18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Transport of Race-Horses - Emergency Services - Accident ‘ at Bilinga Aerodbome.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that race-horses are being flown from Melbourne and Sydney to Brisbane by Trans-Australia Airlines? If so, how many gallons of petrol are being used for that purpose? s the Minister also aware that the New South Wales Government, early this week, instructed the State Emergency Transport Co-ordinator, Mr. Winsor. to fix priorities for the transport of essential goods by rail, road, sea, and air, and to prepare a schedule of transport services? If so, will he state whether race-horses are regarded as essential goods? In view of the present grave state of emergency arising from the coal crisis, and in view of the Prime Minister’s statement that available petrol supplies must bc restricted to ensure their equitable distribution, is the carriage of race-horses by TransAustralia Airlines justified at the present juncture, and is the use of petrol for this purpose in accord with government policy?
– From photographs that I have seen in the newspapers, I am aware that race-horses are carried by each air company when required. The honorable member knows quite well that what is carried in aircraft does not come within the purview of the Minister for Civil Aviation. The air-_ craft of both the Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited carry race-horses, sheep and other animals from time to time as a part of their ordinary freight service, and they will probably continue to do so, unless forbidden in a specific instruction by the department. We have not taken the view that we should dictate what shall bc carried as freight, and I do not think that we should do so. The Government is not unaware of the need for emergency services in New South Wales. In fact, the State Emergency Transport Coordinator, Mr. Winsor, has already asked me in my capacity as Minister for Air what assistance the Royal Australian Air Force can give. Already the Royal Australian Air Force has assisted very substantially. Only yesterday an aircraft visited Evans Head to obtain army blankets and other goods necessary for flood - relief. In . other ways also the Royal Australian Air Force has given excellent service, as it always does in such unfortunate occurrences as the recent flood. I hope that it will continue to do so. It receives little credit for what it does. However, the honorable gentleman’s question was whether it was in accordance with government policy that petrol should be used for the transport of race-horses by air. That applies equally to sheep and other live-stock. What freight is carried by the airlines is a matter for themselves to determine. Their supplies of petrol are limited, and they are entitled to carry whatever they think fit within that limit. Wc are endeavouring to assist in the crisis in New South Wales. We are acting in complete co-ordination with the Government of New South Wales and we hope to provide substantial relief.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that 21 lives were lost in the Lodestar Lockheed air crash at Bilinga, near Coolangatta, in March last? Is the coroner’s inquest into the cause of that crash at present proceeding at Southport? Did the. Department of Civil Aviation conduct a departmental inquiry into the disaster, and make a report? Has counsel for Queensland Airlines Proprietary Limited, the owners of the aircraft, applied at the coroner’s court for a copy of, or access to, that report, and has the request been refused? If the departmental report referred to can be made available to the coroner and the police official assisting the court, what reasons exist for smothering it when it is sought by those most vitally interested, the operators of the aircraft that crashed? My reason for asking the question is that I received a telegram yesterday from counsel representing Queensland Airlines Proprietary Limited at the coroner’s inquiry stating that the report is regarded as essential for the purposes of eliciting the full facts at the inquest. This morning L received an urgent telegram which reads–
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in reading the telegram.
– The telegram states that the request for the report was refused in the court this morning.
– According to a press cutting which the honorable member was good enough to supply to me last night, Queensland Airlines Proprietary Limited asked, not for the report, but for I iic finding of the investigating panel. A summary of the findings of lie panel was sent to the company some time ago.
– The company’s counsel wants to obtain a copy of the report.
– An inquest is at present being held in Queensland into the cause of the deaths of the 21 persons who were killed in the crash. A copy of the report of the investigating panel lias been made available for the information of the coroner and is in the possession of the police inspector who is assisting him. One of the members of the investigating panel is in attendance at the inquest and is available for examination mid cross-examination by the interested parties. A summary of the findings was supplied to Queensland Airlines Proprietary Limited, the operators of the aircraft that crashed and to others on request.
– The company has asked for a copy of the report, but its request has ‘been refused.
– As the authorities of the Department of Civil Aviation are at present conferring with officers of the Crown Law Department on the matter of legal proceedings which may involve prosecutions, it is not proposed to make the report available or to table it.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration how many migrants Aus tralia received in the last twelve months? What was the number- of British immigrants compared with displaced persons and other aliens? How does the percentage compare with the percentage in other parts of the British Commonwealth, such as South Africa, Canada and New Zealand?
– I shall obtain the information that the honorable member requires and let him have it next week. I saw a statement in yesterday evening’s press which quoted figures given by the British Board of Trade. They show that Australia got more British migrants last year than did either Canada or South Africa.
– In view of the wrong impression that irresponsible broadcasts from Moscow radio may have given in other countries, and even in Australia, regarding conditions in displaced persons’ camps in this country, will the Minister for Information arrange for the film unit of his department to make a motion picture of life in displaced persons camps for distribution overseas and in Australia ? If the Minister has already done this, will he inform the House of the nature of such factual publicity?
– We have taken some moving pictures of the camps in Australia, where displaced persons are now residing. We propose to make other short films of the places to which those persons go and where they work. I also propose to send two officers of the department to Naples to make some pictures in that big centre from which practically all the displaced persons coming to Australia now depart. I have done this because I feel that the movement of displaced persons to Australia is a matter of great historic interest, and I think that a permanent record should be made of it. Although I have anticipated the honorable gentleman somewhat in this matter, I thank him for his question.
– Does the Minister for Immigration adhere to his statement of last week that a Melbourne Argus reporter’s story of an interview with an officer of the International Refugee Organization and’ a migrant concerning the screening of certain migrants was a “ complete fabrication “ ? If so, in view of the fact that the reporter concerned signed a statutory declaration that he had added nothing to the statements and omitted no relevant facts, is the Minister prepared to adopt the suggestion of the Sydney Daily Telegraph that he initiate a prosecution of the reporter for having signed that statutory declaration?
– I desire to put the honorable member for Swan right on some of the facts before I answer his question. A statement was made in the Argus alleging that a representative of the International Refugee Organization on a certain vessel had made certain statements and that one of the passengers had made certain other statements. I said that I had consulted Major-General Lloyd, who is the representative of the International Refugee Organization in Australia, and that he had told me that he had investigated the matter and believed that the Argus story was a complete fabrication.
– I beg the Minister’s pardon. I thought that it was his statement that it was a complete fabrication.
– I further stated that Major-General Lloyd had said that he was recommending to the International Refugee Organization in Geneva that instructions be issued to all International Refugee Organization escort officers travelling in future vessels under the aegis of the organization not to give any press interviews. He also said that, as far as he could effect it, the man Clancy would not be permitted on board an International Refugee Organization vessel again. Well, another reporter went down recently and was refused a pass for Clancy to go on the vessel. Wow that an honorable member of this House has suggested that ‘Clancy should be prosecuted for perjury, in view of the fact that he has made a certain statutory declaration, I shall give the matter consideration. I remind the House that statutory declarations have been made by the persons Clancy allegedly interviewed that there was absolutely no truth in Clancy’s statement. A Sydney newspaper made a suggestion similar to that of the honorable member, but, of course, I treated it with absolute contempt. I shall be pleased, however, to see if I can oblige the honorable member for Swan.
Health and Medical Services - Hospital Committees
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question relating to the report of the Select Committee on the Northern Territory Medical Services that has been made available to honorable members. I preface my question by quoting paragraph 38 of the report, which states -
The above report was substantially completed prior to the departure of our chairman, Mr. Hopkins, on 10th December, 1948. Since that date certain important changes have been made in the Northern Territory Medical Services which have made the final drafting of this report a matter of some difficulty. After careful’ consideration, we have decided to submit our original report, based as it was on the evidence planed before the committee.
In view of the excellent work that this committee did, I ask the Minister, first, what were those important changes referred to by the committee that made the drafting of its report difficult, and what changes to comply with the committee’s most comprehensive report exposing maladministration and neglect have since been and are now being made by the Chief Medical Officer appointed in December and by the hospital superintendent, to rectify the legacy handed down to them? Secondly, has the Minister any evidence of a vendetta against those two newly appointed officers by a hostile local press for certain purposes, which is resulting in lack of co-operation ? Thirdly, will the Minister have local hospital committees established either by election or appointment so that local people may be able to assist the new staff to clean up the mess of the legacy left to them by the previous administration?
– I have not read the report or even seen it. The report would naturally go to the Minister for Health himself, and I am therefore unable to inform the House or the honorable member of anything relating to its contents; but I shall refer the question to the Minister to-night and ask him to supply the honorable member with a reply.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for External Affairs, whether we still have any supervisory rights, even in theory, over Hungary and Bulgaria arising out of our peace treaties with those two countries. Were the protests concerning the trials and imprisonment of Cardinal Mindszenty, Bishop Ordas and the fifteen Protestant leaders, couched in terms consistent with the rights that we have under the peace treaties, and will the right honorable gentleman arrange, for the purpose of the debate on foreign affairs, that the terms of Australia’s representations to Hungary and Bulgaria and the replies by those countries, shall be made available to the House?
– The answer to the first portion of the honorable member’s question is “ Yes “. We have certain rights in relation to those two countries under the peace treaties. Representations regarding the trials of church leaders in Hungary and Bulgaria were made by Australia and the case was stated very fully. We indicated that we supported other countries which had requested that investigations be made into those matters. It would take some time to cover all the ground of the report on the exchanges that took place, but so that the matter may be the subject of discussion during the debate on international affairs, I shall endeavour to have some information made available a.bout it. I have discussed the matter with Australia’s representatives who were present when the matter was debated, and especially with one of them who was a. leader of one of the churches involved, and I gather that his views were expressed very fully. I shall make available all the information that I can.
– Can the Minister for . Air say how many helicopters, if any, are at present on the Royal Australian Air Force strength? Has the Government ever considered using helicopters in such emergencies as that now existing in New
South Wales due to the floods? If not, will he discuss the matter with his departmental officials with a view to providing helicopters in each State so that, in the trent of future catastrophes such as that in New South Wales, or of other unforeseen circumstances, help may be speedily afforded to those in dire need? I am sure that the Minister is aware of the successful use of helicopters in the United States of America.
– There is only one helicopter on the strength of the Royal Australian Air Force, and experiments are being conducted to test its usefulness with a view to deciding whether any more should be purchased for Royal Australian Air Force purposes, and, if so, how many? During the recent floods in Queensland, help that was very much appreciated by the Queensland Government and the people concerned was rendered by ordinary aircraft, which dropped supplies of food, clothing, medicine, &c, by statochutes. Assistance is being brought to flood victims in New South Wales in the same way at the present time. The suggestion of the honorable member has already received some consideration, but in view of his representations, the matter will be further considered to see whether it is desirable to have one helicopter in each State. Most of the helicopters in use are of American origin, and such machines would have to be paid for in dollars, which might prove a difficulty. However, it may be possible to get them from other sources. My own opinion is that helicopters can render more valuable service in certain circumstances than can ordinary aircraft, because they can take off and land in such a restricted space.
Alleged Dismissal of Staff - Unemployment Benefit
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say how many employees, including journalists, members of the mechanical staff, and others have recently been dismissed by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited?
Have any of them applied for unemployment relief? Will the Minister investigate the reason for the dismissals which, I understand, have been fairly numerous ?
– I have no information about the Herald and Weekly Times Limited dispensing with the services of employees; but up to 10 o’clock this morning 20,000 persons had registered for unemployment benefit in New South Wales, including 2,000 at Wollongong and 8,000 at Newcastle. On the fourth of this month, only 982 people altogether were registered for unemployment benefit in Australia. I shall have inquiries made to find out whether there have been dismissals by the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, and I shall furnish the honorable member with what information I can obtain.
– Will the information be revealed publicly?
– If there is no reason why it should not be.
– Will the Prime Minister, as a matter of urgency, authorize the payment of 8s. a day to -patients who are being nursed in their own homes because of the inability of public hospitals to provide the necessary facilities?
– The proposal made by the honorable member has not been considered. I shall discuss it with the Minister for Health. Only after careful consideration >and in very special circumstances could such a payment be authorized, because of the possibility of opening up very great opportunities for abuse.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister relating to the denial to married women employed in the Public Service who have been deserted by their husbands, or whose husbands are permanently invalided or incapacitated, of the right to contribute to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. As single women are permitted to contribute to the fund and are entitled to have their contributions refunded to them on marriage, will the right honorable gentleman reconsider his decision on this matter and give to married women of the class to which I have referred a similar privilege with a right to the refund of their contributions in the event of their retirement from the Public Service upon the re-establishment of the marriage on a normal basis?
– This matter has already been .considered and a decision has been made in regard to it. The present practice has been followed for a long time. I think that it has been in force ever since the Commonwealth Superannuation Act was passed. I shall look at the ‘matter again in the light of the honorable member’s question, but I cannot offer any great hope that a change will be made.
Cigarettes - Art Treasures
– Can the Minister for Immigration inform the House whether a report that appeared in the Melbourne Sun-News Pictorial this morning, alleging smuggling and trafficking in cigarettes by displaced person migrants, is just another concoction by that newspaper, or whether, in fact, an investigation into these alleged breaches of the Customs regulations is being conducted on a high ministerial level ?
– This is another example of the irresponsible and mendacious journalism of which I have had just cause to complain in recent times. Immediately the report was brought to my notice, 1 communicated with the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs and learned from him, with no surprise, that no report as stated has ever been made to the Department of Trade and Customs and, consequently, that no investigation on a high ministerial level is taking place. The Sun-News Pictorial has made the allegation, but there is no justification for the charge at all. The vicious insinuation in the story is that displaced persons are smuggling into Australia art treasures and antiques which they have looted from homes in Europe. This story is utterly fantastic, as a little common sense would reveal. The displaced persons who are coming to Australia generally arrive with pathetically meagre belongings - a few personal trifles that they have saved from their own looted homes - and how they could possibly smuggle large collections of silver plate, paintings and antiques through the Customs is more than I can understand. It is true that displaced person migrants are allowed a packet of American cigarettes a day on the voyage to Australia. These are provided by the International Refugee Organization. It is quite possible that by the time the displaced persons reach Australia some of them may have accumulated a few packets but on their arrival here they are subjected to the same Customs examination as are any other arrivals from overseas. Theyreceive no concessions, and have to pay duty on excess holdings of cigarettes or other dutiable articles in the same way as do other persons. In any event, Major Kershaw, the Director of Bonegilla Centre, denied only recently that there was any illegal trafficking in American cigarettes in the Bonegilla district. The Melbourne Sun-News Pictorial report is another instance of the smear campaign that is being directed at Australia’s immigration plan, and is quite in tone with the lies that were broadcast by Moscow radio this week about alleged slave labour in Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for External Affairs. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether any action is to be taken by the Australian Government to establish diplomatic relations with the State of Israel? If it is, when is the appointment of the Australian diplomatic representative likely to be made?
– There have been conversations regarding the possibility of Australian diplomatic representation in Israel, but no representative has yet been appointed. No decision has been arrived at either as to the person who will be appointed or when the appointment will be made.
– Under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, the wives of soldiers of World War I., who were married after 1938, and the children of such marriages who were born after that date, are not eligible for repatriation benefits. I have received many letters on this subject, including correspondence from totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, whose children are denied the educational and other benefits that are provided under the act. Will the Minister for Repatriation ensure that that anomaly is rectified by a proper appropriation when the budget is being considered?
– The question which the honorable member has asked in relation to the wives of men who served in World War I., and who were married after 1938, and the children of such marriages has received a good deal of consideration since I have been the Minister for Repatriation. The position is well known. When the allparty Parliamentary Committee, consisting of ex-servicemen, reviewed the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act a few years ago, the matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred was not raised by ex-servicemen’s organizations, and the committee did not make a recommendation to the Government about it in its report. The existing act was drafted on the basis of the recommendations of that committee. No action has since been taken to give effect to representations that have been made by organizations on this subject.
– Some of us were not here when that Parliamentary Committee made its report.
– That is true. The honorable gentleman himself was serving with the Royal Australian Air Force overseas at that time, but the fact remains that consideration has been given to this matter on a number of occasions, and I hold out no hope whatever of the Government’s policy being altered in that respect.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question relating to the renewal of the Australia-United Kingdom meat agreement. Producers’ organizations have asked that the schedule of prices for the forthcoming export season, particularly for mutton and lamb, shall operate from the 1st July next, and I understand that the Minister is favorable to that request. Can the honorable gentleman say whether the new schedule of prices will be announced by the 1st July? If not, can he indicate when the new schedule of prices will be revealed?
– Negotiations on this matter have been proceeding with the United Kingdom Government for some time. I have stated previously in this House that as soon as the decision is arrived at, and I hope that it will be reached before the 1st July next, an announcement will be made.
– According to the press, which is my only authority for this statement, His Excellency the High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United Kingdom has returned to this country on a visit after an absence of approximately three years. I ask the Prime Minister whether it will be possible for His Excellency to visit this House while it is in session in order that honorable members may have an opportunity to meet him. . Possibly, the Empire Parliamentary Association could arrange for His Excellency to address honorable members, who have not been to the United Kingdom, on his views of the conditions there. The honorable member for Corangamite and I are engaged in a certain study, and we should like to figure out what might have happened if Marshal Bernadotte had met Napoleon in Paris in 1814, when he returned to France as the Crown Prince.
– About three-quarters of the honorable gentleman’s question was intelligible and deserves a reasonable answer. The last part of it I must leave to his own judgment. The Australian High Commissioner in the United Kingdom, Mr. Beasley, is visiting Australia and will be in this country for some time. He is to visit Canberra to make a report to the Cabinet. The honorable gentleman’s suggestion that he should at the same time address a meeting of the Empire Parliamentary Association has merit and I think Mr. Beasley will be glad to accede to it
– “Will the right honorable gentleman also arrange for him to meet the honorable member for Reid?
– He has a parliamentary association of his own.
Benefits to Widows of Public Servants
– I have written to and asked questions of the Minister for Repatriation about the widows of public servants who were killed in New Guinea during the- Japanese invasion. Last year, I asked if they would get full repatriation benefits, and he gave a definite assurance that they would do so. I now learn from these unfortunate people that they are not getting the benefits in full, but only in part and that the benefits that they are not receiving that others receive are a furniture grant and medical benefits. The Minister has said that the Department of External Territories is partly at fault. Will he now give an assurance that those benefits will be given to these widows and their children?
– I recall having said when the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill was before the House last year that those people were being taken care of. I find that that is not exactly the position and that there are some difficulties in determining the joint responsibility, if I may put it that way, of the Department of External Territories and the Repatriation Commission. These persons do receive some benefits. I am having another look at the matter, because of the honorable member’s keen interest in it, to see if we can iron out the difficulties. I shall advise the honorable member of the result as soon as I am able to do so.
– I lay on the table the report of the Public Works Committee on the re-submission of the following subject : -
Erection of the Batman Automatic Telephone Exchange, Flinders-lane, Melbourne.
– Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inform the House fairly soon of any alterations of the postal rates that have been made by the United Kingdom Government in Britain during the last twelve months or whether there has been increases or decreases of postal, telegraph and telephone rates?
– I made a long speech to the House a few days ago on the subject of postal charges generally. In fact, I took nearly threequarters of an hour to deliver it. I thought I had covered every item of information that would be helpful in enabling honorable members to make a just assessment of the merits of the measure, the second reading of which I had moved. If there is anything that I left unsaid, and the honorable member specifies what he wants to know, I am still the Minister for Information.
SUPPLY. (“Grievance Day.”)
Labor Motor Funerals Limited: Evictions - Bank Advances - Unemployment - Compulsory Acquisition of Property in Melbourne - The Parliament: Broadcasting of Proceedings ; Questions - Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen - Political Propaganda.
Question proposed -
That Mr. Deputy Speaker do now leave the chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
.- I desire to place before the House a matter concerning certain evictions that are taking place in the metropolitan area of Sydney. I am particularly interested in this matter because of the fact that the evictions are in process of being made within the boundaries of the newly constituted Grayndler electorate which I hope ultimately to represent in this Parliament. My particular complaint regards certain ejectment notices that have been served by Labor Motor Funerals Limited on tenants in the Newtown district of Sydney. I shall explain to the House the background of this organization and the tragic circumstances in which it will place a number of people, including ex-servicemen, if effect is given to these ejectment notices. Some of the persons who have received those notices have handed’ copies of them to me and I shall quote from one of them which states -
Take notice that you are hereby required to’ quit and deliver up to Labor Motor Funerals1 Limited possession of all that land and premises known as . . .
The notice then indicates the premises’ concerned and’ continues -
The premises are required for reconstruction in order to convert them into funeral parlours, mortuary accomodation and living accommodation for the Branch Manager of Labor Motor Funerals Limited.
The notice continues -
And take notice that in default of such possession being given Labor Motor Funerals will take ejection proceedings against you.
– Who signed the notice?
