20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. Archie Cameron) - took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply with respect to ‘ government awards to discoverers of uranium deposits. Some time ago, I asked a question on this matter, but having regard to the reply that the Minister gave on that occasion, he did not appear to bc aware of the full- text of my question. As it is invariably stated that awards made for the discovery of uranium are in respect of uranium specifically, and bearing in mind that one ore is generally associated with another, will he inform the House whether discoverers of uranium are to receive payment’ in respect of other metals that may be extracted after general expenses for the extraction of uranium have been deducted? Do discoverers of uranium receive payment to the value of all ores extracted, apart from uranium, or does the Government retain the profits made on other ores? .
– It would appear that the honorable gentleman has made a mistake in respect of awards that are paid to prospectors who discover uranium indications and the price that is to be paid for the substance itself when it is bought by the Australian Government. We pay awards to persons who give information that leads to the discovery of uranium, and such awards are paid in respect of uranium only. No awards are paid in respect of the discovery of other ores; and, so far as I am aware, the Government has never followed that practice. With respect to the purchase of uranium, the Government pays the prices that are set out in the Gazette for all uranium delivered to it. If, in thu course of refining ores, other metals are found in association with uranium, the Government will buy those ores also.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Supply by pointing out that it has been reported that he is considering arranging for a party of members of the Parliament to visit the Northern Territory to inspect the uranium deposits. As the Minister recently arranged for newspaper representatives to visit the Northern Territory uranium deposits, and it is eminently desirable that the represertatives of the people should have an early opportunity to assess the possibilities of those fields, will the Minister arrange for a party of parliamentarians to visit them after the Parliament has been prorogued on the 23rd October, and before the commencement of the next session on the 10th November? I point out that if the proposed visit is deferred beyond the date that I have mentioned, the wet season may prevent the party from inspecting uranium deposits other than the Rum Jungle field.
– It is true that a party of newspaper men visited Rum Jungle recently, but at their own expense. All the Government did was to make facilities available and give permission for an inspection to be made within the limits of security. A visit by members of the Parliament would involve the question of who should pay for it. I said last night that I was in favour of a visit by members of Parliament, if possible. I shall examine the suggestions made by the honorable member for the Northern Territory and see what can be done.
– Has the’ attention of the Minister for Supply been drawn to a recent statement by the Premier of South Australia to the effect that a survey plane, which happened to cross the New South Wales border i’n the vicinity of Radium Hill,, found radio-active anomalies as strong on the New South Wales side of the border as on the South Australian side? Is it not true that the pre-Cambrian rocks in that area are more on the New South Wales side than on the South Australian side? Is it also a fact that no adequate aerial survey of the New South Wales side has been conducted by the Government of that State? Can the Minister bring pressure to bear on the New South Wales Government in an endeavour to bring it up to the standard of energy that has been displayed by the Liberal Government of South Australia?
– I saw the statement to which the honorable member has referred, and I agree with it. When I was at Radium Hill recently I was told by a geologist that, to use a technical phrase, the geological horizon at Radium Hill is identical with the same horizon at Broken Hill, and that there is a . high degree of likelihood that uranium is also present at Broken Hill. So far as I am aware, no aerial survey has been conducted by the New South Wales Government. We have been trying to induce that Administration to evince the same degree of interest in this matter- as the South Australian Government has shown, but so far our efforts have been without success.
– As the .powers of the Australian Wheat Board except in respect of the winding-up of existing pools ceased yesterday and as the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has stated that he will set up a new wheat board, can he say whether it will be necessary, before the new board can operate, for each State to legislate to give effect to its expressed desire that a central marketing authority should be established to operate in respect of export wheat? If the States are agreeable, is it possible for the new board to operate as the sole marketing authority for all wheat even if domestic prices are not uniform ? If, at a later stage, agreement is reached on a uniform basis for all sales, will it be possible for the wheat-growers, if they so desire, to implement a plan for the stabilization of the industry?
– The Australian Government and the State governments have failed to reach unanimity on a basis for & stabilization plan or for an orderly marketing plan. That failure has been due solely to the fact that the State governments have been unable to agree among themselves on a uniform selling price. Further, each State independently has been unable to determine a selling price. Therefore, no basis exists at present for complementary Commonwealth-State legislation to establish a scheme for the orderly marketing of wheat; and, likewise, no basis exists for legislation to ratify the International Wheat Agreement or for the establishment of a stabilization plan for the industry. In these circumstances, the Australian Government, having acted in good faith over a period of years in endeavouring to lay a basis for stability in the wheat industry, has now felt impelled to say that it will in the near future introduce legislation, which, so far as the Commonwealth itself has power to do, will establish a basis for orderly marketing; but no legislation which the Commonwealth could introduce would attract a bushel of wheat to a Commonwealth wheat board unless it were compulsorily acquired. The Australian Government has no thought whatever of contemplating such acquisition. What it intends to do is to establish, through its legislation, a basis for orderly marketing, and to place the responsibility clearly upon the States them?e]ros to pass complementary legislation which will enable order to be established in the marketing of the Australian wheat crop.
– In view of the depreciation in the value of government bonds that has taken place under the administration of the present Government, and the loss of capital by people who have invested in such loans, will ‘ the Prime Minister endeavour to allay the fear in the minds of potential investors in the current loan that they may lose a part of their capital by the depreciation of loan values due to increasing interest rates? Will the right honorable gentleman give an assurance that interest rates will not rise and that they are likely to be reduced in the near future ?
– That would indeed be a curious statement for me to make, just as the honorable member’s question is rather a curious one, because I fear that it is designed to have some damaging effect on the new loan. I am happy to tell him that the loan prospects appear to be quite satisfactory. I noticed that a few days ago one of the leading financial commentators, who has many clients to advise, urged people to subscribe to the loan, and, contrary to the statement of the honorable member, referred to what he regarded as the possibility that it would be standing at a premium in the market later on.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. How do the tax reimbursements to Tasmania made by this Government during its four years of office compare with those made by the former Labour Government? Does not such a comparison prove to be quite untrue the statement of the Tasmanian Treasurer to the effect that the anticipated Tasmanian budgetary deficit of £395,000 is due to inadequate tax reimbursements from this Government?
– In the last four years of the administration of the Commonwealth Labour Government the tax reimbursements to Tasmania totalled between £6,000,000 and £6,500,000. In the four years of office of the present Government they have amounted to £16,000,000.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Treasurer of Tasmania said, when he presented his budget to the State Parliament, that he was not at all disconcerted by the fact that Tasmania was to lose that revenue-producer known as Tattersalls, as he was quite confident that the Commonwealth Grants Commission would make up the deficit that Tasmania would thereby incur? Will the Prime Minister ask the Commonwealth Grants Commission to take into account the fact that the loss of this revenue-producer was occasioned by a direct threat of nationalization made by a member of the Tasmanian Government, and that therefore the happening might be regarded as a self-inflicted wound ?
– I am indeed indebted to the honorable member for this interesting piece of information which, I have no doubt, will be of value.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Government has received the annual report of the Tariff Board, which is required by statute to be submitted by the end of August? Why was the report not tabled in the Parliament within seven days of its meeting, as required by section 18 (2.) of the Tariff Board Act? In view of the growing difficulties which Australian industries face as the result of the cost of uncontrolled inflation, will the Government table the report without further delay?
– I ignore the rather foolish comment in the question. I had thought that such comments were out of order. If the report of the Tariff Board has been received, as to which I cannot answer, and it is due to be tabled, then in proper time it certainly will be fabled. I shall find out right away.
– I ask the Minister for Health to inform the House whether a satisfactory agreement has been concluded with the chemists in relation to the supply of drugs and medicines under the Government’s health scheme. If so, will that agreement ensure the continuation of the pensioners’ medical service, which has operated smoothly and has been of great benefit to all pensioners ?
– Yesterday, the Minister for Social Services, who has been acting for me during my absence, myself, and our officials met the executive of the Pharmaceutical Service Guild, and proposals were made that practically covered the matters that were in dispute. We consider whether the Commonwealth should have a definite voice in the fixing of wholesale prices before various percentages were levied, and we agreed finally on a basis in this matter. We also discussed the possibility of introducing a streamlined system of pricing all prescriptions in order to enable payment to be made to the chemists more quickly. A standing committee, composed of Commonwealth officers and of representatives of the chemists’ organization, has been appointed to consider the numerous details involved. The Statistical Bureau of the Guild will render assistance to the committee, and it is hoped that the details will be cleared up during the present month. If that objective can be accomplished, the agreement will run from the 1st October. The fact that it was possible to conclude the agreement so quickly is attributable, largely, to the’ excellent work that was done by the Minister for Social Services during my absence abroad.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House whether further consideration has been given to the admission of optometrists to the government health scheme? In a letter which the Minister for Health wrote to me in reply to my representations, he said that he wanted to assure optometrists that the Government cast no reflection on them. However, optometrists are not concerned that a. reflection has been cast on them. They are concerned about their very existence. They consider that if the Minister’s scheme is successful it could have no other effect than their complete elimination. Has the Minister given further consideration to this matter and has he decided to include optometrists in the health scheme?
– The whole subject to which the honorable member has referred has been carefully considered. There is no reason for the optometrists to fear that the Government will interfere wi th their ordinary practice. In England no treatment by optometrists is paid for by the Government unless the patient has been referred to the optometrist by a medical practitioner. No such provision as that exists in Australia and nothing lias been done to alter the position of optometrists.
– It applies to specialists.
– The honorable member is talking nonsense. The Government contribution to the fees of a specialist who charged £3 3s. would be 6s. so that the patient himself would have to pay at least £2 17s. as there is no insurance cover, which, of itself, automatically precludes any government payment. At present, spectacles may cost twice that amount.
– Has the Prime Minister seen a report of a recent statement by a senior member of the Cabinet, in which be said -
Compulsory unionism in Queensland seems to have worked quite satisfactorily, and it lias not the terrors for mo that it might appear to have for some of my colleagues.
Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether that statement expresses the general view of the Government in relation to compulsory unionism?
– I regret to say that I have not seen the statement referred to, but if, when the rules of the House no longer apply, the honorable member will whisper the name into my ear I shall find out. He cannot do so at present. .
– I have made repeated representations to the Postmaster-General for the provision of new post “offices at Morrisset and Umina Beach, and recently the Minister informed, me of the .position in relation to Morrisset. Can he now indicate when it is expected that a new post office will be constructed at Umina Beach ?
– It is true that the honorable member has made representations to me in connexion with the provision of new post office buildings at Morrisset and Umina Beach. I shall acquaint him of the present position in each instance at an early date.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Of the oils and fats used in the manufacture of table margarine consumed in Australia, what is the proportion of coco-nut oil from imported copra used in such production? What vegetable oils and fats, other than coco-nut oil and animal fats, are used in the manufacture of table margarine in Australia, and what is the proportion to the total local consumption ? What is the quantity of table margarine that is permitted to be manufactured in the various States, and what is the quantity of table margarine that is actually manufactured for consumption in Australia?
– I have no knowledge, and I am not able to ascertain, the proportion of imported coco-nut oil, or coconut oil made from imported copra, that is used in the manufacture of margarine in Australia. I understand that quite a substantial proportion is used for that purpose, but that probably most of the imported copra and coco-nut oil is used in the manufacture of other products, such as soap. I cannot make a distinction between table margarine and other margarine in this respect, but I inform the House that oils which are used in the manufacture of margarine other than coconut oil include peanut oil, cotton seed oil and whale oil, all of which are produced in Australia. Certain edible tallow3 are also used. The Australian Agricultural Council has agreed that the States, which alone can control the production of margarine in Australia, will limit the manufacture of this commodity to a prescribed quota within their boundaries. The Queensland Government has departed substantially from that quota. Whereas the agreed quota was a few hundred tons per annum, I understand that Queensland now permits the production of some thousands of tons of margarine. However, this Government has no control over that matter, which contains a serious threat for the dairying industry.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the House whether the survey has been completed of the site known as Hexham, near Newcastle, for the establishment of a civil aerodrome? Has an allocation of money been made for the acquisition of the land ? If finance has been provided, when will the site be acquired and the work of construction commence?
– I am not able to give the honorable member the information immediately, but I shall obtain it for him. We have decided to acquire the Hexham aerodrome, and the surveys have been proceeding for some time, but I cannot say whether they have been completed.
– I refer to representations which I have made to the PostmasterGeneral about the many difficulties experienced by people who live in the Midlands districts of Western Australia in receiving satisfactory radio broadcasts. The difficulties are particularly great in the Moora district. Suggestions and requests have been made for an improvement of the reception, or for the establishment of another regional station. Can the Postmaster-General inform me whether any action has been taken to improve the reception of broadcasts in those districts? Is it likely that an additional regional station will be provided to meet the requirements of listeners in that part of Western Australia?
– My officers have been engaged in making a complete survey of reception conditions in Western Australia, and are recommending measures to improve them. The two major broadcasting stations in Perth are 6WF and 6WN. The power of one of those stations is to be increased from about 6,000 watts to 50,000 watts, and the other, I think, i3 to be increased to 10,000 watts. The station at Wagin is to have its power increased, I think, from 6,000 watts to 50,000 watts. So there will be an immense improvement in the service of these stations. Regional stations are to be established at Albany and Northam. It is recognized that bad conditions for reception exist in the Moora district and an examination of that district is being made in order to determine whether a regional station should be placed there or not. The provision of radio services throughout Australia is a. large undertaking. The Government has a big programme and these places will have attention in their turn, over a period of several years.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether the Australian Government could reasonably have expected that the Queensland Government would have applied approximately £1,000,000 to war service land settlement in that State this year, that sum being made up of approximately £700,000 which the Queensland Government was allocated in good faith by the Australian Loan Council and approximately £300,000 which represented the residue of last year’s allocation of approximately £675,000. Has the Government succeeded in persuading the Queensland Government to continue its war service land settlement scheme during the ensuing twelve months?
– I regret that I am not in a position offhand to reply to the honorable member’s question, but I shall ascertain the facts and convey an answer to him.
– Why did the Prime Minister find it necessary recently to defend professors as a class? Is he not aware that certain professors from time to time make ponderous pronouncements, especially in relation to foreign affairs? Is it not also a fact that there is a peculiar prestige attached to the title “professor”? Does the right honorable gentleman not agree that professors are not necessarily experts outside their own spheres and that sometimes, especially in the case of one or two professors in Canberra, they are even mediocre in their own special fields of activity?
– It is quite true that I had a kind word to say about professors. It is equally true that some professors make ponderous pronouncements on foreign affairs. It is also true that, a fortnight previously, in a radio broadcast, I found it appropriate to say a kind word about members of Parliament and to defend them. I am bound to admit that members of Parliament occasionally make ponderous pronouncements on foreign affairs.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that, up to the 18th September last, twenty members of the staff of Commonwealth Hostels Limited in Melbourne had been given notice of the termination of their services? Is it a fact that these notices were served only to men in the lower income group under £1,000 a year? How many more such notices are to be served ? Will the Minister indicate whether this is a manifestation of the Government’s post-budget policy of economic restriction?
– I understand that, as a result of a recent reduction of the number of people who require the services of Commonwealth hostels, there have been retrenchments in various sections of the administrative organization. I cannot state the precise figures, but I shall try to obtain them for the information of the honorable member and others who may be interested. So far from reflecting any policy of restriction arising from the budget, I assure the honorable member that the facts available to me indicate that the budget has already produced a buoyant condition of employment demand. Only this week an additional 1,100 people came off the list of recipients of the unemployment benefit. This reflects the steady and continuous demand for labour that this Government has been fostering.
– Will the. Prime Minister be so good as to inform me on the directions given to the representatiives of Australia at the recent conference on tariffs and trade with reference to the admission of Japan to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade?
– As this matter is by no means concluded, because only very preliminary discussions have occurred, I should think it quite unwise to publish to the world our directions to our own representatives. The matter, as the honorable member’ will realize, is one of some difficulty and considerable delicacy.
– by leave - I am sorry to say that on Tuesday, an accident occurred on one of the ranges at Woomera when a test vehicle pre-ignited and three people were injured, one of them rather seriously. Few accidents have occurred at Woomera and the mishap on this occasion is most regrettable. I mention it to the House because wild rumours have been circulating in the last 24 hours to the effect that the accident had something to do with the atom bomb test that will take place in the future. I assure the House that arrangements for that test are proceeding smoothly, and that the accident on Tuesday had nothing whatever to do with that matter.
Motion (by Mr. ERIC J. Harrison) agreed to -
That Standing Order 104 - eleven o’clockrule - be suspended for the remainder of the session.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 30th September (vide page 859).
Department of Defence
Proposed vote, £712,000.
Department of the Navy.
Proposed vote, £45,770,000.
Department of the Army.
Proposed vote, £73,742,000.
Department of AIR.
Proposed vote, £56,363,000.
Department of Supply
Proposed vote, £14,752,000.
