18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. j. j. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In view of th* large number of seasonal workers in Queensland who have broken periods of employment and of the widespread misunderstanding that exists about their entitlement to assistance under the’ Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act, will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services give the House some information about the rights of seasonal workers and the method that is adopted to determine their eligibility to receive such payments?
– Seasonal worker? in Queensland, as in all other States, are treated in exactly the same way as ordinary applicants for unemployment benefit. They must submit, to a work test, and a means test is applied to their income. The earnings of a seasonal worker for the twelve weeks immediately preceding the time be becomes unemployed are taken into consideration, and the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act permits a suspension of payments for one, two, three or four weeks if the average weekly income for the twelve weeks prior to the making of the claim for unemployment benefit has been sufficiently large. The formula which - is used in that connexion provides for the averaging of the applicant’s earnings for the period of twelve weeks, and if that amount exceeds £5 10s. a week in the case of a single man, £6 in the case of a married man without children, and £6 10a. in the case if a man with a wife and one child, the payment of unemployment benefit may be held in abeyance for one, two or three weeks. Actually, the maximum period for which the payments may be withheld is three weeks, because all applicants for unemployment benefit must undergo a probationary period of seven days before they may receive any payment. If th, averge earnings of an applicant do not exceed the amounts to which I have referred, the period of suspension may be reduced. In no circumstances can payments be withheld for more than three weeks. The number of seasonal workers in Queensland is larger than the numbers in other States because of the nature of the industries in that State. Seasonal workers who apply for unemployment benefit are given a work test in exactly the same way as are any other applicants for assistance under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act.. If suitable work is available within a reasonable distance from the applicant’s home, he is offered that employment. An applicant who cannot be offered work must be paid the unemployment benefit, provided his average weekly earnings for the period of twelve weeks immediately preceding his application for assistance do not exceed the figures hat T have mentioned.
– 1 direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the very serious position in which this country will be placed by the determination of the miners’ federation to hold stop-work meetings to-morrow. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. Gallagher, when referring to the threatened stoppage on the coal-fields, is reported as having made he following comments. -
I think the public has just about had enough.
The country has to be protected. If the community it” frightened to nave its own lim enforced, we are not going to remain a stable community much longer?
Does the Government concur in those statements ? As the decision of the Combined Mining Unions Council to hold a stoppage was made imme diately after the Coal Industry Tribunal had announced that he would make an order prohibiting such & stoppage, will the Government protect the Australian people by warning the miners that the law will be enforced against them if they persist in holding stop-work meetings to-morrow, thereby aggravating an already grave situation t
– I have not seen any statement by the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. F. H. Gallagher, but I have bees informed by the Minister for ‘Shipping and Fuel that Mr. Gallagher yesterday . made some remarks about the seriousness of the. position and warned the coalminers generally. I understand that the hearing of an application by the coalowners is proceeding. I have emphasized on a number of previous occasions that the Government is fully aware of the. seriousness of the position. As to actios, to enforce any decision by the Coal Industry Tribunal, I can accept only th* official transcript of his statements. I am awaiting its arrival. I shall confer with the Attorney-General about, the matter.
– Speaking at a» Australian Labour party conference last week-end in Sydney, the Prime Minister used the words “ base ingratitude “ i» his reference to the proposed stoppage by the coal miners, and said that many benefits had been handed out to the miners inrecent years. In order that honorable members may appreciate fully the precis* meaning of the words “ base ingratitude * when used in this sense, will the right honorable gentleman recite the benefit* that have been granted to the miners sino* the inception of the Joint Coal Board I
– I could enumerate quite a number of benefits that have been banded out to the miners. One of the most striking is in relation to the action of the Joint Coal Board to overcome the dust menace, which was so dangerous to the health of the miners. In addition, power borers, which were badly needed in the coal-mining industry, have been installed As well as the partial elimination of the dust menace, baths and other amenities have been provided, and transport facilities have been improved. So far it has not been possible for the Joint Coal Board te secure all of the . labour and material* necessary to implement its full programme. As I have mentioned before in this House, I realized when the Joint Coal Board was established that it would take probably from five to seven years to rehabilitate the coal-mining industry. It is generally recognized that the only complete cure for many troubles in the industry is the mechanization of all of the mines that it would be economical to mechanize, having regard to the future production of the particular mines. Probably certain references in my speech have not been reported. I have already promised to furnish the honorable member for Fawkner with a copy of my remarks. I shall supply a copy also t<. the honorable member for Deakin so that he may peruse them.
Victorian Legislative Council: Franchise ; Broadcasting
– Can the Minister for Defence advise me whether the defence power in the Commonwealth Constitution can be invoked to secure an alteration of die act governing the franchise for voters in elections of the Legislative Council nf Victoria so that nil returned soldiers and their wives shall he entitled to vote at such elections, and not only officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as at present? In view of the fact that the Labour party and the Country party in Victoria support such enrolment, and the Liberal party Government opposes it, can the Australian Government under its repatriation or other acts take any action to compel the Hollway Government to do justice to returned soldiers to as to give them an effective voice in the government of the State of Victoria because their services, and those of the soldiers of other States, saved all Australia from defeat in two world wars ?
– I think all returned soldiers are incensed at the conditions governing the franchise for the Legislative Council of Victoria. All honorable members may not know that in Victoria only ex-service officers are entitled to rote at Legislative Council elections. An election will, of course, take place next Saturday. I am interested in this matter myself, because, although I am an ex-service officer, I am not a returned soldier technically under the definition in the act. Therefore, although I may say that I have given some service, I am not entitled, under that definition, to cast a vote at the election next Saturday. I think that is a grave anomaly.
– Order I The Minister for Defence was asked whether the Australian Government could take certain action.
– Yes; let him answer “ Yes “ or “ No “.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. To what department of the Administration does the question refer *
– The Minister for Defence was asked what action the Commonwealth authorities could take.
– I was proceeding Ur say that it would be desirable if the Commonwealth could take action to eliminate this grave anomaly in respect of the franchise for the Legislative Council of Victoria.
-I ask thMinister to reply to the question.
– Since such action would be desirable, I shall examine the Commonwealth’s defence powers to set whether anything can be done to ensure that the rank and file who played such an important part in winning the recent war shall be given an opportunity to cast a vote in the elections for the Legislative Council of that State.
– Order ‘ The Minister has said enough.
– Has the Minister representing the Postmaster-General seen a statement in yesterday’s Melbourne press that the Premier of Victoria proposes to make a broadcast this evening, over seventeen commercial stations, is connexion with the Legislative Council election in that State on Saturday next’’ Can he say how many commercial stations there are in Victoria, and whether the whole of the commercial network in that State is to be reserved for that broadcast? Will he consult the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to see whether equal facilities have been granted to the leaders of the Australian
Country party and the Labour party for a similar State-wide hook-up? Can he say what the cost of this particular broadcast will be, and who will pay for it? Did the Australian Constitutional League order the time for these broadcasts on all commercial stations in Victoria, or is the money being paid out of the huge funds brought back by the federal president of the Liberal party, Mr. R.G. Casey, after his recent visit to England? Can the Minister supply any other interesting details about this huge racket ?
– Order ! The latter portion of the honorable member’s question is out of order. I shall permit the Minister to answer the portion that deals directly with broadcasting.
– I shall give the honorable member the fullest information that I can. I have seen a press statement that the Premier of Victoria is to be accorded a hook-up on seventeen commercial stations in Victoria this evening. I do not know how many commercial stations there are in Victoria but a hookup of seventeen represents a substantia] number. I shall consult the Australian Broadcasting Control Board through the Postmaster-General to see whether equalfacilities have been offered by the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations to the leaders of the Australian Country party and the Labour party, which are opposing the Liberal party in the Legislative Council election in Victoria next Saturday. I do not know what the cost of the broadcast mentioned will be, but it will probably be about £1,000. I shall obtain the information if I can, however, although I consider that it is for the commercial stations themselves to decide whether they will disclose any information about how much they charge for a particular broadcast. I shall ascertain also, if I can, whether the Australian Constitutional League has paid the cost of the broadcast. That organization has a lot of money. It gave the honorable member for Reid £3.000 in connexion with the 1944 referendum campaign-
– Another smear!
– Honorable members should cease interrupting.
The Minister is entitled to be heard in silence.
– I shall also see whether it is possible to find out whether the cost of the proposed broadcast will be paid out of the huge “ slush “ fund controlled by Mr. R. G. Casey.
– A report appearing in this morning’s press states that the Commonwealth Grants Commission had recommended that additional payments be made to the States of Tasmania and South Australia, and that the Government had agreed to that recommendation. I ask the Prime Minister whether the commission recommended that an additional payment be made to the State of Western Australia which is anxious to undertake urgent developmental projects: and, if so, was such recommendation approved by the Government?
– My recollectionis that the original grant recommended by the commission to Western Australia amounted to £3,500,000 for the currem financial year. South Australia and Tasmania, after reviewing their financial position, felt that the original grant recommended in respect of each of them was not sufficient and they applied to the commission far supplementary grants. I understand that Western Australia felt that its original grant of £3,500 000 was sufficient for its needs. Although I have no doubt that it has reserved the right to apply for a supplementary grant, no application from that State was dealt with in the report of the commission to which the honorable member has referred.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs clarify the position with respect to the United Nations Association and the Australian National Committee for the United Nations? If he aware that many persons intimately associated with the work of the United Nations Association are not clear on the definition of each of these bodies and would welcome such definitions and also a statement regarding the scope of the work of each organization?
– There is some difficulty about the demarcation of functions of the two bodies which the honorable member has mentioned. They are voluntary bodies which in one way or another assist in the work of the United Nations by securing the maximum degree of popular support for that organization. [ shall supply an answer in writing in order to clarify the matter for honorable members generally.
– Has the Prime Minister read cabled reports that Mrs. Benjamin Rogers, an American, who owns the premises occupied by the Australian Embassy in Paris, is annoyed because although the lease on which those premises were held, has expired, the Australian Ambassador, Colonel Hodgson, and members of his staff refuse to vacate the premises? Are fhose reports correct? Is it also correct that Mrs. Rogers has refused to accept rent from the Australian Embassy for the six months during which it has allegedly overstayed its lease in her premises? Is it correct that 40 alternative premises have been offered to the Australian Embassy? If those reports are correct does the Government contemplate terminating this policy of diplomatic squatting by the Australian Embassy in Paris?
– The matters to which the honorable member for Wakefield has referred come within the province of the Treasury. When I was in Paris recently, I discussed them with Dr. Walker and other officers of the Australian Embassy there. It is true that the owner of the premises now occupied by the Embassy requested a couple of years ago that they be vacated, but it has not been possible to acquire other suitable accommodation. When I was in Paris recently I inspected, on a Sunday afternoon, other premises that had been offered to the Embassy and which seemed to be reasonably suited for its purposes. Following the inspection, I authorized the officers of the Embassy to negotiate for their purchase. I have been informed since then that the persons who offered those premises for sale have not been able to produce satisfactory evidence of the validity of their title to them. Is those circumstances, the negotiations have been held up. Inquiries have been proceeding for some time with the object of enabling the Embassy to meet the lady’s wishes by vacating the premises that it occupies at present.
– Why do they not get out?
– We do not propose to conduct the business of the Embassy on the boulevardes of Paris. It has not been brought to my notice that the owner of the premises has refused to accept rent for them. We have tried to purchase other premises. On one occasion, the owner of the premises in which we were interested insisted upon being paid with American dollars, but we were unable to do that. The Government is finding it very difficult to acquire new premises. That is proved by the fact that on the only Sunday afternoon I was in Paris I made a tour of inspection of accommodation that has been offered to us. I shall supply the honorable gentleman with a factual statement of what has happened in this connexion.
– Western Australian newspapers are still very much smaller than newspapers published in the eastern States, which have large Sunday editions and supplements that are mainly devoted to advertisements. Will the Treasurer say whether the importation of newsprint is still a dollar problem! Are there any restrictions upon the importation of newsprint? If there are, is there any prospect of the position easing in the near future?
– Restrictions are imposed upon the importation of dollar newsprint, that is, newsprint from Canada. I have had discussions with representatives of newspaper proprietors in regard to this matter. It is a very complicated story. The present dollar allocation is sufficient for the purchase of approximately 40,000 tons of dollar newsprint a year from Canada. Approximately twelve months ago the newspaper proprietors were given permission co import soft currency newsprint from Sweden. In addition, an arrangement was made with the Bowater interests for the manufacture in England of newsprint from sulphide and logs brought from Canada. It was claimed that that arrangement would result in increased supplies of newsprint being made available to Australia. I understand that large quantities of Swedish newsprint, which can be paid for with sterling, are available. Some of the newspapers have bought sterling newsprint and paid high prices for it, but the cost of Swedish newsprint, which can be paid for with sterling and in respect of which we are prepared to issue import licences, has been considerably reduced. Licences are issued freely for the importation of newsprint that can be paid for with sterling, and I understand that ample supplies are available. I admit that the cost of sterling newsprint has been much higher than the cost of that which has been obtained from dollar areas. There is no shortage of sterling newsprint and I imagine that every newspaper proprietor is able to get as much as he wants from that source.
– I have received several letters from wool-growers interested in the profits from the Joint Organization, who fear that the fund will be raided in order to build up some new organization. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government will give an undertaking, similar to that which was given by the late Mr. John Curtin, and reaffirmed later by the present Prime Minister, that the fund will not be used to establish a new organization for the control of wool sales, but will be distributed to the wool-growers, whose rightful property it is.
– The Government has given an undertaking that any profits from the operations of the Joint Organization will be distributed, when available, to the wool-growers in accordance with the quantities of wool that they contributed to the Joint Organization. In fulfilment of that undertaking, as the honorable member is aware, the Government recently introduced legislation, which the Parliament passed, to provide for the distribution of the profits of the Joint Organization to the growers who mad* contributions to the war-time pool. 1 cannot conceive of any means by which the Government could dishonour that enactment of this Parliament
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction supply the House with any information about the amount of money that has been paid te reconstruction trainees in living awa* allowances since the introduction of th Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme ?
– The Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme has COS the Government about £33,500,000 up tr the present. Of that amount, about £15.000,000 has been paid to trainees ia the form of living allowances. Although there have been a few criticisms in relation to the scale of living allowance* generally, the great majority of reconstruction trainees consider that the allowances are generous and they are also well satisfied with the scope of the work thai can be undertaken and the profession ^ that, can be entered through the scheme.
Accident at Bilinga Aerodrome.
-I ask the Minister for Air what finding was reached by th* departmental inquiry into the air crash at Bilinga. Did the inquiry disclose an? deficiencies in areodrome equipment, suck as fire fighting apparatus and telephone services? Why was there not a public inquiry into the tragedy in which, after an aircraft had caught fire, 21 people were burned to death? Will there be public inquiry when the coroner’s inquiry has been completed?
– The answer to the last portion of the honorable member’s question is “ No “.
– The Department of Civil Aviation is satisfied, and so am I, that the cause of the accident was clearly ascertained.
– How can the Minister be satisfied on that point when all the people >n the aircraft were killed!
– Probably the honorable gentleman could not ascertain anything wrong no matter how well it raa proved to be wrong. I have expressed” my view that I am satisfied that the cause of the accident was discovered. Consequently, there is no need to hold a public inquiry. The cause of the accident was clearly attributable to the irregular basis of loading of the aircraft, which caused it to become tail-heavy and drop. That having been ascertained there is not the slightest necessity to proceed any further. Tt is only in instances where the cause >f accidents is not clearly ascertainable hat public inquiries are held. That procedure has prevailed for many years. The honorable member has also asked whether there is a public telephone at the aerodrome.
– I asked about firefightng equipment at the aerodrome too.
– The honorable gentleman also asked about a public telephone and I shall answer that part of ais question first. An application was made eighteen months ago for the provision of a public telephone at the aerodrome. As far as the matter of a fire tender is concerned, I have supplied the honorable member for Moreton, who previously asked a series of questions about it, with full particulars in a statement covering, [ suppose, two, or three pages of foolscap. The position regarding fire tenders is that chey are installed at stations where there are a number of landings, say, about t dozen each day, and each tender has a full crew of four. Surely the honorable member does not suggest -;hat there should be a full crew of four and a fire tender at places where there is only one landing a day. The department does not propose to make rneb, a provision but it has provided other equipment at aerodromes, such as fire extinguishers in the use of which the local authorities have been trained so -hat they can be used if necessary. 1 should add that no facilities are available anywhere in the world, so far as I am aware, by which it has been found possible to extinguish a petrol fire resulting from a crash. Present equipment all over the world can, and does, deal with incipient fires, and some instances have occurred in which such equipment has been used effectively. The honorable member and the House may rest assured that whatever action can be taken to save the lives of people involved in incipient fires has already been taken by the Department of Civil Aviation, which is well abreast of the times and is doing all that can be done to provide for extinguishing such fires.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a full-page advertisement in to-day’s Daily Telegraph headed “ Rising Price* are the thermometer that shows what if happening to our national life”? The advertisement states that there are four basic reasons why prices are high and are still rising. However, only three reason* for this are mentioned, all of which constitute an attack on this Government The advertisement was inserted by the Institute of Public Affairs, 19 Blighstreet, Sydney. It concludes with an appeal for funds to fight socialism.
– The honorable member should now put bil question.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether prices control, as administered by this Government, kept prices at a lower level in Australia than in any other country in the world? It the recent inflationary rise of prices due in the main to the defeat of the rents and prices referendum and the inability of the States to control prices effectively?
– I have not seen the advertisement mentioned by the honorable member. I understand that the. Institute of Public Affairs is an auxiliary of the Liberal party.
– Just as the Communis* party is an auxiliary of the Australias Labour party.
– As stated by the honorable member, up to the time that the Commonwealth lost its authority over the control of prices, the economy of Australia was kept more stable than that of any other country in the world. Therefore, as the honorable member has suggested, there has since been a great inflationary increase of prices. I want to be completely fair in this matter. Had the Commonwealth been able to retain its prices control organization I am quite sure that prices could have been kept lower than they are now, and a more stable economy could have been maintained, although even under Commonwealth control some increase of the prices of imported materials would have occurred.
– Did the Prime Minister, in his broadcast last Sunday night, endeavour to justify the activities of the Commonwealth Employment Service? Are the Commonwealth employment offices in Queensland a duplication of the State employment offices in that State? Does the Queensland Government refuse to use the services of the Commonwealth employment offices when engaging labour for State-controlled activities?
– In my broadcast last Sunday night I did not attempt to justify the Commonwealth Employment Service. It does not need justifying. What I did was to explain, not justify, the work being done by that splendid organization. When the Commonwealth took over the employment service in Queensland there was a State unemployment insurance scheme in operation which the Queensland Government subsidized to the extent of £250,000 a year. The Commonwealth assumed full responsibility for all unemployment and sickness benefits in Queensland, thus relieving the State Government of this liability. The sickness and unemployment benefit scheme is now administered through the Commonwealth Employment Service of the Department of Labour and National Service. I cannot say whether the Queensland Government, when engaging men for its own work, ignores the Commonwealth Employment Service, but I shall have inquiries made in order to see whether there is any truth in the allegation.
– During the second world war, as during the first, a great many patriotic committees were set up to collect funds for the purpose of assisting servicemen who might be in needy circumstances after the war. The public subscribed liberally to the funds. Can the Minister for Repatriation state the estimated amount of money that has been collected in this way since 1940, and how much of it is still held in trust? Is the Australian Government consulted about the distribution of the money to deserving groups or individuals ? Will the Minister find out from the Chief Secretaries of the various States how much money there is in patriotic funds in each State, and how long it has been there? Are trustees, who were appointed to supervise the funds collected for patriotic purposes during and since the war, responsible to any Commonwealth authority foi the distribution of the money? Do the trustees report to the Australian Government regarding the distribution o* funds ? If not, is it to be understood that their authority is unlimited?
– I shall consider the series of questions asked by the honorable member and in due course I shall furnish complete answers. For the moment 3 point out that the Australian Government has full and complete control of the disposal of patriotic funds raised during the recent war. The collection and operation of those funds was governed by certain regulations made under the National Security Act, and the substance of those regulations has now been embodied in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Whilst- at the moment no one has a complete knowledge of the funds raised throughout Australia during World War IL, when millions of pounds were collected, officers of the Repatriation Department, who have considerable knowledge of the matter, are at present engaged in tabulating and checking the amounts thai were collected in the various funds, and the purposes of those funds, so as to ensure that the money will be paid to those for whom it was intended. I cas assure the honorable member that the department is most anxious to ensure that those funds are disbursed as equitably and as rapidly as possible.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether he has received a telegram from the Australian Council of the World Council of Churches protesting against certain features of the Immigration Bill that was recently introduced to the Parliament ? Will the right honorable gentleman undertake to refer those representations to Cabinet, and will he afford an opportunity to representatives of the churches’ organizations to state their case before the bar of this House, should they desire to do so?
– Representations made by most private bodies on important matters through one channel or another usually reach me ultimately, and I believe that certain resolutions concerning the Immigration Bill that were adopted by the body to which the honorable member has referred are being conveyed to me in the usual manner, along with representations made by other organizations on various aspects of the Government’s immigration proposals. When the measure is being discussed in this chamber I have no doubt that the Minister for Immigration will be prepared, as always, to consider any suggestions for the improvement of the measure that may be made by honorable members. However, I assure the honorable member for Reid that the measure has the approval of the Government and of the Australian Labour party, and that unless any serious injustices or anomalies are discovered in it during its passage through the Parliament, it is not proposed to make any important amendments to it or to interfere with its vital principles.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - The erection of the National Library and Roosevelt Memorial, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.
The proposal provides for the erection of a building to accommodate the Roosevelt Memorial, the general administration, reference and lending library, exhibition units, stack areas, archives division, film unit and lecture room. The building is to be erected on the site reserved for the purpose in King’s-avenue. The plans provide for the inclusion of the existing library building, and this section of the scheme will become the Roosevelt Memorial. Construction will be of reinforced concrete framing faced with precast synthetic stone slabs. The building will contain a basement, ground, first, second and third floors, and two mezzanine floors. The planning of the building has been made as flexible as possible, so that reasonable rearrangements of allocated areas may be undertaken as required at any time. The book stacks will accommodate approximately 1,500,000 volumes. In the design of the stack areas provision has been made for mechanical ventilation and artificial lighting, having in mind the deleterious effect of sunshine and dust on books, manuscripts and the like. The estimated cost of the work, including all services and steel book racks, is £1,702,000. I lay on the table of the House the plans of the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1949-50 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. j. j. Clark.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the billbe as follows: -
– This is a further outrage against the rights of private members. The Government, because of its majority in this chamber, can take advantage of every opportunity to deny the Opposition its right in this national forum to discuss matters of vital interest to the people of Australia. Yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was subjected to a running fire of criticism about the activities of a certain oil company. The result is that to-day he is using the “ guillotine “ to prevent further attacks by Opposition members. There was a time when budget debates and debates on supply bills were considered to be of major importance to the country. To-day, we are to be permitted only two hours to discuss the expenditure of approximately £34,000,000 under the heading “ Department of Postwar Reconstruction, Defence and Postwar (1939-45) Charges, Miscellaneous Services, and War (1914-18) Services “. If that is not a public scandal, I should like to know what is. The activities of the Department of Immigration require the closest scrutiny in debate, because the administration of our immigration laws has been subjected to criticism not only in Australia but also abroad. The House has yet to debate the Immigration Bill and the War-timeRefugees Removal Bill. However, the Government has allowed only one hour for the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of Immigration. The position does not improve. Only three-quarters of an hour has been allocated for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of Transport and the Department of Information. If there is any department that requires a close examination by the Parliament, it is the Department of Information, but honorable members will be allowed, in effect, only a quarter of an hour in which to discuss its activities. The Government’s decision to restrict debate on the remaining proposed votes is a public scandal, and constitutes another unwarranted interference with the rights of private members. The Government is treating the Opposition and the country generally with the utmost contempt. It realizes that the attacks which members of the Opposition have made on its administration during this debate definitely prejudice its prospects of reelection during the next few months, and. therefore, it runs to cover at the least sign of danger. I protest with all my power against this latest public scandal.
– About three weeks ago, the first four items of business on the notice-paper were the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1948-49, the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1948-49, the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1949-50 and the Supply (Works and Services) Bill (No. 1) 1949-50. Before the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) resumed the debate on the motion for the second reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1948-49, Mr. Deputy Speaker announced that he proposed to allow references to the other three bills in order to enable honorable members to discuss the national finances, the items contained in the schedules to the bills and all the matters to which the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) had referred in. his secondreading speeches on those measures. Honorable members availed themselves of that latitude, and their remarks on the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1948-49 also covered the other three financial bills. That debate occupied six days, during which members of the Opposition had full opportunity to deal with any matters that they desired to raise. The Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1948-49 and the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1948-49, wore passed in due coure. Since then, honorable members have occupied four days in considering the proposed votes for fourteen departments, as set out in the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1949-50. Seventeen other proposed votes remain w be considered. If the chamber were to devote to the consideration of those seventeen proposed votes as much time proportionately as it has spent on fourteen votes, nearly a fortnight would pass before the supply bills were passed.
Obviously, members of the Opposition generally have set out to waste as much time as they possibly can in discussing the proposed votes for various departments. In the second-reading debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1948-49, they had ample opportunity to raise many of the matters that they are endeavouring to discuss on the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1949-50. During the consideration of the last-named bill, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has actually repeated arguments that he advanced not long ago in his speech on the motion of censure.
– Because they are still pertinent.
– The arguments that the honorable member advanced in those two debates were exactly the same. However, they were defeated on a vote of the House, and, therefore, they have been disposed of. The honorable member is merely wasting time when, he repeats them.
Yesterday, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) made a speech on a certain matter before the suspension of the sitting at 6 o’clock, and repeated that speech later in the evening.
– Because the Minister did not reply to the matters I had raised.
– Order! The Chair is endeavouring to hear one speaker at a time. If all members desire to speak simultaneously, it may be the quickest way to complete the consideration of the bill, but I remind them that interjections are disorderly.
– More than three days have been occupied in considering the proposed votes for the Department of Health, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Supply and Development and the Department of Shipping and Fuel. Indeed, the consideration of the proposed vote of the Department of Shipping and Fuel occupied six and three-quarter hours yesterday. During that debate, many matters were raised, although they had been adequately discussed on previous occasions. The debate on petrol rationing yesterday is an outstanding example of that. More than a week ago, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) obtained leave to make a statement on the petrol situation, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) also made a statement on that subject. The Government has provided ample opportunity for the discussion of that particular matter. Regardless of what the Leader of the Australian
Country party may say about the , petro. position, the Government has stated clearly the line of action that it will pursue. The State premiers will confer with Commonwealth representatives on the subject at a conference to be held in Canberra next Friday. Honorable members must admit that the House has devoted considerable time to that subject. Indeed, much of that time has been wasted. The Opposition, naturally, will protest that the opportunity to discuss defence policy will be curtailed by the introduction of the “guillotine.”. However, I point out that on three occasions last year members of the Opposition did not seize the opportunity that was offered to them to debate the Government’s defence policy in the widest possible terms. They have had ample opportunity to debate defence policy generally, just as they have had ample opportunity to debate certain other subjects that they say they are desirous of raising during the consideration of the proposed votes in the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1949-50. However, we shall be merely wasting time if we carry on as we have been during the last three or four sitting days, because honorable members opposite have been discussing subjects that have already been adequately debated on other occasions. No valid reason can be adduced to show why the House should not complete the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1949-50 by to-night. I believe that the people who listen to the broadcast of parliamentary debates, and many honorable members, if they were to speak what is in their hearts, are tired of this discussion, and consider that it should be terminated as soon as possible.
.-The Government is scuttling for cover. The debates on the proposed votes for various departments have become too hot and uncomfortable for it, and it has decided that the introduction of the “ guillotine “ is the easiest way out of its dilemma. Obviously, the Government does not propose to reply to criticism of its administration, and it has adopted the “ guillotine “ as a method of stifling criticism. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has reminded us that honorable members have occupied four days in discussing the proposed votes for fourteen departments, and he claims that the Government is justified in believing that we should be able to give adequate consideration to seventeen other proposed votes before 10.15 p.m. to-day. His statement that the committee has been wasting time when considering the’ proposed votes is a grave reflection on the whole institution of Parliament. Honorable members are fully entitled to avail themselves of one of the two opportunities that are afforded to them in a year to discuss in detail the administration of various departments. However, the Government regards a careful consideration of those proposed votes as a waste of time. The attitude that the Minister has displayed in defending the introduction of the “ guillotine “ demonstrates that the Government holds the institution of Parliament in contempt. In fact he considers that there should not be an official Opposition in the Parliament. He thinks there should be only a government not inconvenienced by an opposition. That is an idea, but is an idea that so far has been accepted only in totalitarian countries like Germany and Soviet Russia. The very thing that distinguishes British countries from the totalitarian countries is the fact that the Opposition, which admittedly has no power to carry resolutions, nevertheless has the opportunity to direct the searchlight of public criticism upon the maladministration and bad policies of the Government. That is all that we seek to do. We know that we have no power to carry resolutions against the Government, but we seek to probe its administration. We are to have two hours in which to consider the proposed votes for departments, all of which are under the higher administrative control of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman). The sum proposed to be voted for those departments amounts to about £100,000,000, the expenditure of which is to be considered and sanctioned in two hours. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), whose administration of the White Australia policy has been not only the subject of controversy in Australia but also a growing source of friction between Australia and Asia, administers a department discussion of the proposed vote for which is to be curtailed to three-quarters of an hour.
– One hour!
– One hour, then. There is little difference. What that really means is that the Minister himself will talk till the cows come home, as he always does, and that we shall be jolly lucky if one of us has the opportunity to speak on his department.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The House has been subjected to a farrago of nonsense from the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). Honorable members have discussed the Appropriation Bill and the Supply Bill in a most dilatory fashion. As the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) pointed out, the debate on the Appropriation Bill took six whole sitting days. That has not happened for years and years. I doubt whether it has ever happened before that an Appropriation Bill has been debated for so long. I am certain that the Appropriation Bill, last year, was passed after two or three days of debate. The schedule to this Supply Bill has been debated for four days and we are now entering into the fifth day. Opposition members have not discussed the measure in the light of public needs at all. They have made propaganda, speeches on everything from which they could extract some propaganda.
– That is perfectly true. The proposed vote for the Department of Civil Aviation was not debated at all. It was agreed to without debate. A proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs, which is a department that affects the lives of Australians very greatly, excited no interest on the part of the Opposition. That proposed vote was passed without discussion. The proposed vote for the Department of Health, which includes the provision of money for national health and free medicine, was discussed for only five minutes. Yet, the proposed vote for the Department of Shipping and Fuel, which gave honorable members opposite the opportunity to voice the opinions of the oil companies and big vested interests that want to use dollars that are more badly needed in other directions to provide pleasure for the wealthy people of Australia, was debated for six hours. The proposed vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture was debated for two hours and twenty minutes, and the proposed vote for the AttorneyGeneral’s Department was debated for 40 minutes. Three hours of debate sufficed for the proposed vote for the Department of External Affairs about which honorable members generally talk prolifically. It is right and proper that I should direct the attention of the House to the stonewalling, delaying tactics of the Opposition. Honorable gentlemen opposite do not want any business discussed; all they want to do is to make propaganda speeches. If they are so keen about debating public matters as they pretend to be, why did they not take more time last year to deal with a similar measure ? They have wasted four days and the fifth day also is being wasted, because they do not want to discuss anything honestly. Last year they passed the Supply Bill in ten hours and twenty minutes. Anyway, they should be the last people in the world to talk about applying the “gag” and the “guillotine”. I propose to cite again figures that have been referred to several times in recent years. The Lyons Government applied the “gag” 125 times, and the “ guillotine “ was applied as a matter of routine, almost - with religious fervour. Those members of the Opposition who can remember the time so long ago when they had charge of depart-‘ ments and who will have to wait for another very long period to pass before they will have charge of departments again will realize that when we were in opposition, we often were given only two minutes in which to discuss certain matters. In 1935, the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), when he was plain honorable member for East Sydney, had the mortification of having his eloquence cut short after two minutes, and other honorable gentlemen then in opposition had no opportunity to talk at all. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who now professes to be the champion of parliamentary liberties, was a Minister who applied the “ gag “ hundreds of times. The then proposed vote for the Department of Defence was disposed of, on the motion of Sir Archdale Parkhill, without one speech having been made in opposition to the expenditure of a huge sum of money on defence at a period of history when Hitler was arising and another war was looming.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- We suffer in this House from the verbosity and inaccuracy of Ministers. A typical example of that verbosity and inaccuracy was provided by the “Minister for Misinformation and Intimidation “, Mr. Calwell.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark and apologize for it.