– The notice from which I. have quoted is dated the 3rd June, 1949. The question by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is very appropriate. The notice is given under the common seal of Labor Motor Funerals Limited and was signed on behalf of the company by Mr. J. P. O’Neill and Mr. Alfred’ C. Paddison - the latter is a name well known to us - in the presence of Mr. H. R. McCauley, the secretary of the company. For the benefit of honorable members, I. shall outline the background of the complaint that I wish to lay before this Parliament in relation to the ejectment of those tenants. It is common knowledge in Labour party circles in New South Wales that Labor Motor Funerals Limited has no connexion with the Australian Labour movement. The company is entirely owned and controlled by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) through the directors that I have mentioned. Mr. Paddison is well known through the organs of the Lang party in that he is editor of the party’s newspaper, Century, which is owned by the honorable, member for Reid. He is also a director of the honorable member’s broadcasting station. He also writes most of the speeches made in this House by the honorable member for Reid and he received on behalf of the Lang party money that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) mentioned some time ago, which was paid into the coffers of the Lang party at referendum time to be used to help to defeat the proposals.
– The amount of money referred! to was £3,000.
– Mr. Paddison is generally accepted as the representative of the honorable member for Reid in negotiations with companies and also in regard to funds used to defeat this Government. He is one of the directors-
– I rise to order. In view of the fact that “ Grievance Day “ comes very rarely and that many honorable members wish to speak to-day, I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether it is proper for the honorable member for Martin to use this occasion merely as an excuse to make a personal attack under cover of parliamentary privilege.
– Does not the honorable member for Henty consider that the eviction of ex-servicemen is an important matter ?
– Order ! The Chair wishes to give a ruling and honorable members must not interject. The position in relation to “ Grievance Day “ is that honorable members may raise any topic they desire. Their speeches are limited to a certain time and they may use that time for whatever purpose they desire, provided that they abide by the provisions of the Standing Orders. The statements made by members are their own responsibility. The responsibility of the Chair is to ensure that such statements are couched in parliamentary language. I take it that the honorable member for Martin accepts responsibility for the statement he is making.
– It is regrettable that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) should interrupt a speech that is designed principally to protect the interests of certain ex-servicemen who face eviction because it is desired by certain individuals to build a funeral parlour on the site of their homes. My complaint refers to the proposed eviction of those people, and I mentioned Mr. Paddison and Mr. McCauley only to give honorable members the background of those individuals, who constantly attack this Government for its alleged inattention to housing problems.
I merely intended to show the attitude that is taken by those people to the general welfare of other people, when they wish to promote their own interests. Notices have been issued by Labor Motor Funerals Limited to five people in the Newtown district who have been established there for upwards of twenty years in some cases. There are exservicemen amongst those tenants, and if they are evicted from their premises their businesses will face almost complete financial ruin. This is a very serious matter because these people will be unable, in present conditions, to ‘find new premises.
– I. rise to order. The proceedings to which the honorable ma ember has referred are proceedings for eviction which are taken under State legislation. As every one knows, a notice to quit is part of the proceedings that are instituted under that legislation. I submit, therefore, that the matter is sub judice and cannot be raised in this House.
Honorable members interjecting ,
– Order ! The Chair has no knowledge that the . matter is before a «mrt.
Mr. Beale interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has asked for a ruling and
I am giving it. I rule that the matter is not sub judice, and consequently the honorable member for Martin may discuss it.
– Having listened to the honorable member for Parramatta we on this side of the House cannot help but agree with the sentiment expressed ‘by Mr. Spooner, the chairman of the Liberal party in New South Wales, that there are too many lawyers in the Liberal party. He evidently had the honorable member for Parramatta in mind when he made that observation.
I shall return now to the background of this matter by saying that over the shops that are occupied by those tenants are a number of residences occupied by several families, amongst whom are war widows and several ex-servicemen with children. These people have absolutely no other residences available to them. The New South Wales Government’s emergency accommodation is already filled, so there is nowhere for these people to go. Generally speaking, therefore, they are placed in the invidious position of facing eviction without having anywhere to go, so that a funeral parlour may be established in the area. I believe that it. would be a tragedy if those people were evicted for that purpose, no matter how desirable or necessary it may be considered to be to establish a funeral parlour there. Surely our predominant objective at the moment should be to house these people. That is the objective of the New South Wales Government. I appeal, therefore, to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) to raise this matter with the Minister for Housing in New South Wales to see whether he can take the necessary legislative action so as to prevent these evictions. I ask also that in the event of the New South Wales Government not having the legislative power to prevent these evictions, the Minister should consider appealing to the better instincts of the honorable member for Reid to see whether he would be willing to instruct his nominees on the board of the company, Mr. Paddison and Mr. McCauley, to lift their dead hands from this very live problem.
– A few days ago, I asked a question of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) concerning instructions issued by the Commonwealth Bank to the trading banks about the issue of credits. My question was couched in these terms : -
I direct a question to the Treasurer concerning the recently announced policy of the Commonwealth Bank towards advances hy the Australian trading banks. Can the Treasurer say whether the cautious tone of the direction issued to trading banks in connexion with advances for enterprise represents an instruction to tighten up policy, in relation to the granting of financial assistance to persons wishing to establish new industries?. In view of the restraining effect that such a policy might have, particularly upon small business nien wishing to open new businesses or establish new industries, does not the action of the Commonwealth Bank follow the lines of the action allegedly taken by the banks at the time of the 1929 depression, -which has so often been criticized by supporters of the present Government? What encouragement can the Treasurer give to the small man who wishes to operate a new business that he will not be debarred from developing it by his own initiative and enterprise as the result of the lack of bank support caused by Government policy?
The Prime Minister replied, in part, as follows : -
I never know what honorable members mean when they refer to “ the small trader “. The fact is that a trading bank is not required to refer to the Commonwealth Bank any loan or advance up to an amount of f 1,000. Therefore, there is nothing to prevent a “ small “ person from obtaining an advance, except the policy of the trading bank itself.
I suggested at the time that the Government’s policy might have a restrictive effect upon enterprise, and since then I have received evidence that it has already had that effect. I have received a letter in which it is stated that one leading bank, as a result of the instruction received from the Commonwealth Bank, has issued instructions to its own branches that there shall be no more lending on mortgage until further notice. I have also found that people are becoming fearful, and are refraining from starting new businesses. Several instances have come to my notice of retailers sending out notices, even to their regular customers, asking for prompt settlement of. accounts because of the financial position. In other words, the traders are unable to get from the banks the financial accommodation that was forthcoming earlier. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say that the Commonwealth Bank has no control over advances of less than £1,000. That may be true, but the restriction of credit in respect of advances over £1,000 has caused a general tightening up. There is another consideration at which I hinted in my question. There exists throughout the world to-day a set of circumstances very closely resembling those which, in the 1920’s, culminated in the depression which, in Australia, began in 1929. Already, there has been a decline of 8 per cent, on the New York stock exchange, apart altogether from day to clay fluctuations. On the London stock exchange, the decline is about 15 per cent. Overseas prices for our primary products are declining. This afternoon, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) cited figures which are very disquieting. It was only to be expected that the number of persons registering for unemployment benefit would increase as a result of tha threatened coal strike, and we learned from the Minister that, whereas at the beginning of this month the number of registered unemployed persons was only 9S2 for the whole of Australia, there are now mora than 20,000. persons registered in New South Wales alone. Even apart from the effects of the threatened strike, there appears to be a tendency for unemployment figures to increase. Whatever difficulties may be looming ahead, it behoves the Government to be careful in its public announcements, lest it precipitate the very crisis which it wishes to avoid.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) has had the audacity to complain because certain persons were being evicted from premises in Sydney by a firm of funeral directors, when the Government which he supports is itself a worse offender. It proposes to evict from premises in Melbourne many hundreds of persons, some of whom are engaged in tha production of commodities needed by primary producers. I have spoken on this matter before. The Government proposes to acquire in the City of Melbourne a block of land 9£ acres in area bounded by Spring-street, Latrobe-street, Exhibitionstreet, and Lonsdale-street. On this block, there are 175 buildings, and it is proposed to displace 2,000 persons, 375 of whom are ex-servicemen. The honorable member for Martin spoke of the dead hand of a firm of funeral directors in Sydney, but it is the dead hand of this Government that is about to descend on that great city block in Melbourne. I suppose a funeral parlour mostly affects persons who are dead ; but in Melbourne it is proposed to displace living, active and useful people in order to make room for Australian Government deputies which, from a productive point of view, may be said to be partly dead, at any rate.
– Does the honorable member think that three ex-servicemen should be evicted?
– No; and I do not think that 375 ex-servicemen in Melbourne should be evicted.
– Order! The honorable member for Wimmera must address the Chair.
– All I ask, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, is that honorable members opposite be consistent. If they make a great uproar about three exservicemen, they should also make a great uproar about the proposal of this Government to evict 375 ex-servicemen from premises in one area of the City of Melbourne. Honorable members opposite are constantly seeking to gain political kudos out of cases of this kind. This practice, to which I so strongly object, is being followed, not only in Melbourne, but also in cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth. People will be evicted from their premises in order to provide accommodation for the dead hand of Commonwealth departments which are being increased by the Australian Government. Municipal and local governing authorities, despite all the handicaps from which they suffer as the result of the rising spiral of prices, are unable to collect rates from these tenants whose premises are to be acquired. It is not surprising that the local governing authorities throughout Australia should be apprehensive about the problem of financing their undertakings.
– -Are the ex-servicemen to be evicted now or in ten years time?
– Order ! This is not question time. The honorable member for Parkes is not in order in asking a question of that kind.
– I welcome the question, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. The answer is that the Government has already issued acquisition orders and has refused these persons the right to pay their rates. By that action it will prevent them from voting in the City Council elections, and it has already prevented them from voting in the Legislative Council election which was held last Saturday. They have been denied a voice in the selection of men to represent their interests in the legislative sphere, and will also be denied that right in the municipal sphere, notwithstanding the fact that this Government boasts that it is an upholder of democratic principles.
Another matter to which I wish to direct attention is the inordinate length of time taken by Ministers in answering questions in this House. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has referred to the system under which certain selected members of the Parliament are permitted to speak between 8 and 10 p.m., a time which might be regarded as the “ prima donna “ period. I would like Mr. .Deputy Speaker to furnish a statement showing the total time taken by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) in answering questions in this House. The most reasonable questions asked by Opposition members are made the basis of long propagandist replies which are calculated to show the Government in a good light.
– The best way to avoid that is to refrain from asking questions.
– It is with a view to silencing honorable members of the Opposition that such answers are given and the longer a Minister takes to reply to a question, the shorter is the remaining time available for the asking of questions. That is a practical example of the socialist steamroller in operation. The steamroller was put into operation again this afternoon. The driver on this occasion was seated in the Chair. If members of the Opposition ask questions for propaganda purposes I do not object if, in reply, a Minister indulges in propaganda; but those who ask straight questions expect to get straight answers. Recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in his broadcast session “Report to the Nation “, referred to the millions of pounds that are being expended on the land settlement of ex-servicemen. In the House the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction was able to recite for the information of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) the exact number of acres provided and to supply full details of many properties acquired for that purpose. The questions asked by the honorable member for Hume and the honorable member for Wilmot were, of course, asked solely for propaganda purposes. Recently, I asked whether the Minister for Post-war Recon struction .could tell me how many exservicemen in. Australia had applied for land under the scheme and how many had actually been placed on the land. The Minister rose to reply, but looked quite bamboozled and said he was not able to answer the question. If he had furnished the information it would have revealed the fact that many thousands of ex-servicemen throughout Australia were still waiting to be settled on the land, and that only a very small number had been allotted properties. The Minister was reluctant to furnish the information I had sought also because it would reveal that a very large percentage of the millions of pounds which the Prime Minister had said had been made available for settling ex-servicemen on the land had been eaten up in administrative expenses. Last year. I questioned the Prime Minister about an advertisement which appeared in the Swan Hill Guardian seeking donations from the people for the election fund of the Australian Labour party. The advertisement contained some references to the estimated national income and the. real income of Australia and included a quotation from the Monthly Summary of Australian Conditions issued by the National Bank of Australasia Limited which, taken from its context, conveyed a very different impression from that intended by the bank. I asked the Prime Minister to investigate the matter. In reply, the right honorable gentleman stated that he had not heard anything about the advertisement, but that he would investigate it and furnish me with a reply at a later date. Whether or not he has investigated the advertisement, I do not know. All I know is that the advertisement was withdrawn and that no answer has been made to my question. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who has been constantly interjecting in an effort to interrupt my speech, said some time ago that the Government had a plan to bring about greater production. On the following day I asked the Prime Minister whether he would furnish me with details of the plan. The right honorable gentleman replied that there was such a plan and that he would be pleased to give me details of the plan. He has not furnished them. The failure of Ministers to answer reasonable questions in a reasonable manner constitutes a very genuine grievance. Too much time is taken up by Ministers in answering “ Dorothy Dix “ questions which are designed solely as propaganda for their departments. This practice interferes unduly with the normal activities of the Parliament. I do not believe that those who were responsible for the institution of question time in the House ever dreamed that that period would be used in the way it has been used by Ministers of this Government. Ministers who have at heart the interests of the people should listen with attention and reply in a reasonable manner questions asked by members of His Majesty’s Opposition.
Motion (by Mr. Fuller) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. J. J. clark.)
Majority . . . .8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 22nd June (vide page 1384), on motion by Mr. Lemmon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– in reply - I believe that the people of Australia were somewhat disappointed when they learned’ of the attitude that has been adopted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) towards this great national project. It is a matter for lasting regret that the Australian people did not have an opportunity to listen to the right honorable gentleman. His pigmy statesmanship in relationto the Snowy Mountains scheme was in marked contrast to the attitude adopted towards it by some members of the Australian Country party, who have shown that they realize the great part that the scheme can play in bringing water to the thirsty inland of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition has tried to drive a wedge between the States and the Commonwealth and to cause friction between them. I believe that he has done that in an endeavour to create such an atmosphere that some State or individual will be incited to challenge this legislation in a court of law. The right honorable gentleman has said that the Commonwealth has completelyoverridden the States in regard to this scheme. The first point that I make in refuting that allegation is that the engineers’ report that was submitted to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in accordance with a motion passed at a conference of Commonwealth andState Ministers was agreed to by the engineers of the Commonwealth, New South Wales and Victoria. All of the recommendations contained in the report have been adopted by the Commonwealth and those States. The charge that the Commonwealth has ignored or overridden the States in this matter is entirely untrue. I am sure that the States will play an extremely important part in the- implementation of the scheme. I hope that their public works departments and roads authorities will be able to assist in carrying out much of the work that will be required to be done. The necessary finance will, of course, be made available to the States by the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. The reticulation of all the water that will be made available for irrigation purposes will be the responsibility of the States. I hope that they will undertake the construction of power lines for the transmission of electricity that is not required by the Commonwealth. Although the States have indicated that they are prepared to co-operate with the Commonwealth along those lines, the Leader of the Opposition has stated that they have been completely ignored. The right honorable gentleman quoted from a letter written to the Manchester Guardian in an endeavour to belittle the great work of the Tennessee Valley Authority and said that the return on the capital invested in that project is approximately one-quarter of 1 per cent.’ We estimate that the capital expenditure on the Snowy Mountains scheme will yield a return of 3£ per cent., and we have decided that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority shall be subject to general taxation.
The Snowy Mountains scheme will enable power to be produced, at the base, at only 50 per cent, of the cost at which thermal stations can produce electricity. Despite those important considerations, the Leader of the Opposition waxed humorous about the estimates of cost. Frankly, I was amazed. The right honorable gentleman mentioned that I had made some estimates about the cost of producing hydro-electric power, and he described them as “ sufficiently optimistic “. He remarked that he had observed, with some pleasure, while reading the report of an address which had been delivered at the University of Western Australia, that in it Dr. Loder had made the same estimates in almost identical language. At that stage of his speech, the Leader of the Opposition looked around to receive applause from the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) before he added -
I begun to wonder for the first time whose second-reading speech the Minister had made.
As such authorities as the State Electricity Commission of Victoria, the State Electricity Commission of New South Wales, the New South Wales Public Works Department and the Commonwealth Department of Works and Housing had investigated the’ Snowy Mountains scheme and made those estimates, it would have been strange if I, as Minister, had ignored that expert opinion and given other estimates. The Leader of the Oppo- sition, in seeking applause, has revealed how low he can sink in an effort to indulge in a little cheap humour at the expense of the greatest national project that Australia has known.
The Leader of the Opposition also derided the action of the Government in relying upon the Commonwealth’s defence power as the constitutional basis of this legislation. The right honorable gentleman appears to be living in the horseand1buggy days, and is oblivious of the fact that we are now living in the atomic age. The Australian Government has entered into commitments with the United Kingdom Government in order that we may play our part in Empire defence. In accordance with those obligations, we shall require at least 400,000 kilowatts of electricity in and around Canberra during the next ten or twelve years. The power will be required for defence research, but the Leader of the Opposition sought to extract some humour from the proposal. To-day, we are living in the atomic age. The great Tennessee Valley Authority, to which the Leader of the Opposition referred, had to withstand a legal challenge before the United States Supreme Court prior to World War II. and before the atomic age came upon us. On that occasion, the Supreme Court ruled that the .federal authorities had the power to proceed with schemes for the generation of electric power for the purposes of war. The court considered that the only time such works could be effectively put in hand was in a period of peace. Mr. E. J. Higgins, M.L.C., who has recently returned from the United States of
America, is reported as having made the following statement : -
The Tennessee Valley Authority played a big part in the winning of the war by allowing a big bloc of power to be taken inland away from the great cities for the development of atomic weapons.
The great Tennessee Valley Authority derives its jurisdiction from the defence power that the United States Government possesses under the Constitution, and its power was confirmed before the outbreak of World War II. Now that the Australian Government desires to proceed with the great Snowy Mountains scheme, in an endeavour to ensure that Australia shall not lag in the race to develop atomic power, the Leader of the Opposition treats the subject in a humorous vein. I deeply regret that the right honorable gentleman’s speech was not broadcast yesterday. The listening public would have been astonished at the way in which he dealt with this most important subject.
The Leader of the Opposition described clause 25, which relates to the finances of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, as unique. He said that he could not recall an occasion when a similar clause had been incorporated in a bill. He then proceeded to ridicule that provision. I inform the right honorable gentleman that identical provisions were included in the Coal Industry Bill and the Shipping Bill, and he did not criticize them when those measures were before the House. But he has assumed the responsibility of endeavouring to ridicule an identical clause in this bill.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who also endeavoured to deride the bill, doubted whether the Government would be able to obtain the thousands of technicians, who, he considered, would be needed for the construction job. The fact is that thousands of technicians will not be required for the job. As I have said on a previous occasion, the total labour force of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour for the job will be between 3,500 and 4,000 men. I believe that I gave that information to the House when replying to a question by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser). If the Govern ment were to take the attitude that it should not begin the Snowy Mountains scheme during a period of full employment, the work would never be commenced. Work on the guided weapons testing range in Central Australia was begun two years ago, and the honorable member for Richmond could have applied to that project the same objection as that which he has advanced against the Snowy Mountains scheme. Approximately 3,500 men are working on the guided weapons testing range in Central Australia, and the work is ahead of schedule. Are we less capable of undertaking the Snowy Mountains scheme? As university students qualify as engineers and surveyors, and technical college students qualify as artisans, the Snowy Mountains authority will employ them. The honorable member for Richmond may rest assured that the Government will make progress with the construction job.
About 90 per cent. of the speech by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) was a valuable contribution to the debate, but in the remaining 10 per cent., the honorable gentleman could not resist the temptation to criticize the bill. He expressed the hope that the Government was serious when it announced its intention to proceed with the work. The honorable gentleman recalled that no progress had been made with the Government’s proposal to standardize railway gauges in Australia. The reason for lack of progress in the standardization of railway gauges is that enabling legislation has to be passed by the State parliaments. It has not been passed by all of them. That sort of legislation will not be necessary for the development of this project. As an earnest of our seriousness, work has already begun on the project. It was begun before the bill was submitted. When I reported to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), I said, “We have agreement from the States about the major part of the scheme, and we want to place orders for equipment in order that we may go ahead “. The Prime Minister replied, “ As far as I am concerned, finance shall not stand in the way of this great national undertaking “.
– Without parliamentary authority!
– Yes, without parliamentary authority! That also proves our sincerity. The amount of £100,000 was allocated to the project by way of treasury advance. The job is under way and the tempo will increase as time passes. I hope that in the lifetime of every honorable member we shall see the streams of the Snowy Mountains area harnessed for the generation of electricity and irrigation. The honorable member for Indi joined with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) in advocating for this project an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States on the lines of the River Murray Agreement. If we had to go through the tortuous process of trying to bring about such an agreement, I do not think my grandchildren would live long enough to see the project begun, to say nothing of its being completed. The States negotiated for 70 or SO years about the use of the Murray waters. I have in my office the history of the River Murray Agreement. It was written by a former member of the River Murray Commission, a Mr. Eaton. He sets out in detail the tortuous course that the negotiations followed. Strangely enough, it was Lord Forrest, then Sir John Forrest, whose name my electorate bears, who, in 1902, as Treasurer, brought the States concerned together and got the first agreement about the use of the Murray waters. But it was 1915, when the River Murray Waters Act was passed, before anything worthwhile was achieved. Is it seriously suggested that we should risk a like delay in the development of this project by endeavouring to bring the States into line with the Commonwealth on a footing similar to that of the River Murray Waters Act under which the River Murray Commission was established ? Surely not! As a further indication of how difficult it is for the States to agree about matters like this, I refer to the five years of delay that took place before agreement was reached on the proposal to increase the height of the wall of the Hume Weir in order to increase its capacity. There was no argument about the allocation of water, riparian rights or administration, because those aspects were already covered in the River Murray
Agreement and had existed since 1915, when the commission was established. The only point at issue was the heightening of the wall and the protection of the catchment area. Yet, five years were occupied to negotiate a matter that ought to have been decided in a few weeks. The people of Australia cannot afford further delay in connexion with the Snowy Mountains scheme and delay will not be countenanced.
