rule of law in Malaya. Does the Prime Minister suggest that that disclosure should not have been made? The articles of association of the company that I have mentioned are available for inspection at the office of the Registrar-General in Sydney, where any one may inspect them after payment of a search fee. An examination of those documents revealed that the company intended to conduct an air service to Asian countries. Let me recall the incident that arose following the disclosures that I made. As I explained to the House on a former occasion, I was misled by an officer of the Commonwealth Investigation Service, who led me to believe that four individuals who were associated with the company were Communists, and I made that assertion in this House. Later, when I learned that I had been misled concerning those four individuals, I made amends by revealing the facts to the House, and I tendered a public apology to the men concerned. The statements that I made in the Parliament were, of course, privileged, and I was under no compulsion to apologize for them. Yet, in justice to the individuals concerned I declined to take advantage of a “ coward’s castle “ to let the mud, which I had thrown, stick, and I took the honorable course of withdrawing the allegations that I had made.
A peculiar psychology appears to have been developed in Government circles since Labour has been in office. The policy pursued by members and supporters of the Administration is : “ Save the Government’s name at all cost, even if it involves covering up malpractices and irregularities. Above all, never hold a royal commission into anything, no matter how bad it seems, because royal commissions can call evidence on oath, and some nasty facts might be adduced against us in that way “. The only occasion when an exception to that rule is made occurs when the Government feels assured that if a royal commission is appointed its report will be favorable to it. The present Government, which is pledged to implement socialism, and intends ultimately to replace the Parliament, which is a democratic institution, by a supreme economic council to rule the “ planned state,” has no sympathy for an Opposition in the Parliament. In its view the Opposition is a stumbling block to the fulfilment of the Government’s plans to socialize completely the means of production, distribution and exchange. The kernel of thi9 motion is that the Government is exhibiting a contempt for the institution of Parliament and its function as a democratic forum of the nation. This is the most serious censure motion that has ever been launched against an Australian Government. It transcends administration and policy and goes down to the root of the matter. Does the Government intend to preserve the procedures and traditions of parliamentary institutions, or does it intend to destroy them? I believe that every action that has been taken by this Government, every leering look of honorable members opposite that has accompanied a decision unfavourable to the Opposition and every form of intimidation of members of the Opposition that it has indulged in form part of a pattern. This motion should be carried. I believe that the people are fed up with this Government and wish to see the institution of parliament restored to democratic lines.
– Whether the people of this country are fed up with this Government or whether they still hold the Opposition in the contempt in which they have held it for the last eight years will be determined within a few months. I have no doubt that the Government’s record in regard to administration, legislation and the conduct of the business of Parliament will be adjudged by the people to be better than that of any anti-Labour government that has preceded it. Honorable members opposite are working themselves up into a fine frenzy. We have just heard the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), in a somewhat ecstatic mood, plead the cause of his party in the interests of parliamentary freedom. When the Prime Minister described this motion as a curious one, ha was being charitable. The right honorable gentleman might well have described it as both curious and spurious. There is nothing in either this motion or in the motion that has been submitted by the honorable member for Wentworth concerning you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that is not part of a smear campaign against the Government commanding as it does a majority of the votes of the electors of the country. The thing that is wrong with honorable gentlemen opposite, is that they are in the outer darkness of opposition and are unable to do the things that they did when they formed the Government of Australia.
The first portion of the motion that is before the House alleges that the Government, by the use of its majority, is unreasonably and improperly restricting the rights of private members. I have had some figures taken out which show how the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Parliaments of the Commonwealth have been conducted. During the lifetimes of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Parliaments, from 1932 to 1940, the House met on 477 days. During the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Parliaments - and I remind honorable members that the Labour party was in office for only two of the three years of the life of the Sixteenth Parliament - the House has met on 582 days, and the sittings have not yet finished. During the sittings of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Parliaments, when we were in Opposition, seventeen members of the Labour party were suspended. Nobody was suspended during the sittings of the Sixteenth Parliament. During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Parliaments there have been 21 suspensions of honorable members opposite, some of them being for second offences. The suspensions have been accompanied by mock heroics and very often have been imposed as a result of the gangster tactics adopted by honorable gentlemen opposite in organizing themselves to shout down Government speakers. On one occasion three honorable members were suspended in one evening. Those are the people who talk about their conduct! During the sittings of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Parliaments, when the anti-Labour parties were in power, the gag was applied on 171 occasions. Although the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Parliaments have sat for 582 days, the Labour Government has applied the gag on only 77 occasions. When the anti-Labour parties were in power the gag was applied, on an average, once every three days, but it has been applied by us only once every fifteen days. Honorable gentlemen opposite, these paragons of parliamentary virtue, claim that they have not been given an opportunity to speak on “ Grievance Day “. Listeners throughout the Commonwealth could be misled into believing that anti-Labour governments scrupulously honored a system of having a “ Grievance Day “ once every month. During the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Parliaments, when the anti-Labour parties were in office, there were only 26 “Grievance Days “. During the sittings of the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Parliaments there have been 27 “ Grievance Days “. Honorable members opposite have very little to complain about therefore, on that score. At the end of every sitting day the motion for the adjournment of the House provides an opportunity for honorable members opposite to make statement regarding administration, to suggest legislation or to deal with any matter about which they feel strongly. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) does not regularly take advantage of that opportunity. I think I heard him talk on one occasion about Phelan’s greyhound dog. During the 582 days on which the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Parliaments have sat, honorable members opposite have exercised their right to speak on the motion on the adjournment of the House on only 75 occasions.
– Do not wake them up.
– I do not propose to wake them up. They have failed to utilize their opportunities because of their own physical indolence and their own intellectual sterility. When the antiLabour parties were in power they did not hesitate to apply the “guillotine”, which was their favorite weapon. It was almost as popular with them as it was with the revolutionaries in the time of the French revolution. In those days many Labour members who wished to address the House were, owing to the operation of the “ guillotine “, unable to do so. In the Fourteenth Parliament, the first Lyons Government applied the “ guillotine “ sixteen times. The Lyons Government and the Menzies Government applied it on six occasions during the life of the Fifteenth Parliament. It was not applied during the sittings of the Sixteenth Parliament because the anti-Labour parties did not have the necessary numbers to enable them to do so.
