House of Representatives
1 July 1949

18th Parliament · 2nd Session

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. 7. J. Clark) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

page 1907




– Can the Prime Minister say whether Mr. J. Healy, the Communist general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, is associated with the Commonwealth equipment handling pool which controlled the distribution of heavy equipment during the war, including machinery and cranes, and, if so, in what capacity? For how long has he been associated with the pool ? What salary and allowances has Mr. Healy received while acting in that capacity, and what are the functions of that body! Is he identical with the Mr. Healy whom the Prime Minister stated had received £1,171 9s. 9d. as a member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission? Is it intended that Mr. Healy shall continue to be associated with the Commonwealth equipment handling pool although his membership of the Stevedoring Industry Commission was terminated because he refused to undertake not to incite members of the federation to flout the commission’s orders ?


Mr. Healy has acted on certain advisory committees as the representative of the Waterside Workers Federation, but I cannot bo positive whether or not he has had any association with the equipment handling pool mentioned by the honorable member. I do not know precisely what connexion he may have with that body. It is correct, however, as stated by the honorable member, that Mr. Healy received more than £1,000 in’ fees as the representative of his organation on the Stevedoring Industry Commission. The honorable member also asked a number of other questions-

Mr Harrison:

– I merely wanted to know whether the right honorable gentleman intends that Mr. Healy shall continue to act as a member of the equipment handling pool.


– I shall prepare a written reply for the honorable member that will cover the various points raised, including the question that he has just asked by interjection.

page 1908




– Has the Minister for Repatriation received representations from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia concerning the rate of pension payable to temporarily total mental patients who are committed to institutions by repatriation boards? If so, has he examined the league’s request that three months after committal to institutions payment of the full pension rate shall be automatic?

Minister for Repatriation · BASS, TASMANIA · ALP

– Some time ago the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and. Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia made representations to me on the subject of the pension rate payable to ex-service personnel whose mental condition had been accepted as having been caused by their war service. That matter has been examined, and the Repatriation Commission and I both consider that the request made by the organization is a reasonable one. The request was that the automatic adjustment of pensions should be a responsibility of .the commission in the case of temporarily totally incapacitated ex-service personnel at the expiration of three months after their committal to an institution, rather than that the patient should have to make representations so as to initiate action. That matter has now been adjusted and I consider that the system of automatic adjustment will operate more smoothly in connexion with both single and married men than has been the procedure that has been followed in the past.

page 1908




– Has the Treasurer’s attention been drawn to a cabled report from “Washington that the United States State Department had announced on the 6th June that about 94,000 tons of military scrap metal had been sold for £10,000 to Mr. T. Carr, of Sydney? If so, was approval given for a dollar allocation to Mr. Carr to purchase that scrap metal, and has the Treasurer any information about how Mr. Carr intends to dispose of it following its arrival in Australia?


– I have not seen the statement to which the right honorable member has referred. Such a purchase would probably have come under my notice if it had involved a substantial provision of dollars. Matters regarding small purchases requiring only a small payment of dollars, however, would be dealt -with by the Exchange Control Branch of the Commonwealth Bank in the ordinary business manner, and on general principles that have been laid down. The particular instance referred to has not come under my notice, but I shall have inquiries made and let the right honorable gentleman, have an answer as early as possible.

page 1908




– Can the Minister for the Interior inform the House of the circumstances under which 43 aborigines, members of the aboriginal co-operative tin-mining venture at Moolyella, Western Australia, have been arrested and marched several miles in chains, to a gaol in the Marble Bar area, Western Australia? Has the Minister received a request (o) for the release of these aborigines; (b) for government assistance for the natives’ own ventures.; (c) for the appointment of a representative and negotiator of their own choice; and (<2) for the release of these people from the harsh measures used under the Natives Administration Act? If the Minister has no knowledge of this problem, will he have an investigation made? Does the Minister know that in that particular area the aboriginal workers have, in recent years, engaged in many co-operative enterprises, and have also established a school and a branch of the Junior Red Cross, and have won the admiration of - all who have visited their camp?

Minister for the Interior · KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– I point out again, as T have pointed out on previous occasions in answer to questions in this House, that responsibility for the control of the aborigines in Western Australia falls within the jurisdiction of the Western Australian Government. The Australian Government has no jurisdiction or control in association with the Native Affairs Department of Western Australia over aborigines -in that State. I know very well the area to which the honorable member has referred, and I have had no advice about the establishment of co-operative societies or schools by the natives there. From my knowledge of the district I should say that the statement that the natives have formed co-operative societies and established schools is grossly exaggerated. I’ also believe the allegation that the natives were chained and taken to a gaol at Marble Bar is also exaggerated, because the natives of that area are a civilized community, and 1 am confident that there would :be no necessity to resort to the chaining of any of them. I shall, howaver, for the sake of obtaining information about the allegations, communicate with the Minister of the “Western Australian Government under whose jurisdiction the aborigines of the area come.

page 1909




– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that there is a large demand for heavy British trucks in this country? If* so does he consider that it would be possible to import more vehicles of that type, and thus help Britains’ export drive and conserve dollars by diverting purchases from hard currency areas?