The right honorable member for Cowper made a worthwhile contribution to the debate, and I desire to reply to only a few points that were made by him. He said that the work might take 40 years to complete. Perhaps it will. I shall not argue with him on that point, because no one knows exactly how long the work will take, but, in my opinion, which is based on the advice of experts, we ought to be able to absolutely complete the job within 25 years. But people will not have to wait that long for power or water for irrigation. Within eight or ten years, the first block of power and water for irrigation will be available. Within that period, we expect to be able to generate 400,000 kilowatts of power and reticulate about 600,000 acre-feet of water. The Murrumbidgee irrigation area in New South Wales now uses 500,000 gallons of water a year, and it required 25 or 30 years for that stage to be reached. I admit that with modern appliances engineers and their gangs are able to work faster to-day than they were able to work in those days. So, within eight or ten years, we should be able to supply sufficient water to enable the size of the Murrumbidgee irrigation area to be doubled. Within another four years, we shall provide 300,000 more acrefeet of water to the area and we shall make a total addition of 900.000 acre-feet in twelve or fourteen years. The right honorable gentleman also advocated that plant and equipment ordered for this project should also be used for similar projects. That is a good suggestion. I assure the right honorable gentleman that all such equipment as earthmoving machinery and the machines to construct the race lines and bore the tunnels will be made available, as opportunity permits, to State authorities requiring such services for similar undertakings. I assure the right honorable gentleman, who advocated the greatest coordination and co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, that the Government has co-operated with them in every way. It will continue to do so. It has also co-operated with local authorities and will continue to do that. It needs the co-operation of all the authorities if it is to get the work clone within the hoped-for time. I hope that we have heard the last of the interstate bickering. The State-rights outlook of some honorable members in debating this bill is in marked contrast with the broad national -outlook of the State Ministers when they met the Commonwealth Ministers to consider the project. In this debate we heard more petty parish politics from certain honorable members of this National Parliament than we have heard during the whole of our discussions with the State Ministers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Act to bind States).
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) [4.7 1 . - I cannot allow this clause to go through without some reference to it, though my remarks will be almost as brief as the clause itself. The clause reads -
This Act shall bind the Crown in right of a State.
I have grave doubt of the right of the Commonwealth to enact a clause of that type. If it had the right to do so, it would not be necessary to put it into this legislation. This is the second of the provisions, other than those in the preamble, that I think are constitutionally dynamite. The other one will be dealt with later. I leave it at that.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (The Snowy Mountains Area).
.- I do not want to be obstructive, but I point out that the only Snowy Mountains that I know of are the Snowy Mountains on Guy Fawkes plateau at the head of the Clarence River. I do not know why they have parted with their name.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 - (1.) The Commissioner shall be assisted by two associate Commissioners, each of whom shall be appointed by the Governor-Genera).
.- I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), all the words after “ by “, first occurring, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ three Associate Commissioners, who shall be appointed by the Governor of New South Wales, the Governor of Victoria and the Governor of South Australia, respectively “.
As I emphasized in my second-reading speech, it is essential to obtain the utmost co-operation and collaboration of the States in the development of this project. After long experience, I am satisfied that we shall make more progress with that co-operation and collaboration than without it, and the best place in which to ensure it is in the personnel of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority itself. “We shall need the assistance of the technical men of the States and perhaps their plant and equipment, and the States may have to pass legislation complementary to this legislation. Not only Victoria and New South Wales are concerned in this project; South Australia also is concerned. If the clause is amended as I desire it will read -
The presence on the authority of three technically qualified representatives of the States would ensure the collaboration and co-operation that are vital if the greatest progress is to be made in the shortest possible time. Such men would be able to place a finger readily on men and equipment of the type that the authority will need from time to time, because they will be fully aware of the resources of men and equipment possessed by the States that they represent. Even if the Government cannot see its way to accepting the amendment immediately, I ask that it give it full consideration before the bill is placed on to the statute-book.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment, because the authority is to be set up by the
Commonwealth. If the people that the right honorable gentleman desires to have appointed to it were appointed by the States as their representatives, they would immediately be subject -to the Commonwealth and would lose all their rights as representatives of the States. They must be servants of the authority, and could not be subject to State direction in regard to their duties.
– If they were appointed as I have suggested they would start off on a very good basis.
– What I propose to do, although I am not prepared to say that we are going to accept whatever State men may come forward, is to have discussions with the responsible Ministers in the States regarding the appointment of personnel and of the associate commissioners. The final selection, however, particularly of the commissioner and associate commissioners, must be a matter for the Commonwealth, although the appointment should be a matter for discussions with the States. I also point out to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that even after the authority has been established we propose to have a ministerial committee on which there will be two Ministers from this Government and two each from the Governments of Victoria and New South Wales. That will be an advisory body which will discuss problems from time to time. At the same time we shall keep in being the departmental committee that actually framed certain of the reports which have been referred to in this debate. The personnel of that committee includes Dr. L. F. Loder, as chairman; Mr. A. ‘S. Brown, who is the Acting Director-General of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction ; Mr. J. M. Main, the Chief Engineer of the Department of Public Works of New South Wales; Mr. F. H. Brewster, the chairman of the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission in New South Wales; Mr. V. J. F. Brain, the Chairman of the New South Wales Electricity Authority; Mr. L. R. East, Chairman of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of Victoria; and Mr. E. Bate, Chief Engineer of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. As I have said, that committee of departmental representatives will continue to function so that we shall be able to co-ordinate suggestion to ensure that the commission will be familiar with the requirements of the respective States.
– I support the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). The Minister has made an answer in respect of it that I might describe as technically accurate. In other words, he points out that, having regard to the general structure of this bill, to alter this clause in the way suggested would be to convert certain representatives appointed by the States into, using the words in their broad sense, servants of the Commonwealth in a Commonwealth undertaking. No doubt that is quite true. But the whole point is that unless the hill is completely reconstructed it will not be possible to submit an amendment which, of its own force, will give effect to the views of this side of the committee. All we can hope to do is to put forward amendments that will enable these views to be stated and to be given some point. The substance of the right honorable member’s amendment is the argument, which was very lightly dismissed by the Minister, that the States are not to be collaborators with the Commonwealth in the carrying out of this work. It is quite plain that there will be many attempts to falsify the attitude of the Opposition to this matter and I therefore restate it in short terms. The Opposition regards the carrying out of this scheme as of first-rate importance and urgency. There need be no ambiguity about that. But the Opposition says, and the statement can stand a lot of repetition, that it believes in the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. It believes that the Constitution should be observed. It believe that where the Commonwealth has certain functions and powers it ought to perform those functions and wield those powers, and where the States have powers and functions, they should do- likewise. If the line of demarcation between, one set of powers has to be altered it should not be altered by driving » bulldozer through it by the sheer financial power of the Commonwealth, but by a vote of the people deliberately arrived at. I seem to remember the Minister saying once, although I shall not say when, that the Opposition was trying to drive a wedge between the Commonwealth and ‘ the States. I should say rather that the Government is driving the States out of the business altogether. It is all very well to say that one State government or another is quite agreeable to this scheme. I say quite frankly that I am not concerned for a moment with whether one State government is agreeable or not. If every State government happened to be in such a state of mind or of politics that it agreed with the violation of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia I should still say, “I am for the Constitution “, and so would other honorable members on this side of the committee. Is it really pretended that the Commonwealth, under its defence power and its power to provide electric light and power for the Australian Capital Territory, is justified in taking as its sole responsibility the creation of a hydro-electric scheme that is primarily designed to satisfy the industrial needs of New South Wales and. Victoria? Does anybody seriously pretend that that is an exercise of the Commonwealth’s power? A babe in arms could not pretend that it was so. But what the Government has done is to say to itself, “ This is a popular project. Everybody will want it to go on and therefore we shall be’ able to use that positive, affirmative and approving public opinion to induce people to say that it does not matter if we are violating the Constitution because it is all in a good cause.” I say to the committee and to the people of Australia that if this scheme can be put forward as purely and simply a Commonwealth project, with no legislative co-operation on the part of the States to bring their powers into the pool pf power, there is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth from establishing steel works to-morrow. If anybody on the Government side of the committee really wants to address himself to this problem; he might well do so, because if this is sound, as a’ proposition of constitutionality - and the Constitution, after all, is the basic law of this country - then the Commonwealth could establish vast steel works even to the limit of monopoly, using 95 per cent, of the product of the works for ordinary commercial purposes’ and justify. the whole thing as a Commonwealth project by saying, “ We shall require the other 5 per cent, for munitions factories and certain Commonwealth and war purposes “. If this is to be the new Constitution of Australia, the people, might as well be told about it in plain terms. It is, I think, rather unfortunate that the Minister should have become so taken up with the obvious benefits of this scheme that he appears to resent any criticism of it. Ours is a basic criticism, not of the scheme as a scheme, because the scheme itself is of the first order and commends itself to everybody, but of the way in which the Government has gone about this whole matter. We would do well to remind ourselves that there are two schools of thought in Australia to-day. One school says, “ Aggregate every stick of power that you can in the central government until ultimately you have the lot “. If I were a socialist, that would be my policy.
-. - Unification is the socialist policy.
– But there is another school of thought strongly growing in this country, I am happy to say, that says, “ Unless you maintain a limit of power on the Commonwealth, unless you divide authority and respect the limit’s of authority, the ordinary freedom of the ordinary man will suffer “. What earthly reason is there why the Commonwealth should not have gone to the States in connexion with this project as it went to New South Wales in connexion with the coal industry?
– And to Tasmania in connexion with the aluminium industry.
– After all, when the coal problem arose what did the Commonwealth do ? It did not say, “ We shall take .charge of all this because coal is vital for defence and for the production of electrical power for Commonwealth projects”. Instead, the Government went to its colleagues in the New South Wales Government and said, “ Let us get together “. What is more, it went about the matter in a very sound constitutional fashion. It said, “ The Commonwealth has certain powers. Let it exercise them. The State has certain powers. Let it exercise its powers. If “ both governments pass the same legislation, or approximately the same legislation, then between the two of them they will have exercised the total amount of power necessary to deal with the coal problem “. That is how the Joint Coal Board and the Coal Industry Tribunal were established and began to function. But when it comes to this great scheme, the constitutionality of which ought to be placed beyond the slightest shadow of doubt, the States are merely brought in for conferences and are not asked to do anything about it otherwise. The Commonwealth, with its disregard for the Constitution, says, “ We have the money, we shall put the scheme in hand and who will there be to challenge or criticize it ? “ I remind this Government that in the last year or two, whether it was due to the fault of some of its Ministers or not I do not know, it has had a rather unhappy experience in grabbing a t power.
– I rise to make only one observation. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was speaking on the second reading of this bill he said that it was absurd-
– I rise to order! 1 understand from, a ruling given yesterday that it is not permissible for an honorable member to refer in the committee to a debate that took place in the House.
– That is correct.
– When the Leader of the Opposition spoke recently on this matter he said that it was absurd to base this scheme on the defence power because, at the most, 5 per cent, of the power generated from the Snowy Mountains scheme would be used directly for defence purposes. Only this afternoon–
– If the honorable member desires to quote me in a breach of the Standing Orders, then for once would he quote me correctly?
– I am quoting what the right honorable member said only a few minutes ago. It is only a few minutes ago that the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) said that the Commonwealth would require, for direct defence purposes under an agreement made with the Government of Great Britain that would enable us to play our full part in Empire defence, 400,000 kilowatts of electricity from this scheme. The Leader of the Opposition was not asleep when the Minister made that statement, although he may have appeared to be.
– The honorable member is referring again to the second-reading debate. If I were to speak as the honorable member is speaking, I should be ruled out of order.
– This afternoon I heard the Leader of the Opposition say in. this chamber during the committee stage, as will be shown in the Hansard report - and I repeat his statement - that 95 per cent, of the power to be produced by this scheme will not be used for defence purposes but that 5 per cent., at the most, will be used, and that it was therefore absurd to base the scheme on the Commonwealth’s defence power.
– In my second-reading speech I referred to a limit of up to 20 per cent.
– Why does the right honorable gentleman repeat incorrect statements? The Minister has made it perfectly plain this afternoon that, apart from munitions and other indirect uses to which power would be applied’, approximately 25 per cent, would be needed for direct defence purposes under agreement with the Government of Great Britain. The Leader of the Opposition might not previously have been aware of this, but he did not acknowledge his error, and has not varied’ his statement since the position was explained.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made it clear when he spoke on this amendment that, having regard to the form in which the bill was drafted, there was no reason why the amendment should be supported, and that the amendment had, in fact, been proposed only so that Opposition members could say certain things about the constitutional aspect. The Leader of the Opposition admitted, I think, that even he could not support the amendment of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), but he pointed out that it would give him an opportunity to discuss certain matters and, in particular, the form in which the’ bill had been prepared’ for presentation to the House.
The Minister for “Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) dealt quite adequately with the proposition of the right honorable member for Cowper. It is obvious that if certain associate members are added to the commission as representatives of the States they would, in fact, take a State outlook, when what we require is a national outlook. Moreover, if they were to have any value as State representatives they would have to receive instructions from their State governments, while all the time being, in fact, servants of the Commonwealth. I remind the right honorable member for Cowper that a much wiser Person than I said, “ No man can serve two masters “.
The point at issue could have been more appropriately discussed1 on the preamble to the bill, but, since it has been raised at this stage by the Leader of the Opposition, I propose to make a few observations on it. The right honorable gentleman said that the bill was a violation of the Constitution. He said that if the defence power could be invoked to justify the generation by the Commonwealth of hydro-electric power, then it could also be invoked to justify the Commonwealth in embarking on the production of steel. There is no comparison between the two things. Insofar as this scheme is related to defence, it is because the National Government has a duty to ensure that the war potential of Australia is expanded as much as possible. The quantity of electric power now available and in sight is totally inadequate to meet the demands that would be made upon it if Australia were again engaged in war. On the other hand, the present and1 planned production of steel is enough to meet all our requirements, either in peace or war, for many years.
M’r. Fadden. - I suppose that is why steel is being imported from Japan at a cost of £42 a ton.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is referring to a temporary shortage of steel. I know a good deal about the plans of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to expand the production of steel in this country, but some of the information was given to me in confidence, and I do not propose to divulge it here. T. am satisfied that Australia’s requirements in steel will be adequately met from the present production and future development of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The Leader of the Opposition said that the bill was a violation of the Constitution. He knows perfectly well that in time of war the entire industrial resources of a country are required to back up the war effort. Any government which neglects to develop to the full the country’s industrial potential in time of peace will find itself in a dangerous position in time of war.
– Then what about increasing the strength of the Army!
– All the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) can think of as a preparation for war is to introduce compulsory military training. T say emphatically that the proposal now before us will, when implemented, be a thousand times more valuable as a preparation for a future war than the training of all the available men in Australia to-day. The Government has given much attention to this matter during the last two years. In statements on defence policy I have said that Australia has undertaken to bear a greater share of the cost of defending the British Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite are always talking about what Australia ought to do to help in the defence of the British Commonwealth, but when we put forward concrete proposals they say that the proposals have nothing to do with defence preparations. I propose to read some extracts from memoranda prepared by the Defence Department, and submitted to this Parliament from time to time.
– And some have not been submitted.
– That is so, and I have explained why. Speaking on defence on a former occasion, I said -
Subject to the authority of Cabinet and the Council of Defence, the Minister and Department of Defence are responsible for -
The formulation and general application of a unified Defence Policy relating to the Defence Forces and their requirements, including -
Co-operation in British Commonwealth Defence and the Defence aspect of the Charter of the United Nations.
The supply aspect of Defence Policy, including the review of production programmes and capacity.
The scientific aspect of Defence Policy.
It is evident, therefore, that the measure before us is related to our defence policy in two ways. It is related to the scientific aspect, and also to the country’s industrial potential. Honorable members have been informed that the Government has set aside £250,000,000 for defence purposes to be expended over five years, of which £33,500,000 is to be devoted to defence scientific research. A large proportion of the money will be expended on the guided weapons testing range in South Australia, but there are other projects which we are considering in conjunction with the Government of the United Kingdom. Some are comparatively small, but there are one or two big projects which would require very large quantities of electric power. I do not say that any decision has been made on these matters up to date; they are under consideration.
– The Government has been considering them for three years, and has done nothing.
– The honorable member must know that in these matters we are co-operating with the United Kingdom, and it is not for us, but for the Government of the United Kingdom, to say whether a particular problem shall be tackled. We are not free to say that we will go ahead with such and such a scheme to-morrow. The time depends upon the decision of the predominant partner. There will be no delay in this country once a decision has been taken. The only point I am making now is that certain defence scientific research projects are under consideration, which, if under taken, would entail the use of very large quantities of electric power to carry them through. Therefore, under that heading alone the Government is justified in linking this measure with the defence power in the Constitution.
We have also to consider the country’s industrial potential. Honorable members will recall that, not long ago, there was set up in the Defence Department an organization known as the Joint War Production Committee, with Mr. John Storey, a very capable industrialist, as chairman. The committee is exactly similar to one set up in the United Kingdom, so that what we are doing in Australia in the way of developing our industrial potential for defence purposes is not unrelated to what is being done in the United Kingdom. Every effort is being made to co-ordinate our efforts with those of the defence authorities in Britain. One of the functions of the production committee is to examine the country’s industrial potential, including present production capacity and available resources. The war potential, from the defence aspect, is related to strategic considerations, and the priorities which should be applied. Planning for the defence of the British Commonwealth entails an examination of strategic plans. On an earlier occasion, I intimated that, after consultation with the United Kingdom Government and in co-operation with that government, a decision had been made that plans should be prepared for the development of Australia as a main support area.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- It has been rather interesting to hear the conflicting views expressed by two members of the Government on this subject. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) admitted that it was highly desirable that we should have the fullest co-operation of the States on this project. He said that the Government had adopted the principle of consultation with the States in connexion with this project and that it would retain the advisory committee which had been established for the purpose of advising the Government on the best way to tackle this project from the national stand-point. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has just intimated that it would be a terrible thing for the States to interfere in the work. He endeavoured to darken the counsel in this place by making a long dissertation about what constitutes a defence project. If I endeavoured to discuss that matter I should probably be ruled out of order by the Chair. The Minister’s sole object was to drag a herring across the trail of this discussion. Perhaps I should better express his intention if I said that he endeavoured to drag a Whale across the trail, and a very dead whale which has so often been dragged across the trail that its smell becomes more and more unpleasant. This measure should stand on its own feet. If we deal with it properly, it will stand on its own feet. After seven or eight years of ministerial office, the Minister should know better. When the Commonwealth operated the Cockatoo Dock and undertook work for the private shipping companies it was told that it had no authority to do so and, as a result, the dock was leased to private enterprise. The Minister has charged us with parochialism. There is no more suggestion of parochialism in our attitude towards this proposal than there was in our stand on the project for the standardization of railway gauges between Sydney and Brisbane. Have the men who are working on the river Murray waters scheme ever quarrelled about the inclusion of the States in that scheme? That scheme has been in progress since 1915 - for as long as an ordinary marriage lasts - and the work has proceeded in a most satisfactory way. Now, however, it has been suggested that we should ignore the States. It has been said that if the States are brought into this scheme, we shall not be able to get on with the job. If it was considered to be necessary to secure the consent and co-operation of the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria in relation to the river Murray waters scheme during the war period, when the Commonwealth’s defence power was unquestioned, surely it is a thousand times more necessary to seek the co-operation of the States in relation to the Snowy Mountains scheme at a time when there is considerable doubt about the legality of the continued use of the defence power. I deprecate the suggestion that anythingthat I say, or that the Leader of the Opposition may have said, indicates that we are not wholeheartedly behind this scheme. We want the people of Australia to understand that we believe that theright way to achieve our objectives is by co-operation with and not by domination of the States. What the Minister has said about the defence power therefore goes by the board. The honorable gentleman said that the Australian Capital Territory and defence projects will utilize approximately 400,000 kilowatts of the power to Degenerated by the Snowy Mountains project. The honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) chastised the Leader of the Opposition for assuming that the Australian Capital Territory and defence projects would use 20 per cent, of the total output. The Minister for Works and Housing has estimated that the total output of power from theproject is expected to he 1,700,000 kilowatts. Thus, the estimated usage of the Australian Capital Territory and defence projects is 23 per cent. The poorold Leader of the Opposition has been “ whacked “ by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro because he was a mere 3: per cent, out in his calculation ! The great bulk of the electric current to Degenerated will be used for other than defence purposes and the requirementsof the Australian Capital Territory. The diverted waters of the Snowy will alsobe used solely for rural developmental purposes. I am anxious to see the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority established on a proper basis from the commencement of this scheme. I do not want this authority to be associated in some mythical way with the Seat of Government AcceptanceAct. I want this great public work to become the pattern on which every great public work of a like character which weundertake in the future will be based. I appeal to the Government to reconsider its decision on this matter.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that on this matter he was speaking for the whole of the Opposition. I understood that the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) spoke for the Australian Country party when he dealt with this subject last night. He then indicated what I regarded as his unqualified support of this measure. Not at any time did he make any reservation in relation to the utilization of the defence power of the Commonwealth for this purpose.