– Nor did the Labour party.
– We got the numbers later, and that is why honorable gentlemen opposite are where they are to-day. In the Seventeenth Parliament, we applied the “guillotine” on four occasions only, and in the Eighteenth Parliament we have applied it very lightly. Honorable members opposite want to maintain the pretence that we are denying them liberty of expression. We give them every opportunity to express their views, but they are either incapable of taking advantage of the opportunity or are unwilling to do so. On the 24th September, 1935, when the Labour party was in opposition, a want of confidence motion based upon a number of grounds was subknitted. The first ground was the flagrant neglect by the Lyons Government of its duty to the people by failing to call the Parliament together on more than 39 days in twelve months. The anti-Labour parties had large majorities in both Houses of the Parliament at that time, when 300.000 decent Australians were hawking their labour from factory gate to factory gate or walking the roads of this country. The people who were in power in those days wanted to keep the Parliament in recess so that the democratic members of the Parliament would have no opportunity to draw attention to the shocking sufferings of a very large but worthwhile section of the Australian people. Yet we hear this talk of negation of opportunity, and even in the motion it is stated that the Government -
Among other things, honorable members opposite say that the Government has not brought forward for further discussion a motion of no confidence directed against Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Clark). That portion of the motion itself is the quintessance of everything that is indecent in political life. It represents just a smear campaign against Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is no foundation for any of the charges contained in the motion, yet honorable members opposite ask why we do not bring it forward and have it disposed of. They say that such delays should not occur. We can apply that criterion to events of the past. The honorable and distinguished member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), who is a very brilliant member of this Parliament, on the 1st June, 1939, gave notice of motion of dissent from the ruling of the then Speaker, Sir George Bell. That item was still on the noticepaper on the 14th March, 1940, nine months later, without having been discussed once, and the prorogation of the Parliament wiped the notice-paper clean with that undiscussed notice of motion still on it. Yet those honorable gentlemen opposite who assisted in such acts tell us that we have been very unfair to Mr. Deputy Speaker by not discharging the motion regarding him. I ask the House and those, listening on the radio all over Australia to judge the truth or falsity of that statement. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has been attacked to-night. Yet, I say, he is the mostdignified member of this chamber, and suffers the provocation, the attacks and the innuendoes of honorable members opposite, with a quiet dignity that they might try to emulate. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) to-night attacked the Prime Minister for calling Mr. Simon Isaacs a “larrikin lawyer “. I leave Mr. Issacs to the tender care of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) at a later date.
– That will be the day
– That will be the night! The honorable member for Wentworth, who is so glib of tongue and such a self-righteous individual - when it comes to making attacks the halo seems to fit too tightly on his head - talked about what has frequently been called the Keane trunks case. I remember when he first raised that matter in this House. He asked a question about it on the 7 th November, 1946, and another on the following day. On the same night he also spoke on it during the adjournment debate. On the 13th November, 1946, he again asked a question, and a week later he asked another question, on the same subject. He asked a further question on it on the 27th March, 1947. He has repeatedly trudged through mud and slime from the front Opposition bench to the opposition side of the table to pour his bucket of filth on the memory of the late Senator Keane. He did so again on the 31st October, 1947, on the 6th November, 1947, the 18th February, 1948, and the 27th February, 1948. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) also raised that matter in this chamber, but not in the same indecent fashion. The honorable member for Wentworth knew, when he spoke about the Keane trunks case - and ho spoke with great malevolence - that he was besmirching the memory of a man who was dead, that nobody could take an action against him because a dead man cannot be libelled. The honorable member for Wentworth had no right to use the word “ Keane “ in connexion with charges that allegedly affected the activities of public servants. By doing so he has smeared the name of the late senator, knowing full well that 90 per cent, of the articles contained in those trunks were purchased after Senator Keane died. The invoices prove that. He raised the same matter again to-night, quite gratuitously, and claimed that he had done a virtuous act by raising it. His actions have proved that the Prime Minister was right when he condemned him for the manner in which he has attacked honorable members both inside and outside Parliament, and also other people. I should have thought that he was the last man that the Opposition would choose to raise issues of this sort. The attack that he has made by implication upon the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) was scandalous. He said that an officer had come and told him certain things, and as a result of what he had said in this House charges were made against certain officers, who were disciplined. The truth of the matter is that the officer who ran like a cur to him, thereby violating his own oath of office, was not a very respectable citizen anyhow. The honorable member for Werriwa, as the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Salvage Commission, actually had an inquiry made, and completed, and the whole matter cleaned up six weeks before the honorable member for Wentworth raised the subject in the House. What the honorable gentleman did was to rake through garbage cans and throw a few of the diseased morsels he had fished out across the table of this House: Then the honorable member raised the subject of the secret documents. I was wondering when the Opposition would return to that matter again. But the less honorable members opposite say about it in future, the better for them.
– Why does not the Government do something about that matter ?
– We have done everything, and we know everything, about it. The leaders of the Opposition parties know that we know everything about it, and are not prepared to raise the matter again. Let the honorable member who has just interjected move the adjournment of the House to debate that matter to-morrow, if he wishes to find out whether I am speaking the truth.
Mr. Archie Cameron interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Barker must cease interrupting.
– That matter will never be raised again. We know who obtained the documents, and how.
– Then they were not forged ?
– We know the criminals whom the Opposition employed to obtain them. Honorable members opposite have talked a lot about the characters of members of their own side. But they laugh with smug satisfaction when their de facto leader, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) attacks both honorable members and people outside this House. They offered no protest when the honorable member for Reid attacked at least twelve reputable people, and called them Communists. As a result of that attack one person commited suicide. Honorable members opposite believe that such actions are fair and proper. All their attacks are designed to try to besmirch the record of this Government and its supporters. Last week the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) glared around this chamber, and waving his finger cut the air, in all directions, and said, regarding a statement from this side of the House, “ This is character assassination worthy of the Communists “. The Communists have a lot to learn about whispering campaigns and character assassination from members of the Liberal party, who have been at it all their lives. Statements by the honorable member for Wentworth to-night against the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein), who, he noticed, was not in the chamber when he made them, were false and improper. The honorable member for Watson will have his opportunity to say all he wants to say about that later.
