19th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I direct the attention of the Prime Minister to reports which appear in al) the metropolitan newspapers of Australia to-day, in which he is quoted as having said -
The international position iB extremely grave. I do not say that in any scare sense, and I am not undertaking to say that we are going to be involved in a major war at the drop of a handkerchief.
I have no doubt that the reports are correct. Will the right honora’ble gentleman make a statement to the House and indicate .the exact gravity of the position? Will he also give the House an opportunity, “before the Parliament goes into recess for a very lengthy period, to discus9 his statement and to indicate, as a. parliament, the measures that it may feel disposed to support because of what he, probably rightly, has described as a very grave international situation ?
– In answer to a question that was asked yesterday, I indicated that I proposed to say whatever could be said on this matter before the week was out. I propose to adhere to that undertaking.
– In view of the alarming international situation, and of the fact that it can be reasonably assumed that a global strategy has been worked out by the United States of America, Great Britain and the Western Allies to meet the constant threat of Communist imperialistic aggression, can the Minister for External Affairs give the House an assurance that Australia’s point of view has been put forward in the councils of the allies and that Australia’s vital strategic interest will be considered in allied defence plans? Can the Minister state that the Government will oppose the prevailing European concept of world strategy, which is that the great bulk of allied and American forces should be concentrated in Europe, and that the Pacific should be treated as an area of quite secondary importance? Will the Minister reaffirm the principle enunciated by John Curtin that it is essential for the security and defence of Australia that the Pacific and Asian areas shall be treated as major centres of defence planning of at least equal importance with the European areas ?
– There is no need to re-affirm the statement made by the late Mr. Curtin: At all times while the
Liberal party and ‘the Australian Country party -were in opposition, and since they have been in Government, they have made it clear that they are especially concerned with the security of this area in which we live. I hope that it is clear enough that since’ the present Governmnent assumed office it has given special attention to this matter. Concerning other questions asked by the honorable gentleman, I point cut that I have informed honorable gentlemen in answer to numerous questions that we are in communication with the governments of the United Kingdom and of the United States of America and other countries not merely from time to time but constantly, and have expressed to them our views of the international situation as it changes from day to day. I am not at liberty to reveal details of those consultations, but I can assure the honorable gentleman that .they are taking place constantly and continuously. I can assure the honorable gentleman also that- we emphasize the Australian viewpoint in those consultations. Whilst we do not desire that any part of the world should be regarded as a separate area in the sense that its problems are wholly unrelated to those of other areas, the interests of different areas require different emphasis in international relations to-day. Australia has a special interest in the Pacific and Asian area, and I can assure the honorable gentleman that in no instance has the Government failed to emphasize that point, of view in its discussions with other countries^ and under no circumstances will it fail to do so.
– Will the Treasurer advise the House whether the recent direction by the Commonwealth Bank to the trading banks of Australia to restrict loans and advances as one of tho elements of an anti-inflationary drive will apply with equal force to the General Banking Division of the Commonwealth Bank! Will the right honorable gentleman consult the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in order to ensure that the percentage of Commonwealth Bank advances in relation to other advances shall not be increased by means of unfair competition or discrimination against the trading banks?
– The answer to each question is “ Yes “.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, is supplementary to the question that was asked by the honorable member for Lowe. Will the Treasurer ascertain whether there is any substance in the allegations that have been made that the Commonwealth Bank is providing finance to the Rural Bank of New South Wales, which is not faithfully observing the recent financial direction issued by the Commonwealth Bank? Will the right honorable gentleman inquire whether, in effect, the Commonwealth Bank is supplying money with which its own advance policy may be flouted ?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s questions and reply to them as soon as possible.
– In view of the fact that the Postmaster-General’s Department is negotiating for the .resumption of properties at Redfern for the purpose of erecting postal stores, will the Postmaster-General ask his officers to give consideration to the resumption of alternative sites in close proximity to the area that has been selected? Is it a fact that, within a mile of the densely populated area that has been chosen, which is occupied by. 80 homes and shops in which 250 families live, there are numbers of disused race-courses, disused temporary wool store buildings and disused brick pita where the proposed postal stores could be erected?
– The resumption of the property in question is designed to provide Sydney, and the remainder of New South Wales for that matter, with an essential mail branch. At present the Postmaster-General’s Department, is occupying a very large section in the centre of die city at Martin Place. The post office there was erected about 80 years ago and accommodation in it is very limited. Therefore, our problem is to find a site somewhere reasonably handy to the Central Railway Station from which the mails are despatched and where they are received. I personally inspected quite a number of sites with my officers, and I am satisfied that the site selected will serve the department and the city best. The houses there are, as I think the honorable member will realize, not of very modern construction. Some are very old indeed. T believe that irrespective of the action that we are taking they would be demolished before very long by the Housing Commission, which is resuming land in the area. There is no possibility of the department seeking an alternative site because it has spent a long time in investigating this matter. It has taken a great deal of effort and research to secure the site, which must be used if the people of Sydney are to have up-to-date mail facilities.
– In view of general concern at the delay in the holding of a public inquiry into the causes of the Amana air disaster in Western Australia, will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the House of the reasons for the delay in holding this inquiry? Is the Minister able to indicate when the public inquiry will be commenced?
– I did intend to make a statement on this subject because of understandable criticisms of delay in holding an inquiry. The delay, can be adequately explained. This accident, which resulted in a tragic loss of life, occurred on the 26th June. The next day the Chief Inspector of Accident Investigation and his assistant flew to the scene of the crash and began a departmental technical inquiry. On the same day, I announced that an inquiry into the accident would be held in open court. Such an inquiry has not been held into all air disasters. A coroner’s court was held, but that operated under a State statute and had nothing to do with the Commonwealth. The inquiry by the technical authorities took some time because of difficult and baffling features associated with this very unusual accident. No purpose would have been’ served by holding the open inquiry until a technical report had been received. Mr. Justice Simpson ruled, at the time of the Lutana disaster, that no court of inquiry could be profitably held until the completion of tie departmental inquiry. The AttorneyGeneral was then asked by me to try to secure the services of Mr. Justice Wolff, who conducted the inquiry into the accident at Guildford last year, with great ability and complete impartiality. Although he was in indifferent health, he agreed to conduct the inquiry, and hoped to be well enough to do so by mid-November. However, he is still not well enough to proceed with it and he probably will not be able to do so until after Christmas. In view of these circumstances, I think that honorable members will agree that there has been no undue delay.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question concerning the air service to Lord Howe Island. Since Qantas Empire Airways Limited inaugurated « regular weekly air service, at the request of the islanders, to Lord Howe Island in 194:7, the residents and tourists have much appreciated all that has been done by that company to maintain such an excellent and efficient service. The carriage of passengers, mails, foodstuffs and other requirements has been of great value to a community which had previously been somewhat isolated. Passengers receive every consideration and courtesy from the personnel of Qantas Empire Airways Limited and are happy in the knowledge of the safety measures that are taken. Recently, at the request of the Government, Qantas reduced its weekly Monday service to three Mondays out of four. Will th, Minister give serious consideration to the possibility of restoring this service to a weekly basis and thus meet the wishes of all those who are mainly concerned? The adult population of Lord Howe Island is approximately 110, but at this time of the year double that number of people visit the island and there are three guesthouses there which cater for over 100 people; They think, being far from the mainland and not able to put their views in Canberra and Sydney, that I should make this request on their behalf and they have written to me to that effect. The document which contains 90 signatures requests that the weekly service should he restored to the island.
– I have before me a copy of the statement which the honorable member has read. It is in the form of a petition and has been signed by everybody on the island. I think that there are about 79 signatures on it. Transport to Lord Howe Island is primarily under the administration of theGovernment of New South Wales, which has the right to issue permits for transport services to the island by air or other means. Qantas Empire Airways Limited has conducted an air service to Lord Howe Island for some time, but the company which initiated an air service to the island is Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited.
-That is not true.
– Is the honorable member for East Sydney such an authority that he can interject in that fashion offhand ? I shall ignore him.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney did not ask the question and he should not interject.
– Both Qantas Empire Airways Limited and Trans-Oceanic Airways Proprietary Limited have been conducting air services to Lord Howe Island. The Qantas organization has been operating a weekly service and the Trans-Oceanic enterprise has been operating a fortnightly service. Qantas Empire Airways Limited conducts services along many other routes and is not very interested in this small service. Rationalization of air services, which is necessary where two companies operate over one route, has been in operation, and Qantas Empire Airways Limited has agreed to relinquish its Lord Howe Island service. There will be no elimination of any service to the island. There is unnecessary alarm among the people of the island, seeing that the air service will continue. The honorable member says that three guest houses do unusually large business at Christmas and other holiday times. If that is so, they can arrange to charter an extra aeroplane if they so desire. The air service to Lord Howe Island will continue and will be run efficiently.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the
Minister for Social Services. I refer to the case of the wife of an invalid pensioner who, because of her husband’s condition, has to be with him, or at call, most of the time. Her pension is £1 4s. a week and there has been no recent increase. Will the Minister ask his colleague, the Minister for Social Services, to make investigations into this matter with a view to granting a more liberal allowance?
– I shall see that the question raised by the honorable member is brought under the consideration of my colleague, the Minister for Social Services.
– I remind the Treasurer of the fact that, although a number of social service payments were adjusted recently, others, including the allowances made to the wives of invalid pensioners and the unemployment and sickness benefits, were not adjusted. Was this merely due to an oversight, and does the Government intend in the near future to adjust these payments? If so, will the right honorable gentleman indicate the intention of the Government? If the Government does not intend to increase these payments will he state the reason for such a decision ?
– I shall have inquiries made and will supply the honorable member with an expeditious reply.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed extensions to the telephone exchange building at Lismore, New South Wales.
Ordered to be printed.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by mentioning that the Victorian Symphony Orchestra was established by an arrangement between the Victorian Government and the Australian Broadcasting Commission in July. 1949. Because, under that arrangement, the Australian Broadcasting
Commission made the larger financial contribution to the establishment of the orchestra, and possessed special experience in orchestral matters, the Victorian Government agreed to permit the commission to exercise control of the orchestra and to select a conductor for it. “Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is correct that since the arrangement was made the Victorian people have heard nothing more of the matter, and that Victorian music has been thrown into chaos by the failure of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to appoint a conductor for the orchestra? Will the Minister ask the Australian Broadcasting Commission to inform him urgently of details of the efforts, if any, that it has made to obtain a suitable conductor for the orchestra, and when it is expected that one will be appointed ?
– I shall bring the matter mentioned by the honorable gentleman to the notice of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and provide an answer for him as soon as possible.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister for Air whether he would allow certain service aircraft, preferably jet fighters, to give a demonstration at the Hobart regatta to be held early in February next. At that time the honorable gentleman stated that because of the deterioration of the international situation it was not possible for bini to make a definite promise but that he would look into the matter and see what could be done. Will the Minister now inform me whether the Royal Australian Air Force can assist the Hobart regatta authorities by making aircraft available for a display.
– Wherever it is possible for the Royal Australian Air Force to participate in functions of the kind mentioned by the honorable gentleman it does so willingly. I remind the honorable gentleman that the Royal Australian Air Force co-operated with the Hobart authorities at certain celebrations held last February and made available the services of one Vampire jet fighter aircraft. I know that that co-operation was greatly appreciated. It can be said that the same thing can be done again, though the Air Force attitude to. such requests may have to be amended if certain happenings eventuate.
– As the war gratuity will be payable in March next, and as it was originally intended to pay it to the value of 20s. in the £1, would the Prime Minister give consideration to a substantial increase of the amount of gratuity to be paid, in view of the fall in the value of money ?
– The answer is “ No “.
– Has the attention of the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior been drawn to the fact that a Communist slogan which was painted in large white letters on the front of thu Commonwealth Meteorological Bureau in Brisbane several weeks ago is still there? Will the Minister take steps to have the slogan obliterated and also endeavour to ensure that in the future Commonwealth property is not allowed to remain defaced ?
– I shall direct the attention of my officers in Brisbane to the defacement to which the honorable member has referred. We cannot prevent Communists from sneaking out in the darkness of the night and painting their slogans all over the country, but I agree that we can sometimes wipe the slogans out on the day after they have been painted.
– Will the Minister for Health say whether it is a fact that the Government has offered payment of 5s. to doctors for each attendance, after 6 p.m., on age pensioners? Do doctors consider that amount inadequate, and is that fact the reason why the Government has not printed the relevant paper and implemented that particular part of the national health scheme?
– There is no connexion between discussions on the matter to which the honorable member has referred and the delay in the promulgation of that particular part of the national health scheme because, as I have said previously, the delay is entirely due to printing difficulties. That part of the scheme will be fully publicized as soon as it is ready.
– As the Minister for Labour and National Service who represented the Government, attended, in conjunction with other members of this Parliament, a conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in New Zealand last week, at which matters *of great importance were discussed, is it proposed that he shall make a statement to this House in relation to the matters discussed at that important conference?
– The usual practice in connexion with these matters has been that the Australian delegation, which does not represent this Parliament directly, but represents the Commonwealth of Australia Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, makes a report to the branch of the association when it next meets. I doubt whether it will be practicable to make such a report during the concluding stages of this session. I certainly hope that early in the new year those of us who had the privilege of attending the conference will have an opportunity of giving fellow members of the branch a detailed report of our experiences at the conference. We came away from the conference convinced of the important part that meetings of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association play in Commonwealth relationships, in view of the present position, inter se, of members of the British Commonwealth. Although these conferences are of an informal character, they have great importance within the British Commonwealth of Nations in view of the changes that have taken place within the Commonwealth in recent years, particularly in relation to India, Pakistan and Ceylon. The conferences are held every two years, and it is interesting to see how seriously other countries of the Commonwealth view their representation at them. For example, the United Kingdom Parliament branch of the association was represented by no fewer than six present and former Ministers of the Crown, including four Privy Councillors. The other countries all sent along strong delegations. Forty-two Commonwealth Parliaments were represented at the conference at which the subjects discussed included foreign affairs, defence, Pacific relations, increased economic co-operation within the Empire, and parliamentary government generally. I believe that the frank discussions that took place will be of great value in strengthening the spirit of co-operation within the British Commonwealth. I hope on a subsequent occasion to have an opportunity to speak in greater detail on this matter.
– Can the Minister for Immigration give the House any information about the methods of screening people in displaced persons camps in Europe, and other persons who desire to migrate to Australia ? A large number of new Australians are located in my district, and the establishment at the local police station has been increased from one constable to three constables as a result of quite a number of bad occurrences in that area. Our citizens realize that the great majority of new Australians are very fine types, but they are wondering whether the methods of screening are adequate to ensure that ‘ persons of undesirable character - I am not speaking of health and physique at the moment - are not being permitted to come to this country. A few unworthy individuals are giving new Australians generally a rather bad name, which they do not deserve. Our citizens consider that the methods of screening are not adequate to exclude those undesirables from this country.
– I shall supply the honorable gentleman with a detailed statement of the screening measures taken in Europe before persons are selected to come to Australia. I understand that a survey has been made of the incidence of offences against the law in South Australia, and, if my recollection is correct, it has been found that, on a population basis, fewer serious offences have been committed by new arrivals than by Australians. Migration is in the news to some degree, and, unfortunately, any objectionable incident in which a migrant is involved appears to be unduly magnified in the press, whereas a similar incident in which an Australian is involved does not attract anything like the same publicity. The screening which takes place in Europe is by no means confined to a security check and to an examination of the physique of a prospective migrant. His character and former activities are closely examined, not only by our own officers, but also by the representatives of the British and United States administration. We endeavour to make the check as thorough as possible. We have ample powers to deport migrants against whom offences are proved, and that authority is exercised when it is considered desirable in the interests of the country to exercise it.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture able to give me any information about the return that the wool industry is receiving for the vast sums, aggregating £11,000,000, which it has contributed to wool research? According to reports, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has expended only about £115,000 of that amount.
– Some figures on that matter are being compiled at the request of the honorable gentleman, and I shall supply him to-morrow with the exact information that he desires.
– Many months ago, I sought information from the Prime Minister about a committee which was appointed to inquire into the reemployment of superannuated officers of the Public Service during World War II. Can the right honorable gentleman now inform me whether the committee has completed its work? If it has done so, what is its decision? In the event of legislation being introduced in the near future to amend the Superannuation Act, will the Prime Minister see that retrospective provision is made to cover those officers who returned to work during World War II. and, by so doing, lost their superannuation payments or a part of them?
– I shall obtain the information that is sought by the honorable member and endeavour to give it to him to-morrow during question time.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs aware that there is a growing opinion in the United States Congress in favour of expelling Russia from the United Nations? Has the attention of the Minister been directed to the opinion to that effect which was expressed yesterday by Senator Knowland, a person of great influence on foreign affairs in the United States Senate? Senator Knowland is a member of the Senate Committee on the Armed Services, and one of the vice-presidents of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy? Is it not obvious that Russia is using its membership of the United Nations in order to stall world atomic disarmament until it has built up its stock of atom bombs ? In view of this, is not the prompt expulsion of Russia from the United Nations an essential step towards the preservation of world peace and the prevention of an atomic disaster? Is it not clear that delay merely increases the dangers and difficulties of dealing with this menace? Will the Minister give some consideration to the policy of the Australian Government in relation to these vital questions?
– I assure the honorable member that the matters to which he has referred have been considered by the Government on more than one occasion. Many of them were dealt with by me when various draft resolutions were submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations. I have no wish to repeat my statements, because they have been published in Current Notes on International Affairs. I had not noticed what Senator Knowland 3aid about expelling Russia from the United Nations. All I have to say on that subject is that, since it is the policy of this Government, and of all governments of the other free nations of the world, to seek to confine the conflict that is taking place in Korea, I do not share the view of Senator Knowland.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether it is a fact that the Government has made arrangements to import steel, and, if so, whether the steel is to be used for general or for specific purposes? On what basis will it be allocated to the States? If steel is to be imported for general purposes, will the honorable gentleman ensure that some of it will be earmarked for independent blacksmiths, particularly those in country areas, who are a vanishing race because the desperate shortage of round, flat and angle iron is pushing them out of business just when farmers and ex-service settlers urgently need their services for the repair and maintenance of agricultural implements?
– The Government has no intention at present of importing steel for other than its own purposes. It imports steel for building work and also has used its best endeavours to persuade State governments and instrumentalities to do likewise. Iron and steel are used in such a wide variety of forms that the Government considers that the best results can be obtained if merchants and other large users import their own special requirements. The Government does not believe that it could buy to better advantage than private merchants. Bearing in mind the wide variety of uses to which iron and steel are put, it would be impracticable for the Government to change its policy. It is buying structural steel and other classes of iron and steel for building work to the limit of its requirements. Although th is procedure involves a great deal more expense than does the purchase of local steel, it leaves the local market free for private enterprise.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to membership of the Australian Egg Board pending the holding of elections of members to represent producers in each State.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to enable the present term of office of producer members of the Australian Egg Board to be extended for the temporary period necessary to allow elections to be organized and conducted in the poultryraising industry in order to determine future producer representation on the board. Provision is made for six eggproducer representatives to be members of the board, one of whom will represent each State. The first threeyear term of office of producer membrs appointed to the board under the Egg Export Control Act 1947-1948 will expire on the 31st December this year. The act provides that members representing producers shall be elected, wherever practicable. Alternatively, where, in the opinion of the Minister directly concerned, it is not practicable to hold an election of producers in any State, it is competent for the Minister, after consultation with representatives of egg-producer organizations in that State, to select an egg-producer and appoint him to the board. This was the method adopted by my predecessor in office in 1947 by reason, I understand, of the time factor.
There is such a lack of uniformity in existing legislation relating to the egg industry in the various States that the organization necessary to ensure the satisfactory conduct of elections amongst egg-producers in the different States is so extensive as to require months of preparation. In the five States in which elections are held to determine the personnel of State egg boards, there is no common ground, even on the definition of an egg-producer. Moreover, the times at which the State elections are held vary and consequently some State rolls would necessarily he out of date at any given time that elections of producer representatives to the Australian Egg Board might be held. In the “ one State where no election takes place, the position in regard to the enrolment of electors and the conduct of a Commonwealth election will present still greater problems.
Following strong representations from various sections of the egg industry, which do not always see eye to eye on these matters, I am convinced that it is most desirable that the egg-producing industry as a whole should have the fina] say, on a State basis, on who shall be its representatives on the Australian Egg Board. The system of election is the most democratic method and, in the final analysis, the most satisfactory one, since it gives every interested producer the opportunity to have a say in the standard of representation of his industry in what is a most important sphere.
The amount of work involved and the time required to organize elections throughout the various States, are so great that it has been found quite impossible to make the necessary arrangements for producer elections in the time that has been available since it has become clear that the appointment of producer members to the board without elections would not be satisfactory to the industry or the Government. The logical alternative is a temporary extension of the term of office of existing producer members of the board to allow sufficient time for elections to be conducted in each State. The existing Commonwealth act does not permit this and the purpose of the present bill is to make the adoption of such a course possible. I invite the attention of honorable members to the fact that only producer representatives on the board will be affected by the provisions of the bill. Appointments of the other four members - two with commercial experience, one representing employees engaged in the industry and one representing . the Australian Government - will not be affected. They will be made in accord ance with the provisions of the existing act. I commend the bill to honorable members.
.- The Opposition supports this amending bill. As stated by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), the facts are that in 1947 the egg producers of Australia indicated to the Government very clearly that they did not desire a continuation of the existing wartime control of egg supplies. The Government, in accordance with the wishes of the producers, brought down legislation which established the existing board. As the time element wa9 important it was impossible to hold an election which would give producer representatives from the various Sta tes. Provision was made in the act of 1947 for nominations of representatives to be accepted by the Minister and for the Minister to make the appointments himself. As Minister for Commerce and Agriculture at the time, I endeavoured to select from the various States producer representatives who had had long experience in the industry and who I believed would be most acceptable to the egg interests concerned. I believe that the persons who were selected have given general satisfaction to the producers concerned. I believe that the Australian Egg Board has operated efficiently and well in the interests of the egg producers of the Commonwealth. It is obvious to anybody who knows anything about the export trade that it is essential to have an egg export control hoard, otherwise there would be a chaotic state of affairs. Under existing arrangements with the United Kingdom Government, which include an exporting contract, an efficient exporting trade could not possibly he carried on without such control. Therefore, machinery must be provided for the appointment of representatives to the board.
I support the bill, , but I regret that, due to pressure of work and some neglect, circumstances which prevented me from taking the necessary action as Minister have also prevented the present Minister from taking such steps as would have resulted in the preparation of a roll which would have allowed the eggproducers of Australia to elect their representatives to the board on a democratic franchise. The fact that the operation of this measure is to be limited to a period of twelve months indicates that the Minister believes that during that twelve months an opportunity will be accorded to the producers and to the State governments to cooperate with the Australian Government in the compilation of satisfactory rolls and the holding of the necessary elections. Admittedly, it is difficult to compile a roll in the various States. Under State legislation the qualifications for enrolment to vote for the election of State boards varies substantially. For that reason the whole matter has reached its present stage and no satisfactory method of compiling the roll has been evolved. The Opposition hopes that an acceptable roll will be compiled.
I hope, also, that the producers organizations will take some united action. In Victoria there are numerous producer organizations and that fact alone has accentuated the difficulty. I should not like it to be thought that the previous Government or this Government was enamoured with the idea of the Minister nominating appointees from nominations to boards such as this. I feel sure that this Administration, as did the previous one, approves of the democratic election of producers representatives to authorities of this character. I support the measure and I hope that the Minister will not be as neglectful in the next twelve months, if he remains in office that long, as he has been in the past year. I accept my share of responsibility for not having taken more prompt action in this matter. The industry is a great one and deserves excellent treatment which will give it absolute confidence in the egg export control authority.
.- I agree with certain remarks that were made by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). It seems strange that I should agree with the honorable member on a subject relating to primary production. But, with him, I support the bill. However, if there is one thing more calculated to destroy the unity of the British Empire than another it is the system of inter-governmental contracts for the sale of foodstuffs. The British Empire used to be a family of very firm friends, but I do not know how long it will remain such a family if our relationships are to be continually disturbed by a series of haggling matches and the payment to producers of bare subsistence prices. The British Ministry of Food has proved to be ruthless in regard to egg contracts. Naturally, it has extracted every possible advantage. The Chifley-Pollard contracts tied the hands of the present Government so that there is very little that it can do in this respect.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman is getting well outside the scope of the measure.
– I was referring to the remarks of the honorable member for Lalor with regard to the export trade. Producer representation is wisely provided for in this bill. Such representation is essential in order to ensure, particularly with regard to the export of eggs, that the primary producer receives a fair price for his product. That can be done only if those producers are represented on the board. As the honorable member for Lalor well knows, the export price of eggs is well below the cost of production.
– I take it that the honorable member is rather in favour of the trade reverting to the merchants?
– This socialized system of governmental contracts leaves itself open to a certain amount of abuse. It is well established that Great Britain has been more concerned with sentiment than it has been with the costs of production in relation to egg contracts. I support this bill which makes wise provision for producer representation on the board.
– I wish to support the measure. I have the honour to represent the biggest single egg-producing district in New South Wales. I know that there is very considerable concern amongst those who are engaged in the industry at the failure to have the producers’ representatives - elected by the producers who are vitally interested in what becomes of their product. It is a matter of definite policy with my party that those who are members of these boards should be elected by the people engaged in the industry concerned. I urge upon the Minister that, consistent with the fullest and most representative role of those engaged in the industry a poll shall be taken at the earliest possible moment.
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.
Debate resumed from the 5th December (vide page 3642), on motion by Mr. McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 5th Decem ber (vide page 3643), on motion by Mr. McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 5th December (vide page 3683).
Department of Fuel, Shipping and Transport
Proposed vote, £539,000.
Department of External Territories
Proposed vote, £97,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.-I desire to say a few words in connexion with the Department of External Territories. During the last parliamentary recess, I visited Papua and New Guinea together with my colleague, Senator O’Byrne, and a number of other members of the Parliament. That visit was most educational and informative and an experience that all honorable members should seek at an early date. A great benefit may be gained by members of this Parliament from a visit to our external territories. Thanks to the assistance and co-operation of the Minister in making available transport facilities, we were enabled to visit not only settled areas like Moresby and Lae. but also Bulolo, the highlands and other areas normally inaccessible. To visit New Guinea and Papua and merely see Moresby and Lae would be like visiting Melbourne or Sydney and not leaving the hotel at which one was accommodated.I am grateful to the Administration and the Minister for the assistance given to Senator O’Byrne and myself. I also thank the Parliamentary Secretary for External Affairs, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), for facilitating our travel in the territories.
Recently a great war has concluded, some of the campaigns of which were fought in New Guinea and Papua. To expect the rehabilitation of these areas in a short time would be to expect almost the (impossible. I believe that the previous Government and this Government are entitled to some credit for the manner in which they have grappled with the tremendous tasks which face us in those areas. I believe that the Minister controlling those territories, no matter what political party he belongs to, should make constant visits to them at short intervals in order to maintain absolute familiarity with their administration and progress. Such action on the part of a Minister would have a valuable influence on the residents of the territories, because they would then realize that we are closely interested in their general welfare. I believe that if regular visits were made by the Minister and the honorable member for Calare. and also from time to time by members of the Parliament, it would do much to allay the feeling of settlers in Papua and New Guinea that they are manning a forgotten outpost. Whilst I am not able to form any adequate opinion of the result of the visits which the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Spender) has made to the territory, I believe that they must have done considerable good.
Undoubtedly a tremendous amount of constructional work must be done if the territory is to be made reasonably habitable for the present settlers, apart altogether from any consideration of expanding the production of the territory. I commend to the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Casey) the policy laid down by his predecessor, the former member for Forrest, Mr. Lemmon. The Minister for External Territories has already pointed out that he cannot do a great deal to improve conditions in New Guinea without the active co-operation and support of the Department of Works and Housing. I therefore appeal to the Minister for Works and Housing to visit the territory and see for himself the difficulties under which the administration is being carried on. Whether rightly or wrongly, the people of the territory feel that the Departments of Works and Housing has neglected them shockingly. Apart altogether from the erection of houses, the construction of buildings for such elementary needs as hospitals and schools has been neglected. Whilst the decision of the Government to expend £250,000,000 on its developmental programme is most commendable, I consider that any one who has visited New Guinea and has seen the lack of facilities must agree that a portion of the money should be devoted to expenditure upon Papua and New Guinea. The immediate construction of buildings is required to overcome many of the hardships endured by people in New Guinea. In my short visit to the territory I noticed a number of matters that require immediate attention. Although the frightful damage done to towns in New Guinea and Papua is probably no worse than that sustained by other towns in other countries that were ravaged by war, it is obvious that the ravages of war have been accentuated by the extreme severity of the tropical climate in New Guinea.
That aggravation of circumstances applies particularly to Port Moresby and other towns, where there is a grave shortage of houses. The lack of proper hospital facilities for natives and for white people is appalling. I visited a native hospital at Ela Beach, which is run by Dr. Maru with the assistance of two competent medical practitioners who were formerly displaced persons. They have 55 trained natives to assist them. In the infectious diseases section of the hospital 134 patients were receiving treatment, although only 34 beds are provided. Many of the patients were sitting, lying or kneeling in every part of the ward from the ceiling to the earthen floor. In another section there were 300 patients, and the inadequacy of beds was even worse. I visited the kitchen at the hospital and I was nauseated by what I saw. The food was being cooked on an earthen floor. The portion of the premises set aside for a laundry is used as a laundry in the daytime, but as a morgue at night. Having regard to the appalling conditions, the work carried out by the medical staff is magnificent. However, there does not seem to be any real reason why the accommodation should be so shockingly inadequate. Plans for a new hospital building were prepared years ago, and the new hospital should have been provided long since. I know that if war occurred to-morrow a hypermodern hospital would be erected there in no time. We desire to provide the best and most modern medical treatment for the natives in New Guinea; but if we are to do that decent hospital buildings must be erected. The provision of hospitals is one of the crying needs of the territory, and the Department of Works and Housing should get its teeth into the job of building them.
The conditions at Lae are only slightly better than those that I have described. The condition of the town and particularly of the hospital after it had been flooded was appalling, and constitutes a challenge to the Government to do its duty by providing proper accommodation for people in the territory. In mentioning these matters I desire to make it quite clear that I do not accuse the present Government, nor, for that matter, the preceding Labour Government, of being solely responsible for the present state of affairs. The present inadequacy and state of disrepair of buildings in New Guinea is very largely a consequence of the recent war. The extraordinary problems that confronted the preceding Government during the immediate aftermath of war prevented it from giving attention to these matters. However, the time is now overdue for us to fulfil the promises that we made to the white pioneers of New Guinea, and. also to the natives of New Guinea during the recent war, to rehabilitate and to develop that territory. For the sake of emphasis, I repeat that whilst the Minister for External Territories is most anxious to rehabilitate the territory he is being hampered by the inability of the Department of Works and Housing to play its part in New Guinea. I therefore appeal once more to the Minister for Works and Housing to make an early visit to the territory in order to see the situation at first hand, and to make repeated visits to that area until the number of houses and public buildings erected is sufficient to meet the needs of the people.
I should like to say something now about the grievances of the public servants in New Guinea, which have led to considerable discontent amongst them. 1 should like the Minister for External Territories to say whether it is a fact that they are denied the benefit of access to the Public Service Arbitrator. I also think that the Minister should examine the complaints concerning the imposition of income tax on the allowances paid to married women who assist the administration by working in the offices in New Guinea. Another matter that is causing considerable discontent among public servants is that of pro rata leave. I have in my possession a lengthy memorandum which sets out in detail the grievances of public servants in New Guinea, but, unfortunately, time will not permit me even to refer to those grievances. The fact is that a great deal of dissatisfaction exists among the public servants in New Guinea, who are doing a splendid job under most difficult conditions, and are entitled at least to fair treatment.
I conclude my remarks by thanking all those who were .associated with the visit to New Guinea that was recently made by members of the Parliament, and I thank the Minister for External Territories for having provided facilities which enabled us to visit the territory. Whilst I appreciate the interest in New Guinea displayed by that Minister, I again stress the need for the Minister for Works and Housing to visit the territory as soon as possible and to impart some impetus to the building construction programme in New Guinea.
– I refer to the proposed vote for the Department of Fuel, Shipping and Transport, and I shall relate my remarks to the Government’s drive for increased coal production. I want to speak about the West Moreton field in Queensland. In the time at my disposal it will not be possible for me to say a great deal about the coal-fields that compose that field, but I shall give the committee some indication of the conditions that prevail on them. They are the Bundamba, Rosewood and North Ipswich coal-fields, the conditions on which are different from the conditions that prevail on most other coal-fields in Australia. I believe that it would be possible to do a great deal to develop the production of coal from those fields, which are situated close together. Their outstanding characteristic is that they contain a number of small units of production. There are, in fact, 67 mines, each of which produces from 30 to 400 tons of coal a day. Each mine employs only a small number of miners. Many of the mines are managed by owner-miners who have worked in the mines all their lives. In some cases their fathers worked in the mines before them. There is not much mechanization in those mines, in many of which handborers are still used. I believe that the majority of them also still use handwheeling. Approximately 1,800 mineworkers are now employed on the West Moreton field, and reside mostly in the City of Ipswich. Even many men who work in the Rosewood mine live in Ipswich and travel about 12 or 15 miles to work every day. The housing conditions of the miners are good and compare favorably, and sometimes more than favorably, with housing conditions on any other coal-field in the Commonwealth. In fact, Mr. Justice Davidson commented favorably on them in the coal report that he made to the Australian Government in 1945-46. Under such conditions the output of coal per man-shift from the West Moreton field compares more than favorably with the output from deep, highly mechanized coal mines in New South Wales. I shall substantiate that statement with some statistics that I shall now place before the committee. In 1946, in which year a strike that lasted for five weeks occurred, the output from the field was approximately 800,000 tons out of a total Queensland output of 1,500,000 tons. The following table gives the approximate figures of output from this field in relation to the total Queensland output : -
In the period from January to June of this year the field has produced nearly 600,000 tons. The output per man-shift on the Bundamba field in 1946 was 3.87 tons ; and in 1947 and 1948 it was 3.9 tons. The committee will recognize that those figures are very good for mines that are not highly mechanized. The average output per man-shift in the North Ipswich mine was 4.5 tons in 1947 and 4.4 tons in 1948. Comparable figures in New South Wales mines that are far more highly mechanized than those mines show that the output per man-shift in that State was 2.92 tons in 1948 and 2.91 tons in 1949. The comparable figures for the West Moreton mines in the period from January to June, 1949, was 2.63 tons, and from July to December, 1949, it was 2.65 tons. So, although the level has fallen in the last few years, the output from those unmechanized mines is still virtually the same as the output per man-shift in the highly mechanized New South Wales mines.