– I unreservedly supported the objectives of the scheme.
– I think that I make a correct statement when I say that last night the honorable member gave this measure his unreserved support.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister in order in referring in committee to a debate which took place on the second-reading stage of the bill?
– The point of order is well taken. The Minister is not in order in replying in the committee to statements made during the second-reading debate.
– I bow to the ruling of the Chair. I am not certain whether the Leader of the Opposition speaks for all of the members of the Opposition on this matter, or indeed whether he speaks only for the Liberal party, but I point out that at the last conference which took place between the Commonwealth and the .States in regard to this scheme the two Victorian Ministers present, who were both members of the Liberal party, unreservedly supported the proposition that the Commonwealth should undertake this vast scheme. I am not at all certain that the Leader of the Opposition speaks either for all of the members of the Opposition in this chamber or for the Liberal party in Victoria.
– I have never claimed to speak for any .State government to which I did not belong.
– “Within the machinery of the Department of Defence itself we have been developing an organization to examine the war potential of this country which is very closely related to matters of strategy in relation to this particular area of the world. It was decided that we should try to develop Australia as a main support area in this strategic zone. If we are to develop Australia .as a main support area in this zone, it is inevitable that the Commonwealth must pay some attention to our industrial potential, because it is only from Australia that a war effort by the British Commonwealth of Nations in this area could’ be sustained. The Defence Committee has devoted very full attention to this matter. In a memorandum relating to the establishment of a joint war production committee, one of the functions of which would be to deal with the war potential of Australia, the Defence Committee stated -
With the establishment of the machinery for co-operation in British Commonwealth defence, the joint war production committee is necessary for the study of the supply aspect of the strategic plans in regard to the war potential that should be provided by the Department of Supply and Development, particularly from the angle of the development of Australia as a main support area in the Pacific in accordance with the proposal of the Prime Minister’s conference of 1940.
In the same memorandum the DefenceCommittee set out what would be some of the functions of a joint war production committee. The memorandum continued -
The Defence Committee has also pointed out the need for a joint war production committee when it was considering matters such as the following : -
The preservation of new and vital industries.
The ‘retention of resources which were developed during the war for the attack on special problems.
Defence requirements in relation to the location of industries.
There is a clear relationship between, the purposes of this bill and the very vital subject of the location, of our industries from the viewpoint of vulnerability in time of war. In recommending the establishment of a joint war production committee in Australia the Defence Committee suggested that the functions of the committee should’ include the duties -
To study the question of industrial war potential in all its aspects ; make recommendations as necessary for the retention of existing capacity and the creation of new capacity in peace as part of war potential; generally to co-ordinate the planning for the supply of raw materials and of industrial production to meet requirements in war.
Finally, in a series of observations on its recommendations the Defence Committee stated -
Another important feature of the functions of the Joint War Production Committee relates to the Defence aspect of the war potential. This does not impinge in any way on the responsibility of the Department of Supply and Development to establish and maintain government factories and to organize the industrial war potential. . . The approved basis of provisioning for the stocks and reserves to be carried in peace is bound up with the production potential, and the defence view on both is governed by strategic considerations.
I have endeavoured to make it clear-
– The Minister has not succeeded in doing so.
– The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) is too dense to understand anything. I have endeavoured to make it clear that it is the duty of the Government to endeavour to expand the industrial capacity of this country so that we shall have a war potential sufficient to back up any war effort which this country, in conjunction with the United Kingdom, may have to make in the event of another war. Plans to expand our industrial potential and, therefore, our war potential form an integral part of the strategic planning between ourselves and the United Kingdom. From that angle and also from the angle of defence scientific research, there is every justification for the Government’s action in proposing to embark upon this great undertaking under the authority of the defence power in the Constitution.
.- Whenever the Government wishes to usurp powers that rightly belong to the States, filch the liberties of the people by further socialistic legislation, or hide its deficiencies in regard to defence, it drags in the defence power in the Constitution. It is for those reasons that the defence power has been invoked in this instance. Honorable members of the party on this side of the committee approved 50 years ago of a scheme for the utilization of the waters of the Snowy River. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has attempted to delude the people by referring repeatedly to our industrial potential and its relationship to strategic considerations. The honorable gentleman made a remarkable statement in response to an interjection by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who asked why he did not strengthen the Army. He said that, from the point of view of defence, developments of this kind are a thousand times more valuable than military training. That was a ridiculous statement. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has fooled some of the State Ministers by the statements that he has made. The honorable gentleman said, in his second’-reading speech, that the power stations in the Snowy Mountains will be located’ underground and will be virtually’ safe from attack. What nonsense! Has not the honorable gentleman heard of what happened in the 1939-45 war? If an air task force were given the job of finding and destroying these power stations, it could find them and destroy them, not with atomic bombs, but with bombs of a kind that were used in the last war.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.How does the honorable gentleman relate his remarks to the clause that is before the committee ?
– I am attempting to reply to the Minister for Defence, who referred repeatedly, during the course of his speech, to the defence potential aspect of this scheme. The honorable gentleman reminds me of the famous Sergeant Maginot, a sergeant in the French army who became a Minister in the French Government. Sergeant Maginot convinced the French military authorities that if trenches were doig round the French frontier, France would be safe from attack. The Minister for Defence has the Maginot mind. He believes that a rocket range and a scheme for the generation of electricity and the provision of water for irrigation are substitutes for adequate defence preparations. That is nonsense. A bombing force would not need to find and destroy the turbines in the Snowy Mountains. It could destroy the installations above the ground. During the last war, dams in the Ruhr were destroyed by Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force. In my opinion, this project is strategically unsound. The Minister for Defence was not able to name any senior member of the Australian forces who has said1 that it is strategically sound. Present methods of warfare demand the dispersion and not the concentration of power plants. Before the landings in Normandy, thousands of allied bomber aircraft were occupied for weeks-
– Order! The honorable gentleman must come back to the Snowy River.
– I am replying to the assertion of the Minister for Defence that this scheme will be a great factor in our defence preparations. I say that it will be nothing of the kind. Every reasonable person welcomes a scheme for the provision of more water for irrigation and the generation of more electricity. The Opposition supports this scheme from that point of view. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has been maligned and misrepresented by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser) and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who said that he did not want this scheme to be proceeded with. What the right honorable gentleman said was that the Government is dragging in the old story of the defence power, as it did in regard to shipping and aluminium, in order to get greater authority for itself. The electrical generating plant in Victoria is largely concentrated in one area, Yallourn, where Sir John Monash harnessed the brown coal resources of Gippsland and declared that Victoria would no longer be the industrial vassal of New South Wales. The output of that project is being doubled by extensions at Morwell. In addition, Victoria has the Eildon and Kiewa hydro-electric schemes. One would think to hear the speeches of honorable members opposite that this Government has suddenly discovered this source of power in Australia. The defence aspect of the scheme is being used as an excuse for the usurpation of power by the Commonwealth. Grandiose words are used in the bill. The preamble contains the following recital: -
And whereas it is desirable that the generation of electricity . . . should be under taken in such an area and in such a manner as to be least likely to suffer interruption in time of war.
I agree with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that this is an occasion for co-operation and not domination by the Commonwealth. If the Australian Government had got the State governments “ on side “ with it, instead of fooling them to a certain degree in relation to the defence aspect - I agree that they have consented to the scheme in part - this enterprise could have been treated as one for the generation of electricity and the provision of water for irrigation and there would have been no need to stress the defence factor. This scheme will not be an advantage to Australia from the defence aspect because, being so centralized, the installations will require a. great deal of safeguarding. The Government is using this scheme and others designed to increase our industrial potential in order to cover up its deficiencies in rgard to the training of the armed forces. Great Britain is calling up 170,000 men-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That matter is not relevant to the bill.
– This socialist Government ignores the necessity for adequate armed forces. If the Minister for Defence would direct his attention to defence as defence instead of trying to pretend that this is a defence project, Australia would be considerably safer than it is. He should ensure that our armed forces are adequately equipped, manned and trained. He should not seek to fall back on a kind of Maginot Line. .Schemes of this character, which have a commercial value and some defenc value because they increase our industrial potential, should not be used to “ put something over “ the States and the people.
– The Opposition has raised two bogies in relation to this scheme. First, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has said that, in his opinion, it is strategically unsound, and therefore, from the point of view of defence, it would not be desirable to expend £200,000,000 upon it. If the honorable gentleman believes that that is so, he should in the interests of his country, oppose this measure. The other bogy that has been raised is that the States should have a bigger say’ in the scheme. In my experience, when the States and the Commonwealth combine to put a big scheme into operation, each of the parties to the agreement pays a percentage of the cost. I do not think that at the present time any of the States would be willing to assume the responsibility of paying a proportion of the huge sum of money that will be expended on the Snowy Mountains scheme. If they were willing to do so, doubtless the State governments would have told the Commonwealth that this legislation is an interference with their rights and that it should not be proceeded with. The only opposition to the present proposals has come from honorable gentlemen opposite, who have queried the right of the Commonwealth to do what is proposed and have suggested that the States should have a say in the scheme. “We have been told very clearly by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) that the States will play a part in the scheme. They will be responsible for the use of the water that will be made available. Almost the whole of the Snowy River area in which the work will be done is in New South Wales. The New South Wales Government will have the task of reticulating the water that will be made available to New South Wales. The Minister quoted figures to show that in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to refer in committee to the Minister’s second-reading speech.
– The extra amount of water that will be made available to New South Wales under the scheme will enable the size of the Murrumbidgee irrigation area to be doubled within eight or ten years. While the Commonwealth is proceeding with the work that is envisaged, at a huge expenditure, the New South Wales Government will have the task of preparing an irrigation scheme in the Murrumbidgee area. I do not think that Victoria is concerned with the Snowy waters except insofar as the operation of the scheme will affect the volume of water that now flows down the Murray and is used in Victoria. Under these proposals, however, the volume of water which will flow down the Murray will be increased. The Victorian Government will have its work cut out to make provision for the proper utilization of that extra water. Honorable gentlemen opposite who contend that the States should have some say in this matter have overlooked the fact that four parties are involved in this business. The first is the Commonwealth, which must undertake the constructional work. The second party is New South Wales, because huge areas of that State will benefit from the scheme. The third party is Victoria, which also will benefit from the extra supplies of water and electricity that will be made available to it. The fourth party is South Australia, which will benefit from the water that will be diverted into the Murray and which can be used for irrigation projects in that State. If it is argued that the States should have a say in this scheme, is it not logical to argue also that the Commonwealth should have a say in the use to which the extra supplies of water are put in the States? Should the Commonwealth be represented in the Departments of the State governments that will deal with the use of that water ?
This scheme has a defence value. For that reason alone, the validity of the bill should not be in doubt. Let us consider the proposition that industries for defence purposes will not be linked with this work. For many years, non-Labour parties have advocated the use of the waters from the Snowy River catchment area for irrigation purposes in Victoria and New South Wales. The failure of New South Wales to develop that valuable source of water supply indicates that the magnitude of the project has been beyond the financial resources of that State. Victoria and South Australia, which would derive considerable advantage from increased supplies of water for irrigation purposes, have not attempted to co-operate with New South Wales in developing the resources of the Snowy River catchment area. The Com monwealth has now resolved to undertake the work. Let us be “big” Australians, and admit that the Snowy
Mountains scheme is a national undertaking that will enable an enormous expansion of production in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. The Australian Government is responsible for the finances of the country, because, under the uniform income tax legislation, it is the sole taxing authority, and it reimburses the States for the loss of their power to impose taxes. The cost of the Snowy Mountains scheme will be between £175,000,000 and £200,000,000, and, therefore, finance will be a most important factor in the project. Only the Australian Government, which has the backing of the nation, can provide the necessary money.
Let us forget, for a few moments, the attitude that some of the States may adopt toward the proposal. If the States had considered that they should undertake the scheme, they would have taken the preliminary steps years ago. But the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has explained that two Victorian Ministers have expressed their agreement with the bill. I assume that the Government of New South Wales is also agreeable to the Commonwealth undertaking the work. If that is the position, it ill-becomes honorable members opposite to claim that New South Wales and Victoria should be partners in the scheme. It is an old maxim in business that before a person argues about who his partner will be, he should ascertain whether the other person is willing to be his partner. I am not aware that the Government of New South Wales and the Government of Victoria are anxious to be partners with the Commonwealth in carrying out the Snowy Mountains scheme. I believe that those States are satisfied to allow the Commonwealth to assume the responsibility for it, and to undertake the work.
All honorable members are in agreement with the principle underlying this bill, and admit that the utilization of the waters of the Snowy Mountains catchment area will enable production to be expanded in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. The Snowy Mountains scheme is of nation-wide interest. In South Australia, which is hundreds of miles from the Snowy River catch ment area, Labour party committees have debated the merits of that proposal, and the Bradfield plan for providing water for central Australia. People in other States consider that work on the project should be begun, but they are not keen for their State governments to have a finger in the pie. Some authority must accept the financial responsibility for the work, and carry out the job. Although schemes for utilizing the waters of the Snowy River have been discussed for many years, the Commonwealth is the first authority to taken even the preliminary steps to launch a definite project. The Commonwealth now says to the States, in effect, “ In the interests of the future of this country, we shall go on with the work. The job will not be delayed through differences of opinion as other projects have been delayed “. Let us suppose that New South Wales and Victoria were partners with the Commonwealth in this scheme. I venture to suggest that the same difficulty would arise as has arisen in the plans to standardize railway gauges. An understanding was reached by the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States that that important national work should be undertaken. When the States were informed of their commitments, New South Wales said, in effect, “We shall not derive any benefit from the standardization of railway gauges, and, therefore, we are not prepared to commit ourselves to this expenditure “. Some States would almost certainly adopt a similar attitude if they were invited to be partners with the Commonwealth in the Snowy Mountains scheme. If the States had to carry any responsibility for financing the Snowy Mountains scheme, endless delay would result.
– The Government of New South Wales signed the agreement for the standardization of railway gauges.
– I admit that a Labour government, and not a Liberal government, signed that agreement, but it is now refusing to introduce the necessary legislation to give effect to it. However, the chamber is not considering that subject at the present time. I have been merely drawing an analogy between the delay that has occurred in respect of the proposal for the standardization of railway gauges, and the delays that would occur over the Snowy Mountains scheme if the States became partners with the Commonwealth in that project. Under the present bill, the Commonwealth will do the work in the best interests of the nation.
.- The remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) are a pleasant contrast to those of most Government supporters, who have concentrated on abusing the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and misrepresenting his views on this proposal. I welcome the speech by the honorable member for Hindmarsh because he had the fairness to admit that every honorable member supports this bill whole-heartedly and congratulates the Government upon its aims. Naturally, we support the Snowy Mountains scheme, because it is, in essence, one of the greatest developmental schemes that have ever been submitted to this Parliament. The point at issue now is that the Snowy Mountains scheme is not called a developmental work. Members of the Opposition object to the attempt to describe the work as a defence project. Why is it being called a defence project ? As the Leader of the Opposition and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) have pointed out, it is being called a defence project, and is treated as such, so that the Commonwealth may control it, and, in turn, control the States. Honorable members opposite do not hesitate to express, from time to time, their views about the reduction of the sovereign powers of the States. Supporting this project as we do, I cannot see, at this stage, any reasons for becoming excited, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser) has become. After all, we do not imagine that the Commonwealth is about to proceed with the work. The necessary labour, machinery and materials including steel and coal, have not yet been provided for the job. This bill will merely establish the. Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority. As far as honorable members can judge at present, this bill will place the Commonwealth in the same position as it occupies in respect of legislation dealing with the standardization of railway gauges and the establishment of the aluminium industry in Australia. In many respects, this ‘bill is a piece of window-dressing for the forthcoming general election. I am prepared to take a wager now that before we go to the polls, an honorable member opposite will be photographed in the act of turning the first sod in the Snowy Mountains area, and the photograph will he published in the press and otherwise circulated throughout the Commonwealth. But that will be the extent of the work.
– Order! The honorable member must relate his remarks to the clause under consideration.
– The Leader of the Opposition has queried the statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) that the Snowy Mountains scheme is primarily a defence project. I support the views that the Leader of the Opposition has expressed on that aspect. This Government has notoriously been most tardy and “ gutless “ in defence matters.
– Order ! This clause does not deal with defence matters. It relates to the appointment of a commissioner and two associate commissioners.
– In accordance with your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall not pursue that aspect, and I shall turn to some of the arguments which the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) have used in support of this clause. Both Ministers have declared that the Snowy Mountains scheme is a defence project, because the United Kingdom Government has asked the Australian Government to undertake certain work in connexion with Empire defence. I merely comment that had the United Kingdom Government asked the Australian Government to undertake a work of such magnitude in the interests of Empire defence, Ave would have heard a great deal about it before a passing reference was made to the subject this afternoon in order to justify a point which had arisen in a minor clause of the bill. I do not believe that the United Kingdom Government has asked the Aus- tralian Government to undertake this work. That statement was thought up and thrown into the debate at the last minute in an attempt to justify the basis of the whole project.
The Minister for Defence used an expression to the effect that Australia was becoming a main support area in an integrated scheme for Empire defence. “What on earth does that mean? I am most anxious to know the answer to that question. How can Australia he a main support area when all that we have is a scheme for the provision of a great hydro-electric power plant. The bill deals almost exclusively with the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. Australia has not the necessary ships, man-power or weapons to be a main support area in an integrated scheme for Empire defence. However, I shall not elaborate that point. It is too ridiculous to warrant further comment.
The Minister for Defence has also stated that we must pay great attention to the war industrial potential of the country. There are certain matters in relation to the industrial potential of this country that should occupy the attention of the Government at the present time. Our coal-fields are a great source of power, but through the inaction of the Government, our power resources are at a lower point than they have ever been in the past.
– Order ! The honorable member must return to the clause under consideration.
– Australian defence industries, and other industries, are completely disrupted, and the Government is doing absolutely nothing to remedy the situation. The argument that the Snowy Mountains scheme is an integral part of our defence plan is humbug, and I merely rose to point out that fact. I prefer this plan to go ahead, even in its present form, rather than not to go forward at all, but I feel, at this juncture, that I should expose some of the hastily-conceived and palpably insincere arguments that have been advanced in support of the Snowy Mountains scheme as a defence project.
.- The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), whom I almost invariably have the unhappy experience of following in debate, has made one good statement. He said, in effect, that he would rather see this scheme go ahead in its present form than not to go ahead at all. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) will agree with that statement, which represents advanced thinking compared with the views of other members of the Opposition about the Snowy Mountains project. I believe that this scheme would never have come to pass on its present scale if the Commonwealth had not taken the initiative. If it had been left to the States to decide it would have been like so many other things that we have left to them. We should never have got unanimity of thought and action. Nothing would have been done. Honorable members opposite are not decrying the need for defence as such, but they are decrying defence of this type, which has to do with the generation of electric power. What would electric power be used for in a defence programme, of which this hydro-electric scheme is a part ? It would be used to provide power for atomic research. Honorable members opposite talk about defence in the terms of soldiers, guns and bayonets which, in this atomic age, shows that they have a Maginot-line complex. Hearing them talk about defence, one would never think that the atomic age has arrived.
– Why has Russia maintained an army of 13,000,000 men?
– Doubtless, it has its own reasons. An American author has written -
I do not know with what weapons the next war will be fought, but I do know that the wai after that will be fought with bows and arrows.
He meant that the next war would end the white civilization. In atomic research Australia is working in conjunction with the United Kingdom.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The clause before the committee makes no reference to atomic research.
– It is obvious that in the defence programme, with which this scheme is integrated, that aspect must be considered. When the Tennessee Valley Authority was constituted, it affected five States of the United States of America. It was challenged in the Supreme Court of the United States of America, which held that it was right and proper, in times of peace, that the nation should prepare for war. It allowed the authority to carry on its great programme. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) referred to the fact that it was from the Tennessee Valley Authority that the United States of America got the electric power with which to conduct the atomic energy research which, after .two or three years led to the production of the first atomic bomb.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member may not refer in committee to speeches made in the second-reading debate. .
– I was referring to the Minister’s remarks on this clause. If we cannot prepare for war on a State basis with any likelihood of success1, or win a war on a State basis, but are able to do bo only on a Commonwealth basis, we could certainly never carry through a scheme of this magnitude on a State basis. That is the answer, I think, to the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) of the defence aspect of the hill. The righthonorable gentleman, with his legal mind at work, tried to make out that we are trampling down State sovereignty. Only two States, New South Wales and Victoria, are directly involved in the scheme. That is the sort of tripe that we hear so often from the Opposition. If the Constitution does not permit us to plan for atomic defence by the creation of hydro-electric power, there is something wrong with the Constitution. It is fantastic to think that we could ever get agreement among the States on all details of such a project as this. We have been discussing it in Australia for 80 years. Now, when the Commonwealth comes forward with a plan, cut and dried after tremendous thought and planning and a great number of conferences between Commonwealth and State Ministers, the Opposition does not want the plan to go ahead in its present form. But it has not given us an alternative plan. The amendment is not an alternative.
– It is humbug.
– Humbug, yes. It is only designed to delay the scheme. Time is of the essence of the contract. So much is involved in the completion of the plan, particularly the first phase of it, that time is a vital consideration. I was glad to hear the Minister for Works and Housing tell honorable members that work on the scheme has ‘already begun. In spite of what the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) hae said, the first work has been done.