Minister for Commerce and Agriculture · BALLAARAT, VICTORIA · ALP

– I assume that there is a demand for heavy trucks in this country, but I know of no restriction upon the importation of such vehicles from the United Kingdom or other sterling countries. Undoubtedly, it would be to the advantage of our economy if demands for these heavy vehicles could be met by Great Britain instead of by dollar countries.

page 1909




– Can the Minister for Works and Housing say when the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria intend to start work on the job of increasing the storage capacity of the Hume Weir from 1,250,000 acre-feet to 2,000,000 acre-feet, and thus make possible the generation of hydro-electric power at the wall? If there is likely to be any delay in the commencement of this work, will the Minister, as chairman of the River Murray Commission, impress upon the State governments concerned the urgent need for action, so that residents of the Murray Valley in both States may be assured at the earliest possible moment of adequate electricity supplies as well as a sufficiency of water for irrigation purposes, and so help to free the people of the Riverina district and of northern and north-eastern Victoria from the thraldom of coal ?

Minister for Works and Housing · FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA · ALP

– Agreement has been reached between Victoria, New South Wales, and the Commonwealth on this proposal. Designing work is now being carried out, and preparations are being made for the commencement of construction work. There is however, a serious problem to be considered in connexion with the project. The raising of the wall may mean the inundation of the township of Talangatta. Consideration is now being given as to whether a retaining wall should be built to keep the water away, or whether the township should be removed to another site. When that decision has been made, we shall be able to get on with the work.

page 1909




– Has the Prime Min.ister’s attention been drawn to a statement by Mr. Edgar Ross, associate editor of the miners’ official Communist journal Common Cause, made at a public meeting yesterday, that the freezing of funds would cut no ice on the coal-fields and that-

  1. . the men who fought the lock-out of 1920, stood up to armed force during the Rothbury riot, will not be frightened by pigmy politicians.

If so, what action does the Prime Minister intend to take to make it clear to this Communist that the Government, and not the noisy traitorous Communist element, is in control of this country?


– I have not seen the statement to which the honorable member has referred. I assume that the honorable member has obtained it from a newspaper report. However, I have seen some of Mr. Ross’s other statements on this matter. I do not think that the latter portion of the honorable member’s question is relevant to the issue. Both the Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales have made their attitude to the strike quite clear, and there the matter stands. Nothing that Mr. Ross says is likely to make any difference.


– Did the final conference of parties to the coal dispute which met under the chairmanship of Mr. Gallagher consider terms of settlement? Was the Prime Minister consulted by the Joint Coal Board about the terms of settlement ? Has the Prime Minister seen a statement issued by the Australian Council of Trades Unions that there is only a small gap between what one side is prepared to concede and what the other side will accept? In view of the fact that the country is rapidly entering upon a period of full unemployment, will the Prime Minister, if asked by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, preside over a conference of the parties with a view to bringing about a settlement?


– I assume that the honorable member has in mind the conference held on last Sunday morning. At the request of the Joint Coal Board, a compulsory conference was called by the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. Gallagher, at which I understand there were representatives of the mine-owners, the miners’ federation, and, I think, the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I was not consulted about the terms of settlement. All the parties were present at the conference, and had the right to put their points of view before Mr. Gallagher, who will have to make a decision on the merits of the dispute. I have taken no part in the matter. It is true that when the conference of the previous day broke down, it was suggested to the Minister for Shipping and Fuel that Mr. Gallagher should call another compulsory conference. That proposal was put before me, and I saw no objection to it; but I repeat that it is not for me to make any decision regarding the claims of the parties to the dispute. The honorable member inquired whether I would preside over a conference of the parties, if I were asked to do so. The answer is “No”. As I have said, all parties to the dispute have the right to make representations to the appropriate tribunal. I do not intend, nor, I am sure, does the Premier of New South Wales, to engage in attempts to reach a settlement. There is a proper way to settle the dispute, and that way must be followed.


– I ask the Minister for Defence whether there is a defence production committee in existence. If so, has it any power to arrange for the production of coal or any other materials in Australia?