– Yes. I should not call him that. I mean the Minister for Information and Minister for Immigration.
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to refer to the Minister in the way in which he did. He must apologize to the Chair.
– I apologize to the Chair. The Minister referred to the number of times on which the “gag” was applied when I was a Minister. He was not a member of the House then. He was outside engaged in propaganda. I remind him, however, that that was during a tariff debate which lasted throughout 1933. The tariff schedule consisted of about 2,000 items, all of which were debated. Certain honorable members engaged in stonewalling and it was necessary to apply the “gag”. On this occasion, the position is different. We are asked to vote hundreds of millions of pounds to various departments. One of them is the Department of External Territories. I am not sure whether the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is still Minister for External Territories, but whether he is or not, I am glad that he is here to-day. We are to have till 12.45 p.m. to debate the proposed vote for the most valuable and fertile external territories of Papua and New Guinea, which have been so misgoverned and mismanaged. We are to have only two hours in which to consider the proposed votes for the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy and the Department of Air and related services. Another inaccurate Minister, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), said that last year the Department of Defence was not discussed. That is not so, but the verbosity of Ministers shut out Opposition speeches. Six Minister.” spoke ad lib. and ad nauseum. I do not intend to take up any more time, for I wish to allow the committee to have the opportunity to deal with the items in the schedule. Criticism must be launched against the maladministration and also the nationalization policy of the Government. With the Government operating practically as a totalitarian administration there is no hope for the people unless their representatives are allowed to speak. By this motion the Government shows that it does not want the voice of the Opposition parties to be heard. Nevertheless, we shall express our views in the limited time available to us and when the people speak, they will sweep from office inept Ministers who have not the right spirit or competence to control departments.
– If honorable members opposite really regard the motion as a restriction upon their liberties it is strange that neither the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) nor the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has raised his voice to protest against this alleged attack upon the rights of private members. Of course, one sometimes wonders whether honorable members opposite have a leader. In any event one would expect their leaders to be in the forefront in this supposed fight for the preservation of the rights of private members. However, they may have a greater sense of responsibility than have the two office boys who have spoken for the Opposition.
– Who are they?
– What does the Minister call himself?
– One of them is the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt).
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Although the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) did not ask an apology from the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), you called him to order and demanded him to apologize for a remark he made about that Minister.
– What is the honorable member’s point of order?
– I presume that the Standing Orders are to be applied to honorable members regardless of where they sit in the House. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has described one member of the Opposition as an office boy.
– The term used by the Minister was improper and objectionable, and I expect the Chair to ask for a withdrawal.
– The Standing Orders provide that a member who takes objection to a statement may nsk that it be withdrawn.
– The Minister for Information did not ask that the honorable member for Balaclava withdraw his statement.
-The honorable member for Balaclava made a statement which was particularly objectionable.
– I, myself, take objection to the words used by the Minister for Works and Housing, because I am one of the honorable members to whom he refers as an office boy. I again direct your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the fact that the Minister for Information did not take objection to the remark made by the honorable member for Balaclava. On your” own initiative, you demanded that that honorable member withdraw his statement.
– The reference to an honorable member being an office boy is not a serious reflection; but the honorable member for Balaclava made a serious reflection on the Minister for Information. However, if the honorable members concerned regard the reference to them as office boys as objectionable, I shall ask the Minister for Works and Housing to withdraw the remark.
– I have pleasure in withdrawing my remark. After all, I do not think that the honorable members concerned are fitted to be even office boys.
– You are certainly not fitted to he a Minister.
– Is the Chair going to allow the Minister to qualify his withdrawal ?
– -Order ! The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) must remain silent while the Minister is speaking, or I shall be obliged to deal with him.
– The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party have not spoken against this motion because they are aware of the records of governments of which they were members in applying the “ gag “. The, honorable member for Balaclava referred to the Estimates for the Department of External Territories. The fact is that a government of which he was a supporter - I am not sure whether he was then a Minister because he was so often in and out at the time and getting the sack, although, perhaps, not so frequently as was the honorable member for Barker-
– You will soon be out, too, Nelson.
– Order ! If honorable members desire that debates shall be conducted with several honorable members speaking at the same time, they will have to alter the Standing Orders accordingly. I shall enforce the Standing Orders as they now exist, and I shall deal with any honorable member who interrupts.
– The honorable member for Balaclava referred to the time allotted for the consideration of the Estimates for the Department of External Territories. I shall refer to a more important department, namely, that of the War Service Homes Department, because it is rather strange that the head of the Liberal party who, to-day, has so much to say about what he will do about housing-
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who have spoken in this debate as deputy leaders of their respective parties, have accused the Government of running away from criticism and scuttling for cover. Is it just a coincidence that the day selected to limit the time for discussion of the Estimates of some of the most controversial departments, is the one day of this week on which proceedings in this House will not be broadcast? We shall not regard that as a mere coincidence. It is a deliberate attempt by the Government to deny discussion on those more important departments, and to prevent whatever discussion is allowed from being broadcast to the people of the Commonwealth. After 2.15 p.m. to-day proceedings in this House will not be broadcast because the Senate will then be on the air. On the one day of the week when proceedings in the House will not be on the air, the Government has chosen to compress our discussions on these important departments. The weapon of the “ guillotine “ can be justified on only two grounds. Admittedly, it has been used by all governments in the past, but most governments exercised it only in justifiable circumstances. The first justification is that a real urgency exists to get government business through the Parliament in order that important matters can be dealt with by the Government; and the second justification is that Opposition members are deliberately obstructing the processes of the Parliament. In this instance, neither of those two arguments can be advanced. There is no great urgency to pass Supply. Having regard to the time taken in considering the Estimates for the departments already dealt with, we should expect the Parliament to sit for an additional week or fortnight. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) said, “ What harm has been done? There is ample time for discussion of these Estimates “. Therefore, no question of urgency arises. Is there any evidence of obstruction on the part of members of the Opposition? If Government supporters say that we are stonewalling, I throw back in their teeth the statement just made by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) when he pointed out that whilst lengthy discussion took place on the estimates for several departments only limited discussion or none at all took place on those for other departments.
– Order ! The time allowed for the consideration of the motion has expired.
Question put -
That the motion(vide page 978), be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. j. j. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 14th June (vide page 917).
Department of External Territories.
Proposed vote, £24,130.
– The time that has been allotted for the debate on the proposed vote for the Department of External Territories is not long enough to allow the committee to discuss the administration of the external territories in detail. An iron curtain has been put down in that part of the world in order to prevent an investigation of conditions there being made by honorable members on this side of the chamber.For a long time no member of the Opposition has been permitted to visit the external territories, and our only source of information regarding the conditions that obtain there is correspondence from residents. The manner in which the territories are being administered calls for the closest investigation. It is the subject of all kinds ofrumours and criticism. An Australian journal has published a series of articles which throw a searchlight upon the maladministration of the territories. At a future date the Parliament will be allowed to debate this question at greater length, and in those circumstances, I do not propose to waste time now by referring to matters that will later be the subject of a close and searching investigation by honorable members on this side of the chamber.
I have received two letters from Mr. G. Smith, the manager of the Put Nonu plantation, which is situated on Malendok Island, in the Tanga group of islands in the Namatanai district of New Ireland. The letters are dated the 10th January, 1949, and the 29th April, 1949, respectively. The first paragraph of the letter of the 29th April explains the reason why the writer has forwarded the two letters at the same time. It reads -
I have had no mail in or out for several months.
If it is true that no mail hasbeen received by or despatched from an Australian outpost for several months, something is wrong. I do not case whether there are only two Europeans in the area.
If the allegation be true, those Europeans are not getting the service to which they are entitled. The letter continues, referring to a passage in the letter dated the 10th January -
I presume this matter has been well ventilated in the press. If not, the seeds of serious trouble are being sown. I have since learned that the A.D.O. in question was attacked in New Ireland and as a result the rising at Tanga was staged. I happened to be the next on the list for extinction.
That seemed to me to be a fantastic statement. I discussed it with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), who informed me that the cult to which Mr. Smith has referred in his letter of the 10th January does in fact exist. It has spread from the Solomon Islands to this area of New Ireland. The letter of the 10th January reads as follows: -
I operate this copra plantation on Australia’s northernmost territory. I am one of two white and 2,000 blacks who inhabit the group. The other white is Father Reischl of the Catholic Mission on another island 12 miles away. I refer to the cargo cult known and kept in a file labelled “ Kiol “ by the Authorized District Officer, Namatanai. The aim of the cargo cult is to oust the Australian Government and the white race. Although 60 miles of rough sea separates this group from New Ireland, the cult has a strong following. Information came from “ Kiol “, the head of the cult in New Ireland, that on January 1st the Australians had ceased to govern and had fled.
Iunderstand that the members of the “ cargo cult “ spread false information about cargoes that are being shipped to and from the islands. They try to create dissatisfaction among the natives and incite them to refuse to load or unload the cargoes.
– That is not quite correct.
– The honorable gentleman will doubtless have something to say about the cult later, but that is what I have gathered from my conversations with him. The letter continues -
On January 2nd a party of ringleaders came across to the mission outpost at Liffa Island and bashed the Australian Native Government Representative senseless. He was brought to me, a bleeding mass, for medical aid and protection.
The next day the ringleaders (of Liffa Island) declared they were coming over to kill this man off and also any who opposed the new régime.
Come they did and landed on the plantation beach, but with a rifle I persuaded them to go back home.
The Authorized District Officer happened to come along for the half-yearly visit (2 hours), sentenced nine ringleaders to three months gaol (on another count) and released the chief offender scot free. Hundreds are collaborators.
These men will return and repeat the same offence as they do not fear gaol and regard the A.D.O. with contempt.
This is a direct result of weak administration and incompetent juniors employed as officers.
I raise the matter now because, if this man cannot get information in or out for a period of several months at a time and if the cult has taken into its hands the dealing out of summary bashings to government officers and others who are opposed to it, something may have happened since the letter was posted to me. I hope that my action in drawing the attention of the Minister to the letter will cause the Department of External Territories to provide for the protection of white planters and managers, missionaries, and other Europeans living in the far outposts of the territory. If the cult does indulge in the form of intimidation described in the letter, the department must provide for their safety. I hand the letter to the Minister so that he may take appropriate action. I admit that, when I first read the letter, I thought that the statements in it were rather fantastic. I could not imagine that the circumstances described in it were authentic. Therefore, I discussed the subject with the Minister yesterday and he has informed me that a “ cargo cult “ is operating in the islands and that it is has been introduced from the Solomon Islands. I ask him to take drastic action to protect white residents in those distant parts of the territory.
– I was amazed to hear the opening remarks of the honorn bie member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), because I thought that he waa aware that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) had only recently returned from a visit to New Guinea. The honorable gentleman asked for a permit to visit the territory and it was issued to him without demur. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who unfortunately is ill and unable to be present, also applied for a permit to enter New Guinea, and one was issued to him.
– That ha6 occurred only recently, though.
– I know that no such applications have been rejected over a period of some months. In fact, 1 understand that no member of the Opposition has ever been refused permission to enter New Guinea. That fact should be placed on record. It is unfair to make statements to the contrary in this chamber.
– I admit that. I am sorry.
– I am pleased to hear that admission, and I state now that any member of this Parliament who wishes to visit Papua and New Guinea will be issued with a permit. The honorable member for Wentworth spoke about rumours of happenings in the territory, but he did not name the instigators of those rumours. I read criticisms of the administration of the territory recently in the Pacific Islands Monthly. I think that it is well known that that journal has some association at least with Burns Philp and Company Limited.
– Has the Minister read Osmar White’s articles?
– Yes, I have read all of the articles written by Osmar White about the so-called maladministration of the territory. There was a great deal of untruth in what he wrote. In fact, there were so many misstatements that I was prepared to reply to them and asked the Melbourne Herald, which had published them, that I be allowed at least a reasonable amount of space in comparison with the space that had been occupied by Osmar White’s articles in which to reply, but the request was refused. I was not prepared to reply in a few words to claim after claim that had been made in Osmar White’s articles, which were published daily in the Herald. I think that honorable members will agree that a Minister who was prepared to read the articles carefully and make a studied reply was entitled to expect that the newspaper would make available space equal to that which had been occupied by the articles.
– Other newspapers would accept the Minister’s statement in reply.
– I think that I was entitled to expect the journal that had published them to accept a reply for publication. I want to make it known to honorable members that I did ask the editor. of the Melbourne Herald to give, me the same space for a reply as he had given to Osmar White and that my request was refused.
– Was that a verbal request ?
– No. I made it in writing.
– Did the Minister receive a reply in writing?
– I think that it was in writing. At any rate, I was informed that the space would not be made available to me. However, if the Melbourne Herald will allot as much space for a reply as was allotted to the attacks that were published, I am still prepared to reply to them.
– I am surprised that the Minister is curtailing the debate in this chamber when he has been denied the opportunity to state his case in the press.
– I want to be fair to all honorable members. Other honorable gentlemen may want to discuss external territories, but it would not be possible to deal with all matters affecting the administration of those territories in the time that is available to the committee.
– Why did the honorable gentleman apply the “gag”?
– I did not apply the “ gag “. Honorable members opposite are to blame.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! There must be no reflection upon a vote of the committee. That issue has been decided and is finished.
– I should like to have your permission, Mr. Deputy Chairman, to say that honorable members opposite could have discussed external territories from 11.15 a.m. instead of from 11.55 a.m.
I refer now to the letter that the honorable member for Wentworth received from Mr. Smith about the “ cargo cult”. The cult is not new amongst the natives. It has been a part of native life in the islands for many years and I believe that its recurrent revival is referred to in New Guinea as “the silly season “. It is a superstitious cult that breaks out when the leader of a mob of natives gathers his followers together and tells them that departed natives will send ships and aircraft with all sorts of cargo, including food and other commodities, at a certain period of the year. Of course, the ships and aircraft never arrive, and trouble breaks out. Attacks are not made particularly upon white residents. The natives fight amongst themselves. I have made inquiries about the allegations that have been made by Mr. Smith. The native affairs officer of New Guinea, Mr. Jones, who periodically visits all areas in the territory, has informed me that he has received no information to the effect that attacks have been made on Europeans at Tanga. However, attacks on natives occur periodically when the promised vessels fail to arrive with an abundance of coveted goods. The natives fight amongst themselves and knock each other about, and sometimes they attack the luluai, or head chief. It may be that some such incident occurred in this instance.
– The cause may be the slow turn-round of ships.
– The natives have been taught that these ships come from the sky. There is not much difficulty in turning ships round there. I assure the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) that I shall investigate the allegation that he has made to see whether there has been any attack on the white population. The superstitions to which I have referred are held by the natives, and when cargoes do not arrive they sometimes fight among themselves, and some of them are sometimes injured. That has been going on amongst the natives from time immemorial. I shall have the particular instance investigated to see whether there is any danger of the white population being attacked by the natives.
Turning to the subject of mail deliveries, I understand that the Tanga group of islands is a very small one lying off New Ireland and that it has no regular mail service. There is a regular mail service to Kavieng, which is a short distance from Tanga, and Tanga people who are expecting mail go across in their boats to Kavieng. I shall obtain full particulars regarding that matter for the honorable member.
.- The Minister (Mr. Chambers) referred to charges that have been made against the Papua and New Guinea Administration in a series of articles written by Mr. Osmar White and published in the Melbourne Herald. The Minister complained that when he sought an opportunity to reply in detail to the statements made in these articles the Melbourne Herald was not prepared to accord him the necessary space. Before I would be willing to accept that statement I should like to see the written request by the Minister and the written reply from the newspaper proprietors in relation to that matter. Most honorable members have found that when articles of that kind have been published a reasonable opportunity has been given to government departments to make any correction that they think proper. Quite apart from that, this Government has facilities, which it has not hesitated to use in the past, for making information known to the public. Various government departments pour out publication after publication giving the Government’s viewpoint and also including a good deal of political propaganda regarding the Government’s administration. I say that if the Minister views the allegations contained in Mr. White’s article as seriously as I consider they should be viewed, he could have issued his own statement in answer to them. If Ministers consider that they have been misrepresented or that their departments have been unjustly criticized in the press, an opportunity to set forth the true position publicly and in detail is provided by the forum of this Parliament. Here is an instance in which the Minister might have dealt in detail, in the Parliament, with charges of a most serious character. I propose to refer to some of the charges contained in Mr. White’s latest article that appeared in the Melbourne Herald yesterday. Mr.
White is a correspondent, who, I believe, is respected by those who know him. There are perhaps honorable members on the Government side who have some knowledge of him as a man, as a war correspondent and as a reporter generally. He is a man who, from my knowledge of him, is held in high esteem in his own profession. He has not been given to making extreme statements in his articles in the press. I for one, therefore, view with very great concern, and treat with a good deal of respect, the statements that he has made in his published articles regarding New Guinea. He hade them after he had resided in New Guinea for three months, during which period he made a very thorough survey of conditions and, I gather, had the co-operation of the administration while making his inquiries. His last article, which as I have said, was published last night, uses these strong terms -
The only honest thing to say about it is that our post-war record is scandalous to the point of tragedy. A searching official inquiry should be made.
The article begins -
Australia’s fitness to administer trust territories in the Pacific may soon seriously be challenged in the United Nations Trusteeship Council unless the Commonwealth Government takes measures to stabilize New Guinea’s post-war economy and announces, in clear terms a practical plan for the agricultural, industrial and social development of the Mandate.
The statements that appear in White’s article >are not, according to him, his views alone, but also the views of others, for he says -
Senior officers in the Papua-New Guinea administrative service have repeatedly expressed this fear to me during the past three months. It is a fear which the Administrator (Colonel J. K. Murray) himself shares.
In a recent interview Colonel Murray said: “ I sometimes wonder if Canberra realizes the urgent nature of the problems which face us here. If we Australians cannot justify ourselves in New Guinea soon somebody else is going to step in and take over - by force, or otherwise. Perhaps there is not as much time left as Canberra- thinks “.
Commenting on the articles in this series then published, Colonel Murray added: “I do. not necessarily agree with all your views, but on points of fact I think you have so far discharged the first part of the oath - you have told the truth about what you have seen in this country. I only hope you will go on to tell the whole truth. We have achieved something here. The picture is not wholly black “.
The article continues -
Colonel Murray was right. The achievements of the provisional administration have been considerable - but, in my view, they have been considerable only when one takes into account the extraordinary handicaps under which the Administration has been working.
He then refers to Colonel Murray as a “ discreet and patient servant “ and mentions some other aspects of the administration. He continues -
After three months’ intensive investigation of conditions in the Territory, the only honest comment I can make is this: The post-war record of the Commonwealth Government departments now represented in New Guinea is scandalous to the point of tragedy. A searching official inquiry to determine personal responsibility is the first prerequisite of any measures to remedy an appalling state of affairs.
A thorough and judicial investigation should he made under the following headings: -
1 ) The activities of the Department of Works and Housing. In my opinion the record of this department is one of incompetence.
Large sums of public money have been wasted. Vital town planning projects have been botched and needlessly delayed. The Department has failed to maintain wharfs, port installations, roads, bridges and public utilities; has shown ignorance or negligence in the purchase of surplus war materials for use in the Territory and is even now mismanaging the salvage of valuable equipment to which the Commonwealth Government still lias title on Manus Island. . . .
The transactions between the Commonwealth Disposals Commission and certain private purchasers of surplus war stocks.
I believe evidence can be brought to show that the Commonwealth Disposals Commission sold to private purchasers the salvage rights in large military dumps and installations, without having the slightest idea of what the sales entailed; that vehicles, machinery and equipment worth millions were sold at fantastically low figures and that purchasers in some instances made net profits running into thousands per cent.
In one case - now being assiduously hushed up - an installation was sold for £400. The purchaser resold to another private individual for £4,000, who in turn passed his title on for £11,000. The present owner is now asking the Government £00,000 for the material in an installation urgently needed for a vital defence project in Australia. . . .
The administrative record Of the Department of External Territories.
believe evidence can be brought to show that within the Department of External Territories negligence or ignorance has delayed important memoranda, requisitions and inquiries addressed by officers of the Papua.New Guinea Administration to the Minister for External Territories. . . .
Agricultural, fisheries and livestockresearch.
I believe that impartial, scientific inquiry into these departments would reveal that the work done on the Territory’s experimental stations, in many instances, has no practical value whatsoever. . . .
He gives details of those various charges and goes on to say -
Only when matters such as these have been cleared up will it be possible to set about giving New Guinea a new deal that really ngalia something. The first job of reform is to appoint competent officials to all positions of responsibility in the Territory.
I could go on at greater length if time permitted, both about quotations from this particular article and other matters that have come to the notice of honorable members. I consider that those charges cannot be allowed to remain unanswered. In the past this writer has shown a sense of responsibility in his published comments. He had a very fine record during the war as a war correspondent. I know that he is regarded as one of the hest and most reliable correspondents that the Melbourne Herald has on its staff. These most pungent and telling criticisms, made after a period of months spent in the territory, confirm the advices that have reached honorable members on this side of the chamber from residents of New Guinea, and to which reference has been made in the past. Australia cannot afford to have its administration of New Guinea and Papua criticized with accuracy and force from within Australia or from the territory itself. That administration has recently come under the review and scrutiny of the United Nations Trusteeship Council, and I understand that our ability to continue is being considered. In fact the joint administration established is still under challenge. It has not yet received the full approval of the Trusteeship Council. Consequently we must at this time, above all times, irrespective of our other responsibilities, see that our record with relation to New Guinea is as blameless as competent administration and wise ministerial leadership from this country can make it. Whilst I regret that more time is not available to us to deal fully with these matters, I hope that the Minister acting for the Minister for External Territories will answer the serious charges that have been levelled against his administration.
– Although I do not desire to encroach on the limited time available for discussion, it is essential that each charge that has been made should be answered. It is unfortunate that the honorable members opposite did not make better use of the time available to them.
– Only an hour and a quarter was allowed to us.
– The honorable member forFawkner (Mr. Holt) is rather indiscreet. At times I wonder whether he is activated by political considerations in his approach to charges against the Department of External Territories, in view of the fact that the second sitting of the Trusteeship Council will soon take place.
– The Minister cannot ignore what has been published in this newspaper.
– The articles by Osmar White extend over a period of about six weeks, and have been published in double columns. In the early stages even greater space was given to them.
– One of his articles occupied almost a full page in last night’s edition of the Melbourne Herald.
– Evidently the honorable member contends that I should be able to reply in a few minutes to all of the charges that have been made by Osmar White. In his articles he has referred to certain opinions alleged to have been expressed by the Administrator, Colonel Murray. However, no articles have appeared on behalf of Colonel Murray to indicate whether the questions claimed to have been put to him are authentic or otherwise. Honoraide members opposite have made a personal attack on a man of very high calibre who is responsible for the administration of Papua and New Guinea. What charges do honorable members opposite lay against Colonel Murray?
– Ah !
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) to say “ Ah “ ; but is any honorable member prepared to make a specific charge against Colonel Murray merely because Osmar White says in his articles that things are not run in the territory as he would desire, and therefore that Colonel Murray has fallen down on his job of looking after the interests of the natives and the territory in general? Most of the criticism that has been levelled at the Department of External Territories is based on thr treatment of the white people and the natives of Papua and New Guinea over the years by previous governments, rather than the administration of the present Government.
– But this Government has been in office for eight years.
– I remind the honorable member that the recent war commenced in 1939 and ended in 1945. From 1940 onwards there were troops in Papua and Rabaul, and the territory was under army occupation from 1943 until 1945. On a peace-time basis, therefore, this Government has exercised control for less than four years. I am reminded by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that the civilian administration returned to New Guinea in 1946. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to challenge the Administration after reading articles published in the Melbourne Herald and other conservative newspapers that are not favorable to this Government. But how many members of the Opposition have sought an opportunity to visit the territory to see for themselves the conditions that exist there to-day? It is to the credit of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that he does not accept baseless statements contained in newspaper articles and anonymous letters which are received practically every day complaining about the Administration and the treatment of both the white people and the natives in New Guinea and Papua. I remind the honorable member forFawkner that only last week three members of the Public Service in New Guinea visited Canberra. Before leaving they said that they were completely satisfied with the terms of the Public Service Ordinance that will soon be promulgated consequent on the legislation recently passed by the Parliament. The natives of Papua and New Guinea have never enjoyed better treatment than they are receiving to-day and I believe that the white people in the territory are not complaining. Many difficulties have had to be overcome because there was great destruction in the territory during the war years. Instead of honorable members opposite living in comfort in Australia and basing their criticism on information gleaned from secondhand sources they should occasionally have a look at these places. No obstacle has been placed in the way of any honorable member visiting Papua and New Guinea for any period since the return of the civil administration.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) has repeatedly sought permission to visit the territory.
– On the contrary a permit for the honorable member to visit the territory was issued to him immediately after I received his first application.
– He wanted the Government to pay his expenses.
– I think that honorable members opposite should have a look at conditions existing in the territory themselves rather than take notice of the writings of Osmar White or other people.
– Does the Minister now suggest that the privilege formerly enjoyed by members of the Parliament to visit the territories as part of their duty has been restored to them?
– I do not know about that; but a permit to visit Papua and New Guinea will be issued to any honorable member who seeks one.
– We formerly had the right to visit the territory by government transport.
– I am prepared to give an assurance, which I am sure the Minister for whom I am acting will endorse, that any honorable member who asks permission to enter Papua or New Guinea will receive it. As for the complaints in the Pacific Islands Monthly, I saw no criticism in that publication of Burns Philp and Company Limited, which is so powerful in this area. Perhaps the greatest griev ance of the people in Papua and New Guinea is the excessive prices which they have to pay for goods. If they were able to live more cheaply there would be a better feeling among them. Burns Philp and Company Limited is in a better position than anybody else to bring down the cost of living. It would be better employed in so doing than in maligning the Government, and charging it with maladministration.
– What charge is the Minister bringing?
– I am charging Burns Philp and Company Limited with demanding excessive prices for goods and services, and with causing discontent among the residents of Papua and New Guinea. No one is better aware of the cause of this discontent than is the’ honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale). Residents in the territories have been complaining for many years, and this Government has done more to remove the cause of their complaints than any other government ever did. Most of the residents will themselves admit as much. There is some dissatisfaction, but that is only natural in a place which was so severely damaged during the war. It is not possible to repair all the damage in a few years.
– I am sorry that the Minister (Mr. Chambers), acting for the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), did not make a more impressive reply to the speech of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). Before the war, members of this Parliament were privileged to visit the territories of the Commonwealth once in three years, their steamer fares being paid by the Treasury, so that they might acquaint themselves with local conditions. The Minister rebuked honorable members for not doing their duty by visiting the territories, but on inquiry it was ascertained that he did not know whether the Government was prepared to pay their fares as was done before the war.
– The honorable member can find that out for himself.
– The Minister should have acquainted himself with the position.
– There have been no applications to go.
– My colleague, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), has, time and time again, from his place in this chamber, sought the right to go to New Guinea, and has been fobbed off with evasive replies.
– He did not apply for permission to go.
– Seeing that neither the Minister for External Territories nor the Minister acting for him knows what the position is, I think I can acquaint them. It is strange that they should have to be advised by a member of the Opposition.
– Let us hear what the honorable member has to say.
– My information is that, during very recent months, the privilege has been restored to members of the Parliament to visit each of the territories once in three years.
– It was never taken from them.
– I understand that a circular was issued by the Department of the Interior dealing with the matter. I am astonished that the honorable member for East Sydney, who has been heckling me, does not himself know what is the present position. In this morning’s press, there is a news item which states that the permanent head of the Department of External Territories, Mr. J. R. Halligan, has been hurried off to Lake Success.
– That is not true. He has not been hurried off. He is to represent Australia, and he is going to Lake Success in the normal way. He will leave by air to-morrow, and his trip is part of the normal procedure.
– I accept the explanation that he is going to Lake Success in order to be available to reply to charges which are expected to be made there against Australia’s administration of trusteeship territory.
– That is not true. Mr. Halliganis our representative, and he would be going to Lake Success in any circumstances.
– Then why does not the Minister explain to us that no charges are expected to be made at the United Nations meeting. The position should be made clear. We want to know whether Australia lies under a charge in respect of its trusteeship administration.
– Australia is under no charge.
– Well, Australia was charged last year, by the representative of Soviet Russia, with maladministration. I shall be very surprised if the Minister proves to be right, and if Soviet Russia or one of its satellites does not return to the charge.
– Is the honorable member supporting Soviet Russia in the charge ?
– No, I am not like the honorable member for East Sydney. We know that he has always been a supporter of Soviet Russia - ashamed to admit it at times, but nevertheless a supporter. That, however, is his business. The honorable member for Fawkner mentioned disposals sales. I have been advised that, at a disposal sale in the Milne Bay area at least two years ago, a lot was knocked down at auction in rather curious circumstances to oneStubbs for £10,000. I do not vouch for the accuracy of the information, but we are entitled to an explanation from the Government. My information is thatStubbs, having bought the lot, sold part of it, consisting of petrol drums only, for £80,000. It has been stated that on the one deal, transacted over a period of a couple of hours, Stubbs obtained a return of at least £100,000. I now ask the Government whether it knows anything of the matter.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of External Territories has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Proposed vote, £107,460.
.- I desire to make some brief observations on the Government’s immigration policy.
In the first place, I am somewhat concerned at the comparative inadequacy of the flow of migrants from the United Kingdom compared with that from other countries. I realize, of course, the difficulties involved in bringing British migrants to this country, but I should like to obtain from the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) some indication of the action which the Government proposes to take to increase the flow of British migrants. Speaking generally, I think that the migrants that we have received from other countries are not of bad quality, although from our general observations of them it is clear that a number will not become decent Australian citizens. Undoubtedly the operation of the nomination system is one of the reasons why we have received so few migrants from Great Britain. When I was in England some time ago I wrote to the Minister for Immigration about that matter. I believe now, as I did then, that if we could relax by some means the operation of that system, we should be able to obtain substantially more British migrants, and I should like the present system to be altered. I found that decent men and women in England who desire r,o come here are unable to do so because they are not acquainted with any one in this country who is prepared to nominate them and provide accommodation for them. The fact that British people are discouraged from coming to this country because of the operation of the nomination system seems particularly unfortunate when we consider the methods adopted to bring people to Australia from countries other than the United Kingdom. Undoubtedly some of the organizations which sponsor the immigration of nonBritish peoples are not likely to attract the best type of migrants.
– Is the honorable member referring to migrants who pay their own fares to this country or is he referring to assisted migrants?
– I am referring to assisted migrants, because those who might be induced to migrate under that scheme are undoubtedly those on whom we should primarily concentrate our attention. After all, the means possessed by a migrant is not really important, we should direct our attention to his personal qualities. There is no reason why we should not establish a governmental organization to nominate prospective British migrants. I do not think that prospective migrants in the United Kingdom would object to being accommodated in buildings of the type at present used for the reception and accommodation of displaced persons who come to this country as migrants. Furthermore, the average British . migrant would not, I should imagine, object to being required as a condition of his admission, to perform certain work for a limited period, so long as he knew that after a reasonable period he would acquire the full rights of Australian citizenship. During the weekend I was speaking to an Englishman, who knows a great deal on the subject of immigration, and he informed me that if the staff in his factory, where more than 30,000 men are employed, were invited to come to Australia to-morrow, at least from 30 to 40 per cent, would seize the opportunity to do so. Now that a certain resistance to migration seems to be developing in sections of our people I think that it is necessary to emphasize that the only way by which we can attain national security and the strength to confront with confidence the problems which face us, is by attracting larger numbers of migrants to Australia than we have been obtaining.
