20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr.- Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took, the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister given consideration, as he promised he would do, to the request that I made to him approximately a month ago that, as a special jubilee grant and to help to offset to some degree the increased cost of living, a- gift be made to Australian pensioners of a sum equivalent to a fortnight’s pension payment? If no consideration has been given to my suggestions will the right honorable gentleman see whether anything can be done in the way I have indicated? -
– I am sorry that, owing to great pressure of work, I have not yet been able to discuss this matter with my colleagues, but I will talk to them about it.
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to the fact that it is being slated widely and publicly that the Australian Government is almost certain to grant special facilities to the American Government to buy Australian wool outside the normal trade channels. Will the Minister say whether there is any foundation for that statement? If there is, can he assure the House that the auction system for the sale of wool will continue in operation?
– There is no foundation whatever for the suggestion that the Australian Government has decided, or, cn any facts that are known to it at the present time, is likely to decide, to make Australian wool available to the Government of the United States of America outside the ordinary auction channels. No such request for special treatment for the United States of America has been made. An international materials conference is proceeding in Washington. It was convened, not only by the Government of the United States of America but also by the Governments of the United Kingdom and Prance. All the free countries of the world, including Australia, agreed to meet and discuss the position in regard to the essential raw materials that they need for .their defence preparations and civilian requirements. There has been a conference on wool, just as there have been conferences on copper, sulphur, cotton, molybdenum and other commodities. The Australian Government lias entered into no commitments. It has made known its requirements of essential commodities such as copper and sulphur, and it expects that other countries will deal with our requirements in good faith. The other countries expect us to deal with the problem of wool supplies also in good faith, and we shall do so. We believe that it can he dealt with by pointing out that there is no better way in which the free countries of the world can obtain the wool that they require than by sending their, representatives to this country to bid for wool at open auctions ; by explaining that no other raw material in the world is so freely available as is wool under the system of auction, and by pointing out the tremendous economic importance to this country of wool and the inequity that_would be imposed upon the country if Australia were to be asked to reduce the price of wool, which represents our principal export purchasing power, without there being given to us a concurrent and comparable reduction of the prices of the commodities that we are obliged to import. These and all the other points that come to the minds of honorable members will be made clear at the conference which Australia will attend in good faith. It would be completely wrong for the Government to be represented at such a conference if it had declared that it had already closed its mind on the subject. The Government would be lacking in a sense of responsibility if it followed such a course. In this matter I have, on behalf of the Government, invited the representatives of the wool-growers of Australia to meet me on two separate occasions, and I have explained fully to them the issues that are at stake. I invited their advice and I now wish to say to the wool-growers that, having been invited by the Government to give such advice with respect to this difficulty, they would be acting more in the interests of the industry if they were prepared to make that advice available.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker.
-Order I The honorable member may not take a point of order when the Minister is answering a question. The Minister will continue if he has not concluded his reply.
– I have concluded.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture was not in order in making a statement in answer to a question without having first obtained leave of the House to do so.
– Last week I informed the House that in my considered opinion 90 per cent, of the questions that are asked without notice do not conform to the Standing Orders and are, therefore, out of order. The same observation applies to answers that are given to many questions.
– In answer to a question that was asked in this House last week regarding the non-co-operation of doctors in some areas with the Government in its medical benefits scheme, the Minister for Health intimated that he was examining remedial plans. Is he now in a position to state what substitute plans, if any, he has approved?
– I was unable to hear the honorable member’s question.
– Order ! I wish that Ministers would remain silent during question time. I may say frankly that I am getting a little annoyed about their behaviour in this respect.
– Can the Minister say what substitute plans, if any, he has approved of in order to remedy the position that exists in certain areas as the result of the non-co-operation of doctors with the Government in its medical benefits scheme? Can he also inform the House whether additional hospitals are now cooperating with the Government under its hospital benefits scheme pursuant to which a payment is made by the Government at the rate of 12s. a. day in respect of each patient?
– The point that was raised previously with respect to the treatment of pensioners, related mainly to the position that exists in isolated spots where doctors found themselves unable to deal with pensioners. That subject will be discussed with the representatives of the doctors during next week with a view to making suitable provision to overcome the difficulty that exists. Regulations dealing with approved orga- nizations under the hospital benefits scheme are still being drafted by officers of the Attorney-General’s Department.
– In view of the expanded requirements of the services for military clothing, can the Minister for Supply state the present position with regard to supplies that are coming forward from manufacturers?
– Military clothing is obtained from two sources - the Government Clothing Factory and private contractors with whom the Department of Supply deals on behalf of the Services. Until recently, the position was fairly satisfactory, but the expanding demands of national service and defence preparations generally are causing difficulty. At present, we are examining the matter of expanding production either by establishing another clothing factory or, perhaps, by getting more production through private industry. The matter is under consideration at the moment.
– Is the Treasurer aware that, in the first seven days of this month, the cost of living in the capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne was bumped up by increases of prices of no fewer than fifteen goods and services, including gas, electricity, bus fares, briquettes, cream, cornsacks, wine, meat pies, flour, bran and pollard, sugar items, oil, public examination fees-
– Order ! Is the honorable member asking a question or is he giving information?
– I am seeking to elicit information. Does the Treasurer agree that those increases indicate a disastrous acceleration of the inflation that is gripping this country? Has he studied the statements which have been made by Professor .Sir Douglas Copland and other economic experts on the inflation problem? Does the right honorable gentleman agree with their suggestions for an all-in conference, and for joint action by governments, management and unions to combat inflation? Will the Government give a lead in that direction, and produce a detailed anti-inflation plan aimed at the causes of inflation, instead of simply introducing provocative and useless legislation?
– I have not seen the figures and other details to which the honorable member has referred, but I am astonished that the McGirr Labour Government of New South Wales has not taken some action to deal with those matters.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the reluctance of Australian theatrical firms to bring contemporary London and New York productions to this country, and of the consequent decline of the legitimate stage in Australia during the past twenty years, will the Government accelerate the establishment of a national theatre in each of our State capitals? I am sure the right honorable gentleman will agree that no nation of importance can afford to neglect the possibilities of the theatre as a cultural institution. The theatre is being liberally subsidized in England and in many European countries.
– If the proposal which the honorable gentleman has in mind is that the Commonwealth should do something about the building of actual physical structures in the capital cities, I point out that there are great difficulties in the way of adopting his suggestion at this time. If he refers to some means of encouraging the national theatre on the personal side as distinct from providing buildings, that is a matter to which’ T have given some little attention, and I shall continue to do so.
– In view of the decreasing supplies of cornsacks from India, and of the vital cornsack needs of our primary production and also in view of the ever-increasing costs of cornsacks, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider the advisability of experimenting with the growing of jute in Papua and New Guinea as the first step towards establishing the Australian cornsack industry, and of thereby lessening our dependence on overseas supplies?
– The’ Government is very conscious of the problem of the shortage, and the difficulty of procuring supplies of jute. It has co-operated in this matter with State governments and with the Department of Territories. Experiments in the growing of jute are being conducted in New South Wales and Queensland and are being planned, if they have not already commenced, in the territories. Furthermore, all the instrumentalities of the Government that are competent to make a contribution to the solution of this problem are examining alternative fibres of every known kind, and, perhaps, new kinds as well.
– I refer to the current controversy regarding the responsibility for fixing the home-consumption price of wheat, and ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to inform the House whether the responsibility rests upon the Australian Government or the State governments?