– Not if your party expels him next week.
– The honorable member for Watson will not be expelled from the Labour party, and he will not do what the honorable gentleman who has interjected has done - run in and out of political parties - nor will he say of the Labour party what the honorable gentleman said of the Australian Country party after he left the leadership of it, and also of some other parties. I hope that the honorable gentleman will not interject again. I made certain statements the other evening, and some honorable members opposite say that the motion now before the Chair is the outcome of that incident. Other members of the Opposition, however, including the honorable member for Wentworth, say that the motion arises out of a series of statements and incidents over the last two years. They say that Mr. Speaker has discriminated in favour of the Labour party. Well, he has never favoured me or any other Minister.
– The Minister for Information gets a pretty fair go.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) ha3 nothing to complain of. The night he was thrown out of the House he deserved it; he should have been thrown out hours earlier. Honorable members opposite get plenty of warning before being dealt with, and the fact is that they are dealt with fairly, not savagely. Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Clark) himself has been the victim of the Standing Orders. I remember when the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), in the most dastardly fashion, attacked the honorable member for Darling, who is the Deputy Speaker, alleging that he was doing certain work for his father in this Parliament. It was ruled by the Chair that the honorable member for Darling could do no more than make a personal explanation. He was not entitled to demand the withdrawal of the statement. Honorable members opposite have claimed that Mr. Deputy Speaker has so twisted the proper interpretation of the Standing Orders as to prevent members of the Opposition from being heard; but, as I have pointed out, Government supporters also have suffered. I did, myself, only the other day. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) made a particularly vicious and scandalous interjection while I was speaking. I tried next day to make a personal explanation, because Mr. Deputy Speaker ruled that I had no right to demand a withdrawal of the statement. The same day, the honorable member for Henty did withdraw the statement, and apologized, but he prefaced his explanation by saying that he believed his statement to be true when he made it. I say now that he never believed it to be true. He then made another outrageous statement, but I was told that I had no right to demand the withdrawal of that statement either. All I could do was to make a personal explanation, so I decided instead to treat the honorable member with the contempt he deserves. I cite those instances in order to show that honorable members opposite have no reason to claim that they have been improperly or unfairly treated. If they get into trouble it is because they get themselves into it. Some honorable members, if they had justice, would have been suspended for eight days for second offences.
– Some of them ought to be out for ever.
– I have every hope that the electors will see to that at the next election. I come now to some of the remarks made by the Leader of the Australian Country party, who is one of those self-righteous persons who talks a great deal, but is himself quite irresponsible. He said the other night that the Leader of the Opposition should not have been suspended. Well, that was, perhaps, an unfortunate occurrence. Perhaps it would have been better if things had not gone that way, but no one can say that the Leader of the Opposition was badly treated. He was asked twice to cease interjecting, but failed to do so. He should have obeyed the direction of Mr. Deputy Speaker, and conformed to the Standing Orders. He has been given quite a character build-up by his supporters, and by the press, as one who behaves with great dignity in the House. Well, he has offended in the past, and so have I, and may the Lord forgive me. But the Leader of the Australian Country party, who himself offends very often, and who only to-day had to withdraw a statement that he made, had the temerity to castigate a number of honorable members on this side of the House. My colleague, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), interjected after the Leader of the Australian Country party had said that the Leader of the Opposition was named for having made two very pertinent interjections. I quote the following from notes which I took at the time: -
– -Have a look at the interruptions to some of my speeches.
– There is another interruption, this time by the Minister, who cannot be believed, because he speaks the truth only for an ulterior motive, or by accident.
– Hear, hear!
– The Leader of. the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) says, “ Hear, hear ! “ That is a disgraceful comment. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction is as truthful as is any other member of this Parliament. Did the interjection of the Minister warrant such a dastardly attack as that made by the Leader of the Australian Country party? The honorable gentleman said -
They have deprived the Opposition, strictly termed His Majesty’s Opposition, of its right to criticize . . . and the traditional British parliamentary system no longer exists.
As a matter of fact, Parliament meets more frequently now than when the Opposition was in power. If honorable members attended the sittings more regularly, and gave their attention to the business of the House, they would have opportunity enough for discussion. Honorable members on this side of the House have much better records for attendance than have members of the Opposition. They have, by and large, attended better to the business under consideration.
Mr. Spender interjecting,
– The honorable member for Warringah ought to be the very last to interject when the attendance of honorable members at sittings of the House is under discussion. He is not here very often, and when he is not here he is looking after his profession. I have no objection to the honorable member for Warringah looking after his profession, because he will need it before very long. I could quote some of the things the honorable member has said in this House and outside it. I could quote some of the things that have been said on the subject of communism, and I could refer to the smear campaigns against honorable members on this side of the House. When the honorable member for Warringah mentioned the Keane trunks case outside this House, he did not have the courage to name one public servant who, it was claimed, had been guilty of malpractice. The honorable member knows, of course, that the making of airy charges in general terms does not carry with it any risk of having to defend an action in the courts. The honorable member is one of the most vulnerable in this House when it comes to mud-slinging and the besmirching of characters.
Let me now say something about the incident which ostensibly inspired the framing of the motion now under discussion. The other evening, I said that the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) had made a statement which was reported as follows in the Gympie Times of the 5th April last: -
Without a shadow of a doubt, this country requires the overthrow of irresponsible dishonest government if it is to be saved from the chaos into which it is being led.