Another opportunity for us to obtain suitable migrants is presented by the problem of the volk deutsch, of whom there are approximately 600,000 or 700,000 in Europe. They are people who were originally Germans but later became merged in the populations of other nations, such as Hungary, Bessarabia and Poland. Some of their families left Germany more than a century ago, as was the case with the volk deutsch in Bessarabia, whose ancestors left Germany at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Because of the enmity aroused against the volk deutsch in those countries in consequence of the attitude of the German nation towards other nations during Hitler’s regime, they are no longer wanted in those countries. Since they had almost become merged into the population of other countries they are not wanted in Germany, and the consequence is that they are being driven like cattle from place to place in Europe.
– That has come about because of the Potsdam Agreement.
– I am not concerned with the reason for that situation; for the moment I am merely pointing out that those people would provide splendid migrants for this country, and that they would undoubtedly be better material than many of the migrants from other European countries who have come here. I know that representations on this matter have previously been made to the Minister, and I should like him now to indicate what the Government proposes to do about encouraging those people to come to Australia.
Another section of the German community about whom I am concerned are those who have been shifted from east Prussia and the eastern portions of Germany to other parts of Europe, and are estimated to number about 3,000,000. They are being treated like cattle, and they present a tremendous human problem. The great majority of them compulsorily removed from their homes have been segregated from others of their race by the Germans themselves, and they have no place in which to establish themselves. Undoubtedly large numbers of them would make fine migrants for this country. Since only a short time is available for discussion of the proposed vote of the Department of Immigration, and as I do not want unduly to trespass on the time of other honorable members, I have merely outlined my points without in any way elaborating them, and I should appreciate an answer by the Minister when he speaks on the proposed vote.
.- I have listened attentively to the views expressed! broadly by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), which undoubtedly coincide with the thoughts of a number of Australian people. However, 1 believe that the Government and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) thoroughly appreciate the difficulties that are associated with the system of nomination that has been adopted to bring British migrants to this country, which has resulted in reducing considerably the flow of British migrants in comparison with that of people of elat? countries.
As the honorable member said, we should all like to see more British people coming to Australia. At the same time, we should not overlook the fact that substantial numbers of British people are entering Australia on the nomination of relatives and others in this country, and that they are certainly the most desirable migrants that we can obtain. Within a few years they may very well prove to be our best citizens. It is to be regretted also, as the honorable member pointed out. that because of shortage of housing materials and labour we are unable to provide what is necessary for the accommodation and welfare of the many thousands of British people who would like to come to this country. However, I believe that the Government and the Minister for Immigration, despite the scarcity of housing accommodation and in the face of the criticism that is being constantly levelled at them, have done everything possible to foster the migration of British people. It is a matter for gratification thai we are receiving at present a great preponderance of British migrants. The extension of the present free and assisted passages schemes will no doubt be beneficial to the British people and, ultimately, to the people of this country. Australia to-day has a crying need for more workers and more people to assist in its development. Many years ago the Americans instituted a progressive policy of migration as the result of which that country is now one of the wealthiest nations in the world. The American experience is an indication of what may be achieved by a virile migration policy designed to facilitate the development of this country. As honorable members know Australians to-day, because of the shortage of man-power, lack certain things that are essential to provide the amenities of life. We have not sufficient population to enable our industries to produce to maximum capacity, and thus meet all the requirements of our prosperous citizens. It if well to bear in mind, however, that the Minister for Immigration has been able, in a few short years, to increase the flow of migrants to this country to a degree not thought possible even by the most optimistic among us a few years ago.
As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has said, the honorable gentleman has brought a spectacular dow of migrants into this country in the face of a great deal of opposition by people who, because they lack a national spirit, bear a grudge against new settlers. I confess that at one time I thought that any one who came to Australia from overseas should be regarded with a certain amount of suspicion. Until recently the average Australian has been inclined to view migrants, no matter from what country they came, us refugees. The Minister has not only ro overcome that bias but has also the greater obstacle of providing passages and arranging housing and accommodation for new sutlers. As the result of lie honorable gentleman’s efforts a change has been brought about in the attitude of the people towards migrants from foreign countries. The honorable gentleman has brought home to the Australian people a realization of the need for new settlers. He has convinced them of the absolute necessity for attracting as many suitable persons as Australia is physically capable of assimilating. The people of Australia are under an obligation to the Government, to the country, and to themselves to ensure that the old habit of classing as a refugee every foreign migrant who comes to Australia shall be abandoned. New settlers should be looked upon as potential Australian citizens who will play a very important part in the development of this nation. Only narrowminded persons oppose the migration policy of this Government. Everything should be done to welcome those who wish to commence life anew in this country. Without unduly applauding the Minister’s efforts, I think honorable members generally will agree that he has instituted a. most progressive migration policy and that he has made a humane approach to the problem. As the result of his efforts many thousands of people from European countries who, because of their objection to fascism and other totalitarian methods of government were no longer able to remain in the country of their birth, have been given a chance to rehabilitate themselves in this country. At all times he has expressed the hope that he will be able to obtain a pre ponderance of British migrants. It has been ‘ impossible to give full effect to his policy solely because of the difficulties encountered in providing transport and housing accommodation. When these and other domestic problems have been overcome, the Minister will no doubt be able to arrange for a still greater flow of British migrants to this country.
.- The migration policy of the Government should be reviewed. No one will deny that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has expended much energy in the furtherance of the Government’s migration scheme. The system of nominated migration is by no means new. Such a system was established by a previous government. It was suspended during the war and has since been readopted with some modifications. Although it is not the fault of the Government, it is nevertheless true that there is a contrast in treatment between British migrants and displaced persons. Displaced persons who come to Australia are cared for and housed. It is also true that they are brought here under a contract to undertake certain work and they have to fulfil the terms of their contract before they can become Australian citizens. But British migrants, on the other hand, are obliged to arrange for their accommodation in advance. After their arrival here many of them have been disappointed by the almost insuperable difficulties placed in the way of their obtaining houses. Some of them have returned to Great Britain. Fortunately, the number of those who have returned on that account is not very great. There appears to be much misunderstanding among honorable members and people generally and some exaggeration about the number of British migrants coming to Australia. Mr. Noel Baker, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, in citing the official figures, said -
In the two years ended let March, 1949, the number of people who migrated to Australia was 54,844. The total includes 15.739 free and 14,401 assisted passages.
Thus only 14,491 persons were brought to Australia under the assisted passage scheme. Mr. Noel Baker continued -
Totals for other dominions were - Canada. 58.505; New Zealand. 13,183; and South Africa, 54.M4.
I do not think that the Minister will challenge those figures.
– No ; exceptto say that neither Canada nor South Africa has assisted migrants to go to those dominions.
– Honorable members will see that Australia, with a population of nearly 8,000,000, has attracted to it only as many migrants as has South Africa, which has a white population of 2,000,000. We need not exult about that achievement. The Minister has said that he would ensure that the proportion of British to foreign migrants would be ten to one.
– I said that that was our ideal, and that we would endeavour to work on that basis.
– That proportion has not been achieved. The proportion of British to foreign migrants has been approximately two to one. We should do everything possible to encourage a greater number of British migrants to come here because we have no desire to import any racial problems. I do not suggest that such problems exist in this country but they might well develop here unless the ratio of British migrants to foreign migrants be increased. The Government has just signed a migration agreement with the Italian Government. We have nothing against the Italians although they were our enemies not long ago. I understand that the number of Italian migrants who will come to Australia under that agreement will run into tens of thousands. That shows how desirable it is that we should increase, if possible, the number of British migrants coming here. Honorable members are well aware of what was achieved during the war under the Empire Air Training Scheme as the result of co-operative effort on the part of the dominions. The Minister should consider the need for a reorientation of his migration scheme under which there will be a larger inflow of British migrants. The migration of people from Great Britain to America in the early years was phenomenal. Lettherebe a joint immigration agreement under which a large number of British people will come to this country. Let preference be given first to building tradesmen, although I realize that they are hard to get. Let satellite villages be built on the borders of our principal towns. Under the present immigration system, Britishers are arriving in this country a few at a time, and are competing with Australians for the available housing. Either the Australian resident or the newcomer is frustrated. I have submitted a plan in writing to the Minister, and I hope that he will examine it carefully. There is no reason why there should not be a repetition of what took place in the early days of the war, when large training establishments were built for the services. When I advanced this proposal on a previous occasion, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said - I do not think that I am misrepresenting him - that to put immigrants into barracks would be undesirable. The honorable member has a wrong conception of the establishments to which I refer. I can speak from personal experience of one war-time village, and I am sure that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) will support my remarks. I refer to the Somers Royal Australian Air Force camp in Victoria, which can accommodate 1,500 people. I give the Minister credit for preventing its demolition some time ago. At present it is leased privately, but a large portion of it is still vacant. It is not a derelict army camp, but a garden village only 40 miles from Melbourne. It is close to an agricultural district, and is connected by road or rail to every village on the Mornington Peninsula and good motor transport lines operate. Men living at Somers with their families - amenities are provided for family life - could work in adjacent villages, or could undertake building work until they were absorbed into the general employment pattern of the community. Similar settlements could be built near large provincial centres such at Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong, in Victoria, where increasing employment is being offered. Building trades immigrants could be asked to give an undertaking that they would be prepared to work for a certain period constructing satellite villages for their own accommodation. That is where joint planning could be used to the best advantage. Housing costs have rocketed to extraordinary heights. In fact, people purchasing homes on time-payment will be paying for them for the rest of their lives. Building costs could be lowered considerably by an agreement between the Australian and United Kingdom Governments for the importation of huge quantities of timber, cement and steel free of duty. Under the Customs Act, the Commonwealth is permitted to purchase from bond. There is no reason why Australia should not come to terms with other countries for the purchase of building materials. I believe, however, that we should concentrate on the United Kingdom first. Britain can supply what we require. It has dealt largely with its own housing problem, and has cement, steel and coal for export. I remind the committee that, in the early days of the Australian colonies, British regiments recruited artisans to build their accommodation in this country. Our pioneers, too, showed the right spirit. They built their own dwellings or brought them with them. The housing shortage should not baulk us to-day provided that we have the right spirit and sound planning. I do not like to use the word “ planning “ because it is something that can be overdone. I prefer to describe what I have in mind as cooperation between the Australian Government and the Government of the United Kingdom. If the co-operation is given in the right spirit, we shall be able to get the large numbers of British immigrants that we seek instead of the mere trickle that we are getting at present.
I believe, also, that sufficient attention is not being devoted to child immigration. Members of this chamber who recently visited Berlin and other German cities now under British, American and French occupation know that huge numbers of orphan children are living there in institutions that are not all that they might be. Those children would be welcome in this country for adoption. I know that there is already legislation on the statutebook that would enable this to be done, but much more intense organization is necessary and none ar© coming from that quarter yet. That, however, is not the main issue. The primary objective should be a steady stream of British immigrants to this country. It could be done. It must be done if we are to remain in -occupation of this country, and to withstand any challenge that may be made in the future.
.- 1 have been interested to note the trend of the feeling amongst Opposition members about immigration, particularly British immigration. Of interest, also, have been the several quite kindly references to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) concerning the nomination system. Immigration has ceased to be a dream. It has passed the tentative stages. To-day’s immigration problems are numbers, the disposition of those numbers, the housing of the newcomers, and their employment in a slower but still expanding economy. The Australian way of life is assuming a peace-time tempo. Several important aspects of our immigration plans have been missed by other speakers in this debate. First, the nomination system, of course, has its limitations. So far, it has been used mainly by British residents of this country to bring to Australia their relatives, even of the second or third generation. It has not been freely availed of by Australians, although there is general agreement that the best immigrant is the British exserviceman. Last week-end, the Minister for Immigration completed arrangements for the voyage to this country of the first ship carrying nominees of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, but, generally speaking, there has not been wide acceptance by Australians of the opportunity to nominate United Kingdom residents for immigration to this country. On the other hand, it is well known that European displaced persons are coming here in large numbers, and, so far, there is no indication of any substantial depletion of the ranks of those who wish to follow them. Reference has been made to the volk deutsch. The large number of European displaced persons who have not been within the boundaries of displaced persons camps form, a pool of fine sturdy prospective immigrants, who, in the war years, resisted tyranny and ^sustained severe hardships. In due course they, too, -will have opportunities to migrate to this country, and very usef ul immigrants they will be. The position at present, therefore, is that a large number of British people are clamouring at Australia House for an opportunity to migrate to this country, but their ambition is being frustrated either because of the lack of nominations, or because of shipping difficulties. A most important consideration also is the British man-power situation. Large numbers of skilled and useful men and women who would be most acceptable immigrants cannot be spared by the United Kingdom. In fact, I understand that Great Britain .itself has taken some hundreds of thousands of European displaced persons into its industries, particularly the coal mines, and the heavy industries. It was early in the field and obtained many Europeans of splendid types. The people of Great Britain are of two minds about migration. Governmental authorities hold that as many people as Britain can spare should be permitted to emigrate to the Dominions. They consider any one part of the Empire to be as good as smother, or, perhaps better if British people can be better fed and enjoy higher living standards .than they would in the Homeland while it is passing through the reconstruction period. On the other hand the trade unions are inclined to resist immigration. The juxtaposition is extraordinary. Once upon a time, the Australian Labour party held an opinion onmigration that was not quite so bitter, dark or stupid as that held by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), but somewhat comparable with it, because some of the conditions that surrounded migration at that time were rather ill-judged and badly planned. The present migration scheme is of a different order, and even the most bitter opponent of the Minister must agree that his heart and soul are in it. He is fighting a notable battle in obtaining ships and migrants. But the most serious difficulty of all is that of conditioning the Australian mind to acceptance of the immigrants. Whether the migrant be a Briton or a Bait, there is a substantial minority of Australians who are fundamentally opposed to migration, even attributing the housing shortage to it. They also point to the possibilities of an economic recession, and
Mr. Haylen. think in terms of existing industry instead of expansion. They are possessed by a fear that is cunningly fostered by certain people who, for their own ends, desire a revival of their former notoriety, and who complain that migration is dangerous. If we lack the courage to accept the broad concept of ‘ migration, the prospects are bad indeed. The one aspect of the migration plan that has failed is the conditioning of the Australian people to an acceptance of the broad-scale migration of all kinds of people. I should like to see, in addition to the volk deutsch, migrants from Bessarabia, and central and northern Europe, and hard-working Italians. There is not an area in Europe that cannot supply some of its surplus people in a steady flow that would be of substantial benefit to us. However, the breakdown that we may fear is not in any part of the plan itself. It lies in the local reluctance to accept the plan. I am glad to say that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, in a general way, support the migration plan. The Parliament of the Commonwealth and the Australian Government have a duty to ensure that the frightening isolationist talk shall not take hold of the people, and lead them astray about the wisdom of the migration policy.
I turn now to the nomination system for the purpose of indicating some small anomalies that have arisen in it. Even the system under which people in Australia nominate relatives in the United Kingdom as migrants has not always proved successful. Some people advertise in the press, or write from the United Kingdom, suggesting that some one in Australia may be prepared to provide accommodation and employment for them. That kind of approach reveals a desire on the part of many people in the United Kingdom to migrate to Australia, but often they experience annoyance and frustration, because of housing difficulties. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is most earnest in this matter, but he should carefully re-examine his suggestion that barracks should be provided for British migrants. We must not forget that Britons themselves do not, in a general sense, approve of such quarters. Some of them express their willingness to come here under conditions of service almost parallel with those under which Balt migrants come to Australia, hut I do not consider that that feeling is common. I assume that, in this debate, we are talking in the broadest and fairest way of a serious problem. Some migrants from the United Kingdom are known as the “ come-freers “ ; in other words they have come here “under their own steam “. A few of them have caused a certain degree of disruption in the nomination system, and brought it into some disrepute. They sell their houses in England at black market prices, become dissatisfied with conditions in Australia, return disgruntled to the United Kingdom, and telltheirstories to the press, which publishes them under blazing headlines, claiming that the migration plan is unfair. Really, those persons are unfair to themselves. Because they have suddenly acquired money through selling their homes at black market prices, they seek to derive an unfair advantage for themselves. When they arrive here, they discover that hotel accommodation is substantially more expensive than they had expected to pay. In the advertising columns of newspapers, such as the Sydney Morning Herald, we read urgent appeals to the effect that an immigrant, who survived the London blitz, earnestly hopes that some kind person here will provide him with accommodation. The average Australian, including the Australian exserviceman who is waiting for a home, considers that such immigrants are taking an unfair monetary advantage of him are getting housing to which he himself is really entitled. If the immigrants succeed, as they often do, in obtaining a house, flat or other accommodation, they disturb the order of priority.
No time is perfect for immigration. In some respects, the present is a dangerous time, but we must overcome those possibilities of danger. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said, the migration plan is a strong one. Its implementation will require toughness, and may cause a certain degree of anxiety, but the plan can and will be made to succeed. As I have explained, it is subject to a number of slightly disrupting influences, such as those that are caused by people who try to derive a tem porary advantage because they have the financial means to enable them to come to Australia “ under their own steam “. The people who suffer as the result of that are not only Australians but persons in Great Britain who are awaiting nomination and shipping passages. I realize that little or nothing can be done to improve that position. A citizen of the United Kingdom may travel wherever he pleases, without hindrance, within the British Empire. Indeed, I am proud that he may do so.
– He may not go to South Africa and remain there.
– If he desires to migrate to another part of the Empire a citizen of the United Kingdom does not require a special licence or permit to enable him to do so. The nomination system suffers from some disabilities because of the matters to which I have referred.
My second point is that we have not enthusiastically taken up the nomination system, because of the housing shortage. If a Gallup Poll were taken in order to ascertain the number of spare rooms that could be provided for persons who require accommodation, the information so obtained would add to the strength and efficiency of our economy, and we should be able to take up a tremendous amount of the slack in migration. Child migration, to which the honorable member for Balaclava has referred, is most interesting but I believe that it must necessarily wait for a little while. Child migrants become Australianized much more quickly than adult migrants do, but suitable institutions must be built to accommodate them. The first survey has shown that the cost of erecting even one suitable hostel for children would be £6,000,000. Therefore, child migration will entail great expense in upkeep.
The final matter that I desire to discuss relates to the new Balt labour that is coming to Australia, and difficulties that they are experiencing. We should not become intolerant of them. We should endeavour not to check them against standards higher than our own. or ask how hard they can work and how long they are prepared to work. If we make those mistakes, we shall not approach the problem of migration in the same way as the United States of America approached it. Although we have little to give them in exchange for their labours at the moment, we shall have much to give them in the future and we must allow them an opportunity to establish themselves without a blaze of publicity or criticism. They need not collect in small communities, the mere thought of which always terrifies some Australians. I cannot see that any harm will be done if the displaced persons retain some of the spirituality and racial characteristics of their own nations, so long as they acquire the broad concepts of their new home. Isolationists should not display antagonism to the Baits simply because they are newcomers. A cry, “ there are too many Baits in this country” could quickly change to a cry that “ there are too many ‘ Pommies ‘ here”. The term “Pommy” was sometimes used affectionately and at other times in an uncomplimentary way towards the Briton. Antagonism could easily arise against large numbers of migrants because of the old, out-moded fear that still exists among the isolationists. I return to my original proposition that our principal concern in migration is not to worry about the number of migrants, because they are coming here, or ships, because they will be provided, or the plan, because it is functioning; but we should worry about conditioning the minds of Australians to an acceptance of the newcomers as Australians and to giving them a “ fair go “ after their arrival here. We should assist them to become absorbed into their new community. If we should fail on that final but vital point of conditioning the Australian mind, the migration plan may suffer a severe setback, and that would be. most serious indeed.
– I shall make only a few remarks, because it would be unfair to honorable members who desire to make a contribution in this debate if I were to monopolize the time that has been allowed for the discussion. I thank all honorable members for their contributions. Broadly, I agree with everything that has been said. There is no difference of opinion amongst us about the desirability of bringing as many people as possible to this country as quickly as possible, depending of course, on our capacity to house and employ them. The unemployment problem is not great at the moment, because we have about 250,000 more jobs to fill than we have people to fill them. I agree, and have often stated, that we want a preponderance of British people amongst the immigrants. But the number of people that we can bring into Australia from any other country is dependent upon the availability of shipping. If we could get the ships we could get more British immigrants under the nomination system.
– The shipping position is improving, is it not?
– It is improving, but the supply of ships is not good enough from our point of view or from any point of view. The shipping companies and the British Ministry of Shipping have provided 70,000 berths to bring migrants from Britain this year. They include those who will pay their own fares as well as free and assisted immigrants. Next year 85,000 berths will be provided and the year after that 87,000. I was hoping that the number of berths available would vise year by year by at least an arithmetical progression. We bad 40,000 berths last year and we shall have 70,000 next year, and I had hoped that we would have 100,000 in the year after that.
– And 130,000 in the next year?
– I should like 200,000 if it were possible to bring them. However, we can bring to Australia only the number of people for whom ships can be provided. If we did not take the excellent displaced persons we are now bringing from Europe the ships that are carrying them would take them elsewhere; they would not be available to bring British immigrants instead. I propose, as soon as possible, to make a statement on immigration that will canvass all the possibilities referred to by honorable members to-day and will give the latest information. We have closely watched the subject of the admission of volio deutsch. Indeed
Australia is the only nation that has taken a really practical interest in it so far. It involves an international organisation to provide ships in which to transport those people. We cannot provide the ships from our own resources. There are millions of dispossessed Europeans, other than those who come under the aegis of the International Refugee Organization. About 11,000,000 people have been dispossessedas the result of the Potsdam Agreement. They have been pushed from where they lived in Europe to other parts. The, Potsdam Agreement is one of the most tragic documents ever written and history will provide its judgment on that agreement. I hope soon to make the statement covering all the matters that have been raised. Perhaps there will be an opportunity for it to be debated. I thank honorable members again for their suggestions.
.- With only seventeen minutes to the end of the time allotted for consideration of this section of the proposed votes, I shall be brief in order to give others the opportunity to speak. I content myself with saying that I am pleased that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is sponsoring immigration of ex-servicemen. I rise mainly to bring to the notice of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) what happens when displaced persons arrive in Australia. I had the occasion to go to Kingston, a suburb of Canberra, a fortnight ago, and, had I been blindfolded as I walked through the streets, I should have been excused for thinking that I was in Singapore or some other foreign part. The Minister should try to encourage the displaced persons to use our language. The Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcasts a session that is aimed at teaching them the English language, but I do not think that it has had much success.
Mr.Calwell. - We provide an adult education service, employing schoolteachers in the States to teach them.
– They have either no opportunity or no urge to listen to the sessions. The Minister has said that they have educational facilities at their camps.
– No, after they leave camps.
– Wherever they are gathered together, they should be provided with tutors and the opportunity to learn our language. That is of paramount importance in making them better citizens.
– We are doing that.
– More should be done.
.- The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has done a magnificent job in bringing migrants to Australia. I was interested in the point made by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) about the nomination of immigrants by people in Australia. Many people in England write to me about obtaining nominations for them. Some go to the length of sending out family portraits. I readily recall one photograph of a man and his wife, both in their early forties, and their four healthy children. The man was engaged in the building trade. No matter where I tried I could not obtain someone to nominate him and his family. I hope that something can be done to further the nomination of British immigrants, because I have always strongly advocated preference to the British in any immigration scheme. The
Minister has told me what has been done in the last two years and is to be done this year about bringing British people to Australia. In 1947, 20,000 British immigrants arrived and, in 1948, 40,000. In the first quarter of this year, 15,000 arrived, which is equal to 70,000 for the whole year. So, in a little more than two years, our British stock has increased by 110,000 immigrants.
– How many have left?
– Very few.
– I compliment the Minister on the drive that he has made for British immigrants. I was pleased to receive from him to-day a letter stating that arrangements had been made for a British family on whose behalf I made representations to him to have left for Australia on the 3rd June and to arrive on the 6th July.
When I was in Berlin with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt),
I discussed with Major-General Galleghan the migration to Australia of displaced people from Europe. I also discussed the matter with the medical officer in charge of their screening. Unfortunately, I cannot recall his name. I went into the matter with him very closely, however, and I learnt that before being accepted as migrants to Australia, displaced persons are subjected to three different examinations on three different occasions to ascertain their state of health, their political beliefs and other important aspects of their lives. I am glad that the Minister is paying such close attention to the migration to Australia of displaced persons. As a matter of interest,I point out to the Minister, in case he does not already know it, that the A delaide Advertiser to-day contains a paragraph stating -
A South Australian Good Neighbour Committee to co-ordinate the work of social, cultural, welfare and church organizations in helping European migrants to find their place in the community as real Australians, was provisionally formed at a meeting of the South Australian Council of Social Service last night.
That body should be very useful. Another aspect of the problem of displaced persons that I bring to the notice of the Minister again in case he is not aware of it, is the way in which families of displaced persons are separated in different camps in Europe. For instance, I visited a small displaced persons’ camp at Phartzine in Germany. In it there were many people who want to come to Australia. When I asked them if they intended to come here to settle, they said that they were not then pressing their request for permission to come here bcause they had sisters or brothers or some other close relatives at another camp and that they all wanted to come here as a family unit.
.- It is necessary to increase the number of rural workers in Australia. I know that a number of rural workers have been brought here under the Government’s migration scheme, but I do not consider that we are devoting sufficient attention to the problem of attracting them in large numbers so that we may restore the balance between the country and the cities, which has been upset. I know that the Minister for Immigra tion (Mr. Calwell) is faced with a difficulty in that the British Government is not anxious for British rural workers to migrate to Australia, but I should like to know from the honorable gentleman, either during this debate or later, what steps he is taking to increase the flow of rural workers to this country.
I regret to say that I am still receiving complaints from migrants who have arrived here and from prospective migrants in the United Kingdom that they have been supplied with misleading’ information, particularly in regard tohousing. Some persona have complained to me that they have been “ led up the garden path “. I know that this matter has been raised previously and that the Minister has dealt with it fairly successfully, but I believe that there is room for further improvement.
The Minister is doubtless aware that certain organizations in Great Britain are engaged in making misleading offers to prospective migrants. They have inserted advertisements in English newspapers undertaking to secure passages for migrants at a price. I should be grateful if the honorable gentleman would inform the committee of the action that he is taking in that connexion.
– There are a number of people in the United Kingdom who are not eligible to come to Australia under the free or the assisted passage schemebut, although they are willing to pay their own fares here, they are unable to secure passages. I have taken up a number of such cases with the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) to see whether I could persuade him to use his influence with shipping companies in the United Kingdom to secure berths for the persons who have approached me. Representations have been made to me recently on behalf of a young man who came to this country before the depression. During the depression, he returned to Scotland, because his parents were able to look after him there. He had married an Australian girl, and he took her home with him. She has since returned to Australia with their children. Her husband is not eligible for a free or an assisted passage. He is willing to pay his fare here, but he cannot secure a berth.
– Is he running away from socialism ?
– He is a good type of man. who wishes to rejoin his wife and children in Australia. One matter that has not been mentioned in the debate is that a number of Australians are’ now going to the United Kingdom on holidays or for other purposes. The accommodation that they will occupy on their return journeys will be denied to British migrants. I suppose that many persons whose relatives have gone to England to visit friends and are now unable to secure return passages have approached honorable members and asked them to persuade the Minister to intercede on their behalf. This presents a real difficulty when we are attempting to maintain the present proportion of British migrants, because similar conditions do not apply in relation to countries other than the United Kingdom. I ask the Minister whether he will take this matter up with the British shipping companies and request them to do all that they can to ensure that suitable persons who wish to migrate to Australia from Great Britain and are ready to pay their own fares here shall be given priority in the allocation of berths.
.- It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has not been present in the chamber during this discussion, because I think that he would have been impressed by it. I doubt whether there has been a better attendance for a number of years during a committee debate at what is normally regarded as a dull time of the day. That fact and the constructive manner in which members of the committee have approached this problem show the necessity for a full-dress debate on migration, during which honorable members who have spoken already could elaborate the views that they have expressed tersely to-day and in which other honorable members could participate.
It is impossible to cover the ground adequately in the time that is at my disposal, and I shall not attempt to do so, out I shall put three or four points to the Minister (Mr. Calwell) and ask him to consider them. British ex-servicemen are very desirable migrants, and it will doubtless he agreed that we should do all that we can to encourage them to come here. I have received complaints that British ex-servicemen who come to Australia and seek employment in the State or Commonwealth public service are at a disadvantage when compared with Australian ex-servicemen, who apparently have greater rights. The most recent instance of this kind that has been brought to my notice is that of a British exserviceman who found that he could not secure permanent employment unless he took an examination that is normally taken only by boys of approximately sixteen years of age. No doubt the number of persons in this category will increase as our migration scheme develops.
I believe that the really difficult part of our migration programme lies ahead of us. Great efforts have been made by the Minister and the Department of Immigration; nevertheless the number of people coming to this country is not yet very great. I am informed that for the years 1947 and 1948 the number of arrivals in Australia exceeded the number of departures by only 60,000. Migration is still a trickle. It is not yet the stream that we hope it will be. If Australian* are to be persuaded to adopt an attitude favorable to migration on a large scale, the proportion of British migrants must be increased. The Australian people, who may not have developed the breadth of outlook that we desire in regard to migration, accept considerable numbers of alien migrants less readily than British migrants. Therefore, it is very important that the proportion of British migrants should be kept high. The Minister has stated that the present ratio of British migrants to alien migrants is approximately two to one, but, having regard to the schemes that have been developed for the reception of displaced persons, it is obvious that that ratio will not be maintained during the next few years.
– It will drop to approximately one to one until June of next year, when it will increase to three to one.
– It may be that that period will be a difficult one. We have been told that shipping is short and that it is difficult to secure a sufficient number of berths, but, according to information that has been published in the press, shipping companies in Great Britain are now experiencing an easing of the demand for passages. According to one press statement, the Minister has received a request from some shipping companies that, because of the difficulty of disposing of their more expensive accommodation, some of it should be made available to aliens who wish to come to Australia.
– That applies to firstclass berths only.
– If accommodation of that kind is available, it should be given to British migrants. No adequate explanation has been given of why aircraft cannot be used more extensively to bring migrants to this country from the United Kingdom.We read frequently of charter nights being made from Italy to Australia to bring alien migrants here. If it is possible to bring Italians and other Europeans to Australia by that means, why is it not possible to use aircraft on an even larger scale to bring British migrants here? The task of attracting British migrants must, I believe, be regarded as one of urgency. As the Minister has said, South Africa and Canada have been able, without offering assistance, to attract as many, if not more, British migrants than has Australia.
– Those countries are nearer to Great Britain.
– I agree. Therefore, the efforts of the Australian Government and the advantages it offers must be correspondingly greater. I believe that in a few years the Government of Great Britain will be forced by the pressure of events to recognize the necessity for mass migration. I use that phrase in order to express as briefly as possible what I have in mind.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of Immigration has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Labour and National Service.
Proposed vote, £456,720.
Department of Transport.
Proposed vote, £54,510.
Department of Information.
