20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER 1 (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– We have with us this afternoon, within the precincts of the chamber, a distinguished former member of the House, a very great friend of some, a stranger to none, and an able and loyal servant of the Commonwealth of. Australia. He is Viscount Bruce of Melbourne. With the concurrence of honorable members I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable MEMBERS. - H<ear, hear !
Lord Bruce thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– My question to the Treasurer refers to the rate of interest that is proposed for future issues of semi-governmental loans, and loans raised on the direct security of the Commonwealth. Will the right honorable gentleman give the House some of the information which has already been given to the press with regard to the decisions of the Australian Loan Council? Will he be good enough to understand that I am not referring to the confidential deliberations of the Australian Loan Council, but to decisions reached at the recent meeting of that organization about the rate of interest for semigovernmental loans and direct Commonwealth loans. That matter is of supreme importance to the people of this country.
– I have nothing to add to the official statement about the Australian Loan Council that was released by the Prime Minister.
– Docs not the Treasurer consider the House ‘of Representatives to be sufficiently important and responsible to be informed by him whether the Government of which he is a member favours a substantial increase of the rate of interest upon loans? Obviously, that matter affects industry and employment in Australia. Will the Treasurer make a statement upon it, so that the House can debate it at a suitable time?
– The procedure of the Australian Loan Council and the association of the House of Representatives with it has not been altered since the inception of the council. It will not be altered under this Government.
– (Supplementary to the question asked of the Treasurer by the Leader of the Opposition, I ask the right honorable gentleman to answer with “ Tes “ or “ No “ the question whether he supported or advocated an increase of interest rates at the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council?
– The honorable member’s question is like the ancient trick question, “ Have you stopped beating your wife?” I do not intend to walk into that one so easily. I want to repeat for the last time - because I shall not answer any more questions which require an answer that I have already given - that the proceedings of the Australian Loan Council were held in camera, as they always have been during the regime of this and previous governments, and the nature of those proceedings will not be divulged by this Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether in view of the very pronounced vote against the Government at the by-election held last Saturday in the electorate of Flinders, and of the fact that that election followed so closely on the Government’s decision to dispose of its assets in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the Government will rescind its decision and return these valuable assets to the Australian people? I assure the right honorable gentleman that my question is not intended to be facetious.
– The answer is “No”.
– My. question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. What steps have been taken - to establish an office of economic and industrial research, as provided for in section 106 of the Conciliation- and Arbitration Act? If steps have been so taken, when is this office likely- to commence to function?
– Some consideration ‘ has been given to that matter, but so far it has not been considered necessary to supplement, in the manner indicated by the honorable member, the information readily available to both the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the Government from other sources.
– In view of the report that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is to bc congratulated upon his accurate forecast of the result of the Flinders byelection, will the Leader of the Opposition consider the taking of appropriate action in relation to the same honorable gentleman’s remarkable prophecies about the basic –wage, the latest of which last week was that the basic wage would rise in the November quarter by 12s. a week ?
– I should have thought that the honorable member for Forrest, despite his daring, would be the last person in the House to refer to the subject of the Flinders by-election. The point made by the honorable member for Melbourne with reference to the basic wage has been made good. The cost of living in Australia is still increasing, notwithstanding the promise of the present Government to put more value back into the ti. The Australian £1 to-day is worth less than half of its value under Mr. Chifley.
– Application is to be made by the Japanese Government soon to become a party to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Will the Prime Minister say whether Australia is to be represented at the conference at which the Japanese application will be considered ? ‘ Who will represent Australia? Will Australia oppose or support the application by the Japanese Government?
– I shall be very happy to ascertain what can be said about this matter. I do not want to make a statement without having the precise facts before me. Therefore, I shall make inquiries and will supply an answer to the honorable member’s questions as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for the Army how many native battalions hu ve been established in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Are any addition:.! I units of a similar character to be formed in the territory? If so, where will they be based? Have the New Guinea defence forces undertaken regular patrolling of the border between Dutch New Guinea and the Australian territory?
– At present, we have one native battalion in training in New Guinea. I intend to visit New Guinea later this year or early next year, when ! hope to have the opportunity to examine representations that have been made with a view to increasing the number df native forces in training in New Guinea. The question of patrolling the area in the vicinity of the Dutch border in New Guinea is being considered by the General Officer Commanding Northern Command at present.
– By what right or authority did the Minister for Air purport to present the Queen’s Colour to the Royal Australian Air Force? Is this not an exclusive function of the Sovereign or her direct representative? Is it not a fact that, as a result of the Minister’s usurpation of this function, it will be necessary for the Colour to be presented again ?
– I presented the Queen’s Colour to the Royal Australian Air Force on the direct command of the Governor-General of Australia. I took this action after I had consulted the Crown law authorities in order to ascertain whether the Governor-General could, in fact, delegate his authority. I was informed that he had that power. Subsequently, I was advised by the highest authorities that His Excellency was fully justified in giving me his instructions. I fear that an attempt is being made to make political capital from what was a very difficult set of circumstances. Unfortunately, the Governor-General was prevented from going to Melbourne on the day when the Colour was presented because an accident had occurred to his aircraft. If the honorable member for Yarra sincerely wishes to obtain an explanation of this matter, I point out for his benefit that the Government regrets the circumstances that arose, but considers that the action taken was the best possible in all the circumstances. It was legal, and it was taken on the direct command of the Governor-General.
– ‘Some time ago I addressed a question to the Minister for Health that related to benefits to be made available under the medical benefits scheme to persons aged 60 years and over and he was good enough to inform me that the insurance organizations had made provision for such, persons. I should now like to know whether benefits in respect of such persons will be limited to Table A, or whether such persons can qualify for benefits under other tables as well ?
– Many of the major benefit organizations have removed the age limit altogether and some of them have also decided to enable persons suffering from chronic diseases to qualify for the full benefit. Regardless of the nature of the insurance for which persons qualify in the recognized organizations, the government contribution will be made in each instance.
– Will the Minister for Health inform me whether any restrictions have been placed upon medicines available to pensioners? Are those persons at present required to pay for all proprietary lines, or are they required to pay for some proprietary lines? Do the restrictions now include such everyday requirements of pensioners as standard brands of aspirin, A. P.O. powders, cotton-wool, lint, and so on?
– .The provision in respect of medicines for age pensioners, which, of course, was made by this Government and not by any previous government, includes, first, all the lifesaving drugs, and, secondly, any drugs contained in the British Pharmacopoeia. Nearly all the drugs mentioned by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, which are proprietary lines in certain forms, are contained in the British Pharmacopoeia, hut they must be prescribed under their proper names. If they are so prescribed they can be obtained by pensioners. There is no intention to put proprietary medicines on the list. In the past, that practice almost ruined Great Britain. I assure the honorable member that it will not be given an opportunity to ruin Australia.
– The Minister for Health informed me on Thursday last that hospital insurance organizations are vetted by a committee of officials. In view of the fact that the Government is encouraging people to join these organizations, will the Minister say positively what protection, if any, members of such societies will be given against mismanagement or unsound financial control ? Will the Government indemnify members in such cases, and ensure that their rights will be preserved?
– The committee that is dealing with this matter is very competent and is making all the tests that are necessary. The organizations that are approved have already been advertised, and will be further advertised in the future. They will meet their liabilities.
– Will the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General arrange for the department to notify honorable members, who make appropriate representations, at the time that the department decides to make a telephone connexion rather than three, or four, weeks after a grateful elector has thanked him for his assistance in getting a telephone installed ?
– During the brief period that I have been acting for the Postmaster-General I have’ been signing, so it would seem to me, up to 200 letters a day. If honorable members do not receive notifications of the kind to which the honorable member has referred prior to telephones being installed, the blame cannot be laid at the door of the department because it sends out such notices promptly.
– I direct a question to the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral and it is supplementary to a question that was asked by the honorable member for Darebin. Does the Minister agree that it is better to make connexions of telephones with as little delay as possible rather than to hold thorn for three weeks until he has had time to advise the honorable member who supported the application ?
– ,1 assure th« honorable member that the PostmasterGeneral not only connects the telephones as quickly as possible, but also informs honorable members who are interested with the least possible delay.
– Has the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General yet received information indicating the grounds on which a licence was issued to the Queensland Government to install and operate a broadcasting station on Thursday Island? If he has received such information, can he say whether the Queensland Government acted legally in using that station for the purpose of broadcasting political propaganda?
– The honorable member raised this matter on a previous occasion and, in the meantime, I have endeavoured to obtain the information that he now seeks. I have not yet obtained it, but I shall advise him as soon as I receive it.
– As the New Zealand Government proposes to send a parliamentary delegation to Korea and Japan next week for the purpose of investigating conditions, particularly in Korea, can the Prime Minister say whether it is the intention of his Government to send a delegation from this Parliament to Korea during the coming recess ?
– No consideration has been given to the proposal that the honorable member has just made, but without entering into any commitment of any kind I shall give it consideration.
– Will the Minister for Territories make representations to the Minister for Shipping and Transport with a view to having proper mechanical refrigeration for perishable foodstuffs installed on trains which run between Port Augusta and Alice Springs? At present, ice refrigeration is provided on such trains, but whilst this is adequate during the winter it is totally inadequate during the hot summer months. I am aware that this matter has been under consideration, but I should like to know whether the Minister has any further information to make available with respect to it?
– I shall certainly be pleased to bring to the notice of the Minister for Shipping and Transport the suggestion that the honorable member has just made. As the honorable member is aware, substantial provision for the rehabilitation of the rolling-stock on the line from Port Augusta to Alice Springs was made in the Estimates which were recently passed by the Parliament. It is possible that some provision can be made in the direction that the honorable member has indicated.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. It relates to the custom of suppressing private members’ day, which nas become a characteristic of thi.- Government. Would it be possible to mi bin it to the Standing Orders Committee & change of standing orders to provide that the right of private members and of iiic Opposition to “Grievance Day” cannot be suppressed in this House by the mere use of a majority?
Mi. SPEAKER. - It certainly would be possible to do that. If the Standing Orders were amended to provide that unanimity was required to dispense with private members’ business, that would overcome the difficulty that the honorable member has in mind. I shall bring the matter before the Standing Orders Committee at a meeting that I hope to call when the honorable member for Fisher returns to the House.
– In view of the fact that there are fewer unemployed persons per capita of population in South Australia and Western Australia than in-New South Wales and Queensland, will the Minister for Labour and National Service request the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland to stop their calamity howling-
Mi. SPEAKER-Order! The Minister has no control over the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland.
– I ask the Minister will he request those governments-
-Order! Questions must he confined to matters of administration for which Ministers are responsible.
– I submit that the Minister has control over labour and national service and, therefore, has the responsibility of doing everything possible to increase employment in this country. T ask the Minister whether he will take steps to request those governments-
– Order ! I have ruled that that cannot be done.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air. Is it a fact that a D.C.4 aircraft carrying 40 passengers and owned by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was involved in a serious crash at the Kingsford Smith Airport at Mascot last week? If that is so, will the Minister give the House full details of the damage that was done, the reason for the accident and any other general information that is available?
– I believe questions asked in this House must be directed to a Minister in relation to matters that are tinder his departmental control. I am afraid that the matter to which the honorable member has referred is notwithin the control of ray department.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Will the Government take the opportunity of enlisting the services of the American Bureau of Reclamation to design the Blowering Dam and incorporate in it the overall design which the bureau is at .present carrying out for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority? Will the Government extend to New South Wales the same conditions as those that it gave to Victoria and charge the full cost of the Blowering Dam on lines similar to the terms of its undertaking with regard to Jingellic? Will the Government treat this part of the Snowy Mountains project as urgent, and assure the people of the Tumut valley that no additional water will be diverted into the Tumut River until adequate storage facilities have been constructed at Blowering?
– The honorable member is converting into local terms, as the Premier of New South Wales is doing, part of a general application by the State governments that the Commonwealth shall find more money for State works. That is all that this means.
– -That is what the Government should be doing.
– The honorable gentleman who has interjected forgets entirely that in the last financial year this Government found for State works £155,000,000 - a sum roughly equal to the whole of the increase of taxation in that year - and that during the current financial year it is committed to find £.135,000,000 for the same purpose. If the .position needs to be re-stated, I say that in the history of the Commonwealth no Australian government has found so much from its own resources for State works as this Government has done. We are not able to add to it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Is there an ample supply of cornsacks for the coming harvest? Can wheat-growers arrange for the purchase price of their cornsacks to be charged against their harvest proceeds ?
– There is an ample supply of cornsacks for the coming harvest. I cannot say whether wheatgrowers can have the cost of their cornsacks charged by the Australian Wheat Board against their returns from the coming harvest. That matter is entirely within the jurisdiction of the board, upon which the wheat-growers have a majority of members.
– Can the Prime Minister give to the House any information about recent events in Djakarta? Is the inference that parliamentary government has been suspended in Indonesia, at any rate for the time being, the correct one to draw from those events? If the Government has not yet received any circumstantial reports on the situation, will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House as soon as he can do so ? Will he bear in mind the concern that is felt throughout Australia about the stability of a government which, only a few weeks ago, was repeating its unfounded and unreasonable demands on the Dutch for West New Guinea?
– In the absence of the Minister for External Affairs, questions that relate to the Department of External Affairs should be addressed to the Minister for Territories.
– I have been informed by the Department of External Affairs that the Australian Government has been receiving regular despatches from Djakarta about the progress of events there. To sum up the present position, the probability is that a cabinet crisis will be avoided and that order will be restored. Up to date, there- nas been no loss of life or damage to property. Order is still being maintained by the army authorities.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that the Department of Social Services has deducted from the pensions received by certain age pensioners a sum of £30 per annum, because the pensioners had recently received a payment of about £600 for their properties, which were compulsorily resumed by the Australian Government, and for which they are now also paying rent to a government department.
– I have no knowledge of any actual case such as the honorable member has mentioned. The legislation under which age pensions are paid provides for a maximum of income or of property that may permissibly be received or owned by a pensioner without his or her pension rate being affected. It would not matter where the income concerned was derived from, or how it was increased, because there is a statutory provision for the reduction of pension where the income or property is above a certain level. However, if the honorable .member has in mind any particular case in which he considers hardship to be involved, I shall be pleased to examine it if he will let me have the relevant details.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state whether the United States Government intends to place an embargo on the importation of Australian wool to the United States of America? If so, what action does the Government propose to take to protect Australian wool-growers ?
– As I have said on other occasions, the Government attaches great importance to the American proposal for an increase of tariff or import fees, or the imposition of quotas or other interference with the free entry of Australian wool to the United States of America. I am informed that -the American committee concerned has completed a public hearing on this matter, and will present its report to the President at an early date. The Government arranged that the Australian Ambassador to Washington should, at the earliest possible moment, present to the United States Secretary of State or his representative a note expressing the concern of the Government and stating its views on the issue. That action was followed at an early date by the presentation of a further and more explanatory note, which set out more fully the arguments that motivated Australian opposition to the proposal. The second note also drew the attention of the United States Administration to the agreement that had been negotiated with theUnited States of America by Australia at the meeting at Geneva in 1947 which drew up the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and expressed a hope- that no action would be taken that would deprive Australia of the advantage that was conceded duringthese negotiations, and for which Australia had paid by making quid proquo. The note concluded by saying that if the United’ States Government finally took any action designed to impede the entry of Australian wool to the United States of America, Australia would have to give urgent consideration to its position.
– When does the Prime Minister propose to make the statement regarding the appointment of Communists and Communist sympathizers to the staff of the Australian National University that he promised this month, in written replies to questions that the honorable member for Henty and I asked last month? Was the decision of the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University to vacate his post and accept the position of Australian High Commissioner to Canada connected’ with a. disagreement with the Government about such appointments?
– I can relieve the honorable member’s mind at once in reference to the last part of his question by informing him that the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University to the position of Australian High Commissioner to Canada is in no way associated with the matters that have been raised by him or by any other honorable member. I had hoped before now to make the statement on the matter referred to iti the last part of the question, but certain other matters have intervened and have prevented me from doing so. I shall make the statement at the earliest possible time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. In view of the fact that under the War Service Homes Act the War Service Homes Division may advance up to £2,750 to an exserviceman who is building his own home, why does the division, in some cases, advance only £2,000, and tell the exserviceman to raise the balance required on a second mortgage? Does the additional £750 in respect of new homes apply only to those dwellings commenced after the passage of the legislation which increased the amount of the advance from £2,000 to £2,750?
– The amending legislation did not have a retrospective effect. ‘ The new provision took effect from the date of the proclamation of the act.
– I desire to direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the tremendous revulsion of feeling against this Government, as evidenced by Several by-elections recently, and particularly in view of the devastating thrashing which the Government received in the Flinders by-election last Saturday
– Order! Is the honorable member asking a question or making a statement?
– He is just crowing a bit.
– I am coming to my question now. Will the Prime Minister petition the right quarter for a double dissolution in order to give the electors of Australia a chance to restore popular government in this country?
– The honorable member’s question is very interesting, but 1 must direct his attention to the relevant section of the Constitution which indicates the conditions under which a double dissolution is to be obtained. I shall have no hesitation in asking for one in the appropriate circumstances.
– <A single dissolution will be sufficient.
– The honorable member for Banks has asked a question about a double dissolution, so the Leader of the Opposition should not correct his follower too quickly.. So far as I am aware, the Senate has neither rejected nor failed to pass a bill. When that chamber rejects or fails to pass a bill, it will be given a second opportunity to pass it. If it still rejects or fails to pass the bill, we shall be able to talk about a double dissolution.
– The people have rejected this Government.
– Order ! T ask the honorable member for Phillip not to interject.
– In the meantime, I advise honorable members not to start crowing too soon. It is not a. good idea to do so.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that he announced on behalf of the Government that he proposed to fight the recent Flinders byelection on the Government’s policy and record? If so, in view of the decisive verdict recorded by the electors of Flinders, will he state whether the Government intends to resign, change its policy, or undemocratically cling grimly to office against the clearly expressed wishes of the Australian people.
– The honorable member for East Sydney is really a very remarkable man. I have been told that in his day he fought a few bouts in the boxing ring. How long is it since he came to the conclusion that because a man loses one round he should throw in the towel?
– Did the Prime Minister have an intention of accepting the verdict of the Flinders by-election when on the 15th October he said -
The rual issue next Saturday is whether you want the Government to continue in office.
If so, does the right honorable gentleman intend to tender his resignation as Prime Minister, or does he intend to support the move by certain Liberal and Australian Country party Ministers to depose the Treasurer in order that the people may believe that the Treasurer is responsible for the calamitous policy of the Government?
– I can understand the feeling of honorable members opposite. I do not grudge them their moment of triumph. It is true that the electors of Flinders have momentarily disapproved of the Government. The honorable member can extract what comfort he likes from that. It is quite true, and I tell him confidentially, that I propose to resign - but not yet.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether the Government has any intention of implementing the recommendations contained in the report of the Director of Civil Defence, who studied the British system of civil defence some twelve months ago, and suggested the adoption of the British system, with adaptations, to meet Australian conditions? If the Government does not intend to proceed with plans for an Australian civil defence organization, may we draw the inference that it, is satisfied that there is no likelihood of war in the near future?
– I must decline to become involved in an argument on a matter of policy, which is engaging the close attention of the Minister concerned.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. Prior to the recent appeal to electors in the Flinders electorate, which tested the popularity of the leaders of the Government parties, your name was mentioned a possible leader of a new government in ibc event of the defeat of this one; Would you accept such a position if requested to do so, or do you still regard the high position of Speaker as outside the realm of party politics?
-I shall deal with, that matter when it arises.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs to indicate the stage that has been reached in negotiations with the Japanese Government for the repatriation of Japanese war criminals now imprisoned at Manus Island? Is it true, as reported, that the Government has decided to agree to the return of these prisoners to Japan in order that they may complete their prison sentences in that country?
– I am not sure that 1 know the present position. So that I shall not supply information which is not up to date, I shall have inquiries made and will furnish the honorable member with an answer to his question later.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture able to state the conclusion he has come to with regard to the request and desire of Australian tobacco-grower3 that the proportion of Australian leaf mixed with imported leaf should bo 20 per cent., or as near ps the market will allow, as against the present small proportion?
– That matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who recently announced that the percentage of Australian leaf necessary to be blended with imported tobacco leaf to qualify the imported leaf for reduced duties would be doubled. The principal purpose of the request by the tobacco-growers was designed to ensure a more satisfactory sale of their leaf. I have been in consultation with the growers and the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, and have appointed a committee which visited all tobaccogrowing areas in Queensland and made a report to me. I have sent that report to the Queensland Government, to the tobacco-growers’ organizations and to the Queensland Tobacco Board. At present I am in communication with the tobaccogrowers’ organization and the Queensland Government with the object of ascertaining what steps the Minister for Trade and Customs and I can propose to the Government, and to the industry, as the best steps to be taken -to ensure a full and satisfactory disposal OI the leaf. It is the policy of this Government that all leaf which is suitable for smoking and acceptable to the Australian consumer should find a satisfac tory market.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture get the same experts who investigated the Queensland tobacco industry to investigate the quality of imported tobaccoes with the object of having all tobaccoes classified so that consumers will know what they are buying.
– No, that is not a matter that would come within the purview of the committee I appointed. That committee investigated the suitability of certain tobacco offered for sale as smoking tobacco, at the proper value of that tobacco. I think we may safely assume that the tobacco companies do not import tobacco that is not suitable for smoking. The value of the tobacco does not concern the Government, but is a matter for the judgment of the companies.
– Has the Minister for Defence seen reports of a speech on “bush fires by the member for Wollondilly in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales regarding the need to use parachute troops as “smoke jumpers” in order to locate and extinguish bush fires in their early stages ? Will he endeavour to adopt the suggestion as a safeguard against the anticipated disasters of the coming summer?
– I have not seen the reports, but I remind the honorable member that the armed services have made certain units available from time to time to assist in extinguishing bush fires. The suggestion will he examined.
Mr. -Daly having asked a disallowed question,.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, who is the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation.
– I have accepted the advice that he is not present.
– Will the Prime Minister tell the House who is the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation?
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation is Senator McLeay.
– Will the Minister for the Army consider the sending of a number of observers from the Citizen Military Forces for attachment to the British forces in Malaya on conditions similar to those that applied to members of the Citizen Military Forces who were recently sent to Korea?
– The officers of the Citizen Military Forces who were recently sent to Korea as an observation expedition were charged with the task of acquiring knowledge of the”3 latest techniques of warfare in use by the United Nations forces. The operations that are taking place in Malaya to-day have no relationship to activities and training with which the Citizen Military Forces are associated. Infiltration tactics are being taught in Malaya, and no good purpose would be served by’ sending Citizen Military Forces officers there. Australia has made a number of permanent Army officers available to help the British forces in Malaya in this work, and they are doing a good job. The Australian Army already has a knowledge of infiltration tactics gained during World War II.
– In view of the announcement that the Government intends to make £4,500,000 available to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for the purchase of aircraft, will the Treasurer make a similar amount available to . the three principal States under the war service land settlement scheme for the purpose of expediting their plans for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land ?
– There is no association between the two subjects. The States have already received their allocation of loan funds for the purpose of war service land settlement. The financial arrangement with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, to which the honorable member has referred, has not been concluded. A bill to deal with the matter will be presented to the House in due course.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House of the amounts that have been expended on war service land settlement in Western Australia and Queensland?
– I cannot supply the information off-hand, but ‘ I shall be pleased to obtain it for the honorable member. All that I can say at the moment is that this year the Australian Government has set aside a total of £6,800,000 for the agent States, compared with £676,000 by Queensland, £2,000,000 by New South Wales, and, I think, a little over £4,000,000 Ivy Victoria.
– What action does the Prime Minister propose to take in response to the request which has been made to him by the New South Wales Teachers Federation that he convene a conference of representatives of this Government and the New South Wales Government with the object of making funds available for the restoration of school building programmes in order to cope with the additional 24,000 pupils who will be enrolled at the beginning of next year, and thus ensure that the nation shall honour its obligation to provide adequate, well-equipped schools for children?
– The educational problem to which the honorable member has referred falls, as he knows, solely within the jurisdiction of the States. Therefore, the question comes down to the matter of providing money for works, and it has been adequately answered by my earlier reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Hume.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has been endeavouring to interest overseas* investors in the exploitation of Queensland coal-fields, particularly the Blair Athol deposit. Is a party at present; en route to Australia from Pakistan inorder to investigate the Blair Athol field ? Can the Prime Minister supply the House with any other information on the subject? The right honorable gentleman promised the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in August last year that he would investigate the position.
– On behalf of the Minister for National Development, I made a statement last week on the subject of Pakistan and the Blair Athol coal-field. I sent a copy of the statement to the Premier of Queensland so> that he might be informed on the matter.. The Minister for National Development has been in close personal touch with that Premier on the subject. If anything further can be said - and I doubt whether that would be possible because only a few days have elapsed since I made my statement - the Minister no doubt- wil put me in a position to make a further statement.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether there is any basis for the very strong current rumour that you and the Vice-President of the Executive Council are organizing a farewell dinner for the retiring Governor-General.
-The honorable member may rest assured that Dame Rumour is lying. 1 HANSARD.
Photostat Copies oi? Documents.
Debate resumed from the 17th October (ride page 3267), on motion .by Mr. Cat. well -
That the ruling of Sir. Speaker - given , on the Kith October ‘in relation to the incorporation of photostats nuri documents in the reports of Parliamentary Debates - be dissented from.
.- The story behind your ruling, Mr. Speaker, if I may briefly traverse it, is that on the 8th October the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser), in the course of a speech on the motion for the adjournment of the House, produced certain documents which he said were photostat copies of documents on a file in a department of the New South- Wales Government concerning certain transactions by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer). The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, without reading the documents, gave the House a digest of .their contents and sought the permission of the House to have the photostat copies incorporated in Hansard. You, sir, put the question to the House, and asked whether leave was given for their incorporation. You repeated the question twice and, in all, you asked three times whether the House gave such leave. The honorable member for Bennelong was the first honorable member to give his consent and no honorable member dissented. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro then tabled the documents. He did not read them. The matter rested at that point until the 16th October, when you, Mr. Speaker, ruled that those documents were not to be incorporated in Hansard. You said that the photostat copies could not be incorporated and added that the printed text of the documents could not be incorporated in Hansard. At that point I moved that your ruling be dissented from.