Minister for Defence · CORIO, VICTORIA · ALP

– The Department of Defence recently appointed the Joint War . Production Committee, which in Australia corresponds to a committee that is part of the defence structure in the United Kingdom. The purpose of the committee, which is just beginning to function, ie to examine the industrial capacity of Australia in order to determine whether there are any gaps in it that must be filled if we are to have a strong industrial base for any war effort that we might be called upon to make in the future. I do not think that such a committee would have any power to enter into an undertaking or enterprise for the production of coal. The arrangements that have already been made by private enterprise and the States through the Joint Coal Board are, generally speaking, sufficient to provide Australia with adequate stocks of coal to meet the needs of any war effort by Australia.


– I direct to the AttorneyGeneral a question based upon section 54 of the Coal Industry Act 1946, which provides that any person who refuses to comply with an order given by the Coal Industry Tribunal shall be guilty of an offence against the act. The section provides substantial penalties, by way of fine or imprisonment, for breaches. Is it a fact that the Coal Industry Tribunal issued an order on the 16th June which required the central council of the miners’ federation to direct all federation members to attend for work at normal starting times and perform their usual duties? Did the tribunal further direct the persons comprising the central council of the federation and any other persons that they should not advise, encourage, induce or incite- any member of the federation to refrain from attending work on that date ? Is it a fact that later in that day general meetings were held at which members of the centra] council of the miners’ federation advised the miners to refrain from work? In view of the apparent breaches of the section to which I have referred, which were committed in defiance of this order, what action does the Government propose to take to enforce the provisions of the section? If no such action is proposed, does the Government intend that the same leniency shall be shown to any persons who may commit breaches of the lighting and power restrictions now in force?

Attorney-General · BARTON, NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– In reply to the last part of the honorable member’s question, the policing of the lighting and power restrictions is, of course, a matter for the States. With regard to the first two parts of the question, the answer to each of them is, I believe, “ Yes “. I think that in each case the order was as has been stated by the honorable member. The Prime Minister has already made a public statement in regard to these matters and I have nothing to add to it at present. The dispute has developed from the oneday stop-work meeting into a much larger issue. The Government’s policy in relation to such matters as have been mentioned by the honorable member is receiving day-to-day and hour-to-hour consideration. In these circumstances, I do not propose to give any indication of the action that may be taken by the Government. Our attitude towards this strike has been made clear. We are at present engaged in endeavouring to police the act which was passed by the Parliament on Wednesday of this week. I am not in any way endeavouring to avoid answering the honorable member’s question. I propose to answer it more fully at a later stage - probably next week.


– Has the Prime Minister seen a report of a statement by the vice-president of the miners’ federation, Mr. W. Parkinson, that the miners’ battle will be fought in the city streets? Will the right honorable gentleman cause an investigation to be made regarding the possibility of prosecuting Parkinson for making an inflammatory statement and inciting disorder in the community? Will he inform the House whether the emergency legislation recently passed by the Parliament is being implemented? If it is, what action has been taken under it to ensure a speedy return to work by the miners? Has the right honorable gentleman been visited in Canberra by representatives of the mine-owners? If he has, what action has been taken as a result of that visit?


– I have not seen a report of any statement that has been made by Mr. Parkinson, the vicepresident of the miners’ federation. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has mentioned to me that, according to press reports, a Mr. Parkinson has made a statement of the kind to which the honorable member for Moreton has referred. My impression is that the Mr. Parkinson who is mentioned in the press reports is not the Mr. Parkinson who is the vice-president of the miners’ federation, although it may be that he is. I shall cause inquiries to be made to ascertain whether such a statement has been made, and, if so, whether it was subversive or calculated to incite violence in the community. I have met representatives of the mineowners. We discussed general aspects of the coal situation. They raised certain points regarding whether or not they should accept responsibility for taking action as a result of the stop-work meeting that was held prior to the beginning of the strike. I expressed to them my personal opinion on the matter. It is a question to which I referred a little while ago. I understand that last night the mine-owners’ representatives saw the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr. My discussion with them was an informal one and I cannot .make a statement about it at the moment, but I shall discuss with my colleagues the points that were raised in the course of the discussion. After all, it is for the mine-owners to take whatever action they think fit. I will at a later stage, as I did then, state my opinion on whether such action was wise or unwise. In reply to the honorable member’s inquiry about the implementation of the measure that was passed the day before yesterday, I can say that every step is being taken to see that it is fully implemented.

page 1911




– I desire to ask a question of the Attorney-General, or the Prime Minister, or the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, or whoever is in charge of the Northern Territory, about the transfer of building materials from

Darwin to Mount Isa, in Queensland, 1,100 miles away. By way of preface, I propose to read a newspaper report of the incident.