Department of Defence Production
Proposed vote, £5,661,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I. wish to refer to an aspect of the national service training scheme which, I assume, affects the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) more than any other service Minister. I direct the attention of the honorable gentleman to a section of the National Service Act which operates to the detriment of trainees. It provides that a trainee shall be entitled to compensation under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act if he suffers illness or injuries arising from the course of, to use the words of the legislation, “his employment”. I and other honorable members have approached the Minister on several occasions in connexion with claims made by trainees who have been stricken by illness while undergoing their training. The Minister has assured us that he wants to do, and will do, everything possible for the trainees. Unfortunately, that is as far as we get. No matter how sympathetic the honorable gentleman may be, under the legislation in its present form he cannot do anything to assist trainees in this connexion.
Some trainees have suffered severely as a result of being stricken by illness during the period of their national service training. The most recent case has been handled by Senator Critchley. but it is one in which I am greatly interested. A lad named Luxton was serving with the 16th National Service Training Battalion at Woodside when he contracted an illness that was rumoured to be typhoid. Senator Critchley. the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and myself approached Major-General Kendall, who was commanding the Central Division. He told us that the illness had not been diagnosed as typhoid, and that it was similar to gastric influenza of a type that was baffling the medical experts. Luxton and three other lads suffering from a similar complaint weraadmitted to the Dawes-road hospital on the 18th June, 1.952, and were isolated there. I mention in passing that, strangely enough,the parents were not notified of the admission of the lads to hospital, but I am. pleased to inform the committee that Major-General Kendall has toldus that, in the future, parents will be notified immediately trainees are admitted tohospital. These lads were kept in the hospital in isolation, for some time. I do not think that any one has ever been told what was wrong with them. Luxtonremained in that hospital until he was discharged as fit for work on the 22nd October, 1952. He received payment for theperiod that he was in the Dawes-road hospital until the camp at Woodside brokeup and his unit was dispersed, but payment ceased on the day that that happened. For88 days after that date, until’ he was discharged by the Army as fit forwork, he was treated by the Army doctors, although he received no payment because, it was said, his unit had dispersed. Hewas told that it would be necessary for him to make a claim under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. As is usual in such cases, the Army authorities said to him, “Make a claim, and we will do everything possible. You will be all right. We want to look after you boys “. So he made a claim. Much correspondence then passed between Senator Critchley and the Minister for theArmy (Mr. Francis). After the matterhad been considered by the highest authorities, including those who make as littleinquiry as possible before making to theMinister a report which is accepted by him without further investigation, Senator Critchley received a reply which stated that it was regretted that the claim byPrivate Luxton for payment during theperiod he was a patient in a repatriation general hospital could not be acceded tobecause it had not been established that the disease from which he suffered was contracted in the course of his employment. 1 do not know how claimants could possibly substantiate their claims in such matters, nor do I know why the onus should be placed on lads of an early age, who are stricken with an illness whilst undergoing military training, to prove that that illness has resulted from their service. It seems to me that the trainees would be classified as medically Al on commencing their training. Otherwise, they would not be eligible to undergo training. Once they commence their training, in my opinion, the Government is responsible to care for them, both medically and financially, until they are returned to their homes, irrespective of whether they are in hospital when the period of their training expires.
The time has come for this Government to look closely at the relevant legislation in order to determine whether adequate provision to cover national service trainees in this respect should not be introduced. In 1951, I referred in this Parliament to a lad whose medical examination had been bungled. Although he had been a poliomyelitis victim, the doctor who examined him classified him as medically Al. He embarked on his military training, but after a few weeks had lost several pounds in weight. His health was affected, and he was discharged as medically class D. I approached the Minister for the Army several times on behalf of that boy. However, the case is still dragging on, and it appears that an application to a court is necessary. The point that I wish to make is that the parents of boys in poor circumstances cannot afford to approach the courts in order to have claims under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act substantiated. An easier way to make such claims should be found. If the Minister for the Army is not sufficiently interested to do something about the matter, then I nsk the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) to see whether he cannot bring iiic matter to the notice of the Government, with a view to altering the provisions of the act so as to provide that the onus of proof provisions shall be relaxed to make it less difficult for people to prove their claims. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), whose department was responsible for calling
Yeates up for national service, admitted in this chamber that a mistake had been made. I believe that the Minister himself was sympathetic and would be prepared to do the right thing if he had the handling of the case. He is a legal man and he knows the difficulties of proving a case under the Commonwealth Employees’’ Compensation Act. It is almost impossible for national service trainees who have the same kind of experience as Private Yeates has undergone to prove their case under the law as it stands.
The injustice of Private Luxton’s case - the first case I mentioned - is shown by the fact that another trainee, who was in the same hospital, as a result of the same kind of illness, but who took things into his own hands and told the authorities at Keswick just what he thought of them, has received compensation amounting to £30. He was not in the hospital for as long as Private Luxton was, but otherwise the circumstances of his ease were exactly the same as the circumstances of Luxton’s case. Luxton has not. received a penny. It is obvious that, decisions on these matters depend on the whim of the officer who deals with them. Anybody who has had anything to do with claims under workers’ compensation legislation knows how difficult and costly it is to establish a claim. No national service trainee or his parents should be compelled to spend money in an attempt, to obtain justice from the Government. I plead with the Government to do something about this matter, because national service trainees are becoming embittered about the training scheme, owing to the fact that they are not getting a fair deal. These boys are happy to do their training, but they ask for, and expect to receive, justice from the Government that has called them up for service. T-hey are entitled to an amendment of the legislation, which will ensure that if they are stricken by accident or illness, they will be covered adequately, financially and otherwise, for the period of their illness. If the Government calls them up fer training as medically fit Al, then it is the Government’s responsibility to keep them healthy and to cover them , financially until they return home able t>> resume their normal employment. I ask the Government to give particular attention to this matter and to examine it thoroughly, instead of dismissing it as merely another matter brought up during a debate on the Estimates. It should see that these boys receive the justice to which they are entitled.
– I refer to the defence of the western coast-line of Australia. I have brought this matter up repeatedly in this chamber, and I have occasion to mention it again to-day because I have been informed by the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) that No. 11 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron of Neptune bombers is to be transferred from Pearce aerodrome, in Western Australia, to the eastern coast of Australia. I do not object to that move being made on the ground that it is necessary for the efficient training of the squadron, because T realize that the squadron must receive the proper degree of training if it is to be able to carry out its function should occasion arises. I take exception, however, to the other reason that has been given for the movement of the squadron. That is that no anti-submarine base exists in Western Australia to provide the necessary training facilities. I am also informed by the Minister that no other facilities are available there for the training of the squadron. Possibly the leaders of the armed services do not consider that such facilities are necessary and in that event I raise no complaint.
However, I direct the attention of the Government to the fact that since 1910, successive Australian governments have been backing and filling on the matter of defence establishments in Western Australia. I refer in particular to the promised naval base at Cockburn Sound. I am not so concerned about Cockburn Sound as a site. The base could be at Albany or somewhere else if necessary, but I am concerned about the defence of the western seaboard of Australia which stretches for 4,350 miles. Just after the conclusion of World War II., Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fraser, who was then Commander-in-Chief of the British Pacific Fleet, said publicly that it was a disgrace that a ship damaged in the Indian Ocean had to be taken a distance equivalent to the distance between London and New York for repairs. Since I was elected to the Parliament in 1946, 1 have read with interest the speeches of successive Governors-General. Not one of those speeches has contained a reference to the defence of the Indian Ocean or the western seaboard of Australia. They have repeatedly referred to defences in the Pacific Ocean area. I am not sniping at the Government. I am putting forward a plea on behalf of the people of Western Australia.
– It is time that somebody directed attention to this matter.
– I referred the matter to the previous Labour Government also and nothing was done. I received no assistance from supportersof the Labour government who represented electorates in Western Australia at the time when I was the only member of the Opposition from Western Australia in both Houses of the Parliament.
– If the honorable member will move a motion of no confidence in the Government honorable members on this side of the committee will support him.
– I claim that the people of Western Australia are entitled to an authoritative statement upon the defence of the Western Australian coastline. On the 1st March, 1950, the present Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) spoke upon this matter in this chamber. I quote the following extract from his speech published in volume 206 of Hansard at page 250 -
If we think in terms of reality of the possibilities in Asia and of the possible alliances or friendships that we must find in that continent, and if we think of air communication and the general strategical outlook, we must realize that the Indian Ocean and not the Tasman Sea is likely to be the decisive ocean in Australian defence during the next half century. . . . Before the outbreak of World War II., the Pacific was rightly considered as of supreme importance to us. We had the expectation of complete security because of Great Britain’s naval supremacy in the Indian Ocean and the existence of the Singapore base.
Australia gained experience in World War II., particularly in connexion with the Singapore base. I have no knowledge of the present position iD that area, but if it has been fortified and made stronger than it was before World War II., a pronouncement to that effect by the Government could do no harm. On the contrary, it would do much good. Something should now be done to allay the fears of the people of Western Australia, because they have noted that year after year, ever since federation, every major activity undertaken in respect of defence has been concentrated on the eastern seaboard. In this morning’s press I read a report that the people of Sydney arc to be given an opportunity to inspect seven Australian warships on the 24th of this month. It would not be a bad idea if the Government arranged for combined defence exercises to be carried out in the Indian Ocean. Such exercises would not do the slightest harm, but they would do much to allay the fears of the people of Western Australia. I am impelled to raise this matter, particularly as the Government has just decided to move No. 11 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron of Neptune bombers from that State. Two years ago, on behalf of the Minister for Air, I had the privilege of welcoming the first unit of that squadron on its arrival in Western Australia. The advent of the squadron gave great pleasure to Western Australians because they were aware that those aircraft could sweep the whole Indian Ocean and maintain a good lookout along the whole of the coast of the State. In the intervening period, an air service has been inaugurated between Australia and South Africa, via Cocos Island. If anything untoward should happen to that service after No. 11 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron has been moved, relief would have to be provided by Air Force units stationed at Darwin, which is a thousand miles off the area of that route. In any event, I understand that our air strength at Darwin is only a couple of Lincoln bombers.
During the period to which I refer, an industrial boom has occurred in Western Australia. The Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited is now constructing at a cost of £40,000,000 a refinery which will be the largest in Australia. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has obtained a lease of Koolan Island and that company intends to build rolling mills at Kwinana, whilst an English cement company intends to establish a big plant there. Imperial Chemical Industries Limited is also interested in expanding its activities in Western Australia. Those undertakings will involve the provision of channels through the Parmelia and Success Banks in Cockburn Sound. Incidentally, those banks have been regarded as being unsurmountable obstacles to the establishment of a naval base in Cockburn Sound. t appeal to the appropriate Minister to make a comprehensive statement with respect to the defences of Western Australia. Such a statement could allay any fears people might have that an inadequate lookout is being maintained along the whole of the Western Australian coast which extends for a distance of 4,350 miles. However, in view of the decision to move No. 11 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron the people of Western Australia will continue to wonder whether the defences in that State are adequate until such an authoritative statement is made. I am still of the opinion that a threat exists to this country from southern Asia. I again remind the .committee that at Yampi Sound over 100,000,000 tons of iron ore rated at 60 per cent, is available above highwater mark, although the rise and fall of the tide at Derby and at Broome is approximately 28 feet. At. present, ore is being transported from Yampi Sound to Newcastle by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in its own vessels. That organization and the other large industrial organizations that I have mentioned are entitled to some assurance that adequate provision is being made for the defence of the coastline of Western Australia. Finally, I point to the confidant expectation that oil will be discovered at Exmouth Gulf.
I give credit to the Government for enlarging the air strip at Pearce aerodrome at a cost of approximately £1,000,000. The Air Force must maintain mobility, and the planning of strips of that kind in strategic areas is all to the good as a part of the general plan for the defence of Australia as a whole. However, only recently, after a naval vessel had been jj 1 need on the slips at Fremantle to be 1’nintcd the job was suddenly stopped, and again Western Australia was left in the lurch. Because events of this kind have been happening since 19;10, 1 appeal to the (Government to cause a statement to bc issued along the lines that I have ind i.cated. One reason that has been given for the removal of No. 11 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron from, the west, hus been the absence of a submarine base in that area. I realize that such a base is essential to the adequate training of thai, squadron. I am not being merely critical of the Government. I am simply directing its attention to the fears of the people of Western Australia, and I appeal to the appropriate Minister to indicate whether security of the western coast of this continent is receiving adequate attention. Such a statement could be made without disclosing vital information. The Go’vernment should, at least, give to the 1,eople of Western Australia an assurance that, notwithstanding the various movements of defence units from the west the defence coastline of that State is being ns:11 red
– The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has raised several important matters. I assure him that I have referred to the Chief of the Naval Staff and to the Chief of the Air Staff the representations that he has made to me from time to time on those matters .1 have also given attention to them, because I am aware of the sincere interest that he takes in this problem. Hp. has consistently advocated the establishment of a naval base at Cockburn Sound, or at Albany. The Government has given the fullest consideration to this problem ; and I have endeavoured to convoy to the honorable member the opinions held by the Chief of the Naval Stuff and the Chief of the Air Staff about what should he done in those areas. In reply to the honorable member’s request that the Government should issue an authorative statement on these matters in order to allay fears that are entertained by thi’ people of Western Australia, I mi able to inform him that the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride) will, in the course of this debate, make an important statement on strategy which, I believe, will meet his request. However, the honorable member has raised a number of questions in respect of the questions individual approach of the Naval and Air Force authorities to this problem. I sha.Il briefly summarize their views. Comparing conditions that exist to-day with conditions that existed in 1989, I point out that at present there is no great maritime or air power in the Pacific or the Indian Oceans. In 1939, Japan had a powerful navy and air force and was aggressive; but the position today is radically different from what it was at that time. It is also substantially different from what it was during the period the honorable member consistently made representations to the Government on this matter. Secondly, Singapore is being developed as an immense naval base. Recently, when I visited that area T was profoundly impressed by the progress that has been made in recent years in the development of that base as a result of which the whole strategic: outlook in the Malay Peninsula has changed. That area is now heavily defended by armed personnel. The Air Force is being expanded and naval forces have been considerably increased. It cannot he said that a substantial threat to Western Australia exists at present. The chiefs of staffs are giving constant attention to the problem.
I say to the honorable member with regret, because I know of his great and sincere interest in the matter, that at present Australia has no reason to establish a. naval base at Cockburn Sound. Such a project is not at the planning stage. We have made no provision in the Estimates for the establishment of a naval base at Perth. As our population grows and our resources are more fully developed, our Navy will increase in size and such a project will receive consideration; but present strategic considerations and our economic capabilities require our training efforts and exercises to be carried out on the eastern coast. I think, however, that the honorable member’s suggestion that some fleet exercises should be carried out in Western Australian waters is a good one. He is aware that exercises associated with the Monte Bello atomic test were carried out in these waters. I shall bring the matters that he lias raised before the Naval Board in order to see if anything can be done to meet his wishes. In any event, I shall have a reply prepared to the submissions of the honorable member.
I come now to the proposals that relate to the Air Force. The No. 11 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron, which is now based on Pearce, is to be moved to Richmond, in New South Wales. The move forms part and parcel of a general reorganization and redeployment of our home defence squadrons. It was decided upon for two reasons. The first of them was that the Air Force could not carry out effective training exercises on the west coast. It needed training schools, submarine and other elements of the fleet and other things of that kind to permit effective training to be given. It was with very great regret that I approved of the transfer of the squadron to Richmond. But other functions will still be carried out by the Air Force at Pearce. The City of Perth Squadron will be located there and will be maintained at efficient strength. National service training will also be carried out at Pearce, and provision has been made for frequent exercises by the No. 11 Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron to be carried out there. Consideration has been given to the movement of another training unit to the Perth area. We initially considered transferring the primary training unit there, but upon investigation we found that such a move would not improve efficiency and we abandoned the proposal. We are constantly going into these matters. As soon as a firm decision is made about the movement of an additional unit to Western Australia, I shall advise the honorable member.
The honorable member also referred to H.M.A.S. Horsham, which is on the stocks under repair.
– I merely made passing reference to the vessel.
– As the honorable member is aware, H.M.A.S. Horsham is an ancient mine-sweeper. When it was considered that the probability of global war was high many old mine-sweepers were pressed into service or brought to shipyards for repair. As new vessels became available and the tension lessened, the old vessels were paid off or disposed of. I assure the honorable member that the naval authorities are conscious of the anxiety felt in Western Australia that the interests of that State may, perhaps, be neglected. . These problems are constantly under discussion and as our resources grow the claims of Western Australia will receive further consideration. I again assure him that his proposals will be referred to the proper authorities for investigation and that I shall be only too happy to discuss them with him later. At a later stage the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) will outline the general defence strategy and policy of the Government.
.- I protest at the attitude of Ministers during this debate.
– Order ! That is a matter for the Chair.
– I intended to refer to something which is beyond the power of the Chair. Surely I am entitled to criticize Ministers. The point I wished to make was that, although the time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes now before us is extremely limited, Ministers are allowed to speak without restriction of time.
– That is what I assumed the honorable member was about to say.
– I have no right to say that?