The position, that the Opposition takes in this matter is that the House is master of its. business and that the House having given leave for the documents to be incorporated in Hansard, it is not within your power, or within that of an officer of the House - and you, Mr. Speaker, arc an officer of the House - to alter that decision without consulting the House. If you disagreed with the action of the House, you should have communicated with the Government and asked that the matter be recommitted. However, yo: have exercised a veto; and we say that nothing in the Standing Orders gives the Chair the right to veto a decision of the Hn;3p. As the House has granted leave for the incorporation of these documents in
Hansard, you have no right to say that you do not propose to allow them to be so incorporated. The Opposition now invites the House to say that your ruling is wrong. If the Government wishes to recommit the matter it must make such a decision because it, only, has the power to recommit anything that affects a decision of the House.
– Is the honorable member speaking of the incorporation of the documents, as photographs, so to speak, Olof their contents in print?
– I am really relying upon the incorporation of the text of the documents; I am not concerned about the photostats. I do not wish to have the photostats incorporated in Hansard. The Opposition will be completely satisfied if the text of the documents is incorporated, because the honorable member for EdenMonaro produced the documents as part of his case, and in order to save time asked for the leave of the House to incorporate them in Hansard. He relied on the documents as forming a part of his story. For Mr. Speaker to say that not only the photostat copies but also the text of the documents shall not be incorporated in Hansard is for him to usurp the functions of the House. Honorable members can imagine what would happen if you, sir, or any other occupant of the Chair, were to say in respect of documents that are tabled by the Treasurer when the budget is presented and which, by common consent, are always incorporated in Hansard, shall only appear in Hansard in digest form or in a form that is satisfactory to the Chair. I am aware of the difficulties that arise in this matter. I recall that in 1940 the then honorable member for Corio surprised the House by asking for leave to incorporate a graph in Hansard. Although that honorable member was then in Opposition, the House gave such permission and the graph was duly printed. I do not think that a similar incident has occurred .since. I submit that the decision of the House in this important matter cannot be interfered with by the arbitrary action of Mr. Speaker. I remind you, sir, that, according to hoary tradition, you are the custodian of the rights of honorable members and should defend them against interference by the Crown, or agents of the Crown. We believe that on this occasion you have done something that the Standing Orders do not give you power to do, and something that none of your predecessors has ever attempted to do. If your action is allowed to go unchallenged it will cause difficulty for honorable members and even injustice to certain honorable members. The Opposition is not making a. protest in any party political spirit whatsoever. I should be prepared to make the same protest if it happened that the decision affected a Government mein bor. I think that you have done wrong in this instance and, therefore, I submit tuy motion.
– I should find some difficulty in supporting the motion of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in its present form because it refers to the incorporation in Hansard of photostats and documents. The matter, perhaps, is not of very great importance, but I shall offer my view upon it for what it is worth. The presentation of these documents arose out of a debate in which the contents of the documents and matters to which they related had been discussed, lt seems that no question of relevancy can arise. Since the debate was permitted it must be presumed to have been a debate within the Standing Orders. It would be undesirable that we should endeavour to settle the business of trying to reproduce material of this kind. We might have to have an illustrated edition of Hansard.
– With the right honorable gentleman’s photograph on the cover ?
– That would not be so bad ; I was thinking of somebody else. Mr. Speaker has said that he is not prepared to authorize the incorporation of the photostats in Hansard. My own judgment is in line with that; but that is not significant. The real question is whether the contents of the documents, not mathematically reproduced, but reproduced as the text, should be incorporated in Hansard when the House has given permission for the incorporation of their contents. Whatever one might think of the nature of the discussion that occurred, or of the nature of the documents themselves, if the House gives leave to incorporate the text of documents in respect of a debate that has been ruled to be a relevant debate, I should have difficulty in thinking that the contents could be excluded unless such a decision was made in conformity with a motion submitted in the House itself which had the effect of overruling that leave. But as no such motion has been submitted, my view is that the ruling is sound insofar as it refers to the incorporation of the photostats, but insofar as it refers to the incorporation of the contents of documents for which the House has granted leave the ruling should not stand. Mr. Speaker has made it abundantly clear that all he wants is the sense of the House, and that is the sense of it as I understand the matter. But the honorable member for Melbourne can see that if he is to enjoy such support as I am able to give him, he will need to eliminate from his motion the reference to photostats, because I would not favour their incorporation in Hansard at all.
3.36] . - After the House had given permission, at my request, for the incorporation of these documents in Hansard, you. Mr. Speaker, said from the chair that the reference was not to the incorporation of the photostats but only to the incorporation of the material that was contained in them. While I had hoped for the inclusion of the photostats in Hansard -and I had thought that I was seeking the approval of the House to do that - I accepted without objection your statement from the chair that the sense of the decision of the House was to approve only the inclusion of the material in Ilansard. I raised no objection to that. Your subsequent ruling from the chair that you would permit neither the photostats nor the material to be included makes complete nonsense of the approval that was unanimously given by the House. Also, it is at variance with your own statement to the House only two or three days previously. At this stage I have only a detached interest in the actual fate of these particular photostats and the material that is contained in them, but the principle that is raised by this matter is obviously one of importance to every honorable member.
An honorable member may be in the course of stating a case to the House. For the sake of saving time, and in accordance with procedure that is laid down, he may ask permission of the House to incorporate certain material in the Ilansard record without reading it in full. The House may give him leave to do s<> or it may decline to give him leave. If the House refuses leave, the only recourse for an honorable member is to read the document to the House so that the matter may be incorporated in Hansard in that way. Once the House has given him leave, an honorable member is entitled to assume that in putting his case the matter will be allowed to go into Hansard in that form. Any honorable member who obtains permission of the House to include material in Hansard would be very unwise to assume that such material will be so incorporated in the future if the precedent that is implicit in your ruling is established. An honorable member could believe that he had established his case by permission of the House and that it had been incorporated in the Hansard record. But on the basis of the ruling now in question, Mr. Speaker could rule at a later stage that the permission that had been given by the House should be set aside. An honorable member thus could have no confidence whatever in that particular provision for the incorporation of material in Hansard. The present provision obviously exists for some good reason. Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, would set aside the use of that provision.
You have given two reasons for your ruling. The first was that you would not set a precedent of allowing photostats to be included in Hansard. I am not taking any issue with you there at all. I am sorry that you have given that ruling, but I abide by it. Your second reason was that you would not establish the precedent of allowing material that had nothing to do with the business of this House to go into Ha,nsW&. There von set yourself against the will of the House. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has reminded you. and the honorable member for
Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) will remember, as I do, that you asked three times whether any honorable member had any objection to the inclusion of these documents in Hansard. At that stage you raised no question whether the documents related to material that was of interest to the House. Indeed, the whole debate related to the very material that was contained in the documents. Therefore, it appears to me to be the height of absurdity to suggest when the House has debated at length the contents of a document, and the whole debate has been around that subject, and when you have three times asked for leave of the House and obtained it unanimously to incorporate the material in Hansard, you should a week or ten days later inform the House that despite its decision, you will not allow that decision to stand. I should indeed be treated with great injustice if material that was essential to my case were denied publication in Ilansard after I had refrained from rending it because the House had approved of its incorporation in Hansard. In addition, the precedent that was established would leave the way open for every honorable member to be treated with equal injustice in future. To show the importance of this material to my case, I remind honorable members that the honorable member for Bennelong had questioned a statement, that I had made.
– Order! The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) must not go over that ground again. The question that is before the House relates to my ruling. It has nothing to do with the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer).
– Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, was that the matter that was contained in the documents had no relation to the business of this House. I am now showing that the matter in those documents had regard-
– Order ! The honorable member cannot deal with that matter.
– I suggest that your ruling is under challenge, Mr. Speaker, and that you should remain silent.
– Order ! I shall not remain silent. The honorable member cannot discuss the matter. He can discuss only whether my ruling is to be upheld or dissented from.
– Supposing that I put it to you with respect that you have ruled that the material does not relate to the business of the House and that that ruling is being challenged? You are now refusing to allow me to show that the material does relate to the business of the House.
– The reference was to “ documents “.
– I invite the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) to study the question that was asked by the honorable member for Melbourne and the reply that was given by Mr. Speaker. The Minister will then agree that I. am correct.
– I am reading from Mr. Speaker’s ruling.
– The Minister should read from the reply to the question.
– I am not prepared to create two new precedents.
– Order ! The honorable member must direct his remarks to the Chair.
– Does your ruling merely provide that the photostat shall not be included in Hansard or was your ruling to the effect that the material that was contained in the photostats should not be recorded in Hansard? The Minister for Supply has now confirmed my statement that you were referring to the material. Since your ruling has been challenged and one of the grounds for the ruling was that the material was irrelevant to the debate in this House, I should be entitled to show not only how closely that material related to the debate in this House, but with what grave injustice I should be treated if that material that is so essential to- my case were removed from Hansard. I was the subject of many attacks from the Government side-
– Order ! That is not material. The attacks that took place are not part of this case at all.
– This is the case that I put to the House. The House will agree that when an honorable member who is under attack rests upon the confident belief that the House has approved the inclusion of material in Hansard and that he does not, therefore, need to reply to attacks because he knows that the inclusion of the material in Hansard will be his defence, he would be treated with injustice if, at a later stage, the Speaker ruled that he would not allow the material to be included in Hansard. That is very relevant, Mr. Speaker, and you should allow me to develop that point.
– Order ! I am not going to allow the honorable member to do so.
– As your ruling is under challenge, Mr. Speaker, I believe that you are not acting with the greatest discretion.
– Order ! I am not interested in the honorable gentleman’s opinion on that point.
– But I am addressing the House. This was your ruling and it is not you who have to decide whether your ruling was correct or not. The House will reach that decision. I suggest that the House is interested in the position that a Speaker whose ruling is under challenge should not take it upon himself to limit the ambit of the arguments that are used in contesting it.
– The remarks must be relevant to the motion.
– I suggest that when there is any doubt about the relevance of the remarks, the doubt should be resolved in favour of the honorable member who is presenting the argument. However, Mr. Speaker has ruled against me on this occasion. When the House has given permission for certain material to be incorporated in Ilansard, and when an honorable member has accepted the decision of his colleagues and believes that there is no need for him to read the documents in question because they will be incorporated, he should not be placed in the position that, at a later stage, Mr. Speaker, without referring the matter to the House or taking a vote upon it, can order the deletion of the material from Hansard. The House, to protect its own interests, would have to deprive any occupant of the chair of power to overrule a decision of the House that certain material should be incorporated in Ilansard, because the exercise of that power could affect any honorable member who desired to present a case to the House by the incorporation of material in Hansard.
.- It is true that the House decided that photostat copies of the documents produced by the honorable member for Eden-Mona.ro (Mr. Allan Fraser) should be incorporated in Hansard, but I believe that in doing so the House was in error, and did not direct its joint mind to what was involved in the matter. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has made the astonishing statement that he hoped that the photostat copies themselves would be incorporated. He hoped, in other words, that Hansard would contain photographic copies of documents. The absurdity of such a suggestion can be seen at once. It would change the character of Hansard as a record of the proceedings of the Parliament. The honorable member for Jiden-Mona.ro appears to hope that Hansard will be changed from a precise, unadorned and factual account of what is said in the Parliament, to a record of what is seen as well as of what is said. He wants photographs to be incorporated in Hansard. It does not help to describe them as photostats, because photostats are photographs. It is entirely a different matter to talk about incorporating the contents of documents in Hansard. <’ am certain that the House, when it agreed to the request by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro for the incorporation of photostat copies of documents, did not intend, by so doing, to change the nature of Hansard as a record of the proceedings of the Parliament. The honorable member demonstrated the absurdity of his position when he said to-day that he intended that the photostat copies themselves should be incorporated. Hansard is an unadorned account of the proceedings of the Parliament. I understand, that, in the distant pa=t. it was not customary even for commas or para graphs to appear in the Hansard report of a speech. That practice has been departed from to some degree, but every honorable member who has corrected a Hansard proof knows that in Hansard paragraphs are still very rare. It would be a complete departure from the settled practice of the Parliament to agree that photographs could be obtained from somewhere and bound up with the record. If the House had realized what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro really meant when he asked for leave to incorporate these photostat copies in Hansard, it would have rejected his application with laughter and contumely.
Your ruling, subsequently, Mr. Speaker, that neither the photostat copies of the documents nor the contents of the documents should be incorporated was made, if T understand the position correctly, in order to give the House au opportunity to get out of what was, quite clearly, an impossible position. To that degree I support your ruling entirely. If I may say so, it was sensible and wise to give the House an opportunity to extricate itself from an absurd position. The House should support your action in disallowing the incorporation either of the photostat copies of the documents or of the contents of the documents themselves, in order that the matter could be raised again in the House and discussed. It is absurd to suggest that photographs should be incorporated in the records of the House, either in this or any other instance.
It is the practice of the House on some occasions to allow the contents of documents to be incorporated in Hansard. But applications for leave to do so should be looked at with great care. We do not want the practice to grow up in this Parliament which has grown up in the United States Congress. If a member of that body, in the course of a speech, requests that a large pile of books and documents be incorporated in the record, that is done. We do not want the record of the proceedings of this Parliament to be of that nature. Therefore, I suggest that, in the future, any application for leave to incorporate the contents of a document in Hansard should be looked at with great care and, unless there be sound reason for the incorporation of the contents of the document, the application should be rejected. In this case, the nature of the documents produced by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro was very clear to the House, because the documents had been described and argued about at great length. The incorporation in Hansard of the contents of the documents would not have taken the argument of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro a step further. If the matter were to come up again for decision, I should say that the ordinary practice of the House should not be departed from and that, if the honorable member for Eden-Monaro wanted the contents of the documents to be incorporated in the record, he should read the documents to the House.. But it is a fact that the House, in its unwisdom, decided that the documents should be incorporated in Hansard. Quite clearly, the House did not intend that photographic copies should be incorporated. It must have intended only that the contents of the documents should be incorporated. Therefore. I am in complete accord with the suggestion that has been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), which is that the contents of the documents should be incorporated. I conclude by suggesting that, in the future, the House would du well to exercise great care before it consents to such a request.
– I accept the suggestion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). 1 ask for leave to amend my motion by omitting the words “photostats and’” and inserting in lieu thereof the words “the material contained in the”. The motion then would read as follows: -
That the ruling of Mr. Speaker - given on the Kith October in relation to the incorporation of the material contained in the documents in Parliamentary Debates - bc dissented from.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave must be granted before the amendment can bc moved.
– I submit that, under Standing Order 169, an amendment may be moved at a.ny stage.
-The honorable member for Melbourne, who has already spoken to the motion, has asked for leave to amend his motion. Is leave granted ? Mr. Beale. - Aye.
– There is no need for any honorable member to say “ Aye “. I am trying to discover whether the House is unanimous upon- this matter. Is leave granted ?
– Leave is not granted.
– Must leave be refused if only one honorable member says “No”?
– I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that you ask the House again whether it is prepared to grant the leave for which the honorable member for Melbourne has asked.
– There is no need to do so. Leave is definitely refused.
Amendment (by Mr. Haylen) proposed -
That the words “ photostats and “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the material contained in the “.
– I second the amendment.
.- I appose the motion and the amendment. I submit that the practice of incorporating, in Hansard, matter that has not actually been spoken in this chamber, is a very bad and dangerous practice. Hansard should be, and, in the main, has been in the past, a true and accurate record of what, has been said in this chamber by honorable members speaking to substantive motions or by way of questions and answers thereto. The development of the practice of inserting in Hansard matter that had not been spoken in the chamber, which would thereby be recorded as though it had actually been spoken, would open the door to a complete circumvention of the Standing Orders and matters which the Standing Orders prohibit would be incorporated in Hansard as part of the factual record of proceedings. I direct your attention. Mr. Speaker, to Standing Order 73. which reads as follows: -
No Member shall read from a report nf any Speech made in Parliament unless suein report is relevant to the matter upon which the Member is speaking.
That provision could be overcome by the simple procedure of an honorable member obtaining leave to incorporate in Hansard matter that would be a direct infringement of it. Standing Order 75 reads as follows : -
No Member shall reflect upon any vote of the House, except upon a motion that such vote be rescinded.
Again, by the simple procedure of obtaining leave to incorporate in Hansard matter that had not actually been spoken in the House, an honorable member could overcome the provision of that Standing Order and have incorporated in Hansard matter that would be in direct breach of it.
Standing Order 76 reads, in part, as follows : -
No Member shall use the name of His Majesty . . . disrespectfully in debate,
It has been suggested that it would be possible for disrespectful words about Her Majesty, used in a publication written by a person outside this chamber, to be incorporated in Hansard by the simple expedient of obtaining the leave of the House to have the matter concerned so incorporated.
– Order ! I cannot see what Her Majesty has to do with this matter. In what way is this connected with this debate?
– I refer to Standing Order 76, which states -
No Member shall use the mum; of His Majesty . . . disrespectfully in debute,
If your ruling is not upheld, Mr. Speaker, it would be possible for an honorable member to obtain leave for the incorporation in Hansard of matter, disrespectful to Her Majesty, that had not been spoken in this chamber.
– Order! I think the honorable gentleman might well leave that question to be dealt with if and when it arises.
– Standing Order 77 reads as follows : -
No Member shall use offensive words against either House of the Parliament or any Member thereof, . . .
Again, if the ruling were rejected, it would be possible for offensive words about an honorable member, used outside this chamber, to be incorporated in a document and possibly later be incorporated in Hansard and become part of the record of the proceedings of the chamber. I entirely support the ruling that you have given in connexion with this matter, because I believe that the incorporation in Hansard of matters that have not actually been spoken in the House is a most dangerous procedure. As I have said, that means could be used to circumvent the provisions of the StandingOrders, which provide that certain things may not be said in this House. The Standing Orders themselves provide the means by which they may be altered. It should be impossible to alter their effect by the simple process of giving permission to incorporate in Hansard matter that is entirely contrary to the Standing Orders. I contend, therefore, that the suggestion that you, Mr. Speaker, overruled the House in this case, has no real foundation. I believe that Hansard is, and should be, a correct report of the proceedings of this chamber. I consider that if it is found that something contrary to the Standing Orders has been incorporated in Hansard, by the leave of the House, you are perfectly justified in preventing its ultimate appearance in Hansard. The House is at liberty to alter the Standing Orders at any time provided it follows the procedure for such alteration that is laid down in the Standing Orders themselves. If, however, the House wants to give permission for matter not actually spoken in the House to be incorporated in Hansard, then it should do so by way of a motion for the alteration of the Standing Orders, and not by the easy procedure of giving leave to incorporate in Hansard something that honorable members have not seen, read, or heard of, and the contents of which no honorable member has had an opportunity to know. I strongly support your ruling, because I realize that any departure from the principle on which it is based would create a dangerous precedent and would enable honorable members to have incorporated in Hansard matters that are libellous, defamatory or are prohibited by the Standing Orders. I believe that it is the duty of every honorable member to uphold the honour and dignity of this House, and to ensure that libellous or defamatory matter is not incorporated in Hansard. Honorable members have no way to ensure that such matter is not so incorporated unless the Hansard record is limited to matter that has actually been spoken in this chamber.
– Order ! 1” have to raise, at this stage, one important point regarding the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I have consulted the Standing Orders, and I cannot see any provision for an amendment to a motion of dissent from the Speaker’s ruling. I think the House must either accept outright, or reject outright, a. ruling of the Speaker. It cannot say that it is good in parts, or bad in parts. To bring that point to a head I shall rule the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes out of order.
– Why do you not accept the amendment and help the House out?
– I cannot accept it.
– You do not wish to help the House out.
Mr. Haylen rising to address the Chair.
– Order ! The honorable member for Parkes has already spoken in the debate.
– I have merely moved an amendment, and I reserved the right to speak later.
Mr.Beale. - But the amendment has been ruled out of order.
– I wish the House to settle that issue first. If any honorable member wishes to move dissent from that ruling, he must do so forthwith.
– With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I submit that you cannot settle two motions of dissent at the one time. One motion must be disposed of before the other is considered.
– Order ! The rules of the House provide that an amendment shall always be disposed of before the original motion. When I ruled the amendment out of order, I gave the House an opportunity to move dissent from that ruling before it proceeded with the consideration of the original motion.
– It is too fantastic.
– I realize that, but it is not my fault.
.- Your ruling, Mr. Speaker, leaves us no alternative but to continue the debate on the original motion. When you ruled the amendment out of order, the Opposition was endeavouring to help the House in accordance with the suggestion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I submit that you, Mr. Speaker, have confused a simple issue. The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) has discussed the amendment and the original motion.
– I rise to order. Has not the honorable member for Parkes already spoken in the debate? If he has spoken in the debate, is he entitled to speak a second time?
– The honorable member for Parkes reminded me a few moments ago that he had simply moved an amendment and reserved his right to speak at a later stage.
– In order to clarify the issue and not to make confusion worse confounded, we accept the original motion submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The Opposition is prepared to vote on that issue. I hope that the House will treat this matter on non-party lines, and assert that the House has the right to be its own master. It is implicit, and, indeed, it is specifically stated in the Standing Orders, that a decision made by the House is a firm decision. The point made so cogently, and with an economy of words, by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) is that a revocation of a decision of the House by Mr. Speaker, and not by the House itself, is completely wrong. The Opposition’s case rests upon that basis.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro pointed out that the documents in question wore not only relevant to, but were the very nub of, his argument. He had quoted briefly from them, and then he asked for leave to have them incorporated in substance in Hansard. The substance of the documents was in photostat form. Apparently the House lias allo ed itself to be terrified by the mechanical processes of a photostat. T make it clear that the photostats are merely photographs of documents, and that the reproduction of the photostats is a quick way of having the typescript incorporated in Hansard. I do not know whether or not the House was fully aware of the implications, and now desires that the printed matter on the photostats, which could have been read by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in the usual way in order to substantiate his case, shall be published in Hansard. I do not think that the House would be in order in reaching a decision that would have a retrospective effect. Such a procedure, in my opinion, could not be supported by May’s Parliamentary Practice or by our own Standing Orders.
The honorable member for Sturt completely evaded the real issue, and the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) incorrectly stated it. The position was put clearly by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. who pointed
Out that, during the course of a debate, lie asked for leave to have incorporate;! in Hansard certain documents that related to the subject-matter of his Speech, in order to support his case. Mr. Speaker asked three times whether leave was granted, and there was no dissentient voice. Therefore, I contend that the House has consented to the incorporation of the documents in Hansard, and that such consent may be withdrawn only bv the vote of the House. However, the issue has been befogged by the suggestions that the incorporation of photostats in Hansard would destroy the true purpose of that publication, and that modern mechanical processes for the quick reproduction of documents are not acceptable to Hansard. The honorable member for Evans has said that paragraphs are not used in Hansard. I understand that a paragraph is used to indicate that an honorable member is beginning to express a new thought. Probably, that is the explanation why no paragraphs appear in the reports of the honorable member’s speeches. The situation is perfectly clear to the Opposition. The House consented to the incorporation of documents in Hansard. We are prepared, in view of certain difficulties of the Government Printer and those responsible for the production of Hansard, over the inclusion of photostats in relation to the form of Hansard, to exclude the photostats but to have their subject-matter printed in that publication in the usual way. We insist that the House reached a firm decision on the incorporation of the documents in Hansard, and that Mr. Speaker’s ruling is completely out of order.
[4.10J. - This matter has become confused, and my contribution to the debate will be for the purpose of simplifying the issue and trying to obtain an early decision upon it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has indicated that the original motion submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) cannot be supported, but that he in favour of the incorporation of th» material in the photostats in Hansard. T support that view, and I hope that my colleagues accept it. Mr. Speaker ha? ruled, and I do not suggest that his ruling is incorrect, that under the Standing Orders, it is not competent for him to accept the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). You, sir, have your own good reasons for expressing that view, and the House has accepted it. At least, no attempt has been made to challenge your ruling on that matter. In the circumstances, we must now vote yea or nay on the original motion submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne. My colleagues and I will support Mr. Speaker’s ruling, and will oppose the motion submitted by the honorable gentleman. However, when I make that statement, I do not want it to be thought that we shall oppose an attempt by the honorable member for Melbourne to present this matter in another form. At the moment, however, we are concerned with the motion on the notice-paper. I ask the House to reject that motion, and uphold Mr. Speaker’s ruling.
– I rise to order, and ask for your ruling, Mr. Speaker. Is it competent for an honorable member to submit a motion to the effect that the honorable member for Melbourne be granted leave to amend bis motion in the way suggested by the Prime Minister?
– Leave to do so was refused.
– Will it be in order for me to move that leave be granted to the honorable member for Melbourne to move such a motion ?
I should like to obtain clarification of a few matters that have arisen in this debate. At the outset, I point out that 1. agree with your ruling, Mr. Speaker, for the simple reason that since I have been a member of this chamber, const” t has been given to the incorporation of unread matter in Hansard in order to save time. An honorable member has only a limited time in which to make a speech. He may wish to deal with mon’ subjects than he can hope to discuss in that period, and in order to avoid the reading of matter, he may obtain leave to have it incorporated in Hansard. I contend that when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) obtained leave to have the photostats incorporated in Hansard, he had already stated, with tedious repetition, the text of those documents.
– How does the honorable member know?
-^! heard the honorable gentleman speak.
– But the honorable member did not see the photostats.
– The House granted leave for the incorporation of the documents in Hansard. I am sure that honorable members have only to read the speech of the honorable member for EdenMonaro, and the photostats, and they will find that he stated on two or three occasions in putting his case exactly what appears in the photostats. Your ruling is quite correct, if for only one reason. That is that the Standing Orders do not permit tedious repetition. When the honorable member for Eden-Monaro asked that the photostats be incorporated in Hansard, he was not supplying fresh information to the House-
– I rise to order. I suggest that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is criticizing a decision of the House.
– I am afraid that the whole of these proceedings have arisen out of criticism.
– I insist upon a decision about my point of order. If a vote has been taken-
– There was no vote.
– Then the general judgment of the House.
– No vote of the House is involved in the matter.
– Therefore, I suggest that your ruling, Mr. Speaker, is a ruling against the tedious repetition of matter already in Hansard. My next point concerns the attempt by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to change the whole context of the motion. You have made a certain ruling, and to change the whole ruling into something different and ask the House to vote on it is against my idea of fair play.
– I have ruled that matter out of order, so it is no longer a subject for discussion.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said that it was necessary that the photostats under consideration should be incorporated in Hansard, so that the word of the honorable member for EdenMonaro would be substantiated in Hansard. I am surprised that the honorable member for Parkes should consider that the statements of his colleague, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, need substantiation. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro had already stated his case, and surely his own colleagues do not believe that his statements require substantiation. I believe that your r.uling is correct, Mr. Speaker, and I am prepared to vote for it. I believe that you considered the physical task of incorporating these photostats in Hansard, and decided that in view of the work involved it was not practicable to so incorporate them. Moreover, as the Standing Orders rule against tedious repetition, I suggest that that matter was also in your mind when you gave your ruling.