– What is being done ?
– A road is being built. When I was in Tumut recently, I saw the first gang go out on to the job. I shall not believe that the Opposition is sincere in its desire that Australia should be adequately defended if it continues to ridicule the defence aspect of this project, for there is no doubt that the resources that will be available when the job has been completed, or even half completed, will make a tremendous contribution to our defence potential. Defence has more to do with what electricity can produce than it has with armies. So I hope that we shall agree to this clause in such a way as will show to the people of Australia that we want to go on with the project on a Commonwealth basis and that we do not want to resort to the humbug of having half a dozen different authorities all disagreeing about it.
– I think the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) has said precisely, accurately and truthfully that some of the statements of the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) about this scheme were in the nature of windowdressing for the general election. An expensive booklet about the scheme has been prepared and distributed to us. I point out to those who have not taken the trouble to look through it that it contains little about the Snowy Mountains scheme. It contains a lot of photographs of Yallourn and the Kiewa River.
– There is a picture of the new works on the cover.
– There is a picture of something on the cover, but I do not know what it is. There is a public works committee of this Parliament whose function is to inquire into great public works that are submitted to it. The committee has to report the result of its inquiries to the Parliament. Significantly, this, the greatest of all public works to be proposed in Australia has not been submitted to the committee for inquiry, and it probably will never be; but, if the scheme were a living scheme and something that was about to be put into operation, or, as the honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) has said, is actually in operation, one would have expected that the Public Works Committee, which is the watchdog for the public and is required to investigate the desirability and costs of public works projects, would have been asked to investigate the project and report the result of its investigations to the Parliament. I venture to suggest, therefore, that this measure is a foreshadowing of something that the Government hopes to do. In that respect, it has my blessing; but it has been brought down now as a piece of window-dressing for the general election so that honorable members opposite may be able to go before the people and say, “ What a wonderful Government you have. We are about to give you millions of kilowatts of power “.
– Do you not wish you could say that?
– I wish it were true. There is not a member on this side of the committee who does not hope that it will come true, but at present we are having served up to us a great deal of propaganda, but not a really cutanddred scheme.
The primary reason for my rising to speak is to support the remarks of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), who was described by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) as “the poor old Leader of the Opposition “. I think that description is apt, in view of some of the arguments that he has had to listen to to-day.
– There is life in the old dog yet.
– I support my leader in this way. First, we all want to see the
Snowy Mountains scheme completed. Secondly, we all want it to be constitutional because, if we do not get it in a constitutional way, we are not likely to get it at all. That was the whole burden of the right honorable gentleman’s remarks, as I understood them, on this clause, and in the relevant part of his second-reading speech. It is useless to embark on something that is likely to be blown out of court later, as this scheme may be. All that we offer to the committee is something by way of a warning. I direct the attention of honorable members and the country to the fact that we did not vote against the second-reading of the bill. Therefore, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) was correct and fair when he said that all parties gave the scheme their blessing. Any attempt by the Australian Labour party, on the hustings or elsewhere, to suggest that we are against the idea will be false and paltry. We favour it. Because we want it, we want it to be constitutional. If this bill concerned a proposal for the generation of hydro-electric .power at the Cotter River for use in the lighting of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory and for the operation of factories and plants established in the Australian Capital Territory for the manufacture of war materials, the measure would be clearly within the defence power of the Commonwealth and its powers under the Seat of Government Acceptance Act. Further, if surplus power were sold to consumers outside the territory, the whole project might reasonably be held to be within the defence power. At any rate, if the project were challenged, the only part that could fall to the ground would be trifling and the rest would stand. The .position facing us is just the opposite. On the Government’s own admission, about 20 per cent, of the power generated in the Snowy Mountains area will be used for defence purposes and the rest, under section 39 of the bill, will be sold to outside customers. The validity of that part of the scheme is very likely to be subject to challenge. It might be challenged by some one who considered that his rights were infringed, and the case would go to the High Court.
Then, the High Court might be forced to say that however desirable and meritorious the project was, it did not fall within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth, because it did not come within the defence placitum, and that if it did not come within the defence placitum, it did not come under any placitum of the Constitution and that it must therefore fall to the ground. It is for that reason that we say, “ Why not tackle tds thing in a different way? Why not go to the States? Why not go along to the States and get their co-operation ? “ The Government says the States are in agreement with it about the scheme. Then why not make an agreement with Victoria and New South Wales and get them to pass complementary legislation so that, as in the case of the Joint Coal Board, there would be New South Wales and Victorian acts covering the field of power held by those Governments and a Commonwealth act covering the field of Commonwealth power. Together those acts would cover the whole field. By doing that the Government could obtain exactly the same result as it will obtain by what it intends to do by this bill, but its authority to go ahead with the work would be on a firm basis, instead of a basis of doubtful legality as at present. The Opposition’s proposal that the Government should enlist the aid of the States is one that is designed to support and not to destroy the scheme.
– I can see no danger in the present proposals. I understand that Victoria and New South Wales are in agreement with the Commonwealth regarding this scheme, and, in my opinion, it is essential that it should be begun immediately. The water that it will produce is very badly required-, both in the Murrumbidgee and Murray areas, and the ‘power that it will produce is required not only for industry but also for people throughout the whole of the country areas that the scheme will serve. The people in those areas are crying out for electricity. The only thing that I find lacking in the bill is some relation of the cost of the electricity to be sold to the States to the cost of providing it, so as to prevent the Commonwealth from using this scheme as a taxing- machine, as it has done with the Postal Department and some” other public utilities. That is the only fear I have in regard to the bill, and I hope that the Minister will devote some attention to that aspect and give us some assurance that the scheme will not be allowed to be used either by this Government or some future government as a taxing machine. The scheme should be gone on with immediately, as I have said, and I am sure the States will welcome its results. Victoria has gone further with regard to irrigation than any other State. That State has a great number of engineers and staff capable of carrying out huge works of this kind, and I hope that they will co-operate with the Commonwealth in building this great undertaking. I have no objection to the hill.
– I have become accustomed over the years to hearing honorable gentlemen on the Government side, when they are trying to give legislative effect to something that is hopelessly unconstitutional, plead with us to take a .broad national outlook on the matter. As soon as I hear the words “broad1 national outlook” I begin to look around to try to find just why a broad national outlook is necessary. It is evident that if a measure can be justified by constitutional means there is no necessity for an appeal to pathos and for a. broad national outlook. I have listened with interest to some of the contradictory statements that have been made during the committee’s consideration of this measure. We had the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) assuring us that the closest consultations had taken place with the States and that he had had State Cabinet Ministers as advisers in relation to the scheme. There is nothing about that in the bill. Then we had private members on the Government side asserting, both before and after the Minister made that statement, that it was impossible to get co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth, and so it was hopeless to talk of conferences or having representatives of the States acting with Commonwealth representatives in relation to this matter. On the one hand we have been assured that co-operation has taken place, although there is no evidence of it in the bill, and on the other hand we have been told that no co-operation is possible. Then we had the interesting spectacle of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) taking charge of the show. He delivered two speeches in which he was good enough to tell us about something that had happened at the last conference of Empire Prime Ministers, and he quoted from a blue book which, he said, contained matters in relation to our defence position that were very confidential. I felt during his two speeches that what he was trying to do was to get around the Constitution. He did not say anything about having a broad national outlook. I suppose as he is Scottish that he decided also to be somewhat practical, and that what he is trying to do is to use a national work as a means of attaining a party objective even if to do so he has to dodge the provisions of the Constitution. He is not concerned about getting the Snowy Mountains scheme started. The real motives behind the bill in its present form are first, to get around the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, and secondly, to empower the present Government, which no doubt hopes to be in office for three years after the next election, to do things connected with private property that it could not do otherwise. Let us examine what is meant by a policy of nationalization. The Minister for Defence was good enough to say that the Australian Government had undertaken certain obligations in regard to the development of secondary industries and power resources so that they could be used as the strategic basis of any future military operations that it might become necessary for this country to undertake. That is not the only matter of strategic importance in connexion with which this Parliament has legislated. I remind the committee of the fact that in 1946 this Parliament passed an act dealing with the control of atomic energy. F shall be very delighted to hear from the Government what it has done under that act. If there was anything that was supposed to be of transcendent importance in 1946, it was the proposition that the Commonwealth should have the greatest possible control over all minerals and materials that might be used to produce nuclear fission. In South Australia there are very well-known deposits of such material. I was a member of a committee, as was the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy), that made a visit to these deposits. Yet the development of nuclear resources in Australia has been left entirely to the Government of South Australia, notwithstanding the law that is on the Commonwealth statute-book giving the Australian Government power to control and develop nuclear energy. So that there shall not be any mistake about this particular matter, I shall put a series of questions about it on the notice-.paper in order to discover what the Government has done with the powers that it took so unctuously in 1946. I have a strong suspicion that the answer, which I do not expect to receive for two or three months, will be “Nothing”.
– Wrong again.
– The Leader of the Opposition’s comment on the extent to which the nationalization policy of the Government could be carried was seriously misrepresented or misunderstood by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Fraser). What the Leader of the Opposition said was that if the present scheme can be justified constitutionally there is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth taking over the steel industry on a 100 per cent, basis notwithstanding that only 5 per cent, of the product of the industry was needed for defence purposes. What the Leader of the Opposition said regarding the Snowy Mountains scheme was that he doubted whether more than 20 per cent, of the power produced by it would be needed for defence purposes. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro either misquoted the Leader of the Opposition, did not hear correctly what he said, or relied on second-hand information. I hope that he did not deliberately misquote the right honorable gentleman. If the Government is. able, under the Constitution as it now stands, to take charge of the Snowy Mountains scheme and carry it out regardless of the rights of the States or of private individuals who own property in the area which will be affected, then there is no limit to the powers capable of being exercised by the Government so long as it states that such powers are being exercised in the interests of the country’s defence. I point out that operations of a military character, or such strategical operations as those to which the Minister for Defence has alluded, cannot possibly be carried out unless we have food and clothing. So it would be competent for the Minister for Defence or his successor or a colleague in the Cabinet to bring down a hill the preamble of which could read - ““Whereas in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth and in pursuance of an undertaking given at an Imperial conference, it is necessary to provide food and clothing for Australia and other British communities, therefore, be it enacted that the wheat industry and the wool industry, shall come under national control “. That would be justified in the view of the Government because we had entered into certain commitments to supply strategic materials to our British friends and perhaps to some allies. There is no difference in principle between that proposition and tho. proposition contained in this bill. If the Government can do what it proposes to do under this bill, there is no reason why it should not do the same thing in regard to every metal mined in Australia, because practically every metal is necessary for some purpose in wartime. I remind the committee that some parts of Australia are particularly rich in certain very scarce strategic materials. One of these is tantalite, which is found in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Another strategic material is beryllium which is one of the components used in the manufacture of atom bombs. I have seen single pieces of it so big that they could not be put into a sugar bag, so it is obviously not very scarce. Then there are also zircons and rutile. I mention also osmiridium, which is found in Tasmania. The Australian Government would be entitled to bring down a bill which declared that in the interests of defence it was necessary to take over the mining of every one of those metals and to expropriate areas from which they were obtainable.
– Order! The honorable member is going into too much detail about this matter. He may make a passing reference to it only.
– I considered that I was dealing with some very important principles, and I beg to differ from the Chair, because I cannot see where a detail would come into a matter that a passing reference could adequately deal with such a high principle as that with which I am dealing.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair rules that the honorable member may make a passing reference only.
– I shall not quarrel with the Chair. This is a matter of outstanding importance from the Opposition’s point of view and also from the point of view of the State of South Australia. I am also of the opinion that if the Government intends to put on the statute-book a measure of the magnitude and importance of this one, it should base it on solid foundations.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Another point which has emerged clearly from the discussion is that the Government has already spent some money on this project. This was admitted by the Minister, and when he was challenged in regard to it, by interjection, he gloried in the fact that money had been expended without parliamentary approval. One of the cardinal principles of parliamentary government in British countries is that the elected representatives of the people shall control the public purse.
– That would be a good point to make in a budget debate, but it is not relevant to the clause under discussion.
– The Parliament must retain control of certain things.
– Well, leave it at that.
– There is another clause in the bill which provides for the voting of money, and I may raise the matter again when that clause is under consideration. The Government is attempting to erect a huge edifice on the quicksands of unconstitutional legislation. We are told in the Scriptures that the house which was built on the shifting sands was brought down by the flood. The edifice which the Government is now trying to erect will suffer the same fate when this legislation is challenged in the l ight place.
.- I am very grateful to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) ought to be, for finally having succeeded in getting into my understanding the meaning which the Leader of the Opposition intended to convey earlier this afternoon. I could see at the time that the Leader of the Opposition was trying to make some, point which, due to my own fault I have no doubt, was not clear to me. Then the honorable member for Barker, with that admirable lucidity which I admire so much, and which I am sure the Leader of the Opposition must envy, explained the matter clearly. I now realize that when the Leader of the Opposition spoke of 5 per cent., he referred to the proportion of power from the Snowy Mountains scheme which would be used in the steel industry, and that when he was referring to Commonwealth projects generally he said that the amount of power which would be used in connexion with them might be as much as 20 per cent. I now hasten to make this explanation, and to correct my former reference to the right honorable gentleman’s remarks. The Leader of the Opposition said that if I quoted him at all, I should quote him correctly, and as I intend to quote extensively from his speech on this subject between now and the date of the general election, I shall take care to quote from the official report. In the meantime, I make the comment on the remarks of the right honorable gentleman, which, thanks to the honorable member for Barker, I now fully understand, that the amount of power directly used for defence purposes in the Australian Capital Territory alone will be practically 25 per cent, of the total amount generated, and the proportion directly used for defence purposes throughout the whole of the Commonwealth will be even greater.
.- The committee is considering an amend ment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) to clause 8. The clause itself reads - (1.) The Commissioner shall be assisted by two Associate Commissioners, each of whom shall be appointed by the Governor-General.
As amended, the clause would read as follows : - (1.) The Commissioner shall be assisted by three Associate Commissioners, who shall be appointed by the Governors of New South Wales, Victoria a/id South Australia, respectively.
I am anxious that the water and power which the scheme will make available shall be provided as soon as possible, so I support the bill, but that does not prevent me from supporting the amendment which, I believe, would enable the country to obtain all the advantages that the scheme can provide, while. preventing the concentration of power in Canberra. Under the amendment the States, whose people will provide the cash, and receive most of the benefits, will have a say in the direction of the work, and in the disposal of the power and water.
.- There has been much discussion on the question whether the Commonwealth has authority under the defence power of the Constitution to embark upon this enterprise, and it has been suggested that the Commonwealth should enter into further agreements with the States concerned. It is admitted that the Snowy Mountains scheme will produce power for industry, and I, as a humble layman, cannot understand why such an enterprise cannot be linked with the defence needs of the country. In this age, the effectiveness of the armed forces is very greatly dependent on the industrial capacity of the nation. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) argued that if the Commonwealth, under the defence power, could embark upon the generation of electric current, it would be equally justified in taking control of the steel industry. The honorable member for’ Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), in making the same point, drew a comparison with the clothing industry. In this atomic age, if we are to be ready for war, it is necessary to prepare in time of peace, and it is certainly necessary to decentralize our industries. It will be remembered that at one time the Commonwealth established a clothing factory in Victoria for the purpose of making naval and military uniforms for defence purposes, for postal employees, for other Commonwealth departments, for certain State officers, and for employees in various public utilities, and operators in factories necessary for the efficient defence of the Commonwealth. The power of the Commonwealth to do so was challenged, but the High Court, in a majority decision, held that the Commonwealth had authority to manufacture clothing for the defence forces.
– I think the honorable member is going beyond the limits of the clause.
– In my humble opinion, the Commonwealth’s defence power under the Constitution can be regarded as covering this project. We have been told that the undertaking is of paramount importance, and is intimately bound up with defence preparations. I believe that the High Court would now take a broader view than it has sometimes taken in the past.
– I have listened patiently to statements by various Government supporters. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) said that the armed forces now depended on the industrial potential of the nation for their effectiveness. Surely he must know that that was proved during the last war and the one before that. Another honorable member opposite said that we on this side of the committee could think only in terms of rifles, bayonets and tanks, and failed to realize the importance of scientific research. Let me remind him that we on this side of the chamber are, perhaps, better acquainted with such subjects than he is. I, in common with other members of the Opposition, heartily support this proposition. It has been discussed for a long time, and at last there appears to be some hope that it will be put into effect. This clause, however, merely deals with the setting up of an authority, not with the actual doing of the job. The scheme is still in the planning stage. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said that already some roads were being constructed, but that is a minor and prelimi nary undertaking. I understand that it will be many years before the scheme is actually brought to fruition. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) made great play on the fact that the scheme is part of an Empire defence plan in which Australia is to become one of the main supporting bases. Surely the honorable gentleman must be aware that, as a fardistant nation acting as a supply base, we must take appropriate steps to ensure that we shall be capable, not only of producing certain requirements, but also of supplying them to the British Empire or to other countries that may be allied with us. This Government is concentrating too much on the establishment of a supply organization and too little on taking appropriate steps to ensure that such supplies as we can produce can be delivered to the armed forces for whom they are intended.
– Order ! The honorable member must not deal with that aspect of the problem.
Mr.FALKINDER.- I heartily support the project as such.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Sir Earle Page’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. H. P. Lazzarini.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 -
The Authority, or any person authorized by the Authority so to do, may, for the purposes of this Act-
.- This clause deals with the resumption of land required for the purpose of carrying out this undertaking. Land resumptions may involve very extensive areas of especially good land. Homesteads that have remained in the same family for 100 years or more may be resumed. A provision should be incorporated in the bill to protect the rights and privileges of those who, having owned and farmed their land for a long period, are to be dispossessed’ of their properties in order to enable this scheme to proceed. Final payment of compensation for land resumed during the war for defence purposes was, in many instances, not made until the expiration of from six to eight years from the date of resumption. A provision should be inserted in this measure requiring the authority to make quick decisions in relation to compensation payments. All of those who are dispossessed of their properties must secure holdings elsewhere or make a fresh start in life. They should’ not be forced to accept an out-of-date valuation. A provision is included in the Lands Acquisition Act which prevents dispossessed persons from obtaining any undue advan tage from the acquisition of their land for public works purposes; but if people are summarily removed from the homes in which they have lived for very many years it is only fair that they should be paid a special compensation for forced resumption. I understand that as a general practice many of the State courts award special compensation for forced resumption equal to from 10 to 25 per cent. of the valuation. Most of those whose land will be resumed in order to give effect to this scheme are hardy pioneers. I therefore move -
That the following paragraph be added to the clause: - “(d) grant compensation for such land, to be paid for at present-day values, plus a minimum of twenty per centum, for forced resumption, within twelve months of entry “.
I ask the Government either to accept the amendment now or to give an undertaking that it will consider the proposal sympathetically with a view to the insertion of an appropriate amendment in some other part of the bill. The total amount of compensation for the land to be resumed in a project of this magnitude will probably represent only a very small percentage of the cost of the scheme. An indication of what may be involved may be gained from the experience of the New South Wales Government in connexion with the Clarence River dam. It has been estimated that compensation for land resumption in connexion with that scheme which is expected to cost £5,000,000 will amount to approximately £200,000. I do not think that anybody would like a great project of this kind to be viewed with disfavour by very many people because it will result in an injustice being done to them by the Government.
.- The amendment proposed by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is, I think, unnecessary because of the compensation provisions of clause 33 of the bill, and also because of the provisions of section 51 of the Commonwealth Constitution. Section 51 provides that where the Commonwealth Parliament has power to legislate and acquire property in pursuit of that power, it must pay compensation upon just terms.
The determination of what are just terms is a matter for the High Court. The right honorable member for Cowper has suggested that compensation for owners who are dispossessed of their land under this scheme should be based on current valuation plus 20 per cent. The proposition that the Commonwealth should so tie itself in advance is one which 1 think no business man could seriously regard as fair. It would constitute a prior invitation to people to fleece the Government. Much of the ‘land to be acquired is in mountainous areas and is undeveloped. It is true that certain villages will be flooded and that the residents will have to be transferred elsewhere and given equivalent housing. The Commonwealth is constitutionally bound to award compensation on just terms, and in cases where the question of just terms has been in dispute the High Court has never been favorably disposed towards the Commonwealth obtaining land cheaply. Compensation based on current valuation, plus 20 per cent., would impose an exorbitant charge upon the Commonwealth. If persons who held land in the mountain areas without developing it knew beforehand that the Commonwealth would pay compensation for its resumption based on current valuation plus 20 per cent., all sorts of measures would be taken to fleece the Commonwealth. A land-holder who knows that the Commonwealth would acquire his property on the basis of current valuation plus 20 per cent., might carry out improvements in an attempt to secure an unjustified profit from the Commonwealth. Land-holders might decide to make improvements in areas where a dam is about to be built or a hydro-electric station erected and after a short period get a rake-off of an additional 20 per cent. It is unreasonable for any honorable member of the Parliament to advocate that the Commonwealth should go into this field as a hamstrung purchaser, with its terms of purchase imposed upon it by the Parliament and known in advance by the sellers. I hope that the committee will not accept the amendment.
provides that the Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936 shall be applicable in relation to claims for compensation against the authority. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is aware that, because of the present prices of wool and dairy products, the cost of land that can be used for grazing sheep and dairy cattle is extremely high. It is mainly land of that kind that will be acquired for the purposes of this scheme. It would be entirely wrong to bind the Government to pay present-day values plus 20 per cent. The people who are dispossessed will receive fair compensation.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has moved this amendment partly in order to direct attention to the fact that persons whose land has been acquired by the Government have had to wait for a long time before compensation has been paid to them. The right honorable gentleman was not optimistic enough to think that the amendment would be accepted. It cannot now be said that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) is devoid of a sense of humour. He has stated that if this amendment were accepted the Australian Government would be fleeced. That is a good joke. It would be a great change if the Government were being fleeced and was not itself fleecing people.