I now direct the attention of the committee to certain other special features of the West Moreton field, one of which is the excellent industrial relations that have prevailed, and still prevail on it. The main factor in the maintenance of these good industrial relations is that the mines are small and that therefore the contract between the owners and the men is more intimate and personal than it is in the larger mines. They produce gas and coking coal as well as coal that is used on the Queensland railways and in power houses. It may not be equal in quality to the coal produced in deep New South Wales mines, but it is at least sufficiently good to provide power for major industries in Queensland, for the production of electric power and for use by the railways and by gas companies. I believe that the field has great potentialities. It lies behind the largest port in Queensland, being from 24 to 36 miles from Brisbane on the main railway line. It is also served by the main western road which runs from Brisbane through Ipswich. Some of the mines are also served by loop lines. The landed cost in Brisbane of coal from these mines is £2 5s. a ton, whereas the landed cost in Brisbane of Callide coal is £5 6s. a ton. In addition, the quality of the coal from the field is superior to the quality of the Callide coal. As well as those advantages, the field has a labour force that has, in the main, though not entirely, excellent housing conditions.
The first of the three requirements for the development of production on that field is the making of a proper survey of its resources. It is estimated that the field contains at least 192,000,000 tons of coal. Another requirement is the provision of access roads to the mines, because at the moment some of them are served by extremely bad roads which are uri trafficable in wet weather, when the mines must stop production because either labour cannot get to them, or it is impossible to move mined coal away from the pitheads. A further requirement is mechanization both for the winning of coal and for its later treatment. Obviously, coal mined by machines contains a larger proportion of stone and debris than coal that has been cut by hand. The present position is that, owned and organized as they are in small units, those mines do not possess the finance that i9 necessary to install mechanization or to effect the improvement of the road approaches that is necessary if the field is to be fully developed. I suggest that the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government might consider means to overcome that difficulty. Most mechanical equipment for mines is imported at great cost which is beyond the means of the owners of these mines. The distribution of such equipment is controlled by the J Joint Coal Board which, as the committee knows’, has no voice in the management of Queensland mines. I understand that some negotiations have taken place in that regard, but all that can be done legally is that, if the Joint Coal Board has any surplus machinery it may make it available. In my opinion whether the first approach is made by the Queensland Government or by the Commonwealth is not materia], but the fact is that here we have a coal-field with great resources which could well be developed to much greater productive levels provided machinery, better roads and more investigation were made available, much more cheaply than can more distant fields. But liaison is required between the Commonwealth and the State, and the owners should be granted access to the Commonwealth pool of machinery. Such equipment should not be offered for sale, but should be made available on a hiring basis. It might well be that some of the machinery that is suitable for winning coal in the deep mines in New South “Wales would not be suitable in the mines to which I refer, because their seams do not possess such wide faces, and the grades are steeper. It should be apparent to honorable members that here are great potentialities for the production of a large quantity of coal of good quality, but a preliminary requirement is a sensible arrangement between the Commonwealth and the State. Such an opportunity should be seized without delay. The Government is most eager to increase the output of coal in order that production generally throughout the Commonwealth may be expanded. This is a golden opportunity to develop a partly developed field at a much more accessible site than are many of the fields on which expenditure is being incurred at the present time.
.- I shall offer a few observations about the proposed vote for the Department of External Territories, and, at the outset, I shall make some comments on the speech by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I realize that a brief visit to the territories may lead a person to arrive at false conclusions regarding the tremendous problems awaiting solution. That fact is evident to every honorable member who has visited that area. It is not easy to provide an adequate health service for the natives of those territories, and such will not be accomplished in a short period. Tremendous problems arise as a result of the lack of building materials and inadequate staff, including doctors. It is safe to say that all political parties represented in this chamber were not territoryconscious until World War II. That is to say, not a great deal of interest was taken in the territories, or in their development. I give an illustration to show the committee, and particularly the honorable member for Grayndler, the exact position in regard to health services in the past. The annual expenditure on the maintenance of public hospitals alone in New South Wales exceeds £2 a head, but in Papua before the outbreak of World War LT. the expenditure on all health services was about ls. 3d. a head and, in the Territory of New Guinea, 2s. 6d. a head. Those figures show conclusively that not a great deal was done in respect of health in the past. As a matter of fact, virtually the only health service of any consequence in the territories before the war was provided by the missions. It is true that there was a limited amount of governmental activity in that field, but it was never on a planned scale.
The programme that was laid down by the Chifley Labour Government provided for the expenditure of some millions of pounds on the development of the territories, and a considerable proportion of that allocation was to be devoted to the improvement of health services. I have no doubt that such a policy i? being continued by the present Government. But I believe that even if the Government remains in office for its full term - I hope that it will not do so - and grasps every opportunity to improve the health services, much will need to be done at the end of that period, because of the colossal nature of the task. I would also point out to the honorable member for Grayndler that a visitor, who just dashes through the territories, may get the impression that the hospitals are overcrowded from time to time, but much of the overcrowding has been due to the fact that the natives follow a peculiar custom. When a person becomes ill and goes to hospital, he is accompanied by the other members of his family. It is quite possible that the honorable gentleman, when he saw persons sitting on the floor, and in other places in a hospital, was looking, not at patients, but at their relatives.
I shall now level some criticism at the present administration of the territories. I understand that the provision that was made by the Chifley Labour Government for the establishment of a special department to deal with native labour matters has been abolished, and that the control of native labour is now centred in the Government Secretary’s Department. Such a change is a mistake. The preceding Government, and I as Minister for External Territories, considered that a special department should be in existence to deal solely with native welfare. To give such a responsibility a secondary position in another department is to take a retrograde step. I have been watching the development of native cooperatives with considerable interest. Under the sponsorship of the department, and with the encouragement and sponsorship of various mission bodies, they are making great progress, and, to-day, their assets and turnover amount to some thousands of pounds. Such a movement should be encouraged, and, if necessary, special funds should be provided by the Government to assist it, because the natives are often prevented from developing their operations in the co-operative sense as a result of the lack of money. Yet, despite all their difficulties, they have made substantial progress. The natives are displaying great aptitude for that kind of activity and, under the tutorship and supervision of the mission bodies and of the Government, are now controlling many activities on a co-operative basis.
I direct the attention of the Minister to one feature of the activities of the native co-operatives of which he may not be aware. The natives have a rather different appreciation of the value of money from that of Europeans. After they have produced certain commodities, they are inclined to dispose of them, regardless of their real monetary value. The Government should take action to protect their interests in such matters. It has been brought to my notice that the Government has been purchasing rice grown by the natives in certain cooperative gardens for their own requirements. In the production of various commodities on a co-operative basis, the needs of the natives should have first priority. But children began to advise their teachers at the missions that they were obliged to stay away from school because they were hungry. It was then discovered that the rice, which had been produced on a cooperative basis by the natives, had been sold for 3d. per lb. to the Government for its own work-boys on the roads. Every honorable member will agree that such a practice should not be followed and in any case it will be agreed that 3d. per lb. is a ridiculous price to pay to the natives for their rice, and that ft is not an adequate return for their labour. The Minister should ascertain whether the practice of the Government of takingadvantage of the activities of the various native co-operatives by buying their production at unreasonably low prices is continuing.
– To which co-operative does the honorable member refer?
– I shall have to look through my correspondence in order to obtain that information, but I am prepared to supply the name of that cooperative to the Minister.
I now direct attention to the establishment of a tourist hotel on the Killerton road on the way to Higituru. At the outset, I make it clear that I refer, not to persons who go to the territories for the purpose of visiting the graves of relatives, but to large numbers who, because they may have more money than they know what to do with, go there for a holiday. It is feared that the contact of such people on the primitive native will he to the disadvantage of the indigenous inhabitants. Tours are being arranged from this hotel to various parts of the territory, and it is proposed in the future :to conduct them on an even more extensive scale. Therefore, I suggest that the Minister make an investigation in order to determine what can be done to protect the interests of the natives.
Since this Government has been in office, the prohibition that was imposed on the employment of natives from the highlands in coastal areas has been removed. Previously, it was considered that the employment of these men in the coastal regions was detrimental not only to those who were directly concerned but also to the people of their villages upon their return at the termination of their contracts!. When this subject was raised previously in this chamber, the Minister replied that the change had been made upon the advice of responsible medical officers. In view of that reply, I went to the trouble of studying some earlier reports on the subject, the terms of which prove that the Minister’s decision is open to question. It seems to me that the interests of the natives are not receiving the priority that they should be accorded by the Government. I refer honorable members to the report of a commission that was appointed in 1939 to inquire into the subject of native labour in the territories. Dr. T. C. Backhouse, the Government Pathologist, informed the commission in evidence that he was of the opinion that high altitude and nonmalarious natives did not maintain their health on transfer to work on coastal levels. He elaborated his statement by referring to observations that he had made at Put Put, New Britain, in December, 1937. He said that a number of deaths had occurred among natives from the highlands and that many others had been returned to their villages, of necessity, before their contracts had expired. Dr. Gunther, who, I assume, is identical with the Dr. Gunther who is now in charge of the health services of the territories, gave evidence which conflicts directly with the advice that has been tendered to this Government. He said -
In 1933 Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited engaged 90 natives from the mountains behind Sio (Huon Peninsula, Morobe district) from the altitudes of 4,000 to 7,000 feet . . . After eight months twelve had died in hospital, mostly from malaria alone, or from malaria complicating other conditions which alone would probably have not resulted in death. … At this time eight were repatriated because they had suffered so severely and so often from malaria, and were in such poor condition, that I was of the opinion that unless they were removed from the risk of further infection they would all die. . . . Under no circumstances will I again accept natives from non-malarious districts for work at Bulolo.
On page 15, the commission reported -
The Commission endeavoured to ascertain whether the high altitude natives could be returned home after malarial infection without detriment to their people.
It i9 important that we should have regard to the effect of coastal conditions not only upon the men who are employed in such areas but also upon their fellow villagers when they return to their homes. The report continues -
Perhaps the point can best be emphasized by the reply of one of the medical witnesses when these questions were put to him. It was: “ Return them to non-malarious districts; give them drastic treatment with quinine, atebrin, plasmoquine; offer up constant prayers; and enlarge the local cemetery.
The commission then expressed , the following opinion : -
We are of the opinion, therefore, that natives belonging to high altitudes cannot be taken into consideration in relation to employment at low levels, since such employment is disastrous to the native and uneconomic to the employer.
In the light of the evidence to which I have referred and the opinion that was expressed by the commission, the abandonment of the policy which had operated for so many years is gravely disturbing.
The change has been made, according to the Minister, on the advice of medical officers, but in my opinion it has been made in the interests of private enterprise in the territories. I have no doubt that the officers who advised the Government ou this subject included some of the members of the commission which made a recommendation to the opposite effect some years ago. This matter should receive the urgent attention of the Government. Above everything else, the Australian authorities ought to guard against the exploitation of native labour in the territories. The Minister for External Territories announced some time ago that he intended to abandon in some respects the policy in relation to indentured labour that was laid down by the Labour Government. He said that he would not re-introduce the old policy in relation to indentured labour but would modify decisions that had been made by the Labour Government. He has never supplied much information to us about the system of labour control that now operates in the territories.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– First, I shall refer to the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). I shall encourage as much as possible the making of visits to the external territories by members of this Parliament, when sitting arrangements permit, so that they may study the problems in the territories that confront the Government. Only in that way can honorable members form a proper appreciation of the nature of the difficulties of administering the territories. I know that I should not have any clear understanding of those problems if I had not visited Papua and New Guinea soon after I became Minister for Externa] Territories. I take this opportunity to pay a public tribute to the Parliamentary Secretary for External Affairs (Mr. Howse), who has been of great assistance to me in the discharge of my ministerial duties.
The criticisms expressed by the honorable member for Grayndler fell into a number of categories. One related to hospital services. I think that the honorable member over-coloured the picture in that respect, but I do not dispute that there is a desperate need for hospitals in the territories. I have before me at the moment a submission which I hope will be considered by Cabinet before the end . of this year. It is based upon the results of an investigation that was made by a committee which I appointed last June. The committee consisted of experts in tropical medicine and hospitalization and the recommendations which it has made, if adopted, will involve the expenditure of about £7,000,000 over a period of five years in dealing with the immediate needs, but not the total needs, in connexion with hospital services in the territories. Some of the hospitals ii3 the territories are very good. For example, I refer to the hospital at Kavieng. Although Kavieng is only a small centre, the hospital there is highly efficient. Hospitals in other places, to under-state the position, leave a great deal to be desired.
The programme which I propose to submit to Cabinet provides for the establishment during the next five years of two base hospitals, including training schools, fifteen regional hospitals. 52 sub-regional hospitals, eight leper hospitals, eight tuberculosis hospitals, and three bulk medical stores. That plan involves a total of 88 buildings. Its adoption by Cabinet will represent only the commencement of the job of providing adequate hospital services for the territories. The next step will be to erect the buildings. The honorable member for Grayndler and other honorable members who have visited New Guinea and Papua must be aware of the great difficulties that hamper building work there. However, good progress has been made recently. Since this Government has been in office, work has been commencedor contracts have been let, for most of the new wharfs that are needed in the territories, notwithstanding the substantial difficulties that were involved. The task of erecting the hospitals will be extremely difficult. However, I propose that if Cabinet approves of the programme, work shall be commenced as early as possible. The plans provide for. prefabricated structures. A building programme of that sort will draw upon the already over-strained man-power and material resources of Australia only to a very limited degree. The honorable member for Grayndler also referred to housing conditions and general amenities in the territories, and I agree generally with what ho said. The shortcomings in those respects, of course, can be overcome only over a long period of time because of the physical limitations that I have mentioned.
The honorable gentleman also spoke of complaints by public servants in the territories about hours of work, the denial of arbitration rights and other matters. It is true that I increased the number of weekly hours of work from 34 to 36£. That increase was justified, in my opinion, because of the needs of the territories and because other Commonwealth officers were obliged to work a 36 1/2-hour week. Many officers of the Department of “Works and Housing, for instance, are employed in the territories and they must work 36-J hours a week. I told Mr. Irvine, who saw me only a few days ago and stated the complaints of public servants in the territories, that I would not alter my decision. However, I promised that I would establish a system of arbitration in the territories so that public servants could refer their complaints in respect of hours and conditions of labour to an impartial tribunal and have them dealt with as the complaints of public servants on the mainland are dealt with by the Public Service Arbitrator. I hope to have the proposed tribunal established within three months. The system which I have suggested will provide public servants in the territories with the rights and privileges that are enjoyed by members of the Public Service on the mainland. I see no season why they should not have such rights and privileges.
– Do they belong to trade unions?
– I cannot answer that question offhand.
– Would they be prohibited from joining trade unions?
– Certainly not! I should not prohibit trade unionism any more than I should make it compulsory. All I can tell the honorable member is that public servants in the territories belong to an association.- Mr. Irvine interviewed me on behalf of the association, and I told him that I would endeavour to have an arbitration system estab lished within three months. I shall do my best to carry out that promise.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to a number of matters in relation to New Guinea and Papua. First, I shall deal with his comments about the employment of natives in coastal districts. When he referred to the evidence that was given by Dr. Gunther to a special commission in 1939, I was under the impression that the doctor was identical with the present Director of Public Health in the territories. However, I have ascertained that that is not so. The gentleman whose evidence the honorable member mentioned was Dr. Carl Gunther, of Bulolo Gold Dredging Limited. The present Director of Public Health is Dr. J. T. Gunther, and I acted upon his advice and the advice of other experts when I agreed to make highland native labour available for employment in lowland districts. I assure honorable members and the people that I took great care to ensure that the health of highland natives should not be endangered. The report to which the honorable member for East Sydney referred was made in 1939. I have no doubt that the views that were expressed then were firmly held by the persons who stated them to the commission. But a great deal of water has passed under the bridge in relation to the treatment of tuberculosis and the practice of preventive medicine generally during the last ten years. I was advised that no danger would be involved in bringing highland natives to the coastal areas, provided that they were given a course of medical pre-treatment. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Native labour from the highland has been employed at sea level for some time past, and events have confirmed the views that were expressed to me by my advisers. I insisted that the closest supervision should be exercised over the men so as to ensure that the views upon which I relied in making my decision should be supported by results. Practice continues to confirm those opinions, but the closest supervision is still being maintained in the interests of the natives.
– ‘Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Fuel, Shipping and Transport and the Department of External Territories has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Department of Immigration
Proposed vote, £713,000.
Department of Labour and National Service
Proposed vote, £1,537,000.
Department of National Development
Proposed vote, £800,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I wish to refer to the subject of migration, particularly from the administrative viewpoint. I believe profoundly that Australia’s migration policy should remain as it has remained, by implication if not in fact, above party politics. At the same time, honorable members on both sides of the chamber should be given the right to criticize it whenever they believe that it is at fault and to applaud whenever they think that it should be applauded. The first frustration that is met with on the subject of immigration is the division of opinion with respect to numbers of new Australians. The proposed vote for the department is substantial. Considerable expenditure must be incurred in all phases of migration, including the trans-shipment of people and the implementation of various international schemes. The problem is rendered more difficult by reason of the fact that migrants are being handled chiefly in two categories, which are, first, our British kith and kin; and, secondly, those of foreign birth, who, for the time being, are segregated in International Refugee Organization camps in Germany, Austria, Italy, and elsewhere. There is a growing feeling which is a little unfortunate, that the numbers of migrants are getting out of proportion compared with the numbers that were contemplated under the original scheme. The original target appeared to be fixed for safety reasons at 2 per cent, of newcomers with 2 per cent, native born. It was believed that that would give a balance that had worked out more or less successfully in the great migration movements to the United States of America..
As the result of the prosperity that has followed the recent war, conditions in. Australia have improved considerably for newcomers and as a result the numbers have been stepped up. It is estimated that by the end of the current year approximately 500,000 people will have been brought to Australia. The principle is generally accepted by the community that we must have numbers if we are to survive as a nation. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work that has been performed not only by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) but also by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who was his predecessor. Fortunately, the scheme that was introduced by the Chifley Government has not suffered rapid variations as the result of the change of government. The former Minister achieved what one might describe as a miracle when, as the first Minister for Immigration since the recent war, he was able to convince the community and members of the Labour party that large-scale immigration would be safe and sure. I do not need to remind honorable members that previous migration schemes were handled in a somewhat haphazard manner. Although the spirit was present, planning was lacking, with the result that many persons who came to this country under previous schemes found themselves unemployed and totally neglected when the depression came. As the result of that experience the average worker was inclined to look askance at any migration scheme. The former Minister for Immigration did much to break down that prejudice.
I have made a thorough study of migration for my own interest. I have not observed any evidence in the community of hatred on the part of Australians towards new Australians, but rather a proud, subconscious feeling that we are doing something very worthwhile without overreaching ourselves. There is, of course, some surface irritation, superficially expressed. The 500,000 additional migrants must be weighed in relation to the British population which, of course, is one of the cornerstones of the migration plan. I am confident that the Minister will ensure that the ratio of the British population to migrants of other nationalities shall not shrink. It is impossible for us to get migrants on a grand plan of assigned labour and merely let it go at that. Some spirituality must be infused into the work of moving so many people from one country to another. The majority of new Australians have spent years in various camps in European countries. Whilst, upon their arrival here, they are obliged to spend a short period under camp conditions they are resigned to those conditions and are happy to work under government supervision for that period. The Government must always have regard to the human problem of handling these people. I draw attention particularly to the fact that many displaced persons would like to bring out their parents who are still residing, in the countries that they have left. Some of those older people have been rejected as being medically unfit or they have not survived the rigid screening that is applied in respect of health and de-nazification. We must deal with this problem sooner or later. We have been given a reasonable deal in Europe in that Australia has been able to divert a flood of migrants to this country that would otherwise have gone to Canada, South America and other countries. Officials of the International Refugee Organization have admitted that the diversion of migrants to Australia first became pronounced as the result of reports that new Australians had sent to their homelands about conditions of life in Australia. They found Australia to be a land of opportunity and a land of fairness. Now many of them wish to bring out their parents or older relations.
How much humanity can we infuse into our migration scheme in that respect consistent with requirements relating to health and de-nazification? The test in respect of tuberculosis could be modified in its application to many of these old people who are cripples. If we want desperately to increase our population we must look at this problem from a humane point of view. I am not suggesting that we should receive shiploads of cripples or that any harsh estimate should be made in respect of the entry of persons who might with a little more humane consideration be enabled to migrate to Australia. This is a human problem and it is worrying officials of the International Refugee Organization. Indeed, I understand that it is worrying the Minister to a considerable degree. I again urge the Government to look at this matter a little more humanely and so enable the parents and older relations of new Australians to rejoin them in Australia and thus completely re-establish their lives in freedom under the Southern Cross. Such an arrangement would help in the assimilation of new Australians into the community, and would prevent their formation in groups. That tendency has persisted as a feature of all migration schemes. We must endeavour to avoid the failure of the United States of America to assimilate migrants. Many people regard the American migration schemes as having been something majestic, but they were nothing of the sort. The facts show that they involved much maladjustment. People of various nationalities formed separate communities of their own with the result that even to-day it is common to refer to the Swedes of Minnesota, and the ScotchIrish and Dutch of Pennsylvania and the Irish and Jews of New York. We must prevent conditions of that sort from arising in Australia and ensure that all new Australians shall be assimilated into the community. I have no doubt that Australians as a whole would support the Minister if he took a tolerant view and, as I suggest, admit many of the aged people to whom I have referred.
With respect to the administrative side of immigration, I am a little distressed to find that the’ Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, of which I had the honour to be chairman and which did much good work, has receded somewhat into the background. That body was enabled to do excellent work because it was so widely representative of the community. However, it now seems to have lost some of its value and to have been overshadowed by the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council. The latter body is doing excellent work also. I urge the Minister not to allow those bodies to be played off against each other. Whilst things are now running smoothly as the result of the good work that was performed in the original stages of the scheme by the advisory council, the Minister may have to rely on that body again to a considerable degree. It is representative of trade unions, exservicemen’s organizations, employers and employees and the churches. During the three years that I was chairman of that body, it was confronted with very important problems, but on every occasion it was able to reach a unanimous decision. It was the means of arranging for the transfer of Baits immediately upon their arrival to the cane-fields in Queensland where they helped to harvest the cane crop in 194S. They were returned to the cane-fields for that purpose in the following year. Another problem with which the advisory council was concerned was the condition of urgency in relation to Italians. That council was the medium through which the sanity of ex-service organizations and trade unions expressed itself. The council devised a plan whereby certain Italians were enabled to come to this country under a balanced scheme. Subsequently, the planning council was established. That body also is widely representative of the community and includes in its personnel many brilliant individuals. However, it is so large as to be unwieldy; and it seems to have got out of hand. Reports that have been received from overseas - I do not know whether they are correct or otherwise - allege that members of that body have been signing documents which should be strictly government documents to authorize the migration of Italians and others. Tendencies of that kind should be carefully watched. I trust that the Minister will ensure that these two worthy organizations, which can help him considerably in his task, shall not be allowed to fuse or to become antagonistic to each other. The advisory council should meet more frequently than it does at present. The members of that body are anxious to give whatever assistance they can to the Minister. I understand that yesterday it held a successful meeting at Bonegilla and adjusted a misunderstanding that had arisen with respect to the definition of its duties.
My final point relates to the problem of the Nazis and volksdeutsche. Certain propaganda has been circulated throughout the country concerning Jewish exservicemen and Jewish organizations.. We should not discount such propaganda merely because it emanates from one source. Two schools of thought exist with respect to what should be our approach to this problem. The administrative school of thought claims that it is impossible for Nazis to defeat the screening tests that are now applied. Whilst one or two Nazis may get through, the tests, it is claimed, are as effective as it is possible to make them. Those who agree with that view also claim that many alleged Nazis have developed Nazi tendencies during the voyage to Australia, and that persons who are alleged to be Nazis should not be judged solely on what they may have said over a jug of beer when on board ship. It is contended that in such instances the whisperer is the more dangerous. The second school of thought on this matter claims that it is easy to get the facts distorted as the result of stories that are received from International Refugee Organization camps. However, a reliable authority has estimated that at least 10 per cent, of migrants coming to Australia through International Refugee Organization camps are, or have been, Nazis. I urge the Minister to look into that problem. The Government should not be stiffnecked about criticism. Indeed, press reports about such matters often serve a good purpose. To-day, we do not hear any more about hell ships. At the same time, acute problems of accommodation often cause adverse comment apart altogether from the problem of bedding these people in the Australian economy. We do not want as migrants persons who are not going to be good Australians or persons who are persistent Nazis. We should not be carried away with the figment of numbers entirely. The Government’s slogan should be, “ Numbers plus quality “. That was the slogan of the previous Government. I ask the Minister to make a plain statement in reply to criticism of the kind to which I have referred. I also request him to examine the allegations that quite a number of Nazis are succeeding in defeating screening tests. Large numbers of such persons could provide a core of resistance should we become engaged in another war; and, unfortunately, the balloon appears to be going up at this very hour. Considerable expenditure is being incurred in the provision of ships and hostels under the migration scheme; but that scheme is the most successful that has been undertaken in this country for a hundred years. The complexity of numbers must be resolved. We mustbe patient with people who for the first time for many years experience conditions of liberty on their arrival in this country. Whilst, no doubt, incidents will occur in which new Australians are unfavorably concerned such incidents should not be distorted.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should like to say a few words with regard to the Ministry of National Development which, perhaps, may deal with the most important problems that this country will have to face within the next few years. One might say that residing in this Ministry are all those functions which are essential to the development of this country. I think that these functions should be handled with very great care. At the present time all State governments and, indeed, all other types of governing organization in Australia are endeavouring to carry out works of an urgent nature. The Australian Government is itself interested in a number of major works and there is a great need for co-ordination between the various forms of government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has announced a proposal to establish a national resources board which will have very important functions. I hope that when that board is established State committees will be brought into being for the consideration of similar matters and that local governing bodies will be largely represented on them. The Government must achieve proper coordination in order to see that first things are done first and that there is no unnecessary overlapping. The fact that listed works estimated to cost £976,603,904 are intended to he carried out by the Commonwealth and the States is an indication of the pressure that is on our economy.
The fundamental issue in regard to this question is the production of coal. I do not want to deal with that question at any length to-day hut there are certain factors relating to it which I think should be mentioned. I heard with great satisfaction that a. conference has been held during the week-end between the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) and those associated with coal-mining in New South Wales. As a result of that conference honorable members received the heartening news that there would be a great development of open-cut mines and that in the comingyear the production of coal would be increased by millions of tons. But the great difficulty is that open-cut coal is not satisfactory for the existing machinery in the major power stations, particularly in New South Wales. Honorable members may say that the machines were designed wrongly. It is true that they may be unsuitable for the use of the coal available but when they were designed there was no reason to suppose that adequate quantities of the right quality of coal would not be obtainable. As recently as’ 1939 ample quantities of coal were available for the supply of which mine-owners submitted tenders. One could then purchase coal of the exact quality desired. It is incomprehensible that arrangements cannot be made between the Joint Coal Board and the State Government to obtain the greatest degree of efficiency in the use of machinery which is itself in very short supply in Sydney at the present time. Coal is the only reliable major means by which power can be produced in New South Wales. With all the facts plainly before the State government as they are, I cannot understand why it has not seen fit to obtain coal of a quality which . is suitable for this machinery from the deposits in the Burragorang Valley. The projects contemplated will not draw additional coal from that area for four or five years although it would be possible to increase the output from that source within two months. These power stations have been permitted to deteriorate because of the quality of the coal used. I was a lone voice in this matter for a year or two. All the people with magic wands who were placed in charge of power production in Sydney have made no better job of it and the position is becoming worse. They are now all crying out that the quality of the coal is one of the principal difficulties. There is no doubt about that.
There are honorable members in this chamber and people throughout New South Wales who believe that it was the short-sighted policy of an organization which was charged with the responsibility nf supplying power from Bunnerong that resulted in the present shortage of power. Sydney County Council is in charge of most of the major power stations in Sydney, but not all of them. Little has been said of the railway power station which has been in a worse condition than those of the Sydney County Council. The Sydney County Council is not responsible for the present position because it did not have the authority to decide what power stations were to be built. That authority resided in an advisory committee. Consequently the Sydney County Council cannot be held to be blamed most for the equipment at present being used. I have a copy of a letter which was written by the late John Curtin, when he was Prime Minister, to the Premier of New South Wales on the 3rd November. 1941. It refers to orders for plant which had been placed by the Sydney County Council in London. The information in the hands of the Prime Minister at that time was to the effect that England was forced to divert to Russia certain machinery which was being prepared for delivery to Australia. It was proper, of course, that Russia should have received that machinery because Russia was our ally in the war in which we were engaged. I have also a copy of another letter which was written on the 1st December, 1942, by Mr. J. M. Kennedy, the chairman of the Committee on Heavy Electrical Plant, to Sir Arthur Preece, the representative of the Sydney County Council in London. In this letter, Mr. Kennedy stated -
As you are no doubt aware, the Russian Government has placed a number of orders in this country for electrical generating plant.
At the urgent request of the Minister of Supply I have recently been investigating the possibility of expediting the manufacture of this plant without unduly interfering with the plant extension programme of the central Electricity Board and other orders.
Amongst the “ other orders “ were those which had been placed from New South Wales. Mr. Kennedy continued -
After consideration of the position at the works of the various manufacturers concerned, and consultation with the Central Electricity Board, I have decided that some improvement in the delivery dates for certain of the Russian orders could be effected if there were some re-arrangement of the order of priority of the various items of plant in the production programmes of the manufacturers. I have accordingly directed the manufacturers to make such re-arrangement in their programmes.
I have quoted that letter to show that I do not blame governments for the shortage of plant, nor can the Sydney County Council be blamed for it. However, there has been great government interference with the supply of power. I do not intend to deal with all the ramifications of this tragic position in the key industrial city of New South Wales, which, of course, is Sydney. But it is a disaster that millions of pounds worth of production is being lost because of the shortage of power in that great city. That loss will have a tremendous effect upon Australia’s national development. No doubt, every possible effort is being made at the present time to solve this problem, but it is one from which the Australian Government itself cannot remain apart. It may be that this is entirely a matter for the State governments, but it so impinges upon Australia’s national development programme that assistance should be given by the Australian Government in the interests of national development. I believe that there is one way in which the Australian Government could assist the States to prevent black-outs and assist greatly the progress of the manufacturing industries in Sydney. Hundreds of firms have generating plant which they use if they cannot obtain power from the county council. They use the county council power while they can because it is cheaper. But they have these small generating units which they switch on when the blackout starts. There are also hundreds, perhaps thousands, of smaller manufacturers who cannot incur the capital expenditure involved in obtaining auxiliary plant because they realize that power will be available to them in another two years in ample quantities. The purchase of such plant would also add too much to their costs of production. Numerous small generating units are available in this country. Certainly many are also available in other parts of the world and I consider that the Government should co-operate with the New South “Wales Government in order to make auxiliary generating plants available to smaller manufacturers and thus relieve the load on the whole network which is causing so much trouble at the present time. The Sydney County Council cannot purchase these small power plants because it is impossible for that body to make the necessary financial arrangements. They would not cost more than about £1,000,000, but it would be £1,000,000 well spent. Already production of a probable value of between £25,000,000 and £30,000,000 has been lost in a reasonably short space of time. This is a subject which the Minister for National Development could well discuss with the New South Wales Government, with a view to assisting those people who could produce power for their own purposes and so reduce the demand for electricity which is causing black-outs at the present time.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to offer some criticism of the Department of Immigration and of the policy of its Minister. During this debate honorable members have questioned the effectiveness of the screening of people selected to come to this country. Recently, I asked the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) a question regarding a reported statement of Sir John Storey, the chairman of the Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council. After this gentleman had paid a visit to Europe and had surveyed the migration situation there he said, according to the press, that in his opinion former membership of the German Nazi party should not debar a person from being considered for selection in any batch of
German migrants. The Minister for Immigration said in answer to my question that Sir John Storey was expressing his own personal view and not the view of the Government. The Minister failed to say, however, whether Sir John Storey has been told that he is not to pursue the policy suggested by his remarks or whether he has been left free to determine the matter according to his own views. If he has been left free to exercise his own judgment in the selection of German migrants, then the attitude of the Government as expressed by the Minister does not matter much. I want to know whether Sir John Storey has been instructed that the opinion that he has expressed is not to colour the policy he must pursue in the selection of migrants.