– Well, at least we know where we stand. As this is the first opportunity we have had to take part in a general debate on defence since the end of the Korean war, it would not be proper for the debate to be terminated without an expression of thanks by the Parliament to those young Australians who served so magnificently in that conflict. They performed their task with great tenacity, distinction and courage and they have earned the sincere gratitude of the Australian people. On my own behalf, and on behalf of those whom 3 represent, I take this opportunity to extend it to them.
The defence votes in these estimates represent by no means the least of the proposed votes. This year, as was the case last year, we are asked to approve of defence expenditure amounting to no less than £200,000,000. When one considers the magnitude of the total defence vote one expects to be told that it covers projects of great magnitude. The people are entitled to be told how the money which they provide for defence is being expended.
– Yet the honorable member has protested because Ministers have tried to give him that information.
– I have no desire to be parochial when I say that some of the money voted last year for defence might well have been applied to the Burdekin Valley development scheme. As far as I am able to ascertain, our defences in the north of Australia are little if any better than they were when the war ended. I am aware that a great deal of the money voted for defence purposes is expended on the training of young men under the national service scheme and in the Regular Army, but such expenditure must represent but a small portion of the total expenditure. The people are entitled to know precisely what is being done with the money they provide for this purpose.
I should like the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) to state how much money is being expended on advertising the conditions that are applicable to. service in the Regular Army and the other branches of the permanent forces. Full-page newspaper advertisements, which we all know are very expensive, are published almost daily outlining the conditions. Is the money spent in that way being economically spent? I should like to know the number of persons who have been enlisted for service in the fighting forces during the last six months. The information that I seek should not be difficult to obtain. I have spoken to both the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) and the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) about this matter, because I have specific cases in mind. While I do not wish to reflect on either Minister, because both have been very courteous to me, I am afraid I cannot accept what they have told me. I am quite honest about the matter. About three months ago 49 lads, one of whom was’ a son of mine, enlisted on the one day. My son lost four days’ work and consequently four days’ wages. In terms of production, he lost four days while endeavouring to get into the Army. Eventually he was rejected on medical grounds. I would not presume for a moment to say that my son was medically fit, in view of the fact that the medical officers rejected him, but it was an extraordinary coincidence that not one of those 49 lads was accepted by the Army. Another son of mine, who was an electrical engineering apprentice in Townsville, was very eager to get into the Navy. When he made application for admission to the Navy he was informed that it would be necessary for him to have served an apprenticeship of three and a half years before he could be accepted. Why is not the position made clear in the advertisements? There is nothing in the expensive newspaper advertisements calling for volunteers to indicate that a lad who has served only a relatively short period of apprenticeship is ineligible for admission. However, both of my sons are still in their jobs because they were rejected by the Services.
I have in mind, also, another case in which a young lady endeavoured to get into the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service. She had been in that service during the war and was keen to join again. When I spoke to the Minister for the Navy about her case he gave me som*” information, to which I shall not refer at present. The young lady passed both the medical and aptitude tests but, for a reason that was given by the Minister for the Navy, which I cannot accept, she was rejected. I honestly believe that the armed services do not want any more recruits. Although I may not quarrel with that attitude, why, if that is so, does the Government persist in publishing expensive advertisements calling for recruits ? The Minister for the Army told me recently that only about 100 recruits a month would be admitted to the Army.
– I said 200 a month.
– With the utmost respect, I doubt whether there would be 200 enlistments a month for the Army.
– There are.
– However, it is too much of a coincidence that all 49 of the lads that I mentioned - the whole batch - were rejected for various reasons. Why does not the Minister state clearly in the newspaper that only 200 recruits a month will be admitted to the Army? From the way that the advertisements are worded, the people are entitled to believe that the Government is prepared to accept, as they come along, all persons who are eligible for service. On the Minister’s own admission, only 200 recruits a month are admitted to the Army. Therefore, if there were 500 applicants in a month, 300 would be rejected.
– Was not yourson subsequently called up for national service training?
– Yes, as I am reminded by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), although my son was rejected by the Army on medical grounds, he was passed Al for national service training.
– That is a different matter.
– I can understand that that may be an entirely different proposition. However, I am concerned not so much about the rejection of my lads as the deception that has been practised in the expensive newspaper advertisements. If the Government has decided that only 50, 100, or 200 recruits a month will be admitted to the Army, it should announce that decision publicly and cut out publishing expensive advertisements which are designed to induce young people to join the services.
– The brass hats will not let him do so.
– The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) has mentioned some of the happenings in the services. I advise any Minister who thinks that everything is nice and smug in the services to pull the wool from over his eyes, because I assure him that that is not so. Proper care and appropriate action is not always taken when accidents occur. The Minister for the Army will recollect that I recently directed his notice to the case of a lad of eighteen years of age who was taken from his home in Townsville, away from the care of his parents, and placed in a camp at Wacol. Subsequently he broke his leg. The Minister stated that the accident occurred while the lad was playing football. That may or may not be so. But the aspect of the matter about which I am particularly concerned is that his parents did not hear about his injury until’ a friend directed their attention to a report in the Brisbane Telegraph. Does the Minister believe that parents should be compelled to purchase a newspaper in order to find out whether something has happened to their son in a national service training camp, or that it is the responsibility of the Department of the Army to ensure that a notification reaches them? In this instance, obviously the department considered that a newspaper reporter was entitled to receive the information before the lad’s parents had been notified. The boy’s mother made inquiries at Northern Command, after reading the newspaper report, but the officers there knew nothing of the matter. They told her to communicate with the authorities in Brisbane, whereupon she sent a pre-paid telegram, at a cost of about 10s., in an endeavour to obtain verification of the newspaper report. The Minister should not think that everything is hunky-dory in the Army camps.
– What does that mean?
– It is French for something that I shall mention to the Minister at an appropriate time. The expression was used frequently during the war period, but apparently the Minister for Defence does not know its meaning. He should not believe that everybody is happy and contented in the Army camps. However, I rose primarily to direct attention to the fact that neither the members of this Parliament nor the people have been furnished with details of the expenditure of this colossal amount of money.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) asked, both at the commencement of his speech and towards the end of it, to be informed how the Army’s share of the vote of £200,000,000 for defence purposes had been expended. He claimed that honorable members do not know anything about the expenditure, and invited me to furnish them with details. I accept his invitation, because I am here for tha( purpose. I shall be happy to explain the manner in which money has been expended by the Army, and also to reply to some of the observations that have been made by honorable members opposite. At the outset, I should like the two Opposition members who have spoken on the matter of medical treatment of National Service Trainees to know that more than 57,000 men under the age of eighteen years have received national service training. The honorable member for Kingston, in spite of his hysterics, has been able to cite only two cases of trouble-
– It would not matter if there was only one case of trouble.
– Order! The honorable member for Kingston has made his speech, and I ask him to hear the Minister in silence.
– The honorable member for Kingston raised his voice as loudly as he could, and tried to strengthen, with a lot of noise, his claim that something was terribly wrong with the medical services of the Department of the Army. I inform him that the Department of the Army, the Army medicalservice, regimental officers, civilian personnel and the Minister himself give every possible consideration to the claims of every lad in the service.
– Every possible consideration has not been given to the lad to whom I have referred. Why has one lad received payment, whilst another has not received payment?
– We have met that problem from the word “ go “. A lad who meets with an accident, or becomes ill, receives the best possible hospital treatment from the best medical and specialist service in the whole of Australia. This service is available, without exception, to the lads in the Army, and, for that matter, to lads in the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. If a problem, difficulty or uncertainty arises,’ the DirectorGeneral of Medical Services calls in, if necessary, as well as every expert in the Army, the best civil specialists to look after the lad. Expert treatment from the combined medical skill of the whole medical profession of Australia as well as the Army is brought instantly to the aid of any member of the Army who requires attention.
– No one denies that.
– Then what in the name of heaven is the honorable member for Kingston complaining about!
– Order! If the honorable member for Kingston does not remain silent, he will be asked to leave the chamber. I warn him to obey the Chair.
– The honorable member for Kingston admits, without any reservation now, that the best medical experts and medical service in the whole of Australia are available to members of the Army, and are used by the Army.
The next point that I make is that a lad who becomes sick while he is undergoing training, receives the best hospital treatment. That must be accepted. If his term of 98 days’ continuous service in the Army expires before he has recovered, he remains in the Army, and, if necessary, payment for an extra month is made to him by the Army so that he may make his application for compensation during that period. That is a special consideration to ensure that the lad shall not be inconvenienced, or in need of funds, because of any service that he has rendered to his country. For one month after he has completed his term of continuous training, a sick lad is paid, and, thereafter, is entitled to receive compensation. If the honorable member for Kingston has any complaint against the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, I remind him that they were determined by the preceding Labour Government.
– Not in respect of national service trainees.
– Yea, to them as well because that act now applies to them also. If the honorable member does not know better, he would be wise, in his own interests, to keep quiet. The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act is applicable, not only to soldiers, but also to every member of the Commonwealth Public Service. Application has to be made on the prescribed form, and the Command Secretary and his staff in each capital city where camps are held renders every possible assistance to a soldier to prepare the documents when he is making a claim for compensation. The Government and the Department of the Army want any lad who has been injured to receive everything to which he is entitled.”
– I wish that was true.
– I, personally, do not mind if a lad gets a hit more. However, the Government and the Department of the Army wish every lad to get everything to which he is entitled, and he is given every possible assistance to obtain it. The medical officers who attend a sick ‘ lad, the officers in the regiment in which he is serving, and civilian personnel in the Department of the Army give him every assistance. But the delegate to the Treasury may not be satisfied, after the most careful investigation, that the lad is entitled to the amount to which the boy considers he should receive. In that event, all I can say is that every effort has been made to give the lad complete justice.
– Why was one lad paid, and another lad not paid?
– The lad has the right of appeal to a county court or a district court if every effort we have made to give him compensation has failed. I want every lad, who can establish his claim, to receive compensation. That is our approach, and there is none better. The whole Department of the Army, the medical officers, the officers of the regi-ment, the civilian personnel and the Minister do their utmost to obtain compensation for a lad if he has a case. That is the story. It stands to the credit of this Government and the Department of the Army that only an odd case of difficulty can be cited in this chamber after more than 57,000 lads have undergone national service training. However, I do not desire any cases to be cited in this chamber. I want every soldier, or national service trainee, to get everything to which he is entitled. The Department of the Army and I will bring every effort to bear to ensure the continuance of this policy.
I have been asked to indicate how the proposed vote of £200,000,000 for Defence Services will be expended. The allocation to the Department of the Army is £73,740,000. I believe that every honorable member will agree that the recent changes in the international situation, whilst they present hope of some abatement of the cold war tactics, scarcely justify a curtailment of our military preparedness. However, the Government has made some change. I shall inform honorable members of the variations that have taken place. Although there has been a cease-fire in Korea, the general position is still uneasy, and we must watch the outcome of the peace negotiations with caution and reserve. One of the major lessons learnt from the Korean campaign - and a very sobering one - is the rise of Communist China as a great military power. The advent of this growing military strength in the Far East, if it is used for evil, poses a problem for Australia which we cannot ignore, except at our own peril. That is one of the reasons why we must continue the policy that we have been following in the last few years. It is the firm belief of the Government that there is, as it were, a plimsoll line below which our defence preparations and expenditure must not fall. We must maintain the splendid army organization that has been established since this Government has been in office. I am able to inform honorable members of certain permissible modifications in the Citizen Military Forces and national service programme which, whilst making considerable reductions of expenditure, will not impair their basic organization or efficiency.
The major modifications are, first, the reduction of the national servicemen’s obligation for service with the Citizen
Military Forces from three years to two years. Hitherto, men have been required to serve for three years after they had completed their national service training. The second major modification is the reduction of the annual liability of the Citizen Military Forces for home training from twelve to seven days.
– I shall explain the reason. No reduction in the full-time training of national servicemen, or the fourteen-day period of annual camp for the Citizen Military Forces has been made. This is regarded as the essential minimum requirement. Home training will now be conducted in two or more week-end bivouacs, which will be preferable to the previous obligation of twelve days’ service, made up largely of night parades at depots. The Department of the Army believes that night training at depots has some advantages, but that constant training in field exercises is preferable to it. The new system will reduce the strain on the Citizen Military Forces depot staffs and at the same time it will provide better and more adequate opportunities foi- collective training outside the depot itself.
The proposed vote for the Army is £73,740,000. It is necessary to think of a modern army not merely in terms of fighting men but in terms of a vast industrial and business organization which handles problems as great as those which characterize our industrial and commercial life. Unless we can continue to pursue a policy of mutual security, pacts such as the Anzus treaty will become unbalanced and meaningless.
In accordance with the Government’s policy, the role of the Army is to provide forces as may be required for possible commitments to the United Nations, including regional arrangements in the Pacific and participation in British Commonwealth Forces. The Army must also provide the basic organization for expansion in time of war and provide for the local defence of Australia and its territories. In order to meet these commitments the Army has been devised in the following components: - A field force for operations at home or abroad as may be required; garrison forces for local defence of Australia against raids and for internal security of vulnerable points for which the Army is responsible; a command training maintenance organization to ensure the correct and efficient functioning of the forces and to raise and train such expeditionary forces as may be required in time of war and to . provide facilities for any allied forces which the Government may agree to supply from Australia. In this activity the Regular Army plays a prominent part. There is no point in making agreements with other countries if we cannot fulfil our obligations under those agreements. It is through the Regular Army that Australia has manifested its support for the United Nations. The Regular Army Brigade comprising the third, first and second battalions has served with distinction in Korea. A total of 8,000 of all ranks of the Australian Regular Army have served in Korea since the outbreak of hostilities and more than 2,000 have served in Japan in order to give administrative support to the forces in the field. Unfortunately, a war cannot be fought without casualties and the Australian casualties in Korea have amounted to 1,537, of whom 267 have made the supreme sacrifice and 1,234 have been wounded. A great number of men were missing but many of them have been recovered, some since the cease-fire. However, some are still not accounted for.
The honorable member for Herbert referred to the splendid work of this brigade. I am never tired of paying tribute to the splendid work of these men. But I should like to quote a tribute which was paid to them recently by LieutenantGeneral W. Bridgeford, C.B., C.B.E., M.C., who, until recently, was CommanderinChief of the British Commonwealth Forces in Korea. Upon his arrival in Australia, Lieutenant-General Bridgeford made the following statement about Australian forces in Korea: -
They have added fresh laurels to the already illustrious name of the Australian fighting soldier and they have done much to enhance the prestige of the British Commonwealth as a whole.
Other important roles filled by the Regular Army have included the provision of administrative and training cadres for the Citizen Military Forces and national service training battalions. Never before has our Citizen Army been so efficiently supported by permanent cadres as it is now. Every citizen force leader will agree that through these cadres we have succeeded beyond our expectations in welding into one composite whole regular citizen force and national service components.
The Citizen Military Forces now hold about 60,000 national service men and a voluntarily enlisted component of about 15,000, consisting for the most part of officers, non-commissioned officers and specialists. The absorption of national service men who are serving two years with the Citizen Military Forces plus the volunteers will result in the Citizen Military Forces reaching a maximum strength of 73,500 in April, 1954. I am sure that this is the greatest force that Australia has had since federation in time of peace. The Citizen Military Forces now comprise, broadly, the following units: - (a) Two infantry divisions; (Z>) three infantry brigades plus divisional troops for a third division; (c) two nucleus armoured brigades, each of two armoured regiments and supporting units ; (d) non-divisional supporting arms and field administrative units ; (e) certain base units required in Australia for the raising of the field force on mobilization.
Never before have the Citizen Military Forces received such a large and consistent intake of well trained and disciplined soldiers as those who have been provided <by the national service training scheme. I think that I should remind the House that the success of the national service training scheme has relied, and will continue to rely, on the local and efficient service of the volunteer officers, non-commissioned officers and specialists of the Citizen Military Forces who give their services so freely and so unselfishly for the better defence of their country. For a long while a number of people in this country, some of them prompted by base motives, claimed that the Citizen Military Forces were moribund. They have proved themselves to be one of the most amazing military organizations in the world, having absorbed 60,000 trainees almost without a hitch. The officers, non-commissioned officers and specialists to whom I have referred have trained these lads, kept them interested, maintained a high standard of efficiency and provided for field organization, all as part-time duty. They worked all day and did this other work at night or at week-end3 or at bivouacs and annual camps. The proposed appropriations for Citizen Military Forces pay and allowances including the national service component and cadets amounts to £6,675,000 which is an increase of £1,180,000 on last year’s appropriation, due to the ever-increasing numbers in the units. The absorption of the new units into the order of battle of the Citizen Military Forces is taking place on a planned basis. I do not propose to go into details but I will assure honorable members that the Citizen Military Forces are scientifically organized and contain every element of a modern and efficient army. They include army units, motorized units, amphibious units, light and heavy mechanized artillery, antiaircraft units, engineer and workshop units arid a modern infantry all of which are equipped and trained according to the most modern doctrines. I ask honorable members to contrast this organization with the horse and buggy outlook of the Army in pre-war years.