He made that statement in an address to a meeting after he had been recommended for endorsement as an Australian Country party candidate. The newspaper did not misreport him, and the only interpretation that can be put on the statement, in the circumstances in which it was made, is that he was referring to the Australian Labour Government. This irresponsible, dishonest Government! But he said, “ Oh ! I was not referring to this Government; I was talking about the Queensland Government, which had allegedly gerrymandered the electorates “. Where is there in his statement anything which by inference, innuendo or any other interpretative process could be regarded as referring directly or indirectly to the Queensland Government? He undoubtedly meant this Government, and he ran away from the charge. It is said that he is an honorable man, but I do not believehis statement that he was referring to the Queensland electoral redistribution scheme, nor does any honorable member of this House believe it, except those who want to do so.
– Of course we believe it.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) would believe anything. The statement of the honorable member for Maranoa was a scandalous attack on this Government. If any one wants to charge a member of this Government with dishonesty, let him name the honorable member and the occasion. We have nothing of which to be ashamed. No member of this Government could be arraigned before the bar of public opinion, or anywhere else, for dishonest practices in the administration of his office. Honorable members opposite have worked themselves up into a paroxysm of simulated hate, a mere exhibition of ham acting led by the Leader of the Opposition and concluded by the honorable member for Wentworth. Their case is very weak because they have nothing with which to support it. All I have to say is that if, ultimately, a royal commission is appointed to inquire into activities of the Queensland Peanut Board - and I notice in last Sunday’s issue of the Truth that there is a demand for a royal commission to inquire into the administration of the Peanut Board on a number of charges - I shall ask the man who wrote me the letter to give evidence before, and to subject himself to examination and criticism by, the royal commission. The charges made by honorable members opposite against the Government in this censure motion are fallacious. The allegations made toy the Leader of the Opposition and by the Leader of the Australian Country party and their supporters are not justified by the facts and do not even have an air of verisimilitude to lend them support. The Leader of the Opposition is a past master in the use of invective. I am not so bad myself, but I could take a few lessons from the right honorable gentleman when he is stirred up, or wants to appear to be stirred up. He said that I had made a most offensive and derogatory remark about the Leader of the Australian Country party. I had drawn attention to the fact that the Leader of the Australian Country party had spoken about the “ Scullin “ depression and I said that to make such a remark was dishonest. If there was one man whose hands were clean at the time of the depression, it was the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). That right honorable gentleman is too ill to appear here and defend himself. Indeed, he will most likely never again appear in this House as he is to retire at the end of this Parliament. If any member of Parliament or of a government was responsible for the depression, in my view it was the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). He was the man who floated loans in order to pay interest on loans that were still unpaid. I said that a man who borrowed money to pay interest on other borrowed money was guilty of an act which, if it were done in the operations of a company, would have resulted in his being put in gaol, and that it was a financial policy of that kind which was the very cause of the depression.
Opposition members interjecting,
– We all know thai over-borrowing in London was one of the prime causes of the depression which the right honorable member for Cowper has falsely called the “ Scullin “ depression. I also said that the right honorable gentleman left office with an exhausted loan market and an empty treasury. I said, too, that he had been called the “ tragic Treasurer “ by one of his colleagues, the father of the present honorable member for Henty. Because I made these observations I was attacked for having made most offensive and derogatory remarks.
– The Minister said much more than that.
– That is true, but 1 did not say more than that about the right honorable member for Cowper. My statements were fair criticism, if there is any fair criticism in politics, and if we are to view the virile standards of debate in this House to-day with those that prevailed 20 or 30 years ago, there is nothing to complain about.
All I have to say in conclusion is that if honorable members opposite protest about statements made in honest political criticism - and no personal reflection on the right honorable member for Cowper was intended by me - they have become very thin-skinned, and the House should reject their motion in the way it deserves to he rejected.
.- It is not my intention to compete with the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) in vituperation and abuse. His speech speaks for itself, and is reason enough for the motion now before the chair. Before I speak to the motion of censure which I wholeheartedly support, I wish to answer one or two remarks by the Minister which otherwise might go unanswered. First, I wish to refer to the Labour theme song of the depression, when men were walking the streets unable to get work and our returned servicemen could not get employment, and the charge that responsibility for that depression rested upon the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). That, of course, is a gross misstatement of the facts. Everybody knows that the depression was worldwide, and that the Labour Government came into power by deluding the people into thinking that it would remedy that state of affairs. How utterly inept it was is shown by the fact that the lowest depths of the depression were reached during the regime of the Scullin Government. At the succeeding election the indignant people swept the Labour Government from office, and thepresent Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) lost his seat in the process. I make these remarks because the Minister for Information, who said that he respects the feelings of others who are not in the Parliament to-day, does not respect tho memory of the very distinguished husband of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), who took office following the defeat of the Scullin Government. The honorable gentleman also said that in this Parliament we can speak about any subject we choose. The Prime Minister spoke in a similar strain. They know very well that although they may deceive the people by statements of that kind they cannot deceive honorable members. They know that no discussion may ensue on any subject which is included on the noticepaper. The very matters about which the Leader of the Opposition has complained in his motion of censure, which concern the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who objected to a ruling given by Mr. Deputy Speaker ; a motion moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn), relating to the initiative, referendum and recall; a motion of want of confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker; and a private member’s bill that the Leader of the Opposition has given notice of his intention to introduce, are all on the notice-paper, and some of them have been listed for months, and cannot be discussed. Thus, honorable members may not discuss any matter they choose. Particularly does that apply to a private member. The Minister boasted of the number of days on which this House has sat.No doubt the number of volumes and the thousands of pages of Hansard that he and others have filled is something to gloat about or of which to be proud. Can they be proud that this Government has brought us to the state we are in to-day? Can they be proud of the long list of matters on the notice-paper about which we are forbidden to speak? It is regrettable that such a motion of censure as that moved by the Leader of the Opposition should be necessary in order to draw attention to the state of affairs that exists in this Parliament. How necessary that motion is, was shown by the speech which the Minister has just concluded. The terms of the motion are as follows: -
That the Government -
by the use of its majority in this House is unreasonably and improperly restricting the rights of private members and the electors they represent;
is disregarding the status of the Chair by permitting to remain for months on the notice-paper, partly debated, but undetermined, a motion of no confidence in Mr. Deputy Speaker;
is permitting and encouraging personal defamatory and threatening attacks upon Opposition members by Ministers, and so violating the decencies of political controversy;
We hear such attacks ad nauseum. The motion concludes -
Any one who reads the newspapers or listens to the radio knows how regularly debates are gagged in this chamber. This debate will soon be gagged, perhaps before I conclude my speech. The major job of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), who receives a salary of about £3,000 a year, is to say, on occasions such as this, “I move that the question be now put “.