– Order ! The honorable member may not quote from a newspaper when asking a question.


– I have before me a newspaper report in large type which states that materials for homes, including bath tubs, which arrived in Darwin by the last boat were sent 1,100 miles from there to Mount Isa. If the explanation is that the Minister has no control over the Northern Territory because of the defeat of the Government’s referendum proposals, as I was told last week by the Minister for the Interior, what does the Government intend to do to prevent that sort of thing from occurring in the future?


– The Government has very little control over the allocation of materials generally, and such power as it has is about to cease because the Prime Minister has written to the Premiers and informed them that, in view of the decisions of the High Court in relation to certain other matters, it is very doubtful whether the Commonwealth has any power to allocate materials to the States or the Northern Territory. Until very recently, at any rate, the Commonwealth allocated certain materials to the States and the Northern Territory upon, a. basis agreed upon with the States. If a manufacturer consigns any of his products to Mount Isa through Darwin, the Australian Government has no power to prevent him from doing so. If the materials mentioned by the honorable member should not have been sent to Mount Isa, the matter ought to he taken up with the Queensland Government. One presumes that materials that are sent to Mount Isa via Darwin are part of Queensland’s allocation of materials of that kind. Consequently, this Government has no power to interfere in the matter.

page 1912




– Has the Minister for Works and Housing received the report of the engineers regarding the diversion of the final one-third of the water of the Snowy River? If so, can he say whether the report recommends that the final one-third should be diverted into the Murray, and not into the Murrumbidgee?


– I have received the final report of the technical officers regarding the ultimate use of the final third of the water from the Snowy River. Before the report is made public, it must be considered by the appropriate Ministers representing New South Wales, Victoria and the Commonwealth, and I have proposed a tentative date for their meeting. I assure the honorable member that statesmanship will prevail


– I address a question to the Minister for Works and Housing relating to the Snowy Mountains scheme. There is still a good deal of confusion in the minds of some people about exactly what is meant by the diversion of twothirds of the waters of the Snowy River into the Murrumbidgee River and onethird into the Murray River. Mr. Kent-Hughes, the Victorian Minister for Transport, who took part in the conference on this subject, conveyed the impression at a meeting held at Orbost that the total diversion would be 66 per cent, of the flow of the Snowy River and that, of that percentage, two-thirds would be diverted to the Murrumbidgee River and one-third to the Murray River, leaving one-third of the normal flow of the Snowy River to continue on its present course. Many other authorities have suggested that the total flow of the river will be so diverted. I should like the lister to make clear whether it is intended that 100 per cent, or 66. per cent, of the normal flow of the river is to be so diverted.


– The point raised by the honorable member is very important. It is possible that when some people considered the diversion scheme they were under the impression that it related to the full flow of the Snowy River at Orbost, where it enters the sea. That is not so. The diversion scheme is based on gaugings of the river at Jindabyne. The statement made by the Victorian Minister for Transport is correct. Only an estimated 53 per cent, of the flow at Orbost is being considered in the diversion scheme. If the diversion scheme applied to the full flow of the river at Orbost the Orbost valley would be very seriously affected. One hundred per cent, of the flow of the Snowy River at Jindabyne represents, in regard to the total gaugings of the river, approximately 53 per cent, of the flow at Orbost. The lower tributaries of the Snowy River that come into the river beyond Jindabyne flow down the Snowy Valley and go into the sea at Orbost. It is the amount of water at Jindabyne that is the subject-matter of the discussion.

page 1913




– Has the Minister for Air read reports from London that serious weaknesses have been revealed in the design of the jet fighter aircraft that participated in the recent large-scale air exercises in Great Britain, and that the weaknesses make the aircraft of limited value for the interception of high-flying bomber aircraft? Will the Minister cause these reports to be investigated so that, if necessary, the defects can be corrected in the jet fighter aircraft that are being produced for the Royal Australian Air Force?


– I have read the press reports of the opinions that have been expressed regarding the ability of jet fighter aircraft to deal with highflying jet bomber aircraft. The Department of Air is investigating the matter. In addition, it has experts in the United States of America who submit regular reports upon aircraft developments there. I do not take serious notice of what appears in the press, because it has been proved time and again that allegations of this kind that have been made have been without a firm foundation. However, the reports to which the honorable gentleman has referred are, in my opinion, of sufficient importance to warrant investigation. An investigation will be made in order to ascertain what truth there is in them. If there are defects in the design of the fighter aircraft that are being supplied to the Royal Australian Air Force, they will, as far as it is possible to do so, be remedied in conjunction with experts of the Royal Australian Air Force.

page 1913




– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inf orm the House whether consideration is being given to the continued rise of the cost of production in the wheat industry? On present indications, is it likely that an increase of the price of wheat for homeconsumption will be announced as from the 1st December next?