Since its inception, the Army has trained over 52,000 national service trainees in full-time training camps. Young men from all walks of life, from town and country, have mingled in army barrack rooms and have learned a great deal about each other’s problems, shared experiences and developed great friendships. They have learned to appreciate the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Upon the completion of the fulltime training course, the national service man has learned how to co-operate with the other armed services, handle weapons, preserve discipline and take care of his physical well-being. In other words, he has been instructed in all the accomplishments that go to make the perfect soldier. He has a knowledge of artillery, machine guns, signalling equipment, electrical apparatus and radar equipment which fits him to go into any branch of the Army. I am strongly of the opinion that the national service trainee, upon completion of his basic training, is more efficient than were we who went to World War I. and those .who went .to World War II. I believe that every honorable member will agree that national service has become an institution. Apart from its great military value, it provides the young men of Australia with a background of good citizenship and teaches self-reliance, self-discipline and a sense of responsibility to the country, whose freedom and security will hereafter rest in their hands. They have responded manfully and enthusiastically to their obligations.
I refer now to the defence of Australian territories, which has been the subject of much comment in the newspapers recently. The security and protection of our northern frontiers is a matter of first-class importance, and honorable members may rest assured that this has not been overlooked in the Government’s defence plan. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) will enlarge on this aspect of our activities at a later stage. In the event of a real threat of war, there will be an immediate deployment of troops and naval and air units at pre-selected strategic points in our territories. If honorable members think that some more practical manifestation of our concern for the defence of the territories is desirable, such as the deployment on garrison duties of any units of the Regular Army that can be spared for this purpose, I point out to them that, in my opinion, nothing could be more damaging to the morale and well-being of young soldiers than to be stationed for long periods in the territories on purely garrison or security duties. Subject to the limits of practical economics, the requirement appears to me to be the recruitment and training of native units supported by auxiliary units in which European residents of the territories can equip themselves for war-time roles. This, of course, is the Government’s policy, and considerable progress has already been made towards its fulfilment. The formation of the Pacific Islands Regiment, a unit of the Australian Regular Army, was completed in September, 1952. The regiment is now maintained at an average strength of 600 natives, with Australian officers and senior non-commissioned officers who have had overseas service. In January this year, a company group of the unit was established at Vanimo on the northern coast of New Guinea, approximately 15 miles from the Dutch border. The Papua and New Guinea Rifles, a Citizen Military Forces unit of volunteers from the local European population, is established at Port Moresby, Lae and Rabaul. In the event of war, it is intended that this unit shall provide the officers and senior non-commissioned officers for additional battalions of the Pacific Islands Regiment, which may be embodied in the defence scheme for Papua and New Guinea.
The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) recently made some observations on Australia’s defence plans which were reported in the press. The honorable gentleman set out what he described as the realistic policy of the Chifley Government in relation to defence. He mentioned the establishment of a base at Manus Island, and suggested that Japanese war prisoners there should be used to assist in that work. The honorable gentleman failed to mention the desolation and ruin into which the former great’ American base was allowed to fall by the Chifley Government before any attempt was made to rehabilitate even those modest facilities that had been earmarked by the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force for post-war use. What happened at Manus Island also happened elsewhere in the territories, either through a policy of sheer inertia or by the wanton and wholesale disposal of all sorts of war-time assets which could have played an important part in the reconstruction of the territories if the Labour Government had had any plan, or even a semblance of a plan, for their future well-being. Private interests and operators often acquired from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission large quan tities of valuable equipment for a mere pittance. They literally stripped the territories of items that would have been of value in the work of post-war reconstruction. Many miles of valuable oil and water pipe lines were torn out of the ground, oil installations were dismantled and salvaged, air strips were denuded of their steel planking and rendered useless, valuable buildings were demolished, and overhead power and light channels were stripped of their nonferrous metal components, including copper in particular. Much of this valuable equipment was resold on overseas markets. It is a tragic story of the wanton destruction and disposal for a mere song of assets which had cost the taxpayers of Australia and the United States of America tens of millions of pounds. If this was the realistic policy to which the honorable member for Adelaide referred, the honorable gentleman must be suffering from hallucinations.
The Army began the post-war era with a shortage of scientific and technical manpower. The principal deficiences were in relation to engineers and skilled artisans for the maintenance and repair organization. The Regular Army alone now includes 450 engineers and scientists of university degree standard and has a complement of 3,000 highly skilled tradesmen and 1,500 of medium skill. The training of these technologists has been carried out in military and civil establishments. At present, more than 100 Army students are studying at universities, technical colleges and hospitals in such important courses as science, engineering, nursing, catering and dental mechanics.
Adult soldiers and young apprentices are being trained in the building, electrical and metal trades. These artisans, particularly the 250 who have graduated from the Army Apprentices School at Balcombe, are exercising a very healthy influence on Army workshops. Army personnel have gone overseas to the Royal Military College of Science and other establishments in order to acquire advanced scientific and technological training, notably in the experimental field as well as those of design and proof. The Army is better equipped technically to-day than it has ever been. One weakness from which it has suffered in the past, but which is being overcome gradually, has arisen from the lack of operational experience amongst junior officers. The number of men in training at Duntroon Royal Military College and at the Portsea Officer Cadet School has been substantially increased. The Army has adopted a policy of providing active service experience for its young officers in Korea. Almost every junior officer of the Regular Army who was too young for service in World War II. has now acquired operational experience. This form of training has helped to maintain wartime standards of efficiency and realism in training, and I am sure that we may look with confidence to these young men for military leadership in the future.
It is characteristic of the thoroughness and efficiency of the Army to-day that war planning goes on without interruption. The pressure of day to day work is not allowed to subordinate this important aspect of its job. At Army Headquarters, a special planning section has been established to assist commands in the preparation of their war plans so that formation and unit plans may be completed as soon as possible. The Army to-day is better prepared for war, should an emergency arise, than it has ever been. The honorable member for Herbert raised certain aspects of enlistment concerning his own family. I regret that he did so. I have discussed the matter with him fully and carefully, and I have shown him the file. There were medical reasons for the rejection. I told him what the medical reasons were, and I believe that he was very unwise indeed to raise the matter in this chamber.
– I wish to refer specifically to two matters, one concering the Department of Air and the other the Department of the Army. The fact that the Government appears to be unable to make adequate provision out of its enormous defence vote for the payment of compensation to injured national service trainees indicates to me at least that defence expenditure generally could well be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee. For instance, the Department of the Army receives a vote under the heading “ General Expenses” to cover such items as travelling and subsistence, postage, telegrams and telephones, fuel, light, power, water supply and sanitation, freight and cartage, rations, petrol, oil and lubricants, and compensation for death, injury, or illness on duty. There is also the further item, “ Incidental and other Expenses “, under various heads. Although the annual cost to the Australian taxpayer of these “ incidental and other expenses “ is more than £1,000,000 for the services departments no indication is given of the manner in which this money is spent ; yet we find that national service trainees are denied their right to compensation when injured in the course of their training.
I shall deal particularly with the case of four young national service trainees who were badly injured at Helidon in Queensland on the 28th September, 1952. The lads had entered camp about a fortnight previously, and their commanding officer, Squadron Leader Dutton, had allegedly given them permission to go into Helidon on Sunday morning, the 29th September, to attend church. It has been claimed that the boys were on stand-down leave. That is denied by the lads who say they were told by Squadron Leader Dutton that there would be no stand-down leave until after the “ rookie “ course had ended in about three weeks’ time. Apparently somebody is passing the buck. The boys were offered a lift into Helidon by Warrant Officer Mackenzie and the car overturned. I submit that even if the trainees were on stand-down leave they are still entitled to compensation for their injuries. After all, the Department of Air took them from their homes 600 miles away for national service training. That training involved living in camp for six months, and had they not been in camp the accident would not have happened. I am interested particularly in the treatment of a trainee named Markham, who has been almost hopelessly crippled. For five months he was in military hospitals at Ipswich, Greenslopes, and Richmond. Eventually he was discharged and the Department of Air now claims that it has no liability in respect of his injuries. I shall quote the report of Dr. Phillip Rundle, of Newcastle, who examined Markham on the 9th March of this year. He said -
The patient was slightly built youth of about the stated age who did not look well. He was nervous and tremulous in his speech and manner and his complexion was pale. There was no discomfort in his right arm or pelvis due to the treatment given. There was a major disaster in his right lower limb resulting from a deformity at the knee joint causing’ bowing of the limb, shortening of the limb and limitation in the range of movement in both extension and flexion. The former was reduced by 10’ and flexion by 180’. The knee was permanently swollen and there was a healed scar some 3 inches in length on the medial aspect of the knee.
This patient has suffered a severe injury to his skeleton as a result of the accident described, which has contributed to his present poor physical condition and there can be no doubt that this will have a permanent effect on this patient’s habitus and future health. The present condition of the knee is such thai 1 do not think there will be any further improvement in it and the deformity and disability resulting therein will be of a permanent nature. I would consider that the present loss of function of the limb is about 80 per cent., and as a result of this his future use and the potentiality of future employment will be greatly restricted and, further, there is no doubt that such a deformity on a weightbearing limb will ultimately cause some disability in the right hip joint sacro-iliac articulation and his vertebral column.
It will be seen that Markham is a cripple and, although he is only nineteen or twenty years of age, he is unfit for employment. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) has indicated that every assistance is given in such cases, but this boy has been fobbed off by everybody, including officials in Queensland, the Department of Air, and the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) himself. I contend that the Minister has shown by his handling of this case that he is incapable of administering his portfolio. He, too, has passed the buck. Recently, I received a letter from the Minister stating -
I draw particular attention to the words “ on or off the unit “. If the lads left the unit where were they to live? Even if they remained on the unit, then, according to the department, no responsibility would be accepted for what happened to them. The Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act provides that a person is entitled to compensation if he is injured whilst travelling to or from the place of his employment or while engaged in the execution of his duties. The Minister further stated -
Following submission of claims for compensation under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1951 by the trainees concerned, the matter was referred to the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation for decision as to whether liability for the payment of compensation should or should not be admitted.
On 17th August, 1953, the Delegate of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation ruled that A. C. Markham was not travelling from his employment when the accident occurred. It was stated by the delegate that if during an off duty period, and some time after ceasing duty, an employee leaves the departmental premises for recreational or private business reasons, or for any other purpose, he cannot be said to be travelling from his employment. A. C. Markham’s claim was accordingly disallowed under sections 9 and 9a of the said act.
The Minister for the Army has said that in such cases an appeal may be made; but this lad has not even been heard. The commissioner has ruled that he is not entitled to compensation. I contend that the Government should be a model employer. It should show the way to industry generally. Surely the Government has some obligation to lads who are taken from their homes hundreds of miles away and cast upon the world. I note that the Minister for Air has now left his place at the table, but I want him to listen to this. Section 9 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act states that any person who is injured in an accident arising out of or in the course of his employment shall be entitled to compensation. Under such circumstances, an employee is entitled to compensation. There are numerous precedents for the payment of compensation in cases similar to Markham’s case. I shall refer to them shortly. Sub-section (3.) of section 9 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act states -
If it is proved that the injury to an employee is attributable to his serious and wilful misconduct, any compensation claimed in respect of that injury shall, unless the injury results in death or serious and permanent disablement, be disallowed.
If a man shot himself in the course of his employment, compensation would be payable if he were seriously or permanently disabled, yet compensation has been denied a lad who received a lift into town so that he could go, above all places, to church. Sub-section (2.) of section 9a of the act states -
In this section, “travelling” means travelling by the shortest convenient route for the journey and does not include travelling during or after any substantial interruption of the journey.
This lad had only commenced to travel away from his camp. All employees are entitled to compensation in respect of injuries received while travelling to or from their places of employment. Under certain provisions of the compensation law, compensation is payable to people who are compelled by the circumstances of their employment to remain in a camp or to live in places other than their normal homes and are injured while travelling to and from those places. Let me refer the committee to the case of McMahon v. Commissioner for Railways. The report of the case reads as follows : -
The applicant was a railway guard employed by the respondent. He lived at Sydney. In the course of his employment he journeyed by train between Enfield and Richmond. At Richmond he availed himself of the accommodation provided by the respondent in barracks on railway premises for railway workers. After sleeping in the barracks the applicant purchased food in the town and was proceeding back to the barracks to cook it. The situation of the barracks necessitated walking alongside and crossing railway lines on the respondent’s .premises. Shunting operations were in progress, and while walking along the barracks track parallel to the Tailway lines he was truck by some projecting portion of a train.
The commission found that the injury arose out of and in the course of the applicant’s employment. He was compensated. In a case in which I was interested as an organizer of the Australian Railways Union, two members of my organization left their camp near Toronto, Went into Toronto and had a few drinks. On the return journey, they were run down by a passenger train and killed. The report of the case states -
Respondent’s safety directions to workers were to face oncoming traffic and walk in the cess at the .side of the railway line. H. and a fellow worker, having ceased work at 5 p.m., visited Toronto for purposes not connected with the respondent’s business, and on the return journey were run down by a passenger train and killed. The Commission found that ( 1 ) the men had walked facing the oncoming passenger train; that a goods train, its noise and smoke, distracted their attention and they did not realize the speed of the quickly approaching passenger train; (2) in the circumstances it was reasonable for the men to walk on the relevant portion of the railway lines; even if such act amounted to serious and wilful misconduct and death was solely attributable to it.
Judge Perdriau, in his judgment, said -
The circumstances were such that they could not reasonably be held to. be too remote to be incidental to the employment. Here we have a complete and reasonably strong chain of causation between the employment and the fatality. In other words, the fatality arose out of the employment.
Compensation was paid in that case. Let me refer the committee also to the case of Jackson v. City of Newcastle Gas and Coke Company Limited. Jackson was told by his employer that if he did not attend the annual picnic of his union, he would lose a day’s pay. The report of the case states -
The respondent having in practice made its employees’ attendance at the annual picnic -compulsory, in default of which it inflicted the penalty of loss of a day’s wages, and : applicant’s attendance at the picnic having been in pursuance of the duty thus imposed on him by the respondent, the Commission held that the injury arose out of and in the course of the worker’s employment with the respondent.
I could cite judgment after judgment in support of the contention that when a person is required to sleep or stay on his employer’s property, as this lad was in Queensland,. he is entitled to compensation for any injury received while travelling to or from that place. In those circumstances, I submit that the Minister for Air should uphold the claim of the four lads who were injured at Helidon, in Queensland. If the Minister is not prepared to interpret the act in the way in which it has been interpreted in other cases, the act should be amended so that, in the future, boys who are serving the Government compulsorily will not be robbed of compensation for injuries received in the course of their employment.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to reply to the charge of the honorable member’ for Shortland (Mr.
Griffiths) that, because of what happened in the negotiations to which he has referred, I am unfit to administer the Department of Air. Let me. point out to the honorable member that the matter was outside the jurisdiction of the Department of Air and was within the jurisdiction of another department. As an act of courtesy, and only as an act of courtesy, I handled the case on behalf of the honorable member because he did not know which department was responsiblefor dealing with it. If he has a sense of decency, I expect an apology from him. If he has not, I do not expect one. A.C. Markham was on stand-down leave. He had the right to elect to stay on his station or to go off it, if he wished to do so. He elected to go into town, for reasons that were known to him, but not to the service authorities. He was injured while proceeding from the station to the township. In those circumstances, section 9a of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act applied. That section states -
Where personal injury by accident is caused to an employee while he is travelling to or from -
his employment by the Commonwealth . . . the Commonwealth shall, subject to this Act, be liable to pay compensation.
That is the law. The responsibility of the commissioners who administer the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act was to ascertain whether the man was travelling to or from his employment. On the facts of the case, it was obvious that he was not. Therefore, the duty of the commissioners, who must interpret the act as they find it, was to decide that he was not entitled to compensation. I believe the act was correctly interpreted and applied. As I have said already, this matter does not come within my jurisdiction.
Let me take the matter a stage further. The act, which has not been amended by this Government, was in operation during the whole of the time the Chifley Government was in office. Therefore, it can be regarded as legislation passed and administered by that Government. If problems of this kind arose while the Chifley Government was in power, the honorable member could have recommended to that Government that the act be amended, but he did not do so. Now he has made a totally unwarranted attack-
– Does the Minister expect trainees to remain in camp all the time? Is that his “view?
– I am not replying to the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), I am replying to the honorable member for Shortland.
– The Minister has not quoted section 9 of the act.
– If there he a case for amendment of the act, the honorable member would have been wise to suggest an amendment to the Chifley Government.
– What about the words “ arising out of or in the course of his employment “ ? What about those words in section 9? Do not bother about travelling.
– If the injury arose out of the man’s employment, compensation would be payable, but it did not arise out of his employment. I do not know how much bush law the honorable member has at his disposal, but I assure him th at the Crownlaw authorities and those associated with the matter have given their decision, and I think that that decision is within the terms of the law. If an injustice exists, I suggest that the wisest thing to do is to ask the Government to consider it, not to become intemperate and to accuse Ministers of not being able properly to administer their departments. This Government has always shown that it is prepared to consider instances of alleged injustice, and, if injustices are proved to exist, to amend the relative legislation. However, the fact is that in this instance, the deputy of the commissioner, who is not under my jurisdiction, has not acted improperly. The Government has the greatest sympathy for these young men, and I know that hte Royal Australian AirForce authorities are also sympathetic towards them. There is nothing more under the law that can be done about the matter.