– The Australian Government has no power, in its own right, to fix prices for wheat or any other commodity, except within its own territories. However, under the wheat stabilization plan, which is embodied in seven acts that have been passed by this Parliament and the six State parliaments, there is an arrangement by which the price of wheat that is guaranteed by the Australian Government in respect of 100,000,000 bushels of export wheat automatically becomes, by virtue of State legislation, the price for wheat that is sold in Australia. The Australian Government has no authority to alter that arrangement. An alteration could be made only if the six State governments amended their legislation either to enable themselves to proclaim the price of wheat directly again, or to place the necessary authority to do so in the hands of this Government. I have read that Mr. Graham, the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales, has said that the Australian Government can fix varying prices for wheat sold in Australia. It has been suggested that three different prices for wheat for different purposes be fixed at the one time. But Mr. Graham knows very well that that cannot be done by the Commonwealth or by State governments without amending State legislation as well as Commonwealth legislation. He moved two months ago in Brisbane, at the Australian Agricultural Council, that a conference be convened of representatives of all governments with the object of reaching agreement to alter State legislation so as to authorize the Australian Government to do what he has suggested that it can do already.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. Recently I addressed a letter to the Minister for Repatriation in which I asked that medical attention be made available by the Repatriation Department to a number of aged nurses who served with our forces during World War I. These women are not in receipt of pensions and are not asking for pensions, but they are in need of medical attention. I urged the Minister to grant them the right to have necessary treatment at repatriation hospitals. The Minister replied that they should apply for pensions. I repeat that they are not in need of pensions, but that, on account of their age, they need medical attention. Will the Minister recognize their right, because of their services to their country, to receive treatment at repatriation hospitals ?
– I shall discuss with the Minister for Repatriation the points that the honorable member has raised. Obviously, it would not be possible for me to reply authoritatively offhand. I shall have the new features of the case that the honorable member has mentioned brought to the attention of the Minister. He will receive a reply by letter as soon as possible after the Parliament goes into recess.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question which relates to the acquisition of land for the settlement of ex-servicemen. In view of the fact that the Government of New South Wales, under the terms of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, is purchasing land at pistol-point at probably 50 per cent, of its value, or less, and that this action i3 having the effect of reducing the quantity of land that is being made available for the settlement of ex-servicemen, can the. Minister take action to ensure that the Government of New South Wales shall pay just compensation for land that it resumes?
– This Government does not acquire land for the settlement of ex-servicemen. .That is entirely a responsibility of the State governments. I understand that the New South Wales Government is continuing to acquire land on the basis of 1942 valuations, although the Queensland Government has agreed to make purchases at just prices. 1 understand that the other States are doing likewise. I hope that New South Wales will conform to this procedure. However, this is entirely a State responsibility. It is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth confers with the State authorities concerning land that has been or is about to be acquired in order to ensure that the holdings which will result from the acquisition will present the ex-soldier settler with a reasonable living area. If economic adjustments are required later on the Commonwealth has agreed to share with the State any loss concerned in the transaction to the extent of 50 per cent, of that loss.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs supply this House with information concerning the Renco retort, the use of which was recommended by the Public Works Committee on which the honorable member for Wentworth served. That committee recommended unanimously that the Renco retort should be installed in order to try to obtain more oil from Glen Davis. Has that retort been tested ? If so, with what result? If it has not been tested why has such action not been taken? Is it intended “ that the retort shall be included in the scrap that is to be transferred from Glen Davis to other places?
– I shall obtain the information that the honorable gentleman has sought and furnish him with it.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs state the amount of compensation that will be received by Australia from Japan under the article of the Japanese Peace Treaty that provides for the payment of compensation to prisoners of war? What will be the basis of distribution of this compensation? Will former prisoners of war be consulted concerning the basis of distribution? .
– I cannot give any more detailed information on that subject than is contained in the draft peace treaty. The Government believes that it has achieved something quite positive for exprisoners of war in having this article included in the treaty. I cannot say what the total amount that will be received by Australia will be. The details will be ascertained and I hope to advise the House of them on a future occasion.
– by leave - It is required under the Australian Broadcasting Act that at least one member of the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall be a woman. For some time past that position has been held by Mrs. Ivy Kent, of Western Australia, whose term of office expired on the 30th. J une last. Mrs. Kent rendered valuable service during the period in which she served as a member, for which I should like to express the thanks of the Government. It is desirable at times to introduce fresh viewpoints into the commission’s deliberations, and the Government is fortunate in being able to announce that Dame Enid Lyons has consented to accept appointment as the new woman member. It is unnecessary to enumerate her qualifications, since they are well known, not only to the honorable members of this House, but also to the Australian public generally. For the greater part of her life Dame Enid has been closely identified with the public life of Australia, and has acquired an experience which should be invaluable to the work of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– by leave - The Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors in Washington, and a representative of the United States, have to-day initialled the draft of a security treaty between the three countries. The text of the treaty is being made public at this time to-day in Washington, London, Wellington, and Canberra. It is expected that the agreement will be formally signed in the course of the next few weeks and submitted to the three governments concerned for ratification. The conclusion of this agreement has been a major objective of Australian foreign policy. The need foi1 a regional defence organization in the Pacific within the framework of a general system of world security has been recognized ever since the threat to Australian security was made evident by the Japanese during the Pacific war. The treaty will, of course, in no way replace or supplant the general system of world security which the United Nations was designed to establish, but will serve rather to supplement and reinforce it. This is made clear in the provisions of the treaty. Similarly, the defence arrangements made within the British Commonwealth will not be superseded by the Pacific Pact. The pact will rather reflect the special interests and responsibilities of Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific in the same way as the special position of the United Kingdom and Canada is reflected by their signature of the North Atlantic Treaty. At. the same time the treaty will recognize that, just as the United Kingdom and Canada, as members of the British ‘Commonwealth, have interests wider than the North Atlantic, so Australia and New Zealand have interests outside the Pacific.
Under the treaty the three countries concerned accept a series of mutual obligations, which may be summarized as follows : -
No less important than the mutual defence obligation, and perhaps of even greater long-range significance, is the establishment of a council to put the treaty into effect. Although relations between Australia and New Zealand have been on the basis of the most intimate consultation, and although there has been close consultation for a number of years, through diplomatic channels, with the United States, there has been no formal machinery in the Pacific on the lines of the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty organization. The council will be so organized as to be able to meet promptly at any time in the event of any threat to the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties. It will also make possible planning for joint action in the event of, or in anticipation of, an armed attack. Such consultation and planning have been the distinctive feature of defence arrangements within the British Commonwealth, and its value to Australia has been tested by experience.
There are two things I should like to say while I am on the subject of this treaty. The first is directed to the United States and to the part that our American friends have played in the formulation of the agreement that has just been initialled. I think that we must express our appreciation of the fact that the United States Government, which has performed so many warm and generous acts towards its fellow democracies, during and since the war, and has assumed so many commitments, has entered upon this further undertaking in the Pacific. We cannot disguise the fact that the United States, by virtue of its power and resources, must continue to carry the major share of responsibility for the maintenance of security throughout the Pacific, and the fact that it has shown such constant willingness to acknowledge this responsibility must increase our sense of obligation to do all that we can to make this agreement truly reciprocal.
My second point is that the Government does not regard a treaty with the United States and New Zealand as a complete and final answer to the problem of security in the Pacific. The conclusion of the three-power treaty will, however, be a great advance along the road to Pacific security, and the fact that agreement has been reached on the text of such a treaty constitutes a landmark in Australian history and in Australian foreign relations.
I turn now to the matter of the Japanese peace treaty, of which honorable members will now have received copies of a draft prepared in agreement between the United Kingdom and the
United States Governments, and after continuous consultation with the Australian Government. This was made public in this morning’s press. First of all, may I suggest that honorable members read the draft treaty carefully in the light of what I have just been saying about the mutual security agreement between the United States, Australia and New Zealand. When the House last Tuesday resumed the debate on the statement on international affairs that I made on the 21st June, a number of honorable members devoted their attention wholly to what I had said about the peace settlement with Japan. It was quite clear from what they said - and I have no doubt that they were reflecting the thoughts of a certain number of people throughout this country - that there are some people who are troubled by the prospect of a peace settlement with Japan which poses the risk that a revitalized and aggressive Japan may be on the march again within a generation, and may once more threaten the security of this country. Some honorable members have spoken in a sense that sought to make it appear as if Australia had sponsored and encouraged the high-level rearmament of Japan. I think that I need hardly say that this is the reverse of the truth.