During the war a great deal of land was acquired by the Government under its emergency powers. It acquired land at, among other places in Victoria, Laverton, Puckapunyal and Essendon. With regard to the acquisition of the land at Essendon, the High Court decided against the Government and it had to reconsider the amount of compensation that was paid to the owner. At Laverton, the persons whose land was acquired were left lamenting. A long time ago I directed the attention of the . Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) to the case of a lady whose land at Puckapunyal was acquired by the Government in 1942. Unless that lady has been paid during the last few days, she has not yet received full compensation for her land.
– Order! The honorable gentleman must deal with the clause that is before the committee.
– The right honorable member for Cowper, knowing how the Government keeps people waiting for their money, has suggested that the bill be amended to provide that compensation be paid within twelve months. I support the amendment.
.- The dire results of an acceptance of this amendment that have been visualized by the honorable member for Fremantle are phantoms of his imagination. It is nonsense to say that if the amendment is accepted, people will rush to the Snowy Mountains, to buy land there and erect buildings and tanks on it so that they may sell to the Government at a profit. They could not obtain the labour and materials to do what the honorable member has suggested they might do. I think that we should do something to show that we have a conscience in this regard. I should be quite satisfied if the Government would promise that the authority will act in the same way as the Public “Works Department in New South Wales acts. The honorable member for Fremantle is frightened by shadows that he himself makes. The Public Works Department in New South Wales is not frightened of shadows. It approaches people WinD will be affected by inundations, asks them to say what they consider to be fair compensation for the loss of their property, and then treats them’ very generously. The department also goes to a great deal of trouble, if a half of one property and one-third of the adjoining property are inundated, to see whether it is possible to combine the remnants of the properties so that one of the two families may .be able to remain in the place in which, perhaps, it has lived for many years. Dams such as those that are envisaged in this scheme cannot be built high up in the mountains. They must be constructed near fairly good flat lands. The value, of land in such places has probably not varied by more than £2 or £3 an acre during the last half century.
– That is not altogether correct.
– The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) oan explain to the people round Tallangatta that he is not prepared to give them a fair deal. He has an opportunity to do something for them now, but he will not take advantage of it. If a number of these large works are to be undertaken throughout Australia, we must ensure that the people who will be adversely affected by them are treated fairly.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 21 agreed to.
Clause 22- (4.) The Authority may, with the approval of the Minister, appoint a person who is not a British subject and has not made and subscribed the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
.- In this clause provision is made for the authority to appoint such officers as it thinks necessary for the purposes of the act. I agree that such appointments should be made in accordance with the requirements of the Public Service Board, as is- provided for in sub-clause 2. I agree with the provisions of sub-clause S, subject to one qualification. The subclause provides that a person shall not be appointed as an officer of the authority unless (a) be is a British subject; (b) the commissioner or an associate commissioner is satisfied, upon medical examination, as to his health and physical fitness, and (c) he makes and subscribes an oath or affirmation of allegiance in accordance with the form in the schedule to the Constitution. That sub-clause is subject to sub-clause 4, which reads as follows : -
The Authority may, with the approval of the Minister, appoint a person who is not a British subject and has not made and subscribed the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
That raises a matter of principle that has been debated in this chamber previously. When certain measures were under discussion, honorable members on this side of the chamber took the view that, having regard to the present trend of events in Australia, the Australian people should have some protection against undesirable and subversive persons being appointed to important offices in public instrumentalities. I suppose that the Snowy Mountains scheme is the largest scheme ever to be proposed in Australia. It will cost approximately £200,000,000. It has been repeatedly emphasized by the Minister and honorable gentlemen opposite that it is a defence undertaking. We have been told that it is part of a development due to the arrival of the atomic age, although I suspect that there is a bit of eye-wash about that statement. We have been told also that it is part of a great scheme to assist in the defence of the British Commonwealth. Although honorable members on this side of the chamber take that statement with -a grain of salt, I shall assume for the moment that it is true. If the scheme i3 justified at all, it is, at least in part, a defence undertaking, hut in sub-clause 4. it is provided that the authority, which is the body that is to be established to manage this vast undertaking, may, with 5the approval of the Minister, appoint a person who is not a British subject and has not made and subscribed the oath ot affirmation of allegiance. I agree that circumstances may exist in which it would be desirable to appoint as an officer of the authority a person who is not a British subject. I am not bigoted enough to think that we should not try to secure the best brains in the world. We know that the world is, and is likely to continue to he, divided into two camps. We know that our way of life is threatened. Therefore, I suggest to the Government that the provisions of subclause 4 should be subject to a proviso. I move, as an amendment -
That the following proviso be added to sub-clause (4.): - “ Provided that the Minister is satisfied that the person proposed to be appointed is not Communist or a person likely to act in any way inimical to the interests of the Commonwealth.”.
I do not think that in his heart any honorable member opposite could object seriously to that proviso. Is it suggested that members of the Labour party want Communists to be appointed to high positions in this key defence undertaking? One honorable gentleman on this side of the chamber has interjected and said, “ Of course they do.”. Honorable members oppo- site will have an opportunity later to repudiate that allegation by voting for this amendment. Is it suggested that they want as an officer of the authority somebody who, even though he may not be labelled “ Communist “ would he prepared to betray Australia? There are some people in this country who are traitors hut who do not bear the label “ Communist “. Is it suggested that the members of this Government, who are supposed to be patriots and most of whom. I believe, are patriots, want the key positions in this great undertaking to bp occupied by persons who will ultimately betray our secrets? This amendment, which is pitched on a low note, is the least that we can ask the Government to accept.
.- The point that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has raised is already covered in clause 22 (2), which reads as follows : -
The selection of persons for appointment as officers under this section shall be made in accordance with such requirements as the Public Service Board determines.
For a long time, the Public Service Board has been charged with the duty of screening, with the very best information available, and, incidentally, the same information that would be available to the Minister, all applicants for selection to key government positions. If the Minister were dissatisfied with any individual, he would be dissatisfied on the basis of information that had been supplied to him by the inquiry organizations of the Public Service Board. The Public Service regulations already provide for such screening. The Minister would use the same eyes as the Public Service Board uses because that is the means whereby the Government deter mines whether a person is trustworthy. Whilst the honorable member’s suggestion is harmless as an expression of opinion, it is unnecessary, because the position is already covered by clause 22. The provision to which the honorable gentleman desires to add a proviso reads as follows : -
The Authority may, with the approval of the Minister, appoint a person who is not a British subject and has not made and subscribed the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
It is probable that American engineers will be employed on the Snowy Mountains scheme, because it bears a resemblance to the Tennessee Valley scheme, and in such planning, American engineers have the most experience.
– I do not object to that.
– I realize that. It is also necessary that no American citizen should be asked to make and subscribe the oath or affirmation of allegiance to the British King. If he were to do so, he would forfeit his United States citizenship. That is a requirement of American law, and it would undoubtedly be an inhibition on obtaining the services of a highly qualified American engineer if, as a condition of accepting the appointment, he had to lose his American citizenship. He probably would not desire to do so. I do not consider that the amendment is necessary, although I admit that it really puts into words what would be the duty of the Public Service Board. In my opinion, sub-clause 4, as it stands, is sufficiently strong. It is not necessary to specify in all possible ways how the Minister shall conduct his administration. I do not think that the honorable member for Parramatta would contend that the Parliament should include in every clause of every bill a stipulation governing every contingency that the Parliament could imagine. It may be left to the common sense of a Minister, using the Public Service Board to screen applicants, not to appoint a person who, in the words of the honorable member, would sabotage the Snowy Mountains scheme.
– I disagree with .the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), whO believes that the screening that is undertaken by the Public Service Board of applicants for important government positions is most efficient, and I support the views that have been expressed by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale). Obviously, the honorable member for Fremantle is a babe in the wood, and does not know that the Government has been remiss in failing to screen Communists who are employed by the Department of Works and Housing. Although T have referred to this matter on other occasions, I have not done so with the vigour that I feel impelled to use now in making my protest. I refer to the townplanner of Darwin who, no doubt, will be assigned to plan the villages in the Snowy Mountains area.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s references to the Northern Territory arc not appropriate at this stage.
– Officers of the Department of Works and Housing will be required to plan the villages that will be required for this mighty work in the Snowy Mountains area. Those villages must be designed by an experienced townplanner in accordance with modern principles. The Government has employed an avowed Communist named Jack Walker, from Ballarat, on work at Darwin and he has ruined the whole plan. He was then ordered to proceed to Alice Springs to plan that town. He has not been screened. It is the duty of the Government to declare its bona fides now, and screen Walker immediately, so that he will not be permitted to participate in the Snowy Mountains job.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment. As the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) has stated, applicants for key government positions are screened by the Public Service Board. The clause has been so drafted as to r”i’le the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority to employ, if necessary, highly-qualified technicians from the United States of America.
– I agree with that.
– As the position w well covered, I ask the honorable member not to press his amendment.
Mr. BEALE (Parramatta) $5.51].- I thought that I had made it perfectly clear that I agreed that the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority should employ the be3t technicians available, regardless of their nationality. However, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) missed the point that I was endeavouring to make. He has stated that the Public Service Board screens applicants for important positions in the service of the Commonwealth. I remind the committee that not long ago, a man who had been convicted of seven or ten charges of forgery was exercising considerable authority in the land sales control office, and was removed from that position only after considerable fuss and bother. How did that person obtain employment in the Commonwealth Public Service? He made an application through the ordinary channels, and was appointed to a responsible position which, because of his record, he should never have occupied. Is it not likely that in the difficult future that may face Australia, an undesirable person may be accepted by the Public Service Board, even after he has been screened? Because of that possibility, I have sought to superimpose upon the ordinary screening that is carried out by the board a provision to compel the Minister to make certain investigations in order to prevent dangerous persons from being appointed to high official positions.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 23 and 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 - (1.) The Authority shall have power to borrow money on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia upon the guarantee of the Treasurer.
– I move -
That the following words be added to subclause (1.) : - “and with the sanction of an appropriation by the Parliament “.
I have carefully examined Part V. of the bill, which deals with the finances of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, and have studied later clauses, including clause 40, which provide the manner in which the authority shall presentits accounts, but I have not discovered any provision under which the Parliament will control all the funds that will be at the disposal of the authority. The clause now before the committee reads - (1.) The Authority shall have power to borrow money on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia upon the guarantee of the Treasurer. (2.) The Treasurer may, out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of this Act, make advances to the Authority of such amounts and upon such terms as he thinks fit.
In other words, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) may make certain advances out of the Treasurer’s Advance, but those sums of money will be comparatively insignificant. The Treasurer’s Advance, which is set out in the budget each year, represents only 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. of the total budget. If the Snowy Mountains project is to be of the magnitude that the Government has led us to expect it to be it will require many millions of pounds each year. Sub-clause 3 reads -
Except with the consent of the Treasurer, the Authority shall not have power to borrow money otherwise than in accordance with this section.
The position is that the major expenditure by the authority will notbe covered by a parliamentary appropriation. In accordance with treasury practice, substantial sums of money are provided each year for, say, defence and invalid and age pensions. The money is appropriated by the Parliament, which in that way, has an opportunity to control the expenditure. However, under the clause we are now considering, the Snowy Mountains undertaking may be financed independently of the Parliament. That principle is wrong, and is a departure from the custom under which the Parliament controls the public purse. Such control is a basicprinciple of British parliamentary practice. That principle is recognized in the Supply debate which takes place regularly, and which affords honorable members an opportunity to ventilate the grievances of their constituents. Ifthis clause is not amended, the Parliament will not exercise any control over the expenditure of money by the authority. History has shown that great inflationary movements have begun when a government has been able to control and use a bank for the purpose of providing hugesums of money that have been spent without parliamentary authority. My purpose in moving the amendment is to place the matter on a proper basis.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment.
The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has stated that under this clause, the Parliament will not have an opportunity to control expenditure by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, but the facts are that the money required for the permanent structure will be appropriated by the Parliament each’ year. In other words, a programme of works will be set out for five or ten years, and each year, the Parliament will be asked to appropriate money for the purposes of that work. Subclause 1 is required to permit the authority to carry out incidental work when the appropriation has not been sufficient. It is common practice to allow a constructing authority of the magnitude of the proposed Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority to have power to borrow money on overdraft.
– Will the Treasurer make appropriations in addition to that form of borrowing?
– - Yes, an appropriation will be made each year. A farmer uses a bank overdraft as a matter of convenience. The principle is the same in respect of this authority. The total amount of the proposed expenditure on capital works will be appropriated1 each year, but the authority will have power, subject to the approval of the Treasurer, to borrow money on overdraft for certain purposes.
– What clause provides that the Parliament shall make an appropriation each year for the work?
– I direct attention to sub-clause 2 of this clause, which reads as follows : -
The Treasurer may, out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of this Act, make advances to the Authority of such amounts and upon such terms a* lie thinks fit.
That is how the Government proposes to handle the expenditure.
– The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has raised one of the most important issues in this bill. This clause describes three methods under which the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority may be financed. The first of those three methods, and the one to which the right honorable gentleman has taken the strongest possible exception, provides that the authority shall have power to borrow money on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank upon the guarantee of the Treasurer. Under the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945, the Commonwealth Bank is completely subject to the will of the Treasurer, and, actually, will have no voice in financing the authority. The Treasurer is the virtual head of the Commonwealth Bank as well as the head of this Government. He will simply make a one-man decision about the amount of money to which the Australian taxpayers shall be committed in respect of expenditure on the Snowy Mountains project. The Parliament will not be consulted. As the right honorable member for Cowper has pointed out, the basis of the British parliamentary system is that there shall be no expenditure by the Executive without the consent of the lower house of the Parliament, the members of which are the elected representatives of the taxpayers. That basic principle has been departed from in this bill. The Australian Constitution provides that no money shall be disbursed from the Treasury until the proposed expenditure has been considered by a committee of supply of this House. That committee meets whenever a message is received from the Governor-General under section 56 of the Constitution. We know the section backwards. There is no appropriation clause in this bill. The Minister said earlier, in committee, that money had already been spent without parliamentary authority. It all goes to show how deeply the Government disregards the right of the Parliament to represent the taxpayers of the country. Incidentally, as soon as the Committee of Supply has agreed upon the expenditure being made, another committee is appointed, by very long practice, to draw up a bill. That committee generally consists of two Ministers. Judging by this provision I think the next time the Government introduces a bill requiring, an appropriation, the committee appointed to draft the bill will consist of Henry VIII., Charles I., and Oliver Cromwell, each of whom was notorious for his complete disregard of the House of Commons of this day.
The second of the three methods of finance is indicated in sub-clause 2 of the clause, which reads -
The Treasurer may, out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of this Act, make advances to the Authority of such amounts and upon such terms as he think fit.
The next point that we .arrive at therefore is : that, after the Parliament has decided that this authority is to have a certain amount of money to spend, it will still depend on the Treasurer, notwithstanding what the Parliament thinks, whether it will get the money or not. If the Treasurer chooses to go into reverse gear, the whole work will be held up.
The third method of finance is indicated in. subclause 3, which reads! -
Except with the consent of the Treasurer, the Authority shall not have power to borrow money otherwise than in accordance with this section.
Again it all depends upon the Treasurer. He could say, in his wisdom, or otherwise, “ The Parliament has not voted you any money and, even if it had, I am not going to give it to you “, or, as head of the Government, and, particularly, as dictator of the financial institutions of Australia, through the Commonwealth Bank, he could say, “ You will not get the money from the private banks, but there is another way to get it ; try to get it that way”. The Treasurer has three strings to his bow. The first thing that strikes me is that there is no appropriation clause. That makes me particularly suspicious, because I have a grave doubt whether this project is to be got going in a hurry. I expect that money will be spent to lay a foundation stone like that laid by King O’Malley years ago in the scrub half-a-mile behind the hack of Parliament House, where it is c’overed over with heavy slabs, nailed down, and fenced with barbed wire as if the Yankee gold reserve were beneath it instead of in the vault at Fort Knox. We can expect, before the general election, a foundationstonelaying ceremony, with all the moving picture photographers of the Department of Information in attendance.
The ‘TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN”. - Order ! I ask the honorable member to address himself to the clause.
– I an dealing with the provision of money for the authority. I have a strong suspicion that no Minister will lay a foundation stone unless money is attached to the ceremony. I have never known a foundation stone to be laid free of cost, not even under Douglas credit. I content myself with directing the attention of the committee to the financial provisions of this measure, which are about as .real as the spirits of the spiritualists.
.- The three sub-clauses of this clause ought to be read together. Sub-clause 1 reads -
The Authority shall have power to borrow money on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia upon the guarantee of the Treasurer.
No one who borrows from the Commonwealth Bank has to get the authority of the Parliament to do so. The Treasurer must guarantee the loan to the authority if it borrows from the bank. Obviously, if the Treasurer had to honour that guarantee he would have to have the authority of the Parliament.
– He can give a guarantee without the consent of the Parliament.
– He can, but he would have to honour the guarantee if he were called upon to do so, and he could not do that without the consent of the Parliament. Sub-clause 2 reads -
The Treasurer may, out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of this Act, make advances to the Authority of such amounts and upon such terms as he thinks fit.
Clearly, that envisages the contingency that the Treasurer will be required to honour a guarantee. The sub-clause provides that the ordinary appropriation by the Parliament shall be made to honour the guarantee. The honorable member for Barker made certain points about subclause 3, which reads -
Except with the consent of the Treasurer, the Authority shall not have power to borrow money otherwise than in accordance with this section.
That provides strictly that the money must be advanced by the Commonwealth Bank.
– It does not.
– The first sub-clause provides-
T.he Authority shall have power to borrow money on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia upon the guarantee of the Treasurer.
No other bank or other institution from which the authority may borrow is provided for, except as provided for in subclause 3.
– It might borrow from “ Maxie “ Falstein under that.
– Well, not even the frenzied finance of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has reached that depth, but it might. Sub-clause 3 provides that the authority may borrow by other means. I am rather sorry to see that provision, because I am certain that a government made up of the Opposition parties would probably use a public loan rather than the means set out in sub-clause 1 as a means of financing the project. I think the three sub-clauses, read together, show that there is no weakening of the ordinary authority of the Parliament; but, quite clearly, when the Commonwealth Bank is asked to advance money to a public authority, the guarantee of the Treasurer must be given, and, if the Treasurer is required under sub-clause 2 to honour the guarantee, the money with which to honour the guarantee must be appropriated by the Parliament.
– I had no intention of rising but for the interesting and devastating introduction to public finance that we have just been given by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). Bie expressed an amazing view of public finance. I recite it so that I shall not do him any injustice. He said that sub-clause 1 of this clause provides the method by which this project should be financed, when the actual expenditure, according to what we have been told, may run to something of the order of £200^000,000. He said that the money should be borrowed on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank, and he expressed the fear that, if the Opposition had anything to do with the scheme, as it unquestionably will, it might decide to get money by borrowing from the public.
So we are told that when £200,000,000 is wanted for the largest public works to be put into operation in the history of Australia, the right way to borrow it is not by going to the public and raising money on loan, but by borrowing it from the Commonwealth Bank on overdraft. That means that when you are spending money long you ought to borrow short. All I can say is that if my honorable friend ever finds himself in charge of the Treasury, any dyslogistic expression ever used about the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) will be a mere circumstance compared with what will be said about him.
– That is a left-handed compliment to the right honorable member for Cowper.
– I like to meet my honorable friends opposite on their own ground. Whenever they are gravelled for something to say, they have a crack at the right, honorable member for Cowper or me.
– I am easy.
– So am I; but, of course, having in mind the kind of thing that the right honorable member for Cowper has had to listen to, there is no one who will appreciate more than he will the extraordinary dissertation of the honorable member for Fremantle on “ The New Financial Method, According to the Labour party “. The whole point about this is that once more the Government is evading the Constitution. After all, there is a Constitution. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) reminded us that, from time to time, Mr. Speaker or his deputy rises in his place and presents a message from’ His Excellency the Governor-General, under section 56 of the Constitution, recommending an appropriation, and, if honorable gentlemen care to look at the interesting sections that appear in the Constitution, under the heading of “Finance and Trade “, they will discover that there is a complete scheme for giving to the Parliament the control of the public moneys. Section 81 provides -
All revenues or moneys raised or received by the Executive Government of the Commonwealth shall form one Consolidated Revenue Fund, to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by this Constitution.
Section 82 provides -
The costs, charges, and expenses incident to the collection, management, and receipt of the Consolidated Revenue Fund shall form the first charge thereon; …
Section 83 provides -
No money shall be drawn from the Treasury of the Commonwealth except under appropriation made by law.