.- I wish to relate my remarks -
– I rise to order. I wish to register a protest against your action, Mr. Temporary Chairman, in calling two consecutive speakers from the same side of the committee. Whilst I know that the Minister has precedence when he wishes to intervene in the debate, it seems to me that, irrespective of the period of time for which he speaks, the call should alternate from one side of the committee to the other, in accordance with the accepted practice of the Parliament, during the committee stage and other stages of the debate.
– Order! A precedent has been established in this connexion and I therefore rule that it is in order for the honorable member for Lawson (Mr.Failes) to proceed.
– I wish toaddress myself to the point of order.. During the regime of the Chifley Government, a precedent was established under which the then Chairman of Committee? called Minister after Minister throughout the whole of the debate on the Estimates and allowed them to speak, but did not allow honorable members of the Opposition to speak even forfive minutes. As the precedent has been established, I think it should be observed-
– I also wish to address-“ myself to the point of order. I took thegreatest pains to ascertain whether I could reply to remarks such as those of the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths), who challenged the administration of my department, and I was advised that, provided that only an explanation was given or an answer, I should be perfectly entitled to make the position clear. The reservation is that, in doing so, a Minister may not make a speech or an address to the chamber. Otherwise, he has a perfect right to make an immediate answer. Last year, and again this year, I took the precaution to make sure that the rules of the Parliament would be observed in this connexion.
– I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
I do so not because the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon) has intervened to answer a question asked by an honorable member on this sideof the committee, but as a matter ofprinciple. Despite what the Vice-Presidentof the Executive Council (Mr EricJ. Harrison) says that a previous Government did, I say that this Government has an unequalled record for moving the gag, for taking action of this kind, and for introducing new rules in regard to the calling of honorable members.
– I point out for the benefit of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) that certain procedure must be followed after dissent from the ruling of the Chair has been moved. I suggest, sir, that you consider such procedure before you allow the honorable member to continue his remarks.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! A motion of dissent from the ruling of the Chair must be made in writing.
Mr. Daly having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling,
– I wish to continue to speak in support of the motion. - Mr. McMahon. - I rise to order. Standing Order No. 279 provides that -
If any objection is taken to a ruling of the Chairman ofCommittees, such objection shall be stated atonce in writing, and shall be forthwith decided
I suggest that if the matter must he decided forthwith, the honorable member for Grayndler, has no right to speak to themotion
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order!The point of order is well taken.
– I also rise to order. Both the1 Standing Orders and the practice of the House of Commons indicate that no other business shall be transacted until a point of order has been disposed of. They certainly do not indicate, nor could they possibly indicate, that there shall be no debate on a motion of dissent. If that were so, no honorable member would ever be able to explain the reason for such a motion. It seems absolutely clear, having regard to the practice of the House of Commons and of other parliaments throughout the world, that the Standing Orders provide that the motion shall be put forthwith in order to allow it to be voted upon. I submit that the Standing Orders do not mean that a vote must be taken without any discussion at all.
Order ! I rule that the question shall be put without debate. In so ruling, I am following precedent.
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman -
Mr. J. McLeay.) Ayes . . . . . . 45
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- It has been refreshing to hear constructive suggestions come from the other side of the chamber, particularly from the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), who has appealed to the Government to take positive action about defence. “We support that appeal and I sincerely hope that the honorable member will continue pressing the Government for such action, because many people as well as the honorable member himself are disturbed about the condition of our defences.
– I rise to order. You, Mr. Chairman, informed the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) that his time had expired. I should like to point out that between the time of his receiving the call and the completion of the division just taken, the honorable member for Lawson had not addressed the Chair. Would it not, therefore, be right to count the honorable gentleman’s speaking time as having commenced from the time that he rose to speak after the completion of the division instead of from the time at which he received the call?
– It is the rule that an honorable member’s time is counted from the moment that he receives the call from the Chair. The honorable member received the call from the Chair at 12.17, and therefore his time had actually expired when I informed him that it had.
– Speaking to the point of order, I should like to point out that after the honorable member for Lawson had received the call from the Chair, it was much too late for the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) to take a point of order. What the Temporary Chairman did by later calling the honorable member for Grayndler was, in effect, to reverse his decision regarding his calling of the honorable member for Lawson and to give the call to the honorable member for Grayndler.
– The point is that the honorable member for Grayndler has made a practice of calling those points of order in order to deprive honorable members on this side of the chamber of speaking time. I suggest that there is a moral principle involved in this matter.
– Order ! Regarding the point of order taken by the Minister for the Navy and Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon), I understand that the honorable member for Grayndler raised a point of order after the honorable member for Lawson had received the call from the Chair. Any honorable member has the right to take a point of order at any time.
– The honorable member for Canning should persist in his appeal to the Government. If, by doing so, he can stir the Government out of its placidity he will be doing a real service to this country. I want to know just what is happening with regard to our defence, whether the proposed expenditure of £200,000,000 on defence is being wisely administered, and what we shall have to show for it. The only reason for a defence vote of £200,000,000, so far as I can ascertain, is that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in Tasmania some months ago that unless the defence vote totalled that nice round figure, the people could find some one else to do the job. According to press reports, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) has stated that he is satisfied with Australia’s northern defences. After hearing his apologia this morning, honorable members will not be so satisfied that he is correct. I believe that the matter was put clearly in Sydney Truth of Sunday, the 21st June, 1953. It stated under the heading “ The Minister - and our lack of defences “ -
On Thursday when the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) returned from a tour of the north (including Labuan, Malaya and Darwin), he was widely reported in Sydney newspapers as stating that he was “very satisfied “ with Australia’s northern defences.
He was further quoted as saying in answer to a question whether he considered those defences adequate (as distinct from satisfactory), “No, I do not consider any defences anywhere are adequate”. in Brisbane on Friday, Mr. Francis was asked by Truth to clarify those statements, and to say whether his statement that he was “ very satisfied “ referred only to Darwin or to the northern defences generally.
He was also asked how he could possibly be satisfied with the pitiful defences centred in Darwin (referred to below).
Mr. Francis immediately denied that he had said lie was satisfied with Australia’s northern defences. He denied that he had said he was satisfied with the defence position at Darwin.
He said that reports of his remarks, published in the Daily Mirror, Sydney Morning Herald and the Sun, were inaccurate. “ I was replying to a question relating to Darwin only “, he paid. “ I made it clear that no Minister should be quite satisfied with the defence of any part of his country in this agc of changing techniques. “All. I said was that I had discussed with the G.O.C., Northern Territory, the defence of Darwin, and would have further discussions in Melbourne. “That’s all I have to say”, he told Truth somewhat peevishly.
Mr. Francis has chosen to deny a statement credited to him by three Sydney newspapers. That is a favorite technique of politicians when they have said something which is likely to be awkward on the record. Here are the facts -.
The Daily Mirror representative on Thursday asked Mr. Francis if he had, while in Darwin, been given a report on Australia’s northern defences. Mr. Francis replied, “ I had lengthy discussions with the Commanding Officer of the Northern Command, Colonel Wheeler. I will examine further with the Military Board the results of. my investigations. I was very satisfied with the northern defences.
The Mirror representative then asked him if he considered the defences adequate. The Minister’s reply was, “ No, I do not consider any defences anywhere . are adequate “. He made further comment derogatory of those who have criticized our defences, and gave a resume of his trip to Labuan and Malaya.
The foregoing is what the Daily Mirror published, and its accuracy is vouched for by the editor of that newspaper. On the same point the Sun reported the Minister as saying lie was “ very satisfied “ with the northern defences. The Sydney Morning Herald reported him as saying that he was “quite satisfied “.
Truth believes the reporters. It leaves the public to judge for themselves who is lying on the point. The palpable inadequacy, of Australia’s northern .defences has been referred to time and again.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has drawn attention strongly to the position, and his remarks have been supported by prominent residents of. the north and also by other responsible political leaders.
Just take ohe quick, shuddering look at what we have, in fact, for the defence of Australia’s front door - Darwin and the northern coast line of Australia:
Navy: The use of one frigate, one unarmed tug, and one sea-defence motor launch.
AIR Force: The use of one Lincoln bomber, one Dakota and one Wirraway.
ARMY 150 base troops in Darwin - no fighting units whatever. .
Even to describe this disposition of those defences as a very, very, very thin red line would be a demonstrable overstatement.
If trouble came to this country we ask our readers how safe they would feel with Mr. Francis conducting resistance by Australia to an aggressor?
And, if his Cabinet colleagues support the attitude of the Minister for the Army, how safe would Australians feel with such » Government responsible for Australia’s defence?
It appears to me that the “Brisbane line” mentality lives on. We are still bound to the old philosophy that bears the slogan, “ Leave it to Britain and the United States of America “. Honorable members have been told that everything in the garden is lovely. The Minister has stated that the Singapore base is satisfactory. He has implied that our defence can be left to the forces at Singapore just as it was in 1940. About that time, Australia was told that Singapore was impregnable but honorable members of the Parliament at the time were shocked when a secret session was held. The anti-Labour government of the day was pressed by honorable members on both sides of the chamber to disclose the true situation. The Minister for the Army of that time said that one brigade of Japanese could walk through Australia, and the Minister for Air admitted that only a few obsolete “Wirraways stood between Australia and the Japanese Air Force. Honorable members on the Government side of the chamber may be lulled by the assurance that the Minister for the Army has given to the committee to-day, but I believe that the more serious-minded members who support the Government are as gravely disturbed as honorable members on the Opposition side are. I remind Government supporters that the previous Menzies Government was not put out of office by the Australian Labour party but by’ angry electors.
After I had read some of the disclosures that were made a few months ago by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), I made a tour of some of the northern areas of Australia. I went by a small vessel from Townsville to Thursday Island and disembarked at various ports. I looked for defences, but like the honorable member for Canning who spoke of the defences of the western coastline, I saw nothing but abandoned and dismantled war-time installations. At Portland Roads, the telephone line which had previously connected that base with the Iron Range 20 miles away was about to be dismantled and sold for scrap. Steel poles were to be pulled down and the concrete foundations were to be smashed. The same story applies to Cairns, Cooktown and through to Thursday Island, which is a shambles as a result of the treatment it received during World
War II. I saw no sign of the Royal Australian Navy. I went across to Cape York Peninsula and saw the aerodrome at Higginsfield that had been built by the United States forces during the war. The airstrip is 1£ miles long and there are about 30 dispersal bays. It must be one of the finest aerodromes in the world, but the buildings have been dismantled and the place is reverting to the jungle. Honorable members on the Government side have referred to the base at Manus. After all, Manus is an island. Any potential enemy could by-pass it by sea or air but Higginsfield and other aerodromes are on the Australian mainland, and their neglect is a much greater scandal than the circumstances that apply to Manus Island. In the whole of the Cape York Peninsula and Thursday Island, I did not see 1,000 white people. The peninsula is wide open.
Sitting suspended from 12.J/-5 to 245 p.m.
– The ceremony which has just been concluded in King’s Hall reminds me- that Captain Cook landed at Thursday Island and named not only that island but also other islands in that area. I visited Thursday Island recently, and noted the condition of our defences there, which, as I said before the suspension of the sitting, had been allowed to fall into disrepair. I also visited Possession Island where Captain Cook planted his flag and claimed this country and the surrounding islands for the British race, and I wondered for how long Australia would continue to control it. To-day, that part of Australia is wide open to attack. An enemy could land there without let or hindrance, and once he got a foothold he could dig in so quickly that even with outside assistance we should have great difficulty in dislodging him. Within a few hours of landing in that area, an enemy could raze to the ground every important town in Queensland, just as the Japanese destroyed Darwin in World War II. ; and it would only be a matter of days before such an enemy, equipped with atom bombs, could destroy every city and important industrial centre in Australia. All honorable members should recognize the urgency of making provision for the defence of our northern coast-line and combine in press* ing the Government to establish a modern defence base in that area for navy, military and air purposes.
– Order! Th honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In remarks that I made previously on these Defence Services Estimates, I commented upon the failure to expend the full amount of £57,000 that was voted last year for rifle clubs. I also remarked that I knew that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) was favorably disposed towards the rifle club movement. I believe that he is a member of a number of these clubs. I know that on previous occasions he has spoken in this chamber very strongly in support of that movement. Whilst the proposed provision for these clubs for the current financial year has not been reduced, the amount of the proposed vote this year does not convince me that encouragement is being given to the rifle club movement to the degree that it deserves. Prior to World War II., the government of the day actively encouraged the movement, and when war broke out rifle clubs had 50,000 members. That was 50 per cent, of the total strength of our defence force, which at that time was 100,000. Members of rifle clubs would have been quite willing to play their part as the nucleus of a home guard, but for reasons which I need not go into at this juncture, their services were not called upon in that way, although individual members of the clubs enlisted in great numbers in the armed forces. In peace-time, these clubs perform a very useful function. Individual members purchase service rifles which they maintain in excellent condition, whilst the clubs maintain targets and ranges which at all times are available for practice to members of the armed forces. Members of clubs use ammunition which, otherwise, would probably be allowed to deteriorate and bc dumped. In some instances, ammunition is supplied free to individual members, but in a great majority of instances these individuals purchase ammunition and thereby save the .expenditure of public money. Members of rifle clubs do not participate in actual training of a military nature, but any one who desires to become a good shot must keep in good form, and by and large the clubs maintain a high standard of marksmanship. In the early days of the recent war, I saw many men in combat areas who did not know even how to load a rifle let alone use one with effect. However, I shall not comment on what is now history. I mention that fact in passing in order to emphasize the valuable service that was rendere j by members of rifle clubs in the eari stages of the recent war.
I do not expect honorable members to accept merely my word about the value of rifle clubs as an integral part of our defence force, which is one of the most important purposes of such clubs. Although provision is made for these clubs in the defence Estimates, they are not recognized as being a part of the Army. The clubs deplore that fact. Australian rifle clubs have been represented with outstanding success at Bisley on many occasions, and their representatives again performed there with considerable merit during the last few months. Speaking at the Bisley shoot in 1948, Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery said -
I appeal to the young men in the community to take an interest in the rifle club movement. People are saying without any support, however, from those knowing anything about the subject, that the day of the rifle is finished, and that the next war will be fought by merely pushing buttons. This is totally untrue. Man is still the first weapon of war, whilst the first weapon of man is the rifle, then the tommy gun and so on. Believe me, the rifle will always be a big factor in winning or, in its absence, losing battles. I therefore, commend rifle shooting and the use of the rifle for everybody.
That high tribute to the rifle club movement has been supported by similar tributes that have been paid to it by Field Marshal Earl Alexander, who is Minister of Defence in Great Britain, and Field Marshal Lord Wilson of Libya. I quote the following extract from a report in the issue of June, 1952, of the Rifleman, which is published in London : -
I cannot stress too much the vital job yours and similar rifle clubs are doing throughout the country. Enthusiasm and the improved standard of shooting which these rifle clubs promote have a definite effect on the standard of marksmanship in the army. I have found that in units which have a high reputation for shooting one can always trace some connection with civilian rifle clubs.
That comment was made by His Excellency the Governor-General, Field Marshal Sir William Slim, when he was Chief of the Imperial General Staff, on the occasion of the opening of the Chance and Hunt Rifle Club range, which is situated at Oldsbury, Worcestershire. Tributes of that kind are sufficient to justify the Government giving greater encouragement to the rifle club movement in Australia. Although the financial provision made in this respect has been increased slightly during the last few years, the expenditure does not represent a reasonable proportion of the amount that is expended in other .branches of the armed services.