Proposed vote, £119,810. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I wish, during the fifteen minutes that has been allotted to the consideration of each of these departments, to make brief observations on the Department of Information, the proposed vote for which is £119,810. That vote is more than the total vote for the activities of the Department of Immigration. Considering the relative fields of those two departments I should like to know on what grounds, if any, it is possible to justify so great a relative expenditure on what is, after all, a purely propaganda agency. As honorable members know, the Department of Information was a war-time innovation, brought into being because it was considered that in time of war it was desirable and essential to have, what is, not to put too fine a point on it, a government bureau of propaganda. The first observation I make is that a government bureau of propaganda is, in itself, a detestable institution, one that can be supported by the people only under the necessities of war, when we realize that we must have such organizations. I have mentioned the size of the vote for this department. Unfortunately, we see no sign from year to year of the vote being reduced, although we were told, when the department was founded, that its life would be limited to the duration of the war. As the years go by, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and other responsible Ministers rise in this Parliament and give us to understand that the need for this department is tapering off and that expenditure on it will also taper off. Yet, despite those assurances, we seethe expenditure on this department mounting, as does its sphere of influence,. as I shall presently show. The department started as a distributing centre for official news, but its activities have been very greatly widened. Nowadays it concerns itself with the production of periodicals practically without number. I have here a few of the periodicals that it issues. Honorable members are all familiar with the periodicals that come from this department in the form of large volumes, small volumes, news sheets, and magazines. There is no end to them. In addition, an almost continuous stream of radio propaganda emanates from the department. It also produces films, regardless of cost, and foists them on the cinema-going public. Shortly the Government ‘will concern itself with television, with which this department will be very closely connected. The department has a very large staff, and I repeat that there is not the faintest sign of a slackening-off of its activities. Its large and growing staff is producing the kind of propaganda that I have mentioned, using valuable newsprint at a time when it is in short supply and when newspapers and periodicals are rationed. It strikes me as curious that the Government is always able to obtain an unlimited quantity of the very best paper on which to print its propaganda. If we are to put up with this sort of thing, we are entitled to ask where this flood of propaganda gets us. Will the Minister point to one or two material benefits that accrue as a result of all this expenditure? Before I come to a much more serious aspect of the department’s activities, let me refer, in passing, to one of its periodicals which is published in French and asks whether the cost of living in Australia is dear in peace-time. The answer given is -
No, because the minimum wage is fixed from time to time according to variations of tha cost of living, l t continues -
Essential foods are generally good, in sufficient quantity, and at reasonable prices . . .
This propaganda is apparently to h« foisted upon unsuspecting migrants in France. On the subject of houses, the periodical goes on to say that more than half the people in this country own their own, but makes no mention of “little capitalists “ and of the discouragement by the Government, according to some speakers opposite, of persons who wish to own their own homes. The serious aspect of the department’s activities to which I have alluded is the growing practice which has arisen under the present Minister of using the Department of Information as a purely government propaganda agency. First, he is using the department and its officers to dig up discreditable facts about other members of this Parliament so that they can be produced at an appropriate time for use in a sort of “smear” campaign, the object of which is to distract public attention from important questions raised by honorable members on this side and to focus it on unpleasant personal things. It has become a constant practice in this Parliament, when an honorable member on this side rises and asks awkward questions and attacks the Government-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman has strayed from the proposed vote for the Department of Information.
– We are becoming all too familiar with the sight of other Ministers seeking the aid of the Minister for Information, after an honorable member on this side has asked an awkward question and being supplied by his officers, who are on the government payroll, with an answer that invariably contains some discreditable information about the honorable member who had asked the question. I cannot stress too strongly what an improper use of money other honorable members on this side and I consider that to be. That is one aspect of the uses to which the department is put. Another aspect is the issue of propaganda. Almost every film, including newsreels, that is produced by the department is very heavily weightedin favour of the present Administration. Recently honorable members saw, screened in this building, a film dealing with the Murray Valley, which I regarded as remarkably poor, considering the boundless possibilities of the subject portrayed. Apart altogether from what it cost, the photography was very patchy and, in parts, downright bad. Much of the dialogue was inaudible and in other respects also was inadequate. This is the sort of thing which the people not only have to pay for, but also have to see and hear. That film was alao very heavily weighted with propaganda, and contained shots of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). Half of the department’s publications contain a picture of the Minister as well as favorable information about the Government and the Labour movement generally. That is a misuse of public moneys, and it is high time that the scope of the department was confined to its proper channels and, indeed, that it was tapered oS as we were told it would be when the need for government propaganda in war-time no longer existed.
– We are becoming used to attacks on the Department of Information by some honorable members opposite. The work of the department was inaugurated during the regime of the Menzies Government. I think that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was Minister for Information at the time.
– Its establishment was attacked by the then Labour Opposition.
– If the Opposition of that day attacked the establishment of the department, the Opposition was wrong.
– If I may interrupt’ to put the matter more accurately, the then Opposition stipulated that the department should be no more than a war-time department.
– I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition has corrected the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), and put the position in its proper perspective. If the Opposition of the day was wrong in attacking the Menzies Government for having established the Department of Information. the present Opposition has certainly learned a good deal in the matter of defamatory attacks upon departments and the Ministers administering them. No matter what might have been said of the right honorable gentleman when he was Minister for
Information, the things that are said now about the Department of Information are much wilder and much more irresponsible. It is true that the department was created during the war for the purpose of keeping people on the home front aware of their responsibilities in a total war, to let allied countries know of Australia’s war effort, and generally to perform many useful functions inside and outside Australia. At the end of the war, this Government said “that the department would be continued, and gave it the task of publicizing Australia in order to attract immigrants, stimulate trade and build up goodwill in other countries. The department has not the same important duties to perform inside Australia as it had during the war. but it plays an important role outside Australia. It maintains news and information bureaux in capital cities throughout the British Commonwealth and ii. foreign countries, and it maintains press attaches at ten different points overseas. If they were not paid by the Department of Information, they would have to be paid by the Department of Externa! Affairs. The work they do has to be done by somebody, no matter what department pays them. It is not true that the Government said that the work of the department would be tapered off after the war. We never said that the department would be destroyed when th» war ended.
– The Minister said it when he was in Opposition.
– We never said it a.a Government, and I have never said in this chamber at any time that the work of the Department of Information would taper off. I maintain the department because I believe that it is fulfilling a very useful function for Australia, and that it is doing its work very properly and very successfully. The wild allegation that the department is being used for propaganda purposes is just too silly to be believed, even by the honorable member who mad< it. He quoted what he described as an example, namely, the film about thi Murray Valley. Those honorable members who have seen the film will am that it is a magnificent production. I gave honorable members on both sides of th< chamber an opportunity to see it exhibited during two week-ends, in the Department of Information theatrette in Canberra. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) was one of those who availed themselves of the opportunity to be present, and after seeing it he congratulated the department on the magnificent film which it had produced about a valley of which he knows a great deal. There is not a . word of propaganda in the whole film from beginning to end. It depicts the rise of the Murray on Mount Kosciusko, and follows the rivet until it enters the sea. It is a film that will perform an excellent service both inside and outside Australia. It preacher the lesson of afforestation and the prevention of soil erosion, and deals with other things of great importance to the Australian people. Honorable members who have seen the film will not agree with the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that it is patchy, that the dialogue is incoherent, and that the voice of the commentator is not good.
– Some of the names of the towns are pronounced wrongly.
– Perhaps, but the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was present at the screening, and seemed very pleased with r,he film- He did not offer a word of criticism at the time, although those present were invited to be critical. It was not a Liberal party meeting, and every one was free to say what he liked, and to discuss the film in the manner of Australians, but the honorable member for Barker had no hostile observations to offer. If he had wanted to offer any criticism at the time, I am sure he would have done so. I have never known him to be tongue-tied when he wanted to criticize anything. Let me now return to the charge that the Department of Information is being used for propaganda purposes. Not a scintilla of proof can be offered to support such a foul charge. As for the allegation that I get officers of the department to gather material for me to use in the Parliament, that statement is completely false. [ have never used an officer of the department for that purpose. I do my own work. I read the newspapers and save cuttings. I have a hoarder’s instinct when it comes to news items dealing with my political opponents. I save up stuff, knowing that the day will come sooner or later when I shall ‘be able to use it.
– What does the honorable gentleman do with the rest of his time?
– If the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) would devote as much attention to politics as I have done, he might he as successful as I am. The only officers I employ to provide material for me to use in the Parliament are the members of my own ministerial staff, and every Minister does that. If the matter bc one of using officers who are paid by the Treasury, then let me point out that the Government provides the Leader of the Opposition with secretarial assistance, and pays a portion or the whole of the salaries of the officers whom he uses, and very properly so, to help him to collect material and put it in the form in which he desires to use it. We also provide assistance for the Deputy Leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Harrison), for the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and for the Deputy Leader (Mr. McEwen). If it comes to a matter of using public servants to put over propaganda, I draw attention to the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), ever since he has occupied that office, has had only one press officer, Mr. D. K. Rodgers, and so had his predecessor, Mr. Curtin. When the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, there were no fewer than three press officers associated with him.
– That is the first I have heard of it.
– I can name them.
– I wish the Minister would do so.
– There was Mr. Dawson.
– And Mr. Winkler.
– He was so much in the picture that he was sacked after the secret documents case.
– Mr. Winkler was not attached to me.
– Then he was interchangeable with the second twin, the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– The Minister said that he was attached to the Prime Minister. I am glad that he has corrected himself.
– I think the Leader of the Opposition is quibbling. There were three press officers in the right honorable gentleman’s office. I remember seeing Winkler coming out of the Prime Minister’s office at that time. There was also Mr. Byrne, who to-day is associated with the Leader of the Australian Country party.
– Mr. Byrne was never a member of my staff.
– I do not know how it was fixed between the leaders of the parties, but there were three press officers about during that period, whereas to-day there is only one with the Prime Minister.
I do not employ a press officer, nor a public relations officer. I do all such work myself.
– The Minister does not need to employ a press officer. He has the whole Department of Information to work for him.
– I throw that back in the teeth of the honorable member for Wentworth. I do not employ or use any one in the Department of Information to do propaganda work. As a matter of fact, propaganda work against the Opposition is very easy. Every day in the week they are dropping bricks. It is only necessary to be a little active, a little energetic and a little intelligent, and one oan have the whole story. I tell honorable members opposite that they have not seen anything yet-
– Has the Minister got a few more letters?
– And it is all my own work. As for the cost of the department, much emphasis has been laid upon the figure of £100,000, as if that were a huge amount of money. I remind honorable members opposite, and the half million people throughout Australia who are listening to me at this moment, that the cost of the Department of Information to the Australian people works out at about lid. a head.
– That is lOd. too much.
– The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) may think that it is a waste of money. A very much greater waste of money is involved in the payment of the honorable member’s parliamentary allowance. The annual cost to British taxpayers of the British information service is 6s. a head and, as honorable members know, Great Britain needs no migrants. What it needs is to improve trade and increase goodwill. The British Government estimates that in 1949-50 it will expend no less than £11,000,000 sterling on its overseas services alone. A part of that money is included in the vote for the information service and a part of it is contained in the vote for the British Foreign Office to he spent by the British Council. If Great Britain considers it necessary to expend 6s. a head on a service of that kind, surely the Aus tralian people will not question a vote for the Department of Information which works out at approximately ls. a head.
– That will not put the Minister right with our neighbours.
– If I had the hundreds of thousands of pounds which the honorable member for Wakefield has made from grazing and from the good prices which this Government has secured for his wool I would be prepared to expend a little money in advertising to the world what a great country Australia is. The United States Congress votes annually for this purpose 36,000,000 dollars, or the equivalent of approximately 2s. a head Australian. It expends at least twice as much as we do on the dissemination of information and on publicizing abroad the general and educational activities of the nation. The British Government and the British Council even use the British taxpayers’ money to finance such splendid organizations as the “ Old Vic “ Company, sending it around the world in an endeavour to develop enthusiasm for the British way of life. The British Government also provides large sums of money for educational films. It provides money for ballets, such as the Ballet Rambert and on educational, artistic and scientific propaganda and works, and nobody in Great Britain objects to that. There is. however, a bitterness on the part of Opposition members in this Parliament to the Department of Information, not because that department has been misused but because it has too successfully kept Australia in the forefront and is doing a good job. If there is any hostility on the part of the Australian people to the films made by the department, why do commercial motion picture companies buy the films and exhibit them to the people? Such films would not be exhibited if the people were not interested in them. The companies buy the films because it is good business to do so and because they, too, want to participate in the work of increasing respect for Australia, both here and abroad. Whatever this Government has done in the matter of information, whatever any Government that preceded the present Government did, all of it has conduced to making Australia a better nation, helping its self-respect, and causing it to be more appreciated both at home and abroad.
.- I wish to make a few comments in relation to the Department of Labour and National Service. A few days ago I asked a question regarding a pamphlet entitled Ten Years of War and Peace; ‘A Kew Year statement issued by the Minister for Labour and National Service”. On the cover of the pamphlet is a picture of the Minister for Labour’ and National Service (Mr. Holloway) looking coy and proud. To provide for the services of this department during the next three months we are asked to appropriate an amount of £456,720. I asked some questions about the pamphlet because it transgressed the printing laws in that it did not carry the name of the printer. Above the portrait of the Minister is printed the Australian coat of arms. The pamphlet contains such gems as this - lily study of economies convinces me that employment makes employment, just as unemployment creates unemployment.
Those are the Minister’s words, not the words of Lord Keynes, the noted economist. Does his reference to employment making employment, and unemployment making unemployment apply to his own department? I asked some questions about the cost of the Commonwealth Employment Service which forms a part of the honorable gentleman’s department and I ascertained that expenditure on that useless service is still growing. In my opinion money provided for the Commonwealth Employment Service must cover a good deal of the hidden and subsidized unemployment that exists in his own department. Honorable members on this side of the chamber believe in the maintenance of a first-class Public Service. Australia has a very good Public Service but it is essential that it shall continue to be above reproach. The Department of Labour and National Service was established during the war under the authority of the Government to control man-power; but far from its having been reduced in scope in the post-war years, it is still being added to. It is commonly said that the department offers a good home for any supporter who wants a job. It includes on its payroll radical writers and other specialists. I cannot under- stand on what work many of these are engaged. The department has spread its tentacles over every city and provincial town throughout the Commonwealth. In city and town it has secured the best available office accommodation. To-day the newspapers are filled with classified advertisements calling for applications for vacant positions. The number of vacant positions is very much greater than the number of people offering for employment. Many of these advertisements arc inserted by the Department of Labour and National Service with the full knowledge that the vacancies will never be filled. A prominent employer whom I questioned about this department had some scathing criticism to offer. The president of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce has said that the department is merely another burden on the producers. It employs very many people who, if they were given their own choice, would prefer to be employed on productive work. How can the Government, which proudly boasts that there are more jobs to be filled than men to fill them, justify the retention of man-power which could be better employed elsewhere? This department is steadily growing, notwithstanding the fact that full employment has been achieved at present and that thousands of business men and ex-servicemen are vainly seeking office and shop space in order to carry on their businesses. Approximately £40,000 per annum is expended by the department in the rental of premises which could be better utilized by the trading community. The Melbourne Herald recently reported that a branch office of the department occupies the whole of the 9th floor of the Nicholas Building, in Swanston-street, Melbourne, but that a good deal of the floor space is not fully utilized. Prominent industrialists say that they never seek the advice of the department. If, however, a member asks a question in the House as to what the employees of this expensive department are doing an answer usually running into two foolscap pages is supplied. Here is a further gem from the pamphlet -
As I have already pointed out the great improvements have been made in working conditions, during and since the war, in many of our factories and workshops. This has been done largely at the instigation of the Department of Labour and National Service, which has worked consistently in co-operation with the employers’ and trade union representatives to have conditions improved and amenities installed; and we are assured that much more will be done as new buildings are erected.
The department issues brochures on lighting and other industrial problems, but they are largely mere reproductions of commercial catalogues. The expense of preparing and publishing such brochures is borne by the taxpayers. I observe that the Minister is busily making notes on which to base his reply. He will undoubtedly say that his department is one of the greatest organizations in the Commonwealth Service. Rather he should tell us who pays for this pamphlet which bears his portrait and the Commonwealth coat of arms. In the programme “ The Labour Hour “, which is broadcast from a Melbourne radio station, quotations from this tract from the pen of the Minister have been made ad nauseam. This propaganda is not based on a factual report of conditions in Australia. Here is another excerpt which will give to honorable members an idea of the sort of propaganda in which the Minister has indulged in this tract. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has extolled this department in his weekly broadcast over the Macquarie network. His “ Talk to the Nation “ last Sunday evening dealt with the wonderful department that is placing everybody in employment, that is, if it can find any person who is out of work. The reference to the Postal Department is most interesting. The reader is informed that in 1939, the department had 43.000 employees, compared with 69,000 employees in 1948. The publication omits to inform the reader of the number of employees in 1908. “We learn also that, in 1938, 630.000 telephone? were installed throughout the Commonwealth, and that by last year the number had increased to 969.000 instruments. Those figures are Issued for the purpose of convincing the people that the Postal Department has Achieved new records, of which it may we11 bn proud, but everybody knows that the number of unfulfilled applications for telephones is also a record. In 193S, the department mad<a profit of £3,500,000, compared with a profit in 1947 of £5,103,000. This year, the department, which is a government monopoly, has made a loss. Naturally: that fact is not conveyed to the reader. 1 object to the dissemination of that kind of propaganda at the taxpayer’s expense. The Department of Labour and National Service claims that the Commonwealth Employment Service has found work foi the unemployed. The reader is not informed whether the employment was for a day, two days or a week. By asking a question, I have elicited the number of persons who have been placed in employ ment. By dividing that figure into thiexpenditure on the Commonwealth Employment Service, I calculate that the cost of providing an applicant with « job is approximately £3. The department is superfluous to-day. I do not suggest that it should be abolished, but it should be reduced to more appropriate dimensions. On the Government’s own admission, the percentage of unemployed in Australia at present is extremely low. The Government should concentrate the Commonweath Employment Service in a central office, and make the suburban offices available to shopkeepers, who urgently require the premises. That economy should certainly he effected. I hope that the Government will disclose the cost of this service over the years, and the cost of publishing all its propaganda, particularly the document to which I have referred.
.- The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) in his strictures upon the Department of Information, has fallen into the common error that is made by many journalists of thinking that the press is the only organization that U competent to supply news in peace-time and war-time. As a journalist, I contest that view. 1 should not be in the least disturbed if the Department of Information were to become the Depart ment, of Government Information, because it. is essential that a fair report of government activities should be given to the general public. However, I desi r to answer the honorable member’s strictures in another way. The Department of Information is doing a splendid job.
T here is not a better magazine for overseas editors than South-West Pacific. That publication is written by members of the Australian Journalists Association, who are experts on various features of Australian conditions. South- West Pacific is appreciated by editors in all parts of the world, particularly the United States of America and the United Kingdom, where the people hunger for news about Australia. A gibe that is repeated again and again from members of the Opposition is that nobody knows anything about our plans, or about Aus tralia generally, and they urge the Government toimprove that situation. But as soon as the Government provides money for such a service, members of the Opposition criticize it. South-West Pacific, on its own feet, as it were, is a splendid literary production, and an excellent advertisement for Australia. I f it were to emanate from a publisher outside government control, it would probably receive much greater appreciation than it has had.
South-West Pacific has a special function, and is serving a most useful purpose.
I turn now to another function of the Department of Information. The publication New Australians, is a splendid document which attempts to achieve the objective to which I referred in an earlier debate, namely, to condition the Australian mind to an acceptance of the immigrants, and to imbue in the new arrivals some appreciation of Australia. One of thepurposes of the publication is to mould the immigrants into Australians. There could be no better task than that. The publication is a fine production indeed. Recently, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) moved the second reading of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Bill. The Department of Information has issued a publication dealing with the Snowy Mountains project. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) in whose constituency that great undertaking will take shape, agrees with me that the publication is a splendid work. Competent journalists share that view I have now mentioned three excellent publications that vindicate the expenditure on the Department of Information. Honorable members should not overlook the high cost of publishing literature at the present time. Apart from the three publications thatI have cited, there are smaller documents that are issued by the department.I imagine that the young member for Henty read sketchily through a magazine that was printed in French in order to give us the impression that he understands French. If he had continued to read, he would have come across several interesting stories about Australia, that are calculated to interest the few French migrants who may come here. That is a valuable document.
The film work that the Department of Information has undertaken, instead of being classed as propaganda for the Government, should be regarded as propaganda for some cultural standards in Australia. The department is the only unit that is attempting, at the present time, to develop the documentary film. As honorable members are aware, the documentary film abroad has attained a high standard. The honorable member for Henty has dismissed a production by the Department of Information as colourless. He also complained that the dialogue in the Murray Valley film could scarcely be heard. I propose to quote a broader and more unbiased opinion that that of the honorable member. Mr. G. V. Lawrence, who is the organizing secretary of the Murray Valley Development League, recently sent to the Department of Information a telegram in which he congratulated it on having produced a splendid film, The Valley is Ours. He described that film as an inspired epic. As it depicted the Murray Valley, I suggest that Mr. Lawrence’s opinion that the film is propaganda for Australia and not for the Government is more valid criticism than the niggling complaints that the honorable member for Henty has uttered. Films are expensive to produce. If it were not for such productions as films on immigration and the Australian way of life, there would be no documentaries upon two of the most important developments in this country. I refer to our migration policy and to the expansion of Australia from rural conditions with a fringe of industrial development, to a country with great secondary industries. The story of that expansion has been told splendidly in a series of small, effective, well-produced films. If we are to make progress with our films and the national theatre, we must look to government institutions and departments such as the Department of Information to give the lead. Indeed, a splendid lead has been given with the documentary films, and an excellent job has been done with the magazines, booklets and tracts that are issued by the department. Splendid work has also been performed in the field of research. Overseas, the officers of the Department of Information in New York and at Australia House in London are rushed by Australian visitors, who, regardless of their political beliefs, receive efficient service. As soon as the department in London has the address of an Australian visitor, it makes available to him a roneoed sheet of Australian news that does not appear in British newspapers. In that way, Australians in London are able to keep in contact with their own country. That is only one aspect of the service. There are wider ones and these are well known.
I could say a good deal more about the Department of Information, but, as the time for consideration of the proposed vote for this department is limited, I shall content myself with one more brief observation. Reference has been made to the publicity staff of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I have ascertained within the last few minutes that Mr. D. K. Rodgers is the only publicity officer of the present Prime Minister, but that when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister, his publicity officers were the late Mr. Dick Dawson, Mr. Joe Winkler and Mr. M. Byrne. I am pleased to make that position clear since it arose earlier in the debate.
– I should like to convey to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) the opinions of certain Americans about our methods of distributing Australian documentary films in the United States of America. 1 do not propose to criticize the Department of Information, because I consider that it is performing- a useful and necessary job in placing Australia on the map. I make special reference to its efforts to depict the conditions of outback Australia for the information of Australians who reside in our large cities and towns. But the department is also bringing Australia to the notice of other countries, particularly the United Kingdom and the United States of America. However, I am amazed’ at the degree to which the costs of this department are snowballing. I do not intend to criticize the production and dialogue of our documentary films, but honorable members may be interested to hear the views of some Americans about them. When I was in Darwin, about four weeks ago, 1 met two prominent Americans who are engaged in filming places of interest in various countries. One of them is a millionaire, and he is accompanied by a cameraman, a master of his art, who had been around the world two or three times on similar work. They are making a film for the Chrysler Corporation. Honorable members will recall that the Ford organization, for publicity purposes, had a special session which cost, in the aggregate, £10,000,000, and reached an audience of 40,000,000, but the Ford motor car was never mentioned in the programmes. The purpose of the entertainment was purely to increase public goodwill for the Ford enterprise. The Chrysler Corporation, in making this film, is engaged upon a similar project. While in Darwin, the Americans filmed sunken vessels in the harbour. Honorable members will recall that American soldiers and sailors, in addition to Australians, lost their lives when the Japanese bombed Darwin on the 19th February, 1042. The Americans invited me to accompany them on a pearling lugger while they filmed the wrecks. They also made a long /lini of pearl-divers. The meticulous care with which they made that film would be a lesson to any one engaged in the production of films. Those Americans informed me, during our conversation, that the Department of Information hud adopted a foolish policy in distributing Australian films iu the United States of America. The Minister for Information may be proud of that work, hut 1 suggest that our documentary films .should be made available free of charge to American exhibitors. The American millionaire regarded it as a huge joke that the representative of the Department of Information in New York, Mr. Bonney, should be trying to sell Australian documentary films. Does the Minister expect that American exhibitors will buy Australian films, even at the paltry price of £20, when productions such as those of the Chrysler Corporation are available to them free of charge ? The millionaire also stated that cameras in Australia were poor, although he went out of his way to give unstinted praise to the work of the Tasmanian Tourist Bureau. However, he regarded us inferior the cameras that are used by the Department of Information. I hope that the Minister will be guided by that advice. Proposed votes agreed to.
Department of Post-war. Reconstruction.
Proposed vote, £242,000.
Defence and Post-war (1930-45) Charges.
Defence and Service Departments.
Proposed vote, £13,339,000.
Supply and Development.
Proposed vote, £2,614,000.
Re-establishment and Repatriation.
Proposed vote, £10,152,000.
International Relief and Rehabilitation.
Proposed vote, £200,000.
Proposed vote, £5,500,000.
Proposed vote, £195,000.
Proposed vote, £1,550,240,
War (1914-18) Services.
Proposed vote, £378,820. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- Ihave said something before about the maladministration of the Repatriation
Department, and I have referred to the shameful exhibition of administration by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). I have revealed certain efforts made by him to suppress reports that should have been made available to the Parliament. Indeed, when a highly critical report was presented to him, he attempted to impose his will on the tribunal presenting it with a view to obtaining its withdrawal, and, when, in the interests of ex-servicemen, the tribunal refused to withdraw it he dismissed the tribunal. I do not want to go over every detail relevant to its dismissal. All I propose to do is to prove conclusively that the Ministermisledusonthelastoccasion onwhichthedismissalofthetribunal wasreferred to. There his been a great dealof criticism of the Minister in relation to the administration of the entitlement provisions of the Australian SoldiersRepatriation Act. The head- quarte’rs of every ex-servicemen’s organization has been bitterly critical ofhis attitude. The criticism arises mainlyas the result of the report made by the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal and its dismissal because it had dared to make frank and justified criticism, whichthe Minister resented. Onthe 20th October last, during the debate in thischamber on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill 1948, the Minister for Repatriation said - and I quote frompage 1881 of the Hansard for the period -
Ihadbeen watching these tribunals to seehowmuch work they had to do, and I foundthatthey did not have sufficient work tooccupytheir time, so I decided that at theendofJune one tribunal would cease to operate.
The committee will remember that that statement was madeby the Minister after I had said that be had applied political pressure on thetribunal to get it to alter its report and that, when it had refused to doso, hehad dismissed it out of hand. He said that he had been watching the work done by it and, therefore, had taken the necessary action to dismiss it. Subsequently,he said he had not dismissed it and that the chairman had resigned. We know the terms of the letter from a member of the tribunal thatI read in this chamber. So that honorable members shall have some knowledge of the facts. I quote from page 1882 of Hansard, where the Minister is reported as having gone on to say -
Having cometo the conclusion that only one tribunal was necessary tocarryonthe work, the other went out of existence.
I make no apology for thatbeca use I certainly do not propose to authorizean expenditure of £8,000 to £10,000 annually for men to sit round and idle their time away.
That is a clear-cut statement, if ever there was one. The Minister said that there was no work for members of the tribunal to do that he had been watching them and that he was not going to pay £8,000 or £10,000 for men to sit around and do nothing. Only a day or so ago, I pointed out to the Minister that the cases to be handled warranted the continuance of the tribunal. It. appears thathe has come to that conclusion, because after having dismissed the tribunal and committed himself in the Parliament to the statement that there was no work for it to do and that he would not authorize the expenditure of £8,000 or £10,000 a year to keep it in existence, headvertised recently for men to replace that tribunal.He cannot have it both ways. Either the tribunal has insufficient work to do and he is not prepared to expend £8,000 or £10,000 on it or there is work for it to do and he is prepared to spend £8,000 or £10,000 a year on it. The second proposition must be the correct one, because he has advertised for men to constitute a new tribunal. Therefore, the old tribunal must have been sacked entirely for political reasons and because its members had dared to criticize the Minister. Now, when the Minister thinks that every one has forgotten all the circumstance? attending the dismissal of the tribunal and the words that he used in justification of its dismissal, he comes along to the Parliament aware that he has advertised for men to replace those whom he sacked. That is an example of maladministration and of political pressure being applied to men who should constitute the highest tribunal for ex-servicemen to appeal to. I leave the matter there with the remark that the Minister will make any statement to justify himself and then, eat his words and crawl hack over the ground that he has covered.
Therehas recently been a lot of publicity about the cancellation by the Repatriation Department of certain war widows’ pensions on the score of their moral conduct. It has been revealed that the department stopped the pensions of five war widows because they were living “ irregular lives “. One of the victims claims that a repatriation official hounded and persecuted her in response to the allegation, which has been strongly denied that she was living with a man. The matter was raised in this chamber yesterday, when the Minister for Repatriation stated, inbrief, that if the woman satisfies the department that she is a proper person to receive a pension it willbe restored to her immediately. Who is to determine the definition of “ proper person “ as applied to the woman, and what should be the conduct of “proper persons”?’ The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act makes it incumbent on a widow who remarries to forego her pension, not because she is legally living with a man,but because of herchanged economicstatus. It also recognizes the right of a de facto wife to a pension. Although, this provision has been in the act for many years, its administration is whatIobject to. The act recognizes de facto wives,but it does not recognize that a widow who may be, for the sake of companionship, living with a man or knowing some man is entitled to the same consideration as is given to a de facto wife. In relation to de facto wives, the act is not concerned with moral aspects, and the department does not Seek to pry into the reasons for a man and woman living together without going through the process of marriage. Yet, if a widow pensioner decides to have the companionship of a man, and does not go through the formality of marrying him, she is immediately suspected by the repatriation officials. The matter then becomes one of her behaviour, which, in the two instances I have mentioned, does not enter into the matter at all. This means, in effect, that the Repatriation Department is departing from the principles that inspired the framers of the original act and is now setting itself up as a judge and jury in the determination of moral codes. That, of course, is an impudent and unwarranted interference with the lives of individuals. In the words j( Mrs. Vasey, federal president of the War Widows’ Craft Guild, it is between a woman and God how she lives and it is not for any repatriation official to take >n the job of the Almighty in judging her motives. The Government is noted for interpreting the statutes in a way that will authorize it to interefere with the lives of individuals in many spheres. That is a part of the erroneous concept that because it was elected to govern at the last general election, it has an unrestricted mandate to do as it likes without reference to the people of Australia. There is only one course that the Government can adopt in relation to war widow pensioners, if it wishes to prove that it has their welfare at heart.
The department must stop peering around corners and prying through keyholes and must interpret the act in the broadest possible sense, or it must rip out of the act the offending section under which war widows are being deprived of their right.
Another disturbing feature of the administration of the Repatriation Act that needs to be cleared up relates to certain cases that were heard before an assistant commissioner who has since retired. I refer to the statement made in another place that certain cases were dealt with by an assistant commissioner as the delegate of the Repatriation Commission, “ during a period when he was mentally ill but before the fact that he was suffering from such an ill was realized “. The Minister knows the circumstances to which I allude.
– I know them very well.
– I ask the Minister whether, in view of the disclosure, the cases that were dealt with by that officer have been reviewed in the interests of the ex-servicemen concerned, and, if not, whether the Government will immediately have them reviewed?
In considering repatriation legislation, we have to ask ourselves: Are we giving to our sick and wounded the best available medical treatment? Are all war widows and ex-servicemen getting; pensions who should he getting them? Are the pension entitlements of the act being properly administered? Are we paying adequate pensions in terms of money value to those who have a pension entitlement? I do not want to anticipate another debate in which the questions I have asked are bound to be asked again. The answer to the first question, however, is to be found in the significant failure of the Government to present to the Parliament the report of the independent medical committee that was set up to conduct a thorough investigation of repatriation medical treatment in Australia. The Government appointed a special advisory medical committee, which consisted of eminent private medical consultants and administrative experts, to travel through the country, taking evidence from ex-servicemen’s organizations and inquiring into every aspect of repatriation medical treatment. The organizations co-operated freely with the committee and presented all exservicemen’s complaints about repatriation medical treatment. The committee presented its report to the Government, but characteristically of the Minister for Repatriation, that report has also been suppressed. Every effort by the organizations to have it published has been met by the Government with a flat refusal.
– That is correct.
– The Minister acknowledges the suppression of another report that should have been made available in the interests of ex-servicemen. In New South Wales the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia was so concerned about repatriation medical treatment that it presented to the committee voluminous evidence, including that of two eminent psychiatrists, Dr. McGeorge and Dr. Sinclair, on war neurosis. There can be only one reason for the suppression of the report of this committee, lt is that it contained some serious -strictures which the Government deemed it inadvisable to reveal in the light of day. There is no reference to the report of the Medical Advisory Committee in the report of the Repatriation Commission for 1947-4S. which was recently tabled in this House.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I have become accustomed- to the criticisms that have been levelled at the Repatriation Department by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), who is a former Minister for Repatriation. The honorable gentleman has referred to what he has alleged to be maladministration and the dismissal of a tribunal.