Motion (by Mr. Beale) put - That the question be now put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.) Ayes . . . . . . 46
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Second Reading. Mr. McEWEN (Murray - Minister for Commerce and Agriculture) [4.32]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill embodies a plan to assure stabilization of the dairying industry over a period of five years, commencing from the 1st July this year. The plan relates only to guaranteed prices for butter and cheese, but the structure of the dairying industry is such that assurance of adequate prices for butter and cheese constitutes also an assurance that, through the forces of competition, dairy farmers who supply their milk to factories which engage in processing it for any other purpose will also be covered by the protection of stabilized prices. Suppliers of whole milk to the capital cities have the prices of their product decided by State governments or State government instrumentalities through milk boards.
As a result of circumstances which existed at that time, the dairying industry requested the Labour Government in office prior to 1947 to stabilize the industry. The outcome was a guaranteed price plan, which operated for five years until the 30th June this year. Whilst there was a great deal of controversy about the adequacy of the provisions of the Labour Government’s guaranteed price plan, the dairy farmers neverthless at all times adhered to the view that they desired the protection of a price return for their product guaranteed by the Commonwealth. The parties which constitute the present Government, when in Opposition, declared that, subject to approval of the dairying industry, and to the extent necessary, subject to acquiescence of the State governments, they would, if returned to power, assure stabilization to the dairying industry. The present Government has honoured that undertaking. In fact, one of the first acts of the Cabinet after being sworn in on the 19th December, 1949, was to announce that night an extension of the operation of the Labour Government’s guarantee, which, on the decision of the Labour Government, was to operate at the then existing level only until the 31st of that month.
Within a few weeks of the Government being formed, I invited representatives of all sections of the dairying industry to meet me, as representing the Government, in order to discuss what modifications should be made to the Chifley Government’s plan in order that the guarantee to the dairying industry for the balance of that five-year plan should be adequate and provide an incentive to maintain and increase production. At the same meeting, I told dairying industry representatives that, at the expiry of the Labour Government’s plan, this Government would be prepared to extend stabilization for a further five-year period, and that I wished to proceed to discuss with the dairying industry, and in due course with the State governments, the terms for a renewed plan, which would represent a real incentive to expansion of dairy-farming in Australia. As in the case of wheat stabilization, or any other similar plan which might be devised, the co-operation of State governments is essential.
Of the total production of butter and cheese, by far the biggest proportion is consumed in Australia, and the price at which these products may be sold is within the constitutional authority of the States to determine. Therefore, approval by the States of the basis upon which local selling prices shall be fixed is essential to any plan. On the other hand, the stability of the dairying industry is very importantly affected by the return received by farmers for that proportion of their butter and cheese production which is exported and sold overseas. If any government is to accept a responsibility in this regard, it, of course, must be the Commonwealth Government, and the plan embodied in this legislation sets out the responsibility which the Commonwealth proposes to accept during five years in respect of butter and cheese exported.
The United Kingdom Government, as is well known, does not permit the importation of most foodstuffs, including butter and cheese, except by the Ministry of Food. Bulk purchases by the Ministry of Food have, in many .commodities, including these, been embodied in contracts with the Australian Government. In 1948, the Chifley Government entered into a contract with the United Kingdom Government to sell, with certain limited reservations, the whole of the Australian exportable surplus of butter and cheese for a seven-year period to end on the 30th June, 1955. That contract is, therefore, still current, and continues into the period of this guaranteed price plan. The character of the contract, which today is quite unprofitable, affects the liability assumed by the Commonwealth under this guarantee, but, serious as it is, that is merely incidental.
The stabilization plan now proposed by this Government, and the bulk sale contract with the United Kingdom entered into by the Chifley Government, overlap in point of time, but, from a policy point of view, have nothing to do with each other. I hope it will be quite clear to those who criticize all hulk contracts that the continuance of a contract with the Ministry of Food, after this stabilization plan, is not a continuance because of this stabilization plan, but :< continuance because the 194S contract was signed to cover a seven-year period.
The broad character of this stabilization plan is to assure a return to the primary producers concerned of a price for their product designed to secure for them the cost of product:rn of their product and an adequate margin of reward or profit for their labour and investment. In pre-war years, the dairying industry operated under an equalization plan, as against a stabilization plan. The difference, which is quite important, is that, under an equalization plan, arrangements provide that, although the product may be sold in different markets and at different times for different prices, and, indeed, for different prices at the same time by different sellers, the returns overall shall be equalized with the dual objective of securing the same final payment to all producers and of avoiding destructive competition in price quotations in the course of pursuing sales. That is a plan, the merits of which are obvious, but in which the Government assumes no financial liability. As the Government assumes no liability, neither does the Government assume the right to control selling prices or actual transactions, wherever they may occur. In short, in an equalization plan, the industry manages its own affairs and completely free from government intervention.
On the other hand, a stabilization plan, in the common usage of the term, is one in which a government assumes a financial liability. This financial liability is related to a guarantee of a certain return to producers from the sale of their product, with a consequent stabilizing effect upon the industry. Because, in a stabilization plan, the Government assumes this financial responsibility, governments have also assumed an authority over the affairs of the industry. The general philosophy of the present Government is opposed to the exercise of rneb, controls and the extent to which they are exercised will be related, on grounds nf ordinary financial prudence in the public interest, to the Treasury liability which the stabilization plan involves. Such other authority over the affairs of the industry as would be embodied in legislation originating with this Government would be the outcome of negotiated agreement with the industry or conditions attached by the State governments in consideration of their placing the Commonwealth in a position to perform a function of price determination which, in ordinary circumstances, would be performed by the States.
In the course of my discussions with the industry on the details of the desired stabilization plan, I reminded the industry leaders that no stabilization plan yet devised for a primary industry had satisfactorily stood the test of time. 1 po’inted out that the restrictions upon complete freedom of action, which were inevitably associated with the assumption by a government of a Treasury liability, had, on past occasions, produced criticisms and resentment. On my own responsibility. I put it to industry leaders that they might consider, as an alternative to a rigid stabilization plan, an arrangement under which, maintaining equalization, they should be free to sell within Australia at prices decided by the Australian Dairy Produce Board, and under which the Commonwealth’s part might be confined to making a simple subvention towards loss on export. Such an arrangement would have all the merits of simplicity and the maximum freedom from government control. It would, of course, depend upon the willingness on the part of the States to decontrol prices of butter and cheese, but, after all, the States have been willing to do that in other organized primary industries, notably the egg and dried fruits industries. Industry leaders gave this suggestion consideration, but decided that they would prefer the protection of a stabilization plan, notwithstanding that it involved an important measure of government control in respect of matters of great consequence to the industry.
Reverting to the proposition of a stabilization plan on orthodox lines, I think it not unfair to say that, by contrast with this Government’s approach, the political policy or philosophy of a Labour government is such that, where an industry seeks the protection of the Commonwealth Treasury, it is felt by Labour to be a legitimate quid pro quo that, in return for Treasury guarantee, the product of the industry shall be sold to consumers at a figure no higher than is calculated to sustain the existence of the industry on a low-standard basis. Indeed, it was the mean exactitude with which this protection of consumer interest was provided for in the Chifley Government’s five-year guaranteed price plan which caused great dissatisfaction within the dairying industry over the details of that plan, and, I believe, caused a contraction of the industry which it was supposed to expand. That plan, as is this plan, was related to costs of production. In respect of many factors the costs of production are ascertainable in the absolute sense, but for the purpose of government costing a primary industry certain policy assumptions have to be made.
During the recent war, when the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) was Minister for Labour and National Service, a dairy industry award, which provided for a 56-hour week for dairy-farm workers, was proclaimed. That award, under National Security Regulations, took effect as from the 1st July, 1943. This 56-hour working week for the dairy-farmer was carried on under the Chifley Government’s guaranteed price plan until 1952 while employees in all other industries enjoyed the 40-hour week. In costing butter production on the farm, overtime allowance was taken into account under the Chifley Governments formula only after a dairyfarmer and his employees had worked 56 hours a week. At the same time, the rate of interest on the farmer’s invested capital, under that government’s costing, worked out at 3-J per cent., that being the then bond rate of interest for Commonwealth securities. Commonwealth securities, of course, do not carry the risk of fire and flood and disease and drought. Also, the allowance on the farmer’s invested capital, even at this rate of interest, was calculated only upon the valuation of his herd, equipment and land on the basis of valuations prevailing in 1942. This illustrates a protection of the consumer interest in government costing which surely ignores not only all reasonable concept of the farmer’s entitlement, but, on broad economic grounds, also the fact that production must decline in an industry so meanly rewarded. That is what I mean by a mean exactitude in costing.
I recount these factors in explaining that this stabilization plan is not, compared with the expiring plan, completely new and different. It is not completely new and different because this Government, in order to ensure a more just return to dairy-farmers, lost no time whatever in modifying the terms of the Labour Government’s plan for the remaining period of its operation. There has been talk of dear food policy and cheap food policy. This Government embraces neither objective. Its policy is to ensure for an industry which comes within its jurisdiction a return to the producers that is designed to give them the same standards of living as are enjoyed by the rest of the community, believing that in, this way only will expanded production be assured. I am sure that workers who expect to have their wages automatically adjusted in accordance with movements of cost of living and general national trends, or merchants who expect to be able to adjust the selling price of their products in accordance with their costs of production, will not wish to deny to dairy-farmers an adjustment of their return that is related to a realistic calculation of the cost of efficient production. That is what this measure is designed to assure.
Of course, the cost of production in an industry that is so widespread and has so many scores of thousands of different producers is not uniform in all cases. The term “ cost of production “ means in this context the actual average cost of production ascertained after a field examination of many hundreds of representative farms. The very definition of the term “ average “ in this context means that for many the declared cost of production will be lower whilst for just as many it will be higher, than their actual costs. One part of the
Labour Government’s plan provided that in instances in which export sales realized higher than the guaranteed cost of production price, the excess realization should be retained in a dairy industry stabilization fund, which should be drawn upon to make good losses if or when export sales realized less than the guaranteed cost of production price. Under this provision, as a result of a combination of very low guaranteed prices and favorable contract sales, this stabilization fund grew to £4,000,000.
In 1950, I set about negotiating with the dairying industry modifications of the Labour Government’s cost formula, which would be more equitable and realistic. Great controversy occurred over the 56- hour week, while a 40-hour week prevailed in all other industries. I suggested to the dairying industry that it wm unrealistic to stipulate particular hours of labour for an occupation such as that in which the dairy farm owner involves himself. I put it to the industry that it would be better to cost on the basis of awards that were actually made and applied to employees, but that the owner-operator should, be treated as a manager. Then, recognizing his managerial status, the owner-operator should be allotted in the costs an annual salary, as is allotted to any other manager, but it should not be related to particular hours of labour as is done in the realm of management generally. This suggestion was accepted, and it was agreed that during the period when this new arrangement should first operate, that was as from the 1st July, 1951, the allowance for the owner-operator should be £S00 a year in respect of a 50-cow farm. It was f urther agreed that a standard of production for each cow should be accepted for a five-year period, the standard being slightly higher than the actual existing production, on the assumption that the industry by its own efforts and with the aid of dairy efficiency grants would move production for each cow on an upward curve.
The rate of interest allowed on the farmer’s equity investment was brought into line with prevailing security returns, not being at a rate lower than the farmer himself would pay on overdraft. For the purpose of this calculation farms and herds were revalued from the 1942 pegged prices. The revaluation was not to the level of high prices for land which have pertained in many actual sales, but in accordance with that currently used by the Commonwealth Bank for its own purposes. Without these, or equivalent, revisions in the approach to costing, the standard now allowed to dairy families, which is approximately £1,792 per annum, covering their labour and intereston investment, would have been approximately £4 a week lower. These and other details were acceptable to the dairying industry. The Commonwealth desired that since export sales would be made good to that level of costs, by recourse to the stabilization fund, the return on local sales should also be increased by an appropriate adjustment of the local selling price. The State governments resisted this price increase, taking the view that as the dairying industry had been guaranteed by the Chifley Government, which, however, was not in office when these discussions with the States took place, any adjustment of the return to dairy farmers desired by the Australian Government should be made good by subvention from the Treasury and not by adjustment of the selling price. The present Government was at that time subsidizing in the interests of local consumers the price of butter at the rate of ls. l£d. per lb. and it declined to increase that subsidy. The State governments finally accepted the Commonwealth’s point of view, but as they did not act simultaneously this Government, for a period of three months, actually paid a subsidy at the rate of ls. Hid. per lb. on butter, in order to ensure that dairy farmers did not receive less than what had been calculated to be a fair price for their product.
I relate these facts, not to rehash an incident, which was at that time of great importance to the industry and also a matter of acute political controversy, but. simply to explain that the basis of costing so determined is the basis of costing upon which this five-year plan commences. The industry had been placed upon a sound foundation prior to the expiration of the preceding five-year plan. For the purpose of this costing the Bureau of Agricultural Economics conducted the surveys. The authenticity of the field figures was checked by the Joint Dairying Industry Advisory Committee, which was a part of the Labour Government’s plan. This committee had originally comprised an equal number of representatives of the dairying industry and appointees of the Australian Government with the Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics acting as an independent chairman. During the currency of the plan while the Chifley Government was still in office prices control reverted to the States, and as the States declined an invitation to nominate a prices representative on that committee the Government’s representatives were in a minority. However, this did not mean that the committee was deciding the cost of production; its task was to report a finding, and the final decision has always rested with the Commonwealth. As an act of economic policy, the Commonwealth has been subsidizing the cost of butter and cheese to Australian consumers. This subsidization has been effected by a convenient mechanism through payments to the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee, which is a private company representative of the industry. This year, consumers are being subsidized at the rate of about 10¾d. per lb. of butter, but that is not actually a part of the dairy industry stabilization plan any more than the subsidy to consumers of tea is a subsidy to the Ceylon tea industry.
It is against the background of this mass of facts, and the division of constitutional responsibility - I refer to State power of price fixing - and out of the welter of political and industry controversy, that the proposals now before the House have been formulated. Briefly stated, these proposals are that for a period ending the 30th June, 1957, dairy farmers will be assured in respect of butter and cheese sold in Australia a return based on the cost of efficient production. For butter and cheese exported, they will be guaranteed by the Commonwealth that cost of production figure for an annual tonnage being an amount equal to 20 per cent, of the tonnage locally consumed. In addition to this, and for the purpose of increasing the return on any butter and cheese exported, which is not covered by the Commonwealth guarantee, the Australian Dairy Produce Board may have recourse to the amount standing in the Dairy Industry Stabilization Fund. That amount, when this plan commenced, was approximately £2,500,000. Should returns from export sales during the currency of this guarantee exceed the guaranteed price, such excess return would be paid into the fund to offset any prior or subsequent contribution from Commonwealth revenue in respect of guaranteed exports.
I draw attention to the fact that the Government guarantee does not necessarily assure that all butter and cheese exported will be covered by the guarantee. Had this plan been in operation last year, a year of low production, exports of butter would have been fully covered, in fact a substantial additional tonnage, if it had been produced, would have been fully covered. The present year so far is a year of lush pasture with every prospect of an export surplus high, judged by all recent experience. In that event, there will be a tonnage not covered by the guarantee but the very volume of production on the farms in such favorable seasonal circumstances will itself assure, averaged out, a highly profitable year to dairy farmers. This is quite apart from the help available from the £2,500,000 of the industry’s stabilization fund. It follows because yields per farm and per cow will be higher than the fixed yields allowed in the cost assessment, so making average costs per unit lower than they would be in an average season.
There are two very powerful reasons why the Commonwealth should not engage to guarantee cost of production plus profit on a tonnage unlimited. I have spoken on guarantee proposals many times in Opposition and as a Minister and to meetings of farmers and have always made clear that it would be contrary to all principles of public finance to commit the Treasury to guarantee without limit that one industry be assured of profitable return on an unlimited volume of production regardless of the circumstances of all other industries. If anyone should argue that this should be done, then I point out that in circumstances of a. depression this would not only be highly inequitable but would be bound to cause such a diversion of operations to the guaranteed industry that the guarantee would break down of its own weight. So in the case of wheat, we have always stated a limit to guarantee and we state a limit now in respect of butter and cheese.
There is, as i said, a. second reason, which is important at the moment. It is this : We are still selling butter and cheese to the Ministry of Food under the terms of the Labour Government’s 194S contract and are committed to continue to sell under that contract until 1955. That contract provided for annual price reviews without any obligation that there should be a price movement at all, but with a stated limitation that prices, if moved, should not be moved upwards or downwards by more than 1 per cent. The outcome of this contract provision is that we are to-day obliged to sell to the United Kingdom at a price about ls. per lb. lower than our current cost of production. The United Kingdom needs our butter and I have tried to persuade the Ministry of Food and the Ministers of the United Kingdom Government that if the United Kingdom wants more butter and cheese from us they ought to pay a price equal to our cost of production. In these representations I have completely failed, but at least the argument is valid, and might yet be recognized. If, on the other hand we were now to guarantee to Australian dairy farmers their cost of production on exports of butter and cheese, quantity unlimited, that would be a. clear invitation to the Ministry of Food to attach no importance as a production incentive, to the price they pay us, and our situation in negotiations would be hopelessly weak. In present circumstances, this long-term contract is a thoroughly unsatisfactory and unprofitable one for us.
To-day, it is fashionable in many circles to condemn bulk contract trading. I think it might be appropriate to offer some observations on this subject. The principal observation I offer is that as in almost every other business transaction, the test ought not to be whether it is good, or bad to have a contract but whether the particular contract under the particular circumstances is a good or a bad one. May I further offer the observation that, while this Government is strongly disposed towards maximum freedom in trading, it still holds the old-fashioned and, we believe, very sound view that the principal person entitled to a say in how his pi o erty should be dealt with, is not the government of the day, nor even the newspaper leader-writer of the day, but the man who happens to own the property. Subject to the general public interest, that is the test which this Government will apply.
Only a few weeks ago, I was waited upon by representatives of fruit-canners, not growers but the manufacturers and exporters of canned fruit. These men asked me to endeavour to negotiate for them a long-terra contract with the Ministry of Food. This deputation included representatives of the co-operative canneries but also included representatives of the biggest proprietary fruit-canners in Australia. If they join with the cooperatives and other proprietary manufacturers in deciding that their businessinterests would be much better served by a long-term contract with the Ministry of Food, than by taking the risks of open trading, then I would concede that their business judgment is more likely to be better than that of self-appointed experts who, with nothing at stake themselves, declaim with great force on this subject.
To revert to this dairy contract, experience has shown that it is a bad one, but I would not be telling the full story if I did not concede that it is possible that we would be no better off without it and conceivably could be worse off. That statement may be a shock to many listeners. Last year, in London, I tried desperately to persuade the Ministry of Food to depart from the 7-i per cent, limitation as indeed I had succeeded in persuading the Ministry of Food a year earlier in regard to the egg contract. I had, of course, equipped myself well with the facts before raising this issue. The Minister for Food, then Mr. Webb, gave me the retort which I expected him to employ. It was this, that he felt that he would not. be able to explain or defend increasing the price to Australia without giving a comparable increase to the other principal suppliers, New Zealand and Denmark, whose prices were then comparable with ours. He produced figures to show that if giving the cost of production figure to Australia involved giving the same price increase to all other suppliers to the United Kingdom, then the extra cost to the United Kingdom would be at the rate of £21,000,000 sterling for that one year. I then asked to be released from a contract which had become onerous, so that we could at least be free to sell our butter at the best price we could obtain anywhere in the world. In view of the stringency of the British butter ration, the United Kingdom Government was not prepared to release us from the contract but I did secure a substantial increase in the quantity of butter we should be free to sell elsewhere. The total was increased to 15,000 tons for that year.
I then went to Washington - the United States of America has an embargo against our butter and cheese- and received the most sympathetic reaction to my proposal that the United States of America should buy a substantial tonnage of our butter for use by her troops overseas. Subsequently, however, it was made clear that the pressure of the domestic policies of the United States of America made it impossible for this to be effected. Since then, the Australian Dairy Produce Board, individual traders and the Trade Promotion Section of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and its trade commissioners throughout the world have been unceasing in their efforts to effect sales of butter within the permitted free quota at prices higher than the United Kingdom contract. The end result has been that we were unable to find buyers anywhere in the world last year to take the whole 15,000 tons that we were free to sell. Or, put another way, it was made clear that, beyond very strict limitations, the United Kingdom is, as it always has been, the only market in the world willing to absorb all of our surplus butter and cheese. In fact, that is just, as much the position in regard to our meat and our eggs and our dried fruit and our canned fruit and our fresh fruit and various other products. So, if the Ministry of Food were willing to tear up this contract to-day, we would not bo better off unless the Ministry of Food was then prepared to pay us a higher price than New Zealand and other principal suppliers. New Zealand shows no signs of demanding measurably higher prices from the United Kingdom.
Of course, if the United Kingdom were itself to cease bulk buying by the Ministry of Food and throw its import trade open to trader to trader business, higher prices might well ensue, but that, is a. matter of domestic policy of the United Kingdom. The considerations at issue there, are the maintenance of coupon rationing and the equalization of prices to their consumers, where different prices are paid to different suppliers. The western continental countries avoid all this complication and their meat and butter in most cases are unrationed by coupons. However, coupon rationing in such cases is replaced by price rationing. The wealthy may have as much meat and butter as they like, at a price; the poor go without. In England the rich and the poor are on the same ration and the continuance of the bulk purchase policies of the United Kingdom Government are related to that factor of rationing. That is all somewhat away from the particular details of this present dairy stabilization plan, but it is not at all away from the factors which bear upon the future of the Australian dairying industry in the circumstances that the United Kingdom constitutes its only bulk market.
There is one lesson in all of this. That is, it is highly unsatisfactory that the costs of production in Australia are such that we are no longer price competitive with our principal competitors. An industry which relies on treasury subventions to sustain it, cannot ever feel thoroughly secure. Beal security in the long run for the Australian dairying industry is to be found, not in government guarantees. It is to be found in the new and higher standard of efficiency reducing costs of production, which will once again enable us to be price compete ti ve in the world’s market and still provide that standard of living we desire for the dairy-farmer. There is no doubt that there is quite considerable scope for higher efficiency on the level of the personal factor in Australian dairy farm operations but there are tremendously important aspects affecting this issue of efficiency which cannot be resolved by the individual dairy farmer. There are problems of disease and animal nutrition : problems of pasture development and management; problems of correcting deficiencies in certain soils and of fertilization; and problems, particularly in Western Australia, of establishing through expensive clearing, units of production more economic in size. All of
I hose problems are much more the responsibility of higher organizations than of the dairy-farmer himself. State governments and the Australian Government must combine to plan and work quickly to resolve these problems. I am bound to say that, from my observation, the universities of this great primary producing country contribute far less to these problems of primary industry than do the universities of other countries.
– That may be so. The Commonwealth, this year, has voted £200,000 in addition to money already available to step up the extension services - that is, the conveyance of the latest scientific and technological knowledge to the farmers.
– The Labour party gave £.1.55,000 in five years to the dairying industry alone.
– That is being continued. This is in addition to that. I hope the States will contribute additionally towards the same objective. The industries themselves ought to contribute. The dairying industry has recognized this. The Australian Dairy Produce Board, from its own funds, has contributed and continues to contribute both to research and to extension work. I hope that the prospect of stability, which this measure holds out to the industry, will be regarded as justifying a continuation of contributions by the industry for the solution of its own problems.
A guaranteed price plan such as this does not depend upon Commonwealth legislation. In fact, the Chifley Government’s plan was operated for five years without any Commonwealth legislation in regard to the plan as such. However, the dairying industry, quite understandably, held the view that the absence of legislation left it open to doubt whether the guarantee could be relied upon. This Government wishes to put beyond doubt the duration of this five-year guarantee. It will be found on reference to the bill, however, that, for the reasons that I have mentioned, the clauses do not provide for the whole series of provisions in the plan that I have described. The character of the plan is found in the preamble to the bill. The actual clauses of the bill make provision for the payment as bounty of those Treasury obligations assumed under this stabilization plan. On the other hand, the Commonwealth at all times has made it quite clear that it will not assume this guarantee obligation in circumstances in which action by the State governments could produce unpredictable Commonwealth Treasury liabilities. Indeed, failure by the Chifley Government to foresee that possibility involved the Commonwealth Treasury in an expenditure of many millions of pounds. Therefore, as an integral part of this plan, the State governments have engaged to modify their price-fixing laws or regulations, as the case may be, in such a manner as to enable the Commonwealth Government, during the period of its assumed liability, to determine the ex factory price of butter and cheese for sale in Australia. There is one final point. No State government or parliament could bind its successors, and if some . State government should deprive the Commonwealth, during its .period of guarantee, of authority to determine the ex factory price of butter and cheese, in that circumstance the Commonwealth guarantee would terminate. That is clearly understood by each of the State governments and by the industry, and is stated in the bill.
T believe that this measure not only will honour an undertaking that was given by the present Government parties when they were in Opposition, but also will establish a basis for the real prosperity and stability of the Australian dairying industry.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 16th October (vide page 3286), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That, on and after a date to be fixed . . . (vide page 32S(i).
– The motion that I moved on the 16th October foreshadows a bill which has been made necessary by reason of a measure to amend the Canned Fruits Export Control Act 1926-1950. The bill proposes to amend the Canned Fruits Export Charges Act 1926-1938 to provide for the payment of export levies on the additional products which it is proposed to bring within the sphere of operations of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, namely, certain canned mixed fruits and canned pineapple juice. The Canned Fruits Export Charges Act imposes a levy not exceeding one farthing on each 30 oz. of canned apricots, peaches, pears, pineapples or fruit salad exported, and the amending bill will subject canned tropical fruit salad and canned pineapple juice to the same levy provisions. Levies collected under the act are applied by the board in defraying administrative and other expenses.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members will be aware of the unsatisfactory conditions which have existed in the shipping industry in the post-war years. These have influenced, to a. degree, the provisions of this bill. In 1942, the Maritime Industry Commission was established, by regulations issued under National Security legislation, to secure the adequate and efficient manning of Australian merchant ships and the improvement and safeguarding of the conditions of all persons serving therein. The membership of the Maritime Industry Commission has been representative of maritime unions and shipowners, and a governmental representative has also been a member of the commission. Since 1944, when the then chairman, Mr. Justice de Baun, resigned, in circumstances with which most honorable members are familiar, Mr. S. T. Edwards has been acting chairman of the commission. He has rendered untiring and devoted service in this capacity, and the commission has benefited greatly from his individual efforts and his wide knowledge of the industry. In the postwar years, the commission has had a range of functions relating to the employment of seamen. A tribute is due to the commission for its work in this field.