The proposed vote for pay and allowances in the nature of pay for the Citizen Military Forces is £6,675,000, but no provision has been made for pay and allowances to members of rifle clubs. The proposed vote for camps of training, schools and courses of instruction, regimental exercises and bivouacs for the Citizen Military Forces is £2,641,000, but the amount to be provided for grants for ranges, efficiency, prize meetings, &c, for rifle clubs and associations is only £30,900. Thus, more than £2,500,000 is to be spent on one branch of the service but only approximately £31,000 on the other. For the Citizen Military Forces the proposed vote for compensation for death or illness on duty is £25,000. No provision has been made for the payment of similar compensation to members of rifle clubs and associations. A few weeks hence the annual prize meeting of rifle clubs and associations will be held at the Anzac Range, Liverpool. The event will be attended by thousands of riflemen from all parts of Australia. There has never been a casualty at these meetings. Indeed, not on one occasion has a bullet been fired from a rifle that has not been pointed at a target. That fact in itself is a high tribute to the efficiency and carefulness of the riflemen of Australia. The funds provided for rifle clubs and associations is insignificant by comparison with those provided for the several branches of the armed forces. A total provision of £65,000 for rifle clubs and associations out of the huge amount of £200,000,000 to be made available for defence, of which £73,742,000 will be expended on the Army, is very niggardly. Riflemen render excellent service to their country in a voluntary capacity. They ask for assistance to construct new ranges and to enable their associations to absorb outstanding applications for membership. The establishment figure for rifle clubs is 50.000 - the same as it was in 1938, but rifle clubs and associations now have a strength of 64,000. The organizations are unable to increase their membership because of the limited establishment figure set by the Government. As the grant for ranges, &c, will be distributed between 240 clubs throughout the Commonwealth the share of each club will necessarily be very small. I ask the Minister for the Army to consider increasing the grant to enable new clubs to be formed and to enable existing clubs to extend their activities and increase their membership. The rifle club movement provides a relatively cheap form of training in the use of weapons. Club members are doing a magnificent job, but their activities are restricted because of the limited funds available to thom. The clubs are unable to admit to membership the large number of young men who. having completed their period of national service training, seek admission to the clubs with the object of improving their efficiency in the use of the rifle. In years gone by rifle shooting may have been regarded as an old man’s sport. It is not so regarded to-day. One has only to visit a rifle range when shooting is in progress to observe the large numbers of young ex-servicemen, and young lads who have completed national service training, and are endeavouring to increase their proficiency in the use of, the rifle, which is so desirable in the view of the military authorities whose words I have quoted. I strongly appeal to the Minister for the Army to increase the grant to rifle clubs and associations. If it is not possible for him to do so this year, I urge him to consider increasing the grant next year. Rifle clubs and associations are well worthy of support and their claims for assistance should receive the approbation of every member of this committee.
.- I desire to refer to a matter which relates to the proposed vote for the Department of Supply. I have been in correspondence with the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) about the large number of resignations from the executive staff of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission at Bell Bay, Tasmania, during the last twelve months. The Minister, in his reply of the 4th August, advised me that during the last twelve months approximately 50 of the 190 members of the executive staff of the commission had resigned. He went on to say that in all but one instance the reasons for the resignations had been given and that they were normal reasons, such as domestic reasons, self-determination, ill health, desire to live closer to a city, and so on. I have received a number of letters from persons who resigned from the service of the commission. The writers indicate that normal reasons were certainly hot applicable to their resignations. I quote from one letter as follows: -
It is indeed true that I have resigned from the services of the Commission, and I may add that the relief I have experienced since doing so is only comparable with the relief I felt when I was released from a Japanese prison camp. The feeling of mistrust, suspicion and insecurity which pervades the majority of the staff in this place is unbelievable unless experienced. I resigned because I felt I could not carry out my duty to the Commission conscientiously and honestly in the circumstances then existing, and having come to that conclusion I submitted a written report to the management. Mr, Keast obviously took exception to this report, although he did admit the facts disclosed were substantially correct..
The writer went on to discuss one of these facts which was an allegation in relation to an amount that had been collected by a certain gentleman in respect of a sawmill and certain practices that had been adopted in connexion with the mill. I received another letter from an officer who for some time had been endeavouring’ to secure from the Department of Supply a reference in relation to his employment by the commission.
– I rise to order. I pointed out to the honorable member last night, and I now do so again, that the proposed vote for the Australian Aluminium Production Commission is not included in the Estimates for the Department of Supply, and that the matter should be discussed when the proposed votes for works and services are before the committee. The Australian Aluminium Production Com- mission does not form a part of the Department of Supply.
– Speaking to the point of order, I have received a letter from the Minister for Supply-
– As Minister for Supply, but not from the Department of Supply.
– If the subject with which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) wishes to deal properly relates to the proposed votes for works and services, I must uphold the point of order.
– The papers and documents that relate to the matter with which the honorable member for Yarra wishes to deal are not at the moment available to me. They will be available when the proposed votes for works and services are under discussion. I do not seek to prevent the honorable member from raising the matter. I merely prefer that it be done at the appropriate time when the documents will be available so that I shall be able to answer his comments.
– When I mentioned the matter last night during the discussion of the proposed vote for the Department of National Development, the Minister said that I had raised it at the wrong time. The Minister said that it would be appropriate for me to raise this matter during the consideration of the proposed note for the Department of Supply.
– I said that the matte r should be raised when the proposed vote for capital works and services was under consideration, not the proposed vote for the Department of Supply.
– The expenditure on the Minister’s secretarial staff is provided for in the proposed .vote before the committee. For that reason I submit that I am perfectly in order in telling the story at present. I am referring to the Minister’s own administration and to correspondence that I have received from him.
– Order! The Minister has stated that the proposed vote in relation to the matters mentioned by the honorable member is not under discussion. I must accept what the Minister says.
– Not necessarily. He could be wrong.
– I hope that the Minister, on the third occasion when I take this matter up will be fully armed with the documents necessary to answer the criticism that is contained in the letters that I have received in relation to the aluminium project.-
– I have answered them twice clearly.
– I shall now address myself to a matter in relation to the Department of the Army, which has recently altered the conditions of national service training. I understand that the evening parades are to be cut out.
– They will be reduced.
– Whenever, during the last few years, honorable members on this side of the chamber have criticized the national service training scheme and have suggested that the Government had bitten off more than it could chew in relation to this programme, we have been greeted with very scornful remarks from the other side about the sincerity of our desire to see a really efficient system of national training instituted.
– That is quite right.
– Supporters of the Government have endeavoured to convey the impression to the people that the Labour party, by criticizing the national service training scheme, had shown that it lacks interest in the defence of this country. The Government has, at long last, realized the need for a drastic modification of the scheme. At lunch time on a. recent Sunday I asked a number of national service trainees at a military establishment near my place of residence what they had .been doing during the morning. They said that they had sat around iri a garage until, despairing of being given anything to do, they had made paper balls and played football at the establishment. They expected to fill in their time in a similar manner during the afternoon. I checked up subsequently and found that their story was true. The whole of their training on that day, for which they were each paid about fi, consisted of sitting around in a military establishment, and those who felt in need of exercise kicked paper footballs about.
– Obviously they were not national service trainees.
– I assure the Minister that they were. I spoke to them personally.
– They must have put it over the honorable member.
– The Minister’s interjection is typical of attempts that Government supporters make to cloud the issue when the Opposition brings forward matters such as the one I have mentioned.
– Where is the militaryestablishment ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) should be afforded an opportunity to continue his speech.
– The Minister knows very well where my electorate is situated, and the military establishments that are located in or adjacent to it. On another occasion, several months ago, all that the authorities at the establishment could find for national service trainees to do, in order to exercise them in military strategy and tactics, was the piling up of beer bottles that had been left lying around after a party on the previous night. On still another occasion the only work that could be found for them was to stack firewood that was required at the establishment. I have been told by other national service trainees who were due to receive a lecture in connexion with their training that, as the military authorities were unable to provide a competent lecturer, they were given interesting and most informative instruction in square dancing.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order! I ask honorable members to maintain silence while the honorable member for Yarra is addressing the committee. Although some honorable members may disagree with the honorable member’s remarks, he is entitled to state his point of view.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order! Honorable members on my left are not assisting the honorable member very much.
– I have brought to the notice of the committee, not second-hand information, but information that I have gained in my own personal interviews with national service trainees who are resident in my electorate. I have no doubt that similar stories could be told of the activities at military establishments in other electorates. Whenever members of the Opposition have criticized the scheme, and have suggested that it was not being efficiently carried out, the Minister has taken the view that the Opposition is not interested in defence. However, he has now admitted that the number of night parades is to be reduced. In common decency, he should apologize to the Opposition.
– The honorable member himself will probably apologize to me after I have dealt with the matters that he has raised.
– I think that the Minister should apologize to the Opposition for the things that supporters of the Government have said about us in the past when we have criticized the efficiency of those administering- the national service training scheme. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has implied that anybody who points to incompetency or inefficiency on the part of the military authorities is endeavouring to prevent military training and to sabotage the defences of the country. Unless the criticism that has been made by the Opposition of the manner in which money habeen expended on defence purposes is satisfactorily answered, the people will lose confidence in the sincerity of this Government’s system of training young men to take their part in the defence of this country. We on this side of the chamber believe in the necessity for people to be trained for defence.
– Is that why Labour opposed the introduction of the scheme?
– If the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) considers that directing attention to the incidents to which I have referred indicates that Labour is opposed to national defence, I cannot help him, because he is beyond help. We believe in national defence and adequate training. However, although my remarks have dealt with matters that are common knowledge, the brass hats and bureaucrats of the Department of Defence want’ their department to be considered sacrosanct. Whenever anybody criticizes their activities the shout is raised, “ He is trying to sabotage the defences of the country “. One cannot criticize the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds on national service training, and mention incidents such as those to which I have referred without supporters of the Government contending that an endeavour is being made to sabotage the national service training scheme. I should have thought that, by pointing out these things, and showing the Minister where the job was not being carried out efficiently, we were doing something to help the scheme. But the Minister believes the statements of the brass hats and bureaucrats to be gospel truth. He is afraid to argue with them. What confidence can the people of Australia - particularly the trainees themselves - have in the present scheme, under which youths are compelled to waste their time in the way that I have outlined? It is just as necessary to maintain their morale and interest in playing their part in the defence of Australia as it is to teach them to shoot and drill correctly. The Minister should welcome public criticism of the scheme and adopt an attitude entirely different from the attitude that he has evinced on every occasion in the past when the scheme has been criticized. He seems to take the view that as his bureaucrats have told him certain things they must be right. When incidents of inefficiency are brought to his notice, he says, in effect, “ They cannot be true, because my advisers say that they are not true “. The Minister should go below his top-rung advisers and interview the trainees themselves. If he entertains any doubts of the veracity of the stories that I have mentioned to-day, and cares to come to my constituency, I shall be only too pleased to bring forward the lads who have told me these stories to substantiate them.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have had the pleasure and privilege of taking part in many discussions on defence matters in this chamber, but I have never known in my lengthy political career an Opposition that takes such little interest in the defence of Australia. I make that statement because in the past, some enlightened members of the Labour party have spoken authoritatively on national defence, the need for security, and the international and the national situation, and have made suggestions for the improvement of our defences, and expressed views on places where Australia could be defended most effectively in the event of an attack. But what has the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) said? He has continued a smear campaign against national service training. I go further than that, and say that the Opposition-
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! Honorable members will not be permitted to continue to interject. The Minister is entitled to be heard in silence.
– The reference that the honorable gentleman makes-
– I rise to order. I object to the statement of the Minister that the Opposition has engaged in a smear campaign against national service training. I submit that you, Mr. Chairman, should asks the Minister to withdraw that remark.
– I shall continue, Mr.Chairman.
– Order! The Minister has made a general statement and has not applied it to any particular honorable member.
– The Minister has. implied thatlie has in mind Opposition members who have spoken to-day.
– Order.! The Minister may proceed.
– The term has been used a thousand times in this chamber. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) has used it, too.
– I cannot help it if the honorable gentleman has a guilty conscience. That is his own affair.
– I again rise to order. The Minister has clearly indicated now that he had me in’ mind. I ask you, Mr.
Chairman, to request the Minister to withdraw that statement. I have not a guilty conscience.
– Does the honorable member for Kingston want his guilty conscience withdrawn?
– Order ! The Minister did not apply the remark to the honorable member. He said, “ If the honorable member has a guilty conscience “. He used the word “ if “.
– The stone-walling tactics which the Opposition has adopted emphasize the lack of interest that the Labour party has always shown in the defence of Australia. What a sorry plight this country would be in if we had to rely on the Labour party to strengthen the Royal Australian Navy, the Army, and the Royal Australian Air Force. The people of Australia should know the political parties that have a high sense of obligation and are prepared to give of their best to strengthen the Navy, Army and Air Force, and raise national defence to the highest standard of efficiency that has been attained since federation.
I shall now reply to some of the smears by the honorable member for Yarra. First, he referred to a unit which was doing a bivouac on a Sunday, as a national service training unit. That statement clearly’ shows that he does not know what he is talking about. It is childish nonsense to say-
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about. He is talking piffle.
– Order ! I ask honorable members who are interjecting on both sides of the chamber to remain silent, otherwise some of them will be asked to leave. The Chair will not allow these interruptions to continue.
– I want to remind
– Does the Minister claim that my statement is not clear?
– The honorable member for Yarra said clearly that it was a national service training unit. The fact is that it was a branch of the Citizen Military Forces. I make the point that every one of the officers who are in charge of such units served, in the main, in World War II. They are highly trained men who have been hand-picked to take charge of national service training units. They know what war is.. They know the horrors of war, and what the lads will be up against if they are not properly trained. These highly conscientious officers pass from school to school in order that they may attain higher standards of efficiency so that they may instruct the lads in the defence of Australia. The honorable member for Yarra talks a great deal of claptrap and nonsense about some of the best men in this country. Some of them hold commissioned rank, some the rank of noncommissioned officer, and some are specialists and key men in the Citizen Military Forces units. I shall remind honorable members of remarks His Excellency the Governor-General made of such men when he was speaking in Brisbane a few weeks ago. He said that the officers, non-commissioned officers and men who are the hard core of the Citizen Military Forces-
– I rise to order. I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, whether it is permissible for the Minister to introduce the name of the GovernorGeneral into the debate.
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) is behaving, in a childish manner. He has no knowledge of the Standing Orders.
– Order ! The Minister is in order, and may proceed.
– The point of order clearly shows again that members of the Labour party take little interest in defence matters. His Excellency the Governor-General said that any man who gives his time to learning how to defend his country is of outstanding merit and qualifications; but the man who does as the officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Citizen Military Forces do, which is to work solidly at his job all day and then trains men to become efficient soldiers, is as good as two good Australians. Those are the men who some Opposition members are condemning today. The honorable member for Yarra did not choose to complain to the commanding officer, myself or anybody else about the alleged indiscretion. He preferred to raise the matter in this chamber, as if it were something to gloat over.
– This chamber is the proper place for me to raise the matter.
– I have the profoundest confidence in the officers of the Citizen Military Forces units; but if any one has done a fraction of what has been stated by the honorable member, he will not continue to administer a Citizen Military Forces unit. I do not stand for statements of the kind that have been made about these men. I know the merits of the men who have already fought for their country, and are prepared to fight for it again. They would not waste time, and do the things that have been alleged about them. I shall make the closest personal investigation into the matter, but I am quite satisfied that when the honorable member for Yarra does not know a Citizen Military Forces unit from a national service training unit, he should not talk in this chamber on defence matters.
Reference has been made to rifle clubs. The honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) has shown an active and intelligent interest in rifle shooting, and I appreciated his speech, because it was constructive and, I am sure, will do much to help the rifle club movement in Australia. The total vote for the Department of the Army last year was a little more than £90,000,000. The provision for the Army this year is £73,740,000. Although the vote for the Army has been reduced, my regard for the rifle club movement is shown by the fact that the allocation for it in this financial year has been increased by £8,000.
.- I hope that the super-patriots on the Government side will pardon me for criticizing the silent service, the top brass of the Royal Australian Navy. I direct my remarks to the financial provision for ship construction for the Navy. No details are given in the Estimates or the budget papers about the intentions of the top brass. This matter has been kept a close secret. There is just the bald statement that the allocation for ship construction in the current financial year is £5,830,000. Where are these ships to be constructed ?
– In Australia.
– I thank the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) for that assurance. I shall pass it on to the members of my union all of whom are first-class shipbuilders. I am pleased to hear the Minister indicate that ship construction will be undertaken in dockyards such as Walker Brothers, at Maryborough, Evans Deakin and Company Limited, in Brisbane—
– Both shipyards are working to capacity on merchant ships.
– The Cockatoo Island Dockyard, in Sydney, has plenty of room for orders, and Mort’s Dock, also in Sydney, has empty slipways. The Boilermakers Society is becoming perturbed about the Government’s shipbuilding programme. Many apprentices to the boilermaking trade have been trained in past years. I have pleasure in announcing to the committee that the art of ship-building in Australia has developed to the highest pitch of perfection. I modestly make that claim on behalf of the great Australian shipbuilders who brought Australia through the years from 1940, when the Menzies Government walked out and betrayed the nation to the Japanese-
– I rise to order! I ask that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) withdraw his statement, which was false and cannot be substantiated. Such lies should not be uttered in this chamber.
– I did not hear all that the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) said because some one was speaking to me, but if nothing more than a statement of opinion is involved there is no reason why I should ask the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) to withdraw his statement. If the honorable member for Angas claims that he has been misrepresented he can make a personal explanation.
– The honorable member for Watson stated that the Government had betrayed Australia on the occasion of the last war. I take exception to that lying statement and ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for Watson stated that the Government walked out in 1940. It is not a matter of opinion whether the Government walked out or not. It is a physical fact. The Prime Minister and the Government of the day walked out.
– They did not walk out. They ran out.
– The Prime Minister and the Government walked out.
Honorable members interjecting,
– The honorable member for Watson indicated that it could be implied from the actions of that Government that it betrayed Australia.
– I shall ask the honorable member for Watson to withdraw the term that he used and I shall allow no further reference to it.