– Tell us about the appointment of another one. ‘
– I shall come to that in a moment. 1 am appointing, another one. The honorable member for Wentworth has said repeatedly that the members of a certain tribunal were sacked. The facts are that in February of 1948 the chairman of the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal approached me and asked to be released immediately from his duties so that he could accept another appointment that he considered would suit him better than the position which he then occupied.
– He knew that he was out.
– He was out, because I agreed to his release. He accepted another position. It cannot be. said that a man who was released under those circumstances was sacked. That was in February. In March, while I was in Sydney, I interviewed Mr. Hickey. I wanted to interview both Mr. Hickey and Colonel Dibdin, but Colonel Dibdin was not available. I told Mr. Hickey that I did not intend to reappoint the No. 1 tribunal because I considered that the work had decreased to such a degree that expenditure upon a second tribunal could not be justified.
– Does not the Minister consider that that is sacking?
– Order ! The honorable member for Wentworth was heard in silence. I insist that the Minister he heard in silence also.
– T wanted to give Mr. Hickey and Colonel Dibdin an opportunity to make provision for their future. I gave them three month’s notice of my intention not to re-appoint the tribunal of which they were members. It has been said that the tribunal was sacked because it presented a certain report. That is not true, as the honorable member for Wentworth knows. 1 took the trouble to interview Mr. Hickey and tell him, three months before hip appointment was due to expire, that ho would not be re-appointed.
– Is not that sacking?
– If the honorable gentleman is prepared to argue that if a. man is not re-appointed at the end of the period for which he has been appointed, he is sacked, then Mr. Hickey was sacked.
Let us examine the history of the war pensions entitlement appeal tribunals. The first of those tribunals was constituted on the 1st January, 1929, at the request of returned servicemen’s organizations, as a court of appeal to hear cases that the ex-servicemen’s organizations considered had not been dealt, with adequately by the Repatriation Commission or the State boards. One tribunal has been in operation from then until now. From the 8th January, 1937, to the 31st July, 1938, a second tribunal functioned under the chairmanship of Mr. Mason. It then went out of existence. On the 3rd July, 1944, another tribunal was appointed, for a term of three years. I extended the life of that tribunal for approximately fifteen months because I considered that the appeals then pending justified that course being taken. During that period of fifteen months I examined the position. 1 was not advised by any one and was not actuated by the sinister motives that have been ascribed to me by the honorable member for Wentworth. I came to the conclusion that two tribunals were not justified. Therefore, I did not re-appoint the No. 1 tribunal. All the fuss that has been made by one or two honorable members opposite has arisen from that decision. I promised at that time that I would keep the matter constantly under review and appoint a second tribunal if I considered it necessary to do so. I have examined the minutes of the No. 1 tribunal. They are very enlightening and convince me that my action in terminating the existence of the tribunal was more than justified.
– The Minister should say what he means, and not make a mystery of it.
– The honorable gentleman cannot possibly keep quiet. He apparently wishes to make his own speech and that of everybody else. He cannot make mine. Having regard to the number of appeals that are now pending, I have come to the conclusion that I shall be justified in establishing another tribunal.
– How many appeals are pending?
– That information will be disclosed in due course. My opinion is supported by the opinion of the chairman of the existing tribunal, who has given me some help that I appreciate very much. After consulting his colleagues, he stated that he considered that a second tribunal was justified for a period of six months. To make assurance doubly sure, I propose to appoint the second tribunal for a period’ of twelve months. Long before the expiration of that time, the accumulation of appeals will have been dealt with and neither tribunal will be working fulltime because there will not be enough work for them. However, I am prepared to allow that position to exist for part of the period of twelve months because I think it would be unfair to ask men to accept positions for a period of less than twelve months. That is the story.
If a man can be said to be sacked because he is not re-appointed at the expiration of the period for which he was appointed, then the members of the No. 1 tribunal were sacked. The distorted story that has been told by the honorable member for Wentworth has caused some people to believe that the appointments of the members of that tribunal were terminated following a report that they made to me. The report was not made until after the 30th June, when the period for which the members were appointed expired.
The honorable member for Wentworth has brought into the discussion something that I have so far carefully refrained from mentioning. I have preferred to accept any odium myself rather than to drag in the name of a man who was not able to discharge the functions of his office. The honorable gentleman has referred to an assistant commissioner who, because of mental incapacity, was not able to give proper consideration to appeals that were pending. Perhaps I might state at this stage that it was that assistant commissioner who let through the net several of the cases that went to the No. 1 tribunal and about which much fuss has been made. I did not want to bring him into the discussion. I did not want to mention his name or to disclose that, because of his deterioration mentally, he has got me into this bother. I do not think that I should mention it even now, but if it is thought that I should do so, I shall not give it. The officer has since retired on superannuation and now that he is free of all the worry and anxiety of this matter he is a little better than he was. The department has, been reorganized in regard to the screening of case3. Because of the alteration of the system of handling cases, the tightening up of the work of the State boards and the appointment of two excellent officers as assistant commissioners, I believe, not without reason, that appeals will not be lodged with such frequency as in the past. Perhaps I might quote a passage from the last annual report of the Tasmanian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia presented this month. It is as fellows : -
Apart from our dissatisfaction with pension rates we have little to complain about with regard to general administration and interpretation of the Act. We feel that the benefit of the doubt clause is now well complied with, and this is demonstrated by a falling off in appeals to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal.
– The credit for that should be given to the No. 1 tribunal.
– The credit should be given to the present chairman of the Repatriation Commission, General Wootten, and perhaps a little of it should go to myself. The matter of widows’ pensions has been raised. I point out that war widows’ pensions are covered by section 43 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. They were covered by section 37 of the 1920 act that was in operation when the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was Minister for Repatriation.
– That is correct.
– A good deal more policing of the act and snooping was done in those days than is done now. The wording of section 43 of the present act is the same as the wording of section 37 of the 1920 act. The provision reads -
A Board may reject a claim for a pension by a dependant of a member of theForces,or may terminate any pension granted to such a dependant, if the Board is satisfied that the grant or continuance of the pension is undesirable.
The relevant section of the 1943 act is exactly the same as section 37 of the 1920 act, so that, whatever might be said about the general provision of the act itself, there has been no change in that particular provision. The onus of proof provision is operated much more liberally to-day than it was in days gone by. I shall remind the committee of an incident that occurred not very many years ago. In May, 1940, the committee discussed the question of the onus of proof at some considerable length during the debate on certain amendments which were then under consideration. The onus of proof has always been a controversial question, as the honorable member for Wentworth will agree. On that occasion it was discussed at length because the then Labour Opposition desired to clarify the issue. A new clause was moved by the then honorable member for Hindmarsh, Mr. Matin, as follows: -
That after clause 10, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 10a. Section forty-five w of the principal act is amended by omitting the first proviso to sub-section (2.). and inserting in its stead the following proviso: -
Provided that if the appellant or a representative of the applicant makesout a prima facie case that the incapacity from which a member of the forces is suffering or from which that member has died was caused or aggravated by some occurrence which happened to him after the commencement of his war service, the onus of proof that such incapacity was not in fact caused or aggravated by war service shall lie upon the commission
That proposed new clause was debated at considerable length and a division was taken upon it, the voting in which was -
The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) voted against it. The then honorable member for Flinders, the late Mr. Fairbrain, voted against it. The present honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) voted against it. I repeat that although the present honorable member for Wentworth now save that the commission ought to accept the onus of proof, he and the honorable member for Moreton voted, in 1940. against a Labour party amendment thai would have put the onus of proof upon the commission. In that division in 1940 the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) voted with the then Labour Opposition, and Mr. Price, who was then on the Government side, also voted with the Labour Opposition. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr Hughes) voted against the amendment. The full list of “ Noes “ in that division listwas -
The honorable member for Wentworth, who has made so much noise about this matter, and who has been making a noise about it ever since I became Minister for
Repatriation, and who alleges that 1, as the Minister, am aiding and abetting the commission in depriving returned soldiers of their rights under the act, is, I repeat, one of those who voted against the Labour amendment.
– But who actually did place the onus of proof on the commis- sion f
– The position of the honorable gentleman is untenable, because he was at one time the Minister for Repatriation. Let us examine what he bad to say about the Repatriation Commission during his term as Minister.
– Whatever I said, we did things the right way.
– The honorable member has talked glibly in recent years about what oughtto be done for ex-ser- vicemen and their dependants. Let us look at some of the passages that occurred in debates when he was the Minister. I shall quote from one of his speeches. He said-
Whereas I entered the department feeling, as a returned soldier, that some general re- organizationmight be attempted. I found before I was there long that, in the main, and with few exceptions, the Repatriation Act covered every reasonable application, and was administered generously and reasonably by thecommission. I might have come to this conclusion earlier ifI had realized that the various commissions and boards charged with the administration of the act were composed of returned soldiers. That should have been sufficient to convince me that the diggers were receiving the maximum consideration. Surely a body consisting of returned soldiers is in abetter position to know what is the right thing to do by returned soldiers than are numbers of this Parliament, who know nothing of the conditions under which the “diggers” nerved overseas.
– That was a very good speech.
– It was an excellent speech. There is no doubt about that. It was a gem. It is what I have been saying, too.
– The Repatriation Department was properly administered at that time.
– I have said all along that the administration of the Repatriation Commission is sympathetic. Its members approach these problems having a’ full realization that they are dealing with the problems of former colleagues in the services. The commission is under the capable leadership of General Wootten, who has a distinguished record in two world wars, and has complete sympathy with, and understanding of the problems of “ diggers “ whether they were generals or were on the bottom rung of the military ladder. Yet this honorable member conies here and criticizes the commission, if not directly then indirectly, and has a shot at the distinguished soldier who is the commission’s present chairman.
– It is the Minister whom I am after.
– After all, memories are short. In spite of having said what he did in 1940 this honorable gentleman rises here on every conceivable occasion and criticizes the Repatriation Commission. He does it so that he can voice his bit of criticism against the Government. He does it in a sneering fashion because he wants to have a shot at the Minister and the Government. To get that shot in he aims it at the returned soldiers who control the Repatriation Department, and control it well. Whatever else the honorable member, who was my predecessor in the administration of the Repatriation Department, has. failed to do, he did a very magnificent service to returned servicemen when he appointed the present chairman-
– Why is the Minister stone-walling?
– I am not stonewalling. I have something more to say-
Honorable members interjecting,
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Other honorable members will have the opportunity to speak later.
– The honorable gentleman has said that there are returned soldiers who spy through/ keyholes on war widows. Spying through keyholes! Let the committee bear in mind what he said about returned soldiers and the Repatriation Department in 1940 when he wag Minister for Repatriation. The department has not changed since 1940.It is the honorable gentleman himself who has changed. To-day it suits his book to he critical of the Repatriation Department and of his fellow returned soldiers. He has said that returned soldiers are spying through keyholes on war widows. Nothing of the kind happens. He has quoted Mrs. Vasey. I shall quote’ her too. She said a lot of things in Sydney recently. Personally, I get along very nicely with that lady.
– The Minister surprisesme!
– As a matter offact, she is quite a friend of mine. I have quite an affection for her. I do not know that I have so much respect for her since the episode in Sydney when she said certain things, although I have still an affection for her. It is poor practice for a person who represents ex-servicemen or anybody else and who intend to make an approach to see if they can solve a problem to first got up on a public platform and start to throw long-range rockets at the administration and at individuals, and to make all sorts of suggestions about improper practices. The honorable gentleman has done the same sort of thing here to-day. He has talked about spying through keyholes. Who wants to spy through keyholes on war widows ?
– The honorable gentleman was perhaps speaking about murky corners.
– That might be so. However, I have a great deal of respect for the honorable gentleman since I read the division list that I quoted a few minutes ago, because he now says he wants to see the responsibility of the onus of proof placed in the proper quarter. Mrs. Vasey talked about remarriage and the rights of continuation of pensions of war widows after they re-marry. The honorable gentleman did a service this afternoon, because he exploded any theory that might be held in that regard. The lady said this-
– Is the Minister quoting from a report?
– She is reported to have said that she did not care, solong as a woman looked after her children, Whether that woman slept with ten men a night. That is a dreadful thing for the president of an organization to say about a body of people who have suffered grievously as a result of war. After all, the department has done many things for widows and desires to continue to assist people who are decent citizens. If there has been any miscarriage of justice so far as war widows are concerned the matter can be resolved without repulsive statements being made by the president of their association from a public platform in the hearing of representatives ‘ of the press.
– It was just a figure of speech.
– That maybe. Perhaps the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) is the lady’s legal adviser. I am saying what is in my mind. The Government has done very well for war widows since I have been in charge of the Department of Repatriation. Pension rates have been increased, perhaps not as much as is desirable, but the fact remains- that war widows in Australia are treated better than those in any other part of the world.
– And they are spied on through keyholes.
– I have dealt with that point already. It has been said that the department should give better medical treatment to war widows.’ It was put to me that these “ poor dears “ - that was the term used - were suffering, and many of them dying because they could not get proper medical attention, and that, because they could not get into public hospitals, there was nowhere for them to go when,they were ill. I put the matter before Cabinet, which agreed that war widows should enjoy the same rights in respect of medieal treatment as are enjoyed by ex-servicemen, and that they should be admitted to repatriation hospitals for treatment when necessary. That system has been in operation for nearly twelve months, and in all that time only 232 war widows have been admitted to repatriation hospitals.
– Well, that makes it worthwhile, does it not?
– Of course, and I am glad to know that there have not been any more. The point I am making, however, is that there was obviously no truth in the story that war widows were dying off like flies for lack of medical attention. The Government agreed that war widows and their children could receive treatment in repatriation hospitals. According to the figures that I have here, only sixteen war widows were treated under this provision in Western Australia. It was suggested that war widows with one or two children were badly placed compared with those with several children, or with no children at all. I placed the matter before Cabinet, which agreed that, in certain circumstances, a domestic allowance of 7s. 6d. a week should be paid. It was found that for those war widows who did not need to go into hospital, but who yet required medical attention, a certain procedure had been laid down by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in 1923 when he was Treasurer. That procedure was followed until 1939, and honorable members opposite were apparently satisfied with it. I was not satisfied, and discussed the matter with other members of the Cabinet, who agreed that more up-to-date treatment should be made available. To-day, where the death of a member of the forces is regarded as related to war service, bis widow and children may receive, in addition to medical benefits, hearing aids without cost to themselves, artificial limbs, surgieal boots and shoes, crutches, &c, and, where staff and bed accommodation will allow, war widows and widowed mothers are admitted to repatriation hospitals. It may be that pensions in these days of high cost of living are lower than they ought to be. I make no comment on that, except to say that war widows in Australia are very much better off than are their kind in other parts of the world.
I come now to the report of the advisory committee. A special committee was appointed within the department to examine the medical treatment available to ex-servicemen. It was a departmental inquiry, and the committee heard the opinions of exservicemen. Finally, the doctors who formed the committee reported to the head of their department, which is the practice in the case of all departmental committees. The honorable member for Wentworth, who, himself, has had ministerial experience, knows that perfectly well. I see no reason why I should make the report available to the press or to organizations of ex-servicemen. It is purely a departmental report, and I do not propose to make it available. I do not propose to allow the press to take little sections of the report, publish them apart from their context, and then make a great deal of noise, and offer a great deal of criticism, which cannot be answered in the columns of the newspapers because the proprietors will not allow that to be done. The Government has acted on the report. Almost all the recommendations of the committee have been put into effect. If the honorable member for Wentworth would like to view the report in my office, I shall make it available to him.
– Make it available to the House.
– I will not make it available to the House or to the press.
– We do not want any hole-and-corner business.
– There is no holeandcorner business about this, such as there was when the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) made himself a lieutenant-colonel.
– The Minister cannot buy me off like that.
– I have made the offer; but if the honorable member does not want to accept it, I do not mind. The recommendations contained in the report have been made available to several organizations of ex-servicemen that asked for them. I do not know what more they want. Medical treatment in repatriation hospitals is costing £4,500,000 a year, and 8,500 beds are being maintained. Thebest medical skill obtainable in Australia is obtainable at repatriation hospitals. Specialists have been brought from overseas and in some instances their services have been made available to the general public. This applies in particular to Dr. Piddington, the tuberculosis specialist. Dr. Stoller, a psychiatrist, was brought from England to work in the Repatriation Department, and he . is doing excellent work. His methods have proved successful in many cases, and the number of patients under treatment is declining. I do not claim that because the department is doing all these things for ex-servicemen the organization is perfect. It is impossible to have perfect organization in a hospital with 1,500 or .1,600 beds. Difficulties will arise due to the intrusion of the human factor, and it has often been difficult to get staff. However, one of the cheering aspects of my work has been the number of letters I receive daily from ex-patients and their families expressing appreciation for what has been done for them. There is no glamor about that. I know, but it takes the edge off the criticism that has been levelled against the department, and against me, as Minister. Whatever may be said about pensions, the fact remains that nowhere else in the world do ex-servicemen, and U’:1 r widows receive better hospital and medical attention than they do in Australia.
– What about looking through keyholes?
– There is no looking through keyholes. It is true that in days pone by a bit of “ snooping “ went on ; but in recent years there has been more tolerance in relation to the private affairs of those who come under the care of the department. Prying will not he encouraged. When however, a report is made, as happened in one case, that a war widow had sought protection because the man with whom she was living and to whom she was not married was knocking her about, the department cannot ignore it. On investigation the department ascertained that the widow concerned was not living at the address which she had furnished to the department and that she was living under an assumed name. The Government desires to do the best it can for ex-servicemen and their dependants, but it will not encourage improper practices which place the people concerned beyond the scope of the act.
– The Government has recognized the rights of the de facto wife.
– A provision for the payment of pensions to such persons was inserted in the act as the result of legislation introduced by a government which was supported by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin).
– I did not support it Those who did so were, in my opinion, as sanctimonious as is the Minister.
– Since 1920, governments of the same political complexion as the honorable member have accepted the principle that in certain circumstances de facto wives are eligible for repatriation benefits. I believe that there are certain classes of women who. although they did not marry servicemen, are entitled to repatriation benefits because of the nature of their association with members of the forces. I came into contact with many such people when T was a member of the Social Security Committee. The case referred to bv the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was not submitted to me. T had nothing to do with the suspension of the pension. The honorable member is well aware that, the case was submitted to the Victorian Repatriation Board which, in its wisdom or otherwise, cancelled the pension. Before a case of that kind would be brought to my notice it would first be referred to the Repatriation Commission. 1 propose to look into cases of that kind personally. In conformity with the views that I have expressed this afternoon, I intend to examine all such cases, not on the basis of the statements made by the President of the War Widows Craft Guild, but on the basis that the people concerned are the victims of a war-torn world and that we should do anything we can do to make their lives more comfortable and happy. T trust that I have said sufficient to satisfy honorable members that the criticism of the administration of my department by the honorable member for Wentworth is not well founded.
I revert for a moment to the reference that was made to the establishment of a second tribunal to deal with repatriation claims. My decision to establish a second tribunal was made to give effect to my promise that, if the accumulation of pending cases warranted such a course, a second tribunal would be appointed. . despite the statement of the honorable member for Wentworth that I fell over backwards in my attempts to silence the complaints of the war widows, my decision to establish a second tribunal was made in accordance with a promise that I made twelve months ago when the No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal went out of existence.
– For how long was Mr. I Dibdin a member of that tribunal?
– I had no fault to find with Mr. Dibdin and as far as 1 am aware Mr. Dibdin has never uttered an unkind word about me. The honorable member appears to believe that Mr. Dibdin should have been appointed to one of these tribunals. 1 point out to him that I had to make a selection from a panel of names furnished by the ex-servicemen’s organizations. Mr. Dibdin had been nominated by the returned servicemen’s league, but I selected another man in preference to him. Both Mr. Dibdin and the chosen appointee had rendered good service to the Government. If I failed to select the man whom the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) favours, all T can say is that that is too bad. I shall be pleased to give to honorable members such additional information concerning” the administration of my department as they desire.
– The time-table which limits the debate on these proposed votes enables me to make only a few observations in relation to the subject of subsidies. Provision has been made in the bill of an amount of £2,500,000 for subsidies for the forthcoming four months. The Government’s policy on price stabilization has been the greatest single factor in causing recent increases of the price of Australian goods and commodities. The withdrawal of subsidies was a political move made by the Government in retaliation for the overwhelmingly adverse vote on the Government’s proposals at the referendum on rents and prices in 1948. If food, clothing and other subsidies to the value of £25,000,000 are suddenly withdrawn, un- subsidized potatoes, milk, clothing and other commodities must cost the consumer at least an additional £25,000,000. The provision of £40,000,000 a year for subsidies represented a reduction of the cost of food and clothing of about £5 a year for every mau, woman and child in Australia. In other words, the withdrawal of subsidies of £25,000,000 must have directly increased the living costs of a family unit of five persons by more than 6s. a week for every week of the year. It is merely to camouflage the true position to say that, because the Commonwealth could not control the expenditure of the money by the States, it was reluctantly compelled to withdraw subsidies. Let us consider what replies can be made to such a suggestion. Does the Commonwealth supervise the State schemes which it finances for the settlement on the land of ex-servicemen, or the State housing projects which are financed by Commonwealth loan money? Does it supervise the expenditure on main roads of moneys handed by it to the States from the proceeds of the petrol tax ? Does the Commonwealth supervise the expenditure of subsidies paid to the States in the form of grants to recompense them for vacating the income tax field? Why is the Commonwealth prepared to subsidize the cost of living of the people of New Zealand through the wheat agreement and to subsidize the Commonwealth Shipping Line, Trans-Australia Airlines, pensions for members of the Commonwealth Parliament, national health schemes and national fitness campaigns, while, at the same time, it withdraws from consumers the subsidies on milk, potatoes, clothing and staple commodities? Some examples of what the withdrawal of subsidies means to the family budget, and to living costs generally, may be gauged from a quotation from a broadcast speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) twelve months ago. The right honorable gentleman said -
If the Commonwealth Government were forced to abandon its subsidy plan, the price of tea would rise overnight by 2s. (id. to 5s. 3d. per lb. Butter would go up by 64d. per lb., milk by id. per quart, and the price of potatoes nearly double. An ordinary three-piece suit would cost another 35s., shoes would go up by 2s. a pair, and those who prefer kid shoes would have to pay Gs. more a pair. The farmer would have to pay nearly 50 per cent, more for his superphosphate. The
Commonwealth Government is also paying subsidies on such items us coal and coastal shipping freights. These are indirectly keeping down living costs. At present, the Commonwealth is spending about £40,000,000 a year on these consumer subsidies.
Those statements, which were made by the Prime Minister twelve months ago, demonstrate that the right honorable gentleman wa3 fully aware of the dangerous effects which the sudden withdrawal of consumer subsidies would have on living costs. Yet, with all that knowledge, a month or two later, he callously threw consumers to the wolves as part of a well-laid plot to gain political advantage at the expense of the States and of the Opposition at the next election. In 1943-44 the subsidy plan cost £7,000,000. In the succeeding years it cost £11,000,000, £13.000,000, £23,000,000, and, finally, £35,000,000 in 1947-48. The total cost of the plan to the 30th June, 1948, was more than £88,000,000, which means that the people paid £88.000,000 less for food and clothing during the operation of the scheme. The vast increase of expenditure on this item during the post-war years indicates the difficulties experienced by the Labour Government in combating rising costs, even with the payment of subsidies. Yet knowing that fact full well, the Government tossed the baby to the States almost without warning. In doing so it withdrew the most important single factor which had been responsible for stabilizing the price of potatoes, milk, footwear, clothing and other requisites. Had the Commonwealth retained control, prices would have been far higher than they are now. Since the States assumed control of prices in September last, they have successively reduced the price of furniture by an average of ls. 6d. in the £1, clothing by ls. 6d. in the £1, and boots and shoes and kitchen ware and crockery by ls. 3d. in the £1. From the Commonwealth Statistician’s “ C “ series all items index figures, comes striking proof of the grave inefficiency of Commonwealth prices control and the relative effectiveness of State control. A 33-point rise took place in retail prices in the six capital cities during the last quarter of Commonwealth prices control to the end of September, 1948. In the first quarter of State control, which ended in
December, 1948, there was a rise of only 30 points, and a rise of a mere 23 points during the quarter ended March, 1949. Canberra prices are subject to Commonwealth control. Compared with a 30- point rise in the State capitals under State control, Canberra prices rose 34 points in the quarter ended December, 194S. During the quarter ended March, 1949, there was a further 33-point rise in Canberra prices compared with a rise of only 23 points in the six Statecontrolled capital cities. At the end of December, 1948, retail prices in Canberra for all items were 34 points higher, and for the quarter ended March, 1949, they were 44 points higher than the average of the six State-controlled capitals. In other words, prices rose more during the last three months of Commonwealth control than they have risen in each of the first two quarters of State control. Increases of prices have become progressively less steep each quarter since the States have taken control. Prices have risen more, and are considerably higher in Canberra, where the Commonwealth still administers price control, than the average increase of all the State capitals where prices are controlled by the States. Prices in Canberra under Commonwealth controls are soaring at an ever-increasing tempo, while the rate of increase in the State capitals, since the States resumed prices control, is slowing down appreciably. I have prepared a short table which conclusively proves those assertions. It is as follows: -
Those figures tell their own story. The Commonwealth Statistician is responsible for the collation of that information and for presenting it in a correct manner. The figures show that in the Australian Capital Territory, which is directly subject to this Government’s administration, increases of prices have been greater, and continue to increase more steeply, than those in the six capital cities, where the States control prices. In Queensland, principal rises in the prices of food during the first quarter of State control were in potatoes, milk, bread, beef and pork. The first three items had been subsidized by the Commonwealth. In other words, the increases of prices that have occurred in the States can, to a large degree, be attributed to the withdrawal of the subsidies. On the 6th May, the Acting Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair, made the following statement to a deputation : -
Compared with other States, Queensland had granted comparatively few increases since the States assumed price control last September.
The report of his statement proceeded -
Any increases allowed could be traced to the withdrawal of federal subsidies, as with milk and potatoes, or to high export prices, aB with beef. Against these rises orders had been issued reducing the selling margins on clothing garments, drapery, making up of clothing, furniture, mattresses and bedding, imported piece goods, footwear, kitchen utensils, crockery and glassware. ft is obvious that the withdrawal of price stabilization subsidies was a part of a political plan which the Treasurer conceived about the end of 1947. Honorable members will recall that the budget estimate for subsidies for the financial year 1947-48 was £19,000,000. The declared policy of the Government at that time was that subsidies should be gradually withdrawn. Then the Government conceived the idea of holding a referendum in an effort to secure for the Commonwealth power to control rents and prices permanently. To show how clever it was, the Government deliberately increased subsidies from £19,000,000 to £35,000,000. The object was to hide price rises, so that a brave showing would be made at the referendum at the end of May, 1948. Subsidies were not withdrawn gradually in 1947-48, but were actually increased in order to present to the people a favorable picture of Commonwealth administration of prices control. The Government later completely reversed its policy, on the ground of the political expediency, in order to win the referendum. The introduction of the new policy almost coincided with the passing of the Constitution Alteration (Rents and Prices) Bill. Despite all the Government’s efforts, the referendum failed. The Labour Government again played politics with the people’s welfare and withdrew, during the current financial year, the subsidies for which provision had already been made from revenue. Therefore, the people are paying twice - once for the subsidies for which the Treasurer budgeted and which the taxpayers have not received, and, secondly, through the steeply rising costs of food and other commodities that had previously been subsidized. The price administration branch in the United States of America estimated in 1945 that the withdrawal of stabilization subsidies would have a combined direct effect of increasing the cost of food by 9 per cent, and the general cost of living by 3.6 per cent. A’t the next election, the Chifley Government will contend that the States, the electors who voted against the referendum, or the non-Labour parties who urged them so to vote, are responsible for the high cost of living; but the facts that I have adduced will prove the falsity of such a claim. The Commonwealth Statistician’s picture of prices in the Australian Capital Territory, where controls are administered by the Chifley Government, and in the six capital cities, where controls are administered by the States, provides the necessary evidence in support of my statement.
– Order! The Leader of the Australian Country party hai exhausted his time.
– As no other honorable member has risen, I shall take my second period now. The Government will blame everybody but itself, although caucus and Cabinet alike are directly and knowingly responsible for the position. It was the Labour Government that deliberately increased the price of milk, potatoes, footwear, clothing and shipped goods by arbitrarily withdrawing the prices stabilization subsidies. The Prime Minister, in a. moment of pique when the adverse result of the referendum was known, announced the Government’s intention to withdraw the subsidies. It was the Labour caucus that allowed the Chifley Government to continue heavy indirect taxes on goods and services, thereby raising the cost to consumers. It was on the instructions of the Labour Government that the 40-hour week was not opposed, thus raising the cost of producing goods. All those contributing factors are, or were, within the full knowledge of the Government, and each of them is keeping the cost of living unduly high for the consuming public. The Chifley Government cannot baulk that issue, however much it squirms and wriggles in a futile attempt to place the blame elsewhere. When a government which calls itself a Labour government is prepared to sacrifice the living standards of 7,775,000 people on the altar of political expediency, it should be relieved of the robes and vestments of office. The Chifley Government is directly responsible for the failure to arrest the everincreasing cost of living.
I take this opportunity to place on record a reply to the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who attacked the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) about loan raisings and on what the Minister described as the right honorable gentleman’s maladministration of the Treasury. The records definitely prove that there is no substance in the allegation that the Minister has made about what he called the right honorable gentleman’s dishonest method of administering the Treasury from 1922 until 1929.
– Order! Will the right honorable gentleman inform the Chair how he relates his remarks to loan raisings?
– I direct attention to the item, “ Miscellaneous - Department of the Treasury - Exchange on remittances for payment of interest in London “. The Minister for Information asserted that the right honorable member for Cowper had raised loans in London in order to pay interest that was owing in that city. That statement is absolutely incorrect, as I shall proceed to show. The national debt from the 30th June, 1922, to the 30th June, 1929, while the right honorable member for Cowper was Treasurer, increased by only £12,000,000. During that period, the war debt was reduced by approximately £45,000,000.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The right honorable gentleman’s remarks are not in order. He may speak on loan management expenses.
Mr.FADDEN. - The item on whichI speak does not matter to me, so long as I am allowed to speak.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I have made it perfectly clear to the right honorable gentleman that he is not permitted to discuss loan raisings, but he may speak on the expenses associated with the management of loan raisings. I have not ruled that he may speak on a subject that he should raise when another department is under consideration.
– During the stewardship of the right honorable member for Cowper, the war debt was reduced by approximately £45,000,000. The debt in respect of works and capital expenditure was increased during the same period by about £58,000,000, making a net increase of £12,000,000 in round figures. That sum was expended on telephones and services for the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the general works programme. Assets to the value of £58,000,000 were created during the period under review, compared with the increase of debt to which I have referred. An amount of £33,000,000 was expended on post offices and war service homes, which immediately provided for interest and redemption payments. The gross debt per head of the population was reduced by £6 12s. 5d. from £66 4s. 3d. to £5911s. l0d. I have now explained concisely the loan position and the management of the Treasury under the stewardship of the right honorable member for Cowper. The right honorable gentleman promulgated the Financial Agreement with the States, and introduced the Loan Council, which, in turn, led to the sinking fund proposals. While he was Treasurer, an amount of £24,791,000 was provided towards sinking fund requirements out of the surplus funds which resulted from his administration.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the right honorable gentleman to relate hia remarks to the subject under consideration.
– I have completed my speech.