As will be seen, the bill proposes to preserve much of what the commission has done. Since 1947, the commission has not been concerned so much with industrial relations. Since then, industrial disputes in the maritime industry have been dealt with under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I think it desirable to stress that point, because from time to time the activities of the commission have been criticized, apparently on the assumption that it has a responsibility in relation to industrial disputes. Despite the efforts of the commission and of the arbitral tribunal, the shipping industry has suffered costly hold-ups, in many cases caused by petty industrial disputes and by the refusal of the seamen’s union to man vessels, often in defiance of the commission or the findings of conciliation commissioners. Statistics show that over the past two years industrial disputes have caused delays to 74 Commonwealth-owned ships, and 2S7 privately owned ships in the interstate trade. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has said that the appalling total of 4,237 ship days has been lost. The Government has concluded that a more closely integrated approach is necessary to maritime industrial and disciplinary problems than is possible through the Maritime Industry Commission and the normal machinery of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Government has, therefore, decided to establish, under the Navigation Act, machinery to deal expeditiously both with industrial questions in the industry and with the allied problems of employment of seamen and crew accommodation which have contributed materially to delays to vessels.
To this end, the bill rnakes provision for a single judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to deal with industrial questions in the maritime industry; for the preservation of existing orders of the Maritime Industry Commission ; and for the continuance, under the Navigation Act, of disciplinary provisions on the lines of those developed by the commission. A new feature which should prove to be of benefit to seamen is the provision of a right of appeal to the judge against any decision that would affect their continued employment in the industry. The judge will exercise all the powers of the. Arbitration Court in relation to the maritime industry. He may make orders and awards, and determine matters relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay or other terms or conditions of employment. On the pattern of legislation passed earlier this year, the judge may, if he thinks fit, refer matters to the Full Court, and shipowners or maritime unions may, with the approval of the Chief Judge, appeal against decisions of the judge. There are important advantages in having a single judge to deal with industrial matters in a difficult industry such as the shipping industry. I should add that the principle of committing such matters to the jurisdiction of a single judge was adopted in respect of the closely allied stevedoring industry by a Labour government when it introduced the Stevedoring Industry Act.
A3 I have indicated, the bill will pre serve the orders of the Maritime Industry Commission. Under these orders, a code has been developed by which seamen are excluded from employment if they receive three bad discharges, or are guilty of particularly serious misconduct, failure to join ship or desertion being included as a bacl discharge. Seamen are also required to serve a minimum period at sea each six months upon penalty of exclusion from the industry. The master of a merchant vessel is empowered to take a vessel to sea if it is short of not more than one-fifth of its deck or engine-room complement. Those and other measures have been exercised by the commission for some years, and have come to be accepted as necessary.
Other orders of the commission that ure provided for in this bill include an amendment of the form of the agreement entered into between the master and the crew, to include a statement of offences and the amount of fine that may be imposed by the master. Provision is made to continue the exclusion of seamen from the maritime industry who have been excluded under the orders of the commission. The bill will continue the commission’s order enabling a seaman engaged for a voyage to certain areas exceeding one mouth to make an allotment of his wages to relatives or to a bank. It will preserve the right of the commission to decide the wages to which seamen are entitled in cases of termination of their services by reason of the loss or wreck of a vessel.
Whilst the measures proposed in the bill are similar to the code developed by the commission, the administration of the measures will be exercised by superintendents of mercantile marine offices. Superintendents will be obliged to refuse to approve the engagement of a seaman who has received three bad discharges during the preceding five years, or who is guilty of serious misconduct, or who fails to serve a minimum period on articles during any six months. After six months, a superintendent may readmit to the industry a seaman who has received three bad discharges, but if he receives another bad discharge within the next twelve months he shall then be excluded from further employment in the industry. While superintendents will be required to exercise some discretionary powers in their administration it is intended that these will be strictly limited.
Honorable members will observe that care has been taken in the bill to provide that a seaman aggrieved with a decision of a superintendent may appeal to the judge. This provision should safeguard a seaman against the possibility of any injustice.
Considerable developments have taken place in recent years in the design of ships, and much improvement has been made in the accommodation provided on ships for seamen. Despite the good quarters and amenities now provided, disputes which delay vessels for considerable periods still occur. The Government has therefore considered it desirable to provide for the establishment of a crew accommodation committee on which shipowners and trade unions directly concerned will be represented, assisted by the expert advice of governmental shipping and shipbuilding officers. The crew accommodation committee will be empowered to make orders to give effect to its decisions on accommodation matters. Should an industrial dispute arise, this will be dealt with by the judge. There will be, however, no appeal from a decision of the committee on accommodation matters. The Government believes that, as the committee will consist of practical shipping men on both the employee and employer side, with technical advice available to it, its decisions on accommodation problems as such should be final.
The opportunity has been taken to repeal the existing sections of the Navigation Act that deal with crew accommodation. These are outdated, and the new provisions not only will provide for the committee to deal with crew accommodation matters, but also for regulations to be made in relation to a number of important crew accommodation requirements which are stated in the bill. Thus, at the same time as the crew accommodation committee is established, there will also come into force, by regulation, uptodate provisions relating to standards of crew accommodation generally.
The bill will also amend the provisions of the Navigation Act that relate to the complement of ships’ officers and crews. One of the most serious causes of delay to vessels has been the refusal of unions to complete crews, which in many cases have been only one or two men short. Whilst the Navigation Act provides that all ships shall be adequately manned, the bill empowers the master of a vessel to give a lawful command to the crew to take it to sea, under certain circumstances, short of either officers or deck and engine-room ratings. These circumstances, briefly, are that the ship has no fewer than four-fifths of its deck and engine-room complements and that, in the case of officers, the superintendent is satisfied that those remaining on the ship are capable of performing all the duties to be performed. I emphasize that the principles of these provisions are not new, but have been in existence on the coast for some years. However, the effect of the bill is to clarify the rights of the master, and the obligations of the crew to take a vessel to sea with fewer than the full number of crew, and to strengthen the position of the master in this regard.
I should mention also that the bill will amend the provisions of the Navigation Act that relate to obstruction or interference with officials or officers, and harbouring or secreting deserting seamen or apprentices.
Several minor amendments of a machinery nature will also be made by the bill. These include clarification of definitions, omission of out-of-date provisions relating to employment of aliens, clarification of method of computation of wages, allotment of seamen’s wages to banks, and the right of a union official to supply a seaman.
The bill represents an attempt to improve the machinery for the hearing and settlement of the varied industrial questions that are likely to delay the sailing of ships. A single judge of the court will deal with industrial questions in the industry. An expert crew accommodation committee will be provided to deal with matters of accommodation. The disciplinary code which has been developed by the Maritime Industry Commission will be preserved, and its administration through superintendents at mercantile marine offices is provided for. The rights of seamen will bc fully preserved by the provision for appeal by seamen to the judge against decisions of superintendents. The Government believes the provisions of the bill, when applied, will lead to an improvement of the operation and efficiency of the coastal shipping industry, and I commend it to honorable members.
– Would the Minister say whether the Maritime Industry Commission has been in any way consulted about this bill?
– I think it could be fairly said that the provisions of the bill have been discussed thoroughly with the chairman and the individual members of the commission. I do not claim that every provision in the bill is precisely in the terms as recommended by the commission, because I know of provisions that are not in those terms. Much of the negotiation in relation to the matter was carried out by the Minister who represented me during my absence abroad, and I do not claim to be as familiar with the details as he would be.
– I have been informed that the bill has been brought down without the commission having been consulted.
– By the time we reach the committee stage, or before I have an opportunity to reply to the debate on the second reading, I shall have consulted with my colleague and shall know what information I can give to the Leader of the Opposition on that point.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clarey) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 15th October (vide page 3139), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– The only point I wish to make in connexion with the bill is that the method of increasing the salary of the Auditor-General which the Government has adopted is clearly the correct one, and is preferable to having an annual appropriation made for the purpose under the Appropriation Bill which is brought down each year. The status of the Auditor-General is recognized under this method. The AuditorGeneral’s salary is to be fixed under the Audit Act, by decision of the Parliament, and is not to be subject to ordinary appropriation methods. That is the correct course to adopt in relation to such a high officer of state, a course to which the Opposition agrees.
.- This is a bill to amend the Audit Act, not in one particular, but to amend the act itself, and I am interested to know what has been happening in regard to the little contretemps between you, Mr. Speaker, the President (Senator Edward Mattner), and the Auditor-General. I wish to know why the Government has not done something about the argument, that proceeded for quite a time and ended in the Auditor-General sending some of his officers into Parliament House, seizing books and documents and leaving a message behind indicating that he would do it again if he thought it necessary. I believe that, after that particular incident the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had an interview with the Auditor-General and I understood that there was to be an amendment of the Audit Act brought down whereby an auditor was to be appointed to examine the reports, books and documents of the Parliament, and that he would issue a certificate that would have to be accepted by the Auditor-General. There is no provision in this legislation to deal with that matter. I do not know why the Government did not include an amendment to the Audit Act in this bill. Perhaps it was waiting until the Flinders by-election was over because it thought that the introduction of such an amendment a week or so ago might have a detrimental effect on the prospects of the Liberal candidate in that by-election.
All we are being asked to do now is to increase the Auditor-General’s salary by £100 per annum. I do not know whether that is intended to be a reward for defying you and the President, Mr. Speaker, or a reward for the Auditor-General’s efforts in seizing the documents of the Parliament without your knowledge, and certainly without your permission, to judge from your recent statement, and without the knowledge or permission of the President. I understand that the background of this proposed increase of the Auditor-General’s salary is that that officer was offered an increase of salary of £100 per annum, which was to be made by executive act, and he stated that he would not accept an increase of salary made in that manner, but that it would have to be given to him by statute. Perhaps there is something to justify his stand in that particular regard, because he is an officer who has been appointed to examine the expenditure of the Treasurer, and all government departments. Tie is not beholden to the Government or the Executive in any way, and makes his report direct to the Parliament. The salary to be paid to him is £3,350 per annum. I am not quarrelling with the amount of the salary to be paid, because, as things go to-day, such a salary is appropriate to his high position. lie certainly needs it because df the size of his very good, healthy and worth-while Australian family. He is certainly not overpaid when his salary is compared with the salaries paid to some other officers in the Public Service, and especially if it is compared with those paid to officers in other public services. I understand that the chairman of the New South Wales Public Service Board receives a salary of £4,500 a year plus an entertainment allowance of £300 a year.
– He is worth every penny of it.
– The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) is attempting to play on the gentleman’s name. There are people who consider that, that gentleman’s job is not worth so much money. I do not think that any State public servant is worth anything like that salary when the responsibilities of State public servants are compared with the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Auditor-General or the Chairman of the Commonwealth Public Service Board. The salary to be paid to him, however, is not questioned by us. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said that we shall support the increase of salary because the Auditor-General is worth it. However, I am more inquisitively disposed than my leader, and I wish to know what happened in connexion with all the negotiations and intrigues, the comings and goings of the Auditor-General to the Prime Minister’s office, and the rumours that we heard that the Auditor-General was to be disciplined. The only people who seem to have been left out of all consideration are yourself, Mr. Speaker, and the President of the Senate. The Government apparently does not consider that there is any merit in your attempt to safeguard the rights of the Parliament in connexion with the invasion by the Auditor-General’s officers and the seizure of documents belonging to the Parliament. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has treated you with scant respect. He might have included in this legislation the provision, that you have been longing to see, to deprive the Auditor-General of the right to come into this place at any time. As I understand it, you wish to see your position, and the position of the President, you and he being the presiding officers of this Parliament, maintained and respected. The Auditor-General did something which, I understand, has never been done before in the history of this Parliament. You have felt so strongly about the matter that you made a statement from the chair in which you indicated what you believe ought to be the position. The Government, however, has taken no notice of you. It may, of course, in the next session of the Parliament, if it lasts as long in office as that, bring down a further amendment to the Audit Act to include the provision you desire, but, up to date, it has brought down only this particular measure which merely sets the financial position of the AuditorGeneral right, but does not limit his powers in the slightest. It does not meet your position and it does not accord, I take it, with your views on what ought to be the relationship of the Auditor-General to this Parliament and its officers. Because the Government has left the matter in the air, I, for one, should like to hear from the Treasurer, or some other Minister, perhaps the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) just how far he is prepared to uphold your authority and whether he supports the Auditor-General in his forays against you, or whether he is trying to be neutral.
– Does the bill refer to that matter?
– I rise to order. I should like to know whether the discussion initiated by the honorable member for Melbourne comes within the scope of the bill, the purpose of which is to amend section 4 of the. Audit Act 1901-50-
I submit that the matter which the honorable member for Melbourne is discussing is irrelevant.
-Order! The acts involved in this proposed amendment are as follows: - No. 4, 1901, as amended bv No. S, 1906; No. 4, 1909; No. 6, 1912; No. 32, 1917; No. 23, 1920; No. 34, 1924; No. 18, 1926; No. 45, 1934; No. 52, 1947; No. 60, 194S; No. 51, 1950. So far as I can see, the proposed amendment is as -wide as the Sahara desert.
Mi1. Davidson. - May I submit, with deference, Mr. Speaker, that conceding all you have said, nevertheless, the actual amendment relates merely to a provision to increase the salary of the AuditorGeneral from £3,250 to £3,350. Therefore, what has been done in the past in this House or elsewhere is not within thu scope of the amending bill.
– Order ! My ruling is that anything affecting the AuditorGeneral or the conduct of his affairs, or any amendment which any honorablemember wishes to move to any one of those acts named, is perfectly in order.
– It is not strange, Mr. Speaker, that my mind runs along the same lines as your own on this matter. I thought that the position was wide enough to allow me to discuss the salary and the actions of the Auditor-General, and I have done so. I should like the Treasurer to inform, me whether he will overhaul the Auditor-General’s office in order that that very distinguished public servant may be persuaded to change the methods, so that his report will be presented to the Parliament sooner than it has been in the past.
– The AuditorGeneral’s report was presented to the Parliament much earlier this year than in the past.
– It still was not presented to the Parliament early enough.
– Goodness gracious, what more does the honorable member want?
– The Treasurer may have made some improvement and I suggest that if he remains in his present office much longer - and there is a doubt about that - he may persuade the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to tell the Auditor-General to present his next report much earlier in the financial year than he presented his latest report. The Auditor-General’s report is of great interest to honorable members, particularly at a time when expenditure is so high. We desire to know how the money is expended, and what the AuditorGeneral thinks about the way it has been expended. The report becomes available about the time when we are discussing the budget–
– Why did not the honorable member take action on this matter during the eight years the Labour Government was in office?
– The Treasurer will not be in office for eight years.
– Order ! Will the honorable member for Melbourne address the Chair?
– -I am doing my best to address the Chair, Mr. Speaker, I am just a little testy about what happened last Saturday. I should like to tell the Treasurer a good deal about the AuditorGeneral’s office. The Auditor-General queries expenditure in various ways, and there are times when he proves very difficult. He has a right to be critical. I consider that he should produce his criticisms, not in his final report, but in a number of interim reports to the Parliament. If he finds what he believes to be a breach of the law, or unconstitutional procedure, he should make a report promptly to the Parliament on the matter. We should not have to wait until his annual report, containing a long series of criticisms and commendations, is laid on the table of the House, because the chance is that many matters will be overlooked.
I am not giving advice only to the present Government on this matter. Perhaps I am forecasting what Will be done by the next Labour Government. The Parliament should have the opportunity to discuss the Auditor-General’s report. It may be necessary to amend the Standing Orders to enable such a debate to take place. But it is true, as the Treasurer has remarked, that for a long time, we have not addressed ourselves to any particular part of the report, and have ignored the fact that it has been presented to the Parliament. In my opinion, that is not wise. The Public Accounts Committee cannot do the work that the AuditorGeneral is supposed to do. He is supposed to be the watchdog of the people against the wrongful or the wasteful expenditure of public moneys. He has the bounden duty to report to the Parliament, and we should pay him the compliment of taking some notice of his report and recommendations. Perhaps in the difficult days of war, and in the transitional period from war to peace, we failed to do the right thing, but we should mend our ways in this period of tranquility and peace. As the Government has few, if any, worries to distract it now, it should give the House an opportunity to debate the value or otherwise of the Auditor-General’s report.
It is true that the Treasurer, when he was in Opposition, made statements similar to that which I am making, and that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) said even worse things when he occupied a seat on this side of the chamber. It is wonderful how people change when they are translated from the Opposition benches to the Government benches, and vice versa. I hope that now I have placed my views on record quite definitely, I shall help to translate some of those ideas into practice when I am, perhaps, a supporter, or possibly a member of a government in the not far distant future. However, I hope that the Treasurer will forestall me in the short period that he and the Vice-President of the Executive Council will remain in office. Both right honorable gentlemen cannot last very long as Ministers, although I wish them long life and every happiness afterwards.
.- I thought that the purpose of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was to delay the passage of this bill until the suspension of the sitting at 6 o’clock. Sometimes I find myself entertained by his remarks, seldom am I edified by them, and on this occasion, if I may borrow the simile used by Mr. Speaker, bis remarks were about as barren as the
Sahara desert. His only concern has been to waste the time of the House. He may think that because he is on the air to-night he should show something of his profundity, whereas, in fact, he shows the public something of his buffoonery.
This bill deals with one matter, namely, the remedying of a situation which has arisen wit h respect to the salary of the Auditor-General. The sole purpose of the measure is to remove that defect in the financial arrangements between the Auditor-General and the Government, by allowing the Auditor-General to draw his salary direct from a parliamentary grant, and not through the ordinary appropriation act. Every honorable member, who has given any thought to the position, realizes that the Auditor-General should not be dependent upon an annual grant; if he is to carry out the duties that have been prescribed for him. The suggestion that the Audit Act should have been amended in other respects is facile. The honorable member for Melbourne knows better than any one else that the matters which he has discussed can be provided for effectively in the Standing Orders. I support the bill, and hope that it will be passed without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time. In committee: The bill.
.- I thought that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) would have done us the honour of replying to my observations. I hoped that my remarks would bring to his feet the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who returned last year from Mayfair.
– I rise to order. I should like to know whether the honorable member’s remarks are relevant to the bill.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The committee has agreed to consider the bill as a whole. The comments of the ‘honorable member for Melbourne are in order.
– My purpose is to bring some Ministers, not inconsequential back-benchers, to their feet.
– I rise to order. Is it not a fact that, when a bill is taken as a whole, an honorable member must discuss a clause or a number of clauses ? That practice has always been observed in this chamber while I have been a member of it, and should be continued.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! When a bill is taken clause by clause, an honorable member must confine his remarks to the particular clause under consideration. But when a bill is taken as a whole, an honorable member may refer to any part of it.
– Another Daniel come to judgment!
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member may not refer to the Chair as Daniel.
– I hoped that some Ministers would inform us why they are dumping Mr. Speaker. This matter may be raised conveniently now that he is out of the chamber.
– Why did the honorable member dump him this afternoon ?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order !
– I did not dump him. Anyhow, Mr. Speaker is not being thrown overboard at the moment. Honorable members should consider whether or not he should be supported, and I think that the Treasurer should inform us whether the Government proposes further to amend the Audit Act during the current sessional period. I have not been able to obtain any information from any Minister during this- debate. Perhaps Ministers have been struck dumb. I shall not discuss this matter at greater length, but I hope that the Treasurer, when he has sufficiently recovered from the shock he received last Saturday, will tell us precisely his intention regarding the Auditor-General’s office in the few months he will remain in office.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 16th October (vida page 3283), on motion by Mr. Eric J. Harrison -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is a disguise that the Government is using to write finis to the tragic story of its neglect of the legitimate claims of Australian ex-prisoners of war. This bill is the end of a chapter about the Government’s treatment of the claims for payment of ex-prisoners of war that does not redound to its credit. Not only does this measure evade the issues with which the Government is confronted, but it also contains several misstatements. It is an evasive means of concluding what to all thinking Australians is a very sorry episode in the life of the Government. This measure is designed to provide that the moneys belonging to former enemies of Australia, including Japanese, is to be removed from the custody of the High Court and given as some sort of pittance to the ex-prisoners of war who have asked for a long time that they be given what they considered to be merely a fair payment - that is 3s. a day as subsistence allowance while they were prisoners of the Japanese. The bill, according to the Minister’s (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) secondreading speech, is misleading because it indicates that the 3s. a day was claimed as a hardship allowance and was accordingly declined by the Government. It was not a hardship allowance. The exprisoners of war insisted that the 3s. a day that they claimed was a subsistence allowance which had not been paid to them because they were prisoners of the Japanese. The Japanese had paid them nothing, and had given them less than human care while they . held them prisoner.
The bowels of compassion of the Australian people were moved by the plight of the prisoners of war, and despite the fact that payment of the subsistence allowance would have cost the Government less than £4,000,000, and that the claim of the exprisoners of war was legitimate, the Government refused to make any payment. Any average Australian who thinks about this matter will not deny the justice of the claim, but this Government will, in all, advance about only £1,000,000. Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds has already been advanced to ex-prisoners of war, and about £775,000 will be made available by the sale of enemy property and assets in this country. However, the ex-prisoners of war prefer to stand on their own feet. They ask only that their subsistence allowance, which is paid to a fighting soldier, should be paid to them for the time that they were in the hands of the Japanese. The Government’s debt to these men has not been discharged, and to-day this bill merely attempts to close the episode by providing for the payment of a sum of money which does not approximate to the 3s. a day that each ex-prisoner of the Japanese has claimed for the period of his imprisonment. The Minister attempted to evade the issue by saying that a committee had been set up to consider this matter. That committee consisted of Mr. Justice Owen - a famous officer who has since been knighted - Sir Stanley Savage, and Dr. W. E. Fisher. All honorable members know the findings of that committee, because they have been thoroughly debated in this House. The Minister said that the conclusions arrived at by the committee, including a medical officer who had been a prisoner of the Japanese, should be upheld. The Minister said that the committee found that there had been a general failure on the part of Japan to treat Australian prisoners of war in accordance with the provisions of the international covenant of 1929, but honorable members will recall that the committee was unable to find that there was a case for the payment of a subsistence allowance to former prisoners of war.
The Owen committee also observed that capture is one of the hazards that servicemen must face, and a claim for hardship money under those conditions was without, a just or logical basis. The committee also pointed out that the responsibility for failing to observe international law rested upon the Japanese. From the time the committee furnished its report, the Government has followed its ‘‘recommendations. Ex-servicemen have put their case quite clearly, and have stated that they did not ask for special repatriation benefits and did not want to be considered for hardship payments for all that they had endured in the line of duty. All they asked for was a subsistence allowance which had been wrongly withheld from them. In my view the committee came to a wrong conclusion, and there the matter stands. The Minister has attempted to imply that the amounts claimed by the ex-prisoners are in’ the nature of ‘hardship payments, but they are nothing of the sort. They are subsistence payments. The Opposition will not accept this measure in its present form. We agree that there has been, some niggardly attempt by the Government to do something for formerprisoners of war, but the Government has never shown a desire to measure up to» the responsibility that it faces; that is to pay former prisoners of war 3s. a day subsistence money. The report of theOwen committee was remarkable for other things. If in the distant past it was considered to be a good thing for a soldier to give himself up to the enemy in order to avoid further fighting, surely that was not the case in the last war. Some of the findings of the committee were completely unjustified, and were not understandable. One inference to be drawn from the report was that if a subsistence allowance were paid to. former prisoners of war it would be an inducement for soldiers in future wars in which Australia might be engaged to desert from the Army and become prisoners of war. The matter is as bald and hard and horrible as that, and I have always resented this implication. It seems to me that some sort of legal considerations have overcome humanitarianism in this matter.
Since the report was made the Government has taken the easy way out and has depended upon the report. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) indicated early in the piece that he would wait and see what the report contained. When he did see the report he decided to act upon it. The Labour party moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the payments to be made to former prisoners of war and urged that 3s. a day be paid to> them.
– - -Yes, that was when the Labour party was in Opposition. When in Government the Labour party did nothing about former prisoners of war.
– When the Labour Government was in power the position had not been fully investigated, but there was pressure from all sides of the House that the Labour Government should do something about it. I remember that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) asked a question about it once a day when Labour was in office, but when he moved across to the Government side of the House he became less vocal. The responsibility for dealing with this matter rests squarely on the Government. If recent events have not taught the Government anything then it is like the Bourbons - it has forgotten nothing because it will learn nothing. We are not debating whether this measure will adequately compensate former prisoners of war, who suffered more in the line of duty than any other servicemen, because that much is admitted by the Government. The only point in issue is the amount of the compensation to bc paid. Do honorable members on the Government side believe that less than 3s. a day is sufficient to compensate a man who spent years in Changi prison camp, while £50,000,000 is given to Krupp, who a rmed the Germans, the Japanese and the Italians so that they could make war on the democracies? When I was in Japan, 1, together with a delegation of members of the Parliament, inspected the Kure arsenal. Every second big gun in that establishment bore an inscription indicating that it was made in Dusseldorf by Krupp. All the heavy guns used by Japan were supplied by this monster in the trade of death. However, after the passage of years we are now haggling in this House whether an ex-serviceman who went through the miseries of Japanese prisoner-of-war camps should be paid the miserable sum of 3s. a day. In concert with our allies, we have agreed that the greatest criminal of the war, the armament manufacturer Krupp, after serving a sentence in comfortable surroundings, should be restored to freedom and given £50,000,000 as compensation. Surely any ex-serviceman who hears this debate to-night will wonder what sort of crazy world we are living in. Let my argument be answered by the Government. Let the Government prove that it is not logical.
The story of Malaya was the story of not enough time to prepare for the sudden onslaught by Japan. The armament manufacturer Krupp was pouring arms into Japan and making possible the onslaught that captured Malaya. Yet, as a result of all his activities against the democracies, he is to be given £50,000,000, while this Government intends to run out on its responsibilities to the exservicemen. This matter was mentioned in the House of Commons recently by the British leaders of the Labour party and the Liberal party, and nothing but execration was expressed by those far-sighted men about those who participated in this sudden change of front which released and rehabilitated this greatest of war criminals.
– I rise to order. This bill does not provide for money to be paid to Krupp.
– I think that there is a fairly wide field for debate in this measure. I do not wish to restrict unduly honorable members, and I think that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has been reasonably in order.