– I ask for an apology.
– Order ! The honorable member must accept the ruling of the Chair.
– I withdraw my statement. But I still think that the skeletons are rattling in the cupboard.
– Order ! There is to be no further reference to the matter on which I have ruled.
– Honorable members opposite have guilty consciences. I leave it to the people of Australia to judge the performance of the Menzies Government early in the last war. After 40 days of office the present Treasurer left the treasury bench and left Australia to its fate.
I shall now return to the Estimates. I am concerned about the future of our great Australian shipbuilding industry and the employment of countless thousands of - men and women. I am concerned about the future of the sons of the very men who went overseas to fight and keep Australia safe from the yellow peril. The sons of many of those men are now about to enter an apprenticeship in order to keep our great Australian island continent safe in the future from maritime threats. Therefore, the fathers and mothers of those young men are concerned about the permanence of our ship-building industry. We have facilities in our dockyards and slipways to build most ships of war. We can build boom ships which are most important in keeping submarines from sneaking into our harbours and rivers during war-time. I can recall the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) suffering all the rigours of war watching the defence boom on the Hawkesbury River. Australia has constructed innumerable corvettes with depth-charge gear for the destruction of submarines. Submarine detection gear has also been made successfully in this country. We have constructed sailing ships that sail in the night.
Government members interjecting,
– Government supporters again demonstrate that they are devoid of any intelligence with which to consider defence problems. These ships sailed in the night in order to detect submarines. They went under sail so that there would be no vibration from their engines which could be detected by submarines. In that way they located a lot of submarines off the coast of Australia. That may be news to the super-patriots on the opposite side of the chamber. The destroyers Warramunga and Arunta, which I helped to construct, are much better than any other destroyers afloat. Those destroyers represent part of the contribution of the boilermakers and ship-builders to the war effort. It is necessary for the Government to build destroyers, corvettes, aircraft carriers, and warships of all kinds. That is why I am concerned about the fate of our dockyards. That is why I am concerned about boys who are learning naval architecture and young men who hold diplomas in naval architecture. The Government of New South Wales has decided to establish a lectureship in naval architecture. What will this Government do to assist the State Government to train lads for the ship-building . industry. What will Australia do in the future if the Government does not encourage the art of shipbuilding? Are we to rely on other countries for our ships? The Government is becoming so friendly with Japan that it will probably suggest that we have our warships built in Japan. That would destroy our maritime industry. Thousands of Australian artisans are without peer in the ship-building world. I have had many communications from the mothers and fathers of boys who have passed their leaving certificate examination. These parents want to know what the Government intends to do to provide opportunities for their sons to embark on careers.
– Build ships.
– The honorable member, who exploits Italian labourers on his farm by providing them with 10s. a week and their keep, cannot take his thoughts beyond the boundary fences of his property. His intelligence is very limited. Indirectly, our Navy will even defend his interests by protecting the ships that carry his products to all parts of the world. What did we do during the war? John Curtin, as the Labour Prime Minister of the day, had to send to all quarters of the globe in order to beg and borrow ships to carry Australian troops? and Australian products across the seas. If we do not strengthen our maritime industries, what shall we do in the event of another war?
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) predicted in 1949 that war would break out within twelve months. Fortunately, that prophecy was not fulfilled, but war may come at any time. If it does, we shall have to beg, borrow or steal ships wherever we can find them. When I was working on the waterfront in Sydney during the early part of World War II., old tubs were brought to that port from all parts of the world. One vessel arrived in Sydney Harbour with 120 feet of its bows blown away. We had to put that ship back into commission, and we worked night and day until the job was done. Will this Government co-operate with men who are prepared to work like that in a time of emergency? Is it prepared to increase the provision in the Estimates in order to protect our shipping industry? I ask this question on behalf of hundreds of thousands of good Australian citizens. We must build mors* ships. Should war break out before wo can do so, we shall be defenceless and the yellow peril will again sweep down from the north. A very distinguished gentleman, Sir Thomas Nettlefold, announced in an interview that was reported yesterday by the Melbourne Herald that the people of Japan would never again be aggressive. I have heard such statements before.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Too often in this chamber we are obliged to listen to misguided criticism and false information from members of the Opposition on the subject of the Government’s defence efforts. Indeed, such irresponsible statements from time to time undermine the security of Australia. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon ) has criticized the national service training scheme. In recent months I have had the opportunity to visit national service trainees after they have completed their first continuous period of service and have been drafted to Citizen Military Forces units for fourteen days of additional training in camp. I visited the camp at Singleton, where I had the opportunity to spend a day and a night with one brigade. I studied the conditions under which those young men trained. Although I would not attempt to deny to any honorable member the
Tight to refer in this chamber to accidents that may occur to trainees, or to the conditions under which they are trained, I consider that it is entirely wrong to highlight such matters so as to make it appear to the public that there is some vital fault in the national service training scheme, because that is far from the truth. The honorable member for Yarra perhaps would benefit considerably if he would visit trainees in camp as I have done. The conditions under which the men live in camp are good. In fact, they are far better than the conditions under which soldiers carried out their elementary training at the beginning of World War II. The food supplied to them, too, is much better than the Army food that was provided during the war. Hygiene is excellent. I was favoured by an invitation from the second-in-command of the unit that I visited to join him in a camp inspection, and I noticed that every effort was made to protect the health of trainees. The method of preparation of food was even of a higher standard than that employed during the war. There is reason for us to congratulate not only the Government and the ‘ Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) but also the officers and the men at these camps. The remarks of the honorable member for Yarra reflected on both the officers and the trainees, and there is no justification for such criticism. The morale of trainees in the camps that I visited was high. The men were keen on the work that they were doing, and I was very impressed by my observation of their field exercises. I witnessed a small arms shoot, a 24-hour exercise, artillery firing with 17-pounders, and other training tasks. The enthusiasm and ability with which the trainees carried out their duties merited a great deal of praise. I believe that it is necessary for honorable members on this side of the chamber to expose the absolute falsity of many statements about the national service training scheme that are made by members of the Opposition. Such statements can do great harm.
The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) criticized Australia’s naval construction programme. While he was addressing the committee, I consulted the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) in order to bring my information up to date. From the facts that I had in my possession, I realized that the honorable member for Watson was making incorrect statements. I found on inquiry from the Minister that the Australian Naval Board has two programmes of ship construction in progress. One programme relates to ship-building in Australia and the United Kingdom, and the other relates to modernization work. In Australia we are laying down three Daring class destroyers, four anti-submarine frigates, one boom working vessel, two inshore mine-sweepers, and two Deperming lighters. In the United Kingdom, we have under construction one aircraft carrier and one fleet tanker. The modernization and conversion of H.M.A.S. Arunta has just been completed, and similar work on H.M.A.S. Warramunga is in progress. In addition, four Q class destroyers are being converted to anti-submarine frigates, and twelve ocean mine-sweepers are being converted to comprehensive minesweepers. This work is being done in Australia. These facts disprove the statements made by the honorable member for Watson, who has attempted to give to the country an incorrect impression of the defence preparations that have been made by this Government.
I turn now to the subject of the provision of funds for the production of sulphuric acid by the Department of Defence Production. I refer honorable members to the Tariff Board report on sulphur and sulphuric acid which was laid on the table recently by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison). On page 4 of the report reference is made to the conversion of Australian manufacturing plant to the use of natural occurring ores in Australia. I refer to sulphur pyrites. As most honorable members are aware, surveys made so far have shown that there is no natural occuring sulphur either in Australia or in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. The reasons given for the conversion of Australian sulphuric acid plants to the use of local sulphides are as follows: -
Depletion of sulphur deposits in the United States of America has caused reductions in the allocation to Australia made by the Sulphur Committee of the International Materials Conference;
Utilization of Australian resources is of value for defence purposes.
A report upon the production and availability of sulphur in the United States of America, compiled by the British Phosphate Commissioner who, by the way, is the authority responsible for the purchase and distribution of sulphur in Australia and New Zealand, was submitted to the Tariff Board. It stated amongst other things that officials of supply companies and government authorities in the United States of America were pessimistic about the world supply position, and that there was a strong tendency in the United Statesof America to reduce export quantities successively. The report added that, since 1.943, the total of American consumption and exports had exceeded production.
Towards the end of last year, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) and I were commissioned to make a report on sulphur and sulphuric acid for the Government member’s Food and Agriculture Committee. A copy of that report was sent to the Minister. In it we drew attention to the fact that in June of last year the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) announced that the Commonwealth Government had made arrangements to conserve sulphur and its products, and that agreement had been reached with the State governments, and with the sulphuric acid manufacturers on a comprehensive and detailed scheme that was to come into operation as from the 1st July, 1952. To ensure that vital Australian industries depending upon sulphur and its products would be maintained at a level commensurate with an expanding rate of production, the Commonwealth Government asked the sulphuric acid industry to convert as much of its plant as possible by the end of 1953 to enable local sulphurcontaining ores to be utilized. Honorable members may recall that a sulphuric acid executive committee has been established to act as a link between the manufacturing industries, the Cabinet subcommittee on sulphuric acid, and the various Commonwealth departments involved.
I remind the House that whilst sulphuric acid has many uses, 80 per cent of the sulphuric acid manufactured in Australia is used for the production of superphosphate. I shall not go into the full ramifications of the report, but I think it would be wise to give a summary of the recommendations contained in it, because they are in line with Government policy. The first recommendation was that the Government should give a high degree of priority to applications from manufacturers for financial assistance by way of guaranteed overdrafts, because many manufacturers were unable to proceed with the conversion of their plants owing to financial difficulties. The next recommendation was that port facilities should be provided to handle the large volume of pyrites necessary to assure manufacturers of uninterrupted supplies of sulphuric acid. This applies particularly to Mount Morgan and
Mount Lyell pyrites, as both New South Wales and Victorian manufacturers will depend largely on those sources of supply. Thirdly, we recommend that arrangements should be made to ensure that transport from mines to ports would be adequate to cope with the volume of pyrites required. Our fourth recommendation was that the Department of Commerce and Agriculture should investigate all possible economies and should make recommendations to farmers for the best use of available supplies of superphosphate. Fifthly, we recommend that the Government’s decision in connexion with financial assistance to the industry should be put into effect and that, so far as possible, the Government should co-operate with manufacturers in giving advice to primary producers about the correct use of superphosphate and the. particular lands to which it is best suited. I realize that the Minister has done much good work in connexion with this matter, and if, during the course of this debate, he will give some information about the progress and success of the Government’s policy, particularly in connexion with assisting Australian manufacturers to convert their plants to the use of local sulphur, I shall he very grateful.
.- Hitherto I have regarded as one of the good features of this debate, the fact that Ministers have remained in the chamber to hear what has been said about their departments, but, apparently with the exception of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), they have all been called away. I hope that he will convey to the Minister for the Navy and Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon), and to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) the few words of thanks which, I am sure, many members of the services would like me to express on their behalf to those Ministers for their personal attention to many matters. The expenditure of £200,000,000 on defence is a matter that merits some serious thinking. It is, of course, quite impossible for us to criticize the senior officers of the services and their extensive administrative staffs, or all the intermediate officers and noncommissioned officers for anything wrong that may have been done. I should never attempt to do so. Whilst they may at times, perhaps, be guilty of a little thoughtless or ill-advised expenditure, I am sure that matter can be left to the Public Accounts Committee. Unfortunately, that committee is hardly adequate to examine thoroughly the entire expenditure of £200,000,000 and I believethat its membership could well be increased, so that it would better be able to do its necessary work. I believe, however, that the committee will have its attention drawn forcibly to the financial affairs of the services by the huge votes provided in the Estimates. For that reason, we can leave a substantial portion of the estimated expenditure and devote our attention to something more important to the defence of our country. There can be no doubt in the mind of any honorable member that the greatest contribution to defence is made by Australian citizens, not necessarily by the regular services. It is comparatively simple so offer terms and conditions of service that will attract recruits to the regular forces. It is also comparatively simple to provide those forces with accommodation, equipment and training facilities that they require. But the contribution of the regular forces to the defence of the country must always be limited considerably by their size. Within the limits of their capacity they do a very good job, but we have to look at the defence potential of the country. If war broke out, our regular forces would have to be expanded greatly, and all honorable members know that they could be expanded only by an intake of civilians. The defence vote should be considered in the light of that fact. The remarks of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) are not very reassuring. He has said that the strength of the Citizen Military Forces is about 75,000 men. I assume that he was referring to both national service trainees and men who have enlisted voluntarily in the Citizen Military Forces. There are about 60,000 national service trainees, so there are about 15,000 voluntarily enlisted men in the Citizen Military Forces. It is a very small force, but we rely upon it for the rapid expansion of our army in war-time. Before the last war, our voluntary militia forces were larger than they are to-day. I remember the time when they comprised about 30,000 men. Even before then, the strength of the Miliary Forces was greater than the present strength of the Citizen Military Forces, which is about 15,000.
– It is 75,000.
– That figure includes 60,000 national service trainees. They are not enlisted voluntarily. They are compelled to undergo training by a government decree. That raises a point to which I wish to direct attention. Surely the national service training scheme provides an opportunity to make trainees so enthusiastic about military training that, when their period of national service has ended, they will volunteer to continue to serve in the military forces. I believe the scheme is failing in that respect. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) was right to draw attention to that matter. I suggest that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) discuss with the service Ministers a means of ensuring that the national service training scheme will impart to trainees the enthusiasm for military training that is necessary if we are to have a voluntary force capable of providing for the rapid expansion of our army in the event of war. The Militia, which has frequently been criticized, has never failed us. At the beginning of World War II., militia officers and men formed the backbone of the Australian Imperial Forces but a future Australian Imperial Force will be a very sorry body if we do not have enough trained officers and non-commissioned officers to staff it. I suggest that the Minister for Defence and the service Ministers devote special attention to the re-organization of the national service training scheme with a view to giving the trainees a real enthusiasm for army life and a desire to give up some of their pleasures in order to enjoy the satisfaction which I know can be derived from military service.
Militia training is very much better now7 than it was when I was a younger man. No valid criticism can be made of the equipment that is available or the amenities that are provided to make army life attractive to young men. The scheme is adequate in those respects, but it has failed to attract young men to the militia, as they were attracted in the past. A great deal more can be done. I have always believed that a period of three months’ national service training is not long enough, because only basic training can be given in that time. I understand that, for various reasons, the Government cannot increase the training period. If I were speaking from the Government benches, probably I should say that three months was the maximum period. However, much better use could be made of the training period than is being made to-day. It is pretty obvious within the first 30 days of a training period that some trainees will make very good soldiers, and I do not think that young men of that type should be held back. I should like to see young men, before they have completed their national service training, graded in such a way as to indicate whether they would be suitable as officers, non-commissioned officers or technical members of the forces. That would be very valuable.
I ask the Minister for Defence to tell the committee whether anything is being done to compile a national register, so to speak, of the defence potential of the community. The ordinary census that is taken from time to time would provide a valuable opportunity to collect the necessary information. I hope consideration will be given to requiring every one to answer a few questions on the subject of defence when the next census is taken. If that were done, we should always have comparatively up-to-date information about the number of people eligible for military training. I congratulate the Minister for the Army on having built up the women’s forces. In my speech on-, the defence estimates last year, I said that our women could make a great contribution to the defence of the country. I am glad to see that they are not being left out of our defence scheme, because they have always been willing to accept their responsibilities.
I turn now to the retirement of officers of the Permanent Army. Many regular officers retire when in their early fifties or late forties, when it is difficult for them to enter new occupations. I believe that a great deal could be done to assist officers if their retirements were coordinated with the requirements of the Public
Service. I am well aware that the Public Service jealously guards senior positions in the Service, and that it would not like them to be used to provide comfortable and interesting occupations for some retired army officers. Nevertheless, I say that retired service personnel should receive consideration in this connexion. I suggest that the Minister for Defence examine this matter, in conjunction with the Public Service, with a view to ascertaining whether members of the forces before they are retired could be given an opportunity to enter the Public Service.
The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) and the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffith) referred to the subject of compensation. I believe that the compensation legislation requires further consideration. I have brought to the notice of the Minister for the Army the. case of a man who joined the Citizen Military Forces, transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force and eventually went to Japan with the Regular Army. He has been retired from the forces on account of ill health. He has received some compensation under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, and nothing from the Department of Repatriation. The Minister for the Army is examining his case with a view to deciding whether he should get something from the Citizen Military Forces. I think that co-ordination is called for.
I should like the Minister for the Navy to inform the committee of the progress that has been made in the use of civilian employees at Royal Australian Air Force establishments. I point out that civilians perform valuable work for Royal Air Force establishments in the United Kingdom and in other places. The duties required of them are usually simple. If service personnel are engaged in such duties considerably more expense is involved. This matter has been referred to previously in the Parliament, and I should like to know what progress has been made in effecting economies in this respect.