I know personally one of the immigrant selection officers who is in Germany at the present time. This gentleman wrote to me about the methods being adopted in Germany for the selection pf persons there who desire to settle in Australia. He said in his letter that on an average he had rejected approximately 75 per cent, of the applicants for permission to come to Australia, but that he had heard that other officers, who were doing the same work of selection, had boasted that they had not rejected one applicant during the previous six months. It might be interesting for the Minister to obtain figures showing the number of migrants selected and rejected by the selection officers in Germany, because the proportions mentioned by my correspondent seem to show too great a disparity between the rejections .of the various officers. The percentages mentioned seem to indicate that the present system of selection is not satisfactory. I haveheard it said that the Liberal party is favorably disposed to bringing into this country former members of the Nazi organization, and it has also been said that the Liberal party is organizing these people into branches of their own organizations in the various migrant establishments. That should cause a great deal of concern to the Australian community, because honorable members of the Opposition have continuously directed attention to the fascist inclinations of many honorable members on the
Government side of the chamber. [ hope that the Minister will not be content with asking somebody in authority in Australia whether such and such is the case or whether there is any basis for my complaints, because the officer responsible will indicate to the Minister that everything is satisfactory and that there is no need for inquiry or change. I hope that he will make a definite and proper inquiry into the matter.
The other matter to which I desire to draw the attention of the committee is that the Government seems to be anxious to get as many migrants as it can get, regardless of the internal difficulties such a policy creates. It wants to obtain migrants without limit, without regard to the capacity of the country to absorb them and without regard to the difficulties which unrestrictive migration is creating for the people already resident in Australia. I have read a number of articles written by authorities on this matter, and I have discovered that according to the opinion of the experts a 2 per cent, increase in the population of a country in one year is the maximum increase that can be satisfactorily absorbed into the community. The population increase in Australia at present is in excess of 3 per cent, per annum. That increase of population, is raising tremendous difficulties. The Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) has admitted the Government’s inability to provide suitable accommodation for those arriving in the country and for newly married couples in Australia who require accommodation from year to year. Honorable members will recollect that the Minister said that Australia’s capacity for home construction was to-day reaching a figure of 60,000 homes a year. However, the Minister admitted that to house the new settlers, as well as the newly married couples, 90,000 houses a year would be required. The difference between our capacity and our annual need is therefore 30,000 houses. I should like to know how those people who cannot be housed out of current construction are to be accommodated. The Minister for National Development was of the opinion that it was not impossible for people who require accommodation to obtain it. That state- ment shows that he was either attempting to cover up for the Government, or that he does not understand the deplorable state of housing in this country. The State and Federal Governments of Australia both have the responsibility of seeing that our people are properly housed. But in Victoria, where a Labour Government is not in office, the number of evictions for various reasons has reached a record that has not been approached since the days of the depression of the 1930’s. Ninety per cent, of the evictions taking place are caused by reason of the fact that migrants are paying high prices for properties and are then taking legal proceedings to secure possession. The people who have been occupying the houses are displaced when such actions succeed.
It is ridiculous to talk of the Government having a planned economy or a migration programme, because obviously no planning at all has been done. I do not say that we should build a wall around our country and admit nobody, but I do say that our immigration system must be properly planned having regard to the difficulties of the people already resident in Australia.
– What did the Labour Government do about it last year?
– It is easy to take a detached view of this matter. When honorable members of the Government side of the committee were nailed down on this issue they said that it was obvious that difficulties would be created, but that the Government should consider the future of Australia. It is easy to adopt that attitude if one happens to be comfortably accommodated, but many of the people who are being displaced from their houses as a result of the policy of this Government and others cannot take such a detached view. I have mentioned time after time in this chamber cases of hardship suffered by people who have been ejected and who have not been able to obtain other suitable accommodation. It has been brought to my notice that a man. his wife and four children have been compelled to live in a cave at Waterfall for a month because they have not been able to get other accommodation. In
Victoria I believe that there are 25,000 applicants for emergency accommodation. It should be remembered that the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) was a Minister in a Victorian government for many years. In New South Wales there are 7,000 applicants for accommodation and only 10 to 12 units are becoming available each week, It will take the New South Wales Government approximately eleven years to provide accommodation for the present applicants, without taking into consideration one new application. I remind honorable members that those figures relate to applicants for emergency accommodation which is of the most primitive kind. In the light of that fact should honorable members on the Government side of the committee, when discussing the migration programme, continue to talk of looking only to the future ?
In seeking an increased population is it not necessary to have some regard to the needs of the Australian community and encouragement of the natural increase? Under present conditions how can it be expected that men and women without proper accommodation can bring up healthy Australian children? Many families live under intolerable conditions. People suffering from con.tageous diseases are compelled to sleep in the same room as young children who are thereby exposed to infection’. The hospital construction programme of Australia is well behind schedule, and so is the school building programme. All such difficulties are accentuated by an unplanned migration scheme. There are not enough sanatoriums in the country to cater for people suffering from tuberculosis and other diseases. Many such people live under most unhygienic conditions, in many cases in the same homes as young children thus endangering their lives. When considering the future of Australia some regard must be paid to the regulation of the flow of migrants into the country.
Another matter which must be considered is food production. The Government has a long term plan afoot to increase our food production, but upon our present production we could not feed any more than 10,000,000 people. If our population was 10,000,000 we would just be able to feed them, but we would not be able to export any foodstuffs. Therefore, we must ask ourselves what are we aiming to do? The Minister spoke about bringing people into Australia in order to increase production. Many people who come here are admirable citizens and are fitting well into the industrial life of Australia, but a big proportion of the new arrivals do not intend to work in industry. They are wealthy people who come to Australia with the intention to purchase businesses and to set up factories in which they can employ people to produce goods and make profits for themselves. The migrant worker who goes into productive industry is the right type of citizen to encourage. But such people must come only in numbers which can be absorbed by the community, otherwise tremendous difficulties will be created. I suggest to the Minister that our immigration policy should he reviewed. Of what use is it to talk about housing and development if many of our people cannot receive even emergency accommodation? To listen to the Minister for National Development, one would think that he intended to provide all the housing required in Australia in a period of one to two years. He spoke of importing 2,800 prefabricated homes. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) pointed out that even in Canberra no provision has been made for foundations, and no sites have been selected, for the prefabricated homes when they arrive here. I ask whether 2,800 prefabricated houses will assist us much if our demand is 90,000 homes a year. Therefore, there should be a proper review of migration into this country and a tighteningup of the screening method. In view of the opinions that I have received from one of the officers of the Department of Immigration who is now in Germany, the screening is not as effective as it should be in the interests of Australia and its future.
I shall now reply to the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) who spoke of the need for the development of this country’s coal deposits. I do not intend to occupy much time in doing so. The honorable member for. Bennelong seems1 to think that his mission in this Parliament is to embarrass the Labour Government of New South Wales. If this were the Parliament of New South Wales there would be no objection to him attacking the Government of that State, but he is obviously not entitled to use the National Parliament as a forum to vent his criticisms of the Government of New South Wales to the exclusion of discussion of national problems. Furthermore, when he chooses to use the National Parliament for the purpose of attacking a State government, he ought, in fairness to that Government, to mention all the facts connected with his alleged causes of complaint. He has complained particularly of the alleged failure of the Government of New South Wales to develop the coal resources of the Burragorang Valley. In my opinion the Government of New South Wales has done more to increase the production of coal than has any other government in Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I regret having to occupy any of the limited time available for debate on these proposed votes in order to reply to the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward1). I wish that the honorable gentleman had followed the example set by the honorable member for Parkes- (Mr. Haylen), so that as many honorable members as possible might have been afforded an opportunity of mentioning various matters. The speech of the honorable member for East Sydney to which we have just listened is typical of those that he has made on the subject of immigration ever since the present Government assumed office. He is the only member of the Parliament who has consistently attacked the Government’s immigration policy. I had hoped that it would not be necessary for me to justify that policy, which has received general endorsement from all political parties in the Parliament and from State governments and representative public bodies throughout Australia. The honorable gentleman is a con spicuous exception in his attitude towards immigration. Apparently we are all out, of step in this matter excepting him. There has been general recognition throughout Australia that if ever there was a time in the history of this country when we should seize the opportunity toadvance Australia’s interests by increasing our population and developing our natural resources it is now.
I shall mention -briefly a few points in general justification of the Government’s policy. In the first place, although our continent possesses vast undeveloped resources, it is only sparsely populated, and it is obvious that a tremendous effort will be required todevelop adequately its actual and potential wealth. -If the present generation chose to sit back on its heritage and to do nothing further, it might possibly enjoy the fruits of the efforts of past generations; but I am sure that there would not be many succeeding generations of Australians who would bc able to do likewise. Australia will only hold this continent if it can convince the world that its people are making a genuine effort to populate the country and to develop it. We are trying to hold this country not merely against the normal competition of overcrowded countries that was experienced by previous generations, but we are also confronted now with the desperate desire of . hungry peoples in certain lands to escapeto a country that can provide so much that is lacking in their own countries. We are trying to hold Australia against thecompetition of tens of millions of those under-nourished peoples. We are telling those people that as the result of policiesthat have been adopted and followed by all political parties in Australia since the beginning of federation, we cannot admit them for settlement to this country. But for how long can we continue to hold it from the hungry millions of people in the resurgent continent of Asia unless wecan convince not only those people, but also the people of friendly European and English-speaking nations that we aremaking a serious effort to populate it. We must convince them that we are not merely exhibiting a selfish desire to hold’ on to what we have, in utter disregard of the needs of other peoples. We must also convince them that we are making the best use of the natural resources available to us. We have a favorable opportunity at present to bring to Australia as many people as we can absorb.
The honorable member for East Sydney said that the present intake of migrants was excessive and that we should review our immigration programme with a view to reducing the number of immigrants. I remind the honorable gentleman that in 1949, while the programme was getting into full flood, my predecessor in a Labour administration was able to bring in 168,000 migrants. The present Government, which has continued the Chifley Government’s immigration policy, will have brought to Australia during the current year between 180,000 and 190,000 migrants. Although that figure represents an advance on the previous year’s intake, it is not an extraordinary or a conspicuous advance on the figures for the previous year. We are aiming at an annual target of 200,000 migrants, and we believe that that number is well within our absorptive capacity. Why, in the circumstances, should the honorable member for East Sydney shed crocodile tears and exhibit cheap sentimentality about those who have come here and still lack homes? I say without fear of contradiction that the people of Australia and New Zealand are better housed, better fed and better clothed than are the people of any other country in the world, including even the United States of America. We do not see evidences of distress throughout this country such as those mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney. Undoubtedly there is a shortage of houses; but that does not mean that the Government is not doing everything it possibly can do to overcome that difficulty. In fact, the Government is doing a great deal to improve the situation. My colleague, the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Casey), has pointed out that the numbers of houses constructed this year will reach the record figure of about 60,000.
Of course, I know that people who entertain similar views to those of the honorable member for East Sydney endeavour to mislead the nation by emphasizing the number of immigrants who are being brought to this country and the large number of Australian citizens who are still waiting to obtain housing accommodation. Our critics suggest that the entry of every immigrant to this country aggravates the shortage of houses by increasing the competition for homes. That criticism is quite unsound. The Government is providing housing accommodation for many of the immigrants, so that it is most misleading to suggest that the housing shortage is aggravated by the immigrants who come to this country. I hope that I have made it clear, therefore, that the intake of, say, 200,000 people does not mean that the demand for houses in Australia is immediately increased by the need to provide accommodation for that 200,000 people. Admittedly, the accommodation provided by the Government for immigrants is only of a temporary nature, but I point out that immigration authorities from overseas who have visited this country and inspected the accommodation provided, have said that we are doing more for our immigrants than any other country in the world is doing.
– There is no doubt about that.
-I am glad to have the endorsement of my predecessor on that point. Representatives of the International Refugee Organization and other bodies who have visited this country have paid just tribute to the progress we have made. They have commended the preliminary planning undertaken by Australia for its immigration programme, and after inspecting the accommodation and reception facilities provided including all the ramifications of the department for selecting immigrants, caring for them on their arrival, and placing them in industry, they have expressed most enthusiastic appreciation of our efforts. Australia can therefore justly claim that it is winning a great victory of peace in its inauguration programme, which is the greatest endeavour of the kind ever made by any Government in Australia in peacetime. Of the total of 200,000 immigrants expected to be received in this country in 1951, bed accommodation will be provided for 114,000. It is clear, therefore, that the Commonwealth is doing its utmost to provide temporary accommodation for immigrants so that they will not aggravate the existing housing shortage. Furthermore, the immigrants themselves are making a great contribution to the solution of our housing problems, because very many of them are engaged in industries directly connected with house building. Thousands of them are working in the production of bricks, tiles and other building materials, and many more are engaged in felling timber and in manufacturing iron and steel products. Eleven hundred and twenty immigrants are employed in the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Newcastle and Port Kembla alone.
The honorable member for East Sydney said that the number of immigrants entering this country each year constituted, with our natural increase, 3 per cent, of our total population, and that various so-called authorities have stated that that percentage exceeded the absorptive capacity of a country. In reply to that contention, I point out that during the thirty years that elapsed between 1860 and 1890, when this country received its previous largest influx of immigrants, the number received in each decade constituted much more than 3 per cent, of the then population. In fact, the average intake of migrants over that period of thirty years was 3.4 per cent. I have yet to learn that the Australian people experienced any great discomfiture at that time because of the increase of population. Actually an intake of immigrants to the limit of 3 per cent, of our population is well within our absorptive capacity. Indeed, the intake of any lesser percentage would indicate that we were not prepared to take advantage of the favorable opportunities that exists at present to attract people to this country. After all, immigrants usually come in waves. Certain conditions must exist before such large-scale migrations of people take place. In the first place, there must be an urgent desire on the part of large numbers of people in certain countries to tear up their roots and remove themselves from the countries of their fore- bears. What more dramatic and farreaching decision oan a man take than to sever all connexion with the land of his forefathers and to take himself and his children overseas to another country? Secondly, there must be a contemporary desire, and a real economic need, in other countries to receive large numbers of people. We should regard ourselves as most fortunate that in consequence of the ravages of the recent war in Europe there are large numbers of persons who are willing to come to this country. Of course, the causes which predisposed people to migrate in such large numbers will not always operate in the future, nor will similar opportunities for the absorption of people exist in this country as those that obtain to-day. I remind honorable gentlemen that as recently as 1945-40 Australia experienced a net loss of population. More people actually left here than come here for permanent settlement. It is necessary, therefore, for the Government to seize the present opportunity to attract as many immigrants as possible before the tide begins to flow in the opposite direction.
Critics of our immigration policy say that we shall destroy the British character of our population by bringing so many people here. I remind them that although we have already brought in 450,000 immigrants, the percentage of British people to the total population of this country at the end of June last was 97.6. It is apparent, therefore, that there is still an overwhelming predominance of British stock in this country, and that that position will continue for many years. Even if we continue to bring alien people to this country at the present rate for the next fourteen years seven out of eight people in this country will still be of predominantly British stock. That estimate envisages, of course, that the flow of British immigrants shall not diminish. Therefore, I say that we have no cause to fear that the inflow of alien people will undermine our British institutions or destroy the fundamentally British character of our people.
While the conference of members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association was in progress in New Zealand, the Indian delegate criticized Australia’s immigration policy on the ground that it was designed to preserve Australia as a British country, which he felt was a wrong attitude. Of course that attitude requires no apology from me in this chamber. We are determined to retain Australia as a predominantly British community. That does not mean, of course, that we should affront the governments or the peoples of Asian countries. Quite obviously, no Government of India would ever accept a situation in which, as a result of population movements into India, the Indian community became so infiltrated or overwhelmed by an influx of alien population as to cause its religious institutions and beliefs, its way of life and its political institutions, to be undermined and faced eventual destruction. So whilst we’ in Australia are determined to ensure that a flow of immigrants that we can assimilate by our own efforts and with the cooperation of the immigrants themselves shall continue, at the same time we are taking care that that flow shall not come in in such an overwhelming degree as to cause us to lose the essential character of our own community life.
The honorable member ‘for East Sydney had some particular criticisms to make. He said that Sir John Storey, as chairman of the Immigration Planning Council, had made a statement with regard to immigration of Nazis, and he wished to know whether Sir John had been instructed to adopt a different attitude in order to prevent him from bringing into the country immigrants who would be unacceptable to us. I make quite clear now something that I considered was clear enough already, which is that the two advisory bodies which assist the Department of Immigration and the Government in connexion with the immigration programme have no executive functions. They are the Immigration Advisory Council and the Immigration Planning Council, and they are purely advisory bodies. Their function is to examine problems referred to them from time to time by the department, and to give it the benefit of their advice. They are composed of men of experience who represent important institutions and organiza tions. They are able to give us, quickly, a representative view of the general opinion in the community on particular matters, and also to give us an informed view on matters that relate to immigration planning. They have no authority to enter into commitments on behalf of Australia. I make it clear that the views that Sir John Storey may have expressed were his private views and that they have no binding effect on the Government. He has no authority to commit the Government in any way.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) made several comments in relation to the immigration programme. I thank him for the helpful tone of his remarks and for the substance of the points that he brought forward. I have already covered one of them in my reference to the two advisory bodies. He was concerned lest the activities of the Immigration Advisory Council be submerged by those of the Immigration Planning Council. The two bodies have distinct functions. The Immigration Planning Council is concerned with the economic effects of immigration on our community life whereas the Immigration Advisory Council is concerned rather with the sociological effects of immigration. Honorable members will see, therefore, that each body deals with separate problems. Both of them do most important work and this Government is greatly indebted to them as was the previous Government for what they have done.
We also intend to establish as an annual institution the holding of an immigration and citizenship convention. The first of such conventions was held early this year and I propose that another shall be held next month. The first convention was arranged by the previous Government before it left office. It was a great success, and delegates from all parts of the Commonwealth who attended it as representatives of such bodies as the Red Cross, the churches, the Young Men’s Christian Association, the Young Women’s Christian Association, educational authorities, returned servicemen’s organizations, the trade union movement and employers’ organizations, gathered a great deal of information at it. It would be difficult to imagine a more comprehensive representation than we were able to bring together at that convention. It served the useful purpose of not only enabling the Government to bring under the notice of such representative bodies the details of its immigration programme for the year ahead, but it also enabled us to learn something of the experiences of those bodies in their own dealings with immigrants in this country. It was such a success that, as I have said, we have decided to repeat it next month. Indeed, next month’s convention will be one of the notable events in the jubilee celebrations to be held next year. The good neighbour movement grew out of last year’s convention, and I hope that we shall be able to add similarly useful features to our immigration activities as a result of our discussions next month.
I now turn to the screening of displaced migrants. The honorable member for Parkes expressed some concern about that matter, and the honorable member for East Sydney was critical about it. He said that some selection officers reject a high proportion of migrant applicants and that other officers reject only a small proportion. I am not in a position to deal categorically with individual selection officers. Where the human element enters into a matter there is no doubt that there will be some difference of treatment as between one man and another. However, I make it quite clear to the committee, in case the honorable member for East Sydney was attempting to secure some political advantage, that the same methods of screening and, indeed, as far as I am aware, the same screening officers, were used during the term of the previous Government as are now used. I have made no changes of any consequence in the method of screening or in the personnel who perform the work of screening in the countries from which displaced persons come. From all accounts that have reached me, those screening officers have developed a great deal of skill and experience as a result of the work they have been doing. I know that other countries which are interested in immigration envy Australia the quality of the selection that our officers have been able to make. Australia has carried out the selection of migrants in Europe with a relatively small staff of officers, which numbers about 100 persons, in comparison with a similar staff employed by the United States Government in Europe which numbers almost 2,000 officers. Our small staff is doing a better job than is being done by the very much bigger staff employed by the United States. As far as the methods of screening are concerned, I have not yet had a first-hand opportunity of seeing what is being done, although I should very much like to have it. I hope that I shall have it in the not too distant future. I know that my predecessor examined the methods of screening in use, and also that a delegation from the Returned Servicemen’s League went to Europe to examine them. When its members returned, they expressed themselves as being thoroughly satisfied with the methods employed. If we receive a specific complaint about any individual which seems to us to have some substance to it, it is properly investigated here and, should the need arise, we have ample powers to deport any person who has either been convicted of some offence that would merit deportation or whose general course of conduct since his arrival amongst us, in our opinion, makes him an undesirable resident of this country. The powers are there and are exercised in appropriate cases. They are also exercised when an immigrant, having entered into a contractual obligation to work where directed, has refused to do so or has proved recalcitrant in the course of his employment in this country. That power of deportation is exercised from time to time. I can say from my own knowledge of the immigrants with whom I have come in contact that Australia has secured many good future citizens who will be of continuing benefit to this country. We do not expect to obtain the full benefit from our new settlers in the first generation, because, naturally, some of them will take time to master our language. Many of them have settled habits and beliefs because of their lives in their. own lands. The best dividend that will come to us will be from their children who will be fully-fledged citizens of this country. We were charged by the honorable member for East Sydney with indulging in some sort of political propaganda and with the organizing of New Australians. I am not aware of anything of that kind having occurred. It has certainly not occurred in Government circles. I should not countenance such activities if they were brought to my notice. I merely point out to the committee that none of those alien settlers will have a vote until they have become naturalized, and that they cannot become naturalized until they have been in this country for five years. Therefore it would be a far-sighted programme of organization that would attempt to influence them politically at this stage.
– It is a matter of sowing the seed.
– Whatever seed is being sown, I am quite certain that the sowing of it is not confined to any one political party. I have placed no restriction upon the movement of responsible people, from whatever side of politics they come, into immigrant camps to conduct inspections.
I have covered practically all the points that have been raised in the debate so far. Should any other matters of consequence arise in the subsequent debate I shall endeavour to deal with them. In conclusion I say that I hope the committee will gain from this debate a balanced view of the immigration programme and also have a thorough understanding of the actual position in relation to the constitution of our population. Despite the large numbers of immigrants who have come here in recent years we are still almost 98 per cent, a community of British stock. I hope also that the committee will receive a picture of tens of thousands of immigrants in the active years of their lives adding very materially to the productive efforts of this country, and doing jobs that, in point of fact, we cannot get Australian workers to do for us. The immigrants are rendering very great service to the community as a result. From time to time we hear of unfortunate episodes, which I deplore as much as anybody else, in which immigrants have been involved, and in which knives have been drawn and used. I have been informed from responsible quarters that although these episodes do occur, having regard to the proportion of migrants to the size of our population, the incidence of such episodes is no greater among immigrants than it is among people born in Australia.
– The press plays those episodes up.
– I do not intend to be critical when I say that the press does report such events. Immigration has been very much in the public mind over recent years, and consequently episodes in which immigrants are involved receive considerable publicity. Some of those incidents show immigrants in an unfavorable light, but others reflect credit on immigrants. Both kinds of episodes »« featured in the press. It is to be hoped that the Australian people do not gain a picture of wild, undisciplined settlers ready to put a hand to a knife as soon as they are crossed in argument, because such a picture would be utterly false. I give the committee the assurance, that in cases of serious offences I shall take prompt and appropriate action to see that the offender does not remain a resident of this country any longer. One incident will illustrate the spirit that has developed amongst immigrants in this country and which I hope all honorable members will foster. About two months ago I was in Newcastle on official business, and inspected factories and coal mines. On the day following my visit to the steelworks of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited a very tragic accident occurred at that plant in a tank that had contained benzol. Three men were working in the tank, cleaning it out preparatory to its use for some other purpose. Apparently some sediment of benzol had been left on the bottom of the tank, and while the men were scraping at the sediment to remove it fumes arose and overcame them. One of them struggled to the top of the tank and escaped. Having got out, and having been met by Australian workmen, he said, “ There is a new Australian still down there, and I think he has gone under. I am going down to get him “. He went to rescue that man, but was overcome by the fumes. Another Australian tried to rescue the two men, and he, too, was overcome. A third man went down with a rope strapped round him to bring the unconscious men to the surface. The result was that the life of the first man who went down to rescue the new Australian was saved. The migrant, and the
Australian who went down to rescue the two men who were overcome by the fumes, died. I could cite other instances in which the position has been reversed, and a migrant has risked his life in order to save that of an Australian. I am glad to know that such a spirit is developing in this country. We are a friendly and a tolerant people, in the main, and I hope that odd instances of prejudices and intolerances that come to our notice will not blind our eyes to the fact that the great mass of the Australian people are ready to welcome the new settler, and do what they can to make him a fully fledged citizen of the Commonwealth and to assimilate him into the Australian way of life which, we believe, is the best way of life yet evolved in the world.
.–The first matter that I wish to raise may be considered to be a personal one. I place on record my appreciation of the work of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) since the Chifley Labour Government was defeated in December, 1949. Honorable members who occupy the back benches in this chamber have many opportunities to watch Ministers at work, or not at work, as the case may be, and I could interest honorable gentlemen greatly this afternoon by giving them pen personality pictures of the Cabinet, but I do not intend to do so.
– Send us Christmas cards.
– Some Ministers would not regard my pen pictures of them as being in keeping with the spirit of Christmas greetings. I, personally, have had nothing but courtesy from the Minister for Immigration, and I have found him to be most efficient. He has discharged the responsibilities of a most difficult portfolio with dignity and success. The previous Minister for Immigration, Mr. Calwell, was often criticized on the ground that he committed many indiscretions. Well, indiscretions may be committed by any Minister, and the present Minister for Immigration may have committed some; but it is only right that credit should be given where it is due. I always put that principle into practice. The work of the preceding Labour Government has been interfered with to a less degree by the Minister for Immigration than by any other Minister, and probably that is a silent tribute to the sound foundations laid by the Chifley Government, and the previous Minister for Immigration, in that respect. Some Ministers, for the sake of their personal ego, would like to change everything that was done by the previous Government merely for the sake of change. But the immigration policy as laid down by the preceding Labour Government has not been varied by the present Minister. I regard that as a “ darn “ good thing, because changes do not necessarily contribute to success or progress.
The general, overall work of the Department of Immigration has been good during the last twelve months. All honorable gentlemen should be interested in the immigration policy, and should discuss it on a non-party basis. I have no real criticism to offer of that policy. I appreciate the fact that the Minister will always listen to a request made by a private member, and receive him as soon as he possibly can to hear complaints. He is prompt in replying to correspondence, and the manner in which he answers questions in this chamber and treats members of the Opposition provides an excellent example for his colleagues to emulate.
– Is the present Minister for Immigration as good as his predecessor was?
– He is just about as good as his predecessor was. Another matter to which I direct attention is that of the criticisms voiced by disgruntled people who return to the United Kingdom from Australia. Recently, I received a letter from my brother-in-law on his arrival in London. He was a passenger on Orion, and he informed me that a majority of the travellers were person who had changed their minds about settling in Australia. Most of them were Englishmen, and they were most disgruntled1 about the conditions that they had experienced in this country. They came here to settle, and they returned to the United Kingdom to “ settle “ this country, if they could, by their criticisms. My brother-in-law stated in his letter that the main topic of their conversation during the four weeks’ voyage could be described as, “What sort of a country this was not “. They were most vehement in their criticisms, and left a bad impression on other passengers on Orion. They even wrote derogatory verses about Australia, and circulated them among other passengers.
My brother-in-law was so incensed at the unfair criticisms in that “ stuff “ that he took it to the authorities, who agreed that it was bad indeed. He wondered whether there was any way in which the criticisms of such disgruntled persons could be shortcircuited because they could undoubtedly do great harm to our migration policy and to Australia as a whole. One of their comments was that Australia was “ hell “. Perhaps those persons are of the type whom we do not want here. Perhaps, also, it is a good thing that they have returned to England. After all, Australia has much to offer them that is not available to them in other countries. If they were not satisfied with our conditions, their best course was to return to the United Kingdom. But they should be fair, and confine their criticisms to what may .be called the real causes rather than paint an overall picture of non-existent conditions in Australia. Some of those migrants expected that on their arrival here, everything would be served to them on a platter. That did not happen. They may have been required to work and may have objected to having to do so. They probably considered that everything should go their way, and that the red carpet, or the blue carpet, as the case might be, should have been laid down for them to walk upon; but when things did not go according to their ideas, they were prepared to “stab this country in the back” with their vicious criticisms. I consider that such matters should be raised in this chamber, because they have been brought to my notice by my brother-in-law and are based on his experience. Those disgruntled persons obviously are intent on poisoning the minds of the people of the United Kingdom generally about conditions in Australia. I again congratulate the Minister and the staff of the Department of Immigration on the work that they are performing on behalf of Australia. It has the general approval of all Opposition members.
– I thank the honorable member for his tributes.
.^1 believe that every honorable member agrees with the immigration policy that was inaugurated with great vigour by the previous Minister for Immigration, Mr. Calwell. It has been continued with steadfastness, despite considerable opposition. I do not propose to discuss the general subject of immigration, but I wish to bring two matters to the notice of the Minister (Mr. Holt). I shall be as brief as possible in order that other honorable gentlemen may have an opportunity to speak on the proposed votes for the several departments now under consideration.
My first point deals with the provision of hostels for migrants in country centres. Such accommodation is available in certain areas, but the system could be extended with great advantage. The migrant should he permitted, if possible, to bring his family to the migrant centre. Being engaged in a district for two years in agricultural pursuits, he obtains a knowledge of local conditions, and establishes friendships in familiar surroundings. While he is living in a hostel for that period, he has an opportunity to erect his own home and to prepare for the time when his contract will expire. If he establishes his roots in a district in that way, he will probably continue to live in his home, and work in the surroundings that have become familiar to him and for which, possibly, he has conceived a great liking. I understand that eight hostels are planned, but I do not know what progress has been made in erecting them. I hope that more will be built in country centres, where the services of rural workers are required immediately. The demand for them is substantial, and security and a good livelihood are offered to them. That would be a good way in which to start the new life in Australia.
Additional accommodation may be provided for migrants and their families in another way. An agricultural society in my electorate has offered to make its grounds available to migrants provided they are vacated at show time. Such accommodation, in an emergency, would have definite merits. Other agricultural societies, provided they were satisfied that they could obtain their premises for a few days a year, would probably be prepared to make them available to accommodate migrants. The big advantage of such a scheme would be that new Australians could be accommodated preferably with their families, in rural areas, where work awaits them.
The second matter that I desire to raise has been mentioned at question time and has been exercising the minds of the Minister and his staff. I refer to the education ofthe children of migrants. I know that the Minister recognizes that it is highly desirable that such children should be educated with Australian children, and, indeed, most Australians are in favour of it. They realize the tremendous advantages of raising and educating young migrant children with Australian children because, by those means, they will become assimilated much more rapidly into the community. The first difficulty that is encountered arises from the accommodation at schools, and when that has been overcome a second difficulty arises from the fact that the number of migrant children in, say, first year at a high school may exceed the number of Australian children. The result is that the teaching staff is overworked. High school teachers, who have discussed the matter with me, are most concerned because they consider that they are not making as much progress as they should like to make towards the assimilation of migrant children in the community. Because of the language difficulty, those children tend to be segregated, and, of course, that does not fulfil the aim of educating them with Australian children. I do not know whether that problem can be easily solved, but every effort should be made to provide further accommoda- tion speedily, and to assist the teachers to cope with the additional numbers of migrant children so that they will not have to be segregated in the schools. Speaking generally, I believe that the Government’s policy of bringing migrants tothis country is wise, and has the support of the vast majority of Australians.
.- I wish to refer to the proposed vote for the Department of Immigration. I believe that any migration scheme commenced at any time by any country has been accompanied by many difficulties, many risks, many headaches and many heartaches. The scheme which the people of Australia have approved since the end of WorldWar II for the introduction into their country of men, women and children from Europe and the United Kingdom, and a couple of thousand from the United States of America and Canada, has not been without its troubles and difficulties. We have gone a long way since the plans were first made, and before many more months have passed we shall be able to say that 500,000 persons, who otherwise might never have entered this country, are in the process of becoming Australian citizens. Of that total, 110,000 new Australians were included in the scheme which provided for their introduction between the 1st January, 1949, and the 30th June, 1950. I think that the full number had arrived before the end of April of this year, thanks to the efficiency of officers! of the Department of Immigration in Australia and abroad and the splendid co-operation that Australia received from the International Refugee Organization and its staff at Geneva. Had I remained in office as Minister for Immigration, I should have pressed on with the plan that I had made to bring 100,000 more immigrants to the country. The present Minister, I understand, reduced the number to 50,000, but later increased it to about 60,000. Taking into account the few thousands who had arrived prior to the inauguration of my first plan, I estimate that 170,000 new Australians who were formerly displaced persons will have reached this country between December, 1947, and the end of 1950.
– By March, 1951.
– Is that what the Minister anticipates?
– I thank the honorable gentleman for the information about his plans. During the same period, too, I suppose that about 120,000 other foreign-born persons will have arrived here. Some of the immigrants in that category are Jewish survivors of Buchenwald, Belsen and other horror camps of Europe. Others may have come from Israel. But most of the immigrants in that class are Italians, Greeks and others whose relatives in Australia have paid their fares without asking the Government for assistance in any way. According to the calculations that I have made, the remainder of the grand total of 500,000 will be made up of United Kingdom subjects.
That is a very good total, and it represents a biological transfusion which will do Australia a tremendous amount of good. I believe that about 20 per cent, of the population of the United States of America consists of foreign-born persons. Nobody is likely to say that the United States is not a strong power, actually and potentially, or that it lacks courage, initiative and determination. The mingling of races in that country has been’ an important ingredient in the making of its greatness. In Australia we sometimes say that we are 98 per cent. British. Many people believe that we are 98 per cent. British in racial origin, but that has never been so and perhaps it would not be good for us as a nation if we were so inbred. We are 98 per cent. British by nationality. In other words, many of us were born British subjects, though we are of Germanic or other foreign origin, and others are British by naturalization. I think that we, like the Americans, ought to make new citizens feel that they are Australians in the making and encourage them to believe that soon, when they have been assimilated, they will be entitled to enjoy all the rights and privileges that are available to other Australians. As I said in another debate in this chamber, it might be desirable for us to adopt the American practice and to amend the Defence Act so as to make service in the armed forces dependent upon residence instead of upon nationality. The United States of America has not lost anything by that practice. For instance, many Italian-born American soldiers, who were not naturalized citizens of the United States of America, served in the South- West Pacific Area during World War IT. Nobody could say with justice that they were not brave soldiers or devoted Americans. We should not stand too strongly upon the ground of nationality in the crisis that confronts us at present.