That is what is stated in the supreme document of the country, which is so much neglected by members on the Government side of the committee.
– Does this bill provide that money may be drawn from the Treasury without parliamentary approval ?
– No! That is precisely the point that I was about to make. Money cannot be drawn from the Treasury without an appropriation measure being passed by the Parliament. So, whatever the clause says, the Constitution is superior to the bill. But what does the bill seek to do? When it becomes an act, the Government will be able to say, “ We will not bother about appropriating money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. On the contrary, we will get rid of all the difficulties of appropriation by using the moneys of the Commonwealth Bank, not of the Commonwealth “. The moneys of the Commonwealth Bank are not the moneys of the Commonwealth for this purpose. Instead of coming to the Parliament and seeking the appropriation of millions of pounds for this purpose, the Government will escape all its constitutional liabilities by going to the Commonwealth Bank and getting money from it on overdraft. The only time the Parliament will ever come into the picture will be when the Treasurer is called upon by the Commonwealth Bank to honour the guarantee given by him in the terms of the statute. I remind honorable members that the Treasurer need not be unduly embarrassed by that either, because, under the Banking Act 1945, he is in the position to tell the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank where he “gets off”. All that he will need to say to him is, “ As a matter of policy, you are not to call up the guarantee of the Treasurer “, and then it cannot be called up. So it will be a perpetual overdraft. If that can he held to honour the spirit or the letter of the basic law of this land, I shall be very much surprised.
– The statements of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) are entirely incorrect. He knows perfectly well that the Government has no intention of endeavouring to finance the undertaking along the lines suggested by him.
– The Government tried to nationalize the trading banks.
– We have had enough humour from the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). We usually enjoy it but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition is of an extremely serious nature. To charge this Government with the kind of finance that he has mentioned is to make an entirely untrue statement. Sub-clause 1 of this clause, states -
The Authority shall’ have power to borrow money on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia upon the guarantee of the Treasurer.
That provision is purely for the purposes of temporary accommodation and temporary financing.
– The bill does not say so.
– Order! The Minister must be heard in silence.
– The Leader of the Opposition also knows that it is quite unfair to take one sub-clause of a measure and quote it without taking the accompanying sub-clauses. There are three subclauses in this clause, which deals with finance. One of them is a provision for the purpose of temporary accommodation. That is the normal provision in legislation such as this is. It is also the same provision as was included in the bill to establish the Joint Coal Board. A similar provision was also contained in the Shipping Bill 1949. If it was right and logical for that provision to be in the bill that established the Joint Coal Board - and that bill was never criticized in this House-
– It was criticized up hill and down dale.
– It was not criticized by the Leader of the Opposition or by any honorable member opposite.
– Then it was gagged
– It was not gagged. The right honorable member is having a lot of bad bets to-night.
– Was it not gagged? [ shall have to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) about that.
– The Leader of the Opposition has made three guesses-
Honorable members interjecting ,
– The Chair will deal with the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) if he continues to interject. I insist that the Minister be heard in silence.
– Sub-clause 2 of this clause states -
The Treasurer may, out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of this Act, make advances to the Authority of such amounts and upon such terms as he thinks fit
That sub-clause refers to an appropriation which, as I have pointed out, is for the permanent financial structure of the authority. Money to meet that appropriation will be obtained from loan and the same rates of interest will have to be paid by the authority. I! see nothing wrong with that. Sub-clause 3 reads -
That provision also is similar to provisions in the two acts to which I have previously referred. Furthermore, it is not an uncommon provision in legislation dealing with an undertaking that will produce some financial return by selling its product and so will be in a position to meet ordinary interest charges, capital costs and operational costs.
.- I shall make a few observations on this clause in view of what the Minister (Mr.
Lemmon) has said. It may well be that when the Shipping Bill and the bill to establish the Joint Coal Board were before the Parliament the financial provisions contained in them were not discussed or criticized. I shall assume that that is correct. But we are now dealing with a different matter in which the magnitude of the operation involved requiries that this Parliament shall exercise control over the expenditure of money in connexion with that operation. It cannot be disputed that it is proper that the authority should have power to raise money, nor can it be disputed that the money to be raised by overdraft should be obtained from the Commonwealth Bank. That is the policy of the present Government and it was the policy of the Opposition parties when they were in office. The real nub of the question is whether the Parliament is to have control over the total appropriation that will be made by the authority from year to year, lt is all very well for the Minister to say that sub-clause 1 of this clause is intended to deal with temporary finance only. It is rather significant that that method of finance appears in pride of place in the clause, and not as a subsidiary or auxiliary part of the main method of finance, which the Minister says, is to be by appropriations approved by the Parliament. Sub-clause 1 gives to the authority, with the guarantee of the Treasurer, power to borrow any sum of money, without any limit being imposed by this Parliament. That is the basis of the criticism emanating from this side of the committee. It is somewhat significant that the same course has been pursued in this legislation as was followed in the legislation to nationalize banking. It is not inapposite to say that when the banking legislation was before this chamber it was criticized because no provision was made in it for the Parliament to be called upon to approve an appropriation to meet the cost of the compensation of the shareholders of the trading banks. It is significant that that is the real method of finance that could bc followed under the terms of this particular measure. In short, there is in regard to the method of financing provided in this measure a very grave suspicion - it seems to me to be more than a suspicion and in fact a certainty - that the method adopted hy the banking legislation to provide the necessary money to give effect to that measure is being followed in this case, for we have had no indication that an appropriation message will accompany this bill. It appears that what the Commonwealth intended to do in relation to the banking legislation was not to pay compensation to the shareholders of the trading banks out of Consolidated Revenue or from loans, but to do so by increasing the credit base of the Commonwealth. That is exactly what can be done under this measure. I mean that it can be done theoretically, because we do not know what may take place. Theoretically the whole of the money required for this vast scheme could be raised by way of overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank. Since that is the country’s central bank, that means that the currency of the country could be debased to support this scheme. I do not contend, nor do I believe that that will occur, but I am pointing out that there is no guarantee in this clause that the control of finances under this measure is to be exercised by the Parliament. On more than one occasion I have drawn attention to the steady decline of the prestige of this Parliament because of its loss of control over the public purse. If the Government is too obstinate to accept this amendment an amendment could be perhaps inserted in the bill, when it is before the Senate, to the effect that the authority shall, within such limits as the Parliament lays down, from time to time borrow money on overdraft from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. I do not believe that we should hand over to the executive Minister, who is in this instance the Treasurer, complete control of the methods of financing so vast a venture as this will be. If the Minister is correct in saying that it is intended to follow the normal course of appropriation, one may ask why an appropriation message has not been brought down in connexion with this measure. It is true that perhaps not very much will be done regarding the scheme during the. next twelve months, hut will the Minister give an undertaking that next week, or at least before the end of this sessional period, he will cause an appropriation message to be introduced? I have a shrewd suspicion that, magnificent as is this scheme, which has the support of all parties, the introduction of the present measure has been accelerated merely because of the forthcoming general election.
– I rise to make some observations in connexion with the very important aspect that was raised by the Minister (Mr. Lemmon) when he explained the methods of finance to be followed under the measure. He said that sub-clause 1 of this clause was designed to meet a contingency or an emergency by way of overdraft or temporary accommodation inasmuch as the authority is to be empowered to borrow money on overdraft from ‘ the Commonwealth Bank upon the guarantee of the Treasurer. It is all very well for the Minister to make such a statement, but the Parliament must be guided by what has already happened, as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has pointed out, in connexion with the Banking Bill and the compensation claims that might arise from it. He drew attention to the fact, as I also did when that bill was being debated, that the power of appropriation that is requisite under the Constitution was not provided in that measure, and I have no doubt whatsoever that it was the intention of the Government to finance whatever ascertained compensation arose as a result of the measure, out of the credit base of the country, and to use the Commonwealth Bank for that purpose. I have a shrewd suspicion that that is the intention with regard to the basic method of finance to be followed in connexion with this gigantic scheme which, we are told, will cost in the vicinity of £200,000,000. I do not believe that sub-clause 1 of this clause is the innocent sub-clause that the Minister would like us to believe it to be when we consider it in relation to the practice of the present Government, and the requirements of the Constitution. The main sub-clause of the clause, to which I draw the attention of the committee, is sub-clause 2, which states -
The Treasurer may, out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of this Act, make advances to the Authority of such amounts and upon such terms as he thinks fit.
That is not a power of appropriation. It is simply a statement of what is to be done with the appropriation when the power providedin the sub-clause is brought into existence. I submit, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has pointed out, that there is in this measure no power of appropriation such as is requisite under the Constitution, which provides, in short, that the public purse shall be subject to the control and vigilance of this Parliament. Let us contrast the financial arrangement that the Government desires to be enacted under this clause in connexion with a scheme that is expected to involve an expenditure of public money of about £200,000,000, with what has been done with regard to the Australian National Airlines Act. I draw the attention of the committee to section 30 of that act. which states -
For the purposes of enabling the Commission to meet such expenditure as is necessary for the purposes of this Act, the Treasurer may advance to the Commission -
out of the ConsolidatedRevenue Fund or out of the proceeds of any loan raised under the authority of any Act, which Fund and which proceeds are hereby appropriated accordingly, such amounts, not exceeding in all the sum of Three million pounds; and
b ) out of such sums as are from time to time appropriated by the Parliament for the purpose, such further amounts . ..
Of course, that provision was placed in the act to meet the requirements of the Constitution that the Government must obtain from the Parliament its sanction in regard to appropriations. There is in section 43 of the Overseas Telecommunications Act, exactly the same provision. In that instance the sum of £3,000,000 is also stated to be the amount of the first instalment that is to be specifically appropriated. In the face of those two acts, and having regard to the requirements of the Constitution, which not even this Government can snidely circumvent, I say that the Government has no alternative, in the interests of parliamentary control of the public purse, to acceptance of the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Cowper.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) asked whether an appropriation message would be brought down within the next week dealing with this project. The answer is “ No “. Money will be appropriated when the budget is introduced, and other appropriations will be made from time to time as more money is needed. That is what the Government intends to do, and what it will do.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Sir Earle Page’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. t.n.sheehy.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 26 to 31 agreed to.
Clause 32 (Price for supply and sale of electricity).
.- This clause reads as follows : -
The price at which electricity is supplied or sold by the authority shall be such as the Treasurer, after receipt of a recommendation by the Minister, determines.
Evidently, this is to he one of those cases in which a statutory authority shall, in fact, have no authority whatever when it conies to the fixing of prices. Had an earlier amendment moved by the Opposition been accepted, provision could have been made for Commonwealth and State representatives to confer when the price of electricity was to be fixed. The people by their votes showed clearly in a recent referendum that they did not want the Commonwealth to have the power to control prices. However, the Government has shown that if it is prevented by the people from getting the power it wants, it will try to get that power in some other way. Under this clause, the Treasurer is to have sole authority to fix prices, and we may be sure that the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), or any other Treasurer of the same political colour, would not hesitate to use the provision as an instrument of taxation. This is to be a tremendous project, and electricity will be sold to industry in two States, so that the Treasurer will actually be in a position to control industry, including dairying and other rural occupations. I very, much object to the provision. The Government is determined to put the clause through, but it is acting against the expressed will of the people.
– In this clause, it is proposed to give to the Treasurer sole and absolute right to say at what price electricity generated under the Snowy
Mountains scheme shall be retailed to the people of New South Wales and Victoria. I do not challenge his right to fix the price of current used in the Australian Capital Territory, which is Commonwealth territory, but I object to his having authority to fix prices in the States. I cannot forget the way in which the Treasurer has used his influence and, indeed, his authority, to force State governments to increase railway fares and freights. South Australia has had to fall into line under constant pressure from the Commonwealth. Another example of the same sort of thing is the action of the Government in increasing postal and telephonic charges, but, of course, I cannot discuss that matter under this bill.
.- The Government proposes to set up an authority which has been compared to the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States of America. However, the American authority is, I believe, comletely autonomous, and it can fix the price of the power which it supplies. In this bill there is a pretence of giving authority to the commissioners, but this clause strips them of the power to fix the price of electricity. That is contradictory, but it is in keeping with the policy of the Government to keep a string on every statutory body which is, ostensibly, authorized to conduct some specific undertaking. The Australian Wheat Board and the Australian Dairy Produce Board have been treated in that way. Such action is consistent with the policy of the Government to keep power in the hands of the Treasurer. In this clause, the Treasurer is authorized to fix the price of electricity, and under another clause the authority may borrow money only with the approval of the Treasurer. In other legislation, such as in the Banking Act, final authority is also vested in the Minister. It is all in line with the consistent attempts of the Government to concentrate power in the hands of one man, and that man the Treasurer of the day.
– And a good man, too.
– Perhaps; but such a policy may be tragic so far as the finances of the country are concerned. It has already proved tragic in the case of the Postal Department.
– The Treasurer is not under consideration at the moment.
– This clause authorizes the Treasurer to fix the price of electricity. Therefore, the capacity of the Treasurer is a matter very relevant to the clause. It is proposed in the bill to set up an authority to control the Snowy Mountains scheme, and that authority should be charged with the responsibility of making the scheme pay. In the last analysis, of course, it would be responsible to the Parliament. I recognize that the Opposition is powerless. The Government is determined to force the clause through as part of its policy to control from one central point every activity in the country.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 33 (Authority in execution of works to do as little damage as possible).
.- 1 raise a small point, but I consider it one of importance to which the attention of the Government and people should be directed. Sub-clause 1 of the clause reads -
In the exercise of its powers under this Act, the Authority shall cause as little detriment and inconvenience -and do as little damage as possible.
I object to the whole of that paragraph as ‘being redundant and as being quite plainly a piece of unnecessary propaganda and humbug. I have spent all my working life of 25 years in dealing with legal documents and acts of Parliament, but until I came to Canberra and heard this Labour Government in action, and read some of the statutes of which it has been responsible. I had never come across legislation of this kind. I had never come across legislation, either in the Commonwealth or State spheres, which did more than attempt to put into plain language legal prohibitions, obligations or commissions; but there has entered into this Government’s procedure b practice of putting into legislation words which have no legal effect and which are used only for the purpose of persuading ignorant people that they have some effect when, in fact, they have no effect a t all. The words -
– Hear, hear!
– The Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward) says, “ Hear, hear!”
– I shall be back again.
– I have seen by the look on the honorable member’s face that he has read Mr. Justice Ligertwood’* report.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) is not in order in answering interjections, and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) is equally disorderly in interjecting.
– I have read “ Clarrie “ Martin’s opinion of the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I point out that the words used in sub-clause 1 are mere claptrap. They are sob stuff designed to calm the fears of people who do not know any better, and the Government should be ashamed of having incorporated them in the measure. This is the “ roses round the door “ and the sob stuff technique. The words have no meaning and consequently they should not be incorporated in an act of Parliament.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has complained of the words used in sub-clause 1 of the clause. This bill has a twofold purpose. It is a legal document which provides for the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority and clothes the authority with power to proceed with the job. It also contains the charter of the authority and sets out how the authority shall go about its task. Most of the area which will come within the scheme is rugged mountain country, which could not be damaged except from the scenic point of view. Sub-clause 1 merely provides that, having regard to all circumstances, the authority shall do as little damage as possible. The honorable member complains that these words mean nothing. He is a lawyer and has claimed that he has spent 25 years in dealing with legal documents and acts of Parliament. I remind him that the Posts and Telegraphs Act of 1901which was one of the earliest acts passed by the Commonwealth Parliament contains a similar provision to the one he is criticizing. That provision was inserted in that act to ensure that the postal authorities, who would have to clear areas for telephone lines should do the least possible damage in carrying out their work. I see nothing redundant about the provision.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 34 to 41 agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to increase the allowances payable to the wife of an invalid pensioner from 20s. to 24s. a week for herself and from 5s. to 9s. a week for one child under sixteen years of age. In order to qualify for a wife’s allowance the wife must be living with her pensioner husband. The allowance is payable not only to wives of invalid pensioners but also to wives of age pensioners who are permanently incapacitated for work or permanently blind. A child’s allowance is payable for only one child of the pensioner under sixteen years of age. Other children beyond the first are provided for by child endowment. This allowance is payable to any invalid pensioner who has the custody, care and control of a child under the age of sixteen years. The rate of a wife’s allowance is affected by income and property in the same way as the husband’s invalid pension, but a child’s allowance is a flat-rate payment. Wives’ allowances and children’s allowances were introduced in 1943, the maximum weekly rates then being 15s. for a wife and 5s. for one child. The wife’s allowance was increased in 1947 to £1 a week. The new rate of 24s. will bring the wife’s allowance into line with the maximum rate of pension payable to the wife of a service pensioner under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act and with the maximum rate of war pension payable under that act to the wife of an ex-member receiving war pension at 100 per cent. general rate or at the special rate for total and permanent incapacity. The increase from 5s. to 9s. a week in the rate of a child’s allowance will bring the amount of this allowance into line with the war pensions payable in respect to the children of exmembers receiving war pension at 100 per cent, general rate or at the special rate.
The number of wives’ allowances at present in force is 12,700 and the number of children’s allowances is 7,400. The cost of the increase of 4s. a week in these allowances is £209,000 for a full year, comprising £132,000 in respect of wives’ allowances and £77,000 in respect of children’s allowances
The bill also provides for the repeal of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions (Reciprocity with New Zealand) Act 1943 as from the 1st July, 1949. On that date the new reciprocal agreement between Australia and New Zealand which was signed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries on the loth April last will come into operation. The existing scheme of reciprocity covers only age and invalid pensions. The new agreement covers these benefits and, in addition, widows’ pensions, child endowment and unemployment and sickness benefits. Under the existing scheme the rate of a reciprocal pension cannot exceed the lower of the maximum rates in force in the two countries, and entitlement is subject to the more restrictive conditions of the laws of the two countries. Under the new agreement New Zealand citizens who come to Australia for permanent residence will receive Australian social service benefits on the same basis as Australian citizens, and for this purpose their residence in New Zealand will count as residence in Australia. New Zealand will give the same concession to Australian citizens who take up permanent residence in New Zealand, with the exception that an Australian man will not be granted an age benefit until he reaches the Australian qualifying age of 65 years. The normal qualifying age for New Zealand citizens is 60 years. Under the new agreement, persons going from Australia to New Zealand, and vice versa, for temporary residence will continue to receive, during their temporary absence, any benefits which they were receiving in their own country. The home country will continue to provide these benefits but the actual payments will be made, on an agency basis, by the country in which the person is temporarily resident, and periodical financial adjustments will be made between the two countries. The increases in the rates of wives’ and children’s allowances provided for in the bill will be paid on the first fortnightly pension pay-day after the legislation has been passed and receives the Royal Assent. It is hoped that the increased payments will be made on the 30th June. For that reason I seek the co-operation of the Opposition in securing the passage of the bill to-night. I commend the bill to honorable members.
.- The Opposition has no objection to the debate proceeding. This bill is designed to increase the allowances that are payable to the wives and children of invalid pensioners and of age pensioners who are permanently incapacitated’ or permanently blind. It also provides for the repeal of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions (Reciprocity with New Zealand) Act as from the 1st July, 1949, when a new reciprocal agreement between Australia and New Zealand will begin to operate. The Opposition approves of the bill. Rising costs necessitate that these allowances should be reviewed and increased from time to time. I hope that similar sentiments will sway the Government when consideration is being given to the amount of the pensions that are payable to ex-servicemen, and particularly to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. Those pensions should undoubtedly be increased, and I hope that a measure to increase them will be introduced shortly.
The Minister has explained that a New Zealander who comes to Australia for permanent residence will, for pension purposes, be treated on the same basis as an Australian, and will receive the age pension at the age of 65 years, or, in the case of a woman, at the age of 60 years. If that provision is to apply to persona who come here from New Zealand, why cannot it apply also to persons who come here from Great Britain? This is a subject that I have raised on many occasions. The lack of such a provision militates against emigration from the United Kingdom to Australia. We do not want great numbers of old people to come here from the United Kingdom, but I am concerned with the parents of the young British migrants. If the parents of those young people accompany them to Australia, they will be forced’, unless they have private means, to continue to go to work in their 70’s and 80’s. The age pension is not paid as an act of charity, but of right. In my opinion, the extension of this provision to persons who come from the United Kingdom to take up permanent residence here is long overdue. When I raised the. matter recently, the Minister made some scathing remarks. Apparently he thought that I was wasting his time, but I was not. It is a human problem and some attempt should be made to solve it.
The Minister has said that the rate of a. wife’s allowance is affected1 by income and property in the same way as the husband’s invalid pension, but that the child allowance is a flat rate payment. That statement is only partly true. If a young person under 21 years of age contracts tuberculosis and has to leave his employment and live at home until accommodation is available for him in a sanatorium, a pension is not paid to him if the parents can afford to keep him. In other words, a means test is applied to the parents. When I raised’ this matter on another bill, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), said he did not’ think that that was so. It is so. I have received n letter to-day from the Department of Social Services concerning a case of that kind. The application of the means test may cause great hardship. The young person concerned may have been earning £5’ a week, or perhaps more. Having become a victim of the scourge of tuberculosis, he is forced to live at home until he can enter a public institution. It may be that he cannot do so for six or twelve months. During that time the money that he earned formerly is no longer coming into the home, hut he has to have expensive foods and care and treatment. It would not he asking much of the Government to request that the pension should be paid automatically to such young persons. It is paid if they are in an institution, hut it is not paid if they are living at home and if the parents have sufficient means to keep them. I ask the Minister to take note of the suggestions that I have made. If amending legislation is introduced to give effect to them, a great need will be met.