[5.30J. - The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) has directed most of his remarks to Division No. 187, which relates to price stabilization subsidies payable by the Australian Government. In the Estimates for 1948-49, £10,300,000 was provided for price stabilization subsidies. Of the amount of £2,500,000 that is provided for in this Supply Bill for that purpose, about 90 per cent, represents the subsidy cn tea and the remainder the lag in the payment of subsidies on other commodities. The right honorable gentleman endeavoured to argue that the Australian Government is to blame for the rive of prices since it relinquished the control of prices. He is anxious to put that argument before the public because honorable gentlemen opposite will have lo meet the wrath of the electors at the general election. They know that the electors- are fully aware that they were misled during the referendum campaign and that ‘the increase of prices that has occurred since then has been almost entirely because the electors unfortunately took the advice of the Opposition parties and voted against the continuance of the Commonwealth control of prices. There if not the slightest doubt about that, because the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) made it perfectly clear, in his first speech in the referendum campaign, that if the Australian Government no longer had the power to control prices as the result of the referendum, automatically and inevitably certain subsidies would be withdrawn. Every Minister and supporter of the Government made that equally clear in » the course of the campaign.
– It was clear intimidation.
– There was no question of intimidation. It was a matter of fact and logic, because, quite obviously, nobody would believe that the
Government could continue to pay subsidies if another authority had the control of prices. We can wed imagine what the position would be when certain State governments, which arc the supporters of vested interests and, of course, believe in high profits and dividends for certain kinds of enterprises, could have fixed the prices of certain commodities at a higher level than was justifiable; The Commonwealth would have had to pay subsidies to make up the difference between the reasonable price and the extortionate price that was so fixed. Obviously, no government could continue to pay subsidies on commodities if another authority controlled the prices. Honorable gentlemen opposite must realize that that is a sound business principle and that had they been in power in similar circumstances they would not have continued to pay subsidies when another authority fixed their prices. The Government was fully justified in its action. From the outset of the referendum campaign it made no secret of the fact that it would do what it did if the “ No “ vote predominated. The Leader of the Australian Country party tried to make out that the Commonwealth control of prices had not been nearly so successful or efficient as the Statecontrol has been. Of course, no one could believe that, because it is obviously not true. The Prime Minister, in answering a question earlier today, truthfully claimed that the control of prices by the Australian Government had been more effective .than the control of prices in any other country. The rise of commodity prices during and for some time after the war was less in Australia than in any other country. The Australian people are well aware of that not only because the Government has’’ said so hut because business men who have been overseas and have experienced the high prices- ruling there have come back to Australia and said quite clearly that that is the fact. I led - Government missions overseas in 1947 and 1948, and I know that the prices of commodities overseas were, far in excess of price’s of comparable commodities in Australia. Then the referendum took place. Honorable members opposite have argued that they took the view that if the Australian Government would only have said that it would continue to control prices for a limited period, they would have agreed to that course. A. recent judgment of the High Court shows that the Government was wise in vacating the field of prices control immediately after the referendum. Obviously, had it not done so, it could not have stayed in the field after that decision. Probably long before the recent decision was given some one would have successfully challenged the prices control regulations in the High Court. The validity of the prices control regulations was being challenged from Western Australia and New South Wales in two cases before the High Court when the referendum was held. So the Government wisely got out of the field. And whathas been the result? The Leader of the Australian Country party suggested that the Commonwealth control was less efficient than that of the States’. No one will believe that, because the facts show that it is not true. Compared with other countries, Australia kept its prices down, under Commonwealth control, to a far greater degree during the war and before the referendum, but, since the referendum and the transfer of the control to the Status, prices in Australia have risen much more rapidly than they have risen overseas. I do not say that there are not reasons for that. I am only countering the arguments of the Leader of the Australian Country party. Prices would have risen in Australia in the last year or so regardless of what authority controlled them; but the right honorable gentleman distorts the facts when he says that prices control under the States is more efficient than it was under the Commonwealth. No one in the wide world would believe that.
I remind the right honorable gentleman that not all the subsidies paid by the Australian Government were connected with its desire to prevent an undue rise of prices. Some were paid to assist the primary producers. I refer honorable gentlemen to Division No. 187 of the Schedule, which is under the heading, “Price Stabilization Subsidies”. The subsidies payable under that division this financial year are in respect of potatoes, tea, whole milk, woolfor home consumption, imports other than tea, coal, coastal shipping freights and other items. Under Division No. 188, the heading of which is “ Assistance to Primary Production “ we have other subsidies. The first item is the subsidy payable to the dairying industry. The estimated expenditure on that subsidy from 1948-49 is £5,600,000. The vote for 1947-48 was £4,000,000 and the expenditure was actually £8,867,001. I regret that I have not before me the total amount that has been paid by this Government to assist dairying, but I direct attention to the fact that the Government has done far more than any other government attempted to do to assist the dairyfarmers. I am particularly interested because at one time Iwas a dairy-farmer and I know the hard conditions under which they work. In 1932 or 1933, when the Opposition parties were in power, the price of butter fat went to as low as 6d. per lb. The so-called champions of the primary producers, who occupy the Australian Country party benches, and among whom are the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who was referred to by the Leader of the Australian Country party, never lifted a finger to help the dairying industry in those critical days when dairy-farmers were forced off their properties because they could not make ends meet.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I should like to know what connexion the Minister’s remarks have with the matter before the Chair.
– Order! The Minister is dealing with subsidies and his remarks are in order.
– I am dealing with subsidies at the moment.
– There is no item which relates to a subsidy on butter fat.
– Division No. 188 relates to a subsidy to the dairying industry, and that subsidy is calculated on the butter fat content. It is quite obvious that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) does not know anything about the dairying industry. I remember when the price of butter fat was as low as 6d. . per lb,
In those days the anti-Labour parties formed the government of the day. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was a prominent member of that government. I do not think that the Leader of the Australian Country party had entered the Parliament at that time, but a number of honorable members who now sit on the Australian Country party benches were members of the Parliament, as were a number of honorable gentlemen opposite who now call themselves Liberals, although in those clays they called themselves by another name. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is one of them. They had the opportunity then to assist the dairying industry, which was never in worse shape than it was in those critical days. The anti-Labour parties could then have provided a subsidy for the industry, as this Government did in the early part of the war, but .they never lifted a hand to help our primary producers, and in particular, the dairy-farmers. I want to make it quite clear that some of the subsidies that had been paid by the Australian Government have been paid for the express purpose of keeping down the cost of living, but that remark does not apply to the subsidy to the dairying industry. If my memory is correct, it was introduced in 1942-43 as the result of an examination of the industry and a recommendation that was made to the Production Executive, of which I was then chairman. We realized that the Australian dairy-farmers were not getting a reasonable return for their services to the community, and we recommended the payment of this subsidy. That recommendation was finally approved by Cabinet.
– It was a consumer subsidy.
– If the Leader of the Australian Country party makes a statement, it does not necessarily follow that that statement is true. The right honorable gentleman has expressed an opinion. I am telling the committee of how this subsidy was initiated.
– I rise to order. The Minister has said that I was a member of a government that never helped the dairying industry. Apparently the honorable gentleman has never heard of the Paterson plan, which benefited that industry considerably.
– There is no point of order ‘ involved. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) can make a personal explanation later if he desires to do so.
– The subsidy to the dairying industry was not introduced in order to stabilize prices or to keep down the cost of living. It was introduced because the Government, for almost the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, recognized the plight of the dairy-farmers and set out deliberately to pay a subsidy to them in order that they should receive better remuneration for their services to the community. The honorable member for Balaclava has said that I was in error in saying that the anti-Labour parties never did anything for the dairying industry and he has referred to the Paterson plan. All that was done under that plan was to increase the price paid for butter fat by Australian consumers so that the product could be sold at a lower price overseas. The effect of the Paterson plan was to impose a tax which bore heavily upon persons with large families. The money with which to pay this subsidy to the dairying industry comes from Consolidated Revenue. The subsidy was deliberately introduced in 1942-43 to assist dairy-farmers throughout Australia. I repeat that when the antiLabour parties were in power honorable gentlemen opposite had an opportunity to assist primary producers throughout Australia, and particularly dairyfarmers, but although they now pose as the champions pf primary producers they did nothing whatever to assist them then. The sum of money that is now sought for assistance to the dairying industry by way of subsidy is £1,900^000. That sum is needed to pay the subsidy for four months. At that rate of expenditure, the subsidy for the whole of 1949-50 will cost £5,700,000.
Turning to the superphosphate subsidy, the sum sought, again for four months! is £1,100,000. If that rate of expenditure. is maintained-
– The “ guillotine “ has been imposed. I ask you, Mr. Temporary
Chairman, whether, in those circumstances, the Minister is in order in speaking for more than the time which other members of the committee are allowed in this debate. All the other Ministers who have spoken have shown consideration for members of the Opposition.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The speech of a Minister in charge of a department, the proposed vote for which is under discussion, is not subject to a time limit.
– A sum of £1,100,000 is sought for the payment of the superphosphate subsidy lor four months. If that rate of expenditure is maintained, the total cost of the subsidy in l949-50 will be £3,300,000. The estimate for 1948-49 was £3,500,000.
Motion (by Mr. Beale) put -
That the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedma n )benot further heard.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. h. P. Lazzarini.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for Department of Post-warReconstruction, Defence and Post-war (1939-45.) Charges - Defenceand Services Departments, Supply and Development, Re-establishment andRepatriation, International Relief and Rehabilitation, Subsidies, Miscellaneous - Miscellaneous Services, and War (1914-18) Services - has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Proposed vote, £637,000.
Proposed vole, £12,678,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- This is the first convenient occasion on which the committee, or for that matter the Parliament, has had an opportunity to discuss the Government’s announcement that it proposes to give effect to very substantial increases of postal and telegraphic rates, in order to raise, or so it is reported, an additional amount of £6,000,000 in one year. This is a very important matter which will affect almost every citizen of the Commonwealth to some extent, but will affect some citizens much more seriously than others. There are certain implications in the Government’s decision, which, 1 consider, should be thoroughly canvassed by the committee. Here we have a Commonwealth owned and controlled socialistic monopoly that handles our postal, telephone and telegraphic services. The Government has for many years, as possibly have other governments in the past, referred with pride to the achievements of this socialist enterprise. For many years this government monopoly earned very substantial revenues and showed an excess of revenue over expenditure amounting to many millions of pounds. Between 1941 and 1947 the excess of revenue over expenditure, after taking into account various capital charges, was, I understand, about £36,000,000.
The first comment that I desire to make on that position is that our pos.al and telegraphic services, following upon the additional war-time letter rate of 1/2d. and other increases, have been used as revenue earners. It has not been a matter of providing a service and making a charge to cover operational cost’s, but rather of the Government using a business undertaking that it controlled to earn profits that, had they been earned by any proviate organization, would most certainly have incurred the displeasure of the Prices Commissioner, and the undertaking would have been compelled to reduce its charges. But quite deliberately, and as a means of collecting additional revenue, for general purposes and not for the purposes of the postal, telephone and telegraph services, over the war years and used as a revenue earner. It is notable that from 1941 to 1947 the smallest profit earned in any one year was more than £5,100,000, and that the department attained its peak annual profit of more than £6,000,000 in the year 1944-45. So, in those years, there was taken from the people who use the postal, telephone and telegraph services a large amount in excess of the department’s needs. That is significant in itself, because had that occurred in the case of a private undertaking the Prices Commissioner, as I have said, would have stepped in and forced a reduction of charges. That was not the case with this government undertaking. In six years this service accumulated £36,000,000 in excess revenues. Now we have come to the point when, for the first time for many years, the Postmaster-General’s Department looks like showing a deficit. Here, again, had it been a private undertaking that was concerned, the Government would have said, “ From your operations over a number of years you have accumulated an excess of revenue, and you can now use that excess to offset the expected loss “. But that does not apply to a government department. Instead of eating into that accumulated £36,000,000, which had not been passed back to the users of the services by way of reduced charges, the Government now steps in to apply extraordinary increases ranging from 50 per cent, of some charges to 100 per cent, of others so as to produce another £6,000,000 of revenue in one year. The point that I wish to stress is that, since in the past the excess revenues have been contributed by particular sections of the community - that is to say, by people who have used the services for business or professional purposes - now that a loss is to be experienced the same sections of the community are to carry the heaviest burden. The point is quite clear. When additional funds are raised by increasing the charges of a government undertaking, that is in the nature of a sectional tax. Another point is that we have here an interesting demonstration of the shape of things to come, of the future pattern that we may expect in socialized enterprise as conceived by this Government. This is not a case of a gradual increase of prices to meet increasing costs as they are experienced ; but of a sudden, unbusinesslike, heavy impost which, if put into effect by a private enterprise, would call forth the wrath of its shareholders, because one of its certain effects will be to discourage people, who in the past have been using these services, from using them quite as fully as they have used them. Any private organization which suddenly jacked its prices up by from 50 per cent, to 100 per cent, could expect a decline of its turnover. That is one reason why we criticize the proposal to raise postal, telephone and telegraph charges. We do so on the ground that if the Government intends to run those services at a profit that is a thoroughly unbusinesslike approach. I am certain that in many homes in Australia the head of the household will tell his family that there has to be a reduced use of the telephone and of telegrams. Many heads of businesses will instruct their staffs to reduce the use of these services and to exercise strict economy. That is why we term the Government’s action a very unbusinesslike approach. The Postmaster-General’s Department is our biggest government undertaking. It is, in fact, the biggest commercial undertaking, either private or government, in Australia, We, as a Parliament, are asked to examine this very important, proposal to increase postal, telephone and telegraph charges yet we are placed at a very great disadvantage in doing so because the latest official report of the Postmaster-General’s Department that is available to us is that for the year 1946-47, almost two years ago. Any public company which conducted its affairs in that way would find itself being prosecuted under the provisions of the Companies Act which require companies to make regular details of their accounts available for public inspection. Here we have an illustration of what we can expect from socialized enterprise in the future - a casual, apathetic attitude to the interests of the public and even of this Parliament itself. For lack of an up-to-date report I have had to resort to the report of the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral for the year 1947-48; but that does not take us very much farther along the road, because the Auditor-General is able to give only a tentative figure, as apparently the accounts had not at that time been finalized in the form in which they are presented in the Postmaster-General’s Department’s annual report. According to the AuditorGeneral’s figures the department, in the year 1947-48, showed an excess of expenditure over revenue of about £780,000. So here we have a department that accumulated a surplus of £36,000,000 in six years, showing in a later year a loss of just under £1,000,000, and suddenly jacking up its charges so as to produce an extra revenue of £0,000,000. lt is interesting to note that in the 1946-47 annual report of the department the accumulated reserve in the plant depreciation account was shown as £8,868,000. There has been no suggestion that this reserve has been drawn on in any way in order to avoid passing increased costs on to the consumer. Here, again, one might properly comment that this illustration completely knocks the props from under the Government’s argument regarding increased costs. We have been told by this Government for some time that the fact that it has no control over prices has prevented it from holding prices down. But the Government has control over shipping freight rates, and the Prime Minister told us only yesterday what had happened in connexion with those rates. They have soared to tremendous heights. The Government certainly has control over ‘the rates that may be charged for its postal, telephone and telegraph services. But whatever power and authority it possesses, has not prevented it from increasing those rates to the extent that I have mentioned. If I had the time to do so it would be interesting to expand on this claim of the Government’s that if it had only sufficient constitutional authority it would be able to keep prices down. That is a completely false claim, because the Government knows that it has been unable, having conceded the 40-hour week and having found it necessary to import so much of its requirements from overseas, to keep down the rates charged by its own undertakings. What would have been the position with these factors operating in connexion with an ordinary business undertaking? I remember that some time ago General Motors-Holdens Limited, one of our hig motor firms, showed a loss in a particular year of about £500,000. Did it suddenly become panicky and decide that prices had to be raised sharply? No! A private company sets out, by economy and more efficient business administration, and by using improved methods, to meet the increased costs that other factors have brought into play. There is no evidence of that having been done by the Government. Had the Postal Department been a private organization, I repeat, it would have been told by the competent prices authorities in the various States, or by its own officers, to ensure that it was justified in passing on increased costs without having tried to effect economies in its own administration. There is another factor which should be considered here. Experience seems to indicate that prices for commodities and services are falling in the United States of America. If such be the case, it is most probable that they will fall also in Britain and in other parts of the world. We know that the prices that we receive for the sale of our primary products overseas are falling, a fact that is likely to have an effect on our economy and a tendency to reduce prices in Australia. One would have thought, therefore, that the Government, having imposed heavy postal charges early in the war and accumulated a large surplus from them, might have said, “ For a number of years our revenue has been buoyant and we shall carry these extra charges, lt is quite likely that costs and wages will fall “-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order I The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
, - 1 had an opportunity to hear the misstatements made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) about charges by the Postal Department. This matter was mentioned here only a few days ago, and it will come before the Parliament again when certain legislation is introduced a little later. In the meantime, some points ought to he cleared up because incorrect statements have been made.
– What are they?
– It is quite true, as the honorable member said, that Postal Department accounts showed surpluses in certain years. One of the additional items of revenue arose out of the increased postal .^charge of id. which was imposed during- the war for the purpose of raising revenue, and which yielded about £14,000,000. There is another item of about £12,000,000 for services rendered to other departments. 1 uri not complaining of that. If the postal services were run by private enterprise, government departments would’ not be able to get the same service at that price. I merely point out that the item dons not represent revenue actually received by the Treasury. In addition, we must remember that the Postal Department has never contributed to the sinking fund in respect of any of the loan moneys raised .on itsbehalf, although it has paid interest on those borrowings, and also exchange when necessary. Contributions amounting to about £2,000,000 have been made by the Treasury, mostly on short-term loans raised under the Financial Agreement, and repayable in 30 years. The honorable member for Fawkner pointed out. truly enough, that the Government could not control the prices of imported materials used by the Postal Department. The prices of copper and lead have increased’, the latter from £22 to £35 a ton. The prices of materials imported from over seas whether from the United Kingdom or from dollar areas have increased. greatly. It is generally recognized that employee* of the Postal Department have never received adequate remuneration for their services. During the war, wage-pegging regulations prevented an adjustment being made. Since the lifting of the regulations, wage increases for postal workers, apart from cost-of-living increases in accordance with the “ C “ series index, have amounted to over £5,100,000. made up of £2,300,000 last year, and £2,800,000 this year. The number of telephones installed has increased from 660,000 before the war to more than 1,000,000. The department also provides technical facilities for radio broadcasting. The ‘ community benefit* from this, but the Postal Department loses on it about £1,000,000 a year. Another very important fact is that the Government, believing that every department should he able to work to a programme for some. years ahead, undertook to provide £42,000,000 to enable the Postal Department to draw up and put into effect a programme of future development. Already, £36,000,000 has been expended under this arrangement on capital works, apart altogether from the cost of maintenance. Last year, the expenditure on capita] works was £9,900,000, and this year it will be approximately £10,000,000, for all of which the department will not be required to pay a penny to anybody in interest, exchange, or sinking fund contributions, and will thus save £930,000 a year, so that the public may be provided with facilities which were urgently needed. Already, more than 300,000 more telephones have been provided, and we are trying to obtain further supplies. The PostmasterGeneral has ordered 600 automatic rural telephone exchanges, which represent one of the most important amenities that can he provided in country districts. It is expected that, during the coming financial year, the Treasury will give to” the Postal Department a further £12;000,000 for capital works. fo that, within a period of three years, the department will have got back from the Treasury the total amount of the surpluses which it contributed to Consolidated Revenue. [ do not propose to follow the honorable member for Fawkner into a discussion on prices control. It would be easy to answer his arguments. A great deal of the increased cost of maintenance in the Postal Department arises from the fact that the prices of goods purchased overseas, as well as of those that come under the controlof the States, have increased materially. The Commonwealth has no control over such matters. The price increases, in turn, affect the basic wage, which has also risen. Thus, the argument of the honorable member for Fawkner, though it may sound well, is a specious one to those who know the facts. However, I have no doubt that it will be answered more forcefully by the Minister (Mr. Calwell) representing the Postal aster-General when the appropriate legislation comes before the House.
. -In spite of the explanation of the Crime Minister (Mr. Chifley), I cannot agree that he has proved that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) made any misstatement. The honorable member certainly spoke without all the information that the right honorable gentleman has placed before the committee, but at no point did he make a misstatement, and certainly the argument that rising prices are due to the handing over of prices control to the States has been forever exploded. Everything that the Prime Minister said goes to prove my assertion. For instance, hu said that one of the chief reasons for increasing postal, telegraphic and telephone charges was the increased cost of materials, most of which come from overseas. Therefore, they were never subject to Commonwealth control, any more than they are now subject to. State control. When the Government’s intention to increase postal, telegraph and telephone charges was first announced it was stated that the rise was due chiefly to the increase of wages, and to the increased number of employees. Commonwealth prices control never had anything to do with those factors. Then, to the Amazement of everybody, the Government announced that the introduction of the 40-hour week had contributed largely to the higher costs which made it necessary to increase charges. The statement of the Prime Minister has. done nothing- but make it doubly plain to the electors that the withdrawal of the Commonwealth from prices control has had nothing to do with increases of prices. As for capital expenditure of £42,000,000 by the Postal Department, the Prime Minister has himself admitted that the expenditure has been met largely out of surpluses contributed by the department to Consolidated Revenue over a period of years. It will take a great deal more than statements of the kind that have been made to-night by honorable members opposite to convince the electors of the justice of this proposal to increase postal, telegraph and telephone charges, particularly when the proposal depends to some degree on the old story that price increases have resulted from the defeat of the Government’s referendum proposals. The strange point in connexion with this proposal is that, in spite of the Government’s statement that the need to increase these charges has’ resulted from rises in the cost of labour, the PostmasterGeneral’s Department does not offer standards of employment and wages which art equal to those observed in outside industries. I make that statement with, 1 think; fairly reasonable authority to back it. As evidence of that authority, I quote the following letter which appeared in the Launceston Examiner only two days ago:-
Your leading article of June Srd, wherein you state that increases granted to Postal Department employees were warranted, is appreciated by my committee and postal workers generally. But permit me to draw attention to the fact that to provide rates of pay equal to those in outside industry it will be necessary to increase salaries by approxi mately a further 25 per cent Statistics pro vided by the general secretary of our orgs nization. and not disputed by the Common wealth Public Service Board or the Government, prove this. Due principally to ‘the poor salaries, irregular hours, lack of shift penalties for night work in some departments. &c., resignations, especially from junior mem bers, have reached such alarming proportions that in no fewer than six country centres in Tasmania no candidates were forthcoming for a recent competitive examination for entryto the service.
I want to be perfectly fair and accordingly I shall read the whole of the letter.’ It continues -
Provision of decent accommodation, ameni ties, &c., is another urgent necessity. In this ; respect the Postmaster-General’s Department has always lagged far behind other Common- wealth departments.Rates under the new schedule of charges still compare favorably with those prevailing in other countries. Tele graphic and telephoniccharges are still much lower thanthose levied in America by much vaunted private enterprise. If thepeople are to get that efficient service for which they clamour, and to which they are justly entitled, they must be prepared to meet the suggested increase in charges to enable the department to offer remuneration, conditions,&c. comparable with those in outside industries.
The letter is signed by L. C. Fox, honorary secretary, Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union. Tasmanian Branch, Launceston. I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether the matters mentioned by Mr. Fox were considered, in conjunction with the programme of increased charges which the Government proposes to submit to the Parliament. If not, and if the Governmentbe true to its stated principle of providing for its employees, and for all employees, proper working conditions, the charges which it proposes to make for postal, telephone and telegraph services will still not he sufficient end that the public must expect them to be still further increased. I should like the Minister to have something to say about that when he replies to the debate.
Another small matter to whichI desire to refer is the need for the establishment of a post office in the small centre in Tasmania known as Tullah. During the recent visit of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) to Tasmania he made to the press the statement that a new post office would be built at Tullah. I have made representations to the Minister on other occasions in connexion with this post office, which is a non-official office, and I have been informed that the department did not consider that it was responsible for providing the necessary accommodation to raise the standard of the post office to an official level. I understand that £3,600 has been provided in this bill for the erection of a new post office at that centre. If that be so, the office will be rated as an official post office. I ask the Minister if he will be good enough to let me know as early as possible when the residents of Tullah can expect the status of their post office to be raised to that of an official office, and when it will be possible to construct the new post office there, as well as the postal buildings mentioned by the Postmaster-General during his visit to Tasmania.
.- The debate on this bill givesus an opportunity to deal with the activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and, perhaps, to work the parish pump a little. Honorable members agree, I am sure, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) gave a very concise and enlightening explanation of the reasons why postal, telegraph and telephone charges must bo increased.I should like to saya word or two with reference to the statement by the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) that, in presenting his case, the Prime Minister had rebutted for all time the claim made by Govern ment spokesmen during the referendum campaign and since that the defeat of the Government’s proposals for the control of rents and prices would result in the prices of many commodities being increased. It is true that much of the capital equipment required by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department mustbe imported. It is equally true that large quantities of such equipment are imported from countries which were the first to abandon prices control. Because of the resultant inflation in those countries we are forced to pay greatly increased prices for these requirements. Only yesterday the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) drew the attention of the committee to what is occurring in the brass manufacturing industry in South Australia.In to-day’s issue of the Adelaide Advertiser the following article, appears under the heading, ‘’ Handicap to South Australian Industries - Higher Prices Granted in other States “ : -
Higher prices have been gazetted for certain articles in eastern States compared with Smith Australia, and this had become so marked that some South Australian industries were seriously handicapped, theGeneral Secretary of the Chandler of Manufactures (Mr. H. D Winterbuttom ) said yesterday. . . . While some of the larger organizations in South Aus tralia were able to press their claims, others, particularly smaller firms, were in real diffi culty.
I would not have raised this matter but for the speechmade by the honorable member for Darwin. “We told the people during the referendum campaign that if higher prices prevailed in some States there would be a tendency for commodities to flow to those States, and that is now happening.
T have recently learned that the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in South Australia, Mr. S. Marks, is to be transferred to Melbourne at the end of this month. ‘ I wish to place on record my appreciation of the assistance rendered by Mr. Marks to all members of this Parliament. At all times he has shown his eagerness to meet the requests of members of all parties.
During the regime of this Government a considerable increase has taken place in the number of telephones installed. I understand that, since 1945-46, approximately 387,000 new telephones have been installed in Australia. Notwithstanding that, approximately 9,000 people in South Australia are still waiting for telephones. They would appreciate any action that the Government can take to speed up the installation of this essential amenity. The extension of the residential areas of Adelaide necessitates an enlargement of many telephone exchanges. On that account also,, particularly in the Edwardstown-Glenelg north arpa, the department should budget for the construction of larger exchanges than it has provided’ for in the past.
From time to time I have urged the Postmaster-General to do everything possible to facilitate the construction of a new post office at Ansae Highway, Plympton. That beautiful highway has been dedicated to the memory of those who fell in World War T. The amenities provided for the residents of Plympton leave very much to he desired. I again appeal for this work to be given a high priority. During the period of World War II. when the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) was PostmasterGeneral, the corporation of Mitcham made in arrangement with the Postmaster-General’s Department for the exchange of blocks of land in order to enable the corporation to construct a garden of memory in honour of those who fell in that war. At an early stage’ in the war the corporation was given to understand that the construction of a new post office at Lower .Mitcham would be given very high priority. Although Lower Mitcham is not included in the new division of Kingston, which 1 hope to represent in the new Parliament, - 1 regard it as my duty to place the claims of the residents of that area before the Postmaster-General. They have asked me to ascertain whether the high priority alloted to the new post officethere still remains in force.
– This is a case of the parish pump on wheels.
– I should like the matter to be referred to the PostmasterGeneral because both he and the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in South Australia have at all times given the most favorable consideration to propositions submitted by South Australian members of all parties in this Parliament. I should also like to know whether it is possible to install additional public telephones, particularly in areas in which many new homes-have been constructed. Many of the residents in new areas will have to wait for a long time for telephones to be installed in their own homes, and the provision of additional public telephones will go a long way towards meeting their-most urgent needs.
– The administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department- affords a glaring example of what we may expect if the Government is allowed to continue its policy of socialization and nationalization. The Postal Department has always been regarded by honorable members opposite as a shining example of socialism in practice. That department operated successfully, however, only when it was administered by a nonLabour Postmaster-General. I am aware that the services provided by the department are considerably wider now than in 1939. It is also true that its revenues have increased accordingly. Post offices in all the capital cities, suburbs and country towns were erected with few exceptions by non-Labour governments before the outbreak of World War II. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has mentioned the number of services that the Postal Department provides for other government departments; but he admitted that it does not provide a sinking fund. Honorable members should not overlook the fact that the Postal Department is in an advantageous position compared with private enterprise. Post office buildings throughout Australia are not subject to municipal rates and taxes, and the Postal Department does not pay income tax on its earnings. During this financial year, the Postal Department has made a substantial loss, and Cabinet has announced its decision to increase postal, telephone and telegraph charges. As I have stated, the Postal Department is in a most advantageous position, and we must admit that, in the circumstances, business men and primary producers must be in a deplorable situation. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have pointed out that, during the last five or six years, the Postal Department has made gigantic profits. Hud the department been in the same situation as a primary producer, it would have been - obliged to average its profits for the last five years for taxation purposes.- Being a socialized government concern, the department has’ merely to increase its charges when its activities result in a loss. At present, the Government could well meet that loss from Consolidated Revenue, but with the approach of the general election it is keen to reduce taxes. But the Government has difficulty in reducing taxes without increasing postal, telephone and telegraph charges when the Post Office is operating at a loss. The department that Labour supporters cite as a shining example of socialism has fallen from grace financially.
– I do not understand the honorable member’s reasoning.
– Everybody knows that I have stated the true position. The experience with the Postal Department is merely a preview of what we may expect when the Government socializes various industries.
Last week, the Minister for Works and’ Housing (Mr. Lemmon) asked the House to adopt the report of the Public Works Committee on a proposal to extend the City West automatic telephone exchange in Melbourne. When T. endeavoured to sneak on that motion, the Minister suggested that I should defer my remarks until the chamber was’ debat ing the Supply Bill (No. 1). 1949-50. and the proposed vote for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department was under consideration. I now avail myself of that opportunity. At the outset, I desire te make it clear that I am not opposed to. the policy of erecting or extending automatic telephone exchanges in Melbourne. However, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) should recognize the wisdom contained in the adage, “ First things first “. I shall cite one illustration of many throughout Australia in the hope that if the Postmaster-General will see the light in that instance other similar cases may benefit as a result. The town of Robinvale, in my electorate., is situated in a district which, during the last few years, has been developed for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. Many of them are now settled there, and I expect that many others will settle there in the next two or three years. The district is thriving. However, the post office which also accommodates the telephone exchange in the town is a corrugated iron structure. Some members of the Labour party may not be aware that Robinvale is situated on the Murray River upstream from Mildura, and that in summer, the bea* there is intense. The corrugated iron building is totally ungutted to the climate. I have asked the Postmaster-General to have a new post office’ built. The district is a progressive one; and, as I have stated, the settlers served their country in wartime and should receive some priority, in the spirit of the Re-establishment and Employment Act, when improved postal and telephone facilities are being provided. I hope that the Minister (Mr. Calwell) representing the PostmasterGeneral will convey my- representations to the department.