Some disgruntled persons have returned to their homelands, but they represent less than 1 per cent, of the total of all assisted immigrants. Less than 2 per cent, of British assisted immigrants has gone home. Any immigration plan that can attract and hold 98 per cent, of those who come within its scope is an eminently satisfactory plan. A few of those who have returned to their native lands have complained about conditions in Australia, but generally they were persons who had paid their own way to this country. Lord Tweedsmuir. the son of the late John Buchan, who was the Governor-General of Canada, once said in the House of Lords, “Most of the migrants who returned to England from Canada and Australia showed more wishbone than hackbone “. I agree with that comment. The people who came to Australia in the early days found no reception committees waiting for them on our shores. Nobody helped them to establish themselves in the new land. They were our forefathers, and they .made this country great and prosperous. If I were Minister for Immigration still, I should continue to bring into the country all the people whom I wanted to bring. Of all the risks that can be taken by Australians, the greatest is to leave the land underpopulated. I know that there are other risks, such as those associated with housing, but such difficulties affect all immigration schemes, both assisted and unassisted. Whether we restrict or increase the numbers, housing problems will always arise. I suppose that my grandparents had to live in tents when they first arrived in Australia, as did most other new arrivals at that time. However, I am not unmindful of the difficulties that are being experienced by many Australians who have not been able to get houses.
This Parliament has assumed a tremendous responsibility in relation to immigration, and the States have assisted it only in respect of British immigrants. They declared that the
Commonwealth, by refusing to accept any responsibility themselves, must accept complete responsibility for foreign immigrants. The Labour Government did so. It took over army and air force camps and even some naval establishments, and it had tq erect hostels and other accommodation in all parts of Australia to house not only foreign immigrants but also British immigrants who went to country centres. The States should be more co-operative than they have been. In the first place, they could amend some of their legislation so as to provide that wealthy people who come here from overseas shall not have the, right to purchase houses and evict Australians from them, thus making displaced persons of Australians in their own country, until they have lived in this country for a reasonable period of time. I do not know what period should be fixed. Two or three years might be suitable. This Parliament cannot deal with that matter because all legislation in relation to tenancies and titles in land is a responsibility of the States. I consider that State governments should resume numbers of big properties that are now occupied by only a few persons. The interests of some individuals must suffer as a result of the immigration scheme, but the sufferers should not be young ex-servicemen and their wives who are trying to rear families. It is better that they should be settled and helped than that the property rights of a few elderly people who are living in big houses should be preserved. The Minister for Immigration could discuss this matter with representatives of the State governments with the object of having large houses in the cities, and even in some country districts, resumed by the States.
The States must co-operate more than they have co-operated because immigration is undoubtedly producing certain inflationary trends in the country. I regret that fact, but I foresaw it when I was Minister for Immigration and I would still continue to bring immigrants to Australia if I were still in office. I am sorry that a great deal of emphasis has been placed upon the inflationary trend that I have mentioned in articles in newspapers and other publications, such as the Austraiian Quarterly and the
Australian Outlook. I also regret exceedingly that the Commonwealth Bank has seen fit to use funds for the publication of a brochure, which has been printed on very good paper, entitled The Impact of Immigration. I have read the articles in that publication. The facts that they present are very interesting, and one of them particularly, which was written by Mr. Foxcroft, of the Department of Immigration, presents a balanced statement on the subject of immigration. Unfortunately, the slant of all the other articles in the brochure, especially the one that was written by Mr. Arndt, who recently came to Canberra as a professor of economics, will not help the cause of immigration. The various articles set out, as it were, the pros and cons of immigration. But the doubts that they cast upon our ability to assimilate and feed newcomers are presented in such a way as to cause uneasiness in the public mind about the wisdom of proceeding with immigration on the present scale. Mr. Arndt went to England from Vienna about ten years ago as a refugee from Nazi oppression, and he came to this country as a New Australian only four years ago. Now he is beginning to cast doubts upon the capacity of Australians to receive the victims of a later upsurge of Nazi totalitarianism. I do not want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I object to the following statement in the final part of his article : -
The projected flow of immigrants will almost certainly yield substantial economic benefits to this country in the long run and will help to solve specific difficulties at once. But in its short-run effects on the economy ns ii whole, it confronts Australia with a serious problem. If the rapidly growing population is, over the years, to enjoy living standards improving at the rate to which Australians have become accustomed, an abnormally large proportion of Australia’s resources must be devoted to additions to capital equipment. The past year has already shown the inflationary impact of this investment demand. If the required rate of capital expenditure is to be attained, inflationary pressure will increase further in the next few years.
The whole purport of that line of reasoning is to advise Australians to slow up on immigration.
I regret, that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, for whom I have a very high regard but whom I know to be opposed to our immigration policy, has permitted the use of Commonwealth Bank funds for the dissemination of such opinions without at least giving other economists the opportunity to express the opposing point of view. I could mention Sir Douglas Copland and a number of other authorities who could state strong economic arguments in support of Austrian’s capacity to absorb new citizens without running inflationary risks. I had not intended to say even so much as I have said about Dr. Coombs, Mr. Arndt or anybody else. However, I suggest that the Treasurer ask Dr. Coombs to publish a new edition of the brochure, which will tell the story of the impact of immigration on Australia in a more balanced way than that in which it is presented in the copy from which T have quoted. If Dr. Coombs would accept an article on the subject from, me, I should be very glad to contribute it without charge.
– And it would be better than the article by Dr. Arndt.
– The sort of stuff that has been printed in the brochure does not help the cause of immigration.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- My comments on the proposed vote for the Department of National Development relate to what, in my opinion, will be one of Australia’s major internal problems in the near future. I refer to food production. It is clear that if steps are not taken in the near future to deal with that problem, Australia will experience great difficulty ten years hence in producing sufficient foodstuffs to meet its own requirements. In such circumstances we shall be obliged to import foodstuffs. Experts on agricultural and meat production recently declared that owing to the rapid increase of population as the result of immigration together with a marked decline of the production of foodstuffs, we shall be compelled to deal with this problem even in the very near future. Otherwise our population may increase to such proportions that we shall not be able to solve it in the distant future.
Under the proposed vote for the Department of National Development, the sum of £2,500,000 is to be allotted for the provision of approximately 2,600 miles of roads and stock routes in the Ord River, Barkly Tableland, Alice Springs and Channel country areas. It is unfortunate that 63 per cent, of our population lives in the capital cities and in coastal districts. Consequently, beef must be produced in areas that are far remote from markets. I propose to direct the attention of honorable members to what is known as “ air beef “ scheme which was commenced in the Kimberleys about two years ago. I shall cite certain figures dealing with results that have been achieved under that scheme which, I submit, is a model of economic marketing of beef. The scheme was originated by providing an airstrip at Mount House station and establishing adjacent to it modified abattoirs and freezing works. Under the scheme Mount House station has been enabled to treble its supplies of beef to metropolitan markets. Thousands of cattle are lost because increasing age renders them unsuitable for human consumption. Producers also find that the cost of droving cattle to railheads and highways is uneconomic. Consequently, only a small proportion of the beef that is produced in remote areas actually reaches the market.
Under .the roads and stock routes scheme to which I have referred it is proposed to link Alice Springs, Mount Isa and Bourke with Wyndham. Cattle are transported to the three first-named centres by rail and it is well known that many carcases are rejected for the market because of bruises that are sustained by the cattle in the course of transportation. In such circumstances the “ air beef “ scheme offers a practical model that should be copied in other cattle-producing areas. It has now passed the experimental stage. It would not be very costly to lay down airstrips at other centres where abbatoirs and freezing works could be established for the handling of cattle that are produced in the surrounding country. For instance, cattle from three stations are taken to Mount House, and after being killed they are held in the freezing works to await transportation by air to metropolitan markets.
Tremendous possibilities are inherent in schemes of that kind. Certainly, the facts prove that they would be far more economical than providing thousands of miles of stock routes and roads for the droving of cattle. The most significant factor in the marketing of beef is not the number of head of cattle but the poundage of beef a head that reaches the market in a condition in which it- is suitable for human consumption. Observance of that principle would not only encourage the production of beef, but also, in due course, help to reduce the retail prices of meat.
The “ air beef “ scheme was commenced in 1949. Since its inception 3,100 chilled carcasses have been marketed from Mount House station, the average carcass weight being 584.13 lb., and of that quantity 85.11 per cent, was suitable for export. The average annual production during the last two years was 1,550 carcasses, of which 97 per cent, was marketed. “Whereas poundage of carcasses that were marketed yearly by droving via Wyndham during the preceding three years totalled 416,136 lb., during the’ last two years 905,400 lb., or an average increase of poundage marketed of 117.57 per cent., has been transported by “ air beef”. I emphasize that whilst Mount House station has a total running capacity of 20,000 head of cattle, the average number of cattle that reached Wyndham yearly during the last three years under the droving system was only 783 beasts, whereas the average number of cattle toreach Wyndham annually via “ air beef “ during the last two years was 1,550, or an annual increase of 97.95 per cent.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr, Nelson) said that that scheme was being discontinued because it had been found to be uneconomical.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory may have been referring to the attempt to revive transportation of beef by air from the Northern Territory to Wyndham. In view of the figures that I have cited, it is most unlikely that the “ air beef “ scheme will be discontinued. Perhaps the best comparison that can be made of that scheme with the conditions that existed during the three preceding years is that whereas during the three-year period the total weight marketed was 163,304 lb., the total weight marketed as export freezers during the last two years under “ air beef “ has been 775,607 lb., or an increase of 374.65 per cent. The point I emphasize is that in order to shift the weight of beef that has been shifted from Mount House station since the inception of the “ air beef “ scheme it would be necessary to provided 2,600 miles of roads and stock routes at an estimated cost of £13,000,000. The comparison is also heavily in favour of “ air beef “ from the stand-point that it is not beef on the hoof but poundage a head that is most valuable at the market. I urge the Government, therefore, to study this scheme closely with a view to applying it in other cattle-producing centres. Surely, I have said sufficient to prove that such schemes are practicable. Schemes of this kind have been made practicable largely by the deep-freeze system, which can be economically installed at appropriate centres in cattle-producing districts. I can see no reason why the “ air beef “ scheme should not be duplicated in its entirety at other centres. I repeat that the Government must not postpone consideration of the problem of increasing the production of foodstuffs in order to ensure that at no period in the future shall that production be insufficient to meet our own requirements.
.- 1 wish to deal with the proposed vote for the Department of National Development. About twelve months ago honorable members opposite had much to say about the Government’s proposal to raise a loan of £250,000,000 to be expended over a period of five years on national developmental projects. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has just emphasized the necessity for developing our national resources and increasing our population. He said that immigrants will make a valuable contribution to our development generally. Whilst 1. agree with those views, I am perturbed by the approach that the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) is making to the Government’s much publicized national development scheme.
Recently, I received a schedule of the major development projects which it is proposed to undertake. I propose to examine the Government’s plans with respect to Queensland, which in area is seven times as large as Victoria. The Minister in his covering letter relating to the schedule of major development projects for Queensland said -
The attached schedule contains works of a developmental nature to cost over £500,000, which arc in an advanced stage planning or are being undertaken at thu present time by the State and Commonwealth Governments.
I ask the Minister to say what assistance the Commonwealth will give. I have first-hand knowledge of some of the Queensland projects in the list. Included in it are a project at Callide, the Burdekin Valley scheme and a plan for the development of the coal resources at Blair Athol. There is also a reference to coke ovens at Bowen. The Minister stated recently, in answer to a question that an investigation of the matter was being made by an officer of his department but that he was not very optimistic concerning the prospects of success.
The people of Queensland remember the conditions of 1942 when foreign troops were threatening these shores and thousands of civil construction corps workers had to be rushed north. They have heard of the £250,000,000 loan but where is there any evidence of an honest attempt on the part of the Government to put into operation the plans that it was supposed to have in connexion with the development of our national resources? This is a country of undeveloped resources. The Minister was in the far west of Queensland this year and saw what was being done there. He was also informed of recent developments. 1. give him credit for the fact that, as a. result of his visit, he did order an investigation of the prospects of the development of the butter industry, but that is an old industry which was at the peak of its production in World War I. In 1940 the North Australia Development Committee furnished extensive reports after having carried out geological surveys of the area. The body which the Government proposes to establish is welcome but it is the only evidence of the Government’s interest in the area. The people of Queensland remember what happened in 1942 and they do not want a repetition of those occurrences. They do not want to see works being hurriedly executed if Australia should again be threatened with invasion. Surely we can learn something from the past. Surely we can profit from the lessons taught by World War II. with regard to the development of our national resources. It has been said that this country may not be granted the breathing space which it had last time. Now is the time to do the job. I ask the Minister to let his officers collaborate with the officers of the Defence Department and with the Treasury concerning the development of Queensland. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has personal knowledge of that State. Let consideration be given to not only the development of Queensland but also the whole of northern Australia. These three departments should collaborate on this problem because development and defence go hand in hand in north Australia. From 1942 onwards I visited various parts of this area and saw roads being hurriedly constructed by men who had been brought from the south. People from other countries who came here to assist in the defence of this country were critical of our failure to do such work in the past. Fifty years ago it was suggested that the cattle industry of Australia would rival that of the Argentine but the cattle population of Queensland has not increased since that time. The population of the towns of western Queensland has declined. A cattle baron who is a member of the Australian Country party has interjected. His property is in the settled part of the State and he has a bitumen road to his door. I am concerned not about these beef barons, but about those people who need better access to their homesteads by way of decent roads. Coming down into the cattle country and away to the east, to within 100 miles of the coast, is what is known as the inland defence road. Between it and the coast there are black soil roads, main highways and trunk roads which are excluded from the act which this Parliament originally passed in order to provide funds for the construction of roads by local authorities and State governments. ‘ In Queensland these roads lead to the roads that the Commonwealth is building in association with the State Government.
– Order ! The honorable member knows that the Estimates of the Department of Transport have been discussed and finalized.
– I am conscious of that, Mr. Chairman, but I am dealing with the matter of development. Although a decision has been made by this Parliament with regard to the provision of certain roads I ask the Minister to consider building developmental roads into the Northern Territory and to connect the inland defence road with Charters Towers.
– Order ! The subject of roads does not affect this department. Developmental roads come under the heading of Transport. The honorable member will not discuss roads any further.
– If that is the position, Mr. Chairman, do you say that the provision of roads has nothing to do with development ?
– Order I Is the honorable member going to defy my ruling? If so I shall ask him to resume his seat. It is not a question of what my opinion is. The honorable member knows that he is infringing my ruling.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman. What I am concerned about is the development of the resources of the area known as north Australia. People who live in that area should be afforded every amenity in order to enable them to dispose of their produce and to bring in that which is necessary to enable them to carry on their work of development. The matter of egress and ingress is a very important one. There is a great amount of work to be done for the residents of north Australia. The Minister himself saw something of what is required when he visited the gulf country and flew over the channel country. Shortly afterwards I travelled across the channel country, not by aeroplane, but by motor car. The wildflowers presented a glorious sight. I met those people who carry on the pastoral industry in that area. They also are in need of some assistance. They do not want financial assistance but they expect the Government to carry on the work that was commenced by the last Government. The Commonwealth can do with its extensive financial resources far more than can be done by the Government of Queensland, which has only limited resources. I ask the Minister to have the officers of his department collaborate with the officers of the Defence Department on the subject of developmental and defence works. I also ask that his officers collaborate with the representatives of the State governments of Queensland and of Western Australia concerning the development of the north of Australia. If any financial objection is raised, I refer the Minister to the Government’s promise to lend £250,000,000 over a period of five years and to the fact that there is-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I want to speak about development in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland. At Ashford, in northern New South Wales, there is a good coal deposit which has been explored as a result of the operation of the National Development Act and it has been established that there is sufficient coal there to supply power to northern New South Wales and southern Queensland for at least 100 years. That area is very rich in minerals. In the Inverell district there are large deposits of bauxite. Tinga, which has produced tin for very many years, is adjacent to that area and is possibly the most important tin producing district in Australia. There is a very energetic and enthusiastic council which is endeavouring to provide electricity for those towns in the area which extends from Inverell, across to Moree, to Bingara and to Ashford, that are at present drawing power in bulk from Tamworth, about 150 miles away. Much of the coal in that area could be worked by open cuts and if a power-house could be established there it could be connected with the grid system of New South Wales. Having the station on the coal-field would make possible the production of a large quantity of power very cheaply. Moreover, it is one of the forgotten areas of New South Wales.
The town of Inverell is situated at the end of a long railway which services Moree and then turns back 90 miles to Inverell. That district is rich in mineral and agricultural resources, and should be developed. I have here the little brochure given to each honorable member by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), in which is shown projects now under consideration or in course of development. I desire to impress upon the Minister the importance of the coal deposits at Ashford and the necessity for developing them so that, in turn, forgotten areas a long way from capital cities may be developed to the advantage of Australia generally. It is a laudable object to seek to develop the Northern Territory and the northern parts of Western Australia, but there are areas nearer to home which are ready for expansion and in the development of which the people would co-operate if they received a little sympathetic support from the Government. I urge the Minister for National Development to place my submissions upon the Ashford coal deposits before his department with a view to their investigation and consideration.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh) 14.32]. - I desire to speak about the Department of Labour and National Service. That department could do a tremendous amount of good by explaining to the people, particularly the workers, the industrial advantages that can be obtained through conciliation and arbitration. I have always maintained that at no price should the worker surrender his right to strike; but I have always maintained that the right to strike should never be exercised until all other means of settling a dispute have been exhausted. Many of the so-called failures of arbitration are due not so much to the failure of judges to appreciate the point of view of the workers, as to the failure of union advocates to put that point of view adequately before the courts. Some union leaders completely disregard, or are entirely ignorant of, the decisions made by the courts. Unless a union advocate has a complete knowledge of those decisions it is impossible for him to know whether a particular tribunal has treated his claims in accordance with the recognized decisions and practices or whether the standards laid down by judicial decisions have been adhered to. The Department of Labour and National Service should give more publicity to the achievements of arbitration, and more particularly conciliation, than it has done in the past. Three or four years ago the department commenced the publication of what is called the *Industrial Information Bulletin. That booklet is published monthly and it sets out as clearly as possible the decisions made during the month by various State and Federal industrial arbitration tribunals. Those bulletins are available to any person who chooses to become a subscriber.
I put it as a constructive proposal to the Government, and I hope that my remarks will be conveyed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, that the Government, instead of charging a subscription fee of £1 a year for the Industrial Information Bulletin, should encourage the unions to make application to be placed on a free mailing list for these very useful booklets. If that were done many union officials who to-day are completely ignorant of the industrial standards laid down by the courts would become much better informed. Some such officials, through ignorance, ask for too much in some instances and are contented1 with something below the ordinary standards in other instances. That point should be emphasized to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I do not think that even the greatest supporters in this chamber of conciliation and arbitration realize how much has been achieved in the last five years through thu system of conciliation and arbitration. I propose to refer to but a few of the standards laid down by the conciliation and arbitration tribunals of Australia which allow benefits to be given to every union in this country upon a mere application being made to the court. Such matters are finalized upon application, except in very special circumstances. Some of the standards are very important guides to union officials and unionists, and have done much to prevent the disatisfaction which always occurs when one set of workers finds that it is receiving less pay than is another set doing the same work.
The 40-hour week was obtained as a result of arbitration. Not one day’s work was lost in achieving that standard, but everybody in Australia who belongs to a trade union benefited from the decision as from the 1st January, 194)8. Two weeks’ annual leave for ordinary workers and three weeks’ annual leave for continuous shift workers was also made a standard condition by the tribunal. Those standards are so firmly fixed that no employer in Australia can avoid granting two weeks’ annual leave to day workers and three weeks’ annual leave to continuous shift workers. On the other hand, no union official would expect more or less than those periods of leave for these types of workers. No sane union leader would press to the point of dispute a claim for three weeks’ leave in the case of day workers or more in .the case of continuous shift workers. That is one example of how the industrial standards laid down by the tribunals have maintained peace in industry.
Every worker in Australia is now entitled to at least six days sick leave a year as the result of arbitration. By another decision of the tribunals, that sick leave was made cumulative. Moreover, five years ago decisions were made governing pro rata leave and penalty rates for Saturday and Sunday work. The Mooney awards granted marginal increases that ranged from Ss. to 32s. a week according to the margin. That award had its repercussions throughout Australia. Some officials who were loudest in their condemnation of the arbitration system were the last to avail themselves of the benefit of the revision of marginal rates. The same may be said of the basic wage increase of 7s. awarded about two years ago, and. also to the recent basic wage increase of £1 a week. In normal circumstances those increases would have raised materially the standard of living of everybody who participated in them under a State or a Federal award. As all workers received those increases, enormous monetary benefits were derived by the people through the system of conciliation and arbitration. However, there is one unfortunate aspect of arbitration. There is a tendency on the part of the courts to lay too much emphasis on arbitration and not enough on conciliation. In some cases workers have been forced to take direct action to obtain a satisfactory decision from arbitration tribunals. Not all the standards that I have mentioned were obtained by a peaceful process. The Mooney award was obtained only after the whole of Victoria had been thrown into chaos as the result of the metal trades dispute.
The Australian Government can take an effective stand for conciliation in regard to its own employees. I have appeared as an advocate before the Public Service Arbitrator upon whom, under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it is mandatory to call the parties into conference before the matter proceeds to arbitration. I have appeared many times before the Arbitrator as an advocate for the Commonwealth Railways employees, and in the initial conference the representatives of the employers have said in effect, “ Well, Mr. Arbitrator, you might as well adjourn the case to arbitration at once because we are not prepared to agree to anything at all or to discuss any of the claims under consideration “. Case after case has been preceded by such a farcical conference. But the organizers of the act believed that a conciliatory conference would be the forerunner of an amicable settlement. Time after time reasonable claims have been referred to an open hearing because of the utter failure of the parties to use the conciliation machinery provides. Judges of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court and the Public Service Arbitrator should be encouraged to make more use of the conciliation facilities provided. Of course, I realize that the Public Service Arbitrator cannot do more than summon a preliminary conference of the parties. He cannot compel them to reconcile their differences. I do not want honorable members to imagine that I am blaming only the present Government for the continuance of this state of affairs. Undoubtedly the previous Labour Government should have made some effort to insist on the permanent heads of Commonwealth industrial undertakings availing themselves of the conciliation methods provided. However, I suggest to the present Government that the time is overdue for it to encourage the senior officers of its industrial undertakings to take every advantage of the facilities available for the settlement of industrial claims and disputes. I also believe that the issue of industrial bulletins to trade unions would do much to apprise union leaders of the standards of wages and conditions laid down in Australia to-day. When people concerned in industrial matters are aware of the standard? enforced by the courts, the function of the conciliation authorities is much simplified. I hope, therefore, that the Government will give serious consideration to the suggestions that I have made.
.- Because of the re-armament programmes undertaken bythe democracies in consequence of the deterioration of international relationships the need for manganese and chrome has been emphasized and promptsme to point out that in addition to the chromite deposits at Coob in a there are large deposits of manganese at Peak Hill in Western Australia. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth has never taken the trouble to have a proper examination made of the ore content of the deposits, and yet the Commonwealth has imposed a blanket ban on the export of those metals. As a result, the north west of the State has been deprived of the development that would have taken place had the deposits been fully worked, and Australia has been deprived of badly needed dollars which the exports of those metals would have earned. Another, and even more serious result of the attitude displayed by the Commonwealth in this matter is that the’ great democracies, on whom we shall have to depend for our survival in the event of another war, are being deprived of these very necessary metals. Until six months ago the United States of America was purchasing large supplies of those metals from Russia, which at present produces most of the world’s manganese and chromite. However, Russia has now ceased, for political reasons, to export those metals to the United States of America.
The refusal of the Government to remove the embargo on the export of manganese ore is apparently based on the belief that there are only 300,000 tons of that ore in the Peak Hill deposits. I want to emphasize that there is a wide divergence of opinion about the size of the deposits at Peak Hill. In 1925 Mr. A. Montgomery, who was then State Mining Engineer of Western Australia, conducted a survey of the manganese deposits at Peak Hill, and his report was subsequently published by the Mines Department of Western Australia. Certain portions of that report are of very considerable significance to our present discussion of this matter, and I propose to read them to honorable members. The first portion of the report that I shall read is as follows: -
Examination of the plans, sections, and assay results herewith, however, will show that there is a very large quantity of good ore to be got from the surface of the deposit alone, without having to depend on the deeper ore. The area of the south ore-body, over which the assays average about 43 per cent, of manganese, is about 91,000 square yards and, allowing9 cubic feet to the ton, there would be 91,000 tons of ore in 1 foot of depth. It is probably quite safe to take an average depth of 12 feet all over the area as being ore of value quite equal to the samples taken from the surface. In the southern area, there would be 1,092,000 tons of marketable ore in the top of 12 feet.
The northern ore-body is much smaller in area, and probably not so thick. Its area about 31,700 square yards, equal to 31,700 tons of ore per foot in depth. An average depth of six feet only would yield 100,200 tons of ore.
On these very safe figures we have therefore -
It seems quite safe therefore to calculate on at least 1¼ million tons of ore of marketable grade from the mere cap crust of these deposits, which shows them to be of extraordinary magnitude which gives them very great importance.
In a later portion of the report, Mr. Montgomery states -
How much more manganese ore of good quality can be got at greater depth from surface is as yet quite undetermined, but there is every probability of the quantity being very large, and, in addition, it is certain that there will be very large quantities of ferriferous manganese ore, probably carrying 25 to 40 per cent, of manganese and 10 to 30 per cent, of iron, which are capable of being utilized in steel manufacture.
An earlier section of the report reads as follows : -
In both ore bodies the managanese deposit appears to bc mainly a sheet of superficial ore of which the thickness is not at present ascertainable. Both deposits are untouched by mining work, and the edges of the outcrops are almost everywhere covered with fallen ore, so that it cannot be seen with any certainty whether the ore is going down to the ground like a lode, or only forming a capping over an old surface. If it be a capping it would seem to be quite a thick ore, perhaps SO feet or more thick, in some places, as at the waterfall in the south deposit, but in many other places it seems quite thin, as where the northern ore body dies out to the west. Until numerous shafts have been sunk into the orebodies or bores made through them, there is no possibility of making any accurate estimate of the total quantity of manganese ore in the deposits. This work should bc carried out at a very early stage in their development.
In the summary of. his report, Mr. Montgomery makes the following statement : -
The Horseshoe manganese deposits contain not less than 1,250,000 tons of ore of good marketable quality very easily obtainable by open excavations, and most probably there aTe greatly larger quantities of ore below the superficial crust which alone has been taken into account in this figure. In addition, there are very large quantities of ferruginous m allganes ores of lower grade than the best ore, but still very valuable for iron and steel manufacture. The deposits are not yet developed enough to allow of quantitative estimates of these being quoted. The working facilities are very favorable for cheap extraction of the ore, and this is of good hard quality, suitable for blast furnace requirements., and fur shipping in bulk.
I direct the attention of honorable gentlemen to the fact that although the survey was made in 1925 very little has since been done to deevlop those rich potentialities. Honorable members will notice that Mr. Montgomery stated that there were at least 1,2S0,200 tons of marketable ore in that deposit. It seems extraordinary, therefore, that .the Government should not only have neglected to develop those deposits but also have imposed an embargo on the export of ore to the United States of America, which vitally needs the metal for it re-armament programme. A request was made recently to the Commonwealth to have the deposits drilled, because that is the only way in which the ore content can properly be ascertained, and I understand that the Government has agreed to that proposal. However, I. have been informed that it is unlikely that drilling will take place before another eighteen months has elapsed. The reluctance of the Government to take effective action in this matter seems almost incredible, particularly in view of the urgent need to obtain this metal now. If Montgomery’s report is correct, it is obvious that at Peak Hill there is sufficient ore to supply Australia’s needs for the next 75 or 100 years, even allowing for an increased rate of consumption. I earnestly request the Government to provide the finance that will enable drillings of the deposits at Meekatharra to be made as soon as possible. I point out that those operations would not entail much expenditure or the employment of many men. A drilling crew consists of two men and a geologist. It is usually found to be more economical, however, to engage two. additional men and work the drill in two shifts. The necessary trained personnel and the drilling equipment are already available in Western Australia. If the Commonwealth provided the money to undertake drilling, the operations could commence within a week.
I emphasize that the deposit at Peak Hill is only one of many deposits in Western Australia. I know a number of people who have known for many years’ of deposits round Meekatharra and elsewhere but because manganese ore does not bring a. very high price in Australia today, prospectors and others who know of the existence of deposits will not reveal their knowledge to the authorities. T understand that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited pays approximately £6 5s. Australian a ton for the ore. whereas the Government of the United States of America, would pay more than twice that amount. I think that those facts explain why the development of our rich resources is not proceeding as it should do.
I ask the Government, in addition to carrying out drilling operation on tin? chromite and manganese deposits to proceed with a comprehensive regional survey ofWestern Australia in order to ascertain the exact nature of our mineral deposits and their economic possibilities. Those deposits occur in regions of from 1,000 to 2,000 square miles. The regions are well known to the Mines Department of “Western Australia and to the Bureau of Mineral Resources. It is astonishing that the Government has made no attempt to make a comprehensive survey of them. I appeal to the Government, therefore, to ha ve a prompt and systematic examination made of our vast mineral resources in Western Australia.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Silting suspended from 5.1 to 8 p.m.
Common wealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Proposed vote, £2,290,000.
Defence Services -
Department of Defence
Proposed vote, £404,000.
Department of the Navy.
Proposed vote, £22,820,000.
Department of the Army.
Proposed vote, £24,896,000.
Department of Air
Proposed vote, £23,623,000.
Department of Supply
Proposed vote, £61,640,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I direct my remarks to the proposed votes for defence activities, particularly in relation to the Department of the Army, and in view of the short time at our disposal in this debate I shall, like many other honorable members, say that I should have spoken on the National Service Bill had I not wished to see it passed through this chamber as quickly as possible. In view of the allotment of time for the consideration of the Estimates, I do not propose to waste any of my period in talking about the shortcomings of the previous Government. After all, it seems to me that as this Government has now been in office for almost a year it must accept a certain amount of responsibility for the state of the defences of this country.
– Order !
– I can make my speech without assistance from the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin). I wish to make it plain right from the start that I consider the steps that have been taken by the present Government in relation to our defence forces to be totally inadequate in view of the international situation as it is unfolded daily to us by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Spender). I also do not believe that the methods that have been adopted fulfil in the spirit the guarantee that was given to the people by the Government parties in the campaign which culminated in the general election on the 10th December of last year. I say that they are inadequate in view of the international background which, we are told every day, is so grave. To find support of thatview one has only to open this evening’s newspapers which contain another grave warning issued by the Prime Minister about the deterioration of the international situation.
It seems to me that the defence activities of the Government fall into two categories. First of all there are those activities which are, in a sense, traditional. That is to say, they are a mere carrying on of policy or action which was propounded or taken by the previous Government and which has the support of the Labour party. I refer, for example, to such matters as the continuation of the Permanent Military Forces, the Citizen Military Forces, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. That aspect is not controversial. All parties in the Parliament subscribe to it. All I wish to do now is to make a few remarks concerning the way in which those services are run. If we look at them as they are at present and believe what we are daily told to be the truth, which is that we may indeed have to rely upon our own defences for our survival, we can take very little comfort from the state of those defences at the present time. It is well known that our naval ships, which are under-manned, are every day deteriorating in Australian ports. In the Royal Australian Air Force we have not even enough ground crew to maintain the small number of first-line aircraft that we have.
Now I turn to an arm of which I know rather more - the Militia, or, to give to it the official title, the Citizen Military Forces. The position is that the volunteer force, which is the basis on which we must establish most of our defence, could hardly be worse than it is now. There is not one militia unit that is up to strength. The great majority of militia units are not even up to 30 per cent, of strength. The strength of some of them is so low as to make them absolutely valueless. They are, indeed, ineffective and service in them is an utter waste of time. Indeed, the fact that all our forces are under strength is not denied by the Government itself, because at the present time we are engaged in an all-out, almost desperate effort to attract recruits to them. I take it that, there would be no recruiting drive if there were not a very urgent need for men in the forces. A serious aspect of our recruiting drive is that at the present moment there is every indication of its being a complete failure. The recruiting drive does not, in fact, appeal to the young men of this country to whom it is intended to appeal. I shall examine the reasons for that being so.