.. - It should be pointed out that this bill is designed not to alter the amount of a pension but the amount of the allowancethat is paid in respect of the wife or dependent child of an invalid pensioner.
– Whether it be called a pension or an allowance, it is the same in effect.
– Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) whether this bill could be brought down, in time to allow the increased allowances to be paid next week. I appreciate the fact that it has been ‘brought down promptly, and also that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has raised no objection to the debates proceeding. Many people have been looking forward to these increases to help them and their children. .1 agree with the remarks that have been made by the honorable member for Balaclava regarding migrants from the United Kingdom. I think that someprovision should be made for them. However, as I spoke upon that subject recently I shall not refer to it to-night. I support the bill, and I am pleased to see that it is being dealt with expeditiously.
.- Clause f> of the bill provides for the amendment of section 33 of the principal act by omitting from sub-section 1 the words “ Fiftytwo pounds “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Sixty-two pounds eight shillings “. Clause 6 of the bill provides for the amendment of section 34 of the principal act by omitting the words “ Thirteen pounds “ and substituting for them “ Twenty-three pounds, eight shillings “. I ask the Minister, when he replies, to state whether those amendments are necessary because the New Zealand pound is now of the same value as the pound* sterling and the Australian pound is still worth less than the pound sterling.
– in reply - The amendments of the sections of the principal act to which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has referred are necessary because the allowance payable to the wife of an invalid pensioner is to be increased from 20s. to 24s. a week for herself and from 5s. to. 9s. a week for one child under sixteen years of age. The exchange rate does not affect the position.
– Will an Australian pensioner who goes to New Zealand for temporary residence be affected by the difference between the value of the Australian pound and the New Zealand pound ?
– Persons who come to Australia from. New Zealand for permanent residence will be paid at the same rate as Australians. Persons who go from Australia to New Zealand for permanent residence will be paid at the same rate as New Zealanders are paid. Persons who go from Australia to New Zealand or vice versa for temporary residence will receive the benefits that they were receiving in their own country.
The desirability of a reciprocal pension agreement ‘between Australia and the United Kingdom, has been raised previously by the honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson). I stated two or three weeks ago that the Australian Government had tried very hard, and in fact, is still trying, to secure a reciprocal agreement covering all members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
– When I raised the matter, the Minister was rather hostile. He said that we did not want old people here.
– I do not think I said that.
– One Minister said it.
– I think I said that the new reciprocal agreement with New Zealand covers all social services benefits, whilst the existing agreement covers only age and invalid pensions. I said further that we had sent delegates to Great Britain to discuss with representatives of Great Britain, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand an
Empire-wide reciprocal agreement in relation to social service benefits. We have not yet succeeded ‘in working out a satisfactory formula, but negotiations are continuing. Therefore, it is not right to blame the Australian Government for not doing anything in that direction. The other question that was raised by the honorable member was not in order, because it had no relation to the subject of this bill. The bill deals with allowances for children up to the age of sixteen years. The honorable member for Balaclava, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, said that he wanted invalid pensioners between the ages of 16 and 21 years to be able to stand on their own feet financially, and not be a burden on their parents. The honorable gentleman has raised this subject previously. The Government has altered the provision for this class of pensioner from time to time until, although they are not paid a 100 per cent, pension, the application of the means test is so liberal that very few parents in Australia in anything like straitened circumstances would be obliged to contribute towards the maintenance of a child in that category. The basis of the means test in this instance is an allowance of 60s. a week for every adult member of the family and 30s. a week for every member under 21 years of age. A family man with an average family would haw to earn between £8 and £9 a week before payment of the invalid pension to a child between the ages of 16 and 21 years would be subject to the means test. I agree with the honorable member that it. would be much more satisfactory if such pensioners could be entirely independent, and probably that situation will be brought about by the Government in the near future. I thank the Opposition for allowing the bill to pass through this House to-night so that the wish of thchonorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) and others will be gratified and the increased rates will become payable on the 30th June.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time.
– Is leave granted ?
– No. I object.
Leave not granted.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
Debate resumed from the 16th June (vide page 1153), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Recent decisions of the High Court of Australia which have declared invalid certain sections of our immigraion laws have necessitated the introduction of this bill to amend the Immigration Act 1901-1948 and the introduction of the Wartime Refugees Removal Bill 1949. The Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) outlined the purposes of these measures in his second-reading speeches. The bill that the House is now considering will rectify the situation that has arisen as the result of the High Court’s decision and will restore to the immigration authorities the control that they had always previously exercised by amending section 4 of the Immigration Act to provide that in future certificates of exemption may be issued to persons who are actually prohibited immigrants and also to immigrants who are subject to the contingent liability of being subjected to a dictation test within five years of their arrival in Australia. The amendment will also provide for the validation of certificates of exemption already issued. The main clauses of the War-time Refugees Removal Bill deal with wartime refugees and others who came to Australia, at this country’s pleasure, for various reasons. Our immigration law has been the subject of criticism in recent, months by certain ill-advised members of the community and a section of the daily press. It would appear from some of that criticism that the Minister had introduced a new immigration policy or a new method of administering the existing policy. In fact, Australia has> always had a policy of restricted immigration. Since 1901, every Australian Government and the Australian people at every Commonwealth election have supported the policy of restricted immigration. The policy of this Government is not directed towards the total exclusion of non-Europeans, as certain newspapers would have us believe. For the benefit of the House, I repeat the following statement by the Minister on this subject in his second-reading speech : -
Let me make it perfectly clear that our policy is not, and never has been, directed at the total exclusion of non-Europeans; noi is it based on any assumption of racial superiority. The ideal which underlies our policy is the preservation of the homogeneous character of our population and the avoidance of the friction which inevitably follows an influx of peoples having different standards of living, traditions, culture and national characteristics.
That policy has become known over the years as the White Australia policy, and it has been supported since its earliest days by all prominent political leaders and the people of Australia. As an indication of the support that has been given to it, I quote a statement that was made by Sir William McMillan, the deputy leader of the then Free Trade party, during the second-reading debate in this House of the original Immigration Restriction Bill on the 6th September, 1901. He said -
No matter what measures are necessary, Australia must.be kept pure for the British race.
There had been talk of infiltration by our northern neighbours. He also said -
The only way to meet this danger is not by compromise but absolutely and boldly to say that these people shall not come at all.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has, over the years, been a great advocate of our present policy, and I trust that we shall hear his views in this debate. In his book, The Splendid Adventure, which was published! in 1929, he lias made certain outspoken remarks on the White Australia policy. The following passage appears at page 357:-
The “ White Australia “ policy - as it is generally called - is an integral part of the national life of the Australian people, and although the subject of much hostile criticism, the geographical, racial, and economic circumstances of the Commonwealth amply justify it.
Australia, a western nation seated at the gateway to the East, has a population of little more than 6.000,000, scattered over a great continent. The people are remarkably homogeneous: the overwhelming majority are of British stock and have ideals, traditions «nd standards of living vastly different from those of the teeming millions “of Asia. For a people so situated the only alternative to national and racial extinction is a policy of rigid exclusion . . . We could not assimilate Asiatics without radically changing our racial, social and economic character.
Those words indicate that this policy is deep-rooted in the minds, not only of statesmen at various periods, but also of the general public. I mention those few facts in order to emphasize that the policy which we are now debating is not a new one, and the proposed amendments of the immigration laws are not a departure from the principle that was enunciated when the White Australia policy was formulated. The purpose of this legislation is to close loop-holes that have been discovered in the Immigration Act, in order to maintain the traditional White Australia policy.
Members of the Opposition, and other persons who may oppose the present immigration policy, should’ clearly define their attitude on this national issue. If honorable members opposite are in accord with the present immigration policy, they must support this measure. If they are anxious to abandon this policy, that has endured for half a century, they must vote against the bill. At the forthcoming general election, the people will ask members of the Opposition to explain their attitude on the White Australia policy. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) would’ have us believe that they fully support the present immigration policy. Whilst we accept those assurances, a definite inference may bo drawn from the statements that have been made by some honorable members oppo site and their supporters in the Opposition press, that they believe that the White Australia policy should be watered down considerably. Some members of the Opposition say, “ We are wholeheartedly behind the White Australia policy “. Others have declared from time to time, “ This policy is causing resentment among Asiatics “. Others again have said, “ We in Australia are only doing what the Asians are doing in their countries “. Consequently, there is a substantial difference of opinion among members of the Opposition on this important policy.
All honorable members will agree that the Leader of the Opposition is a brilliant speaker, who is always capable of delivering a fine oration on practically any subject. However, those who heard his speech on the Immigration Bill last week noticed that he was uneasy and uncertain in presenting the case for the Opposition. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who followed’ him, twisted and evaded the real issue. Whilst the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Indi stated the views of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, respectively, on the White Australia policy, they could not dispel from the minds of Government supporters and’ a large section of the Australian people the idea that they would like to water down that policy to some degree. Of course, the White Australia policy is a cardinal principle of our national life.
In the past few years, prominent members of the Liberal party have advocated some relaxation of the White Australia policy. Mr. E. S. Spooner, a prominent member of the Liberal party and a former member for Robertson in this House, expressed the following opinion at a church forum on the White Australia policy on the 8th July, 1945 : -
Some elasticity in the White Australia policy might remove distrust from stronger nations and give it a better chance of permanence without impairing its basic characteristics.
Mr. W. H. Spooner, who is the brother of Mr. E. S. Spooner, is a selected Liberal candidate for the Senate. When Mr. E. S. Spooner’s opinion was published, members of the Liberal party immediately made it clear that his views were in no way related to those of the party. However, other members of the Liberal party have also caused doubts in the minds of the Australian people about its attitude to the White Australia policy. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who, for once, is not here to interject as he constantly does on other issues, made the following interesting statement : -
Every Australian citizen should have the right of choice in marriage, be it black, white or brindle.
They should have the right to bring the foreign bride or bridegroom to this country for assimilation into its domestic economy. Mr. Calwell’s recent deportation of Malays - good citizens and people of excellent character married to Australians - was not the kind of thing to promote good neighbourliness with Australia’s nearest neighbours.
I had hoped that the honorable member would be present to hear that repetition of his statements. Sir William Angliss, the cattle king, who is a Liberal member of the Legislative Council of Victoria, has expressed himself in favour of the temporary importation of Asiatics in order to aid in what he calls the “ development of tropical areas “. He said, when defending his plan, that the idea was not a new one, but had been used successfully to help to develop Queensland. He considered that it could be used again to help to develop the Northern Territory without endangering the White Australia policy.
– When did Sir William Angliss make that statement?
– Last year.
– In view of those contradictions, we should like members of the Opposition to declare their attitude to the White Australia policy. During the parliamentary recess, honorable gentlemen opposite have been outspoken and noisy in criticizing the Minister for Immigration. They have told the people, through the press, what they would do when the Parliament re-assembled. The challenge has been issued to them. If honorable members opposite desire to relax the White Australia policy and introduce a system of quotas, they now have an opportunity to express their views. I hope that they will defend the White Australia policy. [Quorum formed.] I am not surprised that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) should want a quorum formed, because on the 9th February he voted against the White Australia policy. He objects to my criticism of honorable members opposite for their attitude towards this matter.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Martin has made a complete mis-statement.
– Order! If the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) wishes to make a personal explanation he can do so after the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) concludes his address. The honorable member should know that he cannot break into another honorable member’s speech.
– Although I cannot^ at this stage, make a personal explanation, I ask for a withdrawal of the statement that I voted against the White Australia policy, because it is completely untrue and offensive to me.
– The statement was not unparliamentary. The honorable member for Richmond has his redress. If he wishes to do so he can make a personal explanation later.
– I have given my interpretation of a vote that was taken in this
House not long ago with relation to an Ambonese lady known as Mrs. O’Keefe. On that occasion the House divided. The interpretation that I and other honorable members on this side of the chamber place on the vote that was taken is that those who are now complaining about my criticism were lined up in this Parliament as being not in complete accord with the White Australia policy. Members of the public and sections of the press that are not kindly disposed politically to the Australian Labour party, placed the same interpretation on that vote. An article that was published in the Canberra Times on the 10th February reads -
There is in fact no country where racial discrimination is less pronounced than in this continent. There is no half-way house. Once we begin to admit exceptions, our standards must be undermined. Unfortunately while the Oppo- sition claims to agree to uphold the WhitE Australia policy, it has permitted itself to be the victim of hysteria, and now the names of 22 of its members are indelibly recorded in the proceedings of Parliament as having voted against the maintenance of the White Australia policy. Political prejudice was never carried so blindly to such absurd lengths.
That refers to the vote recorded on the O’Keefe matter, which was such a vital issue in connexion with the White Australia policy. The honorable member for Richmond was one of the 22 honorable members mentioned in that article.
As honorable members know, I am the second speaker in succession on this measure on the Government side of the House. Honorable members opposite will have an opportunity later to clarify their position and say whether they desire an amendment of the bill. That newspaper statement is an indictment of honorable members opposite. Over the years the right honorable member for North Sydney has constantly advocated adherence to the White Australia policy. As he is not present in the House I wonder whether he has been silenced by honorable members opposite. I hope that the right honorable gentleman’s enthusiasm has not waned and that later in this debate he will give the House the benefit of his experience in connexion with this great policy, which is part of our national life. I also trust that he will support this measure. It is to be hoped, too, that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) will speak on this measure, because the people of Australia will be interested to hear his views about it.
– The people already know my views.
– The White Australia policy is a matter on which the representatives of all political parties in the Parliament should clarify their views. An opportunity is being presented to honorable members opposite to dispel the uneasiness and unrest in the community about whether the Liberal and Australian Country party members of the Parliament actually believe in the White Australia policy.
Criticisms were levelled at the Minister for Immigration in the Daily Telegraph over the Ambonese woman. That newspaper demanded that she should be allowed to stay here, no matter what the consequences might be, and it declared that she was fitted for citizenship in this fair land. The following day the same newspaper criticized the Government because a Japanese, who had been a citizen of Australia for some time, had evicted an Australian in Sydney in order to get possession of a home. Evidently the proprietors of that newspaper did not realize that the admittance of Mrs. O’Keefe and others in a similar category would make further events of that nature possible, and that that was not in line with the general thought of all sections of the community. It is because of such happenings that the Minister has seen fit to introduce this bill, with a view to Australia being kept a purely British country. It has been stated that the Minister has been harsh and unjust. According to honorable members opposite he should have opened the doors of Australia and allowed people to come here from other countries and take up residence here. However, it is interesting to note that the Minister’s attitude has been strongly supported by practically all organizations worth mentioning in this country. In the Melbourne Sun recently, Mr. J. C. Neagle, federal secretary of the Returned Servicemen’s League, was reported as saying -
We are in accord with immigration policy over the past twelve months. If White Australia is to be enforced, we must be consistent. These people were apparently allowed to remain in Australia on compassionate grounds. Now their time is expired and they must go.
Mr. Neagle’s support is backed by State branches of the league throughout Australia. Furthermore, Sir Frederic Eggleston has supported the Minister’s policy in his comparison of Australia’s attitude with the attitude, adopted by the United States of America and other countries to-day. Not so very long ago a Liberal or United Australia party government excluded a British woman from this country on moral grounds. The colour ban was not raised in that connexion. The then Minister for Immigration was administering the immigration policy of this country to the best of his ability in the national interest. Other cases, also, could be cited of Ministers restricting the entry of certain persons to this country under the provisions of the Immigration Act. It may be said that all the Ministers charged with the administration of the Immigration Act have been sympathetic when sympathy has been demanded, but they have all borne in mind the principle that the act must always be administered in accordance with the traditional policy of the nation.
The restrictive measures associated with the immigration policy have been criticized, and it has been said that the present Minister administers them too harshly. This country, like every other country surely has the right to say who shall be its citizens. Many other countries restrict immigration. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics excludes every one. Malaya, Siam, the Philippines, and Indonesia have policies of exclusion, with only small quotas of immigrants in relation to certain countries. In the United States of America, only the quota system operates. Our policy accords with that of many other countries, but it is more elastic. It has been suggested that we might adopt the quota system under which we should admit to permanent citizenship a certain number of people from different countries. The Minister dealt effectively with the quota system when he said that if it were applied in line with what the Opposition probably has in mind, the quota system would have to apply to Europeans as well as non-Europeans. As the Minister said, with such a policy, in some years only five or ten nationals from each of various countries would be admitted. “We are trying to attract migrants from Europe. We should have to restrict their entry to a quota if we adopted a quota system. What a contrast there would be between our present policy and the policy that would have to be applied if a quota system were instituted. A quota system would be most discriminatory against Asiatics and other non-Europeans, unless it applied equally to Europeans and non-Europeans. The situation would be much worse than any situation that the immigration laws, as proposed to be amended by this bill, could ever create. We admit to this country Asiatics for educational, business and other reasons. The numbers of Asiatics already here, under permits, is greatly in excess of the number that we would allow to come here under a quota system.
I am not convinced that the Australian people want any alteration of the law as we understood it to be before the High Court decision rendered this bill necessary to restore what we regarded as the position. For almost 50 years, our immigration laws have been administered honestly with the best intentions and sympathetically, and, in that respect, the present Minister is no exception. Generally the policy has been accepted and administered by all political parties of Australia. The people of Australia want it to continue as it was thought to be and as it will be when this measure has been placed on the statute-book. Honorable gentlemen opposite who have criticized the present Minister’s administration as harsh and unjust have the opportunity to move amendments if they regard the Immigration Act as faulty. It has been said that the Minister should put the telescope at the blind eye in certain cases, but we should respect him for his fearless administration of the policy. That fearlessness has earned him unpopularity in certain quarters because he will not be swept from what he regards as his path of duty in administering this great national policy. I hope that the noisy member for Balaclava (Mr. White) will have the opportunity, in a division, to show whether or not he supports the policy. I hope, too, that the honorable member for Richmond, the honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), who constantly call for divisions on various issues, will not claim, if they vote against the Government on this bill, that they have been misunderstood by the general public, as they claimed to have been misrepresented in relation to a previous vote to which I have referred. I do not want to hear them making personal explanations to the effect that their votes have been misinterpreted. I commend the bill and hope that it will receive the overwhelming endorsement of honorable members.
– I desire, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to make a personal explanation.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lazzarini). - Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I have been misrepresented, and so has every other honorable mein bor on this side of the House, because the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) said that because I and other honorable members on this side-
– Order ! The honorable member may speak only for himself.
– I am speaking for myself, because the honorable member named mc. He said that I had’ voted against the White Australia policy. No debate has taken place in this House in the last 40 years that called for a decision for or against the White Australia policy. The policy has been unanimously supported by all the political parties in the House. The honorable member said that he based his statement on the vote recorded by me at the end of the debate on the O’Keefe case. That debate had nothing to do with the White Australia policy.
– Order! The honorable member may not debate the O’Keefe case. If he wants to explain a vote that he cast he may do so.
– I can explain my vote only if I explain what the vote was on. A motion for the adjournment of the House had been moved by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) about a Mrs. O’Keefe, who was about to be deported by the Minister for Immigration under the Immigration Act because she had overstayed her permission to stay here. She had been a refugee from the Japanese invasion of Java. I want to make it clear that the vote I recorded’ and that members of the Opposition generally recorded was against the harsh and undiscretionary attitude of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) towards Mrs. O’Keefe. That had nothing whatever to do with the application of the White Australia policy.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Lang) adjourned’.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (6).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes - West Ryde, New South Wales.
Nauru - Report to General Assembly of the United Nations on Administration of Nauru for year 1947-48.
New Guinea - Report to General Assembly of the United Nations on Administration of New Guinea for year 1947-48.
House adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. Yes, there has been export in 1948-49. The Government exercises no control over the export of agricultural machinery except in regard to certain key machines which may be in relatively short supply as listed as follows: - Tractors (wheel and crawler), headers and harvesting machinery, seed and fertilizer drills, pick-up hay balers, tractor mowers, side delivery rakes, and reapers and reapers and binders. The export of tractors is virtually prohibited and almost without exception tho export of the other machines in the above list is limited to Australasian areas, South Africa and the United Kingdom, where they can best serve in supporting British food supplies. A table of exports for the first nine months to the 31st March, 1949, is given below -
e asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Under the New Zealand Wheat Agreement -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
g asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. At the time of federation the Commonwealth took over from the States properties - defence, postal, customs, &c. - valued at over £9,000,000. Subsequently other properties - naval establishments, quarantine, lighthouses - were taken over and dealt with as “ transferred properties “. From the time of federation until 1928 - time of financial agreements - there were many retransfers of lands to the States necessitating alterations in areas, &c. Since 1901 the Commonwealth has acquired for various purposes of the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities, a considerable number of properties each financial year. Brief particulars of all acquisitions arc recorded in acquisition registers. In some instances areas have been recorded, whilst in others measurements only have been given. There has been a very heavy programme of acquisitions since 1940. To supply the information asked for by the honorable member would require the employment of a large staff for a lengthy period at considerable expense. The current work of theProperty and Survey Branch of my department is considerably in arrears due to the serious staff shortages. It is not possible therefore in existing circumstances to supply the detailed information sought by the honorable member.
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Mr. -Chambers. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490623_reps_18_203/>.