There have also been equally extreme statements such as those to the effect that Japan is getting everything from the peace, and Australia is getting nothing. A study of the draft treaty clearly disproves this. But it is clear that a number of honorable members are disturbed by the absence from the proposed treaty of any clause forbidding the Japanese to rearm. There is, in addition, a noticeable feeling of disbelief that the Japanese have in any way reformed, coupled with a cynical assumption that, once given the chance, they will again become a nation of militarists eager and ready to disturb once more .the peace of the Pacificarea. These are quite legitimate fears, and they are fully shared by the Government. As I have made plain before in this House, we are under no illusions that democracy has as yet taken firm root in Japan. But we are faced with a dilemma for which, I submit with respect, none of the honorable members who has criticized the proposed treaty has been able to provide the answer, although each of them has posed it. What we have to do, in. short, is to steer a path between the alternative perils of an aggressive and fully rearmed Japan, which can again threaten us single-handed as it did before, and a defenceless and economically prostrate Japan that will present an easy prey to communism and which might become an important part of the general Communist threat to world peace.
The draft treaty represents, in the opinion of the Government, a genuine endeavour to steer a middle course between these two dangers. We should have wished that the document might have contained definite limitations on the right of the Japanese to rearm and perhaps, in particular, restrictions on Japanese use of long-range military and naval aircraft and large naval vessels. But, at the same time, we have felt bound to acknowledge that Japan must be allowed, and perhaps even encouraged, to make some provision for its own self-defence. As I have said before, there will, in fact, be certain practical safeguards against the growth of a Japanese military machine that can threaten the Pacific. One of them is our mutual security treaty with the United States of America and New Zealand. Another is the defence agreement which the United States of America intends to conclude with Japan to enable it to maintain military bases and station troops in the Japanese mainland and in nearby islands, including Okinawa. I point out, further, that the island territories that Japan used so successfully in its campaigns of aggression in the last war will now be effectively denied to it and will, in fact, be under United States of America administration and occupation.
Some honorable members have suggested that a peace treaty at this stage is premature. The implication is, I suppose, that the existing situation should be allowed to continue. But that would merely amount to putting off again a decision that must be taken eventually. It is now almost six years since the armistice with Japan’ was arranged, and the occupation, with its heavy costs to the occupying powers, cannot go on indefinitely. The United States of America, which, after all, has borne the main burden, has made it clear that it cannot continue to bear the burden, having regard to its many other commitments.
At this stage, I shall say something about a matter that has been raised from time to time in this House and outside it - that of making the Japanese pay compensation for the hardships suffered by Australian and other allied prisoners of war. In my last statement to the House, I pointed out that it would in practice be impossible for Japan to provide reparations from the proceeds of its current industrial production. At that time, I said that the Government was still pressing for payment of compensation from other sources, such as Japan’s overseas assets, but I warned that we could not hope to receive any large amount. The committee of ex-servicemen of Government supporters has been unremitting in its advocacy that something substantial should be done in this connexion. The Government has continued its pressure, and it has been successful to the extent that the draft treaty now provides for the handing over of all Japan’s assets held in neutral and ex-enemy countries to the International Committee of the Red Cross for liquidation and distribution on an equitable basis among prisoners of war and their dependants.
In conclusion, let me say that it is easy enough to criticize this draft treaty. It is far from perfect. It does not meet all the wishes of Australia, or indeed of any of the other allied countries which have helped to formulate it. All countries that are prepared to sign it, and L have reason to believe that they will comprise the majority of the nations which took an active part in the war against Japan, will find it less than satisfactory in one respect or another. It will have to be fully debated and ratified by this Parliament before it becomes effective as far as Australia is concerned. But I believe the great majority of honorable members, after they have had an opportunity to consider it, will reach the conclusion that, in all the circumstances, it is the most satisfactory settlement that we can obtain.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Draft Security Treaty for the Pacific Area between Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America.
And move -
That the paper be printed.
.- I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Will the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) give an assurance that during the next sessional period the House will be given an opportunity adequately to discuss the draft treaty with Japan?
– I hope that the Government will be able to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim that last night the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) misrepresented what I said in my speech on the motion for the second reading of the Defence Preparations Bill. I understand’ that the honorable gentleman stated that I had said that I believed that we should .not expend money upon defence because, if there were not a war, any money expended for that purpose would be wasted. I was not in the chamber when the honorable gentleman made that statement. If I had heard it made, I should have challenged it at once. The point that I was attempting to make in my speech was that, if the manufacture of war equipment were expedited as a result of the wide powers that the Government will be able to exercise under the Defence Preparations Bill, it would be possible that, if a war occurred in from three to five years from now, much of that equipment would then be obsolete and probably would have to be scrapped. Aircraft, tanks or guns manufactured now could easily be obsolete in three years time. The honorable member for Fisher completely misrepresented me.
– As Chairman, I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Francis) agreed to - That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Defence Act 1903-1950.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a purely formal measure to amend the Defence Act consequential upon the passing of the National Service Act 1951. Under the measure, Parts XII., XIII. and XIV. of the Defence Act, which relate to universal military service in time of peace, are proposed to be repealed, because they have been superseded by the provisions of the National Service Act 1951. The bill also provides for the amendment of certain sections of the Defence Act by omitting references therein to Parts XII., XIII. and XIV. of the act and substituting, where necessary, references to the National Service Act 1951.
. - The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who is also acting for the Minister for the Navy, discussed this matter with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and kindly arranged for the Parliamentary Draftsman and representatives of the Department of the Navy to consult with him on the questions that are dealt with in the measure. The Leader of the Opposition, with his great and wide legal knowledge, saw no danger to the community inherent in the bill. As a matter of fact, he noted that it contains some advantages. The bill proposes to eliminate the responsibility of youths from twelve to fourteen years of age to serve in junior cadet corps and of youths from fourteen to eighteen years of age to serve in senior cadet corps. The hill also eliminates the responsibility of every man from eighteen to 26 years of age to serve in the citizen forces. Any obligation of service is now dealt with under the national service scheme. The Opposition offers no objection to the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Francis) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I should like the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who is also acting for the Minister for the Navy, to clarify a matter that I have raised on previous occasions in questions that I have addressed to him. I refer to compulsory military service. Previously, I pointed out that a number of lads undergo training in cadet corps at universities, colleges and high schools and that their parents, as well as they themselves, believe that some allowance should be made for that training in respect of their obligations under the national service scheme. In instances in which young men serve in cadet corps for from two to four years and their training is carried out under the supervision of permanent army officers-
-Order! The honorable member is getting outside the ambit of the question before the Chair.
– This . measure amends many sections of the principal act and has relation to the young men to whom I have referred who will have to serve under the national scheme.
– Order ! The committee in its report which the House has adopted has agreed to the amendments. The honorable member should have raised in committee the matter with which he is now dealing.
– I merely wish to place my views before the Minister. T am not criticizing him in any way.
– in reply - I gave lengthy replies to .the questions that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) asked on previous occasions with respect to the issue that he has just raised. I assure him that I shall have another look at the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
The effect of this bill is to make the small increase in the size of the Cabinet to which reference was made in the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral. It raises the number of members of the Cabinet from nineteen to twenty, and it increases the Cabinet fund by the amount of £1,350. It contains, therefore, provision for a small amount of additional expenditure which is no more than appropriate to the addition of the twentieth Minister. The position of Cabinet is that it first became composed of nineteen Ministers in 1941. At that time the increase to nineteen was made under regulation. The number of nineteen was confirmed by statute after ‘the war in 1946, experience having indicated a very great growth in Cabinet business. I should like to say as one who had experience of Cabinet work in 1940-41 and who has had further experience during the last year or two, that in my own judgment the work of Cabinet and of individual members has at least doubled during the intervening period. I know that, in recent years, the volume of work of a Prime Minister, which was never a sinecure, has developed beyond all recognition. Like my distinguished predecessor, I find, without the slightest doubt, that a working week is 80, or 85, hours. And, of course, Ministers themselves, some to a greater degree than others because of the nature of the work of their respective departments, have an enormous amount of work to do. They should have relief. In those circumstances I put before the House, after this substantial interval of time and after the enlargement of the Parliament during that period, this entirely reasonable proposal to increase the number of Ministers from nineteen to twenty with, the small consequential addition to the Cabinet fund to which I have referred.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has taken refuge in brevity. There was an occasion when Ministers of State were, of course, fewer than they are to-day. The right honorable gentleman, when he was previously Prime Minister during the early days of World War LT., increased the number of Ministers by regulation under the National Security Act from sixteen to nineteen, and after the war ended the Chifley Government brought in a bill to confirm that arrangement and make it a permanent feature of our Cabinet system. When that measure was introduced the present Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition and he then had some things to say. I am sure that he will not mind if I remind him of them.