I believe that the prime reason why the recruiting drive is doomed to failure is that, despite the protestations of the Government about the urgency of the situation, the youth of this country do not believe, and with some cause, that the Government is in absolute earnest about the necessity to maintain a decent standard of defence. I shall illustrate what I mean by citing two examples. 1 doubt very much whether the members of the Government who are responsible for the conduct of our defence policy, themselves realize the sacrifices that active members of the militia forces, particularly the officers and N.CO.’s on whom the success of the whole scheme depends, have to make so that the scheme will be effective. They have to attend drill on at least two and probably three nights & week, as I know from personal experience. Occasionally, they have to spend Saturday afternoons and whole week-ends at their military duties. In other words, the Government is asking them to sacrifice their jobs, their businesses and their families whilst at the same time having to put up with a lot of inconvenience. And what is the reward for all that? They are paid! I mention this aspect of the matter as an example of the Government’s neglect to do something that would heighten the possibility of the recruiting; drive succeeding. Poor as military pay for those volunteers is it is taxed by the present Government just as it was taxed by the previous Government. Deputations which have waited on the Government have pointed out the folly and injustice of that position, but still the Government persists in taxing the military pay of volunteers in the Citizen Military Forces. That is a bad principle, because under it not only is money that is well and truly earned in a difficult manner by those very admirable citizens taken from them, but also, in many instances, as X know, those military earnings are lumped for tax purposes with the private earnings of the volunteers, and sometimes raise their total earnings to a point that puts the volunteers in a higher income group of taxpayers. As a result, some volunteers, far from reaping any financial benefit from their service to their country, are taxed more heavily and are actually the losers as a result of that service. Time after time, that anomaly has been brought to the notice of the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) and his predecessors, but the answer has always been that the Treasury does not agree that the military pay of volunteers can be taxfree, as the granting of such a concession would establish a precedent. I say that if the Government is earnest in its endeavour to get people into the Army it should realize that it. after all, has the final voice in the matter. It should say straight-out, “ “We shall make the military pay of volunteers tax free”. After all, the Government is asking those men and their families to put up with inconveniences and to make sacrifices. Why in those circumstances, should not the Government itself face a little trouble and iron out this matter once and for all? The Government, and not the Department of the Treasury, should run the country. If time permitted I would enlarge on that aspect, because there is no more evil influence on the fighting services of this country than that of the Department of the Treasury at the present time, and it has been so ever since the last war.
I shall cite another example. At the moment there is a great deal of talk to the effect that employers - meaning, of course, private employers - should make up the difference between the civil and military pay of those citizens who volunteer or who are, first of all, conscripted into ‘ the services under the universal training scheme, or who are in the Militia. The Government has appealed to employers to do so. That is fair enough. But why cannot the Government itself make up its mind where it stands on this matter? The State governments have pronounced their policies in the matter.
– The Government has made a pronouncement about that matter.
– If the Government’s policy in relation to the matter has been pronounced then it is of only recent date, because the great majority of volunteers <lo not know where they stand. However, I am very pleased to hear that the anomaly has been adjusted.
I said at the beginning of my speech that the activities of the Government in relation to defence fall into two categories, and I have made some reference to the first. The second category includes those matters which, in a sense, are innovations and are controversial. I refer now to the national service scheme that was introduced into this Parliament about a fortnight ago. I was astonished when what appeared to be primarily a defence measure was introduced by the Minister for “Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt). As the debate on the measure proceeded I began to understand the reason why it had been introduced by a Minister who does not hold a defence portfolio because it was perfectly plain that the fundamental conception and aim of this scheme, whatever else it was, was not primarily the defence of this country. I affirm that if one considers the National Service Bill as it stands, one cannot claim for a moment that it makes a real and worthwhile contribution to the defence of this country. It falls very far short of being what it should be. Everything seems to have been taken into consideration but the prime factor, which is the need to provide Australia with a properly trained reserve of fighting men.
Let us look at what the bill actually does. After taking thought for twelve months, the Government has decided that a few thousand men shall commence training in the Army at one time, and shall go into camp for a period of three months. For a start, that period in camp will prove to be inadequate, as anybody who has had any experience of such matters knows. Secondly, the numbers involved are absolutely pathetic. Indeed, the draft to be called up under the universal military training scheme or the so-called universal military training scheme is not even as large as the reserves of, shall we say, any volunteer bush-fire brigade. In the State of “Western Australia, for which I have worked out the figures, the total numbers to be called up at the commencement of the scheme will be between 200 and 300 men. I simply cannot understand how the Government can claim this scheme to be a universal military training scheme. It is merely an apology for a scheme. I say that most advisedly. I realize that it is not a light matter to stand up in this place and criticize a Government that I have been elected to support, but there are certain things which, as far as I am concerned, are above and beyond all party political considerations. When I have stood as a political candidate I have always made it very plain that one of my objectives was to ensure that future generations in this country would be properly trained to defend themselves and so be able to maintain the safety of the country. We all like to think that we have a particular object in entering politics, and that was the one purpose that I had in doing so. I can see nothing in the National Service Bill that was before the chamber recently, which shows that these matters have been properly taken care of by the Government.
There is another point to which I turn now. When we have a legal matter that has to be considered by the Government, we all know that the Government eonsuits the legal men in its ranks for advice and assistance in the drafting and the prepartion of the ultimate form of the relevant bill. That is quite rightly so. Being so, I wish to know why, when it comes to military matters, apparently everybody in the Parliament is consulted except those elected members of Parliament who have some firsthand experience of what the requirements of modern warfare are. I find that that question is quite incapable of being answered in relation to the National Service Bill, because dozens of men who sit on the Government benches at the present time could definitely have produced a better scheme than the scheme which the Government has brought forward. I consider that the Government would have been well advised to consult them. In the Government at the present time, with one exception only, there is not one nian who has had first-hand experience of the requirements of modern warfare, and by no stretch of the imagination can it be assumed that there is one member of the Cabinet who might be called upon to defend his country in another war. That is a very serious matter, particularly as so many members of the Defence Council are in a similar category.
.- I appeal to the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey), who is in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, to direct his officers to investigate the use of plastics as substitutes for some articles that are made from other materials now in shortsupply. Many articles made from plastics are capable, I believe, of performing as useful a service for the community as similar articles manufactured from steel or other metals. At the same time, I consider, that the public are being exploited as a result of the sale of certain articles made from plastics that are supposed to render as useful a service as similar articles made from metals. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization may be able to educate the public to recognize articles that are likely to fulfil the claims made for them in advertisements.
I have in mind plastic water-piping (‘. f is r.ow on rho market. Whether or not it is a suitable substitute for galvanized iron water-piping, which is in short supply, I do not know. I have made inquiries through various industrial channels in an endeavour to ascertain the extent to which the plastic waterpiping can be used for water reticulation, but I have not been able to obtain authentic information. The manufacturers naturally state that it will give as good service as the ordinary metal piping, bur. I assume that they make such a claim for the purpose of fostering sales. If plastic water-piping is a suitable substitute for iron water-piping, it is certainly worthwhile for the Commonwealth Scentific and Industrial Research Organization to give the public the facts. The use of such a substitute would permit additional quantities of iron to be made available for other articles which are in short supply and for which plastics are not a suitable substitute. I believe that the field of plastics provides an opportunity to save other materials that are in short supply.
Certain events that have occurred since the termination of World War II. in connexion with the discharge of personnel from the Royal Australian Navy, the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force are not likely to stimulate the recruiting campaign. The service departments are evidently treating most unfairly men who have served for long periods in the forces. I cite an example which, I believe, illustrates the experience of a number of men. At the termination of hostilities, permanent members of the forces who held certain ranks were medically examined for the purpose of ascertaining whether they were fit to retain those ranks, or were of an age and a medical standard that would entitle them to be promoted. Quite a number of those men were found to be below the required medical standard, and the service departments informed them that they were not fit to retain their ranks, and offered them the opportunity to accept a lower rank, or their discharge. Those men were entitled to certain benefits, including long service leave, subject to their completing a certain period of service, or being discharged upon the initiative of the services and not at their own request. When they were told that. they were not fit to retain their ranks, and were offered lower ranks or their discharge, they naturally accepted their discharge. So far as I am aware, a member of the forces does not regress to a lower rank, except as a result of a criminal charge.
– That is not so.
– That is what usually happens. Regression to a lower rank would mean that the member of the forces had done something wrong. He does not regress of his own volition. A similar position arises in civilian life. It is a fundamental, law. The men to whom I refer stated that they would take their discharge. That was accepted by the service authorities as an application for their discharge, and, consequently, the men concerned were disqualified from receiving their accumulated benefits. That is a shabby subterfuge. The men should have been given their discharge, with all the benefits that had accrued to them, and offered re-engagement at a lower rank, suitable to their medical standard, instead of being told, “ You have applied for your discharge. We did not tell you to ask for it; but, by so doing, you have forfeited all the benefits accumulated during your years of service “. That is unjust. I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that if the medical standard of your secretary was such as to prevent him from continuing to perform his duties satisfactorily, and you offered him hia discharge, or a lower position, he would obviously tender his resignation, and seek other employment. But you would not deprive him of benefits accumulated as a result of many years’ service. To do so would be to act in a completely dishonest way. Ministerial intervention is required to override the decision that evidently has been reached by the Navy, Army and Air Force authorities. They should be told that they will not be permitted to jeopardize the success of the recruiting campaign by resorting to such subterfuges with men who have given years of valuable service.
I did not speak in the debate on the National Service Bill 1950. I accept the Government’s move, as it is indicated in that legislation, as a start towards giving effect to a policy that is absolutely essen tial. As our defences have been allowed to drift since the end of World War II., the Government must obviously start in a small way. Any person who places the slightest impediment in the way of the success of the national training scheme does the country a disservice. I do not regard that scheme as a conscriptive measure for war. I had the privilege, doubtful or otherwise, of serving in the Middle East during World War II. I was in command of a section of men during the siege of Tobruk. We were told by head-quarters that we had to hold that place, at all costs. The battalion with which I was serving had gone to Tobruk, with a brass band, to complete its training. We were flabbergasted on receiving that order from head-quarters. The men under my command said to me, “ We have not been trained. We cannot be expected to hold this place “.
– I do not believe it.
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) does not need to believe it, but it is a fact. None is so blind as he who. will not see. We opened cases containing weapons that were still covered with grease. A few of us had done a course of training, and, in the front line, while defending Tobruk, we trained those men to use weapons that they had not previously seen. The men rallied, and learned their lesson. They gained confidence in the use of the weapons that were issued to them. They had been trained in Australia to handle Lewis guns, and did not see a Bren gun until they were told that the Germans and Italians were within 400 yards of them and that they had to hold Tobruk at all costs. That was my experience. It was unfair to put men into the field under such conditions. It was unfair to them, to their mates, and to the people in Australia who were relying upon them. Had those men failed to hold Tobruk - and, in the circumstances it could not have been described as a real failure - they would have been condemned by the people of Australia. Yet it was the people and the government of this country who should have stood condemned for having neglected to give those men an opportunity to learn how to defend themselves. Every able-bodied male and female should have that opportunity. A person is trained, from childhood to manhood, to defend himself against attacks in civilian life. Why not allow Australians to learn to defend themselves confidently with weapons so that they may protect themselves against attacks which are likely to occur at any time? Any person who places the slightest impediment in the way of the national service scheme is a traitor to this country. I make that statement unhesitatingly, and I defy anybody to state that I am not entitled to do so.
– I preface my remarks on the Defence Services estimates by stating that I am wholeheartedly in favour of compulsory military training. Whilst I am in agreement with some of the statements of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), I cannot find myself in complete agreement with everything that he has said. First, we have to realize that, if we are threatened with war, no mere allocation of money, no matter how large it may be, is enough. But if peace is assured, almost any financial provision that is made for defence is too much. The basis of training for war is founded upon six factors. The first is an experienced staff. The second is a framework of units and formations. The third is the framework of an expandable draining organization. The fourth is an adequate supply of stores and munitions to equip the forces that are called up for training. The fifth is an organization to convert industry from a peace footing to a war footing. The sixth I shall deal with later. We have already made considerable progress with the first five that I have specified. Another, which I have not enumerated but which, nevertheless, is of great importance, is scientific research into new weapons and methods of warfare. We all know that progress has been made with such research. But I do not wish to give the impression that I am one of the advocates of push button warfare. There could not be a more futile conception of waging war.
Although all political parties sinned and fell short in the preparation of the nation for war and defence in the years that immediately preceded and succeeded
World War II., the fact is that, in general, the preparations that were made were in keeping with the sentiment and the temper of the electors. I refer now to the remarks that were made by the honorable member for Henty about the Militia Forces. I speak with the advantage of some experience on this subject because, prior to World War II., I wasan officer of the Citizen Military Forces. I well recall -the wretched expedients to which we were driven in order to provide seme sort of basic training for our officers and men. Anybody who has compared the status of the Militia to-day with its status before the war must agree that some improvement has been made. Our defence organization to-day includes at least the nucleus of each of the ‘five basic elementsthat I have so far enumerated. We have a more considerable framework of unitsand formations than we had before World War II. We have the framework of an expandable training organization. We already have some stocks of stores and munitions, and the Government proposes to appropriate the sum of £50,000,000 specifically for the purpose of establishing a stockpile. Therefore, the picture is not one of unmitigated gloom. In addition, a considerable amount of scientific research into the development of newweapons of war is being undertaken.
But all of these preparations are dependent upon the sixth essential, which is a trained reserve of man-power. I donot pretend that the bill recentlypassed by the House of Representatives will provide us in the immediate future with a substantial trained reserve of man-power. However, until’ that hill was introduced, we had no meansat our disposal of producing any trained reserves other than those that could be obtained by expansion of the Citizen Military Forces. As honorable members are aware, the expansion of the Citizen Military Forces was proceeding very unsatisfactorily. If the bill achieves nothing else - and I confess to some disappointment with its scope - at least it will impress upon Australians the fact that, amongst all the other compulsions that are laid upon citizens by the modern State, none is more important than the duty of defending this country. Finally I do not believe that enlistments– in the Australian Regular Army - or in the Citizen Military Forces can be encouraged by means of what I describe as a policy of glamour. Every soldier knows that there is no glamour in war, that there are no sheets on the beds and that there is no crockery from which to eat. I do not believe ‘that we can make any special appeal to the enthusiasm of the youth of Australia by promising to put them in camps where all the amenities of life are provided. I do not suggest, of course, that only the bare necessities should be provided for the members of the Australian Regular Army. The life of a regular soldier should be commensurate with that of an ordinary citizen. However, I believe it to be a mistake to try to attract Australians to the defence forces by offering them glamour. Many honorable members on this side of the chamber have been disappointed because the Government has not decided to make greater calls upon the man-power of the nation for compulsory training than those for which the National Service Bill provides. But every honorable member must agree that the Government has budgeted for a very considerable step forward in the defence preparations of the nation. “We should not allow ourselves to believe that man-power, though essential, is the only vital factor in the expansion of our armed forces and the training of our citizens for the duty, which undoubtedly should be laid upon all of them, of defending their native soil.
.- First I shall refer to the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). When I discussed in this chamber recently the measure to which the honorable gentleman referred, I asked the Government, on behalf of the Opposition, not to make an issue of defence that would divide the people of Australia. The defence of Australia is too important to be made the cause of a division of either the Parliament or the people. In the light of present world conditions, we ask ourselves why the honorable member for Henty has spoken as he has done. Obviously, as a young man who has recently seen service, in which he displayed conspicuous bravery, he faces the future with some trepidation. He is not satisfied with the defence plans of the Government and has called upon it to deal more adequately with the pressing problems that confront the nation. That is what the Opposition calls upon the Government to do, and in fact demands that it shall do! We say that, if the Government can demonstrate to Australians what they should do in the present situation, it can sell a live defence policy to them. It can sell such a policy, above all, to ‘the Australian Labour movement which, both in World War I. and in World War II., proved its willingness and its ability to organize the nation for defence and war. A curious situation arose during the recent important debate on defence in this chamber. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had said previously, and has repeated since, that national training is vital in the present conditions of grave emergency. Yet neither he nor any of the Ministers in charge of the defence services deigned to participate in that debate.
– We were shut out.
– Nobody can shut out a Minister if he wants to be heard in this chamber.
– We made way for private members.
– That is a paltry excuse which does not do justice to the Minister.
– Order ! This is not a debate on the National Service Bill.
– I am merely skimming over the subject because the committee is dealing with the vital issue of defence.
– I shall tell the Opposition my views upon defence to-night.
– We demand that the Minister tell us what the Government proposes to do. What is its answer to the charges that we have made ? What is the reason for the evident lukewarmness of many ex-servicemen on the Government side of the chamber? I pass from the subject, not because it is unimportant, but because we want Ministers to have sufficient time to make the explanations that we have demanded of their: I shall refer only briefly to the other matters that are exercising my mind.
Under the ordinary voluntary defence training system that was brought into force some time ago, the army was said to be short of instructors. But, instead of calling up competent men who had served in World War II., the authorities brought army instructors from Great Britain to train our militia men. I have been told that this action was a sore point with many branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. A prominent member of that organization in Western Australia told me that members of the league were angry because opportunities to act as army instructors had not been afforded to them, even though they had served throughout World War II. We all agree, of course, that we should bring as many people as possible from Great Britain to settle permanently in Australia. Any policy of that kind will have the full support of the Opposition. However, we contend that men who have proved their ability in the service of their country should be given a chance to fill positions as army instructors in the Militia Forces. I am sure that Government supporters agree with that point of view.
The next subject that I have in mind relates to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. One of the items in the proposed vote for that organization is “ Mining and metallurgy, £18,600 “. Honorable members are well aware that the whole of the economic life of Western Australia is influenced by the prosperity of the gold-mining industry. They must be well aware also that Australia’s dollar earnings are largely supplemented by the sale of gold to the United States of America. The present Prime Minister promised us in his policy speech that he would give assistance to the Australian gold-mining industry. But a recent issue of the Current Affairs Bulletin, issued under the authority of the Government, derides the production of gold. It points out, quite truly, that gold is produced only to be deposited in vaults in the United
Staes of America. We know that to be so. The position of gold in the monetary systems of the world does not cause me great happiness, because I think that it is an outworn fetish. But the simple fact remains that Western Australia depends economically upon gold mining. Many men and women obtain their livelihood from that industry, and the whole nation benefits from the sale of its product for dollars. The article that was published in the Current Affairs Bulletin has been severely criticized by a Western Australian newspaper. The Government should ensure that articles published under its authority shall have some regard for physical facts and economic conditions. As many other honorable members wish to speak and the duration of the debate on these items is limited, I shall content myself by again asking the Government to give urgent consideration to the matters that I have raised.
– I am sure that honorable members listened with interest to the speech that was made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). Few honorable members are more competent than he is to speak on defence. He served with oustanding gallantry during the recent war and was decorated for his exploits. Consequently, I, as Minister for Defence, cannot allow his statements to pass unanswered. However, whilst he was most critical of the Government’s proposals in respect of the Australian Regular Army, the Citizen Military Forces and its national training scheme, he failed to advance any constructive criticism at all. He criticized the general proposals of the Government. Perhaps I should indicate how those plans were formulated because, after all, we are not living in a world in which conditions are static. We realize that plans that are evolved to-day may be found to be totally inadequate to meet changed circumstances within a short period. Consequently, the Government makes no apology for putting forward its present plans. They were evolved on the best advice that was available to it. I was also disappointed by the statement by the honorable member for Henty that the Government had refused, or failed, to discuss service matters with
Government supporters who are exservicemen. That statement is not correct. I do not know whether any of the service Ministers have consulted with members of the Government parties who are ex-servicemen, but since I have been Minister for Defence I have frequently discussed service matters with those honorable members and, indeed, I have received from them several very good suggestions.
I am now advised that the whole plan that embraces the Australian Regular Army, the Citizen Military Forces and the national service scheme was based upon certain assumptions. Certainly, it was not based upon the assumption, which members of the Opposition uphold, that a third world war was not likely to occur for at least ten years. Honorable members opposite when they were in office based their defence plans on that assumption. The present Government’s plan has been based on the best advice that it could obtain and on the assumptions that were accepted by Great Britain and the United States of America which, of course, are most interested in this problem and are really alive to their responsibilities. From time to time, the Government has had the benefit of the advice of military experts of high standing who have visited Australia to investigate defence matters.
– Has it been advised by Lord Montgomery?
– I do not know what advise Lord Montgomery may have given to the previous government, but I repeat what I have said on previous occasions in this chamber, namely, that I have been unable to find in any file that I have searched any suggestion by military experts that there would be no war for at len st ten years. The most recent British defence authority to visit this country was Field Marshal Sir “William Slim, who is Chief of the Imperial General Staff. He has had much experience of warfare and is thoroughly informed with respect to the international situation. He expressed satisfaction with the plans that the Government had framed and is now implementing. Therefore, it is extraordinary that at this late hour in the scheme “of things so much criticism should be levelled against the Government’s defence proposals.
Those proposals are not new. They were made known to the Parliament and to the country at least six months ago. In those circumstances, any honorable member, regardless of where he sits in this chamber, relies on a very poor pretext when he attempts to criticize them because of recent developments in Korea which may possibly accelerate the outbreak of a third world war if such a war is to occur. I remind the committee that as- far back as the 14th July last the Government made a public pronouncement on its national service proposals. Yet, members of the Opposition say that they have not made up their minds about what they are going to do in respect of them. They have not yet been able to call the Federal Executive of the Australian Labour party together to give them instructions on the matter. Such an attitude is sheer humbug.
– Supporters of the Government, too, appear to be a little confused on the matter.
– The whip has been cracked over the heads of those honorable members.
– Nothing that the honorable member for Henty said suggested that the whip was being cracked over the supporters of the Government. On the contrary, the fact of the matter is that members of the Government parties will always retain complete freedom to express their views. I, for one, would not deny them that right, even though they might wish to be critical of the Government. Any regimentation such as members of the Labour party are subject to would be a complete negation of the dynamic force of the Government parties. When the Government made its pronouncement on its national service plan on the 14th July last, it was not unaware of the possibility that circumstances would change rapidly. Indeed, the last paragraph of that pronouncement reads -
Mr. Fadden stated that the scheme and its progress would be constantly under review in the light of the international situation. If, in the Government’s opinion, any revision should become necessary the Government would not hesitate to make it.
However, it is essential that the Government’s plan shall be endorsed by the Parliament before any attempt can be made to revise it. It is sheer humbug for the Opposition to complain that the plan is inadequate while, at the same time, doing its utmost to prevent the Government from implementing it.
The Government has done many positive things on the service side of the defence problem. It has encouraged enlistments in- the regular forces and in the militia. I remind honorable members of the substantial increase of service pay that the Government has granted. I admit that that adjustment was long overdue. Nevertheless, when the Government took such action it adopted a generous scale which, I believe, members of the forces thoroughly appreciate.
The honorable member for Henty dealt with the Government’s recruiting campaign. I have no hesitation at all in saying that that campaign has not come up to expectations. But that has been due to various causes. The first is that whilst the campaign, being on a voluntary basis, would normally conform to the defence policy of the Labour party, members of that party in this chamber have said, through their leader, that they will have nothing to do with it. Whilst it is not possible to gauge the adverse effect that that statement has had on recruiting, and whilst I do not take much notice of pronouncements that the. Opposition may make on defence, we must recognize that that statement immediately gave rise to doubts in the minds of many persons about the justification for the campaign. The Labour party in this Parliament deliberately sought to raise that doubt in the minds of people who normally support the Labour party and who would naturally be influenced by any statement that its leader in this chamber might make on the subject of defence. In this matter, I distinguish between the attitude of members of the Labour party in this chamber who are completely in the clutches of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party and members of the Labour party in State parlia- ments. The latter have approached this problem in a way different from that in which members of the Opposition in this chamber have approached it. Several Labour Premiers have come out into the open and, in no uncertain terms, have told the people that they are behind the Government’s recruiting campaign because they believe it to be necessary in the existing circumstances.
I repeat that the campaign has not borne the fruits that the Government expected it to bear. As late as to-day I discussed the subject with the Director of Recruiting, who, I remind honorable members, is one of the ablest military leaders that Australia has produced. He had a magnificent record in the recent war and is persona grata with every section of the community. He has thrown himself heart and soul into his work as the Director-General of Recruiting, and, in spite of every difficulty, has succeeded in establishing throughout Australia an organization which I believe will produce noteworthy results.
I was most disappointed by the statement of the honorable member for Henty that every man who answered the call to enlist would make sacrifices. The Government fully recognizes that fact, and has always done so. Consequently, it is prepared to provide, as far as possible, compensation to every one who makes a sacrifice. However, if Australia becomes involved in another war, very many people will be obliged to make very great sacrifices if we are to survive as a nation. The point that I make is that sacrifices in respect of military service should be made equally by all sections of the community. Under the voluntary system it is not possible to apply that principle. Yet the Labour party regards the voluntary military system as being sacrosanct. Under that system only those who are prepared to play their part make sacrifices; but if every person were called upon, as he should be, to render service to the nation the sacrifices involved would be made by all sections of the community. It is useless for members of the Opposition to preach about defence obligations as they do and, at the same time, to reject out of hand the Government’s ‘proposals, which involve only a relatively small degree of compulsion. The people of Australia are not unaware of the treacherous attitude that the Opposition is adopting in this matter. In saying that, I do not want to be misunderstood, because I am well aware that probably the great majority of supporters of the Labour party do not approve of the Opposition’s attitude. If they have the freedom that honorable members on this side of the House have they will support the Government. They cannot escape the responsibility of having to justify their attitude. “Whatever they may plead, the public will judge them by how they vote in this chamber. It is of no use their saying that they are just as loyal and just as interested in the defence of this country as are honorable members on this side of the chamber. Let their actions speak for them. On that count I have no doubt what the people of Australia will think of them.
.- The Government proposes to increase the expenditure of the Department of Defence to £404,000. It proposes to increase the expenditure of the Department of the Navy by £9,000,000, bringing it to £23,000,000; of the Department of the Army by £10,000,000, bringing it to £25,000,000; of the Department of Air by £12,500,000, bringing it to £23,000,000; and of the Department of Supply by £55,000,000, bringing it to £61,000,000. The total estimated expenditure of £133,000,000 on Defence Services represents only a token expenditure which is the result of the consideration by Cabinet of a number of events during the last twelve months in the international sphere. These events have been considered in relation to the capacity of the country to produce and to all sorts of economic problems which have a bearing on the capacity of the Commonwealth to defend itself, and, generally, to gear itself for its own protection. I agree with many of the points that were brought forward by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). At the same time I can sympathize with the opinions expressed by the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride). It is important that these matters shall be considered in true perspective.
The people of Australia are in no doubt about where honorable members of the Opposition have ever stood in relation to defence. The Australian Labour party has always been a stay-at-home in Australia party. Its members have been here when the troops went and have still been here when they came back. I do not propose to deal with the statements that were made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) because all members are familiar with his suave gentlemanly manner and know that if there is oil to be poured on troubled waters he is adequately equipped to do the pouring. If honorable members opposite were aware of the menace that confronts this country they would find the courage to express their opinions in. relation to several bills that have been, before this Parliament during the last eight months and have been associated with the problem of national defence. In the eyes of the entire community every man-jack of . the Opposition stands convicted of treachery to the country by his attitude to the Communist Party Dissolution Bill, by his attitude to this measure, and by his attitude to other legislation of the government of the country which was properly elected at the last general election. There can be no doubt that their attitude has been influenced by party political expediency from start to finish. 1 give them a full political right to adopt any form of tactics because I- am told that in politics, as in love and war, all is fair. If we consider these matters from that viewpoint we shall find that we are moving in a vacuum and that our efforts will have no result.
During the last fortnight there have been international occurrences which have completely altered the face of international affairs and have enlarged the Commonwealth’s defence needs. Most honorable members of the Opposition are aware that Australia is about to enter upon years of strain and stress which have never been paralleled in its history. J do not wish to be associated in the future with any one who could possibly be compared with Earl Baldwin or Monsieur Daladier. The onus for the defence of the country rests upon every able bodied male and female between the ages of eighteen and 50 years. The conscription of capital and labour for defence is a proper principle and every reasonable person will accept that fact. Those who will not accept it should be made to do so. I have considerable sympathy for honorable members who have to handle the many economic and political problems that arise. I am aware that, in another place, there is a majority which will thwart this Government’s objectives and which in the last eight months has robbed this country of-
– Order !
– The matters I am discussing are properly related to defence, in that they concern what the Government can do. I have been in consultation with a number of my colleagues on the subject of the construction of military aircraft, and I support the view originally put forward by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock), who has had considerable experience in the Air Force. I submit that the governments of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America should confer on the planning of the production of military aircraft during peace-time in order that a market may be assured which would provide for a constant flow of military aircraft and would result in the rationalization of the production of different types. It is undesirable that military fighter aircraft of different types, for example, should be produced in countries that will either fight side by side in a war or be destroyed. That principle is the lowest common denominator, and it provides a basis for co-operation in international and military operations. 1 have no doubt that an approach has been made to this matter and I believe that America would realize the full value of having in this country a much greater capacity for the production of aircraft than exists at the present time. Australia is the one base in the Pacific which would be of great advantage to the United States of America and to the United Kingdom if its military productive capacity were increased to the maximum degree.
– I did not have the opportunity to address to this chamber any remarks concerning the National Service Bill. As one who had served in two wars, I was anxious to discuss that measure, but unfortunately, was unable to do so, as the debate was closed at an early stage. I therefore take this opportunity to associate that bill with the Estimates now before the committee.
I listened with very great interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and to the spirited reply of the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride). During the early part of the debate on the National Service Bill I listened also to the remarks of honorable members of the Opposition. I believe in compulsory arbitration; I believe in compulsory education; and I believe in compulsory voting. I believe that all honorable members are unanimous in the opinions they hold on those subjects. Since compulsory voting, compulsory education and almost compulsory arbitration and unionism give to the citizens of this country some extraordinary privileges, I fail to see why there should not be a recognition of responsibilities by acceptance of a form of compulsory military service, so that our people will be in a position adequately to meet an emergency. Surely no honorable member will deny that Australia is confronted with conditions of unparalleled gravity in its international relationships. Therefore it is incumbent upon this Government, as it is upon every other government in the British Commonwealth of Nations, to take time by the forelock, and to fit the people to meet the challenge which apparently must be met in the near future. The departure of the Prime Minister of England to confer with the great American President is a clear indication that all is not well. Therefore, the house must be put in order. Vigilance alone will ensure our security. The departure of Mr. Attlee to join the American President in the very greatest of democratic nations under the shadow of the almost clamitous situation in Korea directs our attention towards our relationship in peace and in war with the American democracy. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) expressed the provocative thought that there should be some form of liaison between Australia. America and the
United Kingdom in the production of aircraft so that there would be a neverending supply of aeroplanes. I think that we should go a step further in our relationships with the American people. In Great Britain and throughout the length and breadth of the European continent, America is training thousands of highly skilled technicians who will thus be fitted to serve, that country should the occasion to do so arise. I do not think that it would be . amiss if the Government took into consideration the possibility of extending to the United States of America an opportunity to train transport units and technical units in this great country, and of placing bases at its disposal for that purpose. This would bring Australia into a complete liaison with America and would cement a friendship that was strongly formed and is still in existence. It would also give a great stimulus to the recruitment of the people necessary to fill the ranks of our present depleted armed forces. I leave that thought with the Government in the hope that it will not be lightly dismissed.
The National Service Bill is a disappointment to me. After listening to the Minister’s speech and reading a copy of it, I came to the conclusion that the bill did not represent a realistic approach to the problem of defence in view of the gravity of the dangers that now confront us. The Minister for Defence told us to-day that in framing the National Service Bill the Government was not unmindful of the present international situation, but I cannot recall any time during my life when Australia was confronted with a more dangerous situation than that with which it is confronted to-day, in consequence of the fighting that is now proceeding on the Korean Peninsula. In all those circumstances, one would have been justified in expecting a more practical and realistic approach to Australia’s defence than is revealed in this bill.
The honorable member for Henty spoke his mind on the bill as a gallant soldier who has served his country with distinction. I appreciate his statement that he was actuated by the belief that it was a matter of duty on his part to try to awaken the people of Australia to facts and realities by sounding a note of warning. I congratulate him upon his excellent speech. After he had resumed his seat, I looked along the bench on which I sit in order to see whether there was any room on it for another independent member. Perhaps there may be another independent member on it at some time in the future. However, I believe that the Government’s intention has not been fully disclosed in the bill. I understand from the speech of the Minister that it will enable the Government to proceed much further and in a more direct fashion towards ensuring a steady stream of recruits to the various services. The Government has made a special appeal to the employers of the nation to do everything in their power to facilitate the entry into the forces of people who are employed in industry. Having done so, I believe that the Government should set other employers an example by ensuring that Commonwealth officers who join the services will not be compelled, because of their increased incomes, to pay additional taxation.
The subject of the amendment of the motion for the second reading of the bill put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) should have been introduced in July of this year, or even earlier. Had that been done, and had an all-party committee investigated the whole matter of defence and recommended legislation to the Government, that would have had a resounding effect throughout the length and breadth of the country. Such a happening would have given a great impetus to the recruiting drive. The amendment will not be judged on its merits. It will be rightly believed that it was put forward in the hope that it would not receive support.
The Minister said that the bill was introduced to ensure an equal sacrifice by all citizens who entered the forces. I do not believe that, with the existing methods of selection based on the figures placed before this House, there will be anything like equality of sacrifice. I should like that portion of the bill to be completely reviewed, because, as a member of. a, recruiting committee, I know that the fear exists in many quarters that the sacrifices will not be equally distributed throughout the community. Apart from that, I commend the bill. I believe that this debate affords to honorable members an opportunity to record the fact that it was the right honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Hughes) who originally forced the Deakin Government to adopt the principle of compulsory military training. It is pleasant to have the right honorable gentleman still with us and to know that he supports such a measure, even though it does not fulfil all his desires.
– Honorable members have wandered a long way from the subject of this debate. To-day we are debating the Defence Services Estimates. The Opposition does not contest these estimates, because it realizes that the proposed appropriation must necessarily be expended upon the defence of Australia. I am concerned, however, about the stirring up of party animosity on such an important matter as defence. On both sides of the committee there are many honorable members who are deeply conscious of the need for the adequate defence of Australia. The only difference between the Government and the Opposition relates to the means whereby a proper defence system may best be achieved. I deplore the tactics of irritation practised by Government supporters when speaking on this matter to-day. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) who, I regret to say, is not here at present, spoke as though the Labour party was not now, and never had been, prepared to acknowledge the real defence needs of this country. His cheap gibe was that the Labour party adopted the attitude of “ Be here when the troops go, and be here when they come back “. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), reciting his experiences during the last war, said that untrained men were ordered to hold Tobruk and told the committee what had to be done to fit them for the task. The inference that may be drawn from the remarks of both honorable gentlemen is that the Labour party was responsible for any neglect that occurred. I say to those honorable members that if they cast their minds back to the years before the war, they will realize that it was not a Labour government but a series of anti-Labour governments which neglected to train men and to make adequate defence preparations. During the years between 1932 and 1939, when the men mentioned by the honorable member for Moore should have been trained for active service, their training was neglected by non-Labour governments.