– I was pointing out how this matter must appear to exservicemen, their wives and the widows of servicemen. Those people are not fools, and if the whole matter has not been a ghastly joke, why not say so? Here we have an opportunity of paying some tribute to the prisoners of war, and we must take that opportunity. This Government, despite its protests, has always been mean so far as ex-servicemen are concerned. Many honorable members on the Government side of the House as well as on this side agree that 3s. a day should be given to each ex-serviceman who was a prisoner of the Japanese. They should express their opinion. This measure can do something, but it will not do enough. The Government must pay the minimum-
– It will do.
– The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) will remember that outside the House he was extremely vociferous about this matter, but inside he barely raises his voice. Prom the point of view of honesty of approach to these matters, the Opposition is as much in the clear as are the Government and its supporters.
The bill is a collection of evasions. Its purpose is to authorize the acquisition of goods and property that are held by the High Court and the application of the proceeds to a fund for ex-prisoners of war. If the Government considers that the finding by the committee of inquiry that former prisoners have no moral or legal right to any additional payment is correct, why has it consistently continued to make small payments to them ? Obviously, its conscience is not clear. If the committee has reported that former prisoners should receive nothing, the Government should not pay anything to them. They should be treated in exactly the same way as the men who served from start to finish as soldiers of the line. They have overcome the hazards of war and they are at home again. That should be the end of the matter. Had the Government been starkly logical, there could have been some forgiveness for it. But, after it had decided that the committee was right and had taken the issue to a vote in this House, it immediately asked the Parliament to grant £250,000 for ex-prisoners of war. Why did it not decide to appropriate £4,000,000 and pay subsistence allowance to these men at the rate of 3s. a day without delay? It conceded that their claim had force when it acknowledged that some money should be paid to them. The amount of £250,000 was a mere dole, or hand-out. 1 do not know how it has been distributed, and I do not know of any ex-serviceman who has received any of the money. It is just another one of those “ hard to get “ funds, which add to the general frustration.
Even after that sum had been allotted, the Government still did not believe that it had done the right thing for exprisoners of war. It made its next approach to the subject during the negotiations for the conclusion of a treaty of peace with Japan. The original draft of the treaty contained so many provisions that were obnoxious to honorable members on both sides of the House that some compromise had to be made. Some of the negotiators, who are not now members of this House, proposed that the treaty should include some provisions, for the compensation of former prisonersof war. This idea came from both sides of the House. Apparently the payment of £250,000 had not patched the matter up~ Therefore, the Government’s representatives went to the peace talks to plead the case of the former prisoners of the Japanese. That proves that the committee of inquiry had not done what the Government wanted it to do. That is why I have revived the issue to-night. During the peace treaty discussions, the Australian representatives pressed upon our American allies the great sufferings of the Australians who had been held by the Japanese and said that they ought to be compensated. The United States of America, being wealthier than Australia and holding more Japanese assets, had already paid one dollar a day to all Tinted States citizens who had been held :is prisoners of war by the Japanese or !l.e Germans. The United Kingdom Government paid some money to former prisoners of war from the fund obtained under the terms of the peace treaty, but the payments so disgusted the recipients that one man posted his medals and the cheque to the British Treasury. As I have done to-night, he drew attention to the fact that £50,000,000 of blood money had been returned to Herr Krupp. That is a fact that the Government cannot evade. During the long-drawn-out peace treaty negotiations, Australia continued to plead with its former allies to insist upon the payment of compensation to Australians who had been prisoners of war in Japanese hands because, in the view of the Australian nation, they had not been given a fair go. Payment of compensation was promised in a halfhearted sort of way as a sort of lever to push Australia into acceptance of the peace treaty, which it had not been prepared to accept until that time. I believe that most Australians, like myself, would have liked to be allowed twelve months in which to consider every aspect of the proposed treaty before it was ratified. Now the Government, having considered the matter at further length, has produced the meagre result for which this bill provides.
Expropriated enemy property and certain funds are to be realized and the proceeds are to be paid into a dole fund from which payments may be made to exservicemen who were prisoners of war. The first payments will be of £32 each. This is a sad story. Goodness knows, plenty of money lias been wasted by this Governmnent on much less worthy causes. The expenditure of some amount between 3£*,O00,000 and £6,000,000 in order to pay subsistence allowance at the rate of 3s. a day to ex-prisoners of war would not be wasteful. The actual sum that would be involved has not been fully assessed, but it would not exceed £6,000,000. Let us make the decision and have done with it. The moral obligation to make the payments to these men lies heavy on our hearts and souls because of the sufferings that they endured when we sent them to war against a superior enemy before our preparations for war had been fully made. Eventually we took our toll of the enemy and victory was ours, but those who suffered most in the conflict were the prisoners of war in Malaya. They experienced such dreadful sufferings that 1 am sure all Australians who consider the matter would not give a second thought to the payment of £6,000,000 in order to provide them with an allowance to which they are entitled. This miserable jittering along and finding £250,000 here, by selling some Japanese goods, and some other amount there from another source, using the pawnshop technique, is not the way to deal with the matter. The Government has conceded that the nation’s debt to these men has not been settled and that some compensation is due to them. It would have been much cleaner, more decent and more Australian to have paid the debt in full by making one stroke of the pen. Millions are almost mythical in this Blouse these days, when we spend vast sums on projects that are infinitely less worthy than this, and the payment of a mere £6,000,000 would scarcely be noticed. That is the view that the Opposition adopts. Our debt to ex-servicemen for the service to their country that led them into the hands of the enemy will not be fully discharged until their just claim for payment of subsistence allowance at the rate of 3s. a day is met. It represents “ tucker “ money for things that they did not get. These men do not ask for charity or for compensation for the injuries that they suffered. They leave such matters to the Repatriation Department. They ask the Government to treat their claim, not as a request for compensation for hardship, but as a business transaction in which, up to date, the Government has not met its commitments. I ask for the payment of the 3s. a day that became due to them as serving soldiers. In fact, these men suffered a compulsory reduction of 3s. a day when they became prisoners of war of the Japanese. The Government owes a debt to them.
I am interested to note that the total amount to be distributed under the terms of this bill will be about £770,000. The assets to which it refers must be disposed of first. Eventually, the proposed fund will be formed. Realizing that the process will be slow, the Government has decided that, if and when this bill becomes law, a payment of £32 each will be made to former prisoners of the Japanese. That will be very useful, but it is not what the men demand and what appears to be their just due. What will happen to the rest of the fund? It will be like all such funds. Applicants for payments from it will have to climb marble staircases, knock on doors and interview clerks in order to establish that they are eligible for assistance. Payments will be treated as charitable hand-outs rather than as the discharge of just debts. I fear that the residue of the fund, as it slowly comes into the coffers of the Treasury, will find its way into other funds and that former servicemen will not be able to obtain aid from it unless they can produce evidence of extreme hardship. If, in the first flush of victory, we had paid our debts to the former prisoners of war-
– Why did not the. Labour Government do so? What is the honorable member’s excuse?
– Many other things had to be done at that time. Government supporters may rest assured that long and careful consideration was given to the situation of former prisoners of war. We were not like ex-servicemen on the other side of the chamber, who sit dumb and miserable whenever the Government does something of which they disapprove. The very term “ Liberal “ becomes anathema when such things happen. The Labour Government had immense reconstruction problems to solve immediately after the war, and it was moving slowly to a solution of this problem of exprisoners of war when it lost office. The yammerings of supporters of the present Government show that they know nothing of the facts. This Government, apparently, proposes to make a hand-out once in a while. No wonder exservicemen are disgusted with it. The Labour Government was not entitled to pay 3s. a day subsistence allowance to former prisoners of war without first carefully examining the ground of the claim. That is why it did not act precipitately. The service chiefs had advised against, it.
This Government, when it decided that the claims should not be granted, should have left the matter at that and been honest about it. These pay-offs that it makes from time to time are an admission that it does not believe in the Tightness of its decision to reject the claim. Now. of course, it will be infinitely more difficult to find ex-prisoners of war and dependants of prisoners than it would have been if the Government had acted promptly. The Government has declared that it will be liberal in its interpretation of the term “ dependant “. But what will happen? A board, or some other bureaucratic instrument, will analyse all claims. There will be no difficulty about determining the facts of some cases, but there will be many pathetic cases which will involve careful examinations and lengthy delays. All this trouble could have been obviated if the Government had acted smartly. The Opposition still holds the opinion that it held twelve months ago when this matter was debated previously. The trouble could have been avoided if the Government had made a down payment at once and had acknowledged its liability. It has refused to acknowledge responsibility for the payment of subsistence allowance, which the former prisoners of war consider to be their just due, and has evaded the issue by making smaller payments and trying to smother the facts.
Have we any right to debate this matter in this House in the intolerable circumstances that obtain to-day? If we1are to reward the men who won the war,we should start with those who fought in* the line and those who were captured and* incarcerated by the enemy. I do not blame this Government for the anomalous situation that has arisen in Europe. The fault lies with the entire process of thinking of the former Allies. They have subsidized to the tune of £50,000,000 our arch-enemy in the armament industry in two wars, who was Hitler’s stooge. But this Government quibbles about the payment of 3s. a day to ex-servicemen who were held as prisoners in Singapore. It must do better than this.
– Who paid the money to Krupp ?
-The honorable mem ber, who differs with his Government as often as he changes his shirt, would? not be accepted as an authority on that question. The point is that the bill represents a niggardly way of dealing with ex-prisoners of war. The Government is trying to sneak out of its responsibility by providing for the payment of only small sums to them.
This sloppy, nebulous, loosely worded bill has very little to do with the case. The Government does not know what to do with the amount of £770,000 that it expects to collect in the proposed fund. Therefore, it has decided that it cannot do anything better with the windfall than to make a distribution to exprisoners of war. Of course, there is nothing better that it could do with the money. My complaint is that it should provide an additional amount sufficient to cover the payment of 3s. a day subsistence allowance to these men. The misdeeds of the Government are legion and have been dealt with piece-meal already by the people at by-elections. If it continues to evade this issue, and attempts to justify its attitude by calling upon the solid phalanx of ex-servicemen who sit behind it in this chamber to plead its case, regardless of the rights of former prisoners of war, it will be dealt with in due course for having committed one of the most treacherous acts ever committed in this House. I repeat that the request was a valid request. The committee’s report was not fully sustained, and any government worthy of the name would have said, in effect, “That is a point of view, but we hold another; we shall pay to /these ex-prisoners of war what we ; think is due to them”. The Opposition is not satisfied with this shambles of a M.] that is pushed under our noses and in respect of which we are told that a bit of junk is to be sold on behalf of the Japanese and the proceeds are to be paid to our ex-prisoners of war.
– I rise to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– Yes. I am surprised that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) should have attacked me by saying that when the Labour Government was in office I persisted in bringing up this matter in the form of questions practically daily, but the moment the present Government came into office I became less vocal. The honorable member himself did not know that a subsistence claim at the rate of 3s. a day had been made on behalf of Australian ex-prisoners of war until I mentioned the fact in this House. Furthermore, since this Government came into office I have at every opportunity stressed the urgency of that claim. Even during the current session, as honorable members may verify by reference to Hansard, I have urged the Government to speed up the payment of this allowance. I am surprised that the honorable member should make such an attack upon me. Although I do not like to say so, I believe that I have brought this matter up in the House more frequently than has any other honorable member.
– I do not think that since I have been a member of this House I have heard more hypocritical utterances than some of those that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has just made. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and I have taken every opportunity to raise this matter. In 1947, the proposal to pay a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day to Australian ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese was fully debated in this chamber. I freely admit that the honorable member for Parkes spoke in favour of the proposal, but when the vote was taken he voted against it. That fact can be verified by a perusal of the records of the House. The honorable member for Parkes described the bill as a mean and miserable thing. I remind him that prior to the debate to which I have referred, which took place when present Government supporters were in Opposition, the American Government had paid-
– Not before the matter was discussed in this chamber on an adjournment motion.
– Yes; prior to that debate, the American Government decided to pay American ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese a subsistence allowance at the rate of one dollar a day.
– That was in 1949.
– I am confident that the American Government made that decision before that year. Would the honorable member for Parkes argue that such a payment by the American Government was a mean and miserable thing? The honorable member also said that this proposal did not in any way measure up in the final analysis to the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day. He does not know, any more than I do, what the final amount will be–
– The bill provides for the payment of a final amount.
– The bill makes provision for the payment of a specific amount. If the honorable member has been following the course of these negotiations carefully, he should know that the Japanese peace treaty provides that a final payment will be made and that that payment will be disbursed by the International Red Cross. Neither the honorable member nor I know what that final amount will be.
Therefore, he has no grounds for saying at this stage the amount does not measure up to 3s. a day.
– If the initial amount totals only £250,000 the other amount will not be £6,000,000.
– The honorable member also said that the amount of £250,000 which was approved by the Government subsequent to the inquiry by the Owen committee was nothing more or less than a dole. To say the least, that was a pretty rough comment to make about the Government, which preferred to make an allowance immediately in order to help those in exigent circumstances. It proceeded to strive for the payment that it is now making with the intention of making further payments later.
I direct the attention of the Parliament to a phase of this matter which should be made public. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric <T. Harrison), in his second-reading speech, said that the Government originated the proposal that provision foi1 the payment of compensation to exprisoners of war be included in the terms of the Japanese peace treaty. The original proposal emanated from the Government Members Ex-servicemen’s Committee. I propose to quote the precise terms in which the proposal was made. Following the findings of the Owen committee, a special meeting of the Government Members Exservicemen’s Committee was held on the 2nd, the 21st and the 22nd November, 1951, to discuss the subject of compensation for ex-prisoners of war. At its final sitting on the 27th November last year, the latter passed the following resolution : -
That the “Owen Committee” having found that there was a general failure by both Germany and Japan to treat Australian Servicemen, who became their prisoners, in accordance with the provisions of the International Convention to which those Powers had pledged themselves, and that, as a result, the great majority of the prisoners suffered undue hardships and privations and having decided that the proper principle is that, if compensation is to be made, it should be made ‘by the defaulting Powers, the Government Members’ Ex-Servicemen’s Committee recommend to the Cabinet that Australia’s delegates at the Peace Conference be in structed to demand compensation from the defaulting Powers and that such compensation recovered, either by this means or from expropriation of property of the defaulting Powers be paid to all prisoners and/or dependants of deceased prisoners-of-war who suffered as a result of the lawlessness of the defaulting Powers.
At a further meeting on the 14th March last, the same committee passed the following resolution : -
That the Australian Government be asked to contact the United Kingdom Government, if possible, arrange a combined request on behalf of the Australian and United Kingdom Governments in connexion with that phase of the Peace Treaties dealing with compensation for Prisoners-of-war.
Subsequently, Great Britain supported the Australian Government’s demand that the terms of the Japanese peace treaty be amended to provide for such compensation.
– And that provision was written into the treaty.
– That is so. I repeat that the proposal was originated by the Government Members Exservicemen’s Committee, which was the first committee of private members to be appointed by this Government.
I do not desire to traverse the emotional and descriptive remarks of the honorable member for Parkes. I do not think that this is an occasion for a display of such emotion. On the contrary, we have cause for real gratification that at last these claims of ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese have been tangibly recognized I refute completely the suggestion that the Government is being niggardly in this matter, because, as I have already said, nobody can say what the final amount of compensation will be. The Government may well be proud of this measure which I believe will be supported by every ex-serviceman in the Parliament, regardless of party, as well as by the country as a whole. I congratulate the Government on having introduced it.
.- I assure the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) that I do not regard the payment proposed to be made under this measure as generous compensation to Australian ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese. The proposed payment does not even approximate that which is due to these ex-servicemen. If ever a government was condemned out of the mouth of one of its members, I his one has been so condemned. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Erie J. Harrison), after referring to the appointment of the Owen committee to investigate the provision of compensation of exprisoners of war, said -
This committee found that there had been a general failure by Japan to treat Australian prisoners nf war in accordance with the provisions of the International Convention of 102!) to which that power had pledged itself, and that, as a result, the great majority of prisoners suffered undue hardships and privations. The Owen Committee further observed that capture was one of the hazards servicemen must face, and that a claim for hardship money under these conditions was without a just or logical basis.
The Owen committee obviously had in mind a claim, not against the Australian Government, because no such claim exists, but a claim against the Japanese Government. That claim has been recognized by this Government because the right honorable gentleman continued -
The committee pointed out that the responsibility for failing to observe international law governing the treatment of prisoners of war rested upon the captor power.
Later, he said -
All honorable members, of course, recognize the justice of such a claim. But what is the extent of that claim? It is ii claim for damages that these men suffered as a result of ill-treatment at the hands of the Japanese. Anybody with the slightest knowledge of law knows that the object of a claim for damages is to place the aggrieved person in the position that he would have enjoyed if he had not suffered injury. Consequently, the House should ascertain the degree of damages involved having regard to the suffering that was endured by the ex- prisoners of war concerned. The Cost to the Australian public on humanitarian grounds is freely acknowledged. That is the claim for repatriation benefits for ex-servicemen who suffered as a result of war injuries. This is a claim on behalf of prisoners of war, but the secondreading speech of the Minister who introduced the bill indicates that the claim actually rests against the Japanese. The Japanese people should be required to meet the claim. It has been suggested that all prisoners of war have a claim for subsistence at the rate of 3s. a day. That would amount in all to a large sum of money. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has estimated that it would be about £6,000,000. That claim should be made against the Japanese people also and not upon the Australian Government. The American people considered that a dollar a day was fair compensation. Probably the best estimate of just compensation could he made by the prisoners of war themselves through the Australian Prisoners of War Association. Repatriation benefits for those men should take into account the ill-treatment that they suffered at the hands of the Japanese people. The cost of subsistence and any other due payments should be added to the cost of repatriation benefits. The total would be the amount of damages that should be paid and that is the responsibility of the Japanese people.
The Chifley Government has been charged with having failed to make any attempt to assess the amount that was due to prisoners of war other than claims for repatriation benefits. The Chifley Government did not attempt to assess the total amount of damages that was properly payable because it recognized that the claim should be made against the Japanese people and that it should be included in the terms of the Japanese peace treaty. It is all very well for honorable members to say that this matter might have been dealt with earlier, but the Labour Government always dealt with matters at the proper time, and at that period it had other pressing problems. The Government has made provision in this bill for payments to prisoners of war but it has not done all that it should have done. It should have ensured that the responsibilities of the Japanese people were properly shown in the Japanese peace treaty. It has been said that the Japanese have to rehabilitate themselves and that that will be a costly business, but if several millions of pounds must be provided in. Australia for repatriation benefits and damages that are to be paid to these men, surely the Japanese people could face up to their responsibilities. The Government should have made certain that provisions for compensation were included in the Japanese peace treaty. Instead, it appears to have accepted weakly the view of the Government of the United States of America which did not require such provisions in the treaty. It is all very well for the Americans to pay whatever they have paid to their former prisoners of war out of general revenue, for the United States of America is a wealthy country, but that might not suit every nation that is a party to the treaty. The responsibilities of the Japanese people should have been set out in the treaty and if any government decided to ignore them, that was its business. The Australian Government would have been able then to attach this payment for compensation to the right quarter.
This bill is an attempt to pay something to ex-servicemen. Insofar as its weak efforts have succeeded, the Government has obtained a few crumbs for the prisoners of war. It succeeded in having incorporated in the Japanese Peace Treaty provisions that permitted it to take charge of Japanese assets in Australia, dispose of them and distribute the proceeds to former prisoners of the Japanese. The total value of those assets is about £770,000. That is a very small amount to be divided among so many. It is something like the distribution of prize money in the Navy. .Surely that is not the correct way to pay damages and compensate prisoners of war for disabilities and lost opportunities? The Japanese people have escaped very lightly. The bill does not state whether the Japanese assets comprise ships, buildings or other property but it is conceivable that many of the assets will be useful to the Japanese people. Possibly Japan will buy them back from the Australian Government. The few pounds so obtained will be distributed to Australians who were prisoners of war of the Japanese in the final discharge of their claims. A great obligation rests upon the Japanese people but it is already being discharged for them and they will meet the cost by buying back a few assets. The whole basis of this proposal is cockeyed. It does not give justice to any one. The Canadian Government recently finalized the claims of its men who were prisoners of the Japanese by paying them a dollar a day. Each Canadian prisoner of war will receive about £650. Australians are to receive £32. “What will follow is wrapped in close secrecy, but if the first payment is to be only £32, obviously the final payment will not he very much greater.
.- If I had had the call after the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), I may have made a political attack upon him for the speech that he made. However, I have been thinking the matter over and as second thoughts are best, I cannot see that I would serve the interests of former prisoners of war by attacking the honorable member for Parkes for the political speech that he made. Therefore, I shall leave it alone except for one or two comments that I may make in the course of my speech. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) is like a man. who goes to a football match at half-time. He has not seen the first half of the match and he is judging it by the last two quarters. He has shown an abundance of lack of knowledge ou this subject. I shall not go into the details of his speech because the points have been debated in this House frequently over many years. They may be read in Hansard and honorable members who were in this House before 1949 and are still here, know them by heart.
It is true, as the honorable member for Parkes has said, that this matter was mentioned weekly in this House from 1946 until 1949 and less frequently since a committee was set up to consider and report upon it. In the first sitting of the Parliament in 1946, the payment of 3s. a day subsistence allowance was first mentioned. I came into the Parliament with full knowledge of the experiences of prisoners of war, their trials and what they wanted. I had all those matters drummed into me for three years and nine months. On my second day in this House as a member of Parliament I made my maiden speech and a study of Hansard will show that I touched upon this subject. Several honorable members of the Labour Government of that day said that that was the first time that they had heard of any claim. They expected that it would soon be met. The honorable member for Parkes had said that the men should get the payment, but apparently something happened shortly afterwards, because he did not say any more about it until this Government came into office. From that time I tried to get the Labour Government to view with some approval the payment of compensation to former prisoners of war of the Japanese. Once I moved the adjournment of the House to discuss the matter. Every prisoner of war in Australia should know that. But we always met with a rebuff. We were never given any hope that the payment would be made. My colleagues on this side of the House have brought to me the many volumes of Hansard that are before me now. In them are reported questions that I asked and speeches that I made on many occasions dealing with this subject. I cannot possibly refer to all of them, but I shall refer to a few. In Hansard of the 27th May, 1949, the following question and answer are recorded: -
– Will the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that provision was made by the American nation for compensation to be made at the rate of a dollar a day to former American prisoners of war? In the light of that fact, is the Prime Minister prepared to re-open the question of the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day to former Australian prisoners of war?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - The Government has already considered that matter. Very full representations havebeen made by a number of bodies including those indicated by the honorable member. The Government has no intention of re-opening consideration of the subject.
That was what the Labour Prime Minister of the day said. I remember vividly that, after all those refusals by a Labour
Government, I thought there was a glimmer of hope when the United States of America, an ally of ours in the war, decided to pay a dollar a day to its exprisoners of war. I hoped that the Labour party, which was then in power, would see the light and decide that it should do the same as other nations were doing. I assure honorable members that American prisoners of war did not suffer any more than did Australian prisoners of war and the Americans were never called upon to play a role more valiant than that played by the Australians for six weeks on the Malayan peninsula while the Japanese were coming down towards Singapore.
When the 1949 general election came near, I and many others, were eager to learn the platform of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party upon this issue, because we believed that an injustice was being done to ex-prisoners of war. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was Leader of the Opposition, said on public platforms from which he spoke that, if the present Government parties were returned to power, they would appoint an independent committee to examine this subject thoroughly, and that they would implement the findings of that committee, whatever they were. Perhaps many exprisoners of war voted for the present. Government parties because they pinned their faith to that declaration. The Government honoured its promise to the letter. It appointed a committee, which consisted of Mr. Justice Owen, of the Supreme Court ofNew South Wales, Sir Stanley Savige, and Dr. W. E. Fisher. Dr. Fisher was an ex-prisoner of war. The members of the committee took evidence. Their finding is well known to honorable members. It was that there was no moral obligation upon the Government to make a payment of 3s. a day to ex-prisoners of war. Associations of prisoners of war, the returned servicemen’s league, and every member of the Parliament at that time were quite satisfied with the composition of the committee. No one objected to any of the members. Therefore, after the committee had announced its finding, it was very difficult for any honorable member, whatever his view upon the matter, to say in this House or elsewhere that he did not agree with the finding of the committee, because we had agreed that the members were fair and just men.
Sometimes I regret that I did ]101 object to one member of the committee. I. do not know him personally, but I believe he is an excellent gentleman, and my colleagues have confirmed that view. 1 refer to Sir Stanley Savige. I believe that he was absolutely fair. I am sorry to say that Army authorities gave evidence to the committee in opposition to the proposed payment. I do not suggest that Sir Stanley Savige was influenced by that evidence, but I say that, if a rank-and-file ex-prisoner of war had been appointed to the committee instead of a high-ranking military officer, the result might have been a little different. I want to make it quite clear that T believe Sir Stanley Savige was transparently fair and reasonable in what he did. I find no fault with his decision, because I know that it was the decision that he believed he should make.
Subsequently, the Government established a fund of £250,000. Some exprisoner? of war confused payments from that fund with a general payment. The fund was established to make payments in cases of hardship suffered since their return to civil life. The men were told that, before a payment could be made to them, they would have to prove that they were suffering hardship. The intention of thc Government was to make payments from the fund to all ex-prisoners of war who were suffering hardship, no matter where they had served or how they had served. As I have said, some men confused payments from that fund with a general payment. That confusion caused some heart-burning for a while, but the men to whom I have spoken are quite satisfied now that they understand i he position.
The next issue that arose was the payment of money from reparations received from Japan. Under this bill £32 is to be paid to every ex-prisoner of war of the Japanese. I resent the statement of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) that the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) said that this was a generous payment. The honorable member for Franklin did not say that it was generous, and any honorable member who puts those words into his mouth, does him a great injustice. I do not think that the payment is generous, but I know that exprisoners of war to whom I have spoken say that it is the best payment that they have had yet. No one can deny that the Labour party, for years, did absolutely nothing about this matter. I have always felt that compensation for these men should not depend solely on the Japanese. I do not think that full recognition has been given to what the 8th Division did during the war. Some people say that Australia was saved from invasion by the American fleet in the Coral Sea battle, but I say, without fear of contradiction, that if the 8th Division of the Australian Imperial Force had not held up the Japanese on the Malayan peninsula for five or six weeks, there would have been no Coral Sea battle. The Australian nation must thank the Sth Division more than any other force for the fact that the Japanese did not invade this country. The Sth Division gave us the breathing space that we needed and gave the Americans time to come here to fight the Coral Sea battle.
I am still prepared to back any proposition for the payment of 3s. a day to these men, because I know that they deserve it. The matter was raised by the honorable member for Parkes after the present Government came into office. I stated then, and my remarks were reported in the press, that I did not care from which side of the House the matter was raised, and that I would support any party that pressed for this payment to be made. I said that I would vote with that party on this subject.