This chamber should he a deliberative assembly, but the Government regards it only as a debating shop where certain formalities have to be observed. The Government’s legislative programme is decided by caucus, and the various measures implementing it are forced through this House by the use of the gag or other devices permissible in the Parliament. Repeatedly, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) introduces legislation, stands at the table with folded arms, and says, “ The Government will accept no amendments “. The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) used those words when he introduced the Re-establishment and Employment Bill in this chamber. That was a most important measure to ex-servicemen. The Minister sneered at the 35 amendments that were prepared by the Opposition.
– It was a pretty good bill.
– Later the Minister introduced some Government amendments on the lines of those that had been urged unsuccessfully by the Opposition. It is extraordinary that since the Labour Government assumed office, nearly eight years ago, only Opposition members of this chamber have been suspended from the service of the House. The total of suspensions is 21, and of that number eighteen were ex-Ministers, who were fully aware of the responsibilities, rights and privileges of Parliament. By some strange circumstance, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or whoever named those honorable members, seemed to overlook the fact that Government members may sometimes err. Tirades of personal abuse reward Opposition members who make what they regard as proper criticisms of the Government. We have heard the judiciary maligned in this House by Mr. Speaker, who left his chair and spoke from the floor of the House. Such utterances pass unreproved by the Prime Minister. When the right honorable gentleman was asked whether he approved of statements made by one of his Ministers in the Sydney Domain about the High Court, he made no comment. Such attacks are condoned by the Prime Minister. They are made under the privilege of Parliament - a privilege that protects honorable members against the legal redress of action for slander. But that privilege is being abused in a manner that makes this chamber merely a cowards’ castle. We pride ourselves that we are a democratic people and the inheritors of a fine British concept of freedom, liberty, and fair government; yet the fundamentals of that great freedom are being whittled away. The three essentials of a free country are first, a free parliament elected by the people at free elections and by a secret ballot; secondly, an Executive that is responsible to the people; and thirdly, a judiciary which must be above reproach. Any whittling away of those fundamentals leads to despotism. Some Ministers in their craze for power have become petty despots. Having had an opportunity to push people around, they believe that they can go on doing it, but such action leads to tyranny in the Russian pattern, and finally, to the serfdom of a slave State. I say deliberately that Labour would abolish the Parliament. That is laid down in the objectives of the party drawn up at the conference of 1921. At that meeting, the Labour party adopted the Marxist maxim, “ socialization of the means of industry, production, distribution and exchange “. That is precisely what Karl Marx advocated. That too, is the ultimate objective of the Communists. Every member of the Labour party has pledged himself to work to that end. In a recent broadcast from Tasmania, the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) said that that objective had been reaffirmed regularly for 28 years. Of course, honorable members opposite say very little about socialism to-day because election time is near, and they hope that the people will forget the grab at the banks, the airlines, and the shipping companies, the harassing regulations, the soaring prices and the planned centralization that is making the people of the Commonwealth the mere puppets of a bureaucracy. The Prime Minister said in the House last week, “We do not intend to socialize everything. We shall be selective. We shall pick and choose “. The Minister for Health, who is seeking to reduce the doctor-patient relationship to the status of a squad of “ vets.” attending to a mob of cattle, has said that the Labour party does not seek to abolish private ownership ns an instrument of production so long as that instrument is utilized in a socially useful manner and without exploitation. Apparently, should the Labour Government receive a mandate at the next election, business people will have to prove to it that their undertakings are socially useful. If not, they will be socialized. That will be the fate of any industry, large or small. We shall have a completely socialized State. That is the policy of honorable members opposite to-day, and it is the qualification that they are quoting as if to prove that they are not complete socialists but only acting to save the people from exploitation. An essential feature of our parliamentary system whether it is in the Mother of Parliaments in Great Britain, or here, is that members of Parliament are not delegates but representatives. On that point there is a vital difference between Labour members and members of the anti-socialist Opposition. Labour members are chained to an outside body. About 40 years ago, Alfred Deakin said that the Labour caucus resembled a chain gang of deaf mutes at the funeral of their own liberty. How right he was, except of course that they are not so mute to-day!
– There are only three Government supporters in the House now.
– Yes, but I hope that my words are reaching the people because I am expressing the opinions of the antisocialist Opposition. The Labour party cannot continue to delude the people, in spite of its propaganda. The people can be fooled for some of the time, but not all of the time. Labour members are delegates from an outside body. They are tied to the trades hall and to the violent, militant Communists in the Labour unions upon whom they depend for their continued membership of this chamber. They are not true representatives of the people. That is why the Prime Minister refused last week to permit this House to discuss private members’ business. Private members’ day is the one day on which rank and file members of this chamber have an opportunity to bring forward matters of importance. I remind the House that two of the greatest legislative enactments of the House of Commons were sponsored by private members. The abolition of slavery within the British Empire - not within Russia, because it still exists there - was brought about by a private member’s motion introduced in the House of
Commons by Wilberforce, who persisted with his crusade until the motion was carried. The Plimsoll Line, the mark on ships which determines the safe loading limit of vessels, was adopted as the result of a private member’s motion that was brought forward in the House of Commons again and again until it became the law of the land. Yet when the Leader of the Opposition in the Australian Parliament, a former Prime Minister, gave notice that he intended to introduce a private member’s bill designed, as we all know, to amend the arbitration law so as to ensure that ballots within trade unions should be properly conducted-
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Sheehy). - Order! The honorable member may not anticipate debate on a motion that appears on the notice-paper.