– Consideration is continuously given to the cost of production of wheat in Australia. The Government will, as it undertook to do, consider that price in accordance with the recommendations of the committee carrying out the review. The report of the committee will be furnished just prior to the 1st December next, when consideration will be given to the matter, and a decision made.

page 1913




– In view of the apparent good season, and particularly in view of the fact that Argentina has entered into a contract with India for the supply of 350,000 tons of jute this year by that country, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether the Government has made any arrangments or contract for India to supply wheat bags, oat bags and other classes of bags to Australia?


– No firm contract at any fixed figure has been made by the Jute Controller on behalf of the Australian Government. Although prices have risen from time to time, we hope that ultimately they will decrease. Because the jute business is a gamble, private enterprise will not touch it. Although during the three years that have elapsed since the termination of the war the Australian Government has had to finance the purchase of all of the jute requirements of this country, no criticism of that touch of socialism has been beard.

page 1913


Report of Public Works Committee. mr. LEMMON (Forrest- Minister for Works and Housing) [11.7]. - I move -

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee

Act 1913-1947, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, viz.: - Erection of a multi-story block and associated buildings at the Macleod Repatriation Tubercular Sanatorium, Melbourne.

The building is required by the Repatriation Department to extend the existing sanatorium for ex-service personnel suffering from tuberculosis. The Public Works Committee in its report agrees that the additional building is necessary for the treatment of ex-service tubercular patients and that the plans of the multi-story building, subject to minor planning modifications, in which I concur, are generally satisfactory. The estimated cost of the multistory block and associated buildings is £1,050,000 and the project was fully explained to the House on the 30th November, 1948, when I moved that the proposal should be referred to the committee for investigation and ‘report.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 1914


Reference to Public Works Committee

Minister for Works and Housing · Forrest · ALP

– I move -

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - Erection of an office building to house Commonwealth departments in Hobart.

The proposal .covers the erection of a building on the Commonwealth owned site at the corner of Collins and Argyle streets for the purpose of housing Commonwealth departments. The building will be steel-framed, encased in concrete with reinforced concrete floors and beams and the two street facades will have a facing of Tasmanian sandstone with a Tasmanian granite base. The building will be provided with a sub-basement, basement, ground floor and six upper floors. The approximate area of office space available will be 90,000 square feet. Allowance has been made in the structural design for additional floors. The estimated cost is £809,040. I lay on the table. of the House the plans of the proposed building.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 1914


Second Reading

Minister for Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction · Corio · ALP

– I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The provision by the Commonwealth of lighthouses and other aids to marine navigation is authorized by the Lighthouses Act 1911-1942. The authority provided by that act, however, does not extend to the Territory of Papua or to the Territory of New Guinea. The primary object of the present bill is to bring about such extension so as to enable the establishment and maintenance of marine aids to navigation in those territories to be undertaken by the Marine Branch of the Department of Shipping and Fuel.

Prior to the outbreak of war, the maintenance of lights and marine aids was undertaken by the administrations of the Territory of Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. When, subsequent to the outbreak of war, the civil administrations were withdrawn from the territories, control of the lights was assumed by the Navy. This was necessary as a war measure. During the period of naval control, a number of additional aids to marine navigation were installed in the area. The Navy continued to attend to the control and maintenance of the lights until April, 1948. With the ending of naval control, careful consideration was given to the question of the future control of marine aids to navigation in the area and the Government decided that the most economical and efficient means of carrying out the work would be for it to be undertaken by the Marine Branch of the Department of Shipping and Fuel.

The Marine Branch is responsible for the maintenance of lighthouses and other marine aids on the Australian coast, and it has at its disposal lighthouse steamers, equipment and the skilled personnel necessary to carry out this work. During the war years, the personnel available to the territory administrations for this type of work were dispersed, and vessels and other equipment necessary for servicing the lights were lost. The Government felt that it would be preferable to extend the activities of the well-established and experienced Marine Branch organization rather than to re-establish a separate organization in the territories. This arrangement has the additional advantage that it will permit the work of rehabilitation of the territory lights to be proceeded with more expeditiously than would be the case if the organization of the territories had to be re-established. The present bill is to give statutory authority to this decision.