– I am quite agreeable to the honorable member reading the entire speech that I made on that occasion. I read it myself last night. It is one of the few really amusing speeches that I have ever made.
– Speaking on the measure to which I have referred the present Prime Minister said -
Honorable members have only to look at the list of Ministers to see that, from the manner in which the work is now distri’buted, there are two or three posts which are merely put there to make up the total of nineteen.
That statement is true of the present Ministry much more than it was of the Curtin and Chifley Governments. The right honorable gentleman now says in his persuasive way that this bill will make the small increase in the size of the Cabinet that was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. I regard that statement as a delightful euphemism when it is taken in conjunction with what the Prime Minister said five years ago. On that occasion he proceeded to analyse the work of Ministers. He said of the Minister for the Navy -
He will not dic of overwork.
I regard that as being a gross reflection upon the Minister for the Army (Mr.
Francis), who is now acting for the Minister for the Navy. He is now at least doing something to maintain the security of the naval dockyard at Garden Island.
– It proved to be true. Will the honorable gentleman read what I said on that occasion about the Minister for the Navy?
– The right honorable gentleman made the following comment about the position of PostmasterGeneral : -
But I have yet to learn that, to bc PostmasterGeneral
And you, Mr. Speaker, were once the Postmaster-General– and nothing else, is a heavy job, because, on the whole, I would think that the Postal Department was best run by a PostmasterGeneral who was deaf and dumb.
The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) has nothing else to do.
– Yes, he has. He is also the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– Is he not the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation ?
– No. I am sorry to say that the honorable member for Melbourne is out of date.
– That state of affairs at least saves the present PostmasterGeneral in the Twentieth Parliament, but it would not have saved the PostmasterGeneral in the Nineteenth Parliament, who is the same gentleman, from the observations of his leader. The right honorable gentleman also said in 1946 -
I am bound to say that, if I desired the perfect definition of a “ cushy “ job, I should like to be Minister for the Army - a disappearing army and a disappearing job.
That remark was a reflection upon the honorable gentleman who was the Minister for the Army and Minister for the Navy in the Nineteenth Parliament and is still the Minister for the Army in this Parliament. Was that the reason why the Prime Minister wanted to get his colleague out of the Ministry, out of the Parliament, and out of the country? Was that the reason why he wanted, to deport that honorable gentleman to South Africa to represent this country as its High Commissioner?
The right honorable gentleman concluded his speech on the Ministers of State Bill 1946 with the following words : -
Parliament is asked to provide for nineteen Ministers, when in conformity with the principal act only sixteen will have any rational human ‘occupation.
Yet those were the days when we were in the dangerous transition period from war to peace and when Ministers had a few worries on their hands. Those were the days when every member of the Ministry was being assailed on the matter of regimentation, and was being urged to get people out of the Army, and all the rest of it. The then honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) took the cue from his leader and promptly moved an amendment, the purpose of which was to reduce the number of Ministers from nineteen to fourteen. That amendment was lost, and the bill then passed through its remaining stages.
– The amendment was lost because we voted against it.
– The Opposition of that day did not have the courage to vote for it.
– Be accurate. We voted against it.
– A division was not’ taken on it. The right honorable gentleman’s memory of the internecine strife in his own party at that time is more vivid than mine.
– I supported that bill. This is no occasion to be disingenuous.
– I have given illustrations of the kind of support that the right honorable gentleman accorded to that bill.
– I can give some quotations, too.
– The right honorable gentleman damned that bill with faint praise. He became Prime Minister in 1949, but he did not reduce the number of Ministers from nineteen to fourteen in conformity with the wishes of the then honorable member for Balaclava. I mention, in passing, that it might have been bad luck for that honorable gentleman had the reduction of numbers been made. The Prime Minister also created three additional offices of Parliamentary Secretary. I understand that those offices have no official standing, and that the occupants of them receive no additional remuneration. We were told that those three Parliamentary Secretaries were prospective Ministers, and that they were to understudy and assist Ministers. The Cabinet was reshuffled recently, but- all three Parliamentary Secretaries were passed over in the selection of new Ministers.
The position of the twentieth Minister has been made inevitable because of the differences of opinion that exist between people who live in New South Wales, and people who live in Victoria. If the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) had accepted the office of President of the Senate, as, I understand, he was pressed to do so by the Prime Minister, Senator Wright would have become the representative of Tasmania in the Cabinet, and the Prime Minister would have been able to appoint another Minister from New South Wales from the House of Representatives. Such a procedure would have obviated the necessity for appointing the twentieth Minister. The real reason why a twentieth Minister is to be appointed is that those people who live north of the Murray River believe that they should have as many Ministers in the Cabinet as those people who live south of the Murray River ; and the Murray River, to those people who live north of it, extends to the south bank, as we know, under the Constitution. The Prime Minister has said that the new Minister will cost the country only an additional £1,350 a year. The Cabinet fund is to be increased by that amount. At present the are nineteen Ministers and 24 Departments .of State. The cost of those departments in respect of salary and administration charges alone was £74,724,256 in the last financial year, or an average of £3,000,000 for each department. What the cost will be in the present financial year in these days of headlong inflation is too terrible- to contemplate. But a new Minister means a new department. That is axiomatic. The new department will require a permanent head, who will receive a salary of £2,500 or £3,000 a year, and two Assistant Secretaries each of whom will receive a salary of £1,250 a year. The cost of other members of the staff will be as great, on an average, as the staffs of other departments.
The press has tried to explain away the differences between the States, and this desire on the part of New South Wales and Victoria for equal representation in the Cabinet, and has told us that the Prime Minister intends to divest himself of administrative duties in order that he may have .time to think. I have ho objection to the Prime Minister becoming a thinker. As a matter of fact, I consider that it is an ambition that should be fostered and encouraged. The Prime Minister has very heavy responsibilities, but if he wants to .take time off to think, it should not be done at the expense of the taxpayer. It will cost £3,000,000 a year to make the Prime Minister a thinker. It would be good for Australia I believe if the Prime Minister does less public speaking and more private thinking. But it is really the banks that have decided this issue. They have selected the new Minister, and so as not to depress the stock exchanges of Australia and cause a further heavy fall in the value of government bonds, I should like to tell the House, confidentially only, that it is the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) who is t.0 be the twentieth Minister. He is the favored one. He is the darling of the gods. If, as the result of legislation that we have recently passed, he is to become the Minister for Regimentation and Economic Controls, his department will be very large, very costly and very busy pushing people round. It certainly will not be a matter of just a few officials. We have been told various reasons as I have shown why a twentieth Minister is to be appointed, but I have not been able to find out why the present Ministry cannot do its work unaided. The Deputy Leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), to give him one of his many honorific titles, has recently returned to us from Mayfair, where he was engaged for at least twelve months in giving gratuitous advice to the British Socialist Government on the way to run the British Empire. He is now back as Vice-President of the Executive Council, and he has very little to do in that capacity. The position is usually reserved for a person who is very old or very ill. The honorable gentleman suffers from neither disability, thank God. He acts as the leader of this House, but that will not impose very great strains upon his physique because in future this Parliament will meet about as often as Hitler’s Reichstag did. He is also the Minister for Defence Production, but he can find work to do in that capacity only by stealing some of the duties of the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). I believe that he has been very successful in those endeavours. The Minister for Supply admitted this morning that he did not have much to supply to .anybody anyhow. In fact, I .understand that all that he has to do is try to look important ;as the Minister in charge of ministerial motor cars !
The Prime Minister could easily ‘have done without -a twentieth Minister. But, of course, ‘he has his troubles. He seems to always have troubles thick upon him. He had to take the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) into the Cabinet, not because he loved him so much, but because the lesser of two evils was to accede to the demands of certain interests in Victoria. Big interests always run this Government, and the Minister for the Interior, who will ‘be a very good Minister, I hope, has been wished upon his leader.