I do not believe that the Government introduced the National Service Bill in the hope that the Labour party would throw it out, but I do say that when governments of the same political colour as that of the present Government had an opportunity to institute a proper defence system and to train men for the defence of Australia, they did not do so. I remind honorable members on the Government side, particularly the honorable member for St. George and the honorable member for Moore, that the only government in the history of the country that compelled Australians to fight overseas was a Labour government. It did that because it was convinced at the time that such an action was necessary for the safety of Australia. Moreover, the people wholeheartedly approved of its action. I remember attending a conference of the Labour party held in Melbourne at about that time. At that conference the late John Curtin suggested that the Labour party should recognize the need, in view of the desperate military position, to alter its policy and to do something that was contrary to its long-standing beliefs. That was, to order the militia forces to go overseas. At that time I supported Mr. Curtin. The delegates from my State took back the views of the conference to South Australia, in which State the Labour leaders endorsed thesuggestions that had been made. TheLabour party went even further than that. It decided to use the whole of the resources of Australia - men and women,, capital and material - for the efficient prosecution of the war. I ask honorable members on the Government side torecast their ideas, as these have been expressed in their speeches to-day, in the- light of the facts that I have put before them. Throughout the history of Australia, a Labour government has been the only government that ever compelled Australian citizens to fight overseas. The Minister for Air (Mr. White) knows that a government of which he was a member was not prepared to do that.
– The Labour party opposed the defence estimates year after year.
– I know that it did. I recollect a conference being held in Adelaide before the war at which was brought forward the policy of an efficient air force. In this Parliament, Mr. Curtin made a plea for an efficient air force during the debate ‘on the defence estimates in, I believe, 1936. What happened between 1937 and 1939? Exactly nothing. The Minister for Air said that the Labour party opposed the defence estimates at that time. I say to him that the Labour movement was anxious that everything should be done to establish an efficient air force.
– Why did the honorable member vote against the Government?
– We could not prevent the Government from doing whatever it wanted to do at that time. The Minister for Air was a member of a government which, during that period, had a majority not only in the House of Representatives but also in another place. One honorable member who sits on a back bench on the Government side said that the Labour party did not back up the recruiting campaign, and that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley) had said that we were not prepared to take any part in it. Labour wants a proper system of defence to be introduced and is prepared to support a practicable defence plan. However, the difficulty is that whilst the Government believes in one system of defence the Labour party believes in another system.
– What is the system in which- Labour believes?
– Both as individuals and, as members of a political party we are prepared to do as much in the defence of this country as are honorable gentlemen opposite.
– Would the honorable gentleman mind repeating Labour’s plan of defence to the committee?
– I do. not need to do that, because our policy is well known. The Government was elected on the policy of continuing the voluntary system of enlistment for service overseas. Had that electoral pledge been adhered to, the Leader of the Opposition would have been prepared to assist the Government in a recruiting campaign. However, the Government chose to introduce a system under which men who enlist for service in the Army may be sent to serve anywhere in the world. Labour’s policy has always been quite clear on this aspect of military service. We believe in raising and training an adequate force for the defence of this country, but we do not believe in building up forces for service overseas. We have listened quietly and patiently to the criticisms of Labour’s defence policy uttered by honorable members opposite. We have been accused of not being prepared to play our part in the defence of this country. Of course, that is not true. Labour has urged that an all-party committee be appointed to examine thoroughly the methods by which we can best prepare a satisfactory defence system. Members of the Government are not prepared to agree to the appointment of such a committee. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) castigated the Opposition because, he alleged, it is mistaken in its attitude towards the Government’s proposals for compulsory military service. In reply to his criticisms, I say that if the Government really believes that war is imminent the National Service Bill that it introduced recently is quite inadequate for its purpose. That measure provides only for the adoption of a long-range programme, and it will not be of any immediate value in the defence of this country. Furthermore, the young men who will be trained under that scheme will be specially selected.
If the Government had been really sincere in [proposing to introduce universal compulsory military training, it would not have provided in the hill such a wide range of grounds on which exemption from training may be obtained. If we really believe in compulsory military training the only men who should be exempted are those who are physically unfit to be trained. When the Government has the courage to introduce a proposal to compel every fit man to submit himself for compulsory military training it will be entitled to criticize the attitude of the Labour parly towards defence. The extensive list of grounds on which exemptions from, and deferment of, training may be granted, makes it quite clear that the sons of the more fortunate members of the community will benefit at the expense of the sons of poor men. After all, poor men’s sons do not attend colleges, and university careers are not likely to be interfered with by their being called up for military training. Any scheme which proposes to select only a small proportion of the youth of the country for military training cannot be designated universal. Of course, if we should be overtaken by the tragedy of another world war, the Government would call for volunteers. Amongst those who volunteered would undoubtedly be many who, because of the wide range of exemptions, would not have received military training. As the honorable member for Moore has pointed out, it is wicked to send to war men who have not been thoroughly trained in the handling of modern military weapons.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I believe that we all consider that something may be said in favour of an approach being made to the matter of defence on an all-party basis. However, it is clear that Labour does not propose to approach the matter on that basis. Labour is merely trying to obstruct the Government. The proposed votes for the various service departments indicates the difference between the point of view held by the non-Labour parties and that held by the Labour party in this matter of defence. During the preceding three years the amount expended annually on defence, under a Labour government, pro gressively decreased from £74,000,000 inthe first year, to £62,000,000 in the second year, and then to £58,000,000 last year. The present Government proposes to appropriate £133,000,000 for defence. From the figures I have mentioned it is necessary to deduct the amount received each year from the sale by the Disposals Commission of surplus defence property in order to obtain the net figures. It will be seen, therefore, that the expenditure on defence has risen from an annual level. of £45,000,000, under the Chifley Government, to £128,000,000 under the present Government. That is a large and significant increase. I know that Labour contends that it introduced a long-range five-year programme, under which it proposed to expend £250,000,000, and that ultimately that amount wa3 increased to £380,000,000. However, that plan allowed for the expenditure of only approximately £65,000,000 a year, which was miserably inadequate. Of course, we know that members of the Labour party were guided very largely in their attitude to this matter by the unreal and false assumption that was made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who persuaded them that there was nothing to fear from Russia, and that that country should not be regarded seriously. On such a hypothesis, the expenditure of £65,000,000 a year was probably quite adequate. Of course, it must now be abundantly clear, even to members of the Opposition, that the hypothesis was faulty and that the plan which they proposed was hopelessly inadequate. However, perhaps we should not blame members of the Labour party over much for that, because, after all, it may have been an honest mistake on their part. Do not let us hold the past against them if they are prepared to co-operate with us in the future.
Although the proposed vote for defence does represent a signal increase, in my view the increase is quite inadequate to meet the emerging facts of the international situation. Of course, it has been said that the facts which areso plain to-day are much clearer, and indeed much different from, those of three months ago, when the budget was prepared. I believe that the Minister for
Defence (Mr. McBride) has admitted that to be a fact. However, the proposed votes for Defence Services are not necessarily the Government’s final word on this matter. They represent, in the Government’s opinion, the highest bid for defence security which the Labour party is prepared to allow. After all, members of the Opposition in this chamber have boasted openly that they will use their numbers in the Senate to prevent even this inadequate plan from being . passed .by the Parliament. I believe that the defence proposals are quite inadequate to meet the present situation, but in view of the fact that Labour controls the Senate they n lay be regarded as a reasonably high bid by the Government.
I shall interrupt the main theme of my argument now in order to say something personal. During the regime of the Lyons Government before the last war I was one of the bitterest critics of that Administration because of its failure to implement an adequate defence policy. I criticized the members of that Administration very bitterly, and in view of subsequent developments, I consider even now that my criticism was justified. In fairness i.o the Lyons Government, however, I must admit now that perhaps the reason for the inadequacy of its defence proposals was that it had to adopt :i policy of compromise because of the intransigent attitude adopted by the Labour party which was then, as it is now, in Opposition. Of course, electoral considerations might’ also have weighed with that Government. I do not know. It seems quite possible, however, that the implementation of adequate defence plans may have been impeded by the Opposition, because that is exactly the attitude which the Labour Opposition is now adopting towards the Government’s defence proposals.
However, I shall turn now to the other side of the picture, and I shall quote some of the pronouncements that were made by prominent members of the Labour Opposition of that time, three of whom are still members of the Parliament. I have not gone outside Hansard to obtain these quotations, so that it is clear that their authenticity cannot be doubted. The right honorable member for Melbourne
Ports (Mr. Holloway) stated in this chamber on the 3rd “November, 1938 -
The Government is expending much too rapidly on defence. It is making plans for more than the adequate defence of Australia.
The present honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), whom I now see sitting shamelessly on the front bench of the Opposition, stated on the l-2th October, 1938-
Personally, I would not spend threepence on ‘ armament works or on defence works of any kind in Australia”.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “Ward) made the following statement in this chamber on the 23rd “November of that year: -
As I pointed out earlier, this Government has, in various ways during recent weeks attempted to create in this country a war hysteria. We were told first of all that, due to the efforts of Mr. Chamberlain, the critical period had then passed and that Australia could enjoy at least a breathing space; but there was no relaxing of effort on the part of this Government in expending large sums of public money on the purchase of war equipment.
I direct attention particularly to the phrase “ war hysteria “. It is remarkable how history echoes. Is the honorable gentleman now ashamed of what he said then? Perhaps we shall be told in explanation of those statements that the honorable gentlemen who made them were then private members of the Parliament and that their views were not necessarily those of the Labour party. Let me quote the words of the leader of the Labour party at that time, the late Mr. Curtin. On the 2nd November, 19:38, he made the following statement in this chamber : -
I say that any increase of defence expenditure after the Munich Pact so far as Australia is concerned appears to me to be an utterly unjustifiable and hysterical piece of panic propaganda. That is what I say in respect of the alarmist statements that have been made.
That was the official attitude of the Labour party in those years. At that time I was a very bitter critic of the Lyons Government for not having expended more money on defence. Of course, the Labour party also bitterly criticized the Government on the ground that it was expending too much money, and doing too much for the defence of this country. That is exactly the attitude that Labour is adopting towards the present Government. Of course, Labour does not dare to-day to obstruct the Government so openly in the matter of defence as it did then. Members of that party are now adopting snide means to frustrate the present Government’s plans.
I agree with the view expressed by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that the Government’s plans are inadequate, and that they should be criticized on that ground. But let the criticism be mitigated by those two factors: first, that emergent events have changed the picture since the budget was framed; and secondly, that we are faced again with an intransigent and treacherous Opposition that will not allow us to get even these inadequate plans through the Parliament. And now, what about compulsory military training? It is all very well for the Opposition to say, as it has said, “ Why does not the Government let our magnificent £50,000,000-a-year five-year plan alone ? “ We are adding to that plan. Whatever may be the proper scheme of defence for Australia, at least the Government’s proposal, inadequate though I believe it to be, is at least a part of any conceivable rational answer. The men to be called into the forces are needed for perhaps less pleasant purposes in less pleasant circumstances than the Opposition envisages. A curious delusion exists that in the next war there will necessarily be front lines, and that there is really no need to protect civilians behind the front lines. There are some who believe that people will be safe if they remain out of the front lines. I say that even if this were not a delusion in relation to Australia now, it will be in two short years from now. It is perhaps true that to-day no nation has the power to attack us decisively in Australia, but that is a very transient position. If Russian atomic armament is allowed to proceed, then in a few years’ time - I do not presume to say how many - every Australian citizen, man, woman and child, will be in the front line, and there will be no way, either by appeasement or by any other device, of keeping them out of it. We need now, and shall need at that time, a home f orce to protect our civilian population, to supply it and to help it should it face such a calamity as atomic war on the civilian population, which would be an inevitable concomitant of war in the near future, although not necessarily this year or next year. Any member of the Opposition who sabotages the establishment of the kind of saving force that the Government desires to establish is striking a direct blow at the lives and safety of his wife and children and of every other civilian inhabitant of Australia. Honorable members opposite should get rid of that comfortable delusion.
I believe that I have made clear my attitude on the Government’s proposal. I support it as far as it goes, although I believe it to be inadequate, as does the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). Its inadequacy, however, is mitigated by the factors of which I have spoken. If our armed forces have to fight at all the fight will be against Soviet Russia and its satellites, because Russia is the only conceivable enemy in any war in which we may be involved. It is, therefore, necessary that we shall make our forces of a character that will enable them to be used most effectively against that enemy. That is to say, we must take particular care to weed out Communist agents from the forces. Honorable members who have read the news from Korea know the trouble that Communist agents behind the lines and in the field have caused to the forces of the United Nations. After all, that is not extraordinary. The fourth thesis of the conditions of operations-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One of the most extraordinary attributes that the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) displays when he addresses this chamber on any subject is his capacity for hatred, particularly of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and for making forecasts that invariably prove to be wrong. If he inspires terror in people who listen to the broadcast of the proceedings of the Parliament over the air, it is only because they do not know him. Another characteristic which sets him apart from all other men is that he is always burying his hands in the political ash can and bringing out some statements that some honorable member or other, dead or alive, said in 1914, 1936, or some other long-gone year. Another of his characteristics is the way that he crawls, like a slimy maggot, through the pages of Hansard looking for the material he uses. To-night he has not only quoted statements out of their context but also slandered honorable members of this chamber.
– ‘Including a dead man.
– Then we have his glorious denunciation of his own leader in respect of defence. What sort of a man is this for a leader to have behind him, when he cannot even stick to his own boss’s view in relation to. defence? His own record is interesting. During the war he decided that his strategy was infinitely superior to the strategy of the commander of the Allied land forces, General Blarney, so he decided to have a war of his own. We all know about the Cronulla “ commando raid “ which has become a laughable part of our history. I do not wish to dwell on that matter because it constitutes that honorable member’s Gethsemane, but if he will persist in slandering members of the Opposition as he does, savagely and in a manner that makes one wonder whether he realizes the depth of degradation to which he descends in his attacks on honorable members, particularly those who are unable to defend themselves, it is necessary to answer him.
The honorable member made a statement about defence. If he had been a member of this Parliament longer than he has been and knew something about the problems that face us in relation to defence preparations, he would not talk so glibly about the subject. He gave us a collection of figures and told us that because the Labour Government expended a certain amount on defence in 1948, and the present Government intends to expend so much more on defence in this financial year, the present Government’s policy is therefore better than the previous Government’s policy was. How does he imagine that all the money that the Government is appropriating for defence can be expended in view of present shortages of essential materials? In such a time as this, the actual amount to be expended is not a reliable indication of the value that will accrue from that expenditure. The defence policy enunciated by the Chifley Government was decided upon in co-operation with the United Kingdom Government and with the defence chiefs of the United States. It included a sober peace-time plan to which I was proud to subscribe. It was not a panic plan. It was only in 1941 that the present Government parties were thrown out of office, neck and crop, because they could not conduct a war. Yet the members of those parties now dare to tell us, who at least bore the burden and heat of the day in war-time, that they know all about defence. What a tongue in cheek attitude! Do honorable members opposite think that people have forgotten what happened in the past? When we have this paranoiac upsurge from the honorable member for Mackellar, who has talked non’sense about something of which he knows absolutely nothing, we are entitled to rise and give him something in return. I cannot stand the slandering of public men, and I find it particularly difficult to bear the slandering of the late leader of the Labour party in which the honorable member indulged to-night. The honorable member is just a rabble-rouser who sits in this chamber frothing at the mouth, determined to “ have a go “ at something. Invariably he launches his attack, not on the subject under discussion - he made no valid contribution to the debate to-night - but on to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, whom he has never forgiven for having been elected as president of the United Nations General Assembly and for having done all the splendid things he would like himself to have done. On every possible occasion he makes a scurrilous attack on the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is demeaning to this chamber to have such statements made in it. If his remarks were substantiated by any facts that would be well and good, because we on this side can take it and, in the classical Australian phrase, we can also dish it out. But it is a different story when such attacks are made in the slimy manner that the honorable member for Mackellar adopts. Up to the time when the honorable member for Mackellar began his speech, the debate had reached a very high level, but that level fell while that honorable member was speaking.
I turn now to the defence planning of the ‘Chifley Government. What the position would be to-day if that Government were still in office is a matter for conjecture, but at least we can say truthfully that in the time during which it held the reins of government the people, felt safe and, indeed, were safe. Do the people feel safe to-day? Indeed, are they safe? The fact is that there is too much poppycock and not enough performance coming from the other side of the chamber. What a spirit of unity we saw before us on the Government benches to-night. I shall ileal with that matter later. We shall hear more about it, in any event, because the sword has gone deep, to-night. The Chifley Government’s defence plan was a reasonable plan. That Government consulted every service chief and expert of any calibre about what they thought of our man-power in relation to defence and defence preparedness, the limits of our Treasury and the capabilities of this country for defence. Having been told their views, we accepted them. Was there any crime in our doing so? Was there any sin of commission or omission on our part? Of course not! Our defence policy was based on the opinion of experts and was a more definite and realistic policy than that of the present Government. Under that policy our defence plan was interlocked with the main strategical considerations that Australia is an unsinkable aircraft carrier and that one of our principal means of defence preparedness is the development of a strong secondary industry. Our defence policy was conditioned by our limited manpower, but we always had the intention that we should do our best, in the event of aggression, with the man-power that we had. But we never forgot that we must maintain our industries to produce defence materials. ‘
The honorable member for Mackellar asked us to treat defence as a non-party matter. Before we had time either to agree or disagree on whether it should be treated in such a way, he launched a scurrilous attack on the Opposition, thereby making it impossible for us to parti- cipate in this debate on a non-party basis. Once again defence has been made a political football by honorable members opposite. They have dragged it into the slime of party controversy.
I have spoken in this debate only because the arguments advanced and the conclusions reached by some honorable members opposite were wrong, and also to protest against the slandering of a dead man, whose record will be judged by history and not by anybody in this chamber, who is after the headlines.
We have been criticized for our opposition to the Government’s defence policy. I agree that the proposed expenditure is valid.’ We have accepted it as necessary. The aspect from which we are arguing is that of how the money will be expended. Surely, in the name of reason, and common sense, any Opposition would be recreant to its trust if it did not fight every inch of the way to ensure that everything necessary for our defence should be done properly, efficiently, and in time.
– I wish to make a personal explanation in order to refute misrepresentation of my earlier remarks by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr.
Haylen), who alleged that I had slandered a former Leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. John Curtin. The only mention I made of Mr. Curtin was made when I quoted verbatim his own remarks as they were recorded in Mansard. The honorable member also said that I had slandered the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The only mention I made of that right honorable gentleman was in relation to the assumptions of his party, and was incontrovertibly true, as is proved ‘ by his own speeches. The attitude of the honorable member for Parkes shows how deeply he has been touched.
– I remind the committee that the defence estimates are now under consideration. That fact seems to have been forgotten by some honorable gentlemen. I point out also that the proposed expenditure this year, including the allocation for the stockpiling arrangement for defence purposes, is £133,000,000 compared” with £54,000,000 in the last financial year. We should confine our attention to that subject, although the proposed votes for the services provide an opportunity for honorable members to speak on any defence matter. I regret that no reference has been made in this debate to the fact that we should be showing great thankfulness for the efforts of the troops of the United States of America, Australia and other members of the United Nations who are fighting to preserve our liberties. We speak of a cold war. It is a very real war for those men who are fighting in Korea while we are talking in this chamber. Therefore, our united efforts should be devoted to providing all possible assistance for those troops, because it is the responsibility of a government, regardless of its political views, to protect its territory and to preserve the liberties of the people. Citizens also have the responsibility of assisting their government in every possible way in that matter.
It is a tradition of British people, and we are British people, that they have fought tyranny whether it was from without or from within. Thus far we have won. But, to-day, we are again on the brink of war, perhaps of a greater magnitude than any previous conflict. It may be that the blackest pages of history remain to be written. God forbid that that should be so, but it may be so, because the might, power and propaganda of most sinister forces are arrayed against us in various parts of the world. Some honorable members may consider themselves to be leftist, or to incline away from socialism, or the socialists, or what you will. To them, I say that if the great struggle comes, what they call themselves will make no difference. We are only a small nation of approximately S,000,000 persons. We occupy a continent. We have not sufficient manpower to match the millions who are now ranged against our way of life. There are 400,000,000 Chinese. One person in every five in the world is Chinese. China is under the domination of a dictator and is one of the pawns of Russia. The Soviet has gained more in conquest than Hitler ev;er won, and without losing a Russian soldier. I do not speak in a spirit of antagonism when I say that we all should know and repeat to ourselves, if we are to realize how desperate is the position, that Russia has its forces concentrated in Europe. It has massacred Poland and conquered Czechoslovakia, a great industrial nation in which possibly only 5 per cent, of the people are Communists. The Balkans would have been conquered had it not been for the attitude of Greece and the assistance that Great Britain and the United States of America were able to give to that country. I shall not deal further with those matters because I wish to devote particular attention to the position in the Pacific area.
As Australians, we should look not only at Europe, which, perhaps, will be the cockpit in which will be decided the fate of the world, but also at Asia, and the encroachment upon our territory and our liberties. China has been conquered by the Communists. Civil war has been raging for years, with heavy losses, in Indo-China. A terrorist war is taking place in Malaya. That struggle is not a war of liberation. I do not wish to stigmatize certain honorable members by referring to them by name, but I have heard them ask in this chamber, “Why do we not grant the Malayans self-government? Why do the British remain in that country ? “ Any person who has been to Singapore knows that no one is more content than are the Malayans with British rule. The British, will give them their sovereignty when they want it. The people who are causing war in Malaya are interlopers - Chinese Communists. Very steadily, the Communists, moving from China through Indo-China into Malaya, are encroaching upon Singapore, the white outpost of European civilization. What is the best that we can do in joining forces with the other members of the British Empire, the great United States of America and other members of the United Nations who have the same ideas and ideals as our own? Many of us had no faith in the United Nations some time ago, but we now know that it can take a step, when it wishes to do so, to stop aggression. Yet that step in Korea, although it was successful for a time, may mean, with the intrusion of China with approximately 1,000,000 men, that we may be about to suffer a great defeat.’
– The Minister should read some of the speeches that he made about the United Nations a few years ago.
– I shall not be so little as to descend to the level of the arguments used by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). This debate should be kept on the high plane that it deserves. I spoke in this strain shortly before the outbreak of World War II. The .Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) may recall it, because he was complimentary about it. Let us . Put our best endeavours into ensuring that we shall establish the best defences in this country that are possible with our small man-power resources. How can that be done? I interrupt the thread of my speech at this stage to recall that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) twitted me with not having spoken on the National Service Bill 1950 last week. I inform him that I wished to speak on that measure, because I think that I can say, without boasting, that I probably have had more experience of military training than has any other member of the Parliament.
– I did not criticize the Minister. I merely remarked that he had not spoken in that debate.
– I deferred to other honorable members who wished to speak on that bill. Had I wished to be discourteous last night, I could have spoken on civil aviation before the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) received the call, and thereby prevented him from participating in that debate. Because I gave him the opportunity to speak, I was precluded from doing so. That is why I am now speaking on the subject of defence. My feelings are somewhat pent up, because I have deferred to other honorable members for so long. I make that statement by way of a personal explanation.
I shall now discuss some of the criticisms that have been levelled at the Government’s defence policy, and shall examine some of the measures that can be taken to strengthen our defences. The honorable member for
Henty (Mr. Gullett) has dealt with that subject. He is a young man with a distinguished war record, and he spoke very feelingly. His principal criticism was that the .Citizen Forces were not up to strength. We know that they have never been up to strength under the voluntary system. I make that statement as one who has had 35 years in the Citizen Forces, and as the commander of the regiment to which the honorable member for Henty belonged, under both the compulsory and the voluntary system. The Citizen Forces were never at full strength unless the compulsory system was in operation. Therefore, the criticisms that were advanced by the honorable gentleman, where they were correct, do not get us anywhere. A recruiting campaign is now in progress, under the direction of Sir Edmund Herring, a most distinguished and esteemed general, who is admired by all Australians. He is asking the citizen to play his part in the defence of this country. The honorable member for Henty said that the recruiting campaign was a failure. Even if it were a failure, is that any reason for talking about it? I say that it has not been a failure in recruiting men for the Royal Australian Air Force, about which I shall give some information shortly. Let every honorable member, instead of being a critic, assist the recruiting campaign. Let him address his own conscience, and the man who should be serving. If Australia has a good reputation abroad, it is not for the part that it took in a shouting war, but for the part that it took in two shooting wars in which we fought for our freedom. What is the attitude of the Labour party in the present ‘ crisis ; because it is a crisis ? It is boycotting the recruiting campaign. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) explained that the attitude of the Labour party on that issue is dictated by the fact that the men who enlist may be required to serve abroad.
– Hear, hear!
– Was there ever a greater fallacy than that wars should be fought at home? No man who has ever been in a country conquered by an enemy and has seen it trodden underfoot by conquering forces, would ever believe that. The enemy should be fought as far away from nome as possible. That is why members of the Royal Australian “Navy and of the Royal Australian Air Force are attested for service anywhere in the world. Why should members of the Labour party try to upset, disrupt and boycott the Government’s recruiting plan on the ground that certain men may be asked to serve anywhere in the world ? Is it a pusillanimous attitude, or is it subterfuge? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is a former president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, moved that the National Service Bill 1950 be referred to a parliamentary committee for investigation and report. I hope that the right honorable gentleman’s heart was not in that amendment.
– I hope that I shall have an opportunity to reply to the Minister.
– The right honorable gentleman will not have that opportunity, because I intend to speak at some length on the defence estimates. The right honorable gentleman spoke on the National Service Bill 1950, and I gave other honorable gentlemen an opportunity to take part in that debate. Was such an amendment in line with British tradition when we are challenged? It is the kind of technique that one expects in Tibet, which is now being invaded by Chinese troops. The Llamas, like the right honorable gentleman, are probably saying to one another, “ We shall appoint a committee to advise us upon what we should do “. You do not appoint committees if the enemy is at the gate. Yet a proposal foi the appointment of a committee to investigate the National Service Bill 1950 was the Labour party’s contribution to national defence. If the compulsory training scheme is inadequate, we can add to it. A start will be made by calling up youths when they attain the age of eighteen years. Some honorable members will recall that, under a system of training formerly in operation, there were cadets between the ages of fourteen and eighteen years, and members of the militia forces from 18 to 26 years. I regret that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who is in hospital, cannot be present to defend the Army’s side of the national training scheme, but having seen a little of both arms, I shall endeavour to make a contribution on his behalf. If, unfortunately, a third world war breaks out, the provisions of the Defence Act will come into operation, and every person, unless he applies for exemption on the ground that he is a member of the Parliament, will be liable to serve in some capacity.
– I doubt whether many members of the Parliament, on account of age, would be eligible to serve.
– More than 100 members of the British House of Commons,, and some members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, including myselfserved in World War II. If the defence force is inadequate now, why try to knock the scheme which has been recommended by the chiefs of staff and considered by Cabinet over a long period? The force could bc increased by calling up men aged nineteen, twenty and 21 years and, if necessary, up to the age of 45 years or even 60 years if unfortunately, such a need should arise. Therefore, the schem should not be criticized on the ground of inadequacy.
I shall now refer to the activities of the Royal Australian Air Force because its critics evidently have not bothered to ascertain the facts. I make quite a friendly answer to the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) and another honorable gentleman who advocated the manufacture of aircraft- in this country on a larger scale, and greater liaison with the United States of America. I emphasize that such liaison already exists. When I was abroad this year, I took the opportunity to visit the principal modern aircraft factories in the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom. Australia has its representatives in each of those countries. We have able technical men in London with whom I visited the principal aircraft factories in the United Kingdom. Other capable men are stationed in Canada and in the United States of America. There is the closest liaison with our opposite numbers in those countries. We are in the position to get the best of both worlds, and if some honorable gentlemen consider that American aircraft are superior to those manufactured by other countries, my reply is that they have not examined the subject sufficiently. I know that there are enthusiasts who favour American aircraft, but I can say definitely that the manufacturers of Rolls Royce engines are still ahead of the rest of the world in the race to develop more efficient jet engines. The De Havilland’, Bristol, Hawker, Vickers, Supermarine, and other aircraftmanufacturing organizations in Great Britain are in the forefront of fighter aircraft production.
– Hear, hear !
– Perhaps the United States leads in other fields. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford) knows that we are making in Australia the Lincoln bomber, the Vampire . jet aircraft, which is a good fighter, and the Mustang fighter which, though now going into obsolescence, has given good service in Korea. One of the first acts of this Government was to approve of the re-equipment of the Royal Australian Air Force with twin-engined jet bombers of the Canberra type. The Canberra bomber is considered to be the best light bomber in the world.
– The plan was laid down by the Labour Government.
– The honorable member can take as much credit as he likes for that, but the Labour Government did not approve of it. This Government did so and carried it into effect. I saw a Canberra bomber in England recently and I can confirm the widely held opinion that it is the best type of light bomber. The newspapers have also published details, which were supplied to them yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), of the further huge rearmament programme for the Air Force.
Modern warfare is entirely different from the conception that is held by those honorable’ members who think in terms of World War I. The Allies did not win a single victory during World War II. until they had gained mastery of the air. Not until we had achieved air superiority through the gigantic Empire Air Training Scheme were we able to win great land, victories. Therefore, in a country of great dimensions and scattered population, it is only common sense that we should concentrate 11DOI the most economical form of defence. Our plan provides that the skill of our young men shall be used to the best advantage with the most modern weapons, which can strike at great distances so that we shall be able to meet any forces that may be sent against us and retaliate at long range. We cannot compete in terms of man-power and materials with China and Russia, although, if necessary, we shall play our part to the best of our ability as our divisions have done in previous wars. However, we can and we will have a first-rate Air Force. We are getting the best available equipment and the best personnel for this service. Since this Government has been in office, the attenuated ranks of the Air Force have grown and there is a new spirit in the service. A strong force has been built up behind the Permanent Air Force, which is the core of our air defence scheme. To those who think that the recruiting campaign has been a flop I commend the Royal Australian Air Force, which has increased its strength during the last few months by over 2,000 ground personnel alone. There are over 100 musterings in the service. It is a giant technical school for many apprentices and other men who have enlisted for training.
The Permanent Air Force is reaching a condition of great efficiency again. It has a new uplifted morale. Its esprit de corps has returned ! Behind the Permanent Air Force is the Citizen Air Force. There is a .Citizen Air Force fighter squadron in each capital city except Adelaide, and we hope to establish a new squadron there soon. Behind the Citizen Air Force is the Air Training Corps, which was allowed by the Labour Government to wilt and fade away. Now, on a programme that has been modelled on the lines of that which has been adopted in Canada, air cadets attend camps regularly and are given opportunities to gain air experience whenever bombers are flown interstate or across the Tasman Sea. They lose none of the opportunities that are available to other youths for civil training, and, whether they eventually join the Permanent Air Force or do not, they become better citizens as the result of their specialized training. Air force units have alsobeen established at every university, where members of the medical, dental, engineering, commercial and other faculties are trained to fill vacancies in the professional ranks of the service. If war should come, we should be able to fill all .the special duty positions immediately. Twenty-five per cent, of those mon are taught to fly free of charge by aero clubs. Forty scholarships are awarded each year to Air Training Corps cadets who otherwise could not afford to learn to fly. The Government has increased its payments to aero clubs for this purpose. The Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force was abolished by the Labour Government, but the organization is being reformed by this Government on an efficient basis under the name of the Women’s Royal Australian Air Force. Applications for positions in the organization have outnumbered the vacancies by 100 per cent. Behind all the branches that I have mentioned is the Royal Australian Air Force reserve of 10,000 men, which has more than doubled its depleted strength during the period of the recruiting campaign.
The Labour Government allowed men to enlist in the Royal Australian Air Force under a. promise that, if they did nol. like the conditions of service, they could leave within a month. Has anybody ever heard of such an unfair and bogus system of recruiting? Men cannot be trained within a month. The Air Force is not just a holiday organization that enables a man to enjoy four weeks in camp and then leave. The Government has reduced the minimum period of service in the Permanent Air Force to six years. Every man who enlists can learn something that is good for him as a. citizen as well as fit himself to play his part in the defence of the country. Thus I answer the nonsense that has been talked about lack of numbers and lack of training in the Royal Australian Air Force ! Honorable members will be interested to know that large numbers of technical trainees will pass out from the establishments at Wagga and Ballarat during the coming week. There is no better place for a technician to obtain training than the Wagga training centre. The ground training that is provided by the Royal Australian Air Force has always been of a high standard. Ground crews are now almost at their maximum strength, and intakes of aircrew trainees have been increased. The average number of trainees under instruction at any time is 2,000. The technical training of engineering apprentices is proceeding very satisfactorily, as also is the training of men at the air and ground radio school and the Royal Australian Air Force Technical College. Officer training, including courses at the staff college and the school of land-air warfare, is proceeding to schedule. The peak in the training of air crews has not yet been reached, but the objective will be achieved as soon as the output of ground staff tradesmen is adequate.
– The Minister is reading every word of that statement.
– It would do the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) good to heed these facts instead of indulging in cheap criticism of a government that is making every effort to restore Australia’s weakened defences. He should ask his young friends to join the armed services, as some other honorable members are doing. He does not help our troops in Korea by sneering and gibing. He should treat the situation seriously and try to help the Government.