– - I join with the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) in expressing appreciation of the efforts of officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department in South Australia to meet the demand for increased telephone services. Unfortunately, many of those demands cannot be satisfied, and the department cannot bp altogether blamed for that position.- The extraordinary number of applications for telephones in my electorate arises out of the unprecedented growth of industries. Numbers of ex-servicemen have commenced in small businesses, including manufacturing and mechanical establishments, and the iron trades. Almost without exception, those men are unable to obtain telephones. The difficulty is that the telephone exchanges are not sufficiently large to permit of an increase of the number of subscribers. From time to time, 1 have raised this matter with the Postmaster-General’s Department, been use I am greatly concerned about the difficulty that business men and others are experiencing in obtaining telephone services. About a month ago, I wrote to the Deputy-Director of Posts and Telegraphs in South Australia for additional information about the position, and I had resolved to refer the matter to the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) ifI was not satisfied. Of course, the great demand for telephones is not restricted to my own electorate. In all the capital cities, the same difficulty exists. The Port Adelaide telephone exchange was the first automatic exchange or one of the first automatic exchanges to be installed in South Australia. It has been a great boon to the people. The building that houses the equipment is not all that may be desired, but I do not blame the Government that was responsible for the erection of the structure, because it merely acted in accordance with the recommendations of the department. At that time, it was considered that the exchange would meet the requirements of the district for many years. At present, an application for a telephone can be satisfied only if a subscriber asks the department to remove his instrument. Under the present conditions, ex-servicemen who are commencing in business, and who deserve to be given some priority in the allocation of telephones, are labouring under a serious difficulty. A few days ago, I referred to this matter here. Shortly afterwards, I received a letter from a man who is engaged in a small printing business. He complained that although he had been endeavouring for eighteen months to obtain a telephone his efforts had not been successful. He is unable to leave his premises when he desires to telephone a client, and, on that account, he is losing a considerable volume of business. 1 could cite many similar instances of the serious inconvenience to which business men are put for that reason.. Therefore I take this opportunity to impress upon the Minister (Mr.Calwell) representing the Postmaster-General and the department, the need to do everything possible to extend telephone exchanges. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has referred tothe provision of hundreds of small portable exchanges and automatic exchanges to serve the requirements of country areas. [ realize that the country districts must have those facilities. However, I consider that existing automatic exchanges should be enlarged in an endeavour to meet the demand for additional services in preference to converting manual exchanger to automatic exchanges.
.- The explanation that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has given about the financial . position of the Postmaster-General’s Department merely makes the general picture much more difficult to understand. The right honorable gentleman has told us that the Postal Department has received a considerable subvention from the Treasury, and makes no sinking fund payments. A considerable amount of its capital expenditure, particularly on telephone services, has been met out of treasury funds. In the . light of those statements, honorable members find it increasingly difficult to understand why it should be necessary to bolster up the finances of the department by the proposed severe increases of postal and telegraph rates. According to newspaper reports. Cabinet has decided that rates for postal matter, other than the ordinary letter rate, will be increased by approximately 50 per cent., telegram charges by from 50 per cent, to 60 per cent., and telephone charges by from 30 per cent . I cannot understand why the Government considers that those increases are necessary.
The United Kingdom Government has exactly the same difficulties to contend with as the Australian Government has. in respect of its postal and telegraph services. The increased cost of nearlyall the materials that the British postal department uses is greater than the increase of the cost of similar materials in this country, wages have also increased, and it has experienced considerable difficulty in respect of the efficiency of employees. Last year, however, the postal department in the United Kingdom made a profit of £11,500,000 on postal charges, although (he ordinary letter rate had been reduced from 2£d. to 2d. The department made a profit of £10,500,000 on its telephone services, but I should point out that charges for those services were increased by as much as 50 per cent. Telegram services resulted in a loss of £2,500,000. Xa in Australia, the United Kingdom is enable to meet the demand for telephones. Approximately 120,000 persons throughout the Commonwealth are awaiting the installation of instruments, but nearly 500,000 persons are in a similar position in the United Kingdom. In other words, the telephone system is greatly in demand in that country, and the department is making a profit. In the Commonwealth, the Postmaster-General’s Department is making a loss. The department in the United Kingdom has made a profit of 10 per cent, on the gross turnover. If private enterprise had made such a profit while giving a similar service, honorable gentlemen opposite would have described it as profiteering. However, the fact remains that the activities of the Postal Department in Australia are resulting in a loss.
The revenues of the Postal Department during the last few years make melancholy reading. According to the AuditorGeneral’s report, the department made a profit of £3,000,000 in 1946-47, and a loss of £781,000 in 1947-48. The Government estimates that the loss for the current financial year will be £3,500.000, and for the coming financial year, £6,000,000. As I have stated, that decline makes melancholy reading. If the PostmasterGeneral’s Department cannot keep going on a reasonably profitable basis, I suppose it has no choice but to increase its charges, but the fact remains that the more the people pay the less they get in service from the department. .Once, if one posted a letter in Sydney, one could expect it to be delivered in Canberra on the next day; but lately I have known of letters that have taken four days to reach Canberra from Sydney. In my district, 30 miles from Melbourne, a letter posted on one day arrives in the city two days later. The delays in the interrural postal service are equally great, as letters take often two, three and four days to reach their destinations. That does not make for confidence in the efficiency of the department. Every one knows of the enormous delays that occur in the telephone service. Once, one could be connected within 30 or 40 minutes of booking a trunk-line call to Melbourne from 30 miles away, but to-day the delay is two hours or more. Again, one could once lie certain that a telegram would be delivered, but within the last three weeks I have learnt of two telegrams that were lodged, but not delivered. A constituent of mine lodged a telegram in Sydney and it vanished into the blue. It was of great importance, because it notified the addressee of the death of a near relative. A fortnight ago I sent a telegram that also vanished into the blue. Again, one could once post letters in the certainty that they would arrive at their destinations without having been. opened; but, in the last couple of months, two letters that I sent from my home town to Brisbane were found to have been opened before delivery presumably while being transmitted by the Postal Department. These matters should be looked into.
– Does the honorablemember mean that they were opened’ in the post office?
– I can see no other possibility. I posted them myself and when they were delivered by the postman they had been opened. There is no reason why they should have been, because they contained nothing particularly secret. Thefact remains that they were opened while they were in the hands of the postal authority. These facts shake the confidence of the people in the department. If we must pay more for theservices of the department we should at least be able to expect more efficiency from it. I have said these things with a good deal of sorrow, been use at one timeT regarded the department as efficient, I know nf its difficulties ia obtaining the staff that it needs. Dissatisfied with the wages paid by it,’ trained staff members are continually leaving and having to be replaced. Nevertheless, the department, like every other government department, should give an efficient service to the people. I hope that as the representative of the Postmaster-General, in this chamber, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) will take notice of what I have said and do something about it.
– The burden of the speeches that have been delivered concerns the proposed increased charges that the Government is obliged to impose on the users of postal, telephone and telegraph facilities throughout Australia to provide the additional revenue necessary, to balance the budget of a purely commercial undertaking in the next financial year. Surely, there is nothing objectionable in a commercial enterprise planning its budget. The Australian Government is continually telling the State governments that they must make their railways pay and cannot keep coming to it for subventions to balance the budgets of the railways, because they will not increase fares and freights in order to cope with” the rising costs. It would be easy for us to avoid increasing the charges until after the general election, when, safely back in office, we could spring a surprise; but we do not believe in acting dishonestly, and we face the facts. If we have to pay an extra £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 to those entitled to it, we should at least make the charges commensurate with the service given and place the burden on those bestable to bear it so that the undertaking shall be solvent. If we did not do that, we should merit the condemnation of. the Auditor-General for having done something palpably dishonest and unfair. The Government does not do anything dishonest. It knows what it needs to do and it puts the facts before the people. It has nothing to hide in its decision to increase postal, telegraph and telephone charges. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) knows very well, although he did not say so when he criticized the Government’s decision, that the average person who uses postal facilities will not pay anything extra. The postage on letters, which is the only postal charge incurred by most people, will not beincreased. People who make public telephone calls will not have to pay more.
– They will pay less than people will have to pay for calls made from- their own- homes.
– That may be, but we do not propose to increase the charge for public telephone calls. The increased charges for services provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department will be paid by the very wealthy people in the community who are the most frequent users of those services. They are the people who will protest most; the great majority of the people will not suffer at all from the increases.
– What about the people in the country areas?
– There is to be some increase of charges in country districts, but there must be. If the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), whose two chief preoccupations aresocialism and rabbits, would read the statements in the newspapers about the increases, he would see that most members of the farming community of Australia, which is in a very prosperous position to-day because of our good government, are much better able to pay the small increased charges than they would have been years ago. Had they been asked to pay more when the anti-Labour governments were in power, they would not have been able to do so. As a matter of fact, most of them did not have telephones at all then, because they could not afford to buy even the raw materials, seed and animals that they had to buy in order that they might maintain their occupations on the land.I do not think most farmers who compare their ability to pay now and in 1939 will object to the proposed increases. The honorable member for Wimmera sneered at socialism, yet he is a man who pesters the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) for more and more socialism by way of more and more post offices and better postal facilities. He gets a fair deal from the Postmaster-General, too, yet he objects to socialism, and in referring to the Postmaster-General’s Department uses such words as, “ This is what the people of Australia can expect “. , .Australia has the best postal service in the world. Let rae tell the honorable member for Flinders (Mr.. Ryan) that, in spite of the figures that he has produced - where he got them from I do not know - he apparently does not know the facts. Henceforth, the ‘ people of Australia will pay ls. 6d. to send an ordinary fourteen-word telegram as against ls. now. In the United’ Kingdom, where, he says, the service is cheaper, the people have to pay ls. 9d. to send a similar telegram. The honorable member also, said that trunk-line telephone services are cheaper in the United Kingdom than in Australia.
– I did not say that they are cheaper. I said that trunk-line charges had been increased there by 50 per cent. I said that the service is better there than in Australia;
– What does “better” mean other than better prices, better, services, better efficiency, and- all the rest of it?
– It means better in regard to administration by Ministers.
– When the honorable member for Wentworth was PostmasterGeneral, his administration was nothing for him to be very proud of.
– It was good. There was no deficit in the funds of the department.
– I am replying to the honorable member for Flinders at the moment ; but I shall take an early opportunity of comparing the administration of the department to-day with what it was when the honorable gentleman was in charge of it. The ordinary day-rate charge f6r a trunk-line telephone call over 100 miles in Australia is now ls. 10d., and it will rise to 2s., an increase of only lid., whereas, in the United Kingdom, the charge for a similar call is 3s. 9d. If we had the money to expend and the material to huy, we might be able to give a better and quicker service ; but, as no one knows better than does the honorable member for Flinders, who is widely travelled and well informed, that the United Kingdom could fit many times -in the area of Australia. When he compares a service in a country of 3,000,000 square miles and a population of 7,500,000 with a similar service in a country of 40,000 square miles and a population of 45,000,000, he must concede that the comparison is all in favour of Australia. In Canada, which is another Dominion with a big area, but which hag a population of about 12,000,000, tile charge for a. 100-mile trunk-line call is 4s. 4d. In the home of private enterprise and rugged individualism so beloved by honorable members opposite, the United States of America, the charge for a. similar service is 4s. Id. In view of that prohibitive charge, I wonder whether honorable gentlemen opposite would really care to see the Australian telephone service in the hands of the private concern that operates the service in the United States of America. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) once sent a telegram from San Francisco to another part of the United States of America.
– And it cost 35b. to be transmitted 3)000 miles.
– A telegram oan be sent oyer the same distance in Australia for ls. and the cost will be only ls. 6d. under the new rates. Honorable gentlemen opposite have nothing really to complain about in regard to that. I do not propose to reply to all the parishpump arguments of honorable members opposite, but I do say that, in spite of their complaints and their diatribes against. socialist enterprises, God help us if the postal, telegraph and telephone services were in the hands of private enterprise. The people would have to pay through the nose, and there would be fewer employees on the pay-roll. It is all right for honorable gentlemen opposite to talk about the wages of employees of the department, hut the truth is that before the recent wage increases were granted to those employees by the Public Service Arbitrator they were paid less than they should have been paid. The employees enjoy the 40-hour week and many of them work it in five days. If other people can enjoy the advantage of a 40-hour, five-day week, why should not Commonwealth employees also enjoy it? Increased wages and the 40-hour, fiveday week mean increased costs. If increased, staffs are necessary in the various branches of the department, it may be that the extra £7,000,000 that it is estimated will be brought into the revenue of the department by the increased charges will be insufficient and that further increased charges will be necessary. If the Public Service Arbitrator further increases the wages of employees of the department costs will rise still further. We do not know what he will do in the future. We can only budget on what we know, and we know that to meet the increased costs and to pay for the 40-hour week we must provide in the next financial year £60,000,000 more revenue for the Postal Department.. We propose to raise it in the way I have broadly indicated. The details of the proposals will come before the Parliament in a bill that I hope to have the honour to introduce, as the representative in this chamber of the Postmaster-General, some time next week. During the debate on that bill honorable members opposite can thrash out their arguments to their hearts’ content. Every spurious claim that they make regarding the reason for the proposed increases will be met with facts. We have indicated time and time again just how big is the programme that we have in train. That programme is not in draft form. It has been drawn up and translated into requirements of labour and materials, and it is ready to be put into operation as soon as the necessary labour and materials are available. We have a three-year works programme which envisages the expenditure of £42,000,000. That is more money than all the anti-Labour governments spent on programmes over twenty years.
Now I turn to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) who, having had the temerity to make a foolish interjection, must not be allowed to escape. I want to tell the honorable gentleman that when he was Prime Minister–
– Coming events cast their shadows before them !
– I keep thinking of the honorable member as Prime Minister, because I know that he has the ambition to occupy that position, but somehow or other nobody on this side of the chamber wants to lose the present occupant of the post. When the honorable member was
Postmaster-General in 1938-39, there were approximately 660,000 telephones in use. The figure for 1948-49 is over 1,000,000. It has increased by 50 per cent. I gave some figures to-day tothe honorable member for. Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) which show that since the honorable member for Wentworth vacated the office of PostmasterGeneral the number of radio licences issued has increased by 66 per cent. Those honorable gentlemen opposite, who talk about socialism one minute and demand more postal services the next minute, are quite capable of all sorts of absurdities in argument, especially the honorable member for Wimmera, whom nobody could follow when he spoke a few moments ago because he was entirely incoherent. They wish to hand our postal services over to private enterprise. The Liberal party federal executive met in Adelaide a few months ago: That meeting was adorned by the presence of the honorable member for Wentworth. The Liberal party proposes to sell all government enterprises. It proposes to get rid of the post office and sell Trans-Australia Airlines. That was stated in a resolution that was’ passed at the meeting to which I have just referred. .
The honorable member forFlinders (Mr.Ry an) has said that two of his letters were opened before they were delivered to him. That is a serious complaint, and doubtless the Postal Department will take due cognizance of it; but I suggest that, instead of making the complaint in this chamber in the first instance, the honorable gentleman should have advised the Postmaster-General of these happenings so that investigation could have been made at the time and on the spot.
– We have done that at different times and have only been told–
– Order! Only one speech can be made at a time.
– The honorable mem ber for Wimmera seems to have experiences that nobody else has. Ifhe will give me the details of a few of the complaints that he has to make, I shall see that they are investigated. Itis useless to talk in airy generalities. Let us have details of the complaints so chat we’ can investigate them. The honorable member for Flinders -made an attack upon the Postal Department regarding the late delivery of letters,’ the great delay in making telephonic connexions and the delay that occurs sometimes in the delivery of telegrams. Let us have some details of these alleged happenings. I can say broadly, and I think it is admitted, that since the war there has not been much opportunity to build ‘ new telephone exchanges in the cities and in the country districts or to provide additional facilities’, but the demand for everything that the Postal Department has to offer has increased greatly. That increased demand is attributable to the prosperity that has been created by this Government. People are now living better and fuller lives. They are really living now, whereas when the anti-Labour parties were in power they were only existing. During the depression years the honorable member for Boothby, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) ‘ and the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) were on sustenance. That kind of thing has gone, and will not occur again’ while a Labour government is in power in this Parliament. What honorable gentlemen opposite are complaining of is the great demand that is made on the Postal Department at a time when it is unable to provide additional facilities. There is a post office now in practically every district in Australia. There are 10,000 post offices in this country. They have, got to be serviced and managed by the Postmaster-General’s Department. The cost of the works programme to which I have referred, under which £30,000,000 will be expended during the .next three years, will be met mainly from revenue. If we adopted the accountancy methods of private enterprise, we should charge a great deal of that money to loans and pass on to posterity ° the responsibility of paying for the improved services. This Government believes that when the country is prosperous we should pay for as much as we can from revenue and should not pass the burden on to .posterity to be borne at a time when conditions may be difficult and standards of living not as high as those that obtain- to-day. During the next financial year the Postal Department, it is estimated, will handle 1,350,000,000 postal articles, compared with 1,086,000,000 in 1938-39. It is expected that it will deal with 989,000,000 telephone calls next year, compared with 637,000,000 in 1938-39. It is expected that in the next financial year 35,000,000 telegrams will be sent, as against 16,662,000 in 1938-39. Those figures speak volumes. ‘
– We should like those figures to be re-checked.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) needs to check up on himself. In view of what is happening in Victoria between the Liberal-Country party and the Country party, he should check up to see which party he really does belong to.
I say in conclusion that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department appreciates the compliments that have been paid to it by the honorable member for Boothby and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson). I suggest that honorable members opposite, and particularly the honorable member for Wimmera, the Oliver Twist member of the Parliament as far as the Postal Department is concerned, should pay their meed of praise to a very efficient service that is conducted by hard-working men and women who give loyal service to all the governments that are elected by the- people of Australia, and who do so’ with only one ‘ thought in mind, which is, to give service to the people of the nation who employ them. The services provided by *.ho Postmaster-General’s Department are. as good as those that are provided by any similar undertaking, government owned or privately owned, in any part of the world.
– The Postal Department has been considered to be the greatest enterprise in Australia- and a proud possession of the Australian people. It has provided us with efficient postal, telephone and telegraph services. The public has always appreciated the efficiency of the department and the services to the community that have been rendered by its employees. While that may stillbe generally true, the policy, that has been pursued since the end of the war by the Government and the high officials who are responsible for the conduct of the department has changed the opinion of thepublic with regard to some sections of the department’s activities. Instead of making profits, the department is now incurring considerable losses. It is anticipated that serious losses will be incurred during the next couple of years. As the magnitude of the services increases, so the losses appear to increase also. The Prime Minister has said that £20,000,000 has been provided for the Postal Department by the Treasury, and that no interest has been charged upon that money. What would be the size of the department’s losses if interest were charged by the Treasury?
Unfortunately, the excellent postal services that were provided before the war are no longer available. Numerous complaints have been made regarding delays in the delivery of letters. If a person wishes to send a letter to an address in a State other than that in which He is residing, he must now send it by air mail if he wishes it to be delivered within a reasonable time. It sometimes takes days for a letter from a person inSydney or the surroundingdistricts to be delivered to an address in Canberra. Some inquiries should be made to ascertain why the services provided by the Postal Department are deteriorating and why losses are being incurred. It has been said on some occasions that the administration of the department has broken down.
The public has been very patient. Fastgrowing seaside areas and rural cities and towns have, from time to time, been promised increased trunk line telephone services, but those services have not yet been provided. The trunk-line telephone services in Australia are not something of which we can be proud. It has been said that thecause of the delay in making improvements of our trunk-line services is the effects of the war, but other countries which suffered from the war have managed to restore and improve their services. It has also said that we are short of man-power. So is Great Britain, but that country has restored its telephone services to their pre war efficiency. Great Britainwas shot to pieces during the war, but Australia did not have a square mile of its territory damaged. I ask that the Postmaster - General give consideration to providing comfortable seats near public telephones so that they may be used by people who have to wait for long periods sometimes hours to make telephone calls, sometimes to places that are– no great distance away from them. I suggest that, if possible, letters should be sent by aircraft. The delay in the delivery of letters that are sent by surface mail makes it almost impossible to use the surface mail facilities.It is useless to send telegrams at the ordinary rate because of the delay in delivery. I sent a telegram from Brisbane to Sydney at the ordinary rate just before leaving Brisbane by air, and it had ‘ hot been delivered by the time I arrivedin Canberra.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for Commonwealth Railways and Postmaster-General’s Department has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed vote, £398,000.
Australian Capital Territory.
Proposed vote, £305,000.
Proposed vote, £1,043,000.
Proposed vote, £1,000.
Refunds of Revenue.
Proposed vote, £4,000,000.
Advance to the Treasures.
Proposed vote, £9,000,000. (Ordered tobe considered together.)
.- Owing to the limitation of time for discussion of these proposed votes, I shall not be able to say as much on the subject of the Northern. Territory as I should have liked to say, nor as much as I have said on other matters during the present debate. What I wish to say, however, centres around a matter that was referred to in another connexion by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) last week. [ refer to the position of Dr. Webster in the Northern Territory, who has come bo occupy a dual and conflicting position that, I believe, is utterly unconstitutional and politically immoral. According to the position that obtained lately, Dr. Webster was an employee of the Department of Health in the Northern Territory and also a member of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, which consists of seven nominated members who are members of the Public Service in the Northern Territory, and six mem bers who are elected by the people of the, territory. Dr. Webster is one of those six elected members. From that fact has arisen the utterly indefensible anomaly that Dr. Webster has served in a dual capacity, with two loyalties and two duties - one to the people who elected him and the other to the department that employed him. I have previously argued in this chamber that the first duty of a civil servant is to the department that employs him. If Dr. Webster desired to continue as an elected member of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory the proper thing for him to do would have been to resign from his position with the Department of Health. A similar position was referred to last week by the Leader of the Opposition in respect of a certain highly placed member of the Public Service who is the permanent head of the Department of External. Affairs. If we are to accept the proposition, that, in the Northern Territory, we oan have a man occupying the dual and conflicting positions of public .servant for part of the time and elected member of the Legislative Council on those days on which it sits, we shall also have to face the possibility of having a man elected to represent the Australian Capital Territory in this House while still retaining, his position as head of the Department of External Affairs. There is no difference in principle between the two situations. Tie difference is only in degree. I believe that the time has come when the
Government should carefully examine this matter and do something about the situation in its own territory. Section 44 of the Constitution lays down that a member of this Parliament cannot occupy any office of profit under the Crown except that of one of His Majesty’s Ministers of State or of a ‘militiaman in the armed forces. Those arc the only two exceptions. If, in our own territory, we agree to a violation, either deliberately or by default, of the principles of our own Constitution, then 1 say that it does not reflect credit on the present Government, nor would it reflect credit on any government. Possibly the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) will say that I and others were here who, the act which established the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory was passed. That is true.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke) . - Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to debate that matter.
– Thu proposed votes we are dealing with include provision for the Northern Territory and this matter is therefore, relevant. Nobody in his senses no either the Government or the Opposition side could have expected that any employee of the Public Service would be permitted to become a member of that Legislative Council while still continuing as a mouther of the Public Service. Leaving the matter at that, I simply say to the Minister that a mistake has been made and the sooner the Government takes a strong stand and says that this nonsense has to stop, and must not be repeated, the better it will be for the people of the territory.
– Apropos of the remarks of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) I shall quote a part of section 4 of the act passed last year. The Government seems to have been remiss in not seeing that it has been applied. It reads -
The Administrator shall not, unless the Ordinance contains a clause suspending its operation until the signification of the Governor-General’s pleasure thereon, assent to any ordinance -
It seems strange that the Legislative Council have been allowed to discuss land matters, although it was written into the act that it could not deal in such matters. It is apparent that the Government, having already decided what ordinances could be passed, simply allowed the members of the Legislative Council to blow off steam. But the Legislative Council apparently did a good job by making certain recommendations. Apparently the Government reserves to itself the conduct of the allimportant Department of Lands. It appears that the Northern Territory is on the map at last. A former administrator, Mr. C. L. A. Abbott, has been indicating how the territory could be developed. I have here a report of a statement he made, which I found in a periodical only an hour ago. It reads, in part -
T he people to develop the cattle industry are the big firms who command capital. But there must be two conditions. First, confidence in the future through security of tenure, and I don’t see the Chifley Government doing much more than talking. Second, there must be a railway from Queensland. In the Territory’s 523,000 square miles there are actually only 500 miles of railway. Queensland, on one side, has 6,000, and Western Australia on the other, 4,000. But more railways means more steel, and more steel, more coal, and as the Australian coal-miner doesn’t let us have enough coal for minimum present needs I don’t know the answer to that.
That is a negative attitude, and I do not agree with Mr. Abbott’s idea that full development of the territory depends on long leases. The building of railways into the territory postulates the existence of population already in the country, and, in the public interest, I sincerely hope that the Government will not take Mr. Abbott’s advice, but that when the railways go into the territory the Government will subdivide the land into family holdings. I put that to the Government now in case the public is misled in any way. Under Part 3 of the schedule we find certain items under the heading “Northern Territory”. The Northern Territory is an area that has no equivalent of a State government to control its development and administration, and so we find that it is, as amply shown by this schedule, inordinately subdivided under the control of various Ministers who have a finger in every pie and who share control of this vast and remote area, which presents problems of a peculiar local kind. The schedule indicates just how the territory is subject to multiple ministerial control. We should revert to a system that was in operation when an administrator was appointed to control all the activities in the Northern Territory. Only meagre information is given in the schedule about what is happening under the administration of the principal department, the Department of the Interior. The schedule shows the following items under the head ing of “ General Services “ : -
That makes a total of £188,490. We have no more information than that about the activities of the Department of the Interior in the Northern Territory. This mighty department which is controlled by the Minister for the Interior ,also controls the land of the territory. But there is no dissection in the schedule to show how this control operates in this vast area of 523,000 square miles. The lands branch controls mines that produce coal, mica, wolframandtinanditcontrolsthe police, which is a big branch of administration. It controls the agricultural section that deals with peanut-growing, tobacco-growing, sorghum-growing and cotton-growing, and also the veterinary section, which is rapidly increasing in scope and is a very important secti on because of the territory’s cattle industry. It ill becomes the Government to place this measure before the Parliament without dissecting the schedule to indicate just how these moneys are to be expended. We find later in the schedule under the heading “ Department of Works and Housing “ the following items : -
The schedule says nothing about the Darwin plan, or the great housing scheme for the Northern Territory, or the building of roads, or the upkeep of the bitumen road, or the proposed new road that the Minister has indicated is to he built from Wyndham and along the Western Australian border, or about other arterial roads. It is not fair to ask the committee to discuss this matter in a logical way seeing that it has not been provided with detailed information. What is to be done with the administration of the Northern Territory? That is the crux of the matter. We have three other great departments operating there - the Department of Health, the Attorney-General’s Department, and the Prime Minister’s Department. This great area, as I have said, has no counterpart in any State, ft has only a Legislative Council. Yet this Government has seen fit to deviate from the old scheme whereby one Minister, the Minister for the Interior, controlled all the activities in the Northern Territory, It is high time that we went back to that system so that we might have some co-ordinated policy for the territory. The present position is not fair to the territory or to the Administrator. The Administrator has only one department to administer now, yet he functions as the administrator of all the departments in the territory. If the Government is not, prepared to return to the old system and give control of all of the activities of the Northern Territory to the Minister for the Interior, it seems to me that we shall have to establish a commission of three or four men to work under the direction of the Minister for the Interior, with the Administrator as chairman. I should prefer it that way because the Administrator is a technical man. Seeing that the main activities involved in the development of the territory are those dealing with mines and cattle we should appoint a highly qualified commission such as we had from 1926 to 1931, when it was disbanded by the Scullin Government. Something has to be done, because the people of the territory are up in arms over the lark of co-ordination there. The territory, like Topsy, has just grow’d and this shuttle-cock business of one Minister passing the buck to another when I or some one else asks who is to blame for something or other, should end. It does not make for efficiency and contentment. I shall give an example to illustrate my point. If the Administrator wishes to have a bridge or a house built or the miners’ quarters at Tennant Creek improved, he may put in a requisition to the Director of Works and Housing but then he may whistle for the results. Is that fair to the Administrator? Surely he should enjoy some powers of administration. I suggest to the Government that control should be vested in one Minister, or that a commission of four senior men should be set up under a Minister, so that the members of the commission would not be passing the buck from one to another, but would be able to speak with one voice through their chairman. That is the only way to stop bickering and jealousy among senior officers who know that they are beholden only to their respective Ministers in Canberra, and not to the Administrator. From the Sydney Bulletin I quote the following from an article written by Mr. Abbott: -
When the British Food Mission was in Australia a year or so ago some of its members saw Mr. Chifley about development in the Northern Territory, and I quote from a letter from England telling about that meeting: - “ Chifley . . . appeared to be relieved that the first scheme is to apply to Queensland and not to the Northern Territory, and I gather that … it would be a longtime before any large scheme for the Northern Territory was taken in hand, because there are so few voters there that the Government need not consider them as electors.”
Those are harsh words to’ be used by a person who interviewed the Prime Minister on behalf of the British Government.
– That was an unguarded statement.
– It was; but here is another unguarded statement, this time made by the Administrator at the first meeting of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. I wonder that he did not get a rap over the knuckles for it from his seniors in Canberra. Mr. Abbott quotes from the speech by Mr. Driver in the council, as recorded in the Debates, No. 3, at page 347-
I feel that a word of explanation is required concerning the North Australia Development
Committee, which was formed after the war to formulate recommendations for the whole of the north of Australia. It had no executive power whatever . . . The North Australia Development Committee made certain recommendations, but it was not a very powerful body …I am afraid the North Australia Development Committee has now gone into recess, for how long I do not know . . Furthermore, the Department of Post war Reconstruction has been delving into the probability of developing the Northern Territory as well as the top ends of Western Australia and Queensland, but there have only been a few of the long-haired boys down below handling thematter and not really knowing what to do with it.
Mr. Abbott continues in his article ;
Just to show how cordial the departments are to each other at the first meeting of the Legislative Council in Darwin on February 10, 1048, Mr. Lucas, the Director of Works, said: - “I should like members to appreciate the fact that the department which T represent is not a branch of the Northern, Territory Administration. It is a department which is operating in the Territory, but is under the control of its own Minister, who formulates its policies “.
Ls it not impossible for the territory to be properly developed when that attitude is adopted by the Director of Works and Housing towards one of the nominated members of the council ? I ask that something be done to formulate a policy for the development of the Northern Territory so that the prevailing chaos may be ended. I have become impatient to do something for the people of the territory, but I have not been able to get anything definite out of the Government.
– I appreciate the point made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) about the constitution of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, and I am prepared to have it examined by Cabinet. It is true that the situation that has arisen because of the election of Dr. Webster to the council was not foreseen by the Government. However, the Government believes that in a democracy every citizen has the right to offer himself for election to any public position.
– But if he is a government employee, he should resign first.
– I agree. However, the situation in the Northern Territory is, somewhat different from that in. other places, and I shall have the matter examined by Cabinet. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) complained that these pro posed votes were not sufficiently dissected and that they afforded very little information about what the money was required for. In preparing the schedule to this bill the usual practice has been followed.For instance, in dividual amounts are shown as the estimated expenditure on salaries, and payments in the nature of salaries and for general expenses. In addition, the amount of ?106,000 is set aside to cover other services. The figures were prepared to cover expenditure until the budget is presented during the next sessional period. I believe that there is much to be said in favour of the honorable member’s suggestion that the policies of. the various departments functioning, in the territory should be coordinated. As a matter of fact the Government has been considering the matter. The honorable member will admit that there has been greater development in the territory during the last three years than during the last 25 years.
– There are not enough settlers in the territory.
– The land, previously, had not been surveyed to permit of settlement. Recently, surveys were made, and successful negotiations were conducted with Northern Agency Limited, known as Vesteys, and Bovril Australian Estates Limited for the. surrender of large parcels of land held by them on lease. However, until more materials and labour become available it will not be possible to put the Government’s developmental plans into effect. The honorable member referred to a quota of materials for the Northern Territory. The fact is that never since the Commonwealth released its war-time controls over materials has there been a quota for the Northern Territory or for the Australian Capital Territory.
– But there is an allocation now to each of the States.
– That is not true. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has had the greatest difficulty in obtaining materials for his building programmes inthe Northern
Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. The North Australia Development Committee was appointed to inquire into proposals for the development of the northern part of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and north-western Queensland. It submitted certain recommendations, which are now before a policy committee. Some of the recommendations have already been put into efFect. However, most of them involve the use of material, and until these become available, little progress can be made. An inter-departmental committee has been appointed to allot priorities to the various recommendations of the North Australian Development Committee. It has been claimed that the Northern Territory cannot be developed until certain railways have been constructed. I ask honorable members, of what use is it to talk about building railways at the present time? It is impossible to get rails. The Government of Western Australia, which is of the same political colour as honorable members opposite, has been pulling up railways in the back country in order to use the rails in the more populous parts of the State. When £, as a resident of Western Australia, protested against the pulling up of the Sandstone railway, I was told that there was no alternative since it was impossible to get steel rails anywhere else. Road transport is the alternative to rail transport in the Northern Territory, and in northern Australia generally. This Government has told the Government of Western Australia that, in order to assist in the development of the Kimberleys, it will build roads and bridges to provide transport to the Wyndham meatworks, which are now working at only half capacity, provided the State Government will maintain the roads in decent order. The development of the Northern Territory should be regarded as a national project which concerns every member of this Parliament irrespective of his party affiliations. We are all aware nf the history of the neglect that followed the acquisition of the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth. I am proud of the Government’s achievements during the period in which it has been my responsibility to administer the territory. In the past many stock routes were ill watered.