– :I am sure that the Minister for the Interior will tell the honorable gentleman that he threatened to call in my overdraft if I did not admit him to the Cabinet.!
– The Prime Minister should not go back over too much past history, because I might tell the House something of the troubles that he had with his colleague when they were both members of a .government in Victoria.
– I wish the honorable gentleman would do so. It would be about as truthful as everything else that he has said.
– I have spoken the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
– So help you, God !
– I cannot transgress the Standing Orders ‘even to oblige the Prime Minister. The truth is that the Government has been in a difficulty. Jr is now trying to fight its way out of this difficulty at the expense of the taxpayers. I will not allow it to persuade the people that this new appointment has been made essential by the demands of an increasing volume of work, because that is not true. There is less work to be done to-day than there was when the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government were in power. Certainly there is less work now than there was when the Menzies Government was in power in the early days of World War II. and was preparing our war effort, or during .that very short period when the Fadden Government held office. We shall see what will happen. 1 hope that the few remarks that I have made will not damage the chances of the honorable member for Evans, but, in any case, he has very powerful friends outside this chamber who will make sure that hp is included in the Cabinet. The people will pay the cost of this enlargement of the Government, but I am sure that they will not get better administration than they are getting now. All I hope is that, if a. twentieth Minister is appointed, some effort will be made by the Government to put value back into the £1.
.- Having listened to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I have no doubt whatever about the necessity for the appointment of an additional Minister. The right honorable gentleman is in a better position than the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to judge the volume of work that must be done by the Government. However, I wish that the Prime Minister, when he was discussing in 1947 those portfolios which .provide little work for Ministers, had referred to those which have become accretions to the federal system. The ministries that I should have discarded were not those to which the Prime Minister referred. We should be very much better off if the war accretions were removed. I do not want in any way to dampen the legitimate expectations of honorable members who have looked forward to the filling of the new position, and I am sure that nothing that I may say will deflect the Prime Minister one iota from the course that he proposes to pursue. Ministers are very much ‘overworked. The honorable member’ for Melbourne complained that the community had to pay £3,000,000 a year so that the Prime Minister could have nothing to do but think. I should think that we were gaining money if that expenditure afforded opportunity for Ministers to think. The real trouble to-day is that none of our Ministers has time to think. They are. being pushed about constantly and have no ‘time in which to study the problems with which they are expected to deal. There is so much wood about them that they cannot see the trees.
This bill represents another attack on the federal system. It illustrates the readiness with which the parties on this side of the chamber take over and extend the views of the Opposition when they hold the reins of office. I wish that we could keep consistently to our own principles instead of adopting the principles of others. I oppose the enlargement of the Cabinet on constitutional grounds, because it will complicate the difficulties of those who are endeavouring to bring about that redistribution of powers and functions which the “Prime Minister described so clearly to a local government conference in Melbourne, last November. This sort of thing will prevent the realization of the very objectives which the Prime Minister said were dear to his heart and which are dear to the hearts of many persons in the community. Every additional appointment to the Cabinet accentuates the evil of the centralization of power in the Australian Government. If we believe in a federal system, we must reverse the ‘trend of the development towards Canberra.
I oppose the proposal also on executive grounds. At the political level, it brings the status of C’abinet perilously close to that of a public meeting. It must weaken the degree of Cabinet responsibility and strains the principle of ministerial responsibility. As I have said elsewhere, the enlargement of the Ministry must affect the agenda of Cabinet meetings, which already are far too comprehensive, and thus it will lead to a curtailment of Cabinet discussion and impair the value of the decisions that arise from those discussions. Finally, I oppose the bill on administrative grounds. At a time when we are clamour ing foa- man-power, almost stridently denouncing’ those who. transfer manpower from essential jobs to non-essential jobs an df condemning those who, use scarce materials and- monopolize office accommodation, it is amazing that we should embark on a scheme that will employ additional man-power in the Public Service and impose an extra demand on supplies of scarce materials. The effect of the bill willi go light, through the whole Public Service. More work will have to be done by the Government Printing Office, the Supply and Tender Board, the Department of Works and Housing, the Audit Office, and so on. The Government is not putting first things first. Instead of simply saying that there is a certain amount of work to be done and that these Ministers are required to do it the Government should ascertain what work ought to be done by it and then there should be a sufficient number of portfolios to. enable the Ministers to handle the work. I cannot vote for the bill because I had fondly hoped that the Liberal party, pledged to act so. as to maintain the substance of the federal system, would have found those pledges inconsistent with this measure.
.- In regard to the measure before the House, I admit to being torn between love and duty. The proposal to appoint a new Minister which would increase the Cabinet to twenty is not without its attraction to every honorable member whether he is in Opposition or sitting on the Government benches. I think that the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the efficiency of Ministers was a piece of lyrical prose which could, perhaps, he preserved in the national archives. In view of the presence of a lean and hungry Cassilis in every political party, a twentieth ministerial position would provide an escape hatch for the purpose of avoiding a lot of trouble. There is nothing very dreadful about the proposal to appoint another Minister, particularly as it seems that he may come from north of the Murray. The honorable member who. has been mentioned as the likely appointee is a sort of lopsided protege of mine. He took the worst part of my electorate from me after the recent redistribution of electoral boundaries. He continues to decorate his electorate with shocking anti-Labour majorities, and I feel a fatherly interest in his future. I believe that there is value in discussing the subject of an increase of Cabinet members. The fact that there are Ministers who occasionally have nothing to do while others are positively harrassed is an inseparable part of the circumstance of democratic government.
I cannot agree with the honorable member for “Warringah (Mr. Bland), who is one of those boring people with a mission. Apparently his mission at the moment is to embarrass his Government in coldblooded, precise maidenly English and then disappear from the chamber, [f the honorable member for Warringah wishes to join the Ministry eventually he must take up his cross and march with the Government and share all its trials and tribulations. He has developed a habit of disappearing from the chamber at voting time on certain occasions and he will find that that will not bring him very great popularity.
I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to other functions of the Reuse which he may not have considered. [ refer to the joint committees, which Lave almost disappeared. When I entered this House eight years ago there were at least five flourishing and active committees. Honorable members on both sides of the House could obtain a great deal of benefit from studying matters which are appropriate subjects for reference to joint committees. A social services committee could well be set up. The tragedy of not having a foreign affairs committee is exemplified by the statement that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) made this morning. There is statutory authority for a committee on broadcasting to be set up, but the Postmaster-General has never called that committee together. There are three committees that could well be brought into operation. I ask the Prime Minister not to reduce the opportunities of honorable members to obtain the experience in public affairs that they need. He should broaden those opportunities by consenting to the establishment of many more com- mittees. I can think of at least six committees that should be set up.
Are honorable members to understand that p’arliamentary-secretary ships have been abolished by the Government, or are they to be preserved? What is to be the practice of the Government in this respect? Does it intend to allow studentministers to assist Ministers? There are some Ministers who are overworked and private members could well assist them because they become bored when they have no direct and personal interest in the Government. I ask the Prime Minister to consider the reinstatement of joint committees when this matter is discussed further. Were is not for the fact that the Parliament has a Joint House Committee, honorable members would not have tasted the delectable sausages that the Prime Minister was able to have served for supper recently. Perhaps it may be said that that was the first time that the Prime Minister had successfully coped with a “ snag “. I do not see anything grieviously wrong in increasing the number of Ministers. If the Prime Minster intends to establish the committees that I have suggested, I should like him to announce his intention in that regard. There has been serious concern among honorable members that those committees have not been called together although they have operated since the first days of federation.