Under the Royal Australian Air Force section of the national service scheme, 5,000 trainees will be trained each year when the scheme reaches maturity. During the first and second years, intakes will total 3,000 and 4,000 respectively. The training of the first year’s quota will be achieved, by calling, up one-fourth of the annual total at the commencement of each quarter. The first intake of 750 trainees will be called up on the 2nd April, 1951. The period of training will total six months. The trainees will then be attached to the Citizen Air Force, if that should be their wish. A proportion of the number will be taught to fly, and these men will have the opportunity to become airline pilots and air force pilots. Every Australian boy in this air age wants to know something about aviation and the Air Force.
The Department of Civil Aviation, which has expanded to a prodigious size, especially since this Government has been in office, provides a second line of air defence. It organizes troop carrying and the supply of materials and equipment to Malaya, where the Air Force has two squadrons, and to Korea, where it has one squadron. Members of the Opposition ought to learn what the department is doing in that connexion. If they want to make their flesh creep, they should think of the possibilities of atomic warfare and of what can be done with rockets fired from submarines. Let them imagine the damage that can be caused by bacteriological warfare and the toxic emanations from atom bombs, which could kill thousands of people and cause suffering to others for many years. The only answer to the threat of such attacks lies in air retaliation. We must be prepared to strike back against an enemy, shoot his aircraft from the skies and attack him on his own soil. The honorable member for Dalley ought to read the book by Asher Lee, an officer of the Royal Air Force with whom I am acquainted, who was an authority on the German order of battle and who advised the British Government on the German air force during World War II. Now he is an authority on the Russian air force. I suggest that the honorable member read in his book, The Soviet Air Force, what Russia is doing about its air force.
– I must read it.
– The honorable member will learn, if he does, what is likely to happen to us if we do not maintain an efficient air force. Mr. Lee’s book concludes with these words -
In Moscow they know that if the Soviet Air Force is rough, it is ready. It is ready to hold its own in a purely European struggle for air superiority. That this struggle will never materialize is the wish of all. That it may materialize is apparent even to the myopic.
Anybody who understands Russian methods and the endurance of Russians must appreciate the truth of that comment.
The Russians are dominated by dictators. Just as the Labour party, in a lesser way, is dominated by an outside executive of twelve men who decide what its defence policy shall be, so in Russia there is a politburo that decides what the Russian people shall do irrespective of what they want to do. In view of those facts, the proposed votes totalling £133,000,000 for the armed services should be approved. If honorable members have any proposals for better training-
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) had a proposal.
– I have answered him. If honorable members can suggest more efficient methods of training or better ways of obtaining value for the money that will be expended, they should communicate with the appropriate Ministers. Members of this Government prefer to do their jobs instead of talking about them. Honorable members may rest assured that the Royal Australian Air Force at any rate is efficient. It is becoming stronger every day and is obtaining its full share of modern equipment. Our course of action is clear. We must prepare by all means within our power to strengthen ourselves for any blow that may fall so that industrially and economically, and with man-power that has been trained to fight, we can mount the greatest resistance possible for a small nation, such as we are, blessed by Providence with the custody of a continent which it is our heritage to develop and defend.
– I have only one minute left before the “ guillotine “ will fall because the Minister for Air (Mr. White) has taken so much time to make his speech. The feature of the debate has been the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett). Right or wrong, it was a very courageous speech and a non-party speech. I agreed with the opening statement by the Minister for Air that defence should be a non-party matter. However, in an attempt to avoid answering the honorable member for Henty, the honorable gentleman and other supporters of the Government have simply resorted to the old dodge of attacking the Opposition. No Minister has effectively replied to the honorable member for Henty. I now renew theoffer by the Opposition that it will consider all defence matters in the spirit in which it approached the National Service Bill. That is a bona fide offer and the Government still has an opportunity to accept it.
– It is too late.
– It is not too late. If the Government wishes that defence matters shall be treated as being above party politics, it still has the opportunity to accept the offer that the Opposition has made.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Defence, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army, the Department of Air and the Department of Supply has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed vote, £64,982,000.
Refunds of Revenue
Proposed vote, £12,000,000.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed vote, £16,000,000.
War (1914-18) Services
Proposed vote, £2,021,000.
War (1939-45) Services
Proposed vote, £7,879,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I regret that owing to the limitation of time imposed for the consideration of the proposed votes for the various defence services, I was precluded from dealing with several matters that affect those departments. I direct attention to one of the causes of the failure of the present recruiting drive.
– Order ! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the recruiting campaign at this juncture.
– I do not intend to do so. I wish to refer to the recruiting drive only to the degree that it is related to the proposed votes now before the Chair. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is a supporter of the Government. No doubt, he is fully conversant with what is happening and is aware of the causes of the lag in the recruiting drive. One of those causes is the failure of the Government to honour the nation’s obligations to the men who served in World War II. It is interesting to hear supporters of the Government speaking in generalities about the war gratuity which falls due for payment in March next and the gratitude that the Parliament should display towards ex-servicemen. Honorable members should show that gratitude in a practical way and not merely by making speeches in this chamber. Expressions of sympathy will not be of any value to ex-servicemen who have no confidence in the Government. A large section of exservicemen believes that the Government has not honoured the contract that the nation entered into with them when they offered to serve in previouswars. No doubt, those ex-servicemen will tell younger men about the way in which the Government had treated them and that information will discourage enlistment in the defence forces.
It is true that the war gratuity was determined by a previous government on the recommendation of an all-party parliamentary committee and that that government, also on the recommendation of the same committee, provided that payment of the gratuity should be delayed for a period of five years. However, there is no gainsaying the fact that this Government is representing the war gratuity as a gift and is taking the view that ex-servicemen cannot legitimately claim that it should be increased in order to offset the rise of the cost of living that has occurred during the last five years. That contention will not bear examination. The Government should at least hear the case that ex-servicemen desire to place before it for an increase of the gratuity by 50 per cent. They believe that their claim is justified, and I agree with them. The Government should consider that claim on its merits, and if it believes that it is justified it should meet it. The Sydney Trades and Labour Council has unanimously decided to support the ex-servicemen’s claim. The executive committees of the Australian Labour party in both New South Wales and Western Australia have also indicated that they support it ; and I have no doubt that the executive committees of that party in the other States are prepared to do likewise. Whilst the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has not directly associated itself with the committee that is at present seeking to place the ex-servicemen’s case before the Government, the league is not opposed to that claim. I understand that the last State conference of the league carried a resolution in support of it.
The Government should first ascertain whether the ex-servicemen’s claim is legitimate, and if it should decide against the claim it should say so without equivocation and state the reasons for its decision. But the Government has treated the representatives of exservicemen very shabbily. To-day, it refused to the committee that travelled to Canberra in order to put the ex-servicemen’s case an opportunity to do so. Is the exservicemen’s claim unreasonable? I do not regard the war gratuity as a gift, but as something that ex-servicemen have earned by service in the recent war. That being so, the Government should grant their claim for an increase of the gratuity by50 per cent, when it becomes payable in March next. The gratuity has been withheld from ex-servicemen for a period of five years. As I have said, that has been done on the recommendation of the all-party committee that inquired into this matter in 1945. It was thought at the time that the release of so many millions of pounds immediately after the cessation of hostilities would cause inflation and force up prices and that recipients would thus be deprived of the full benefit of the gratuity. It was also decided that the gratuity would be made payable earlier only in certain circumstances. Differences of opinion may exist about whether the Parliament should have provided for the payment of the gratuity within a shorter period than five years. I know of cases of ex-servicemen who were refused an advance against their gratuity when they required money to purchase furnishings to establish their homes. In view of the increases of prices that have occurred in the meantime, it is obvious that the gratuity will not have a. value equivalent to its value five years ago.
During the debate on . the proposed votes for the various defence services earlier this evening, honor able members opposite had much to. say about equality of sacrifice. The Government may take the view that as the war gratuity will be a considerable sum in the aggregate and as the release of so much money will tend to encourage inflation, it should not grant the ex-servicemen’s claim for an increase of it by 50 per cent. If the Government really desired to do so it could meet the men’s request without accentuating the inflationary tendency by introducing special legislation to impose an additional tax upon those sections of the community that would have most to lose if this country again became involved in war and were not adequately defended. I refer to those who control large manufacturing industries and have extensive commercial interests, all of which are making record profits. The Government has talked a lot about imposing an excess profits tax.
– Order ! The honorable member is getting away from the question before the chair.
Mr.WARD.- No; I am putting forward a proposal whereby it will be practicable to increase the war gratuity by 50 per cent, without increasing inflation. The increased! war gratuity could be financed by the imposition of a special tax on those sections of the community who would have most to lose if Australia again became involved in war and was unable to defend itself adequately. In that way an amount of money equal to the total payment of the increased war gratuity could be drained from circulation. Thus ex-servicemen wouldbe enabled to receive what is rightly their due instead of being denied it under a process that might be termed thievery. The Government will not arrest the present agitation for an increase of the war gratuity merely by saying that certain individuals, with whose political views it does not agree, have attached themselves to the committee that is endeavouring to place the ex-servicemen’s case before it. Members of that committee who endeavoured to interview representatives of the Government on this matter in Canberra to-day, include a well-known clergyman, a Mrs. Green, who is an ex-member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, and
Alderman Thompson, who is a member of the Sydney City Council and a member of the State executive of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales. I am not concerned about differences of opinion that may exist between various ex-servicemen’s organizations about the channel through which the claim for an’ increase of the gratuity should properly be made. The essential point is that all ex-servicemen’s organizations support the claim. It is still not too late for the Government to give serious consideration to it. As it is expected that the Parliament will adjourn for the Christmas recess at the end of this week, and the payment of the gratuity will fall due in March next, immediate action should be taken. We have been informed that the Prime Minister will leave shortly for Great Britain and that he expects to be absent from Australia for about seven weeks. In these circumstances, the Government must immediately indicate whether it intends to honour its obligation to the men who fought in World War II. In order that all parties could be enabled to do justice to ex-servicemen the Opposition would be prepared to co-operate with the Government if it extended the current sessional period or arranged for the Parliament to re-assemble on a date earlier than that on which it is now expected to reassemble.
Supporters of the Government repeatedly claim that there are more exservicemen, on their side of the chamber than there are on the Opposition side of it. I fail to see how that fact is of real importance to ex-servicemen when matters that concern them are considered by the Parliament. Indeed, it would appear that most of the ex-servicemen among Government supporters come from the brass hats, or the officer caste, and have little sympathy with the claims of the rank and file of ex-servicemen. Invariably, they regard such claims as being unreasonable. If ex-servicemen cannot obtain just treatment from a Parliament which boasts that the majority of its members are exservicemen, I suggest that it would be better if any committees constituted in the future to consider matters that affect ex-servicemen were comprised of honorable members who have not been associated with the officer caste and who would have more real sympathy with the claims of ex-servicemen generally. I repeat that the claim for an increase of the war gratuity by 50 per cent, is fully justified. The only way that the Government can dispose of the present agitation on the part of ex-servicemen is by examining their claims. If it believes that the gratuity is merely a gift and, therefore, should not be increased, it should say so frankly. It is about time that supporters of the Government ceased boasting about what they have done for ex-servicemen and, instead, did something practical to meet their needs.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has presented a case for the increase of the war gratuity that falls due for payment on the 3rd March next. He has overlooked the fact that he was a member of the Government that entered into a definite obligation with regard to the war gratuity as a result of the recommendation for an all-party committee and which undertook that the sum of money necessary to pay the gratuity would be available on the 3rd March. The Government of which he was a member did not provide a single shilling as a reserve to meet that obligation.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has said on another occasion that the previous Government had put £37,000,000 aside for the purpose.
– I said so because I was deceived into thinking that a reserve was available in cash. The payment of the war gratuity was originally considered by an all-party parliamentary committee in 1945. The recommendations of that committee were accepted by the Parliament and incorporated in the War Gratuity Act. The significant features of the payments provided for under that act were as follows : -
Every one of those conditions and every obligation entered into as a result of the findings of the all-party committee will be honoured on the 3rd March, 1951.
.- Honorable members have just heard a very interesting prepared statement by the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) concerning the Government’s obligation in connexion with the war gratuity. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) referred to the obligation which was undertaken on the recommendation of an all-party committee in 1945. That all-party committee, upon which I think the present Speaker was a representative of the then Opposition, came to a decision as to the quantum of gratuity that was to be paid to ex-servicemen. But that committee also decided that it would be inadvisable at that stage, because of many f actors, including the scarcity of goods, to pay the gratuity immediately. It considered that the sudden release of such a huge sum of money would have an inflationary effect in the community. That policy was adopted by the committee. There was no minority report as far as I can remember. The committee’s recommendation was agreed to by the representatives of all parties in the Parliament. It was decided that gratuity should be paid at a certain rate and that it should not be paid until 1951 because of the inflationary effect that the sudden release of such an amount of money would have on a market that was starved of goods. In spite of the fact that this large sum of money was withheld, inflation has taken place and interest that will be paid on the gratuity will be a mere bagatelle compared with the effect of inflation. Therefore, honorable members of the Opposition claim that if the Government intends to give to these men what it was proposed to give them in 1945 it should make some additional payment in order to provide for the depreciation in the value of money.
Let us consider the case of an exserviceman who wishes to establish a home. The years since 1945 have had a tremendous effect on the building trade. In the intervening years the cost of building a given type of house has risen from £800 to £2,500. That is not an exaggeration. I know something of the building industry.
– An ex-serviceman can obtain his gratuity in order to build a house.
– I advise the honorable member not to be too sure of that. Even if the necessary money is available, the ex-serviceman still has to get his house built. Even if he is able to sign his gratuity money over to the War Service Homes Division, he may have to wait about three years for his home because there is such a large backlog of houses awaiting construction. So it is no valid reply to the Opposition’s argument to say that a man can obtain his gratuity in order to build a home. There has been an extraordinary increase in the price of everything that these men might need to buy. If they had received the money in 1945 and had invested it or put it into the bank it would have been their responsibility if prices had risen in the meantime and they could not buy what they wanted. As this money was not released at that time, it certainly had no effect on any inflationary tendencies of which these men are the victims. I do not blame the government of the day or the parliamentary committee which unanimously recommended that there should be a. delay in the payment, because I have a vivid recollection of the fact that after World War I. men were robbed by all types of business people when they received their gratuity. The committee knew of that occurrence. The amount of money which the committee proposed should be given to these men as a recognition of their war service will not now purchase a third of what it would have bought in 1945. I am not blaming this Government for that any more than I am blaming the previous Government for it. I think that every member of that committee considered that he was doing the right thing in recommending that such a huge volume of money should not bo released on a market that was starved for goods. But now that the payment is to be made the Government should consider the increase that has taken place in prices. In effect, these men will lose a large part of their gratuity unless the Government makes provision to compensate them for the increases in the cost of living that have taken, place since the gratuity was granted.
.-When the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) outlined the conditions under which the committee agreed that this war gratuity payment should be made two points must have struck honorable members rather forcibly. One was that the gratuity was not to be regarded as a right. The other was that the committee had taken into consideration the possibility of a fluctuation in the value of money, either upwards or downwards, before the gratuity would be paid. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), said that, in his opinion the payment had been earned and, therefore, it was not a gratuity. That statement is contrary to what the then Treasurer said when the War Gratuity Bill was introduced. He stated that the war gratuity was a gift and that its payment was not in any way related either to the pay or rehabilitation of exservicemen. It is singularly unfortunate that an item such as this should be regarded as a political football. This is nothing less than a political attempt by the Labour party to influence the Government to alter the war gratuity payment. Those who are preaching to the Government on this subject are only political humbugs. They have neither mandate nor authority to do so and they represent nobody but the people from whom this suggestion originated. I refer, of course, to the Communist dominated trade unions. I was approached a long ago on this matter. I happen to be a member of the Western Australian executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and that executive received a suggestion from that quarter that it should take this sort of action long before the matter was considered at a Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia congress or an executive meeting.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the request?
– I am opposed to anything which the honorable member for East Sydney attempts to bring into this House to use as a political football. The honorable gentleman is a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. When the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member was in office I came to Canberra as a member of an official deputation from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia and met the then Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Mr. Dedman. When our list of requests was submitted to him we were subjected to the indignity of the Minister saying, “ Th’.> answer to your questions is ‘ No ‘ ‘”. That answer was given before the members of the deputation had opened their mouths. Had that Government, of which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was a member, been genuinely concerned with the welfare of ex-servicemen, it would not have troubled to bring this matter up now; it would have given assistance to the exservicemen under the Re-establishment and Employment Act. That would have been of far more value to the exserviceman than the addition of a few paltry shillings to the war gratuity. This action of the Opposition is nothing but a dastardly and scurrilous attempt to ride on the backs of the ex-servicemen. Whatever chance those ex-servicemen may have had to gain an increase in the gratuity has been killed by the action of the Labour party. What would have been the attitude of honorable members opposite if the question of increased gratuity had arisen while the Labour
Government was in power? It would have been the same as their attitude to requests that we submitted to the previous Government about the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. The answer that the previous Government would have given to a request for an increased gratuity would have been its usual answer, “ No “. I do not intend to hark back to the ancient days. The gratuity is to be paid as a gift to ex-servicemen. I, myself, am entitled to a couple of hundred pounds gratuity, and I should be glad to see it increased-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! There are too many interjections. The honorable member should be allowed to make his speech without interruption.
– If ex-servicemen desire an increased gratuity it is for me and others like me to make the request, and to fight on behalf of the ex-servicemen. It is not for those who are attempting to destroy the things for which the exservicemen fought. I amjust as concerned about this matter as are other members of the community. I draw the attention of honorable members to the thousands of people who, from patriotic motives, subscribed to our war loans. If the question arises of adjusting the value of the gratuity, are not those people also entitled to receive an adjustment when their money is repaid? Many patriotic citizens subscribed their life savings towards the winning of the war by investing in war loans. The value of their money has been reduced, as has the value of the war gratuity. Surely they also have a just claim to have the money that they invested during the war increased when it becomes repayable according to the then existing value of the £1. If the argument of the Opposition is valid in connexion with an increased gratuity because of the reduced value of the £1, then ifthe value of the £1 had increased there would have been a case for reducing the gratuity.
– Does not the honorable member think thatit would be better if the Governmentputvalue back into the £1?
– I think that if honorable members of the Opposition would co-operate with the Government we might be able to do it. The honorable member has the answer to that question in his own hands but will not do anything about it. The damn-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member must not use unparliamentary language.
– I deplore most sincerely, and every other ex-se rv iceman also deplores, the way that this matter has been handled.For the first time an attempt, deliberate and well-planned, like everything communistic, has been made to ride into popular favour on the back of a powerful section of the Australian community - the ex-servicemen. If there are any merits in this proposal then they will be put up to the Government by that section of the community that is most likely to succeed. I refer to the ex-servicemen’s organizations. I suggest to honorable members opposite that if they are sincere in their desire that the ex-servicemen should receive some benefits from their proposal they should let the matter rest with the only body entitled to raise it with the Government. I mean, again, the ex-servicemen’s organizations.
.- I deplore the level to which this debate on the increase of war gratuity has fallen. The wealthy section of the exservicemen’s organizations represented by honorable members on the Government side is attempting to stifle the Opposition’s attempt to do something for the poorer sections of the ex-servicemen.
– What branch of the Returned Sailors Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia does the honorable member belong to?
– I belong to the honorable society of shipbuilders. If certain honorable members on the Government side of the committee are capable of originating anything that would be to the benefit of the community it would be better for them to do so rather than to display their ignorance in this Parliament. I deplore the action of the Government in trying to discredit the members of the Opposition who are fighting to increase the value of the exservicemen’s gratuity. All Australians will agree with me to-day when I say that the value has fallen out of the £1 since this Government assumed office. Therefore, the gratuity is worth a lot less today than it was worth in 1945. Day by day ex-servicemen come to my office and implore me to try to induce this Government, which is supposed to be the champion of the ex-servicemen to treat exservicemen better than it has treated them in the past. I am also being asked by letter and circular to fight for them. Honorable members of the Government parties promised the ex-servicemen before the last general election anything and everything in their attempt to attain office. Unfortunately, this patchwork Government was returned and the incompetent old gang immediately assumed power. I see men sitting on the treasury bench whose photographs were familiar to me when I was a young man. I see the same old faces that I used to see displayed in the newspapers years ago. I see them trying to legislate for a community which includes many young exservicemen. These old gentlemen proved their incapacity years ago. Early in the war, they proved that they were unable to provide effective defence for Australia because they left our servicemen in the Middle East without equipment and arms. It is painful to have to appeal-
– It is more painful to listen.
– It is painful to have to appeal to honorable members like the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Mackinnon) who has just interjected to try to do something for the welfare of ex-servicemen. When the party whip is cracked he comes to heel like all the other so-called champions of the ex-servicemen. But the Labour party moves ever forward. The Labour party sees the value slipping out of the exserviceman’s gratuity, which, as the honorable member for Dalley .(Mr. Rosevear) has said, will now buy next to nothing because of the incompetence of this Government in not being able to put value back into the £1. I make a further appeal to the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) to try to do something for those boys who went’ overseas and risked their lives and who have now waited for seven years for their gratuity. Now they find that instead of getting it in pounds that will buy a pound’s worth of goods they get it in pounds that will buy only what shillings used to buy. I hope that this Government will hastily summon a Cabinet meeting and decide to do something for the exserviceman before it is too late.
– I draw attention to a passage quoted in the Melbourne Aye of last Monday in relation to a meeting that took place in Sydney. The report connects with the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) on the wai’ gratuity, and reads in part as follows: -
The War Gratuity Increase Committee described as a Communist-inspired organization decided to-day to send a national deputation to Canberra to ask the Government for a 50 per cent, increase in the war gratuity. Exservice.111(211’S organizations to-night completely dissociated themselves from the committee. The Federal President of the Legion of Exservicemen and Ex-servicewomen said the history of a. similar committee in Victoria, Communist dominated and inspired, suggested that tin’s was just another political stunt.
On Sunday last the conference was opened by the honorable E. J. Ward, M.F. The chairman, Alderman Simmons, said that delegates attended from Queensland and Victoria.
Unfortunately, those two fine bodies, the Australian Legion of Ex-service Men and Women in Queensland and in Victoria have, through a white-anting policy, come under Communist domination. That is a most regrettable fact. I know that any honorable member who has any association with this matter will realize that. The article closes with a statement that the Waterside Workers Federation in Sydney promised three cars to take a deputation to Canberra. I do not think that anything more need be said about the argument put forward by the honorable member for East Sydney.
.- I refer to the subject of war service homes. When the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Casey) replied last week to questions I -asked he either misunderstood me, or if he did not misunderstand me he evaded the matter that I referred to. Like many other citizens 1 am vitally interested in the welfare of the war widow who is not provided for under the War Service Homes Act. I endeavoured to draw attention to this matter, but the Minister, in his reply to my questions, said that considerable numbers of war widows had applied for war service homes. He said that war widows were eligible under this act, but I did not want to know that. He then referred to a section of the act which gives him authority to make a rent rebate to a widow of a deceased soldier who occupies a government house. They are not the persons in whom I am interested, or the persons to whom I referred. I referred to the war widows who have already applied to the War Service. Homes Division for homes and have had their applications rejected. In South Australia less than 50 per cent, of such applications for war service homes have been granted. In one case an unfortunate widow has been evicted, and it has been left to the Government of South Australia or to charitable organizations to provide housing accommodation for her. Recently, a war widow who lost her husband in World War I. and her two sons on service during World War II., complained to me that her application for a war service home had been rejected because she was unable to satisfy the War Service Homes Division that she would be able, from her slender income, to repay the amount of the advance that would be necessary to build a home for her. Apparently the War Service Homes Division took the view that she would be a “bad risk” financially. I claim that that unfortunate woman is only one of a large number for whom decent provision is not being made. I ask the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Casey) to make a careful review of the legislation, and also of the administrative arrangements in his department, concerning the provision of war service homes for war widows in order to ensure that war widows receive at least decent treatment.
Another matter to which I direct the attention of the Government is the injustice of the decision made by the previous Government to withhold the payment of war gratuity to ex-servicemen who served in certain theatres during the recent war. In raising this matter I dissociate myself entirely from the criticism of the present Government uttered by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The fact is that almost all the exservicemen whose application for war gratuity has been rejected were told at the time of their enlistment for service that they would receive payment of war gratuity, or that, in the event of their death, their dependants would receive such payment. In a number of other instances, the war gratuity which ex-servicemen expected to receive has been reduced by as much as £300. I know of the widow of an ex-serviceman whose war gratuity has been reduced by approximately £200. Her husband, who was a member of the Royal Australian Air Force, was proceeding to the United States of America on service, when the ship in which he was travelling was torpedoed. He managed to survive the shipwreck, but contracted an illness from which he subsequently died. When that man enlisted for service overseas in the Royal Australian Air Force he was assured by the Government that after the war he would be paid a war gratuity, or that if he did not survive the war, gratuity would be paid to his widow. It is a distinct breach of faith for the Commonwealth to dishonour the moral obligation that it has to such men and their dependants. Although I feel very strongly about the injustice entailed in the administration of the War Service Homes Act and in the rejection of applications for the war gratuity in certain cases and in the reduction of it in others, I have mentioned those matters temperately, because I do not want to prejudice the case of the individuals concerned. However, I trust that the Government will realize the seriousness of the injustice that, is being done to so many deserving people, and that it will take speedy action to rectify those injustices.
.- I refer to the proposed vote under Miscellaneous Services, of £8,000 for payment to the credit of the Commonwealth Literary Fund Trust Account. Having served as a member of the advisory board of that fund, I believe that I am qualified to discuss this matter. The Government expended £8,000 on the Commonwealth Literary Fund during the last financial year, and proposes to expend a similar amount during the current financial year. I point out straightway that the original objective of the fund was to provide a sum to encourage needy and deserving writers to produce literature that would be worthy of Australia. It was hoped that we might encourage the production of “the great Australian novel “. Unfortunately, the provision of Commonwealth funds has not resulted so far in stimulating very greatly either the quality or the quantity of worthwhile Australian contemporary literature. The administration of the fund concerns two bodies that work together more or less harmoniously. The first body is the Commonwealth Literary Fund’s advisory board, which consists of established writers, who recommend to the committee that actually administers the fund that certain action should be taken concerning the allocation of scholarships each year to writers who are deemed worthy of encouragement. Those recommendations are considered by the committee, which is composed of persons whom I might term the “ political experts “. That is where the scheme falls down, because, in many instances, the political experts reject the advice of the literary experts.
The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has recently been appointed to the political committee that administers the fund. The right honorable gentleman has been an earnest student of Australian literature, and when I was a member of the fund I formed the opinion that he was well disposed towards Australian writers, and that he had a genuine love of Australian literature. He made no pretensions to be an expert, which perhaps explains why we were so surprised when we found that he knew so much more than we thought he knew. A similar remark applies to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chifley), who is also a member of the committee that administers the fund, and has a simple knowledge and appreciation of literature. I might pass the same comment on the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who is the chairman of the committee that administers the fund. The Prime Minister is a lover of literature, although he does not believe in anything later than “Wordsworth or Trollope, and apparently does not believe that there is any need for anything further to be written. I say this with a full sense of responsibility, and I shall not retreat from this position except to say that the Prime Minister does profess a real interest in this matter. However, if one is to display any effective interest in modern literature it must really get under his skin. Modern literature certainly does not get under the skin of the right honorable gentleman. We face an intolerable position when such men as Vance Palmer, a literary professor of Sydney University, and a well-known literary authority from the Canberra University College, and or four men and women who are acknowledged writers of standard contemporary works are subjected to having their recommendations rejected by a committee which does not consider the subject-matter of those recommendations on literary grounds but often deals with them on purely political considerations. In such circumstances how can the allocation of £8,000 a year do anything for Australian literature?
The obvious plan is to establish a board on the lines of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and to permit it to conduct a search for Australian writers of the future. I suggest that such a board should make a number of assignments to aspiring writers so they can deal with various aspects of Australian life. It was under such ‘ a scheme that John Steinbeck produced for the Works Production Authority in the United States of America his magnificent novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Australia has wonderful natural material for first-class literature. Apart from the romance of the gold-fields, there is a vast reservoir of untapped literary wealth in the story of the development of the canefields, of Gippsland, of the whaling industry and of the old steamboats on our great rivers to mention but a few. Without any sustained thinking one can mention at least a dozen natural themes for stories. The suggestion that I make to the Government now is that, say, ten literary people of potential worth be given assignments to spend a couple of years in research and hi the writing on the important periods of our history and attractive episodes in the life of this country. The subject-matter .of those assignments should be decided by the literary committee, without interference from the committee that administers the fund. Let us simplify the procedure in order to see whether we cannot do something to make an effective subsidy to our writers and artists. Such a scheme as I propose may involve the expenditure of £250,000 or even of £500,000. If experience of the operation of that scheme proves that money alone will not provide the spiritual stimulus to writers to produce something worth while, we can discontinue it. If we try such a scheme we shall at least accomplish something. I mention these matters in some detail now because it is difficult to obtain an opportunity in the Parliament to discuss the Commonwealth Literary Fund. I desire to make it clear that the work done by the advisory hoard has been magnificent. Unfortunately, that body has been frustrated because the attitude adopted towards it by the last three Prime Ministers has not always been helpful of their opinions. I say that, not in criticism of the right honorable gentleman concerned, but in criticism of the system which makes them responsible for the administration of the fund.
The assignment for writers and artists that I envisage would enable them to spend two years preparing their work, which would then be subject to scrutiny of its fitness for publication under subsidy. Of course, that scheme would involve some loss of money, because it would be an experiment. However, ultimately it may enable us to discover perhaps one outstanding writer or artist who will be able to recreate the atmosphere of this country, in which case the expenditure of the money will have been well worthwhile.
– Was any literary classic ever written under an assignment?
– Shakespeare had a patron who housed and fed him and relieved him of the need to worry about money, and if the acceptance of patronage did not amount to an assignment, then I do 1,nt know what an Assignment i«. The
Commonwealth Literary Fund is in danger of becoming a pension fund for aged and distressed writers and artists. Whilst I wholeheartedly believe that we should pay a special allowance to our wri ters and artists in their declining years the provision of pensions for aged and distressed writers and artists is not the real purpose of the fund. I ask the Treasurer to give some consideration to the matters that I have mentioned. I think that honorable gentlemen on both sides of the chamber will agree that we should establish a literary commission, free of political influence to carry out the real purpose for which any government grant on this score is made, which is to discover and encourage worthwhile Australian writers. Of course, the old idea, which is unfortunately still entertained in many circles, was that a man of literary talent could not produce anything worthwhile unless he slept on a pallet and lived in a garret. The sooner that that conception of the circumstances in which .worthwhile work is produced goes by the board the better. In fairness to Australia we must make some effective effort to provide a proper incentive to our writers and artists to produce something worthwhile. I do not think that under the present scheme the Government is getting value for the money that it .is expending. The reason why it is not getting value is not that there is a lack of talent, but that the machinery provided is not efficient for the purpose of discovering and encouraging talent.
.- The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) dealt with the matter of providing war service homes for war widows, which he had raised on an earlier occasion. Unfortunately, I was not present in the chamber when he raised the matter previously, and later, when I dealt with the matter in the chamber it was not convenient for him to be present. For the benefit of the honorable gentleman I shall therefore repeat the substance of the remarks that I made when he was not present. As the honorable gentleman is aware, there are six categories of war widows who are eligible for homes under the war service homes scheme. The honorable gentleman complained that no less than 50 per cent, of all applications for war service homes by war widows are withdrawn. That percentage of withdrawals is not surprising, because more than 45 per cent, of all applications for war service homes are withdrawn.When applicants realize the obligations that accompany the advance of money for the construction of war service homes many of them withdraw their applications.
On the previous occasion when I dealt with this matter, I stated that between 3 and 4 per cent, of war service homes had been allotted to war widows. Since then I have had a check made of the number of war service homes allotted to war widows in Victoria, and the number of homes allotted to them from the total number of war service homes constructed and purchased in Victoria since the scheme was introduced is 4.1 per cent. I expect that the percentage in Victoria would not be markedly different from that in any other state.
– What is done for a war widow whose claim is rejected by the authorities?
– If an applicant cannot carry out her obligation her application is rejected. Nevertheless, I believe that it is easier to obtain a house under the war service homes scheme than it is under any other scheme in Australia. It may be that houses are provided under the Commonwealth and State housing scheme under very attractive conditions, but, generally speaking, the conditions attaching to the purchase or acquisition of houses under the war service homes scheme are much more favorable than under any other scheme. However, I shall be glad to look into the matter mentioned by the honorable gentleman.
.- In the few moments left to honorable gentlemen before the time for the discussion of this group of the Estimates expires I propose to say something concerning the matter raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The payment of war gratuity to ex-servicemen should interest all members of the committee, and I have no doubt that we all have definite opinions concerning it. The honorable gentleman raised this matter in order to obtain a definite statement from the Government of the reasons for its failure to do justice to a large body of deserving ex-servicemen and their dependants. The matter was mentioned by the honorable gentleman in consequence of a simple request made to him by some of his constituents or by delegates of an organization.
– Perhaps they were Communists.
– It is all very well for honorable gentlemen opposite to suggest that they were Communists. The honorable member for East Sydney mentioned the matter because the Treasurer (Mr.Fadden) had refused to meet a delegation of the persons concerned.
Mr.Fadden.- I did not refuse to meet a delegation. The persons concerned intercepted me in King’s Hall and attempted to discuss the matter with me there.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for Miscellaneous Services, Refunds of Revenue, Advance to the Treasurer, War (1914-18) Services and War (1939- 45) Services has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Thursday, 7 December 1950
Proposed vote, £2,606,000.
Proposed vote, £46,037,000.
Proposed vote, £3,403,000. (Ordered to beconsidered together.)