– I know that I must not debate it, but I am making clear the purpose of the proposal. A discussion of that proposal in this House would, of course, embarrass the Labour Government, which professes to stand for the rights of working men. It knows that enactment of the proposed bill would liberate the unionists and let them regain proper control of their organizations. Therefore, the Prime Minister moved that government business should take precedence and scurvily had the matter removed from its position on the noticepaper and listed for debate at some future date. That is the way in which the Labour Government behaves in this Parliament. It is afraid to face criticism of its administration. In my opinion, we could improve the Parliament a great deal by ensuring more frequent discussion of private members’ motions. I quote from Brown’s Guide to Parliament, written by a man who, though not a distinguished member of the House of Commons, speaks with authority -
There must always he in Britain, if the native genius of the British is not to be frustrated, not only Government initiative, but the initiative of individual citizens and members of Parliament. In the Hou°e of Commons we need to preserve the proper balance between private member and Government, not merely in the interest of the private member, but in the interest of good government itself.
That applies to the Australian Parliament also. It is a fair statement, but it is ignored by the Prime Minister who, having attained power and living on the frustrations of the past, would sweep aside what he considers to be the mere formalities of the Parliament when he thinks that he ought to be free to do as he chooses.
I want to be constructive in my criticisms, and I suggest that this House could well adopt a standing order that applies in the British House of Commons. If a member of that House is maligned by another member he may rise in his place, taking precedence over the man then speaking, and make his explanation there and then. We have seen what happens in this Parliament. The Minister for Information defamed the well-esteemed honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), than whom there is no more popular person in the Parliament. When the honorable member interjected in his own defence, he was forced to withdraw what he had said and was not permitted to make a personal explanation until later. The report of his personal explanation will appear in Hansard at a much later page than the attack made by the Minister, and the broadcast of his remarks may not have been heard by many of th» people who heard the vituperative assault by the Minister. The Standing Orders Committee would be well advised to consider an amendment of the Standing Orders to provide honorable members victimized in that way with an opportunity to make an immediate explanation. Our own Standing Order 272 states -
No member shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any member thereof, or against any statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly.
How often is that standing order ignored in this House ! Almost every speech made by an honorable member on the Government side of the House’ in this debate has included a vilification of some honorable member on this side of the House, or has referred in scathing terms to statements that may have been made years ago. There is a saying in the armed forces that bad troops indicate bad officers. That applies in this Parliament. The Prime Minister cannot remain aloof. By his silence he has condoned the action oi every Minister who has made defama tory statements in this House. He must share responsibility for those statements with the men who uttered them; he countenances their calumnies if he does not reprove them.
Efforts are made by the right honorable gentleman’s publicity officer to portray him as an Abraham Lincoln. I am not being unduly critical when I remind him, as kindly as possible, that Abraham Lincoln, who certainly was not a socialist, said that government of the people by the people, for the people, should not perish. The emphasis in that famous statement was upon the people. Lincoln had no thought of government of the people by the caucus for the Labour party to please Communists. But that is the sort of government that we have in Australia to-day ! The right honorable gentleman might well take to heart some of Abraham Lincoln’s maxims, which recently came to light when his son, upon his death, released many historic papers. I commend these samples to the Prime Minister in the hope that he may adopt a different attitude towards the Parliament -
Yon cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could, and should, do for themselves.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred.
The Prime Minister’s answer to the notable speech made by the Leader of the Opposition was more or less to say, in his characteristic way, “It’s all in the game “. That was not the sort of answer that the Prime Minister of a great country should have given. He should uphold the dignity and decorum of this Parliament. Instead, he has allowed the prestige of this institution to decline and be debased by many utterances that have fallen from the lips of members of his Government, including some of the very senior Ministers. Unfortunately, it seems useless to read homilies or to exhort the Prime Minister, who, incidentally, is not in the House at present, haying left only a handful of his followers to play the game and help to conduct the pro ceedings of the House as they should be conducted. Only an election can influence the right honorable member. We shall have a vital election soon. This Government has already taken us a long way along the road, of socialism without having a proper mandate to do so. If it achieves a mandate at the election, there will be a swift acceleration of ite pace and the people will soon learn their fate and will deserve it. The next election will, in fact, be a referendum on our liberty. The Parliament is in the twilight. In 1921, when the Labour party adopted the Marxist maxim about socialization, it also declared that it would approve of the establishment of a supreme economic council to replace this Parliament. That is the Soviet system. Yet it was adopted in principle by. the Labour party in this country, not by Russia or any of its satellite .states, and it is reaffirmed by the Labour party every year. The declaration was included in that infamous decision that the Australian Labour party made at Brisbane in 1921. Therefore, the sooner an election is held the better it will be for Australia. I say, in the words of Warwick to Plantagenet, in Shakespeare’s Henry VI. -
This blot, that they object against your house,
Shall be wip’d out in the next parliament.
Then the Socialist Government, misnamed Labour, will be removed from power, and in this Parliament we shall return to proper Government and decorum.
. -Having listened carefully to the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), I can find nothing in them which ought to be taken sufficiently seriously to warrant rebuttal. Surely this House has never witnessed a more ludicrous spectacle than has been seen during the two days of this debate, with members of the Opposition putting themselves forward as champions of the parliamentary system and defenders of its healthy working. The height of absurdity in that respect was reached -to-night when the honorable member - for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition supported the motion deprecating personal and baseless attacks upon other people. He is the man who has wallowed in mud and mire from the very first day of his membership of the Parliament! He has regarded himself as a licensed retailer of every bit of irresponsible gossip, libel, and slander that he could find to put his tongue to. He has covered himself in mud and picked up handfuls of it to throw at anybody who has come within sight of him. Yet that honorable member asks to be taken seriously as an advocate of restrictions on personal attacks on other honorable members. How can an Opposition, in whose ranks 21 suspensions have occurred, seriously put itself forward as the champion of the parliamentary institution? Each of those suspensions was for disorderly conduct and refusal to obey Mr. Speaker, who represents the supremacy of the Parliament. There have been 21 suspensions of Opposition members because they have shown themselves unwilling to abide by the standards of parliamentary conduct.