– This bill which is both simple and to the point has been so unfairly attacked and misrepresented by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) that something should be said in its favour. Honorable members on this side of the House had thought that the honorable member for Melbourne, since his elevation to the high position of Deputy Leader of the Opposition, would have exhibited a greater sense of responsibility in this chamber but his speech has shown that such an idea is a complete illusion. We heard from him nothing but a farrago of nonsense and misrepresentation. False motives were imputed to the Government concerning the projected appointment of those whom the honorable member alleged to be mouthpieces of vested interests and other sinister concerns. There is no vested interest so big as that of the prominent and influential trade unions. Surely at a time such as this no one should begrudge the honest expansion of Cabinet by one member. In recent years Mr. Lyons, Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley, all of whom rendered most worthy service to Australia, wore themselves out through overwork and overstrain. “When a man of ability rises to the eminent position of Prime Minister or Cabinet Minister, is that to be a sentence of premature death ? If so, the administration of the nation will suffer grievously.
When considering questions of this nature it is sometimes helpful to examine what is done elsewhere. In New South Wales, which has about two-fifths of the population of the Commonwealth, there is a ministry of sixteen members. In the Queensland Govern.mnt there are eleven ministers. In the Victorian Government, there are twelve. In Canada, a dominion of about the same area as Australia, there are ten provincial governments compared with six State governments in this country, and in the Cabinet of that dominion there are 21 Ministers, compared with the twenty proposed for this country under the bill. Going to the other extreme, so far as the importance and area of countries are concerned, we find that in the diminutive State of Northern Ireland, which covers an area smaller than Tasmania, there are nine Cabinet Ministers, and three parliamentary undersecretaries. In New Zealand, which is also a small country, although it is true that it has no State or provincial governments, there are fifteen Cabinet Ministers. In Great Britain, under the Attlee Government, there is an amazing galaxy of talent and of officers. According to the latest statistics Britain has 33 Ministers of the Crown, seventeen of whom are members of the British Cabinet, two law officers, and 39 parliamentary undersecretaries or their equivalent.
– Are they paid for performing those duties?
– According to my information, the majority of them are well paid for performing those duties.
Government Supporters. - Hear, hear !
– As far as expense is concerned, nobody should object to the very modest increase of the Cabinet fund which the adoption of this measure will necessitate.
Ail 1 want to say in conclusion is that many honorable members on this side of the House are rightly concerned about the increase of the number of Commonwealth public servants that will possibly result from the measure. Is it too much to ask the Prime Minister to ensure that, when this bill becomes law and the twentieth Minister has been appointed, it shall not entail any accretion to the bureaucracy? In order to staff the twentieth ministry, it should be possible to arrange .a transfer of public servants from existing departments. If that course is followed I think that the public will be well satisfied with the additional efficiency it will get from the Government as a result of the enlargement oi the Cabinet, and will have no doubts about the efficacy and merits of tinlegislation.
.- I cannot see why it is either necessary or urgent for the Government to push thu* measure through the House, especially after we have had three all-night sittings, during which other measures have been steam-rollered through. In fact, we did not have a proper opportunity to deba.tr those measures fully, yet this morning we were called upon to pass a defence measure and we had to accept the word of the Government’s leaders that everything is in order in connexion with that measure because we did not have time to read it, let alone to study it in detail. I suggest that the measure now before the House calls for much more serious consideration than will be possible in the time available to us. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) usually can put up a very good case about anything and. in fact, sometimes about nothing, but this time he appears to have been stuck for words because he could not make om a case for this bill. He attempted merely to justify the bill by making a comparison of the work of Cabinet Ministers in 1941 with their work at the present time. The year 1941 is not a comparable period for consideration in connexion with a decision on whether there should be more or fewer Cabinet Ministers. Such a, period would be from 1942 to 1945. The war effort had not been fully geared up by 1941, but from 1942 to 1945 ‘Cabinet Ministers were burdened with many onerous duties. At the present time, however, as any honorable member who is doing his job properly in his electorate and is in touch with Minister’s and their departments knows, the volume of work has fallen off considerably.
The most cogent indication of that trend is the correspondence received by honorable members, which is nothing like what it was in volume during the war period. In fact, one honorable member on the Government side, the .honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), raised the matter of his postage stamp issue because his conscience had been so much stricken when he found that he could not exhaust it. At election times I have managed to put my stamp issue to good account and so have helped to increase my majority. The rank and file members of the House are the link between the Government and the people. They are the conduits through which all matters that arise in their electorates come to the notice of the Government. So the volume of their correspondence” is the real test of whether there is justification for a further increase of the number of Cabinet Ministers. It seems to me that rank and file Govern^ ment supporters are becoming mere cyphers, and that that trend will be aggravated by this measure. The Government wishes to relieve Ministers of some of their duties. We know that Ministers have considerable work to do, but that position could be relieved to some degree if the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) were adopted, and rank-and-file members on the Government side were utilized to a greater degree, either by means of the appointment of some of them as parliamentary secretaries or by way of their use on parliamentary committees.
It is hard to understand the reason for the proposed increase of the number of Cabinet Ministers. Perhaps the Government regards it as a part of its announced policy of simplifying adminis- tea;tion, and intends to simplify it by dividing the Cabinet fund by an even number instead of by an odd number. The increase of the Cabinet will result inevitably in an increase of the number of Commonwealth departments and officials. That result will be contrary to the policy on which the Government parties were elected to office. In addition, the bill means that we are getting away from the democratic foundations upon which our parliamentary system was laid. The honorable member for Angus (Mr. Downer) referred to the galaxy of Ministers in Great Britain. Such a galaxy of Ministers must mean a greater galaxy of public servants. Because the Government is moving away from the position of its rank and file supporters being the channel between Ministers and the people, the adoption of the measure must mean that there will be more and more officials at work behind the scenes and there will also be an increase of the number of public relations officers who prepare and issue press handouts on behalf of Ministers, justifying the administration of their masters. We know that the trend nowadays is for Ministers to appoint public relations officers and so by-pass the rank and file members, because tho33 public relations officers become the linK between the Government and the people. That trend is obvious in Great Britain because of the very position that the honorable member for Angas mentioned, under which there i3 a glaxy of Ministers. The Australian Government, in the words of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), appears to be trying to outsocialize the Socialists. That trend in Britain is shown in a report that appeared in the Melbourne Herald yesterday under the heading - £2in. for “Public Relations”.
The article stated in part-
London, Wed.- Whitehall has 3,202 public relations officers to-day.
– Order! I think that the honorable gentleman is getting well away from the bill, which does not deal with public relations officers in the United Kingdom.
– I am dealing with the trend that will be produced by an increase of the number of Ministers and the appointment of public relations officers, who will be the real channel between the ministries and the people. I submit that that is a relevant subject. The article continued -
Many of them are unnecessary, many incompetent, and others ave doing job3 of concealment and obstruction directly contrary lo the public interest.
This is thu conclusion of one of the best paid public relations officers since the war, Mr. Richard Williams-Thompson.
– Order ! I have told the honorable member that this bill does not deal with public relations officers in the United Kingdom. It is a bill to increase the number of Cabinet Ministers.
– I am merely replying to the remarks of the honorable member for Angas, who drew a comparison between the procedure in Great Britain and the procedure here, and I submit with respect that that is a relevant matter.
-Order ! The honorable member for Angas dealt not with public relations officers, but with the number of Ministers.
– But I am pointing out that an increase of the number of Ministers will cause an increase of the number of public relations officers. However, you have the last say, Mr. Speaker, and I may not dispute your ruling. I submit in conclusion that one of the reasons advanced by the Government for the introduction of this measure is that many onerous duties, particularly in regard to the defence position, have fallen upon Ministers. I think that the Prime Minister might take the House more into his confidence in respect of the defence position and hold a secret session of the Parliament at an early date. The war period provided precedents for such procedure. In recent weeks there has been much publicity in the press about questions directed to the Government by members of the Government parties in regard to certain weaknesses in the defence departments.
– Order! This bill does not deal with defence; the House dealt with a defence measure yesterday.
– The House 13 dealing with certain departments, Mr. Speaker.
-Order! The proposal before honorable members is a proposal to increase the number of Ministers.
– As you, Mr. Speaker, appear to be dealing with me, I shall refrain from making any further remarks and shall resume my seat.