.Some time ago, the Government had experiments carried out in the Broken Hill district with radio-telephone facilities. Major items of equipment necessary for a radio-telephone service were established at Menindee and Tibooburra, and radio telephone communication was carried out between those centres and Broken Hill. I am now informed by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and also by the
Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) that the experiments proved satisfactory, that many of the difficulties that were experienced to begin with have been overcome, and that the department now considers that it has sufficient knowledge and has made sufficient advances with the service, to be able to install radio-telephone facilities in homes in the areas. The provision of radio-telephone facilities in the country is a very important matter because many people in the outback areas of New South Wales and other parts of Australia would be involved in considerable expense if they had their homes or properties connected by land line to telephone exchanges. Radio-telephone services will provide them with telephones for which they have long been waiting. I am disappointed to note that the department is not making any progress now towards the installation of radio-telephone services. I am told that, because of the present position in regard to supplies of materials and the Government’s economy campaign, no immediate action is likely to be taken in respect of the installation of radio-telephone services for people in outback areas. I urge the PostmasterGeneral to review the position, with the object of providing radio-telephone facilities for isolated country people in the immediate future, because their isolation has already lasted for many years, and radio-telephone services having been brought to such a standard as they are at present, this provision should not be delayed any longer.
I refer now to the establishment of new rural automatic exchanges. I consider that the Government is not making sufficient progress in the establishment of such exchanges in various country districts. There are many centres in the country to-day that are entitled to have a full 24-hour continuous telephone service, but cannot obtain such a service. The Government should proceed immediately with the installation of such exchanges, because they are important to people in outback areas and will add to the comfort and conveniences available to them.
I now turn to the non-delivery of mail in recent months in many parts of the far west of New South Wales, particularly in my own electorate. Some centres that have been affected by flooding are experiencing difficulty in regard to mail deliveries. I received a telegram to-night from one centre that has received only a few deliveries of mail since last April, The Government is not troubling toexplore means of having mail delivered to people in isolated areas other than by road transport. In the Marra district, just out from Nyngan, local graziers are providing their own air service to bring supplies from Nyngan because the area is cut off from Nyngan by floodwaters. They have operated that service with one aeroplane for a considerable time. The Postmaster-General’s Department should use that plane, which is now at Nyngan, and arrange for mail deliveries to be flown over the flooded areas to the people in the Marra district. People in some other districts in the far western partsof New South Wales, along the Darling River and west towards Tibooburra andother centres, should have aerial mail services provided for them. Aeroplanes are available, and these services should be carried on, even if only temporarily, until other services can be provided. I urge the Minister to do something to overcome the problems of people who have been isolated by floodwaters for the last seven months. It is important to them, to have their mail and food and othersupplies forwarded to them, and it is the responsibility of the Postmaster-General to live up to the post office motto, “ The mail must go through “. That was the policy in the past and it should be the policy now and in the future.
Dr. NOTT (Australian Capital Territory [12.6]. - Most honorable members are familiar with the short stretch of Commonwealth railway line between Queanbeyan, in New South Wales, and Canberra. I think that most of them feel justifiably ashamed of the railway station that stands in Canberra as a monument to the lack of interest on the part of various federal governments in the necessity toprovide a proper railway station, with every modern facility, in the National Capital. For some considerable time it has been suggested that certain areas in the vicinity of the present railway station are to be alienated for the purpose of constructing a more imposing railway station and also for use as the site of a shunting yard and various platforms in order to meet the increasing demands on railway services to the Australian Capital Territory. As far as I can gather, although various areas have been indicated to me as the areas that are to be alienated, nothing has really been done up to the present to complete the alienation of the lands for the purpose of placing on them railway facilities that will be worthy of the Australian Capital Territory. The Government should take into consideration the urgency of providing up-to-date railway facilities in Canberra. Although I have the honour to represent the Australian Capital Territory in this Parliament I consider that every honorable member has the responsibility of pressing for the improvement of railway facilities in the Territory. Every honorable member would like to see a more efficient railway service established here. I hope that before very long a better railway station will be constructed and that the present line will be extended to join the main southern line at Yass. I have received many complaints from merchants about the shortcomings of the present railway station. Most distinguished visitors who visit the Territory and who travel by train, express amazement that the people of the National Capital of this country should be expected to put up with the primitive kind of railway station that we now have and with the meagre goods sheds provided. My. object at this stage is merely to sound a very sonorous protest against the continued inertia of successive governments towards this matter. I hope that the present Government will see that a railway service to meet the needs of the Australian Capital Territory, as well as an up-to-d’ate railway station in Canberra, shall be provided as soon as possible.
.-The proposed vote for the present financial year is £49,816,000, compared with an expenditure during the last financial year of £47,512,271. This contrasts sharply with the Government’s previously announced intention of reducing the number of public servants and governmental expenditure. Supporters of the Government must have known at the time at which that promise was made that an expenditure of £60,000,000 would be necessary to provide up-to-date postal buildings and amenities for the postal employees. There are at present 1,250 official post offices and 8,300 non-official post offices in this country. About 1,200 of the official post offices are antiquated, obsolete, and inadequate to meet present-day needs. Observations throughout Australia by Postal Department amenities committees revealed that the majority of the official post offices were built about the time of federation, whilst some of them were built prior to federation. Despite the fact that the work of the Postal Department has increased threefold during the last ten years, the postal employees are continuing to carry out their duties under difficulties. In many of these post offices the ventilation, lighting, and sanitary provisions are inadequate, and there are no amenities, such as recreation rooms or lunch rooms, for the employees.
When I was an employee of the Postal Department, on many occasions when visiting post offices on official business I had to sit on the end of a telegraph pole in the backyard to have my lunch. The Government proposes to expend about £20,000,000 during the present financial year on extensions to post offices. About £18,000,000 of that amount is to be expended on the erection of telephone exchanges. Although that is an urgent need, I consider that the need for providing up-to-date facilities in the post offices, and amenities for the employees, is more urgent. I point out that in the event of a business recession occurring, many people would cease to subscribe for telephone services. I remember that in 1939 I was paid ls. for canvassing for telephone applicants irrespective of whether or not successful applicants subsequently relinquished the instruments. I consider that many of the 8,300 non-official post offices should be re-designated official post offices. The department’s disinclination to elevate them to official status affects adversely postal employees who are entitled to promotion.
I consider that the Building Branch of the Postal Department should be entrusted with the building of post offices. That work is at present undertaken by the Department of Works and Housing. This is unsatisfactory, because frequently the erection of post offices is given a low priority, in favour of work for more influential departments. The various postal workers’ unions in Australia consider that they should be governed by a board of commissioners instead of by the Public Service Board. They contend that there should be a board of three, composed of men who have risen from the rank and .file, and that one of the three should be a permanent employees’ representative elected by the joint postal unions. Postal employees are not so happy .as they should be, because they consider that they are being dominated to a greater degree than is necessary by the Public Service Board. They consider, furthermore, that the Public Service Board has not a proper understanding of the problems of the Postal Department. I point out that the Postal Department is the biggest single undertaking in this country, either private or public, and that its size warrants management by an independent board. The Postal Department has the reputation of being a very easy department to run; the postal employees constitute probably the most efficient body of public servants in this country. I consider that the method of fixing the wages of postal employees should be re-cast. Because of the relatively low salaries paid to the lower grades of the Postal Department, the labour turnover of temporary employees is now about 50 per cent. Higher wages should be paid to employees in the lower salary groups. The annual report of the Postmaster-General’s Department shows that 5,250 men were recruited by the Postmaster-General’s Department last year and that 2,500 left it during the same period. Naturally, some of the departures would be due to retirement in the normal way, but too many men are leaving the service of the Postal Department and I believe that the reason is that the remuneration paid to the officials is inadequate. The result is that the department and the general public suffer.
– Yesterday, I asked the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) a question about the carriage of air mails, and I should like to enlarge on that subject for a few minutes. These are days of rising costs and of rising prices and I think that the Postmaster-General, if he will examine the cost of the carriage of air mails, will find that the Postal Department can save between £250,000 and £300,000 a year. Originally, air mail was carried for .025d. a unit, by private contractors, but the preceding Labour Government took the business from them and laid down, as a matter of policy, that all air mails should be carried by Trans-Australia Airlines. I understand that that organization has been receiving .05 5d. a unit, which means that the cost of the carriage of air mails in the Commonwealth has risen from between £260,000 and £270.000 a year to between £625,000 and £630,000 a year. With the best will in the world towards Trans-Australia Airlines - and I consider that competition is a good thing - it seems to me extraordinary that the Postal Department should have to pay that increased cost when the contract for the lower rate does not expire until about the end- of 1951. I am sure that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), if he will investigate that matter, will find that my statements, if not exactly correct, are at least approximately . correct. Perhaps the receipts from the higher rate account for the whole of the profit shown by Trans-Australia Airlines, but that matter is not relevant to the proposed votes now under consideration. Looking at the position from the standpoint of the Postal Department, I believe that if a saving of from £250,000 to £300,000 a year can be made, the necessary action should be taken to effect such an economy.
The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) referred to the Department of Works and Housing. I understand that a postmaster in a country district, who wishes to have a window in a post office replaced, or to have the building painted, is not permitted to let a contract for the work in the local town.
– In what districts are post office ‘buildings ‘being painted?
– I shall cite an instance of what happens, if the honorable member for Watson (Mr.
Curtin) will restrain himself for a little while after his supper. The Department of Works and Housing is responsible for those kinds of jobs, and postal authorities frequently have to wait until an inspector, or, if the job is large, an architect from the department, examines’ the job, returns to his office, makes an estimate and goes through all the old red tape rigmarole that I know so well. It used to happen in the Department of Education in Victoria. Repairs to schools were carried out by the Department of Public Works. An estimate for a job probably could have been obtained in the local town for £10 or £20, but that amount would be exceeded by the salary and travelling expenses payable to an inspector from the Department of Works and Housing before the job was even commenced. I am certain that a considerable amount of money and time could be saved, and efficiency could be increased, by permitting minor repairs and replacements to post offices to be done by local tradesmen in country districts. 1 still regret that the Commonwealth Railways recommended to the Cabinet the purchase of three Budd dies’el rail cars to operate on the line to the Woomera guided weapons testing range in South Australia. The cost is approximately 400,000 dollars, and such an amount could have been expended to better advantage on more essential equipment, because Walker rail diesel cars, which are operating on the Victorian Railways, may be purchased from sterling sources. I hope that when the House is considering the Brachina to Leigh Creek “North Coalfield Railway Bill 1950 and the Port Augusta to Alice Springs Railway (Alteration of Route) Bill 1950, the Ministry will realize that those works constitute a part of the standardization agreement that was entered into between the Commonwealth and South Australia and involved the> Commonwealth and three State railway systems. I regard the standardization work as something that we should not be doing at the present time but shall have to do for the Commonwealth and all State railways before we are much older.
.- 1 wish to direct attention to an unsatisfactory position that exists as a result of delay in dealing with applications for telephones. In the district in which I live, a considerable number of people lodged applications for telephones as long ago as ten years, and they have not yet been given a. service. I realize that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) may readily claim that he, personally, is not responsible for such a long delay, but I remind him that telephones have been installed in the same area for persons whose applications were lodged later than some other applications. Persons who have been waiting for some years for a service naturally ask, “ Why are telephones being installed in this area for people who applied for them much later than we did ? “ Action should be taken to get rid of the suspicions that exist in the minds of many people that some extradepartmental influence may be exerted to secure telephones more rapidly for’ some persons than for others.
I advocate that a system of registration should be introduced in local post offices, and that applications be filed in the order in which they are received. An applicant should have access to such a register, and should be informed, if he inquires, that no vacancy has occurred on the cable supplying his area since his application was submitted. A sound reason should be given to a person if a vacancy that has occurred on the cable supplying the area has been allotted to a later applicant. Supplies of cables are now being received, although not in such great quantities as are required, and cables are being laid invarious parts of the Commonwealth. My attention has been directed to the fact that much more work is being done in certain districts than in the area in which I live. It should be made clear that the people who live in industrial suburbs obtain their proper share of new telephone installations. There is a grave suspicion at the present time that they do not. I know that most honorable members are deluged with requests to approach the Postmaster-General in connexion with applications for telephones. I do not believe in approaching the Postmaster-General on such matters, and I generally address communications to the Superintendent of Posts and Telegraphs. Always, I receive the same stereotyped reply, which runs something like this: “Your application has been received. There is a lack of material and man-power to carry out the work, but consideration is -being given to the application. If the applicant is prepared to accept a duplex service, and can persuade someone else to share a line with him, it may be possible to grant the application somewhat more rapidly “. I suggest that at each post office a list should be kept of those who have applied for telephones, and that the list be open for inspection. In that way, applicants would be assured that they were not being overlooked. I also suggest that a statement be made to the Parliament showing what is being done in the way of laying telephone cables, so that the people will have no reason to believe that an unfair advantage is being enjoyed hy those who live in the more exclusive districts.
– While listening to the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters), I came to the conclusion that the Postal Department has been dealing with applications for telephones in the way that I have been advocating for some time. A few years ago’, dozens of people in my electorate used to write to me in connexion with their applications for telephone installations. Now, the number_of such letters has dwindled greatly. The honorable member for Burke said that, in his electorate, there were still many unsatisfied applicants. I have always claimed that in a thickly populated city area such as the honorable member represents, where there is a public telephone every quarter of a mile, the lack of a private telephone is no great inconvenience. I compliment the PostmasterGeneral upon seeing that country dwellers are being supplied with telephones.
The Postal Department should embark upon a policy of building houses in country towns for its employees. At present, the department is buying houses in country towns for this purpose, a practice that is making a bad situation worseAlready in most country towns there are many people waiting for houses, but the Postal Department is able to outbid them for such houses as come on the market. Recently, I received the following letter from the secretary of the Walpeup shire council : -
One of the Postmaster-General’s employees, a returned serviceman, is living in a house owned by this council which the council urgently requires for one of its own employees and it is considered that the Commonwealth Government should make full provision for the housing of its own departmental employees.
I direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) to the fact that, in country areas, some non-official post offices, and even some official ones, do not carry their names on the outside of the building. Sometimes there is a sign, “ Post and Telegraph Office “ on a gate, but the .unofficial office is situated in a house 200 yards away. A traveller may go up to the post office only to find that it is not the one that he wants. It would not cost much to put up the name of each post office, and it would be generally beneficial.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked about the provision of radio telephone services in outback areas, particularly in the district which he represents. Recently, several of such services have been provided, and they are being extended as rapidly as possible. They are proving most valuable, because the system obviates the need for erecting perhaps scores of miles of line. The new services are being installed as rapidly as possible
The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) spoke of the need for bringing post office buildings up to date, and for providing staff amenities. I agree with everything he said. In all new post office buildings, staff amenities are one of the first considerations, and rest rooms, reception rooms, recreation rooms and libraries are provided. However, we cannot go any faster than labour and material resources will allow. Although it is proposed to expend £20,000,000 on postal works, only about £2,000,000 is to be expended on buildings. Construction work is done by the Department of Works and Housing out of funds provided for the purpose, and that department is engaged upon the construction of military camps, immigration centres, and government hostels and houses in Canberra, as well as on the construction of postal buildings. Only a specified amount is available, and the share of the Postal Department is not anything like as great as we should like it to be.
I cannot endorse the suggestion that the Postal Department should be run by a committee of rank-and-file members of unions. It is perhaps bad enough under its present political head ; but it would be even worse if the honorable gentleman’s suggestion were adopted. He also suggested that a greater number of post offices should be elevated to official status. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber continually plead the case of non-official postmasters. The establishment of an official post office usually involves the dismissal of a non-official postmaster, who has probably given good service for many years. Such human factors must be taken into consideration. Whenever the appointment of a permanent official to a new official post office has displaced a non-official postmaster, the department has endeavoured to arrange for the transfer of the non-official officer to a newly established non-official post office or to a position that has become vacant as the result of death or some other change.
– At fifteen bob a week, as at Little Bay!
– Non-official postmasters are paid in accordance with the judgment of an arbitrator. If the honorable member wants to introduce a political system of fixing their remuneration, he should say so. The present system was introduced by a Labour government, and I fully approve of it.
The honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent-Hughes) suggested that tenders be called for the carriage of air mails. That proposal has been considered on many occasions, but the Postal Department is not greatly concerned about the identity of the companies that carry the air mails. In fact, it has virtually nothing to do with the allotment of air-mail contracts. It merely provides the necessary funds to the. Department of Civil Aviation.
– Because that has been the policy in connexion with air mails for a long time.
– It causes the loss of a great deal of money.
– The department imposes a surcharge on all first-class mail matter and the money collected in that way, which amounted last year to about £600,000, is paid to the Department of Civil Aviation for distribution to the air companies on the basis of the quantities of mail that they have carried and the services that they have rendered. The Postal Department makes no profit from the transaction. If the contract were taken from Trans-Australia Airlines and let to some other organization, TransAustralia Airlines would be “ down the drain “ to the amount of the air-mail revenue, but would still be required to operate its aircraft. The loss ultimately would have to be made up from Consolidated Revenue.
– That is the fact.
– But the contract with the other company would be in existence.
– Different conditions would apply, but I have not enough time at my disposal to explain the situation.
I fully agree with the honorable gentleman that some departments should have greater authority than they have at present in relation to expenditure on works. The authority of various postmasters has recently been extended to enable them to expend amounts up to £100 on minor repair works.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for Commonwealth Railways, Postmaster-General’s Department and Broadcasting Services has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed vote, £1,590,000.
Australian Capital Territory
Proposed vote, £1,216,500.
Papua and New Guinea
Proposed vote, £4,740,000.
Proposed vote, £4,500. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– I refer to the housing and general building situation throughout the Northern Territory. Honorable members will agree that the key to the establishment of a permanent population in” any remote area is adequate housing. We often hear the cry, “ Populate our empty north but before this can be done the Government must institute a vigorous building programme. One of the stumblingblocks in the way of retaining families in the Northern Territory is the difficulty of securing roofs to put over their heads within the foreseeable future. The lack of housing has had a paralysing effect on Darwin. This town is a very important airport and also is the only seaport with a considerable settlement in the north of Australia. As every Australian knows, it was extensively damaged by enemy action during the early part of World War II. Residences were evacuated during the Japanese attacks, and those that were not completely destroyed by bombs suffered from the ravages of time and neglect. At the end of hostilities, very few houses in Darwin were in a habitable condition. At that time, there was established what is now known as the Darwin town plan, by which the government of the day sought, at least on paper, to build anew on the ashes of the old town. The plan was mentioned last night by the Minister acting for the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) in reply to suggestions that I had made in connexion with another matter. I now point out that the Darwin town plan failed, not so much on its own account, although I have always contended that it should have been considerably amended, as on account of delay in converting it into a concrete reality. If the people of Darwin could have been shown in a practical manner, by the commencement of construction work, that the change could be effected within a reasonable space of time, they would have accepted the plan without question. But, as years slipped by and no appreciable results materialized, they justifiably became discontented. The Department of Works and Housing was blamed originally for the lack of visible progress. That department offered as its excuse the scarcity of tradesmen and materials.
Whatever justification there may be for that excuse the fact remains that there are fewer permanent houses in Darwin to-day than there were prior to World War II. I realize, of course, that the northern areas of our continent have been neglected by past governments of al] political shades, and that it is futile for one government to blame another for inaction; but no effort should be spared now to ensure that materials shall be available, even if they have to be imported, to proceed at a vastly accelerated rate with the re-building of Darwin. If skilled Australian tradesmen are not available for this work they should be obtained from the ranks of British immigrants. The material and labour requirements- for this work are comparatively small and in view of the physical, mental, and financial hardships that have been suffered by Darwin residents, I believe that they are entitled to ask that the town be restored as soon as possible. I urge the Government to get the people of Darwin adequately housed again with a minimum of delay.
The disabilities suffered by Darwin residents are shared by the people in other centres in the Northern Territory and I suggest that some of the prefabricated houses now being imported be diverted to that territory to ease the acute housing shortage, provided, of course that the design of the houses, and the materials used iri their construction, are suited to a tropical climate.
We must bear in mind the fact that building costs in the Northern Territory are very high compared with those in other parts of Australia. Therefore, if prefabricated houses are to be allocated, to Darwin and other centres in the north, they should be subject to the subsidy of £300 that is now paid to the States in respect of such houses. That request, I submit, is not unreasonable in view of the high building costs in the Northern Territory which are due mainly to the heavy freight, charges. Northern Territory residents should not be penalized because they have chosen to live in geographically remote localities. They are rendering a service to this country by helping to populate our empty northern regions. T urge the Government to introduce in the Northern Territory a housing scheme similar to those now being undertaken in the various States. I urge also that the construction pf the Darwin wharf be pushed on with the least possible delay, and that the building of schools at Darwin and Alice Springs, both of which have been approved, be regarded as an urgent task.
I come now to health. The lag in the building programme in the “Northern Territory is having a serious effect on the plans that the Department of Health has made for that territory. “No accommodation is available for additional doctors at Alice Springs, and, at Darwin, no accommodation can be found for a physiotherapist who requires only a single room. It is indeed a sorry state of affairs when even single accommodation cannot be found for an essential employee. I ask that immediate attention be given to Ohe matters to which I ‘have referred. Undoubtedly health should have first priority. “No country can afford to neglect the health of any section of its people. Hospital construction work at both Darwin and Alice Springs should be treated as most urgent.
– I do not intend to delay the committee for any great length of time at this late hour, but if the Government -has made up its mind to legislate by exhaustion, it must accept full responsibility for its action. I propose to refer to several problems that affect Canberra and Jervis Bay which, for many years, have been neglected by various governments and Ministers. In 1927, the Australian Capital Territory became the Seat of Government, and the Bruce-Page Government transferred many Commonwealth departments to Canberra, including the Department of Health, the Department of the Interior, the Department of “Works and Housing, the Attorney-General’s Department, and branches of the service departments. Since then, those departments have functioned under various regimes, with, of course, certain alterations and reorganizations. To enable them to function, it was necessary to bring a large number of public servants to Canberra. There has never been sufficient accommodation to meet demands, and the housing and hostel situation to-day is most acute. In my opinion, accommodation problems have been accentuated in recent years by the lack of a clear distinction between the functions of the Department of Works and Housing and those of the Department of the Interior. The result of this overlapping ‘has been complete failure on the part of successive administrations to embark upon a comprehensive scheme to meet the needs of Canberra people.
In addition to public servants, substantial numbers of professional, business, and commercial people have been drawn to the Australian Capital Territory. They, too, have suffered from the lack of adequate housing, and indeed by the lack of encouragement to home building due to unsuitable building regulations. The position has been slightly improved by the introduction of a heterogeneous collection of prefabricated houses, and the construction of several large boarding establishments. The Bruce-Page Government entrusted the construction and early development of the national capital to the Federal Capital Commission. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work that that body performed in laying the foundations of this city. It is noteworthy that with the exception of the buildings that are now being erected for the Australian National University, very little indeed has been done by subsequent administrations to develop Canberra. The construction of the buildings that are being erected for the Australian National University is being carried out under the direct control of the University Council.
I emphasize that residents of Canberra have no real say in the control of their civic affairs. They elect representatives to the Advisory Council on which, however, government nominees are in a majority. That body has no executive power. It can only advise the Minister on matters that directly concern Canberra and, as a general rule, Ministers have ignored the advice that it has offered to them. There can be no doubt that if Ministers placed more reliance on the council, the city would progress. The Chifley Government appointed Mr. Coles, the town clerk of Hobart, who enjoys a wide reputation as an expert on local government, to make recommendations with respect to methods of control of civic affairs in the national capital. That gentleman spent a considerable time in Canberra and carried out his task thoroughly. In the fullness of time he. presented his report and recommendations, but they have been pigeonholed. I am unable to give my blessing to the report as a whole, but whatever its shortcomings are, Mr. Coles at least urged that residents of the National Capital should not be denied the privilege of directly controlling their civic affairs. It is a bad principle for any government to deny a body of people responsibility for the control of their immediate local affairs. Therefore, I urge the Government to give effect to the recommendations of the Coles report that relate to the conduct of local government in the territory. That report was thoroughly considered at a convention at which from 80 to 90 organizations that are officially recognized in the territory were represented. That convention worked out a comprehensive scheme which, if it had been given effect to, would have made a valuable contribution to the progress of the national capital. It recommended the setting up of a civic administration of a type that would have been of considerable assistance to the Government. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), when he was appointed Minister for the Interior, promised’ that he would rely to a great degree upon the Advisory Council to assist him in the administration of the City. However, he did not live np to that promise. Residents of Canberra are still denied the responsibilities and privileges in the sphere of local government that are enjoyed by persons in every other part of Australia.
The Federal Capital Commission laid out the whole of the parks and gardens as they exist in Canberra to-day. That layout, which is the admiration of Australians generally, has not been altered in any way. The commission also constructed the road system as it exist® at present. No attempt has been made to provide a second swimming pool to meet the needs of the increased population of Canberra. Consequently, thousands of people who reside in the northern suburbs are obliged- to incur substantial expen- diture in bus fares in travelling to and! from the single inadequate pool that isavailable to them. The matters that I have mentioned may not seem to be of” much importance to some honorable members. However, I again urge that theresidents of Canberra should no longerbe denied the responsibilities and privileges in the sphere of local government, that are enjoyed by residents in every other part of Australia.
The Government should develop Canberra with the object of making it theMecca of tourists. With the exception of tile and brick making, on a limited scale, and a number of minor undertakings, nolarge industry has been established in the National Capital. The tourist traffic could be developed to worthwhile proportions. Steps should be taken immediately to repair all roads and streets in the Territory. For some years now, no attempt has been made to lay down any permanent ‘ roads, whilst bitumenized roads have been allowed to fall into a deplorable state of disrepair. I also urgethe Government to evolve a policy of continuity of development for the Australian. Capital Territory. The department should get out of the rut into which it has fallen… It seems to think that temporary structures of any kind will meet the needs of ‘ the National Capital.
– I wish to refer to the proposed vote for theTerritory of Papua and New Guinea. With other honorable members, I pay tribute to the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Spender) and to theofficers of his department for the courtesy that they extended to members of thedelegation of parliamentarians that recently visited the territory and the islands that are under the department’s control. It is indeed agreeable to be able to visit those territories and to be afforded every opportunity while there to see, not only their potentialities but also the disabilities from which the residents suffer. Itwas made possible for us to do that in no small measure. ‘ I realize that the - Minister lays himself open to a certain amount of criticism from visitors by doing so, but most of us went there for the purpose of seeing the conditions of life and to make recommendations where- necessary. It would be futile and unreasonable in the short space of time provided during this debate to attempt to comment in any way upon the tremendous problems that are apparent in Papua and New Guinea. The territory undoubtedly contains contradictions. Port Moresby, with a rainfall of approximately 40 inches a year, varies greatly from the southern part of New Britain which has a rainfall of 250 inches a year. There are temperate climates in some parts, and in others there is excessive heat and humidity. There is also the relatively cold air of the highlands. The variety and diversity of the industries present their problems and make it difficult to speak of them in a general way. I wish, however, to make one or two comments on matters that I consider were outstanding during our visit.
The first big problem seems to be the tug-of-war that is going on between the private individual who conducts private enterprise and the administration. The administration is attempting to do a job which has been to a large extent laid down for it as far as policy is concerned. Many private individuals are old residents of the territory and were there before the last war. While hating to see change, they recognize that changes must come. They wish to be assisted by the administration and yet, at the same time, resist the attempts of the administration to effect alterations which it is desired to institute. I am not being critical but am attempting to paint the picture as I see it. There is also the constant controversy between those who wish to see the natives jump ahead by 50 years to a form of civilization to which they are entirely unaccustomed, and those who wish the natives to remain as a source of cheap labour. We cannot look to those who hold either of those views for the ultimate result at which we aim. A combination of the two might perhaps achieve results. The tendency seems to have been to work on the principle that the natives own the territory and that they should receive compensation for any use that is made of it by the Europeans. The unfortunate position arises that, having been paid for land or forests, the natives have “little on which to spend that money.
They get an exaggerated idea of their own importance and cease to have any inclination to work. The end that is aimed is rarely achieved.
The two main industries of the territory at the present time appear to be timber and agriculture. Timber, the natural product of the soil, is available in large areas. A contradiction again arises that while imported timber is being unloaded from ships in the ports, the territory contains some of the most beautiful forests that one could imagine. The timber is magnificent. While I was there I Baw one tree felled that was six feet across the butt and was 170 feet long. It was one of a forest. Where those giant trees are taken out, many more will take their place and provide natural afforestation. It is one of the crying pities of the territory that that timber is not being used and so young trees are not growing in their place. Many of the trees have reached maturity and are dying out. If that timber is not quickly used, it will lose much of its value.
The agricultural aspect merits more consideration than has been given to it in the past. There appears to be a tendency to produce special varieties of crops, say of onions, where onions had not previously been grown. For instance, in Port Moresby it is impossible to buy green vegetables, despite the fact that the gaol gardens, known to those who were there during the war, are producing some of the best vegetables it would be possible to obtain anywhere. General Blarney had his own vegetable garden in Port Moresby during the war, but it has been allowed to become overgrown with weeds. On the highlands, all kinds of vegetables can be grown to perfection. Anomalies such as those are visible everywhere. I ask the Minister to give every consideration to those who are engaged in agriculture in the territory and to endeavour to find out why crops are not growing in that apparently fertile Boil as well as one would expect them to grow. Cultivation of crops will help to solve many food problems.
Unfortunately, the territory is known to many people only as a place where many of our good lads fell during the war and have been buried. We visited two war cemeteries, one at Bomana and one at Lae. The cemetery at Lae is within easy reach of the town, and it is possible for visitors to walk there, but the cemetery at Bomana is twelve or fifteen miles from Port Moresby, and I have been told by many people who have visited the graves of relatives that on arrival bv ship at Port Moresby there has been no transport available to take them to the cemetery. I suggest to the Minister that consideration might be given to the provision of transport by the administration for the use of persons who embark at Sydney and indicate that they intend to visit the war cemeteries. The ships stay only one or two days in port, and because of the meagre taxicab facilities available, many visitors are debarred from seeing the graves of their relatives.
I do not wish to detain the committee on a subject which is too important to be dealt with in an inadequate way. I should appreciate - and I am sure that other honorable members who visited the territory would also appreciate - an opportunity to discuss this matter at a later date, possibly during the discussion of another matter that is on the business-paper. Because the potentialities of the territory aTe so great, the dangers that accrue from neglect of the area are also great. It is the outer bastion of defence for Australia, and the Australian people must become aware of that fact. It is also the potential supplier of tropical foods to Australia, and it is a potential consumer of many products of this country. I consider that the territory warrants much greater con sideration than has been given to it in the past.
– I wish briefly to refer to two matters that have been raised by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Dr. Nott). The honorable member for the Northern Territory asked whether prefabricated houses could be erected in his electorate. I inform the honorable member that more than 60 prefabricated houses are now on their way from Great Britain to Darwin in order to supplement the ordinary building programme for that territory. I think that the honorable member also asked whether such houses could be imported under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The answer is that that cannot be done because the Northern Territory is not a State, and the cost must, therefore, be borne entirely by the Commonwealth. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory mentioned the lack of houses here. I inform him that within the next twelve months, 500 or 600 prefabricated houses will arrive in the Australian Capital Territory.
– Six thousand people are waiting for them !
– I have been asked to indicate the sites for these prefabricated houses. The full details of the programme are set out in the following table : -
That is a total of 261 sites on which the site work is in progress or can be put in hand at short notice. On them will be placed the prefabricated houses that will arrive in the Australian Capital Territory up to the end of next August. The preparatory work has been commenced well in advance of the arrival of the houses.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That the following resolution be reported to the House : -
That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1950-5 1, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £329,587,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1950-51, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £191,398,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Spender and Mr. Casey do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Spender, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Services involving Capital Expenditure.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 12th October (vide page 763).
Estimates - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1950-51 for the purposes of Additions, New Works and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure, a sum not exceeding £68,705,000.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That, towards making good the supply granted to His Majesty for Additions, New Works and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure for the year 1950-51, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £25,113,000.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Spender and Mr. Anthony do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Spender, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests: -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1950.
Excise Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1950.
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill 1950.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Spender) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Spender) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Spender) read a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
Science and Industry Research Act - Second Annual Report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, for year 1949-50.
War Service Homes Act - Annual Report for year 1949-50.
House adjourned at 1.37 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
l asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of dollars was made available for the purchase of 10,000 tons of newsprint from Canada within recent months?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Import licenses to the value of £628,456 (approximately $1,477,000) have been authorized for this purpose.
t. - On the 16th November, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) asked me several questions regarding the effect on coal production of obsolete winding machinery in mechanized mines and obsolete railroads, skips and locomotives. He also sought information concerning the number of mines which have been fully developed but which remain idle because it does not suit the owners to work them. In reply I indicated to the honorable member that I did not have all the information he sought, but that I would endeavourto obtain it for him from the Joint Coal Board. I am now advised as follows: -
When rehabilitating collieries it must be remembered that re-organization of coal transport methods involving, in some cases, replacement of miles of existing rope haulages by other means requires considerably greater time than the installation of modern face machinery. In these cases unless expansion is required in excess of the potential capacity of existing haulages it is more economical to continue using the existing haulage methods. In other cases where output expansion in excess of existing haulage capacity is required, steps are generally being taken to overcome this difficulty, but, due to the length of time required for completion of this task as the result of the extent of the work, shortage of materials and lack of man-power, some delay in expansion of output necessarily results. Generally, greater immediate benefit results from the efficientuse of available man-power on mechanical production of coal even though in some cases the existing transport systems must remain in use for some considerable time. At the present time there are no fully developed mines remaining idle because it does not suit the owners to develop them.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 December 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1950/19501206_reps_19_211/>.