It is not proposed to extend to the territories sections 13 to 18 of the act. Those sections provide authority for the levying of light dues and incidental matters such as refunds, remission and exemptions. It is intended that light dues levied in the territories of Papua and New Guinea shall continue to be collected under the existing ordinances and regulations. In due course, it is proposed to make arrangements for a uniform system of collections to be applied throughout the two territories. The bill also makes provision for two further amendments to the Lighthouses Act. The first relates to the obligation to report any damage caused to a lighthouse or marine mark. In the case of the territories, any such report is to be sent to the Deputy Director of Lighthouses and Navigation, Brisbane, or to some other officer appointed by the Minister for the purpose.

The opportunity has also been taken to repeal section 9 of the act, which was introduced in 1911. That section provides that when any lighthouse has been acquired or erected by the Commonwealth, it shall, as soon as practicable, be connected by telegraph or telephone to the nearest telegraph or telephone office, and the expense incurred shall be charged to the department administering the act. It is unlikely that this section could be complied with in the territories for many years to come, and in any event, wireless communication is now used where difficulties are encountered in using land lines or cables. The requirement is of no practical value because administrative needs make it essential that means of communication be maintained with all manned lighthouses, and, in all cases, the best possible means of keeping contact with lighthouses are used. The bill will place the territory lighthouses directly under the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service, which has the organization and skilled officers to enable it to extend its activities with the least possible delay and with a minimum of cost.

Debate (on motion by Mr. McDonald) adjourned.

page 1915


Second Reading

Mr. DEDMAN (Corio - Minister for

Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction) [11.15]. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purposes of the bill, as its title implies, is to provide, in the interests of defence, for the maintenance of stocks of liquid fuel within Australia. Prior to the recent war it was the custom of oil importers to keep large stocks of motor spirit in Australia, usually amounting to from two to three months’ requirements at seaboard, with further stocks at inland depots. During the operation of the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations the Commonwealth had the ability to regulate the quantities which could be withdrawn from bond and distributed for consumption. As the result of the judgment of the High Court on the 6th June last, which declared the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act 1948, to be invalid insofar as it purports to extend the operation of the National Security (Liquid Fuel) Regulations, the power of the Commonwealth in relation to motor spirit and other liquid fuels is restricted to control over importation, and this power does not include the power to impose legal duties in relation to internal consumption and use of the imported product.

Stocks of motor spirit held at seaboard in Australia in 1948 were at one stage less than one month’s rationed consumption, and over the year averaged only sufficient to provide for five and a half weeks’ consumption under rationing. It is conceivable, therefore, that with no restraint on withdrawals from bond1 or on comsumption, stocks could become reduced to a level which would imperil the safety of the Commonwealth in the event of an emergency arising. The Defence Committee, comprising the chiefs of staff of the three services and the Secretary foi Defence, gave urgent consideration to this matter following on the termination of petrol rationing and it has recommended, from the defence point of view, that the Government should take whatever steps are needed to ensure that adequate reserves of liquid fuel are held in Australia at all times to meet the requirements of the fighting services and essential civilian services in a national emergency, and that, if necessary, legislation shall be introduced for this purpose. The Defence Committee also made recommendations as to the minimum holdings of aviation spirit and motor spirit which it considered necessary, and advised that consideration should be given to the provision of reserve holdings of other liquid fuels.

The bill gives effect to these recommendations. It will not impose any hardship on oil importers, as in the case of motor spirit at least, the quantity proposed to be required to he held is less than actual holdings on the 31st May last. In any event, provision is made in the bill that an importer who is required to hold stocks by reason of this bill shall be entitled1 to fair compensation by the Commonwealth in respect of any loss suffered by him thereby. The bill is a logical sequel, entirely in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth, to the loss of safeguards which the Government has hitherto held under National Security Regulations.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.

page 1916


Second Reading

Debate resumed from the 28th June (vide page 15S1), on motion by Mr. Dedman -

That the bill be now read a second time.


.- Having perused’ the bill very carefully and having discussed its ‘provisions with a number of members of the services, 1 accept it completely at its face value in the spirit in which the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) has introduced it. We recognize that its object is to correct certain anomalies and to liberalize conditions of payments provided in the principal act which was passed last year. The Minister will recall that the latter measure, when it was introduced1, met with general approval in this House. The object of the measure introduced last year was to correct the rather chaotic situation which existed in the payment of superannuation pensions to members of the three armed services. I think that it is but fair to say that prior to the introduction of that legislation, superannuation contributions and payments were on a very complicated basis. There were many anomalies, and, in general, the pensions paid to members of the armed forces did not compare favorably with those paid to members of the Public Service. Indeed, so confused and contradictory was the position that it was inevitable that numerous anomalies would continue even after the measure was enacted to rectify the position. When the measure was before the House a number of members on both sides of the House who had had experience in either World War I. or World War II. made suggestions to correct anomalies and injustices, and it was highly desirable that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman), who introduced the bill, should have given serious consideration to the adoption of some of those suggestions. I have in mind particularly the suggestions that were advanced by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton). However, the Minister resolutely refused to consider favorably any -of the suggestions made to him. His attitude appeared to me that since the measure had been drafted by the Department of Defence in conjunction with the service departments, and approved by caucus, there was, therefore, nothing that the House could do to improve it. I w-as left with the impression that the Minister felt that the submission of the bill to the House was merely a tiresome formality which he had to undergo. I emphasize that point now, because there are still undoubtedly a number of anomalies to be corrected, and I trust that the Minister will receive the suggestions made by honorable members more favorably than he did on the last occasion. On reading the Hansard report of the debate, I was particularly struck by a remark made by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), in the course of the speech which he delivered on the 3rd June, 1948, more so because the forecast which ho made then has been abundantly confirmed. He said -