– Order ! The honorable member will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
.- The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) touched in passing on what 1 believe should be applicable to this country. He said that in Great Britain there are 33 Ministers in the Cabinet. I think it has been made manifest that during many years a great strain has been imposed on the Ministers of the Commonwealth, but I also think that a Cabinet of twenty Ministers is absurdly large. Honorable members should recall the experience of Lloyd George that a British Cabinet not so large as this one is proposed to become, was unwieldy. During “World War I., he stated that a war could not be run with such a Sanhedrin of a Cabinet. During the last war in Australia there was a War Cabinet, an Inner Cabinet and an Economic Cabinet. It is absurd to have three service Ministers in this Cabinet, when the whole of their business could be dealt with by one Minister for Defence. The honorable member for Angas mentioned that in England there are Ministers who are not Cabinet Ministers, and that an inner ‘Cabinet deals with higher level matters. I believe that a division of Ministers, which corresponds with tha fact that some portfolios are vitally important and some are not so important, should be adopted in Australia. I well believe that the Australian Cabinet could consist of twelve Ministers holding the most vital portfolios and that there could be another ten or fifteen who do not attend Cabinet meetings. Rather than increase the Ministry by another one to form a Sanhedrin, as Lloyd George called it, there should be a re-allocation of duties and a redefinition of status.
– If this Government intended to work through the Parliament in order to solve the problems with which it is faced, no great objection could be raised to this bill. No doubt the work. involved in some of the portfolios is very heavy, but perhaps in some it is not quite so heavy. Honorable members on the Government side have objected to any increase of the Ministry, but they have been guided mainly by the idea of the preservation of State rights. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) is opposed to the measure on the ground that the Commonwealth is usurping rights chat belong to the States. He is apparently following in the steps of his predecessor, who reached Cabinet rank by abstaining from voting, by disappearing at critical times and by making annoying speeches in the House from time to time. Possibly that is the course that the honorable member for Warringah is following. I hope that he does reach the Cabinet, because I think that he would cause a great deal of disturbance there which would help to cause the disintegration of the Government.
The Government is the best judge of whether another Minister is necessary. Perhaps the Government does not want any more of its Ministers to become ill. Men in public life work under a great strain, and many distinguished men have paid the price of doing too much. However, when such a measure is put before the House after a series of bills which seem to aim at government by regulation, it becomes rather ominous, because it points to the fact that the Parliament will be taken less into the confidence of the Government. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) put useful figures before the House concerning the number of Ministers in State governments, and in the governments of other countries of the world including Canada. Canada has about half as many people again as Australia has, and perhaps Canadian Ministers have wider activities. Therefore, I think that Canada is an unfortunate comparison with Australia. I do not think that the Government intends to work any longer through the Parliament, and because of that I submit that it has not justified this hill.
.- Had I known that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) intended to rise immediately I should not have risen. I consider that there is some justification for a measure of this kind particularly in view of the facts that have been made available to the House during the last few weeks. We must appreciate that the responsibilities which fall on members of the Cabinet are increasing all the time. I have offered criticism in the House in relation to the increase of the Public Service, but in relation to the business undertakings of the Government an increase has become essential. The increase of the population has brought about a substantial increase of the number of services rendered by the Postal Department, for example. Therefore the staff has had to be increased. Having been Postmaster-General yourself, Mr. Speaker, you will understand that, although when you were administering the Postal Department it did not take up much of your time, nevertheless at the present time, because of its greatly expanded services, it must occupy a good deal of the time of the PostmasterGeneral. Whereas in years past it was possible to amalgamate the position of Postmaster-General with the administration of one or two other departments, to-day it makes more demands on the Minister’s time. Whilst there may be a possibility of reducing1 public service, at the present time, in view of the increasing responsibilities of the Government there is some justification for this increase of the number of Ministers. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) discussed the matter of the re-allocation of duties. There may be something to be said in favour of that being done, but I believe that the Government is the best judge of its practicability. The responsibility of making a decision is not one that private members can assume. In regard to the increased allocation of money stated in the bill, from £27,650 to £29,000, I think every honorable member will agree’ that the additional £1,350 is in no way exceptional. If we divide this £29,000 by the number of Ministers, it is hard to perceive that the remuneration is adequate. I believe that those who render services to the community should receive remuneration commensurate with the value of those services. Members of the Cabinet, who work very long hours and travel throughout the country, are entitled to something more than they are receiving at the present time in the way of salaries. There is considerable justification for the proposed increase.
It was ridiculous for the Opposition to criticize this bill. In the past, Labour governments have not hesitated to increase the number of Cabinet Ministers whenever they have considered such an increase to be desirable. They have proceeded to do so, despite criticism of their actions by persons inside and outside the Parliament. Having regard to the heavier responsibility of Ministers and the increased administrative activities of Commonwealth departments, there is justification for the proposal to increase by one the number of members of the Cabinet.
– in reply - I did not expect to speak twice on this measure, but I want to refer to, one or two points that were made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland). 1 shall not deal with the humorous passages in the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne, which were enjoyable, but I shall try to correct one or two especially outrageous misrepresentations of fact in which he indulged. The honorable gentleman sought to give the impression that we on this side of the House had opposed the establishment, on a statutory basis, of a Cabinet of nineteen Ministers, and had actually moved and voted for an amendment that the number should be fourteen. The honorable gentleman knows that both of those statements are quite untrue. Having taken the trouble to read the Hansard report of the debate that took place on that occasion, he knows that I said that my criticism of that measure was directed, not to the number of Ministers, but to the distribution of work. Nevertheless, he has sought to give the impression that I am now supporting a measure similar in all respects to one that I opposed previously. I should have been a complete fool had I advanced the argument that the honorable gentleman has attributed to me. I remind the House that it was under my own Prime Ministership that the number of members of the Cabinet was increased to nineteen.
The honorable member for Melbourne, in what I can only hope was a flight of imagination, said that the duties of a Prime Minister, with which doubtless he is familiar, are much lighter now than they were in 1939 and 1940. I happen to be the only man who can make that comparison at first-hand. I say that the actual volume of work that has to be done by the Prime Minister of this country now is at least twice what it was in 1939 and 1940. I speak as a man who has never lived an idle life. The fact is that some Ministers are more overworked than others. That will always be so. The duties of some portfolios are heavier than those of others.
– Some are better than others.
– And all men are different. I said in 1946 that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs in the government of that day were grossly overworked. It is still true to say that Ministers are overworked. After ten or eleven years’ experience of a Cabinet of nineteen Ministers, I do not think anybody really imagines that there is something strange in a proposal to have one more Minister. Certainly nobody who knows anything about the matter would complain about that. Nobody can take exception to the proposal on the ground that it will involve a trivial addition to the cost of the Cabinet fund. It ought to be understood throughout the country that Cabinet Ministers, having regard to the work that they do, are the most underpaid men in Australia. It would come rather as a surprise to many people to learn that the Prime Minister of this country is paid somewhat less than is the manager of a department store in a suburb. It would come as a great surprise to many people to discover that there is not one Minister sitting under me in this Government who is paid as much as the permanent head of his department is paid. We need not worry about the addition to the Cabinet fund.
The honorable member for Warringah and one honorable gentleman opposite advanced what struck me as a most curious argument. I regret that the honorable member for Warringah is not here to listen to its refutation. It was that the appointment of a twentieth Minister would involve the establishment of a new department, hitherto quite unknown, and that it would then be necessary to recruit more public servants and to appoint a permanent head of the department, thus increasing enormously the number of bureaucrats in the country. I am sorry to disappointthose honorable gentlemen, but I can tell them now that the new Minister will be Minister for Air and Minister for the Navy.
– Tell us his name.
– The honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald) will hear it before he is much older. I am the only person who knows that name at the moment. The new Minister will be in charge of two departments, each of. which is already in existence and has a permanent head. Yet we have been told that the appointment of a twentieth Minister will entail an expenditure of millions of pounds. The Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) assumed the portfolios of Air and the Navy only until this bill was passed. So much for the fantastic and superficial idea that, because there is to be a new Minister, there must be a new department with a brand new army of officials.