Only last month I read a report from the Administrator of the Northern Territory which stated that the stock route from the Barkly Tableland to Camooweal is now one of the best watered stock routes in the world. This Government has sunk bores not more than 10 miles apart, along the route, and in order to encourage pastoralists to develop their leases it has undertaken to accept full financial responsibility for bores sunk on their properties which proved to be unproductive. As the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has said, the Northern Territory has at least been put on the map. The negotiations with the United Kingdom Government f ot the conclusion of a meat agreement will provide a great incentive to pastoralists in the Northern Territory to develop their leases and improve their stock.
The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has alleged that long delays have occurred in payments by Commonwealth departments in the Northern Territory, particularly at Alice Springs and Darwin, for services rendered and goods supplied by trading concerns. Ho said that the position had become so bad that local traders were loath to deal with government departments because of these delays.
– That was stated in sworn evidence.
– I have received a letter from Thomas Brown and Sons Limited of Brisbane, a company which, I am sure, is well known to the honorable member for Parramatta, relating to these charges. In a letter dated the 6th June, 1949, addressed to the Government Secretary, Northern Territory Administration, the managing director of the company, which is one of the biggest operators in the Northern Territory, states -
We have read a press report, on remarks in the House of Representatives attributed to Mr. Beale, alleging long delays in payments by Commonwealth Departments in the Northern Territory for services rendered.
The Darwin branch of our company does considerable business in Darwin with the Commonwealth Native Affairs Branch, Commonwealth Heal til Department, and the Commonwealth Department of Works and Housing.
We are -writing to say that all claims for moneys due tn our company for goods supplied have been and are being settled promptly, and we experience no difficulty in obtaining payment when the accounts submitted by us are correctly rendered.
We feel that as a matter of fairness we should inform you of our experience.
All honorable members receive complaints at times about this, that and the other thing, but on investigation many of these complaints are proved to be groundless. I am well aware of the remoteness of the Northern Territory from Canberra and of the disabilities that must arise from that fact. I am also aware that by comparison with people in the more populous parts of the Commonwealth the residents of the Northern Territory suffer hardship because of the lack of adequate transport facilities. When I heard the complaint made by the honorable member for Parramatta I immediately instituted inquiries in order to ascertain whether or not it was justified. The letter which I have just read from one of the largest operators in the Northern Territory completely refutes it.
– Did the Minister make inquiries of his own officers at Alice Springs? It was by them that evidence of delay was given.
– The letter which I have just read specifically deals with the experience of a company which operates at Alice Springs.
– I suggest that the honorable gentleman should get in touch with his officers at Alice Springs and learn what they have to say about the matter.
– Surely the honorable member will accept in good faith the letter which I have just read.
.- An amount of £1,043,000 has been provided in this bill to meet the requirements of Papua and New Guinea for the ensuing four months. Funds have been provided under the three headings, “ Grant Towards Expenses of Provisional Administration “, “ Shipping Services “ and “Restoration of Plantations, Land and Roads “. Those headings cover many activities. This is hut another territory which cannot be administered from Canberra. Yet it has been the sad history of this rich and very fertile country that during the whole period of the Labour
Government’s administration attempt.” have been made to administer it from Canberra. No one can deny that the administration of these territories wai capably carried out for a long period by successive administrators specially appointed for that purpose by non-Labour governments. For a long period Papua was very efficiently administered by Sir Hubert Murray, a noted administrator, who was respected throughout the world. When non-Labour governments were in office they did their utmost to enable ex-servicemen who had taken over expropriated German properties tilive with some semblance of comfort Non-Labour governments instituted a humane policy for the natives and endeavoured to expand production in order ttenable the territory to become to some degree, self-supporting. It is not an exaggeration to say that notwithstanding the huge sums of money that are being poured into the territory by this Government chaotic conditions still prevail there. During the last three years the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and I have repeatedly pressed for the establishment of a select committee to inquire into the administration of Papua and New Guinea. There appeared on the notice-paper for more than a year before it was debated a notice of motion in my name which sought the appointment of a select committee to inquire into maladministration in Papua and New Guinea with a view to the improvement of the lot of the natives and,, particularly to ensure the provision of adequate medical attention and supplies and the formulation of a sound policy for the Public Service. I am one of many members who receive telegrams and letters from dissatisfied officers of the Papua and New Guinea administrations. When we brought these letters to the attention of the Minister for External Territories - the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had not then temporarily given up his portfolio - we received characterisic replies in which the honorable gentleman laballed us as the friends of exploiters. All of his allegations have since been proved to be groundless. The criticisms that we offered have since been brought forcibly to the minds of the public by a series of articles by Mr. Osmar White, a noted war correspondent with a very distinguished record who spent some months in the territory and was wounded while on service. I realize that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), who is at present acting for the Minister for External Territories is doing his best to bring order out of chaos there. The honorable gentleman cannot deny that chaos exists, but not unnaturally he cannot admit its existence because he must protect the Government and the party to which he belongs. He has said that every member of the Parliament is free to visit the territory to ascertain the facts for themselves. The proper way in which to set about rectifying the bad conditions that prevail in the territory is to appoint a select committee of the Parliament to take sworn evidence from people on th* 3pot. The Government was good enough to arrange for a parliamentary party to visit Japan to see at first hand the conditions that prevail in that country. Why should not a select committee of the Parliament be appointed to inquire into the administration of Papua and New Guinea? It is common practice in the House of Commons to appoint select committees to investigate allegations of maladministration in British protectorates or Crown colonies. This Parliament has been denied that privilege. During the administration of a government with which I was associated I spent some time in Papua and New Guinea and attempts! to formulate a long-term policy which would be of benefit to the ex-servicemen and others engaged in the production of copra who are endeavouring to eke out an existence there. Since the end of World War II., during which New Guinea became the battle ground for Australia and the graveyard of many of <>ur gallant troops, this Government has treated this strategic territory in a most cavalier fashion. The non-Labour governments established a form of lo-.al government in both Papua and New Guinea. The war, of course, rendered the continuance of such control impossible. I was amazed to hear the Minister foi Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) say in this chamber recently that no form of government had ever been established in New Guinea. That statement shows how little even prominent members of the Cabinet know of the ^history of that territory. New Guinea was captured from the Germans by Australian troops in 1914 and became a C-class mandate, but at the instigation of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), it has since been placed under the control of the Trusteeship Council, and the Russian delegates on that body may probe its affairs at will. New Guinea is not only the bastion of Australia’s defence but also it might again become, the stepping-stone from which an enemy may seek to invade Australia. During World War II. the invasion of Australia by the Japanese was halted because of the difficulties of conquering the territory. It is true that there were other factors, such as the Coral Sea battle and the valour of our troops. The difficulties that prevented the Japanese from capturing New Guinea constituted a decisive factor in preventing them from invading Australia. That bastion of Australia’s defence has been weakened because its control has passed out of our hands. The great American base at Manus Island has been neglected, and in Australia itself we have not the naval, military or air forces necessary to defend our shores. The Deputy Chief of the General Staff, General Rowell, has said that never before has Australia been so stragetically isolated. The terrorist ideology of communism is being increasingly used by the Russians as a means of world conquest. The conquering Red armies which are thrusting through China aro now perilously close to our shores. We must establish a Une of defence at some point beyond our own shores. The Government, however, has never given consideration to that vital need. General Blarney has said that the defences of Australia have not for 30 years been as weak as they are now. Notwithstanding these statements by eminent military strategists the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) had the temerity to say in answer to a question which I asked about the attitude of the Council of Defence towards Australia’s defence, that this country is better prepared to meet a crisis than it has ever been before in its history. What a fallacy! This shows his Maginot mind. Does the honorable gentleman believe that merely because we have established a guided weapons range in the centre of Australia that this country is prepared to meet any emergency ? For the defence of Australia we must have adequate forces of trained men. Australia, with its small population, is a white outpost on the fringe of Asia. Although we are part of the British Commonwealth we must realize that the other member nations of the British Commonwealth may not be able to aid us in the event of an emergency. It is difficult to understand why the Government, is neglecting the territory of Papua and New Guinea which virtually forms a part of Australia.
I have a considerable volume of correspondence from various planters whom I know. One of them has expressed the following opinion : -
Everywhere you turn, money is simply being poured down the drain, while residents, after three years of “ peace and prosperity “, still do not know how they stand as regards erection of homes, by virtue of the fact they cannot obtain leases other than for 12 months.
On application for a 12 months’ lease of ground on which to erect a tarred paper home, the applicant signs a document to say that he understands it is to be granted each, 12 months and for no longer.
The time has arrived when an inquiry should be held into those conditions.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory, Papua-New Guinea and Norfolk. Island has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Title agreed to;
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the18th May (vide page 17), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I desire to refer to a matter relating to the Northern Territory. The operation of the “guillotine “ prevented me from discussing the subject when the Supply Bill No. 1 was before us, and the proposed vote for the Northern Territory was under consideration. However, I shall merely make a brief reference to what I coneeive to be the necessity for pressing on with the provision of new transport facilities in the Northern Territory. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) stated earlier, in a speech which I am not permitted to discuss, that he: had indicated difficulties associated with railway constructionin that part of the Commonwealth, and, therefore, I shall not advocate that form of transport, However, there remains the possibility of a wider programme of road construction than that: which the Government has envisaged in statements up to the present time. At this period of the year; there are scores of thousands of fat cattle in the Northern Territory which,but for thelack of certain transport facilities, could be carried quickly in their present, fat condition to meat works at Wyndham, Townsville, Rockhampton and Adelaide. The carcasses could be available within a short time for export to the United Kingdom. The position at. present is that great herds of fat cattle are beginning their annual trek of 1,000 miles, or more to various rail heads. During that, trek, they will lose their fat. If railways were available, those fat cattle could be transported to treatment works, where they could be processed and the carcasses could be speedily shipped to the United Kingdom. The case is urgent, because, as honorable members are aware, the British, who require meat, are being held to ransom by Argentina.. Thousands: of cattle in the Northern Territory are beyond the reach of railway facilities, and because of the lack of adequate road transport, the stock must walk long distances to rail heads. At least a year will elapse before they will be available at the abattoirs. The Government should press ahead with its announced programme of road, construction work in the Kimberley district of Western Australia, and the adjoining area of the Northern Territory. I suggest, in addition, the adoption of a programme for the construction of roads to rail heads in Queensland. After all, the greatest single herds of cattle in the Northern Territory are located in the Barkly Tableland, that great, strip of country stretching for more than 400 miles and almost reaching the Queensland rail heads at Mount Isa, Djarra and Duchess. Modern roads should be constructed from the Barkly Tableland to the bitumenized road known as the Barkly Highway, which runs from near Tennant Creek on the north-south road to Mount Isa. Such roads would be capable of carrying the kind of diesel road train that has been devised in the Northern Territory. The construction of the necessary roads would not be a difficult or lengthy job. In an earlier debate, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), who is in charge of those works, alleged that it had remained for the Labour Government - under the impetus of war, he conceded - to construct the great north-south road linking Darwin and Alice Springs, and the Barkly Highway linking the northsouth road and Mount Isa. I take this opportunity to correct the Minister in his ignorance. It was a Labour Government which completed the north-south road, although it neither conceived it nor commenced it.
– What road?
– The north-south road. If the Minister is not aware of that fact, his officers w’ill give him the information. That road was commenced by my former colleague, Mr. T. Paterson, when he was Minister for the Interior. He carried the road through the Macdonell Ranges. When I was Minister for the Interior in the Lyons Government, the road was relocated on its present situation, following the high ground and avoiding wet and marshy patches. The surface was carried practically to Tennant Creek before the outbreak of the war.
– It was nothing but a bush track!
– It was a highway. L drove over it in a motor car at speeds of 50 and 60 miles an hour before the outbreak of the war. The road was a modern wide highway. At that stage, it did not need a bitumen surface, because the volume of traffic did not warrant it. The road was constructed south for a considerable distance. If my memory is correct, it was constructed from Darwin at least as far as Pine Greek, and the site had been relocated substantially further south than that. However, I do not desire to discuss what was done in the past, or where the credit for the work rightly belongs. An honorable member who is speaking in this House 50 years hence may still be able to allege that the government of the day, on taking office, found that something had not been done that should have been done. I do not pretend for one moment that when the Labour party came into office towards the end of 1941, everything had been done that should have been done. I merely desire to correct, in passing, some misrepresentations in which the Minister has indulged.
My principal purpose in participating in this debate is to point out the necessity to transport fat cattle from the Northern Territory to treatment works as quickly as possible. Some cattle are bred and fattened within 250 miles of Wyndham, where there is a processing works that has cost the Western Australian Government more than £1,000,000. However, those cattle are taken south for a distance of 2,000 miles to Adelaide. The reason for taking them on that long trek is that they return more money if they are walked 1,000 miles and carried by rail another 1,000 miles, eventually reaching Adelaide a year or two years after beginning the trek, than they would if they were walked a distance of 250 miles over the existing rough track to Wyndham. That position is most unsatisfactory, and should not be permitted to continue. The problem may be overcome by the rapid construction of new roads. Such roads would not require a bitumen surface. The Government should construct those roads and encourage private enterprise to use road trains. At Alice Springs, a young man named Johannsen lias, literally with his own hands, built a road train. He purchased from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission the great Diamond T prime movers that were used originally to transport tanks. He has constructed great articulating tractors with which he can carry 87 head of fat bullocks in one lift. In three lifts, he can fill a train. If one young man with practically no capital can construct such a train literally with his own hands, the Government, with all its resources, and because of the need to assist in this matter, could have a number of the socalled diesel road trains quickly constructed. The cattle, instead of starting the trek of 1,000 miles to a point where they must be re-fattened, could be carried on the road train for a distance of not more than 30 or 40 miles down the
– Order! I understand that the arrangement was that the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1948-49, the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1948-49, the Supply Bill (No. 1) 1949-50 and the Supply (Works and Services) Bill (No. 1) 1949-50 would be debated as one measure during the second-reading debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 2). I do not desire to prevent the honorable member from proceeding, but I understood that he desired to ask a question or make a brief reference to a matter relating to the Northern Territory. The honorable gentleman is making a lengthy speech. However, he may continue if he so desires.
– I was not aware of any such arrangement, but if you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, say that one exists, I accept your word. But it was made before the Opposition knew that the “ guillotine “ was to curtail the consideration of the vital stages of the Supply Bill, and I am not prepared to be bound by it. Unless I am in conflict with the Standing Orders, I propose to exercise my right to speak on the motion for the second reading of this bill on lines on which I should have spoken on the Supply Bill had the “ guillotine “ not prevented me from doing so. I am near the conclusion of my remarks, anyway. They are not remarks that are designed to attack the Government. I do attack it on occasions, as honorable members know; but on this occasion, I am not seeking to do so. I am making a sane, practical and constructive proposal to the Govern ment, under which, if it acts promptly and effectively, thousands of cattle that are fit to-day can be processed within a few months for export to the United Kingdom. If the Government does nothing, the cattle will be walked poor, and it will be at least another eighteen months before there will be any possibility of their being processed for export. Accompanied by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), I introduced Mr. Johannsen to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard).
– Something was done about the matter.
– Exactly. The Ministers were kind enough to listen to Mr. Johannsen’s proposition, which had our support. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was probably responsible for employing the funds of the Australian Meat Board to make an experimental lift of cattle. T-hey were lifted from Anthony’s Lagoon and transported more than 500 miles to the railhead at Alice Springs and then trucked 1,000 miles to Adelaide. I understand that the cattle were then examined and that many of them were found to have been so bruised that they were not fit for export. The Minister may indicate whether that is correct or not. I submit, however, that it was not a reasonable test. I am glad that it was made, but to transport cattle 150 miles in country where there there are no roads, as part of a trip of 1,500 miles, was not the kind of test that I had advocated. There are to-day on Avondown Station, Rockland Station, Anthony’s Lagoon Station. Rockhampton Downs Station, Creswell Station and various other station properties thousands of cattle capable of being mustered in a fat condition 30 or 40 miles from the bitumen road in localities where a few scrapes of a modern diesel road grader would make a trafficable road for a diesel road-train. The cattle could be carted, not 1,500 miles, but 30 or 40 miles, to the bitumen road and then from 100 to 250 miles to the railhead at Mr Isa, where they would be a little more than 24 hours of travel from the modern processing works at Townsville. If my statements are borne out by examination, as I am sure they will be, that seems to indicate the need for action by the Government. I am not attacking the Government. I am trying to convince it that that ought to be done. I hope that I shall not be replied to as I was replied to when I last spoke about the matter. The Minister for “Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) merely made a personal attack on me, and said that when I was in office, I allowed the Darwin meat works to be closed. If he had any knowledge of the subject at all, he would know that the Darwin meat works was closed fifteen years before I entered the Parliament and has never been re-opened. So he either talked about something that he knows nothing about-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to proceed on those lines.
– Very well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but T hope that what I have said will not be taken as an attack on the Government. It is necessary for the Government to direct its attention to the possibility of getting those fat cattle out for processing this season. They cannot be treated at Darwin or at the small meat works at Katherine or Manbulloo. If some road work were done and more diesel road-trains were manufactured - and they could be quickly manufactured - many more could be treated at the modern moat works at Wyndham than would normally be so treated. Many thousands of head could be transported, most of the way by rail, to Townsville. That ought to be done and I hope that it will be. I put it to the Government, too, that there are some enormous holdings in the Barkly Tableland that ought to be subdivided.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lemmon) adjourned.
New Guinea: New Township ofiae.
Motion (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to raise a matter which, like the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), I should have raised in committee on the Supply Bill on the proposed vote for New Guinea but for the operation of the “ guillotine “. I do so now because I fear that, time being what it is and human nature being what it is, I shall not have the opportunity to do so to-morrow. I am glad that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers), who is acting for the Minister for External Territories, is present, because I wish to draw his attention to one or two matters that have arisen out of some correspondence that I have received from New Guinea lately. Yesterday, I asked him a question about what re-arrangements have been made of the plan for the new township of Lae, in New Guinea. I asked him whether or not the Government’s new decision had caused any inconvenience to any one.
– Order ! Was this matter raised in debate?
– No; it is an entirely new matter. I was not successful in raising it in debate. I asked the Minister a question about the new plan for Lae. I also asked him whether any citizens of Lae were inconvenienced and whether any complaints had been made. The Minister said every one was happy. I interjected to ask whether the Minister had had any conservation with the Church of England rector at Lae, and I think the Minister’s reply was to this effect, “ Yes, I spoke with him and he is satisfied “. This is a matter of some importance, and I want to put before the House information that has come to me about the Government’s decision to change the lay-out of Lae and some complaints that have been made in consequence of that decision. I remind the House that for quite a long time after 1946, I think, there was in existence a new plan for the Lae township. As the Minister knows, it was a plan that laid the town out on the waterfront opposite the beach and, as far as government buildings were concerned, at least, on the little plateau behind the beach, which most honorable members who have been to Lae will remember. On that basis, persons in the territory were invited to surrender allotments that they held under an arrangement that had existed before the war and to take up new allotments in the new township of Lae, as then planned. Some of them did so. I have two people particularly in mind. One of -them is Mrs. Flora Stewart, who hae lived in New Guinea for many years. She is proprietor of the Hotel Cecil at Lae. It consists of huts that were the quarters of the Australian Women’s Army Service. The other is the rector of the Anglican Church, the Reverend Mr. Moren. Both have brought to my notice the matter that I am now raising. Mrs. Stewart ra a business woman. She has conducted an hotel in New Guinea for many years. She hae been more than 40 years in the territory. I suppose that she has amassed a considerable fortune. Anyway, she must be well-to-do. Perhaps, that consideration would not commend her to the only two members of the Labour party at present in the House, the Minister at present acting for the Minister for External Territories and the Minister for External Territories himself. Anyway, the fact that Mrs. Stewart is either wealthy or well-to-do would not commend her to either honorable gentleman; but she has spent all her working life of about 40 years in the territory. She married and raised her family there. She has dedicated her life to the territory and made it her domicile. She is highly regarded. She is a sufficiently patriotic territorian to want to stay there and to continue her business as the proprietor of the hotel. The Government permitted her to take up an allotment under the new town plan on the’ basie that she should be willing to build an hotel at the cost of at least £17,000. She agreed to do so. The allotment that she selected or that was allotted to her, she now finds, is one and one-quarter miles from where she expected it to be and where it was represented to her that it would be, because the Government has decided to scrap its 1946 plans in favour of new plans. She has written to the Administrator. Doubtless, the Minister has read the letter that she wrote on the 23rd May. but, if he has not read it, he should read it, because it states the case. Anyway, for the information of honorable members, if not the Minister himself, she wrote to the Administrator pointing out that she has paid rent since September, 194S, for an allotment on Administration Hill, where she was to have built an hotel, the minimum value of which was to have been £17,000. It wa8 understood that the allotment was to be in the area of the Lae township. She now finds that the township is to be one and one-quarter miles from her allotment and in an entirely new district. She asks point blank whether the Government want* some one of her type to continue in Lae to serve the people there, as she is doing to the best of her ability. She asks whether, if it does, it will consider her interests and allocate her a better allotment in the new area. Otherwise, she proposes to leave the district. She has served in New Guinea honestly and faithfully for about 40 years. I have mentioned her case because she complains about the inconvenience that she has suffered as the result of the change that has been made. So, it is not true, as the Minister said, that every one is happy.
– I did not say that every one was happy.
– I think the Minister did say so.
– No, I said that I had met the Reverend Mr. Moren.
– The phrase that the Minister used was that every one was happy.
– I meant those to whom I had spoken. .As for Mrs. Stewart, no one could make her happy.
– I hope that the Minister, by administrative action, will make this lady happy by allotting to her a site in the town area. The honorable gentleman knows that at present she is a couple of miles out of the town. In order to reach the appalling area in which she lives she has to cross a bridge that is in a state of collapse. It is in a thoroughly unsatisfactory condition, and no one knows whether it will last for more than a few weeks. In an intolerable area of swamp and jungle, she is doing her best to keep a decent hotel going. We are not concerned primarily with the interests of one individual. It will be in the best interests of the district if a decision is made that is just to Mrs. Stewart. She is being continually threatened by the local licensing magistrate that unless an hotel is built her licence will be cancelled, but she cannot prevail upon the Government to make a decision that will enable her to go ahead with her plans.
The second case to which I wish to direct attention is that of the Reverend Mr. Moren, the rector of the Church of England in Lae. I do not know whether ia is suggested that he also is happy. In his parish newsletter of June, 1949, the Reverend Mr. Moren has complained very bitterly of the treatment of his church by the Administration. The Minister has indicated to me that he has an answer to make to that complaint which will be satisfactory to the House and myself. I hope that that is so, because I should not like to think that this injustice also has not been remedied. I pay the Minister the tribute of saying that I do not believe that he desires to see a continuance of the state of affairs that has been described by the Reverend Mr. Moren. The Church of England held land in Lae from 1934 onwards. In 1948 it was advised to surrender the land. The rector was informed that within three months a town plan would be in operation and that the surrender of the land held by the church would help to advance the plan. Being a public body and bound to support the administration in all reasonable and lawful matters, the church surrendered its land. It was then discovered that there would be unexpected delays. The church then sought to obtain other land, and at the beginning of May of this year a site was finally granted to it. It chose that site upon the basis of the town plan that was in existence until recently. I refer to the one that I saw when I was in Lae eighteen months ago. I have been informed that that plan has had to be altered because it has been discovered that erosion has occurred on the waterfront. [ shall assume for the moment that there was good and sufficient reason for the alteration, but the Reverend Mr. Moren has stated that when the new site was allotted to his church it was allocated on the basis of the old plan, which has since been scrapped. Under the new plan, the site consists of three acres of land on the outskirts of the town. Therefore, it is not really the site for which the church applied. I admit .that, physically, it is the site for which application was made, hut the application was made on the basis of a plan that had been exhibited in. Lae for some years. After the site was chosen, an alteration of the plan was made, of which the Reverend Mr. Moren was not aware, and under the amended plan the site is outside the town. The Reverend Mr. Moren does not suggest that the Church of England has been singled out for unjust treatment. What is suggested is that the Administration has no right to invite people to select a site upon the basis of a certain plan and then, having altered the plan, to decline to consider the allocation of another site on the basis of the new plan. I have raised this matter because I think that the Church of England in Lae and honorable members of this House are entitled to an explanation of the Government’s actions. I propose to read two paragraphs from a, parish newsletter that has been issued by the Reverend Mr. Moren
– Order 1 The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- 1 shall begin at the point at which the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has left off. I have a copy of the parish newsletter to which he has referred. It is a public document, and doubtless the Minister also has a copy of it. I shall read the paragraphs that the honorable member for Parramatta was about to read, because they describe the conditions that exist in Lae., They are as follows: -
I should like to put two questions to the Moresby Administration. What do they think of the ethics of their action in granting land applied for under a town plan they knew to have been superseded? Secondly, how does all this’ temporizing square with their obligation to maintain the religious liberties of people here? Let them recall that we lost our chance to build in 1948 when we surrendered our land on their advice and for their convenience. Had it not been for the generosity of two private persons here the church would have been driven out of Lae. and our people denied their religious rights.
Those two questions belong to a much bigger question - the question of our slum housing, our pitiful schools, and our heart-breaking hospitals in this Territory. And that takes you back to matters affecting the welfare of every man, woman, and child in the place.
Vor the potential wealth of this Territory is neither in gold nor agriculture, but in people. The first obligation of the Moresby Administration is to respect people, so that the human wealth shall have opportunity of reaching fulfilment. The first task of the Moresby Administration is to ensure the rights and decencies of personal living. What do we find here? Persons are being pushed around, kept in the dark as to their future, denied any . say in self-determination. In short, persons are being treated more as if they were things. Furthermore far from the decencies of personal living being ensured, our living conditions are a shocking _ scandal, [n the scandal of our material environment the real wealth of this Territory - the courage, the civic virtues, the enterprise of people, is itself decaying. Everywhere there is frustration, misery, and a growing apathy. To dissipate material wealth is bad business. To dissipate spiritual wealth is criminal folly. Had there been a plan to create frustration, apathy, and misery, and the destruction of civic virtues, lt could not have succeeded better than the methods of this administration through three and a half years of town planning.
That is a severe indictment of the Administration. It confirms what some honorable members on this side of the House have been saying for years. Articles written by a prominent writer who has been in the territory have been laughed off. If the Government takes no notice of a journalist and a member of the Parliament, it should take notice of a minister of religion who is living in a difficult country.
– I also have a copy of the parish newsletter to which reference has been made. I desire to make it clear at the outset of my remarks that there has been only one plan for the new township of Lae. As most honorable members know, Lae was built . on a plateau. The town was destroyed during the last war. When the rebuilding of the town was considered, it was discovered that part of the perimeter was being gradually eaten away by the sea. Therefore, it was decided that it would be foolish to plan a new township on the old site. Only one plan was prepared.
– When was it approved?
– When I returned from my visit to New Guinea, I discussed the matter with the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), and the plan was then approved.
– I saw a plan in 1947.
– I do not know what plan it was. The honorable gentleman has asked me when the plan wa* approved. It was approved when 1 returned from New Guinea in January.
With regard to the case of Mrs Stewart, that lady had an hotel on the sit«of the old township. She has never ceased to agitate to be allowed to rebuild it ou the old site. The town plan provides for the allocation of land for an hotel. The honorable member foi Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has visited that site, and I think he will agree that it is the best site in the new town. It is ideal for an hotel.
A perusal of the parish newsletter to which reference has been made shows that the Reverend Mr. Moren is completely antagonistic to the present Administration.
– The Minister should -be fair. The document contains quite a lot in favour of the Government.
– It does not say much in our favour. When I was in Lae I saw the Reverend Mr. Moren and discussed the position with him. Some of the statements in the newsletter are incorrect. One statement is that 3 advised him that there would be other applicants for a church site and that he should lodge his application. That is not so. I knew at that time that no other churches or missions were interested in sites in Lae. I advised the Reverend Mr. Moren to make his application, believing that it would be the only application for the site. The complaint boils down to a claim that the plan that was approved in March of this year has been altered. That is not so.
– That is not the complaint. The complaint is that the plan that was approved in March superseded an earlier plan.
– That is the point that I want to make clear. The site that I discussed with the Reverend Mr. Moren when I was in Lae in January of this year is a site shown on the plan that was approved in March, and in accordance with which the new township of Lae will be laid out. Perhaps the Reverend
Mr. Moren has made a mistake, but although I have looked to see whether there has been any alteration of the plan ofwhichI approved and which I discussed with him in Lae, I cannot find any alteration of it. There is a letter from the Reverend Mr. Moren on the file in which he has expressed appreciation of the site for which he applied and was able to obtain.
– He thought the town was going to be where his allotment is.
– The town will be there. I know of no other proposed site for the township of Lae. It should be emphasized that the whole of the agitation in Lae is for the new town to be built on the site of the old township, but it is not the intention of the present Administration to have it built there.
– How far from the old lite is the new site?
– It is approximately a mile and a half. If the new township were built on the old site, part of it would be in the sea in 20 or 30 years time. It would be folly to build it there. Mrs. Stewart has never ceased her agitation, and I understand that even now she is attempting to build a hotel on the site of the old one. I repeat that there has been only one plan for the new township. That plan was approved in March and has not been altered. The present position with regard to church sites is the same as it was in January, when I was in Lae and discussed this matter with the Reverend Mr. Moren. I cannot understand why he has issued what I consider to be a very ill-considered document to come from a church leader.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Defence - J. A. Macdonald.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Stuart, Queensland.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following information: -
Ja pak : Economic Recovery.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Ford, Chrysler-Plymouth and Dodge, together with details of all customs and similar dutios and imposts payable on each?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
It is not the practice to disclose confidential information supplied to the. Department of Trade and Customs relating to the transactions of individual importers. Accordingly, I am unable to furnish particulars of the landed cost of the cars in question.
Mr.Chifley. - On the 1st June, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked me a question concerning research into the treatment of cancer. Further to my interim reply to the honorable member on that date, I wish to advise that the Government is watching very carefully the developments that have been taking place overseas of the research into the cause of cancer. To make an effective contribution to this campaign, it would be necessary to set up an elaborate establishment with specially trained personnel and with facilities for extensive specialized animal experimentation. Under the existing circumstances, particularly in regard to the shortage of trained personnel, the Government does not propose to enter this field at the present time. Dealing with the question of treatment of cancer, the Commonwealth Government has been co-operating with State hospital authorities for many years. The Commonwealth X-ray and Radium. Laboratory was established in the Melbourne University grounds in 1935. Its original purpose was for the provision of physical services in the radiation treatment of cancer, but its scope has now widened to include assistance in the physical aspects of diagnostic radiology in all its branches, physical aspects of various types of electromedical treatment, physical aspects of the use of radio-active isotypes in medical diagnosis and treatment, and the protection problems associated with the use of X and gamma rays in medicine and industry. The Government bought quantities of radium for use by the various hospitals.; this is issued on loan and is under the technical control of the X-ray andRadium Laboratory. The laboratory has also developed methods for the preparation and distribution of radium emanation for use in the treatment of cancer. This service, which is available to all “States, is regarded as being equal to any other similar service in the world.
Papua and New Guinea.
s. - On the 2nd June, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) asked the Minister acting for the Minister for External Territories the following question: -
In view of the general desirability to develop commerce and industry in the Territories of Papua and New Guinea, will the Minister say whether Australian industrial law is applied to these territories? To what extent does industrial legislation differ from that on the mainland ? I also ask the Minister how many displaced migrants are available for work in the territories?
I informed the honorable member that, as far as I could say, there were no displaced persons working in New Guinea and that in regard to the other portion of his question I would give him an early reply. I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490615_reps_18_202/>.