– The honorable gentleman did not do so.
– The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has said that I did not do so. I did not do so because the Labour party did not bring the matter to a vote. I was interviewed by newspaper reporters, and I told them my views on the matter. Newspaper headlines announced that I had said I would support, any party that brought this subject up. I repeat that now. I will support the Labour party if it brings the matter up, irrespective of any petty, paltry party political advantage.
Mr. Clyde Cameron interjecting,
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), who has interjected frequently, knows nothing about this subject. Therefore, I think I am acting properly in disregarding his remarks. Everybody knows that what I have said is true in every particular. I have not lost hope that this payment of 3s. a day will be made. If it had been made during the period of office of the Labour party or of this Government, it would have received the full support of the Australian people. For the life of me, I cannot understand why some government has not made it. Rank and file people throughout Australia are in favour of the payment. The Labour party did absolutely nothing about the matter. This Government appointed a committee and implemented its finding.
Mr. Daly interjecting,
– This is not a party political matter. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) should know better than that. I am not trying to talk party politics to-night. I am not having a “ bit each way “. I am all for the ex-prisoners of war.
– Why does not the honorable gentleman do something about them?
– It is annoying when the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who knows nothing about this matter, asks why I have not .done something about this matter. I have been trying to do something about it since I came back from Malaya, and I am prepared to continue to do so. In the short time at m.y disposal, I want to offer as many constructive suggestions as I can. The honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Ballarat were very much astray in their figures. I do not blame them for that, but I want to correct the figures that they gave. If a payment of 3s. a day were made to all prisoners of war who came back to this country and to the dependants of those who died, the estimated expenditure involved would be £3,800,000. If the payment was made only to those men who returned - and I should not agree with that - the expenditure necessary would be approximately £3,000.000
– Is that the figure for prisoners of war in Malaya alone?
– Yes. The reason why I have suggested that the payment should be made to ex-prisoners of the Japanese is that in ninety cases out of one hundred the trials and hardships that were experienced by prisoners of the Japanese were ten times greater than those experienced by prisoners of other enemies.
I am very pleased that provision ‘3 made in the bill for a payment to bc made to members of the Young Men’s Christian Association. I want to pay a tribute to two members of that organization, who did a magnificent job in Changi, Selerang and other camps in Malaya and on Singapore Island. I refer, first, to Mr Hanger, who is now with the YoungMen’s Christian Association in Perth. I cannot find words to express my admiration of the great work that he did among prisoners of war. I pay tribute also to Mr. George McNeilly, who was Mr. Hanger’s partner. He did a remarkably good job. Those two men did everything that they possibly could do for prisoners of war, regardless of their own comfort. I believe that all ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese will voice their admiration for the magnificent job that was dona by those two members of the Young Men’s Christian Association. It is gratifying to me and to many other men to know that they will receive a payment under this bill.
Provision is made for payments to members of the Red Cross Society, and T think that that is right. Sometimes 1 wonder whether the society could have used a little more tact and discretion. On two occasions, the Red Cross sent food parcels to the men in Selerang camp, but written across the boxes were the words “ Britain delivers the goods “. Among the goods, there were some cigarettes. On each packet of cigarettes was printed the Victory sign in the Morse code together with the letter “V”. The Japanese immediately became suspicious, especially of the label “Britain delivers the goods “ and of the “ V “ sign on the cigarettes. They used that as an excuse for not sending any more goods. I believe that that was an excuse for which they had been waiting, watching and longing. I do not wish to find fault with the Bed Cross organization, but 1 think that the exercise of a little more tact would have been beneficial to prisoners. I am pleased that payments will be made to the next-of-kin or other relatives of men who died in the skeleton clutch of famine in these prison camps. That provision will please all ex-prisoners of war.
Let us consider what is being done in this connexion in other countries of the. British Commonwealth. The United Kingdom is paying 3d. a day to its exprisoners of war. Australia is now paying 6d. a day, and Canada, according to a recent announcement by the Prime Minister of that dominion, will pay 9s. 3d. a day. I cannot understand those figures. Perhaps Canada was able to step in early and get larger reparations from Japan than Australia, but that would not justify our not making a further payment from our own funds to these men, on whose behalf I am speaking. I think it should be done, and that we should not lng so far behind other nations in respect of payments to our men, who endured the same terrible hardships as did men of other nations, who are receiving greater financial compensation. Our men fought on the peninsula, and at Ambon and other places, where they gave for their country not only their health but also their future capacity to earn their livings and to be citizens, in the full meaning of the word, of this great Commonwealth. I am anxious to make any appeal that I can on behalf of our prisoners or war. I support the bill most heartily because I believe that.it is the best thing that has been done for the prisoners of war up to date, as far as monetary compensation is concerned. As a matter of fact, it is the only action that has been taken along these lines. Prisoners of war have received special treatment from, the Repatriation Department. Padre J. J. Benjamin, who was a tower of strength in the prisoner-of-war camps, wrote to me about the treatment of former prisoners of war and I was able to make arrangements for him to have access to hospitals and administrative records. He was exceedingly satisfied with the treatment that the Repatriation Department has given to prisoners of war in hospitals. I have, therefore, no complaint to make in relation to that matter.
I believe that a Japanese invasion of Australia was prevented, not by the Coral Sea battle, but by the Eighth Division. An honorable member said in this chamber that telecommunications experts had saved us from invasion. That is not so. The men of the Eighth Division, who gave their lives and health in the jungles of Malaya, where malaria, pellagra and beri-beri sapped the strength from them, prevented a Japanese invasion of this country. I think that some day, when truth gets a hearing, an Australian government may grant to the survivors of the Malayan campaign the payment of 3s. a day subsistence that it has been suggested for years should be paid to them for their period in captivity. Let us fervently hope so.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has spoken with great emotion on this matter. He was a member of the Eighth Division and a prisoner of war in Changi camp, and he experienced the sufferings and hardships that were inflicted on our troops by the Japanese. He is entitled to state hi0 views on the matter with authority. T was pleased to hear the honorable member assert his pride in the Eighth Division and its exploits and claim that the part that that division played in defending Australia has not been adequately recognized. But I think it is a fact that the Coral Sea battle was the actual turning point of the Pacific war, at which the onward march of the Japanese, who at that stage were sweeping around the eastern tip of New Guinea in order to land in Australia, was halted. There is, however, undoubtedly, a great deal of merit in the honorable member for Mallee’s statement that the valiant fight of the men of the Eighth Division against overwhelming and impossible odds in Malaya contributed to delayingthe Japanese advance, and played an important part in saving Australia from invasion. By delaying the Japanese the men of the Eighth Division gave us precious time, which enabled our allies to come to our assistance. I agree entirely with the honorable member that the men of the Eighth Division, who suffered so grievously at the hands of the Japanese, have not received due recognition of their exploits and of the fine work they did on behalf of Australia. Despite what may be said on the other side of the House during this debate, there is no question that the measure of monetary compensation provided in the bill for ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese is inadequate to compensate them for the sufferings they endured.
Japan’s treatment of not only Australian prisoners of war, but also British and American troops, who were unfortunate enough to fall into their hands, constitutes one of the most shameful pages in the history, not merely of the J apanese, but of humanity. After all, Japan was a signatory to the Geneva Convention of 1929, and although it did not actually ratify the convention it did notify the protecting powers, after hostilities broke out, that it regarded itself as bound by its provisions. There is, therefore, no question that both legally and morally Japan was bound by the convention.No monetary compensation could be adequate to compensate prisoners of war for their sufferings at the hands of the Japanese. In considering what might be regarded as some measure of compensation, it might be well to examine briefly the provisions of the Geneva Convention, bearing in mind the fact that practically every one of them was deliberately, shamelessly and flagrantly violated by the Japanese. A summary of these provisions, given in the report of the committee appointed to investigate the question of the payment of a special subsistence allowance to prisoners of war, shows that they included the following : -
Prisoners of war arc at all times to be humanely treated and protected, particularly against acts of violence and insults, and reprisals against them are forbidden. Adequate housing is to be provided, with quarters, &c, similar to those provided for the depot troops of the Captor Power. Food is to be supplied equivalent in quality and quantity to that provided by the Captor Power for its own depot troops, and collective disciplinary measures regarding food are prohibited.
I again point out to the House that each one of the articles, without exception, was violated by the Japanese. Another provision was -
Clothing and footwear are to be supplied and regularly replaced. All necessary measures are to be taken to ensure the cleanliness of camps and the prevention of epidemics, and proper sanitation and washing facilities are to be provided. Adequate sick quarters and necessary medical treatment are to be provided. A prisoner is not to be employed on work for which he is physically unfitted or for periods of excessive duration. Work which a prisoner is called upon to perform shall have no direct connexion with the operations of the War. andno person is to be employed on unhealthy or dangerous work.
Another provision is -
Periodic communication is to be permitted between the prisoner and his family.
Those provisions are worth quoting to enable us to consider how shameful is the record of the Japanese in relation to them. The report of the committee that was appointed to investigate the matter of the payment of a special subsistence allowance to former Australian prisoners of war of the Japanese, which comprised, as the honorable member for Malice stated, Dr. Fisher, Mr. Justice Owen and Sir Stanley Savige, included a summary, in plain, unvarnished language, without any attempt at exaggeration or use of rhetorical terms of the evidence relating to the sufferings of ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese. It appears to me to be the best statement of the actual sufferings endured by those men. In order that we may view these matters in the correct perspective when, considering the amount that should be paid to compensate these men, as far as is humanly possible for their sufferings, I propose to read some extracts from the report. The report states -
We think that it is sufficient to say that, in general prisoners in Japanese hand’s were treated by their captors throughout the long period of their captivity with a brutality and inhumanity incapable of imagination by a civilized people. They were starved, and often purposely starved - to an extent which few outside their ranks would believe possible
With few exceptions, the quarters provided for them were grossly inadequate and unsuitable, while the lack of provisions for sanitation mid hygiene was almost beyond belief, particularly when regard is had to the widespread and ever recurring outbreaks of dysentry. On occasions when large bodies of prisoners were moved by sea, some voyages lasting over two months, the conditions under which the men were packed into the ships’ holds, together with the lack of food and water, of medical supplies and attention, and of provision for sanitation caused the death of hundreds.
Throughout the whole period of three and a half years there was an almost total failure by the Japanese to provide either medical supplies or assistance with which to combat not merely starvation and the consequences which caine in its train, but the dysentry, malaria, hookworm and tropical ulcers to mention some only of the many grave disabilities from which, at one time or other, almost every man suffered . . .
The report goes on in similar strain setting out in. detail the privations and almost unheard of sufferings that were deliberately inflicted on our soldiers by the Japanese. I shall make one final quotation from this controversial report, and 1 consider that every honorable member will agree with it. It reads -
Had it not been for the inspiring and unceasing efforts of the Medical services, both Australian and British, their skill and amazing capacity for improvisation and their devotion to duty, it is ‘beyond question that thousands more would have perished. But their efforts would have gone for little had it not been for tin high standards of discipline and morale and the unselfish and self-sacrificing conduct of all ranks . . .
The quotation concludes with a sentiment with which I entirely agree. It states -
The ‘Eighth Division, and the units associated with it, laid down anus in obedience to orders and when no other alternative was open to them. By their conduct in captivity, the officers and men of that Division worthily upheld the high traditions of the Australian Imperial Forces, and we think it proper that we should thus record our view.
As a result of these sufferings and that inhuman treatment 7,602 men died in captivity out of a total of 21,467 men taken prisoner by the Japanese. As the honorable member for Mallee has pointed out, our ex-prisoners of war received every possible consideration from the Repatriation Department when they returned to Australia. The Army authorities and the department did everything possible to restore them to health. Oh the question of financial compensation, however, the position is different. The honorable member for Mallee who does not regard this as a political question did not equivocate about the fact that he considers that our ex-prisoners of war should receive at least the amount of 3s. a day subsistence. I agree with him that that amount is little enough, particularly when it is compared with the amounts that other nations are paying to their exprisoners of war as some compensation for their sufferings in captivity. Perhaps the crux of the whole matter, as the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) has said, is contained in the Japanese peace treaty. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) -
– This is quite irrelevant.
– I ask the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) to allow me to state my views. The honorable member for Franklin cited the resolutions that the ex-servicemen’s committee had passed on this matter. He said that as the result of the work of the committee, the Australian delegates to the conference on the peace treaty demanded that a provision for the payment of compensation by the captor power be written into the peace treaty, and that Japan should pay such compensation as an obligation under the treaty. The report about which we have heard so much, and which the honorable member for Mallee has criticized, states thai although there was no moral or legal obligation upon the Australian Government to make any such payment to Australian servicemen who were prisoners of war, compensation should be paid from Japanese sources. The view was expressed that the captor power was responsible and should pay the necessary amount of compensation.
– It did not state that there was no legal obligation. It stated that such an obligation should be tested by the courts, and not by a tribunal.
– The report, as I understand it, made it quite clear that compensation of some sort should be paid, if the money was provided by the Japanese. The report made it clear that the responsibility was on the captor power, which had not adhered to the international convention regarding prisoners of war and by its failure to do so, made itself responsible.
– Quite so.
– That being so, when the Japanese peace treaty was being negotiated, the Australian Government should have insisted upon the insertion in the peace treaty of a provision that reparations should be paid by the Japanese to enable the payment of an agreed amount to ex-prisoners of war.
– That was done, but the amount was not specified.
– I am prepared to accept, as a basis of what the amount should have been, the figure set out in the minority report of Dr. Fisher, that each man should be given 3s. a day for each day he was a prisoner of war. When I accept that amount, I am quick to comment that it is certainly little enough and, indeed, is inadequate. But surely the Australian Government had a clear obligation to ensure that the Japanese nation paid in reparations at least sufficient money to enable the amount of ?»s. a day to be paid to every Australian prisoner of war.
– Hear, hear !
– After World War I., reparations had to be viewed in a somewhat different light. It was quite impossible, in practical terms, to make the vanquished nations pay all sorts of astronomical reparations. But surely the Japanese should have been made to pay the amount of reparations to which I have referred. Despite what the honorable member for St. George has said, the peace treaty did not contain such a provision. Although I do not doubt that our delegates endeavoured to have such a provision inserted in the treaty, they were not successful.
No provision in that respect was inserted in the Japanese peace treaty. However, the treaty did provide that Japanese assets in neutral countries and ex-enemy countries should be available, and that the International Committee of the Red Cross should take possession of them. The honorable member for Franklin expressed this in a somewhat different way.
– I referred to that matter.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement. Perhaps I misunderstand him. But the distinction which should be made is that the Japanese peace treaty made no general provision for the payment of reparations by the J Japanese to cover the specific amount that should be paid to compensate Australian servicemen who were prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese. The treaty merely provides that certain defined assets of the Japanese in neutral or ex-enemy countries alone shall be available. That is the source from which payments may be made to ex-prisoners of war in this country. No reference is made to the value of the assets, or to whether they are adequate to meet the compensation payments.
Honorable members have been given no indication of the amount that the property will realize when it is converted into money, and how that money will be divided among the various belligerent nations that fought the Japanese. In my opinion, it would be unfair and improper to raise the hopes of ex-prisoners of war to the extent that they might think that they will receive a considerable amount of money from those funds. The amount may be substantial, or it may be practically nothing. It seems very strange to me, that nothing has been done to realize those assets after the lapse of so many years. We have not even been given any information about the value of them.
That is the first point which I make. There is no general provision in the Japanese peace treaty for reparations to compensate ex-prisoners of war. There is only the provision that certain external assets of the Japanese shall be realized by the Red Cross, and paid to the various belligerent countries. My next point is that the only sources of money available for distribution under this bill are the Japanese assets which were in Australia at the outbreak of war. Those assets were seized, and came under the control of the High Court. They are now to be handed over to a custodian, realized, and divided among the ex-prisoners of war. It is unfortunate for the ex-prisoners that the Japanese assets in Australia constitute the sum of only £770,000. Of that amount, £25,000 is to be paid to civilians who were interned by the Japanese, and the balance is to be distributed among Australian servicemen who were prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese.
As those figures were being discussed in the debate, I made a quick calculation. When the amount of £770,000 is divided among the 21,467 ex-prisoners of war, and the dependants of deceased prisoners of war, it works out to approximately £37 a head. Again, it appears to me to be raising perhaps false hopes among exprisoners of war to suggest that the present payment of £32 is a mere preliminary payment, because the implication is that a further substantial payment is to be made. It does not seem to me that those hopes will be realized. Making another quick calculations on the basis of 21,467 exprisoners of war, I find that, if the report of Dr. Fisher had been given effect and the amount of 3s. a day had been paid to each ex-prisoner for every day he was in captivity, each man would have received approximately £192. The conclusion seems to be quite inescapable that we are dividing among ex-prisoners of war an amount which just happens to be the sum that will be realized from the sale of Japanese assets in Australia when hostilities broke out. In my opinion, that is an unfair and unjust basis upon which money should be paid to the ex-prisoners of war. Surely the payment should not bt- restricted to the value of the Japanese assets in Australia. We should decide upon an appropriate and reasonable amount, and distribute it among the exprisoners of war. We have failed in what seems to me to be our clear and obvious duty to compel the Japanese, under a binding provision of the peace treaty, to make available to Australia sufficient money to enable ex-prisoners of war to be paid what we regard as an adequate amount of compensation. Although the Government has failed in that respect, we should not now allow the matter to rest on a haphazard basis, and merely say, “ You can have the money that is obtained from the realization of Japanese assets “. A clear and definite obligation rests on the Government to make this amount up at least to 3s. a day, as recommended in the minority report.
I do not see that the Government can escape its responsibility in this matter.
Some people raise political arguments, and say, “ Well, the Chifley Government should have made this payment, yet it failed to do so “. This is not a matter of party politics. We should examine what other countries have done. As the honorable member for Mallee has stated, it has been announced that Canada will make a payment of more than 9s. a day to all Canadian ex-servicemen who were prisoners of war. The announcement did not contain any details about the source from which the money would be obtained. The United States of America has paid a dollar a day to its ex-servicemen who were prisoners of war, and I understand that all that money has come from the realization of assets of the Japanese in the hands of the United States of America. From that information, honorable members will see that the Americans decided that a dollar a day was an adequate amount of compensation, and that Japanese funds were available to enable payment to be made at that rate. The Americans did the obvious thing, and paid the money. The value of Japanese assets available in Australia was not sufficient to provide a payment of 3s. a day to ex-prisoners of war for each day they were in captivity, and I believe that the Government should pay the balance out of revenue, so that our ex-prisoners of war will be treated on a basis somewhat comparable with the way in which other countries have treated their servicemen who were prisoners of war. This is not a matter of political controversy. We should not discuss the compensation which should be paid to exprisoners of war in that manner. We all are concerned with their sufferings, and we desire to ensure that they shall get adequate compensation to the degree that money can compensate them for their sufferings.
We are now considering the human suffering which resulted from the last war at the hands of an inhuman enemy. The thought comes to my mind that, at the present time, Australian troops are fighting in Korea as members of the United Nation’s forces. They are fighting an enemy who is just as ruthless and barbarous as the enemy whose inhuman conduct we have been discussing in this debate.
– The honorable member will tear the heartstrings of every mother with that statement.
– The statement is perfectly true.
– Why mention it?
– If I may be permitted to develop my thought-
– Order! I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to this bill.
– The issues in this debate are quite clear. This measure, as far as it goes is welcome, although it is belated. The compensation that is being provided is inadequate. A clear case has been adduced that the compensation to be paid to Australian servicemen who have been prisoners of war should be at least is. a day, as recommended by Dr. Fisher in his minority report. The Australian Government has a clear duty to make up the deficiency between the sum of £770,000 and the amount that is required to enable a payment of 3s. a day to be made to every Australian serviceman for each day he was a prisoner of the Japanese. I hope that the next speaker from the other side of the House will not claim that the Government has already done something in that respect by setting aside a fund of £250,000. The” Government has certainly done that, but I point out that the fund is not available for general distribution among all exprisoners of war. Only those ex-prisoners who are suffering particular hardships are entitled to draw on the fund. That is a proper provision and one that we -should support. But it does not touch the general question of the amount of compensation to be paid to ex-prisoners of war, and the case is quite clear that the Government should make up the deficiency so that these men shall receive some measure of justice.
.- If ever there was a bill before this House that should call for debate and deliberation on a non-party political basis, it is this measure. When the debate opened I was absolutely amazed at the attitude taken by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who led the debate for the Opposition. Since I have been in the Parliament I have been accustomed to looking to the honorable member for Parkes for constructive, thoughtful and moderate comments, but to-day he seemed to shed the whole mantle of responsibility when ho delivered a speech which in every way was superficial and intemperate. One feels that the Labour party, sensing a temporary shift in the political wind in its favour is trying to fan the wind into n gale on any pretext whatsoever. I deeply resent the attitude of the Opposition, not only as a supporter of the Government, but also as one of the beneficiaries under this bill - that is, as one of the ex-prisoners of Avar. We waited a long time after we returned from Malaya in 1945 for something to be done by the Chifley Government. Year after vear went by, but from 1945 to 1949, as all the world knows, nothing was clone by that Government in spite of the pleadings of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), other honorable members and organizations representing ex-prisoners of war. Now, at long last, in fulfilment of its pre-election pledge as =et out in the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Menzies) policy speech of 1949, this Government lias taken action. But the Opposition, full of assumed fury and passion, has castigated the Government for doing something that the Labour party, including its late leader, Mr. Chifley, was not prepared to do. By contrast the Labour Government sat by with cold, folded hands, and remained supine and inactive.
In spite of the fulminations of the Opposition, this admittedly not very large but nevertheless useful initial distribution of £32 will be a welcome Christmas present to over 20,000 families in this country. If honorable members were fair, then instead of criticizing Ministers they should commend the Government. They should especially commend the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and our ambassador in Washington, Sir Percy Spender, for their efforts at the San Francisco peace conference, to have clauses dealing with reparations for allied ex-prisoners of war written into the Japanese peace treaty. It is quite untrue that, as the honorable member for Parkes and others have said, this measure represents the “ end of the chapter “, that the money to be paid will be a ;! mere pittance “ and that the whole thing is a “ pay-off “. It is clear that the payment to be made under the bill stands in the category of a first instalment. It will be simply a distribution from the sale of Japanese assets in this country. As a result of the efforts of our representatives at the San Francisco peace conference, provision has been made that Japanese assets in neutral and ex-enemy countries shall be realized as soon as practicable and Australia, as one of the countries concerned, will get its share of the money so obtained. I have no doubt that the future sums available foi1 distribution will be quite worthwhile, and will be greatly in excess of the first instalment that we shall receive within the next few weeks. lt is idle for honorable members opposite, and any critics that there may be throughout the country, to point to what the United States of America. Canada and other countries are doing by way of compensation for their ex-prisoners of the Japanese. Japan had very large assets in the United States of America and fairly large assets in Canada. Its assets in both those countries were much greater than its assets in Australia. It therefore must be made clear, and the Owen committee emphasized this, that the comparatively large payments that the American and Canadian governments have made to those concerned have been made out of the money realized by the sale of Japanese assets in those countries. The Opposition is now advocating compensation to ex-prisoners of war not only out of the sale of Japanese assets but also out of Consolidated Revenue. That would impose an additional charge upon the Australian taxpayers. The Opposition has maintained that attitude to-day, whereas the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) a few days ago, and other honorable mem bers opposite repeatedly, have called foi a reduction of taxation. The Leader of the Opposition has been running around the countryside declaiming against the crippling burden of taxation imposed by this Government. Yet his followers come here and shed crocodile tears over the ex-prisoners of war and say that they should be paid compensation out of th, Consolidated Revenue Fund. They conveniently overlook the fact that to do so would involve an increase of taxation. The Opposition has suggested that it doeinot matter if we have to take another £4,000,000 out of Consolidated Revenue to pay to ex-prisoners of war.
Do not let us have any more humbug about this matter of compensation. No person can seriously contend that any monetary payment can recompense for the suffering that the servicemen endured while in Japanese hands or can compensate the widows and mothers of those who made the supreme sacrifice. It is not of much use going to a widow, who is still in tears over her loss, and say. “ We shall give you such and such a sum by way of compensation “. It is not of much use going to a mother who is still heartbroken at the loss of her boy and saying to her, “ We propose to give you a few pounds more which we shall raise by way of extra taxation “. People do not. look at these matters from that viewpoint. For heaven’s sake let us get a sense of proportion about the whole matter. I agree with what my comrade in arms in Changi, the honorable member for Mallee, said about the 8th Division. It was a splendid division and it fought under great difficulties. It did its best, but it was defeated. Its contribution to the delaying action fought to safeguard Australia will ensure that Australia will always treat the men of that division with the respect that they have earned. However, do not let us forget that for three and a half years onwards from February, 1942, those of us who were taken at Singapore, Java and- elsewhere in the Far East, were out of the war. It is true that we did suffer much and had a great deal to put up with, but I often wonder whether, great as our hardships and difficulties were, we suffered more than the men who were fighting in the front line - the men who ultimately won the war for us during those three and a half years of the most terrible conflict the world has ever known.
It is necessary not only to enthrone reason and to give sentiment its due, but also to keep them in their proper place in discussing these intricate matters concerning prisoners of war and compensation. Like the honorable member for Mallee I rejoice that those men who were allied with the armed forces, particularly in the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Red Cross, are to share in this distribution. The honorable member for Mallee referred particularly to the work of Mr. Ivor Hangar, of Western Australia, and Mr. George McN Billy formerly of Orange and now living in England. There were able Red Cross commissioners such as Mr. Guest, of Melbourne, and Mr. Wright, also I think, of Victoria. What is not generally realized is that these men voluntarily stayed .behind with the troops when Singapore capitulated, instead of taking the opportunity that the officer commanding the Australian Forces General Bennett, gave them of returning to safer shores. A few days before the end, a number of senior officers, people with vital secrets, were sent by air to Australia. These representatives of the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Red Cross were given an opportunity to depart at that time, but they did not do so. To their eternal glory, and to the everlasting credit of the organizations to which they belonged, they refused to go. They said that their place was with the troops and that they were prepared to endure what the troops had to endure. They followed us into our respective prison camps, They had no privileges beyond being given the nominal status of junior officers. I agree with the tribute that the honorable member for Mallee has paid to the work that they did. In Selarang camp, and later when we were locked up in Changi gaol, the Y.M.C.A. men helped to maintain morale. They gave lectures, they organized entertainments and played a tremendous part in maintaining the spirit of the British, Australian and Dutch soldiers, in fact all the polyglot force assembled within the Japanese walls. It is most proper, in a bill of this nature, that these men should be acknowledged. I am only too glad to have this opportunity of paying them my tribute, and giving them, on behalf of the ex-prisoners of war in the respective camps in which they were also incarcerated, our very grateful thanks for the splendid, work that they did.