In considering this motion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) to deal with unreasonable and improper restriction of the rights of private members we have only to recall the first action of the right honorable gentleman when he became Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, which was to dispense with private members’ day. To make sure that is was not an accident, on the very next occasion of private members’ day he did so again. Now he puts himself forward seriously as the champion of the rights of private members. Although the honorable member for Wentworth complains about the pending application of the “ gag “ he was a Minister of a government which applied the “gag” to the Opposition as many as 30 times on one night, and an average of once every three days during the life of that Government. Yet he puts himself forward seriously as objecting to the “ gag “. Members of the Opposition have claimed to be horrified at statements regarding the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). Although the Leader of the Opposition, may not have launched personal attacks he has sat silently by while his colleagues in the House week by week and month by month have launched most scurrilous attacks. He has not said one word by way of rebuke, and has been prepared to take every bit of political capital that may be gained by the launching of such personal attacks. Although Opposition members talk about the need for maintaining the rights of the Parliament and its members when they themselves were in office they restricted the sittings of the Parliament to an average of 50 days in a year. In my opinion no motion that has ever been put before this Parliament has been moved with such obvious hypocrisy as has the motion before the House. Although it is a four-pronged motion, there is only one reason why this House has for two days been debating this most futilemotion, when it could have been dealing with urgent and important legislation such as that to establish the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. That is the suspension of the Leader of the Opposition from the service of this House last Wednesday night. When an acorn fell on the poor bald pate of Chickenlicken she thought that the sky had fallen and made such a commotion that a farmyard deputation set off to report the terrible happening to the king. There appears to be an exact parallel between that nursery fable and the happenings of the last two days. Many honorable members have been suspended over the years and never has there been such a hullabaloo as on this occasion. Some honorable members have been suspended after they have been given every latitude, when ultimately they have exhausted Mr. Speaker’s patience. Others have been jumped on rather severely and have considered themselves sharply and unjustly treated, but all have managed to smile and take it on the chin and have not felt themselves bigger than the Parliament itself. They have not adopted the attitude, “ I will show you that you cannot do this to me”. When they thought that Mr. Speaker’s ruling was over-harsh or wrong, they have recognized that in life people get lots of lickings for things that they do not do, and have got on with the next business. But not so the present Leader of the Opposition. He has often seen his closest colleagues suspended from the services of the House. ite has seen his Australian
Country party and Liberal party supporters tumbled out one after the other for disorderly behaviour and he has not turned a hair. But when it happened to him then, indeed, the political sky had fallen. In fact the spoilt darling had received a slap in the place where it hurt most, and the end of the world had come. Majesty had been outraged. Anxious groups assembled in the lobbies, the joint Opposition executive was consulted and the matter was discussed by the Opposition parties in caucus assembled. Then the great censure motion was launched. What happened to the Leader of the Opposition is something that has happened to hundreds of members of Parliament in the history of federation and in the hundreds, of years of history of the British House of Commons. The whole thing smacks of the ridiculous. It is indeed making a mountain out of a molehill. It is a demonstration of an egotistical personal conceit which shows indeed that the holder of that conceit is totally unfitted for national leadership. It is true thai the right honorable gentleman is a brilliant man. There is nobody to deny that, and he certainly would not deny it himself! But brilliance is not everything. It does not of itself earn respect, confidence, loyalty or devoted service. To get these momentous happenings of the lust few days into perspective, let us consider what has happened. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) said things which the Leader of the Opposition found it hard to take. He interjected repeatedly, despite the warning of Mr. Deputy Speaker, and was suspended because he disobeyed that warning. I admit that he was a little bit unlucky. From time to time other honorable members have succeeded in getting away with more than he succeeded in getting away with, while other honorable members have been suspended for very much less than was the orrance in this instance. But there cannot be laid down any exact ruling in such matters. Mr. Speaker must be the judge, according to the atmosphere of the House. He knows whether he must maintain control at any particular time with a loose or tight rein. Even if the Leader of the Opposition considered himself severely treated he could not complain of unfair treatment, because he was suspended only after repeatedly interjecting and having been warned by Mr. Deputy Speaker of the consequences. It might have been expected in those circumstances that if he were a champion of the parliamentary institution, desiring to uphold the authority of Mr. Speaker, he would have accepted the penalty imposed upon him, just as hundreds of other members have been compelled to do, even when they thought themselves harshly or even unjustly treated. It might have been expected that he would emulate the example set by his predecessor, Sir Joseph Cook, the only other Leader of the Opposition to have been suspended from the service of this Parliament. Sir Joseph came back the next day, expressed his regret to Mr. Speaker, and took his place again in the House. It might have been expected that the Leader of the Opposition, as a champion of the parliamentary system, and as a man required to set an example to his followers, would adopt that course. Instead, however, the Leader of the Opposition has submitted a motion of censure, and, for two days, the House has debated matters entirely irrelevant to the real issue, which arises only from the hurt dignity of the right honorable gentleman.