It is true that, under this Government, two new departments have been formed. I did not hear any criticism of them until this bill was introduced. Is there any honorable member who really challenges the establishment of the Department of Territories? That department will administer the Northern Territory and the External Territories. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) will give to the people of those territories, especially the native communities, a degree of concentrated attention that they have never been able to secure before. Does anybody really quarrel with those territories being made somebody’s prime responsibility rather than somebody’s secondary responsibility? I venture to say that there is complete approval of the establishment of that department. The Department of Supply,which had become, in terms of numerical strength and functions, perhaps the largest Commonwealth department, just had to be, in my judgment - and I accept responsibility for it - divided into twoparts, so that what I call the factory side of its activities could receive the concentrated attention of one Minister. Its other multifarious functions are more than sufficient to engage the full attention of another Minister The division of the Department of Supply into two parts did not result in the establishment of a new department, except in name. The persons who are employed in the two departments to-day were hut yesterday employed in the Department of Supply.
The passage of this bill will not mean that a new department will be established. There will be a trivial addition tothe cost of administration. That there is a desperate need for some relief in respect of these matters, nobody knows better than I and, I should have thought until to-day, the honorable member for Melbourne.
Question put -
That the hill he now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma ; progress- reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Ministers of State Act 1935-1947.
Resolution reported and adopted. hi committee: Consideration resumed.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 6 -
Section twenty-nine of the principal act is amended -
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections: - “ (3.) Without prejudice to the operation of any provision of any other law providing for the enforcement of orders or awards referred to in this sub-section, the powers of the Court under paragraphs (6) and (c) of sub-section (1.) of this section apply also in relation to orders or awards made in pursuance of a law of the Commonwealth other than this Act by a prescribed tribunal empowered by that law to exercise functions or powers of conciliation or arbitration (including provisions in force by virtue of any such order or award). “ (4.) The tribunals which may be prescribed under the last preceding sub-section include the Court, and the orders or awards referred to in that sub-section include orders or awards made in the exercise offunctions or powers other than functions or powers of conciliation or arbitration.”.
Section proposed to be amended -
– (1.) The Court may, for the purpose of preventing or settling am. industrial dispute, make an order or award altering -
the basic wage or the principles upon which it is computed;
the period which shall be granted as annual leave with pay; or
Senate’s amendment No. 1. - After “ to “, third occurring, proposed sub-section (3.), insert “orders or awards made by the Court under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949 (including orders made under section thirty-four of that Act) and”.
Senate’s amendment No. 2. - Leave out proposed sub-section (4.).
Clause 11 -
Section seventy-eight of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: -
” (5.) In this section ‘award’ includes an order or award prescribing, directly or indirectly, terms and conditions of employment and made in pursuance of a law of the Commonwealth other than this Act by a prescribed tribunal -empowered by that law to exercise functions or powers “of conciliation or arbitration, and also includes provisions in force by virtue of any such order or award. “ (fi.) The tribunals which may be prescribed under the last preceding sub-section include the ( Court, and the orders or awards referred to in that sub-section include orders or awards made in the exercise of functions or powers other than functions or powers of conciliation and arbitration.
Penalty : One hundred pounds.”.
Senate’s amendment No. 3. - After “ and “, second occurring, proposed sub-section (5.). insert “made by the Court under any provision of the SStevedoring Industry Act 194H (including section thirty-four of that Act) or “.
Senate’s amendment No. 4. - Leave out proposed sub-section (6.).
– I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
The Senate’s amendments are of a purely formal nature and add nothing in substance to the bill as it stood when it was debated previously in this chamber. The first amendment is of a drafting character only. It is intended to make clear beyond doubt that the powers of the court to order compliance with awards and to issue injunctions against breaches of awards extend to awards and orders made by the court under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949. The present clause was intended to enable this extension to be effected by regulation under the act, but doubt has arisen concerning whether the present wording is sufficiently specific. The amendment will extend the clause to such orders or awards without the necessity for the making of a regulation.
The second amendment is consequential on the first amendment to the clause. The words to be omitted were meant to authorize regulations extending the clause to awards and orders of the court under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949, including orders under section 34 of that act. This will now be accomplished directly by the new wording of subsection (3.).
The third amendment has the same purpose in relation to clause 11 as the first amendment has in relation to clause 6. It makes clearer the application of the proposed section 78 to incitements and similar conduct in relation to awards and orders made by the court under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949. The fourth amendment is merely consequential on the previous amendment of the clause.
.- When the measure was previously discussed in this chamber, the Opposition made it clear that it was opposed to it in its entirety. The Senate’s amendments seek to amend sections 29 and 78 of the principal act in order to make clear the powers of the court to order compliance with awards and orders made .by the court under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949 and to issue injunctions against breaches of awards and orders made by the court under that act. I repeat that the Opposition opposed the bill. It now opposes these amendments. We have said that the bill is bad. These amendments will not make a bad bill a good bill ;. it is still a bad bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has been delightfully vague. It is usual on occasions of this kind for the Government to indicate for the convenience of honorable members the approximate date on which the House will re-assemble. I suppose that the House will have to meet again this year, because Supply has been granted only to the end of October. Can the Minister let honorable members into what is a Government secret? Is the House to meet again as is usual about the second, or third, week in September to consider the budget? Or, is the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), because of the rising cost of living, in such a dilemma that the Government cannot say whether the Parliament will re-assemble until, perhaps, a week before Supply becomes exhausted ?
– in reply - The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) will be given every opportunity to air his views with regard to the efficacy of the Government’s administration; but the Government itself will determine on what date it will be suitable for the House to re-assemble. I assure him that the maximum amount of time will be made available to honorable members in that respect. It may be necessary for us to consult our masters before the Parliament will meet again. It is possible that business now before the Cabinet and circumstances associated with general world conditions will oblige the Government to fix the date for the next meeting of the Parliament subsequent to the occurrence of certain events. The honorable member need not worry about the matter. The Government has the position in hand and it will call the Parliament together when it considers that it, is advisable to do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to refer to the way in which the Government has conducted the business of the Parliament in the brief sessional period that is now about to close. Although the House has sat for only a few weeks in this year, the Government has ruthlessly gagged debate on some of the most important legislation that has yet come before the Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member may not reflect upon decisions of the House.
– This period of the current session has been most exhausting. The Government did not give to the House a proper opportunity to consider most important measures. I protest vigorously against the fact that at a time when the House could have been given an opportunity to consider such measures under normal conditions, the Government preferred to wear you out, Mr. Speaker, as well as honorable members generally, by obliging the House to sit on several occasions this week into the early hours of the morning. Apparently, the Government is afraid to let the light of day shine upon those important measures that it has forced through this chamber.
exhaustion caused by long sittings appears to be the paramount consideration in the minds of honorable members opposite I move -
That the question he now put.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act -
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations -
Orders - Inventions and designs (3).
Flax. Canvas Bounty Act - Return for year 1950-51.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinances - 1951 -
No. 2 - Post and Telegraph.
No. 3 - Coroners (Validation).
No. 4 - Advisory Council.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Attorney-General - L. J. Curtis, J.G. Siely, W. L. Thomson.
Civil Aviation - E. J. Kelly.
Raw Cotton Bounty Act - Return for 1950.
Sulphur Bounty Act - Return for year 1950-51.
Tractor Bounty Act - Return for year 1950-51.
House adjourned at 12.45 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Mr. Fairbairn ashed the Treasurer, upon notice ;
In view of the fact that the House will be rising shortly, and that during the recess the Treasurer will be considering his budget, will he give consideration - (a) to some alteration to the taxation law which would give an incentive to firms to introduce profit-sharing schemes by making some rebate to those industries which have acceptable profit-sharing schemes in operation; (b) to some alteration to the present taxation law under which, if a hospital, church, school or some other genuine charity runs a race meeting, the donations towards the meeting are not taken into account when the Commissioner decides whether the expenses have exceeded 50 per cent, of the returns, thereby deciding whether or not heavy taxation has to be met by the charitable organizations; and (c) to increase the reserve which private companies can set aside for the purchase of new plant, in view of the fact that the cost of replacing plant from overseas has increased enormously in the last few years while the reserves allowed to bo set aside have only been increased slightly?
e asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
-Fadden. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Mr. ANTHONY - .The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the PostmasterGenera], upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are &3 follows . -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 July 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19510713_reps_20_213/>.