The honorable member for Parkes and other honorable members opposite should have no illusions about this matter. The ex-prisoners of war do not want their case to be the subject of any form of political brawl. They know that, whereas the Chifley Government did nothing for them, this Government has dr. ne a lot; and if its plans are carried through it will do more. Their reactions will be expressed in the usual way at the next general election.
.- I always respect the views expressed by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), particularly on matters that affect ex-servicemen, because he is undoubtedly a man of great achievement!), both as a. member of the forces and in private life. His experiences as a prisoner of war entitle him to command the attention of all honorable members when he speaks on subjects that are of concern to ex-prisoners of war. Nevertheless I could not fail to take exception to many of his remarks to-night because, on occasions, he stepped down from his high pedestal and descended to party politics in a way that was most unusual for him. He can scarcely claim that his statement that the Chifley Government had done nothing for ex-servicemen was in any sense non-political. The record of that Government’s legislation in the interests of ex-servicemen is well known in this Parliament and throughout Australia. Not until a Labour government was elected early in World War II. was our outmoded repatriation law overhauled. Many of our finest pieces of legislation dealing with ex-servicemen’s problems are those which were instituted by the Chifley Government. Much of that legislation, which was bitterly opposed by members of the anti-Labour parties, was drafted by an all-party committee of ex-servicemen that was sponsored, first, by the Curtin Government, and later by the Chifley Government. Support for my claims can be found in the results of the general elections of 1943 and 1946, when the Labour Government was overwhelmingly returned to power on the strength of its record in the conduct of the war and the treatment of servicemen.
I take exception to the remarkable change of front that Government sup porters have accomplished since they gained power. Sitting on the Government side of the House to-night are men who, when in opposition, voted for the payment of a subsistence allowance of 3s. a day to ex-prisoners of war for the period of their incarceration. All the comments of the honorable member for Angas on this subject cannot disguise the fact, which can be confirmed by reference to the pages of Hansard, that the Ministers and their supporters changed their coats when they .found themselves responsible for the making of a decision on the claim for the payment of subsistence allowance. It is idle for these honorable members to say now that the committee of inquiry did not recommend the granting of the claim. The fact is that they voted in favour of making the payment.
– There has never been a vote on the subject in this House.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) at least has been consistent. He sponsored the campaign for the payment of the allowance when he was in Opposition, and he has continued to do so. I do not doubt his sincerity. However, the fact is that the Government, 75 per cent, of whose members and supporters are ex-servicemen, has taken three years even to bring to the light of day the niggardly proposal that we are now debating. The rate at which the honorable member for Mallee is making progress with his campaign indicates that many years will elapse before he can hope to succeed. Government supporters have accused members of the Opposition of attempting to cash in on the ex-servicemen’s vote. The truth is that members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, who constantly wave the flag of patriotism, always lay claim to the votes of ex-servicemen. But they have endeavoured to mislead the people, and now they are paying the penalty for their refusal to honour the pledges that they made to ex-service men and women, as well as to other members of the community. The honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) has risen in this place and attacked the Government for its repudiation of its pledges to ex-service men and women. His statements are on record. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) threatened to resign from the Liberal party because of that repudiation. The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) continues to sit idly by while the Government pursues its heedless course, but he will disappear from the scene at the next general election because he has connived at the Government’s failure to fulfil its undertakings.
I appreciate the sincerity and thu seriousness of the honorable member for Angas, the honorable member for Mallee and a few of their colleagues, but I appeal to other Government supporters to be at least accurate in their treatment of thi facts if they want to deal with this subject on the basis of party politics. They should accept responsibility for the false pledges that they gave to ex-service men and women. The Government has already paid a penalty for its defections at the Flinders by-election. The Labour party opposed the ratification of the treaty of peace with Japan, and it main tains that the treaty should have included a provision for the payment to former prisoners of war who were held by the Japanese of subsistence allowance at the rate of 3s. a day. The Government had a responsibility to safeguard the rights of these Australian citizens. The seriousness of its neglect of their interests is accentuated by the fact that most of its members and supporters voted in favour of the payment of that allowance when they were on the Opposition side of the House. At the last Japanese general election, the Liberal party, under Mr. Yoshida, was returned to power with a reduced majority. Its ranks include 115 depurged war criminals. Those war criminals, no doubt, would support most heartily the proposals of this Government. They are supporting the Government of Japan, drawing their parliamentary salaries, and laughing at the Government in Australia that has refused to force them to shoulder their responsibilities and contribute to the needs of ex-service men and women who have suffered at their hands. No doubt Krupp and other war criminals also are laughing at the expense of Australia and its former allies.
The Government is letting down the former prisoners of war by its failure to insist that the Japanese should provide funds for the payments to which Australian ex-prisoners of war are entitled. The Government, having refused to shoulder its responsibility in full, now proposes to pay an instalment of £32 each to former war prisoners of the Japanese. The average payment due to these men is between £160 and £190. The proposed payment represents the scale on which the Government carries out all the pledges that it has made to the people. Apparently, if it should remain in office, the former prisoners of war will not receive their dues for many years. The Government will not be able to evade the fate that will befall it because it ha3 allowed the Japanese to escape the responsibility that they incurred by their treatment of Australian prisoners. The Japanese peace treaty should have included provision for the payment of reparations to them. The Government now proposes to make a paltry amount available for payment to former prisoners. This is only a face-saving device.
The committee that was appointed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to investigate the claim for the payment of subsistence allowance did not make a very helpful report. It indicated, broadly, that it was not in favour of the making of any payment worth mentioning to former prisoners of war. However, Dr. Fisher made a minority report, in which he stated -
Bearing in mind also that the way appears open to recover such a payment from enemy sources: that the claim has been long in coming to authoritative investigations: that this delay has fostered resentment (however baseless) and frustration in a body of men of whom Australia can only feel proud : and in the spirit of the Prime Minister’s dictum that the judgment of this claim “ should do justice to the enormous human issues involved “, I hold it reasonable further to recommend that payment bc made forthwith.
Why does not the Government, most of whose members and supporters are exservicemen who voted in favour of the payment of the allowance when they were in Opposition, give effect to Dr. Fisher’s recommendation ? The honorable member for Mallee, for example, must agree with the views of Dr. Fisher. The honorable member for Angas, also, must acknowledge that there is great force in Dr. Fisher’s report. That report continued -
If these recommendations are approved, it remains to indicate at what rate and upon what conditions payment should be made. The following procedure is suggested: -
1 ) Each man should be given 3s. per day for each day that he was a prisoner of war;
The Government, had it been consistent, would have adopted Dr. Fisher’s recommendations. I have received complaints from many ex-servicemen’s organizations, which are gravely dissatisfied with the Government’s decision.
The payment of £250,000 for the relief of former prisoners of war is only a small instalment of the debt that is due to those men and women. The honorable member for Angas has said that the payment of the full subsistence allowance would have imposed a strain on our financial resources that would have involved additional taxation. My reply to that statement is that those who were responsible for the sufferings of Australian prisoners of war in Japanese hands should have been made to foot the bill. The Government should not have rushed in to sign the treaty of peace with Japan, which was magnificently condemned by the honorable member for Angas when he opposed its ratification. The Government could have insisted upon the inclusion in the treaty of provision for the payment of reparations to former prisoners of the Japanese. The document should have embodied some safeguard.
– The treaty includes a safeguard.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) will have plenty of opportunities to attempt to defend his betrayal of ex-servicemen. The honorable gentleman usually tries to confuse honorable members on this side of the House by interjecting when they are speaking, but his comments do not worry me. The honorable gentleman has a double responsibility in this matter because, as a member of the present Government, he was a party to the signing of a treaty that did not include any provision for the protection of former prisoners of war. My remarks have been made in reply to some of the supposedly non-political remarks of Government supporters on this subject. I regret the fact that they indulged in party politics. The problems of ex-service men and women should be dealt with in a broad national way. I remind them that the Labour Administration, first under Mr. Curtin and later under Mr. Chifley, established allparty committees of ex-servicemen to deal with such matters. This Government refers the problems of ex-servicemen to a committee of its own supporters. That tact illustrates its political bias. I again express my regret that the Government has not carried out its promises to pay subsistence allowance to former prisoners of war. lt has changed its coat and refused to honour its obligations.
.- For over two hours, the House has been engaged in a debate on a bill to amend the Trading with the Enemy Act. I have not heard that bill mentioned on any occasion throughout the entire discussion. Some of the speeches have been slightly repetitious. Others have been obviously sincere. In my humble view the debate has wandered from the train of facts that led to the introduction of the bill. I propose to deal seriously with those facts, which are of vital importance. Let us be frank. This measure has been introduced because of the fact that certain persons were prisoners of war and, on their return to this country, formed organizations which examined a set of circumstances in respect of the payment of certain moneys to them. They had already received full pay for every day for which they were in captivity. I have yet to hear one ex-prisoner of war lament the fact that his medical treatment has been lacking. These ex-prisoners claimed a subsistence allowance at the rate of 3s. a day. The ex-servicemen’s organizations gave consideration to this matter in 1946 and in their wisdom decided that an obligation rested upon the Australian Government to provide in respect of every day for which a member of the Australian forces was a prisoner of war an allowance at the rate of 3s. a day, which is the equivalent of the normal living-out allowance paid to a serviceman in circumstances in which the Queen - or the King as was the case at that time - does not provide for him. Those organizations looked at the problem from the standpoint of the law and in their view and that of their advisers they found that they had no legal claim. They then considered whether they might have a moral claim and, subsequently, they approached the Labour Government of that day and said to it, in effect, “ We desire to establish a moral claim for a payment at the rate of 3s. a day to each person who has been a prisoner of war “. That Government gave consideration to that issue precisely and, concurring with its advisers, it found that the claim could not be sustained. Consequently, it decided that no payment would be made. Those are the facts.
Later, this Government came into power. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the joint policy speech of the present Government parties during the general election campaign in 1949, made a promise, which he had. made earlier in this Parliament, that his Government would establish an independent tribunal to examine the precise claim that a moral obligation rested upon the Australian Government to pay a subsistence allowance at the rate of 3s. daily to ex-prisoners of war. The Government appointed such a tribunal, which became known as the Owen committee. It consisted of Mr. Justice Owen, of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, Lieutenant-General Savige, and Dr. W. E. Fisher, who was president of the Eighth Division Council and Service Associates. At the time that that committee was appointed no individual in this country raised his voice in criticism of the integrity, honour or standing of any of those three gentlemen. No person who was in a position of authority in the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, the Limbless Soldiers Association, the Air Force Association, or any other ex-servicemen’s organization approached the Government and said, “ These men are men of low integrity and we cannot trust them “. No individual made representations of that kind to the Government. The committee considered whether a moral obligation rested upon the Australian Government to pay a subsistence allowance at the rate of 3s. a day to persons who had been prisoners of war of any of Australia’s foes from June, J 939, to August, 1945. A variety of views has been presented in this debate; but the facts are that the Owen committee concurred completely and absolutely with the decision that had been made by the Chifley Government. As a politician I should like to say that that was not the truth; but it happens to be the truth. The Owen committee agreed with the Chifley Government’s finding that no obligation rested upon the Australian Government to provide the subsistence allowance that was claimed. It is idle nonsense for any honorable member, on emotional grounds or on any other basis, to indulge in party political criticism in considering this matter. I have recited the facts. In deference to Dr. Fisher, I point out that in a majority finding MrJustice Owen and Lieutenant-General Savige supported the view that had been taken by the Chifley Government.
Ex-service members of the Parliament then looked at this matter and concluded that that was the end of any such moral obligation. We on this side talked the matter over with ex-service members of the Australian Labour party in the Parliament. We advanced the argument that if ex-service members of the Parliament acted independently of party groups, they would not be able to use their power to the full with the Government in this matter. Ex-servicemen of the Opposition agreed with us in that respect; and that is the real reason for the existence of the Government Members Ex-Servicemen’s Committee. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), in the course of his remarks, confirmed that observation. The Government Members Ex-Servicemen’s Committee considered whether a moral obligation rested upon the Australian Government in this matter but as the Chifley Government had found that no such obligation existed and as that finding had been upheld by the Owen committee, we approached the Cabinet and emphasized the legal aspect. We said to the Cabinet, in effect, “ Will you become the attorneys of the ex-prisoners of war? Will you go to the international tribunal and say, “ We are attorneys representing Australian ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese. A crime has been committed against them, and just and proper compensation should be made to them ? “ The Government adopted that view and committed itself to be the attorney at law for Australian ex-prisoners of war who, because an evil had been committed against them, asked for just and proper compensation. The members of the Owen committee unanimously agreed that whilst no moral obligation rested upon the Australian Government to pay from the Australian taxpayer’s pocket anything at all, compensation should most properly be paid by the captor powers, Germany and Japan, which had been guilty of acts of lawlessness. That is the basis of our claim. In the view of the Owen committee, Germany and Japan committed crimes. The members of that committee said that there was no doubt at all that Germany was a signatory to the international convention dealing with the treatment of prisoners of war, and that J apan, whilst not a signatory to that convention, had undertook to honour it. The Owen committee found that the captor nations had failed to honour that agreement and had been guilty of acts of lawlessness.
Having regard to that fact, the Australian Government sought from the Japanese people compensation for a crime that Japan had committed and Sir Percy Spender, our Ambassador at Washington, discussed with Mr. Yoshida, the Prime Minister of Japan, the subject of further payments in addition to the two particular payments that were to be made, first from moneys received from the sale of Japanese assets in Australia and, secondly, from moneys received from the sale of Japanese assets in axis and neutral countries. The third matter was to be the pursuance by the Australian Government for the payment by the Japanese Government of an amount that would be regarded on a reasonable, human and christian basis as a worthwhile payment to ex-prisoners of war. If, to-day, this Government is prepared to execute a volte face in respect of this matter it must do so only because, having due regard to existing international circumstances, it suits it to paddle its canoe in this particular fashion. If it were not for the fact that, at present, we are confronted with a particular situation in relation to Russia and China we should be reacting to the Japanese in a manner that would be vastly different from that which we have adopted towards them, and the terms of the Japanese treaty, which the Parliament ratified some months ago, would have been different. If we are going to make exprisoners of war pay for changes of international policy, it is about time that members of this Parliament went quietly to their corners and pondered upon the real responsibility of being human beings. It is obvious that if as a result of a change of circumstances we alter our foreign policy in that way, a moral obligation then devolves upon this country to meet this claim on behalf of exprisoners of war. This matter cannot be fully thrashed out at this juncture, because we do not know how much we shall get from the sale of Japanese assets in axis and neutral countries in addition to the sale of Japanese assets in Australia. However, Sir Percy Spender made it quite clear at the San Francisco Conference that the Australian Government would pursue with the Japanese Government a further claim for additional compensation for our ex-prisoners of war, and, what is more, Mr. Yoshida agreed that it was quite proper that we should do so. If at this stage we are to say that now we do not want to annoy the Japanese, then we can rightly claim that there is a moral obligation to pay. The argument must be pursued to its obvious conclusion. It is incumbent upon us to consider this matter upon the basis of legal entitlement. The Government has espoused the cause of the prisoners of war of the Japanese. It has accepted the role of attorney. In effect, it tells the former prisoners of war, “ You have been wronged. We will pursue your problem and get for you a just and proper compensation “.
– By pawning a few Japanese lanterns.
– I say to the honorable member for Parkes that he and his colleagues should be thankful for the fact that in all their term of office, the issue was one of a moral obligation to pay. The Owen Tribunal agreed profoundly and cordially with their findings. This is now a legal matter. This bill is a matter of law and not one of moral obligation. It depends entirely upon the fact that a wrong was done. There is no moral obligation to pay. These people have been wronged and accordingly at law there must be a proper entitlement to them. We have seen the unfortunate mockery of the war gratuity payments. The Central War Gratuity Board did not believe in the payment of war gratuities to a man’s estate. It would pay 95 per cent, and haggle and snarl over the other 5 per cent. I am happy to say that the defence that was adopted in the matter of war gratuities will not do here. In that case the gratuity was a gesture from a government. This is a matter of legal compensation. I wish to make it clear to the Parliament and to the country where the onus rests if any one man does not get his pound of flesh out of this bill. Paragraph 3 (b) of proposed new sub-section (13f.) reads -
The balance of the moneys shall be transferred to a Trust Account to be established under section sixty-two a of the Audit Act 1901-1950, for the purpose of distribution, in accordance with the directions of the Prime Minister, to or for the benefit of members or former members of the Defence Force, or of organizations attached to that Force, who were prisoners of war of the Japanese, and to or for the benefit of persons who were dependants of, or other persons connected with or claiming through, such of those prisoners of war as died whilst in captivity or since their release.
That is clear. The fact that a man is a brother or that a. woman is a sister of a former prisoner of war who has since died does not preclude him or her from claiming the money that is due. Certainly a woman in such a case was not entitled to a war gratuity because she was not in law a dependant but that does not apply in this case. The money is to be spread on the widest conceivable basis. All people who can justly and properly claim from the estate of a dead prisoner of war may claim this payment. Anything less than that would bc immoral.
The honorable member for Parkes, when speaking earlier about a “ niggardly government “ declared that this payment was all that was to be paid. I cannot believe that he meant it. This is the first of three payments. This is a payment from Japanese assets that were seized at the beginning of the war. The second payment will come from Japanese assets in other countries, including neutral countries that were grabbed and those that were under Axis control. The proceeds will be divided among all the people who fought Japan. The third payment will be that obtained from the Japanese people by the Australian Government. It will say to the Japanese, in effect, “The payments that we have received from the first two sections are almost negligible “. In the words of the Australian Ambassador to the United States of America, Sir Percy Spender, we will pursue this matter relentlessly. Sir Percy Spender has discussed it with Mr. Yoshida and Mr. Yoshida has agreed to it.
I shall not accept from any government a. statement that the former prisoners of war of the Japanese surrendered into captivity. They were commanded to go into captivity. That was the direct responsibility of this Parliament. There were many soldiers, sailors and airmen in Singapore who would never have surrendered but they were ordered to do so by their leaders. That authority was delegated to those officers from this Parliament. The man who flung up his hands in battle is in an entirely different category. These former prisoners of war are the responsibility of the Parliament because the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia put them into the wretched position that they occupied in February, 1942. It was the law that they should lay down their arms and not escape. They were to do as they were told and bend the knee to those hissing, snarling, miserable, wretched little people who forced them to do all the horrible things that they. had to do. The respectibility for what they did rests in this Parliament, and I believe from the bottom of my heart that if we do not fight this matter to its ultimate conclusion, we shall have failed every man who wore the King’s uniform and died in the defence of this country.
– I have only one point to raise in connexion with this bill. That is with regard to its operation. Some question has been raised as to the justice of the payment that is to be made to former prisoners of war under this proposal by comparison with what has been done by the United States of America and is now being done by the Canadian Government. The payment that is to be made under this bill is on acomparable basis inasmuch as it is a distribution of the available assets of enemy nationals. That applies to all of the countries concerned. The United States of America is fortunate to have a large amount of Japanese assets and investments upon which it can draw. Canada is possibly in a similar position. Australia has not the same volume of assets to draw upon. The fact that the amounts that are to be distributed by the United States of America and Canada are so much greater than the proposed Australian payment should not be allowed to enter into the picture if we concede that the basis of payment is correct in each case.
I wish to deal now with the question of the claim by former prisoners of war for a subsistence allowance. It is true that this claim has been made since 1946. I was associated with it when it was made first, not as a. member of Parliament, but as a member of an ex-servicemen’s organization. I supported the claim, irrespective of my own opinion on it. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) said that he wondered how far a claim by ex-prisoners of war for the payment of a subsistence allowance as some measure of compensation for the hardships and privations that they endured could be given special consideration, in view of the hardships and privations that were endured by men who remained engaged in battle. I agree that the position of the men of the Sth Division was entirely different from that of normal prisoners of war. I endorse the remark of the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) that they were ordered to lay down their arms. Nevertheless, if the Government were legally obliged to pay a subsistence allowance to those men as some form of compensation for the privations that they endured, consideration would have to be given also to the payment of a similar allowance to all men who were engaged in the war on our behalf.
Because legal questions were involved in this matter, the Government acted properly in appointing a committee to ascertain whether, and, if so, to what degree, we were legally obliged to make such a payment. The committee reported that there was no legal obligation upon us to do so. If such a legal obligation had existed, all men who had been deprived of their rightful rations and sustenance would have been entitled to be compensated accordingly. The committee stated that, in its view, a moral obligation rested on those who were responsible for the privations that these men suffered. That is the basis on which this distribution is to be made. Those who are morally responsible are being compelled to disgorge. I have seen the reports that were made by Dr. Coates, who attended, as an Australian ex-serviceman, the meeting that was held in San Francisco to discuss the Japanese peace treaty. In those reports, he stated that Sir Percy Spender stressed the fact that the Australian Government, whilst it had signed the treaty, reserved the right to take further action to secure from Japan reparation payments ir. respect of the undue hardships that Australian nationals had suffered. The Japanese agreed that that was proper. This is not the end of the matter. It cannot be said that this Government has neglected the interests of ex-prisoners of war of the Japanese. t deplore the fact that this subject has been brought into the field of party politics. There was nothing in the secondreading speech of the Minister to which exception could be taken. There was no allusion in it to the party line. It was only a recital of the events that have led to this measure being submitted to the Parliament, and an explanation of its provisions. It was most unfortunate and regrettable that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) dealt with the matter from a party political angle. Surely the honorable member, having dealt with the subject on that basis, does not expect honorable gentlemen on this side of the House to lay down meekly and refuse to indulge in a party wrangle. It is not natural for any man meekly to permit another man to hit him on the jaw repeatedly.
– Two wrongs do not make a right.
– Of course they do not. Unfortunately, the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is always wrong. If this bill is being dealt with on party lines, the members of the Opposition are to blame. The honorable member for Angas, without making accusations against the Labour party, defended what the Government has done, and deplored the fact that the matter had been discussed from a party political angle. In reply, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), most regrettably, made an attack upon the honorable member for Angas, which I should describe, if you would permit me to de so, Mr. Speaker, as filthy.
– Order ! I will not allow the honorable member to use that word.
-If I were allowed to use it, I should do so.
– The honorable member should not try to use it.
– I should like an assurance from the Minister in connexion with the distribution of this money. The payments will be made as compensation to ex-prisoners of war and their dependants. They should not be treated as income within the meaning of the income tax legislation. No provision of that kind is made in the bill, but there may be a provision in the income tax legislation that will meet these circumstances. It would be a grievous injustice to the recipients of these payments if the money that they received were treated as taxable income. The payments will be verysmall, but they could have the effect of securing for the Treasury revenue to which it was not entitled. The effect of a payment could be to increase the taxable income of the recipient, with the result that the rate of income tax imposed upon the whole of this taxable income would be increased also. I hope that the money will not be regarded as income, either for income tax purposes or for the purposes of any social services to which a means test is applicable. Recipients of payments from the Canteens Trust Fund had to account either to the Taxation
Branch or to the Department of Social Services for any money that they received from that source. If a man were in receipt of assistance from the social services authorities, that assistance was reduced in proportion with the sum that he received from the Canteens Trust Fund. That was not fair. The trustees of the fund were very concerned about the matter, because they knew that, although they were trying to help men by making payments to them from the fund, the Government was withholding from those men money that was rightfully theirs and they were not receiving the measure of assistance that they required. I hope that the Treasurer will ensure that these payments will not be treated in that way. I do not propose to let the matter rest where it is. I know I shall have the support of every honorable member on this side of the House and of all ex-servicemen’s associations and exprisoners of war associations in any representations that I make upon it.
.- I shall make only one or two points. I listened with great interest to the arguments of the Opposition. In considering those arguments one should recall the period at the end of the war when the Labour. Government was in power. Perhaps the Opposition’s argument might be summed up by stating that they believe that whilst certain action of the type proposed by the Government was required, there were other things on their plate which, should be consumed first. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) was one who gave me that impression. Honorable members on this side of the House have given a great deal of consideration to this matter which was brought forward with great force in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The Prime Minister said, in that speech, that an independent tribunal would be appointed to investigate the matter and that he would abide by the decision of that tribunal. He, with Government supporters, appreciated the responsibility of the Government towards the taxpayers. Not for a moment do we decry the responsibilities that we have towards tha prisoners of war of the Japanese. But in number, they comprise only a small percentage of the community. Therefore it was necessary to consider this matter from the wide Australian point of view.
As a result of the arguments that were brought forward on this matter in the Government parties, the Government decided that an independent tribunal should be appointed to examine it. The tribunal having reached a decision, the Government decided to implement it. As has been mentioned during this debate, the Government believed that, because of special circumstances, it had a further obligation to Japanese prisoners of war. That is why those honorable members who have spoken from this side of the House have brought to the notice of honorable members the activities of the Government parties ex-servicemen’s committee. That is why the request of the committee to the Government was supported so strongly and it is why the Government had an appropriate clause inserted in the Japanese peace treaty. It is impossible at this stage to say what final amount will be paid to these people. During recent years I have discussed this matter with representatives of associations of prisoners of war and exservicemen’s organizations and no matter has received more attention from those bodies than this. Former prisoners of war do not wish to be considered as men apart from the community. They wish to resume their normal lives and become part of the Australian community once again. Government supporters believe that we should give them all possible assistance.
I wish to bring to the notice of the House a suggestion which has been made to me, not by an official body of exprisoners of war, but by a reasonably large group of ex-prisoners of war representing various walks of life in the community. They would like to use the payments that will be made to them under this bill, not as a cash benefit, but as a continuing benefit for themselves individually, for prisoners of war as a group and for the betterment of Australia. The suggestion is that those who are so willing should pool the payments that will be made to them and form themselves into a public company which would be registered on the Stock Exchange so that those who do not wish, to remain in the company could sell their shares and obtain their cash benefits. From their resources, these who formed the company would be able to purchase one or two properties of which they would give ex-servicemen preference in employment. The board of management of the company would consist of ex-servicemen. These men believe that they have in their ranks men who are sufficiently qualified to undertake primary production and men qualified in administration who could administer the affairs of the company. Through this organization they could assist a number of their fellow ex-prisoners of war to give effect to their desire to go on the land. This would benefit Australia as a whole because it would assist in the drive for increased rural production and the amount that each man receives under this bill, having been invested as capital in such a scheme, would increase to his own personal benefit. These matters are receiving the consideration of the exservicemen’s group to which I have referred and I mention it so that if they find that they can proceed with such a scheme the House will be in possession of the facts. I do not believe it to be the duty of the Government to undertake the formation of such a company. I believe, though, that there are many ways in which the Government could assist these people. It could provide a nominal roll and arrange for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to give them assistance in the form of technical advice.