We have seen the Minister for Defence reject proposals made on this side of thu chamber, and a few months later introduce the 8n mc proposals himself. The Minister’s mind is not immediately receptive, but eventually the idea penetrates.

That has proved to be completely true in respect of the legislation which was then under discussion and the bill which is now being considered by the House. I trust, therefore, that the Minister will adopt a more sympathetic attitude towards any suggestions offered by honorable members.

Four types of cases are dealt with in the bill, and every objection that I had to the former bill has now been met. I was principally concerned with the position of warrant officers with families who found themselves worse off after the introduction of the new system last year than they were before. That position has now been corrected. However, I understand that certain members of the Opposition, including particularly the honorable member for Swan, still have a number of suggestions to make in connexion with the operation of the measure, and I ask the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to any requests for amendment that may now be made to him, in order to avoid the necessity of having to introduce still further legislation on this matter. The House generally appreciates the attempt that is being made to liberalize the payments to ex-members of the armed services, and since the measure is not a contentious one, I have no doubt that honorable members on both sides of the House will co-operate with the Government to improve it.


– I echo the remarks of the honorable mem ber for Henty (Mr. Gullett), and I welcome the introduction of the measure because it will overcome certain anomalies. I can only repeat what the honorable member for Henty has said. It is unfortunate that in the past whenever suggestions have been made to improve measures, they have invariably been rejected by the Government, and, in particular, by the Minister for Defence (Mr Dedman). Usually the Government’s attitude on such matters results in further legislation having to be introduced to overcome outstanding anomalies.

The bill is designed to overcome a number of anomalies which exist and which the experience of the services since the previous legislation was enacted last year have revealed, but the fact remains that payment of superannuation contributions at the new rates imposes a heavy burden to some officers. I have in mind particularly the case of senior officers whose rank and positions carry relatively high rates of pay. Because of the big changes that have taken place in our internal economy in recent years, the value of money has decreased, and taxes have increased substantially. The consequence is that those who receive high rates of pay have to accept correspondingly larger deductions from their pay to meet taxes and their contributions to superannuation. In the case of the Army, an officer who holds the rank of lieutenant-general or major-general is obliged to contribute for 25 units of superannuation, which amounts in some instances, to several hundreds of pounds annually. Although taxation rebates are granted in respect of the first £100, all contributions in excess of that amount are subject to the full rate of tax, and impose a very considerable burden upon contributors. I ask the Government to take that matter into account. The time is long overdue when the rebate limit should be increased beyond £100, because that sum has not the value which it had even ten years ago. I do not want to labour the point, but I ask the Government to give further consideration to the matter.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and’ committed pro forma; progress reported.

Message recommending appropriation reported.

In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :

Motion (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-

That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948.

Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.

In committee: Consideration resumed.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

page 1918


Second Reading

Debate resumed from the 28th June (vide page 1581) on motion by Mr. Babnaed -

That the bill be now read a second time.

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.

House adjourned at 11.33 a.m.

page 1918


The following answers to questions were circulated: -

Civil Aviation

Mr White:

e asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -

  1. Was the use of X-ray recommended for aeroplane maintenance after the inquiry into the Stinson crash in 1945?
  2. Has the department carried out that recommendation; if so, could particularsof the X-ray units so employed be given, and to whom is such service available?
  3. When the suggestion was made that the X-ray unit at Salisbury, Penfield, South Australia, be used by the department, did the official who made the adverse report have any knowledge of industrial X-ray or know how much and what kind of industrial X-ray had been done with that unit at Penfield prior to V-P Day, 1945?
  4. Is the X-ray unit still at Penfield and has it been used since V-P Day?
  5. Was this unit the property of the Department of Munitions and operated by an employee of the Department of Health?
Mr Drakeford:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -

  1. The court recommended that the department should make full investigations into the practicability of the use of X-ray apparatus and for the inspection of aircraft parts in situ.
  2. In view of the recommendation of the court, an officer of the department was sent abroad to study the use of X-ray equipment in relation to the inspection of aircraft structures. This officer found only one case where regular X-ray inspection of the structure was used and this was a particular condition related to inspection of one particular point. He found that the consensus of opinion was that radiography was useful with certain classes of components or types of structure where the nature and/or position of the defects which were being sought were known and it was not a reliable tool for a general search for cracks. He evidenced cases where, because of the type of structure, it was not possible for radiography to bring defects to light and also a case where the X-ray failed to show the existence of a crack which had already been found by other means. Because of this officer’s report, no action was taken to provide X-ray equipment to inspect parts in situ.
  3. The officer who was sent abroad noted that X-ray technique was used fairly extensively in factories during the manufacture of aircraft parts, but this is quite a different application to the inspection of completed aircraft in the field. The equipment at Penfield was a low power installation and only suitable for the examination of small competents and was quite useless for the examination of large built-up sections or for use in completed aircraft structures. The equipment had been used for examination of small parts, such as fuse caps, but as it had been designed for medical use, and in fact was the property of the Department of Health, it was obviously not powerful enough for major industrial application.
  4. At the time the department was investigating the equipment, it was unserviceable and because of its unsuitability for aircraft use, its present position and use of the equipment since V-P Day have not been pursued.
  5. The equipment was not the property of the Department of Munitions, but of the Department of Health, and was operated by the latter department for both departments, flood Relief.
Mr Chifley:

y. - On the 21st June, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked what action has the Commonwealth taken apart from the provision of financial assistance to provide relief for distressed persons following recent floods in the Hunter Valley. In particular the honorable member referred to relief which hasbeen provided in the form of clothing and blankets. In my interim reply to the honorable member I pointed out that in calamities of this kind it has been the practice for the Commonwealth Government, particularly through the services departments, to render whatever assistance that may be possible to persons who are left homeless or in distressed circumstances. I added also that inquiries would be made of the services departments as to what form of assistance nas been rendered in the instances under notice. I am now able to inform the honorable member that immediately the emergency conditions in New South Wales occurred, the General Officer Commanding Eastern Command was directed to collaborate with the Government of New South Wales with a view to affording the greatest possible assistance from army resources. The General Officer Commanding has been in touch throughout with the emergency committee set up by the New South Wales Government and army equipment and personnel to man it’ where necessary were operating in the distressed areas for the relief of families who were rendered homeless and were in need . of assistance. Army blankets, waterproof covers and cooking ear were also made available immediately and the State Emergency Com.mittee of New South Wales is utilizing army resources on loan, where required in close collaboration with the General Officer Commanding Eastern Command. Assistance was also rendered by the Royal Australian Air Force, which, (o) dropped food and blankets in the Singleton area on the 21st June, 1949’, and (b) transported clothing donated by the citizens of Lismore to Williamtown on the 22nd June, 1949, for distribution from that centre. All requests made to the Royal Australian Air Force were fully met. Should any further assistance be required the services departments will gladly cooperate to the fullest possible extent:

New GUINEA Timber Lease.

Br. Evatt.- On the 29th June, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) asked whether the Commonwealth Government requested the Attorney-General of New South Wales to ‘file a nolle prosequi in the case of Edward Farrell, who had been committed for trial under the law of New South Wales on a charge of conspiracy in connexion with the New Guinea timber lease case. Mr. Justice Ligertwood, on his appointment as Royal Commissioner, had inquired as to the position of any outstanding charges against any persons whom he might wish to call as witnesses, and the Crown Law authorities of the Commonwealth duly communicated this inquiry to the Crown Law authorities of the State. The decision to enter a nolle prosequi was made by the responsible legal officers of the State of New South Wales. The Commonwealth Government did not request them to take that action, and neither sought nor obtained information as to the reasons for their decision. Farrell had been charged with conspiracy along with three other persons. On account of the serious illness of Farrell, and after hearing medical evidence, the trial judge at first adjourned the trial of all four accused, and later proceeded with the trial of the other three accused, granting to Farrell a further postponement of his trial. Each of the other three accused were found not guilty. No doubt after these acquittals it appeared to the State authorities to be impracticable to proceed with a charge of conspiracy against Farrell alone. The report of the Royal Commissioner is being carefully examined by the Commonwealth Crown Lav? authorities with a view to ascertaining whether any charge can or should be laid against Farrell or any other person reported upon adversely by the Royal Commissioner.

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 July 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.