I believe that many of the matter? which are mentioned in the motion of censure are worthy of the serious attention of honorable members, but the Opposition parties, when in office, completely disregarded the rights of private members. In the last two days, the Opposition has shown itself to be concerned with those rights only in so much as it can make party political capital out of them for electioneering purposes. From that point of view, it has done far more harm to the parliamentary institution than could possibly be achieved by bringing those matters to the attention of the House by means of a motion of censure. One cannot conceive a more hopeless way of obtaining a calm and reasoned examination of our Standing Orders than to make them the basis of a party political motion of censure against the government of the day. They are, in fact, matters for the calm consideration of a parliamentary committee. If members of the Opposition really had any regard for the institution of Parliament or for the highest standards of conduct in debate, they would have taken steps, when they were in office, to establish the rights of private members. Instead of doing so, they, as a government, took every step to injure those rights. To-night, I heard the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) predict what will happen if the Liberal party is returned at the next election. One thing that ought not to be allowed to happen, no matter what views one may hold of the abuse of privilege in this Parliament, is any diminution of the right of an honorable member to say what he will, whether he is ill-advised, or whether he uses badly the privileges that he has. Without privilege, there is, and can be, no parliament at all. What is necessary, perhaps, is that there should be consideration of some means of providing a remedy for those who feel themselves unjustly or wrongly attacked under privilege, but there should never be in a British parliament any suggestion that privilege itself should be curtailed. But the men who have launched this motion of censure against the Government on these spurious grounds are persons who, I believe, have no concern whatever for the parliamentary institution. I am convinced that, if ever again they succeed in obtaining the reins of government in this country they will say, “ Having warded off the threat to the financial institutions and the vested interests which we represent, we will take steps to ensure that the Labour party shall never again have the opportunity, by a democratic election, to achieve the government of the Commonwealth “. I sincerely believe that if, by any chance, the next election should place our political opponents in power, far from protecting or maintaining the rights of this Parliament, they will close this democratic institution, and Australia will never again see a free election.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 516), be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Defence - A. S. Storey.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Banking purposes - Rosebery, New South Wales.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Llanherne, Tasmania.
Department of the Interior purposes - Cloncurry, Queensland.
Postal purposes -
Belmont Park, Western Australia.
Rosebery, New South Wales.
Tumby Bay, South Australia.
House adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
g asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will he furnish particulars of (a) allowances paid to members of State judiciaries for inquiries or commissions carried out on behalf of the Commonwealth and (b) allowances paid to members of the Commonwealth judiciary for commissions conducted for international organizations or in connexion with government missions abroad?
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following information : -
Members of the State judiciaries have from time to time been made available by the States to conduct inquiries on behalf of the Commonwealth for the pact 30 years or more. Members of the Commonwealth judiciary have likewise carried out commissions on behalf of the Commonwealth over a period of many years. If the honorable member furnishes particulars as to the specific inquiries in respect of which he seeks information, it will be supplied to him as soon us it can be obtained.
Acquisition of Buildings and Floor Space.
Mr.Fadden asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
How many buildings and how much floor space in buildings were acquired by the Commonwealth in Brisbane in 1947, 1948, and to the latest available date this year?
What is the location in each case?
What were the terms of acquisition ?
For what purpose are the buildings or floor space being used in each instance?
Is it proposed to acquire any further buildings?
If so, where are they situated and for what purpose are they required?
n. - The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information: -
The questions apparently refer to the case of an unregistered parcel regarding which the right honorable the Prime Minister made a statement to the House on the 30th November, 1948. It is considered undesirable to quote the actual name of the addressee as the information may give rise to some danger of later fraudulent claims in the matter. Subject to these reservations the answers to the questions asked by the honorable member are -
The article was posted as an unregistered parcel at the William-street Post Office, Sydney, in February, 1948.
It was addressed to a person at an institution in Brisbane, and was delivered to that address. The addressee was unknown at the address, and after retaining the article on trial for some time the authorities at the place of address returned it to the General Post Office, Brisbane.
It was held for approximately two months at the General Post Office, Brisbane, but as the addressee could not be identified or located, the parcel was returned to the General Post Office, Sydney, as undeliverable, in June, 1948.
The measures taken to locate the addressee include a search of current electoral rolls for the Commonwealth, inquiries through the appropriate foreign consul as the name suggested a particular foreign origin, inquiries through the Commonwealth Bank, Deputy Master of Lunacy for New South Wales, police authorities, &c. The parcel contained no information as to the identity of the sender, and in spite of much press publicity at the time no further information is yet available as to the sender.
The contents of the parcel (£0,910) were paid into Commonwealth miscellaneous revenue.
The amount of £6,910 was made up by 091 treasury notes of £10 each.
l. - On the 3rd June, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following question: -
When is an up-to-date report regarding the activities of the Postal Department likely to be available to this House and to the country. The latest available annual report of the Postmaster-General is for the year ended the 30th June, 1947?
The Postmaster-General has now supplied the following information : -
In reply to the right honorable gentleman’s question, the Postmaster-General has informed me that he expects that the report on the activities of his department for the financial year 1947-48 will shortly be ready for presentation to the House. The Minister has explained that it is very difficult to secure the early completion of a report and financial statements of a business of the size of the Post Office as it is necessary to obtain financial and business statistics from all over the Commonwealth. These must be co-ordinated and analysed before the data furnished in the report can be made available. The matter has also been complicated by the shortage of staff in the various State branches. I understand that the draft of the 1947-48 report ia now in the hands of the Government Printer, who has indicated that he will do everything possible to expedite the printing. However, under the present pressure of work in the Government Printing Office it is difficult to give any firm estimate of the date on which the Postmaster-General’s report will be available The Postmaster-General does not expect that the detailed report for 1048-49 will be available before the end of the present calendar vear.
Broadcasting: Assistance in Recruiting Campaign; Australian Broadcasting Commission News Service.
– On the 19th May last the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, this following question : -
Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral say whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission assists the service departments in their recruiting campaigns. If not, will the Minister request that the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Defence Department should give consideration to the advisability of utilizing the national broadcasting system to assist the recruitment of servicemen?
The Postmaster-General has now advised that the Australian Broadcasting Commission regularly assists the service departments in their recruiting campaigns.
l. - On the 25th May the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General the following questions : -
The Postmaster-General has consulted the Australian Broadcasting Commission concerning the honorable member’s inquiry and the commission has supplied the following information : -
In the circumstances, the PostmasterGeneral docs not feel that any useful purpose would be served by referring the matter to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting.
n asked the Treasurer upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows :-
(a) Five; (b) 100.
6 and 7. Staff reductions were made following the spring loan of 1048. These represented an annua] saving of about £7,000. No further reductions were made at the end of January because of the necessity to use the staff in connexion with the formation of national savings groups in conjunction with the various savings banks. The staffing of this organization is constantly under review.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490607_reps_18_202/>.