– in reply - I should not have risen to reply to the debate at this late hour had the only speeches been made by ex-service members on the Government side of the House whose case was so complete that there would have been no need for me to answer. I would not have replied had it not been for some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), when he opened the Opposition’s case. I always admire the honorable gentleman’s approach to such subjects because it is so strongly biased and. partial that one is under no misapprehension about where he stands and what he aims to do. His immediate aim is always to throw a smokescreen of party politics over every motion, every piece of legislation introduced, and every action taken by this Government, which he seeks to turn to his advantage. Let me give the House a few illustrations from his speech tonight. For example, he said that I had misled the House. That is characteristic of the honorable gentleman. Such accusations are among the oldest debating tricks in history. He went further than that, however, and said that the Government had introduced the measure under a disguise. He said that its introduction was an amendment to the Trading with the Enemy Act which was purely a disguise under which the Government was seeking to cloak things that it wanted to hide. The honorable gentleman has sufficient political experience, and sufficient knowledge of the statutes, to know that the Trading with the Enemy Act contains provision for the control and disposal of enemy property. As the disposal or control of Japanese enemy property is involved, this is the proper manner for the action proposed in the bill to be taken. Where, then, is the disguise of which the honorable gentleman has spoken?
Let us examine this item of business in its proper perspective and see how far party politics plays a part in its introduction. When we were in opposition the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), and other honorable members now on this side of the House, time after time asked in this chamber for recognition of the claims of ex-prisoners of war. They raised the matter in questions and on many occasions moved motions for the adjournment of the House in order to discuss it. The honorable member for Mallee tonight read out an answer to a question that he had asked the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley. He had asked that the decision of the Chifley Government to take no action in relation to the payment of subsistence allowance to exprisoners of war be reconsidered. Mr. Chifley said flatly that he would not reconsider it. So strong was the opinion then held about this issue by the Labour Government that it would not give redress to ex-prisoners of war under any circumstances. It said that it had no moral obligation to recognize the claims of the ex-prisoners. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was a Minister in the Chifley Government, and made a statement on the matter which appears in Hansard, volume 190, at pages 1110 and 1112. So strongly did honorable members opposite object to granting the claims of ex-prisoners of war, that the honorable member for Lalor levelled a gratuitous insult at the whole of our armed forces. He said that if the proposal that had been made by the honorable member for Mallee, who had moved the formal motion for the adjournment of the House to discuss the motion was agreed to, the military authorities might view the award of compensation as a precedent that might encourage men to become prisoners of war.
– That is exactly what the committee said.
– So strong was the feeling of the Labour party on that occasion against conceding the claims, that it cast a gratuitous insult on the whole of our armed forces in an endeavour to sustain its case. Yet the honorable member for Parkes has had the temerity to accuse this Government of failure to honour its obligations. The Labour Government had three years in which to do something for the ex-prisoners of war, but it refused to do anything for them. Instead, it cast scorn on attempts to gain justice for the ex-prisoners, and levelled gratuitous insults at the armed forces. In spite of all that, the honorable member for Parkes now says that we are treating ex-prisoners of war in a niggardly fashion. The truth is that when we were in opposition we said that if we were returned to office we would appoint a committee and abide .by its decision, whatever it might be. We appointed a committee, and no exception was taken to its personnel. The committee’s report expressed a view similar to the view of the former Labour Government, that the Government was under no moral obligation to compensate the ex-prisoners of Avar. The Government was not content to accept that recommendation.
– But the Government said that it would accept it.
– We said that we would take the recommendation of the committee no matter what it might be.
– Order ! The honorable member for Parkes must cease interjecting.
– Is the honorable member for Parkes now objecting to the fact that we intend to pay compensation to our ex-prisoners of war?
– I say that more should be paid.
– First the honorable gentleman says that we should accept the view of the committee that we have no moral obligation to pay compensation, and then he says, when he is faced with the necessity to make a definite statement on the matter, that we should pay more than is provided in this measure. The honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways. The committee investigated the position, and the Government decided that it would take certain action. The Owen report, which was adopted by the Government, laid down the principle that capture was one of the hazards that a serviceman must face, and that there was no legal claim for subsistence by prisoners of war. The report also stated the principle that the power that had failed to care for the prisoners of wa.r should foot the bill. This Government has consistently followed this line. At the San Francisco conference it was due to Australian efforts, following representations made by a committee of honorable members on this side of the House, who advocated that- some approach should be made at the conference to ensure that the peace treaty should include a provision to give prisoners of war some claim upon the government that had inflicted the hardships on them, that article 16 was put into the peace treaty. That article will make Japanese assets in neutral and ex-enemy countries available to ex-prisoners of war of all allied countries. We have no complete knowledge of the value of these assets, but it will be considerable. The payment made to ex-prisoners of war from the amounts realized for these assets will be in addition to the £770,000 that is realizable from Japanese assets in Australia. So when the honorable member for Parkes states that the payment provided in the measure is a final payment, he is just beating the wind. “We made an amount of £250,000 available for hardship cases and we are making an amount of £770,000 available from the realizable Japanese assets. Those two figures combined make a total of about £1,000,000. Additional to that total will be the amount to be distributed from realizable assets held in neutral and ex-enemy countries. Australia will receive approximately 10 per cent, of the actual value of the assets held in ex-enemy countries.
– The honorable member asks, “When?” That is a characteristic interjection that is fired at one at political meetings. If the honorable member would inform his mind a little about the way these matters are handled in neutral countries he would be satisfied on that particular point. This bill provides for the distribution of approximately £770,000 held in Japanese assets in Australia. I stress the fact that this distribution will be in addition to the full repatriation benefits that can be claimed by disabled prisoners of war. I need say nothing more at this stage. The position has been clearly stated by ex-servicemen in this chamber. I believe that the prisoners of war will be quite satisfied as will their organizations with the action the Government is taking. They will realize that this is one of a series of payments consequent upon article 16 of the Japanese Peace Treaty. In reply to the query raised by the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), I say that he need have no fear that this disbursement will be assessed as income. It is not income, and therefore will not be subject to income tax. This measure represents a further effort on the part of the Government to discharge the debt that this country owes to prisoners of war who suffered so grievously at the hands of a nation that failed to honour its international obligations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time. In committee: The bill.
– I do not wish to repeat anything that was said before we reached this stage of the measure, but I believe that we should have a little more light and a little less heat on the matter. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) said that-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! The Vice-President of the Executive Council has not said anything at this stage.
– It is contended that the prisoners of war may get additional payments for the realizable assets of Japan held in neutral countries. That may be perfectly true, but just how much the 10 per cent, that Australia is to get will amount to has not been stated. I do not know, nor do I think anybody else knows, how much it will be, but in spite of all that has happened, in spite of all the recriminations, and in spite of the failures, real and alleged, of governments that have held office since the war ended, I think that the feeling of the Australian people and of this Parliament is that if it is possible for the Government to pay more into the fund that has been established, it should be done. I hope that ultimately, all the men who suffered as prisoners of war will get the amount that they ask for. I am not saying anything against this Government for not doing what I am advocating. I know that a committee was appointed to consider the matter, and that the Government agreed to accept the committee’s decision whatever it might be. I believe that had the committee recommended the payment of 3s. a day,, the Government would have accepted that recommendation promptly and without question. If the Labour Government had remained in office, and such a committee, or any other special authority, had recommended a certain payment, we would have honoured that recommendation. When Labour was in office it was advised by the heads of service departments and the Treasurer, and it took the advice. But all that is history. If it is possible to pay the men the 3s. a day, we should resolve amongst ourselves to do our best to see that that amount is paid. I am sure that nobody wants to make money by denying prisoners of war something to which they are fully entitled. As they grow older and their illnesses become more marked as a consequence of the treatment that they suffered, there is a wave of feeling that the payment of 3s. a day is not too much to expend. Even if the outlay did amount to £6,000,000, that would not be an unduly large sum for a country to provide.
– How does the honorable member arrive at £6,000,000? The figure is £3,800,000.
– That only strengthens my argument. The burden on the community would be less. I shall not follow the Minister into his brawl on this question. All I say is that I believe that ultimately we shall pay the £3,S00,000. If the Government were to introduce a bill now to provide for that payment, the measure would meet no criticism or opposition from this side of the chamber.
– That would be a change of form.
– The gentleman who is the honorable member for Lawson for the time being says, “ That would be a change of form “. Some honorable members opposite might regard it as such, but the important consideration is not the dignity or prestige of the Opposition or of any one else. Our task is to do our best to meet the wishes of these men. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will give to all who have spoken on this measure credit for some sincerity in their endeavours to obtain for the prisoners of war the payment that they seek and that he will again bring the matter to the notice of Cabinet for re-examination. I should be the first to congratulate him if he were to bring down a measure providing for the payment of 3s. a day. I should not make any attempt to say that we would have done it sooner had we remained in office, nor would I say anything else that was coloured by party feelings. I have listened to much of the debate on this measure and I say, “ Let us forget the harsh things that have been said, and try to pay the remainder of the £3,800,000 “. The country can afford it. The money could be paid if necessary over a period of two or three years. The most necessitous cases could be dealt with first. Undoubtedly as these men grow older, the greater will be their sense of grievance at the community as a whole, and at the Parliament as a whole, for having refused them something to which they really do consider they are entitled.
.- I am delighted to hear the words of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I have waited for seven years to hear them. When he rose he announced that he did not want to say anything that had already been said, but his entire speech consisted of statements that had already been made to-night. We have all been advocating that, if possible, the full amount of 3s. a day should be paid to prisoners of war. However, it is gratifying to know that the honorable member now supports the proposal. Apparently, if one is prepared to continue to advocate something which has merit in which he believes, eventually his opponents will come round to his way of thinking, as the honorable member for Melbourne has done to-night. Again I congratulate the honorable member. At last he has seen the light. All the time he was a Minister in the Labour Government, I listened in vain to hear from him one word in favour of this payment. To-night, without any prodding whatsoever, he has risen in his place and supported this proposal that we have been advocating for years. Let us hope that he will continue to think as he does now. To-morrow some one else might join us, and if that went on we should at last have the strength to win the payment we think should be agreed to. It is immensely gratifying to me when one more sheep comes into the fold, after the lapse of seven years. I congratulate the honorable member for Melbourne.
.- I cannot agree with this eulogy of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I found his speech the most nauseating I have heard since I have been a member of the Parliament. I was really revolted. I remember only too clearly that be suggested that those men who wore uniform were five bob a day murderers or tourists-
– I rise to order. That statement is the most dastardly that has ever been made in this chamber, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) is aware of that fact. I have never said anything like that in all my life. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) mentioned it on one occasion, but immediately withdrew the remark at the direction of his leader, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It is a savage and a shocking statement, and I hold the honorable member for Lilley in complete contempt.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden). - Order! I ask the honorable member for Lilley to withdraw that remark, and to apologize for having made it.
– If I have labelled the honorable member for Melbourne wrongly, I withdraw my statement, and sincerely apologize for having made it, but I know that those sentiments were expressed by a member of the Labour party.
– That is completely untrue.
– I again rise to order, and ask for a withdrawal of the remark (hat a member of the Labour party ever called a member of the Austraiian fighting forces, in any war, a murderer. I ask that the statement be withdrawn because it is a gross reflection upon some very distinguished members of the Labour party who have fought in various wars. If the honorable member for Lilley knows who made such a remark, let him mention the name, but he should not attempt to smear everybody with a general attack of this sort.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order ! I ask the honorable member for Lilley to withdraw the reflection.
– I withdraw it. I still consider that the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne was completely lacking in sincerity. That is evident from the fact that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) addressed a ques tion to the former Prime Minister, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley, on the 27th May, 1949, about whether consideration would be given to the payment of compensation to ex-prisoners of war. Mr. Chifley replied as follows: -
The Government has already considered that matter. Very full representations have been made by a number of bodies including those indicated by the honorable member. This Government has no intention of re-opening consideration of the subject.
I ask the House to take particular notice of the last sentence in that answer.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.Order! I remind the honorable gentleman that his remarks are outside the scope of discussion on this bill in committee.
– I was about to point out that the honorable member for Melbourne was a member of the Chifley Government at that time. I regard his suggestions in the present debate as having been made entirely for party political purposes. It appears that, when he is in Opposition, he is only too willing and eager to support any proposal favorable to ex-servicemen, but when he holds ministerial office he is not inclined to give them any consideration. The Parliament and the people should realize that the honorable member for Melbourne spoke this evening purely in order to place his statements on record in Hansard for votewinning purposes, because he hopes that his speech will stand him in good stead with ex-servicemen at the next general election. But ex-servicemen will not be beguiled by him. They have had positive action from the present Government, not only in repatriation, but also in the matter now under consideration. This bill has the commendation of the chamber, and the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne has not.
.- I should like to make a few general remarks on this bill before this hotlycontested debate concludes. The statements of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) do scant justice to the former Prime Minister, the late Mr. J. B. Chifley. The honorable member quoted the remarks of Mr. Chifley relative to the payment of a subsistence allowance to ex-prisoners of war out of their context. I was in the House when Mr. Chifley replied to that question, and I know that the point at issue was whether immediate action could be taken on that matter. Honorable gentlemen should view it in its proper context, and against its historical background. In May, 1949, when Mr. Chifley gave his reply to the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), the Government was involved’ to ‘ the highest degree in the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. An amount of £56,000,000 had been allocated for that purpose. Mr. Chifley, who had an orderly mind, saw things in their proper compartment. It was upon the advice of the chiefs of the three services, with pressure from the Army chief of staff, that nothing was done at that time.
– I rise to order. The statement of the honorable member for Parkes is quite incorrect.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! No point of order is involved.
– I do not contest that the words quoted by the honorable member for Lilley are in Hansard. I am pointing out the circumstances in which the answer was given to the question asked by the honorable member for Mallee. The Prime Minister of the day was a civilian, who asked the chiefs of the three services for their advice on the matter, and their counsel was that no action should be taken at that time, because of the urgency of the reconstruction and rehabilitation programme. That was all. The honorable member for Mallee has said that the Labour party has raised this matter to-day for party political purposes. He will remember that at all times I have disagreed with any proposals for the payment of less than 3s. a day to exprisoners of war. Many other members of the Labour party have supported me in my stand. We have given expression to our views by raising the subject as a matter of urgent public importance. We impressed upon the Labour Government that it was not a matter of who was right or who was wrong. It was only a matter of ensuring that justice should be done. We would rather be right than be consistent. I submit that the Government has been neither right nor consistent.
– I am astonished at the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). The chiefs of staff, naturally, are asked to give their advice to the Government on various matters, but the government of the day has the responsibility for the final decisions. The honorable member cannot pass on to the chiefs of staff the responsibility for the decision on the matter under consideration.
– The Government accepted the decision of a committee, and then switched from it.
– It does not matter who the advisers are, or what advice is given. The government of the clay is finally responsible for a decision that is made. In my opinion, it would be a bad thing if a government, regardless of its political views, cast the responsibility for decisions on to the shoulders of its principal advisers, whether they were the chiefs of staff or anybody else. A government must bear the responsibility for the ultimate decisions, irrespective of the advice that has been tendered to it.
.- I had no intention of participating in this debate, but the remarks of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) compel me to intervene. I was a member of the Chifley Government which considered this matter between .1946 and 1949.
– Read the reply given by the former Prime Minister, the late Mr. ,T. B. Chifley, to the question asked by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull).
– I make no apologies for anything that I have said in this chamber, and I will not be misrepresented by a humbug like the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Treloar).
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bowden) . - Order !
– I think I can say without fear of contradiction that I have always stood up to my statements in this chamber. I was about to say, when I was rudely interrupted by the honorable member for Gwydir, tha between 1946 and 1949 the Chifley Government was quite clear and decisive about its decision on this matter. It did not see fit to approve of the payment of the 3s. That fact must be clearly faced. That decision cannot be evaded.
Mr. Roberton interjecting,
– I shall not allow the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) to put me off the track. There has been a lot of shilly-shallying on this issue and it is time that some straight words were spoken about it. Nobody can deny the truth of what I have said. The Chifley Government made a clear decision, and it adhered to it. When the decision was announced, that Government was subjected in this chamber to the most severe criticism by the members of the then Opposition, including the present Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who has seen fit to cast aspersions on me-
– I merely quoted from Hansard.
– After reading the quotation, the right honorable gentleman said that I had offered a gratuitous insult to the ex-servicemen. That is a dastardly lie.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! The honorable member is distinctly out of order in referring in the committee to statements made in the House, and he has aggravated the offence by using an unparliamentary expression which he must withdraw.
– I withdraw it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The honorable member may make no further reference to the debate that took place in the House.
– I make no apology for the decision of the Chifley Government. All the mockery and condemnation of honorable members opposite, who do not like my approach to this subject, will not deter me from expressing my views upon this matter. When the decision was made I defended it as a decision of the Government of which I was a member.The right honorable member for Wentworth, the present Vice-President of the Executive Council, severely condemned the Chifley Government for having made that decision. He was supported by many of his colleagues in this chamber, including the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who at least, has been consistent on this matter. Their criticism contained the clear implication that, if the parties to which they belonged! assumed office in this Parliament they would reverse the decision. Although this Government has been in office since” 1949 it has consistently refused to shoulder responsibility for making a decision on this matter. It did what the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) wrongly accused the Chifley Government of having done - I join issue with my colleague on that point - and appointed a committee to inquire into the matter. The committee consisted of Sir Stanley Savige, a great soldier and a friend of the ex-servicemen, Dr. W. E. Fisher, another good friend of the exservicemen, and Mr. Justice Owen. The committee recommended that £250,000 be provided for former prisoners of war who> had fallen on bad times. The Chifley Government shouldered its responsibility in this matter and refused the request for the payment of the subsistence allowance. This Government, the members of which are arrant cowards, refused to shoulder its responsibility, and said, “ As the result of a conclusion of the Japanese peace treaty certain moneys are available from the sale of Japanese assets in Australia. We shall disburse £700,000 among former prisoners of war out of the proceeds of the sale of those assets “. Having criticized the Chifley Government for its refusal to grant the request for the payment of a subsistence allowance it was the responsibility of the members of the Menzies Government not to bother about the proceeds of the sale of Japanese assets but to pay to the prisoners of war the subsistence allowance which they contended should have been paid by the Chifley Government. These are the factsof this matter. All the humbug that has been indulged in by honorable members opposite is designed to hide the fact that although this Government has been in office for nearly three years it has failed to honour its implied promise to the i ex-pris 0/]eis of war.
The DEPUTY/ CHAIRMAN. - The honorable member might profitably have made a second-reading speech on the bill.
– I should have done so bad I foreseen the manner in which the subject would be dealt with by honorable members opposite.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The bill contains only a few clauses. The honorable member should not attempt to debate it at great length.
– I shall not detain the committee for much longer. An entirely new situation has arisen since the matter was last discussed in this Parliament. Since then the Opposition has had an accretion of strength, not because it has gained the support of a majority of the electors, but because the Parliament has been enlarged. There has been a similar accretion of strength in the Government parties as the result of the enlargement of the Parliament and because of their success at the polls. The opinion of Government supporters has been strengthened that the subsistence allowance should be paid, but the Government has consistently refused- to pay it. The opinion of the Opposition on this matter has changed as the result of the change in its personnel and1 it now presses for the payment of the subsistence allowance. The Government has sought to hide behind unworthy excuses for its failure to honour its- implied promise to the ex-prisoners of war. I leave the matter there. I place the responsibility where it rightly rests - on the Vice-President of the Executive Council and his colleagues, who have sheltered behind the decision of the committee to which I have referred. I am tired of the sort of humbug- in which honorable members opposite have indulged in regard to this matter.
– May I be permitted to pour some soothing oil on the heat generated by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr Pollard). Everything that the honorable member has said to-night has strengthened the argument advanced by honorable members on this side of the chamber that the Chifley Government had three years in office in which to do something for the ex-prisoner of war, but it did nothing for them. A case was submitted to that Government by the then Opposition, but it relied upon the opinion of the service chiefs that it had no moral obligation to’ reimburse ex-prisoners of war. That is the sum total of what the honorable member has said. Yet he has the temerity to criticize this Government for having appointed a committee to report on this matter, as it promised to do if it were returned to office. Let us examine the recommendations of the committee. The committee stated -
The claim for hardship money under these conditions is without logical basis.
That was similar to advice given by the service chiefs to the Chifley Government, which was accepted by that Government. The service chiefs said -
The Government has no moral obligation to pay a subsistence allowance.
– The Minister has said that the Chifley Government should not have accepted that advice.
– I said nothing of the kind. The Chifley Government was entitled to accept any advice for which it had asked, but it had to accept the responsibility for acting upon that advice. The Chifley Government made the kind of decision which is usually made by “ Yes “ men. That opinion was given by the service chiefs to the Chifley Government, which did not have sufficient ingenuity or independence to formulate its own opinion. It merely accepted the opinion of the service chiefs. A further provision of the Owen report was -
If a captor Power fails to fulfil its obligations . . . any compensation should be made by the defaulting power.
The honorable member for Lalor said that the Government waited until the Japanese peace treaty was signed and then took advantage of the treaty. The Government carried out the recommendations of the Owen committee. He said that the committee recommended that the Government should pay £250,000. The honorable member is wilfully misleading the House or he just does not know what he is talking about, because the committee made no such recommendation. The Government made the decision to pay that sum of money, and made the money available. The Government now lias decided that the Japanese assets in Australia to the value of about £770,000 should be realized and the proceeds made available to prisoners of war. The honorable member knows that it was the Australian delegation at the San Francisco conference that had written into the Japanese peace treaty the provisions which would benefit ex-prisoners of war throughout the world. Tha honorable member must also realize that the value of all Japanese assets realizable in enemy and neutral countries will be paid to ex-prisoners of war in those countries. Australia’s proportion of thai sum will be approximately 10 per cent. Who knows what the total sum will be? lt may be that in the final analysis the sum of 3s. a day might well be the amount finally to be decided upon. 1 do not know how many millions of pounds are involved in this matter, but it is certain that £250,000 will be made available by the Government almost immediately, and about £770,000, which will come from the realizable Japanese assets in Australia, will later be paid to exprisoners of war. It is of no use to say, as one honorable member opposite has said, that the Chifley Government intended to make payments to ex-prisoners of war but that it had other obligations. He said that the Labour Government was entering into a repatriation scheme immediately after the war, and that that prevented it from making payments to the ex-prisoners of war. Honorable members opposite now have neither responsibilities nor obligations, and so they seek to fasten on to this Government the responsibilities they did have when they held office. This Government has its own responsibility to solve its own problems. Enough of this nonsense talked by honorable members opposite ! The facts are that the Government realizes its obligations and responsibilities, and intends to make the payment that the previous Labour Government refused to make when it had not the courage to face its own responsibilities.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! I draw the committee’s attention to the fact that this is a bill of five clauses. The discussion is now developing into a second-reading debate, and I must inform honorable members that it has gone far enough along those lines. I hope that honorable members who intend to speak will confine themselves to the clauses of the bill. Those honorable members who* did not take advantage of the secondreading stage to speak on this measure cannot make second-reading speeches in the committee stage.
– The clauses of the bill which authorize the payment of the money clearly shows that the Government has come to the same decision as the Chifley Government came to in one important respect. Therefore, the Government may as well say honestly that it does not intend to pay the 3s. a day subsistence allowance to ex-prisoners of war. Whether the Chifley Government was right or wrong, the present Government clearly agrees with the decision of that Administration and does not intend to make a payment of the subsistence allowance. I agree that that matter should not have been imported into this debate. However, the persons who advocated the payment of that allowance in the days of the Chifley Government are still advocating its payment and are pretending that the Government will pay it, although the Government has no intention of doing so.
.- I propose to speak to the bill. I was very gratified to receive an assurance from the Minister that the amount that it is proposed to pay under the measure will not be classed as income for income tax purposes.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - The Minister has made no such statement in committee. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) should remember that we are in committee.
– I have received that assurance from the Minister. I do not think it matters where I received it. I understand that the money to be paid under this measure will not be taken into account in the assessment of income tax, and I now ask the Minister to inquire into the effect that the payment of this money will have on those persons who are in receipt of social services benefits. Possibly some of the beneficiaries will be receiving social services benefits, and I consider that it is necessary that the money to be paid under this measure should be excluded from any considerations under the social services legislation.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
_BILLS RETURNED FROM THE SENATE.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment : -
Overseas Telecommunications Bill 1952. Diplomatic Immunities Bill 1952. Nationality and Citizenship Bill 1952. Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Bill 1952.
Northern Territory (Administration) Bill 1952.
Aliens Bill 1952.
Stirling North to Brachina Railway Bill 1952.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Works - E. S. Barker.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determination - 1952 - No. 67 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
Repatriation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules- 1952- No. 88.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Notice of variation of plan of lay-out of City of Canberra and its environs, dated 17th October, 1952:
House adjourned at 11.47 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has supplied the following information : -
ser asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
After allowing for amounts carried forward from the previous financial year and carried over to the following financial year, actual expenditure against the vote during 1951-52 was £670,000. This amount was made up as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 4. inclusive. As far ::s I am aware, 1 I did not at any time t’ce the manuscript of Forty Thousand Thieves, by Eric Lambert. I am advised that Mr. Lambert made thu statement referred to under a misapprehension.
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cultural Grants Committee.
s. - On the 10th October, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) asked the following question . -
I ask the Treasurer to give consideration to, and consult the Prime Minister about, the establishment of a cultural grants committee on a national basis for the encouragement of art, culture and music, and the ultimate establishment of a national theatre and opera with similar functions to - that of the Australian Capital Territory Cultural Grants Committee.
On tha recommendation of the Australian. Capital Territory CulturalDevelopment Committee, the Government makes available yearly small grants to cultural organizations in the Australian Capital Territory. The Government has accepted this responsibility for fostering cultural activities in the National Capital, but considers that the extension of assistance of this kind throughout the Commonwealth is a matter more for the local governments concerned. Various proposals have been received for Government assistance in the establishment of a national theatre and opera, hut no decision on this matter has yet been reached.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows ; -
– On the 10th October, I promised a further reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) regarding publication of the balance-sheet of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I have looked into this matter and suggest that, as a bill to approve an agreement with this company will be brought down in the near future, the appropriate time for replying to the honorable member’s question will be during the debate on that measure.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1952, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19521021_reps_20_220/>.