Some criticism has been directed at the Chifley Government for its attitude in regard to Manus Island. I think it is true to say that when the war ended a great deal of equipment was located on that island and could have been acquired cheaply, but at that time the men and women in the services were making every endeavour to get back to Australia. Nobody wanted to stay in out-of-the-way places such as Manus Island, and the Australian people were doing everything possible to get the service personnel back here. Although there were large quantities of equipment on that distant island, there were also stacks of war equipment in Australia, and great difficulty was being experienced in disposing of it. I am sure that the Chifley Government took all those factors into account when arriving at its decision.
– It refused to allow the Americans to maintain a base there.
– Perhaps the Minister for Defence might be good enough to tell the committee something about the present establishments on Manus Island. I understand that we have there an efficient naval and air station. It seems to me that Ministers should tell the Parliament about such matters instead of criticizing the Chifley Government because of events which happened in the past. We want to know a little more about what is going on at present.
.- It was a pleasure to be present in the chamber and to hear the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua). His most distinguished military record makes him eminently fitted to speak on this section of the Estimates, and his speech was one of the most interesting and moderate to be made by any honorable member opposite for some time. When one considers the remarks of the honorable member, and also those of other honorable members who have already spoken during the debate, it can readily be seen that several honorable members who have already spoken have much to learn. I suggest that the standing of the honorable member for Ballarat in the ranks of the Australian Labour party will grow if he is able to bring to its councils some of the wisdom of which the committee had the benefit to-day.
I wish to refer particularly to the comments that have been made during the debate about the threat to the north of Australia. In my opinion, the .honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), and the other honorable members opposite who adverted to this subject, were merely raising a bogy which has no substance. When one considers potential aggressors, the international situation generally, and the various pacts which have been made, such as the Anzus pact, an idea of the position is obtained which is completely different from that which is acquired by listening to the scare campaigns of honorable members opposite. It seems to me that their comments reflect, in some measure, the typical attitude of the Australian Labour party to defence. The history of that party in relation to defence over the last twenty years should be recounted in this chamber if the arguments put forward by honorable members opposite are to be seen in their true light.
Without labouring this point, I think it is proper to say that from World War I. to World War II., and afterwards, the Australian Labour party has been opposed to any form of compulsion in respect of military service. It is true that it was a Labour government which introduced compulsory military training in this country, but it is equally true that the Scullin Government, in 1930, repealed the legislation which provided for such training. I suggest that it did so because the Australian Labour party has always been opposed to the idea of people being compelled to learn about military matters, probably because the members of trade unions, who constitute the fighting membership of the party, have adopted that attitude. That opposition has not lessened. At the present time, the majority of the members of the party are inclined to oppose any system of military training, unless, of course, circumstances of great emergency should arise. They are of the opinion that, in peace-time, it is not wise to have people trained to defend the country. In addition, they have always espoused the view that home service is the maximum obligation that one should impose on members of the defence forces. Time and again we have heard honorable members, such as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), saying that this Government wants to send people overseas to fight capitalist wars. If there is a better understanding in the ranks of the Opposition regarding the facts of this matter, it has come about recently and, no doubt, largely because of the influence of the honorable member for Ballarat. I hope that the Opposition will soon see the truth of the contention that if a war is to be fought, the further it is fought from your own shores, the better. It is irrational to say, “ We shall train military forces, but they will be required only to protect our own back yard “. Aircraft are becoming faster, larger, and able to carry greater bomb loads, and for that reason it is becoming more vital for Australians to be prepared to go to any part of the world to which the Government has authority to send them in order to fight for the protection of their interests. That is why it is necessary for Australians to go to Korea. The fight against aggression in that country was being waged to protect the interests of Australia, just as much as if our forces were being employed to repel an invader who had landed on the shores of this country.
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) made a statement which, as I understand it, really amounted to a charge of dereliction or neglect of duty on the part of some one in -authority, who thereby became responsible for a subsequent tragedy. In my opinion, to put forward such a suggestion, and then to say that there should be a complete overhaul of the national service training system, is calculated to. reduce our confidence in that scheme to the minimum. To do such a thing would be extremely foolish. I do not think that any Australian commanding officer or any member of this Parliament would support the proposition that there was no mental inertia in this country. I think most Australians would be prepared to admit that during the war there were many occasions when men in all the armed services were prepared to take advantage of any circumstances that would get them out of arduous work. That statement also applies to members of the Parliament, and, perhaps, to the honorable member for Yarra. The submission by honorable members opposite of a few arguments about some activity or other on a Sunday afternoon does not prove that the people should have any lack of confidence in our national service training scheme. Such arguments distort the whole of this debate. Perhaps the honorable member for Yarra might have produced a better argument if he had defined these matters instead of talking about them generally.
There is a great deal of confusion in the minds of people about defence. 1 shall not go at length into the matter now, but one thing that ought to be said is that the instinct of self-preservation plays a big part in the attitude of people to national defence. In war-time the instinct of self-preservation is a natural, although selfish, reaction. National defence can be said to be a mass expression, in a time of emergency, of the instinct of self-preservation. People who fight in wars fight first for themselves. That fact ought to be borne in mind. I am becoming tired of this constantly repeated suggestion that people who act for their own preservation are acting in a completely unselfish manner. I think that that belief is wrong. I have always believed that the burden of national defence falls properly on the shoulders of every man, woman and child in the community, and that the defence of the nation is the defence of one’s self. That is a selfish reaction which is concerned with one’s self, and the people one loves. Other people come second. When a man goes to war he fights first for himself and the people dear to him, and for everything associated with them.
If the honorable member for Yarra had said in extension of his argument, that the Labour party believed in the principle of national service, that it understood the necessity for training now to meet possible future contingencies when wo may have to send our forces overseas, and was prepared to believe that the Government ought to have authority to commit such forces immediately they were needed, I should be willing to say that his comments were accurate and proper. I cannot take that view, however, if all we are to hear from honorable members opposite is the kind of statements that members of the Labour party made in 1939 when they urged people not to enlist, but, instead, to oppose the capitalist war and to ignore the notorious international circumstances of 1939. The Hansard records show that again and again statements to that effect were made in 1939. It was said that the working week ought to be reduced to five days, and that the workers ought to bargain for more wages with the capitalists, who were the Labour party’s big bogy men of the day. It was notable that when the workers’ paradise was invaded by the Werhrmacht in 1941 there was a remarkable change of policy on the part of those who were alleged to represent in this Parliament the alleged workers. The capitalist aspect of the war had vanished, and it had become a matter of vital urgency that production in Australia be maintained.
– The honorable gentleman is completely muddying the record.” Eighty per cent, of the soldiers who fought for Australia were trade unionists.
– Hansard records contain many critical comments made in 1939 about the “capitalist war”. All this talk about wars being fomented by big financiers is, in my opinion, complete nonsense. The truth is that people fight wars to defend themselves because they have been attacked. That is what happened in 1914 and 1939, and it will be the same story in any future war.
The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin), who is not noted for moderation, spoke perhaps with some sincerity about the ship-building industry of this country. He said that he considered that industry to be vital to Australia. In view of the thousands of workers engaged in other industries I regard the honorable member’s statement as somewhat of an exaggeration, because whilst the ship-building industry is important to the community, it is not a large industry.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Nobody is arguing that Australia should not be defended. It can he taken for granted that we are all in favour of defending the nation. What we wish to do, however, is to examine the Estimates critically and to discover whether the huge sum of £200,000,000 to be voted for defence is to be expended wisely, and whether it will be adequate or more than adequate in the light of all the circumstances. It cannot be taken for granted that the mere appropriation of money for defence purposes means that that money will be expended wisely. I suggest that the information presented to the Parliament concerning the methods by which this large round sum of £200,000,000 is to be expended is entirely inadequate to enable the Parliament to determine whether or not the proposed expenditure is wise in all its aspects. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) suggested that the defence Estimates could perhaps be considered by some body such as the Public Accounts Committee. I can say, as a member of that committee, that it already has too much work to do in examining the expenditure of this Government. I suggest that the time has arrived when, because defence expenditure is so great, the Parliament should establish an all-party committee to examine the defence Estimates systematically, because at present it is not possible to examine the expenditure critically until after the money has actually been expended. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) pointed out that one round sum shown in the Estimates is £5,250,000 for expenditure on naval vessels. No details are given. Such a body as I suggest would be able to examine the defence . Estimates well in advance, and call for information about expenditure in order to determine whether or not that expenditure was being wisely incurred. The total expenditure that the committee is asked to sanction for defence is £200,000,000, the same as the vote provided last year, but actual expenditure in 1952-53 was £215,000,000. The excess expenditure of £15,000,000 is an indication of the lavish way in which this Government is prepared to spend money. The amount may not appear to be large in a budget of £900,000,000 but it is substantial when considered in the light of the State governments’ needs, to mention only one avenue of possible public expenditure. The committee is entitled to be critical of the way in which the money provided for defence is expended. No adequate information is supplied to honorable members to enable them to make a proper assessment of the financial proposals. The estimates for defence are simply divided into the various departments associated with defence, ranging from the Department of the Army to the Department of Defence Production.
At the end of the Estimates, there are tables showing the number of persons who are employed in various sections of the national defence set-up. I have read the details of the number employed in the various branches of the Army and I believe that honorable members . are entitled to ask whether the hierarchical structure that has been set up in the Army in particular is the best for the nation. A comparison of the defence estimates for the current financial year and the actual expenditure last year shows that the principal difference lies in two items that are published on page 43 of the budget papers. The item “ Forces in Japan and Korea, Maintenance “ required the expenditure of £21,660,982 in 1952-53. This year the proposed expenditure on that item is £8,500,000, a difference in round figures of £13,000,000. The second item, “ Arms, armament, ammunition, mechanization and equipment”, which involved the expenditure of £14,921,400 last year, is estimated to be £8,795,000 this year, a difference of approximately £6,000,000. Basically, those two items represent the only reductions in the proposed defences expenditure this year. They have been made possible principally because of the cessation of hostilities in Korea. Those reductions are welcome, but I suggest that bigger reductions could have been made.
From the tables that are printed at the end of the Estimates, I have made a summary of the salaries, allowances and other payments that are expended on the permanent armed forces throughout Australia. About 70,000 persons are employed permanently in those services, and of the total of £200,000,000 that is to be set aside for defence, £70,000,000 is to be used to pay for the wages, salaries and payments in the nature of wages to those employees. The tables presented with the Estimates show that 472 persons are employed in the administrative section of the Department of Defence, 17,315 in the Department of the Navy and all its ramifications, 30,232 in the Department of the Army, 17,65S in the Department of Air, 2,114 in the Department of Supply and 1,577 in the Department of Defence Production. That is a total, according to the schedules, of 69,368 and the total wage payments to that group will be £70,412,000.
The section to which I direct the attention of honorable members in particular is the hierarchy of the Australian Regular Army. The figures can be seen on page 193 of the Estimates. They show that this year the personnel of the Army will include one Chief of the General Staff, three lieutenant-generals, eleven majorgenerals, 22 brigadiers, 3S colonels, 209 lieutenant-colonels, 2,813 majors, captains, and lieutenants, 2,243 warrant officers, 869 staff sergeants, 2,770 sergeants, 4,740 corporals .and 14,281 lance-corporals, privates, gunners, sappers, drivers and so on. That is a total in round figures of 28,000 so that each humble-ranking soldier has to have behind him at least one other of higher rank. I suggest that this hierarchical structure should be examined closely to determine whether it is necessary for the operation of -the Australian Regular Army. What should be the ratio of colonels, lieutenant-colonels, majors and all the other tall poppies in the Army in relation to the more humble ranks of the service? The Estimates do not indicate precisely how much money is paid to the lieutenant-colonels as distinct from lance-corporals. They indicate simply that the total amount to be paid to the Army personnel is £20,513,000.
Honorable members are not in possession of sufficient information to enable them to evaluate the expenditure under the various headings of defence. The total proposed expenditure of £200,000,000 is far in excess of the total amount that is paid for social services in Australia, lt is about 6 or 7 per cent, of the national income. No attempt has been made to ajudicate on the sum that is to be set aside for defence, and the committee is entitled to ask whether value is being obtained for the money that is expended. As the hierarchical structure of the Army is duplicated, in similar proportions in the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force, honorable members should be informed whether there are too many in the higher ranks in relation to those in the lower ranks. Figuratively, the amount of £200,000,000 appears to be drawn out of a hat each year. Under the present system it could easily be £150,000,000 or £250,000,000. There does not appear to be any science about the selection of the exact amount, but the final decision has an important bearing upon the economy of the nation.
I suggest also that our concept of defence is too rigid. It is based on so much money for the Navy, Army and the Air Force rather than on the needs of Australia as a national unit. Sections of national life that are just as important to defence as troops and armaments are transport, power, irrigation and food production, all of which do not fall within the ambit of the Commonwealth but of the States. From the point of defence alone, there is a need for greater co-operation between the Australian Government and the State governments upon those matters. Only the Australian Government has any choice in the matter, and can be extravagant in deciding how much money should be provided for these rigid departments without regard to the overall picture of defence. I recall that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he returned from a visit abroad about three years ago, voiced the fear that war would occur within the following twelve or eighteen months, and said that the greatest contribution that Australia could make would be, perhaps, in the provision of foodstuffs rather than armaments to our allies. The Parliament accepted that view, but the Government seems to have forgotten the precept that the Prime Minister laid down at that* time. To-day, the Government takes to itself great unction in pointing out that it is expending the sum of £200,000,000 year after year on defence. When any member of the Opposition criticizes that expenditure, the patriots on the other side of the chamber hold up their hands in horror and say that the Opposition would leave Australia undefended. An examination of the Estimates does not afford any reason. for optimism in respect of the strategic position of this country. The committee is not in possession of sufficient information to enable it to make a proper examination of the expenditure proposed, and, perhaps, to point out to the Government the possibility of setting up a special defence committee to which these Estimates could be made available well in advance in order to enable it to vet the proposed expenditure in consultation with honorable members on both sides of the chamber, and then present the defence estimates in a more systematic, and certainly in a more intelligible, way than they are now presented to the representatives of the people in this Parliament.
– The committee is considering the proposed expenditure of approximately £200,000,000 on defence. Two things have struck me about this debate. The first of them is the general air of unreality that pervades it. Honorable members have been talking not so much about defence significance as about the effect of defence expenditure upon the economic structure. Honorable members do not realize that we are now talking about a matter of life or death. Secondly, honorable members who have so far spoken in the debate have directed their remarks mainly to details of the proposed vote rather than to the overall structure. I do not suggest that the details are not a proper subject to be considered by honorable members, because, obviously, the general structure cannot be corrected unless the details are attended to. Consequently, it is proper that honorable members should devote some of their time to the details. But it is not proper that they should devote the whole of their time to them. That is particularly so, having regard to the fact that the general structure of our defence is not, unfortunately, a frozen thing, but is something which must be adaptable to changing world conditions. It may be well to remind the committee of remarks that President Eisenhower made on this point only yesterday. President Eisenhower is not only leader of the United States of America, but also a military authority of high repute. He was asked whether Russia’s ability to manufacture the hydrogen bomb would have any effect upon his defence plans. Replying to that question, he said that the hydrogen bomb was probably causing everybody involved today more study than any other thing which had occurred lately, that he was devoting great effort, with the aid of his advisers, to deciding on his approach to the situation and would let the nation know the details of the problem and what could be done about it.
On this point, I direct the attention of honorable members also to an article that was published in the magazine Time, of the 28th September last, in which one finds a fuller explanation of the conflict of opinion that is occurring in top circles in the United States of America and, I have no doubt, in other democratic countries also, regarding the nature of defence measures which should be taken under present conditions. I refer to that magazine, not because I regard it as being the last word in this matter, but in order to indicate to the committee that general flexibility of approach to all defence problems is urgently needed. That article stated that the United States of America was beginning to realize that Russia’s hydrogen bomb demanded a whole new range of policies on military thinking. It added that the dominant factor percolating through policy discussions in Washington was that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics would have enough hydrogen bombs to menace . the United States of America by 1956 or sooner, and that victory would go, not to the nation with the biggest stockpile of bombs, but to the nation that dropped them first. That statement is not necessarily authoritative, but it indicates the way in which current thinking is flowing in top military circles in other countries. I submit that as a result of that general change, our whole military outlook must be sufficiently flexible to meet the new conditions that now exist. It has been said that generals prepare to fight the last war instead of the next war. If we follow that policy we shall become victims of our own weaknesses in defence, because it is only by preparing adequate strength and by fully realizing the dangers that exist that we can hope to preserve peace.
It is, of course, necessary that we should not prepare ourselves exclusively to fight an atomic war. It may well be that more conventional armaments are needed. But it is even more necessary that we should not fail to prepare ourselves for an atomic war. If there is to be any sense in defence policy at all it is necessary, above all else, that we should hear in mind what an atomic war could be like. Honorable members must realize that if our enemies have adequate bomb stocks, which I do not think they have at the moment but which, it is quite certain, they will achieve in a few years, there is no conceivable way of protecting our country, or of protecting other countries, from devastating attack. There is no conceivable way of preventing the delivery of such missiles without warning in feigned peace. If we realize that fact our military preparations, whilst they must of necessity be directed in part to the more conventional emergencies, must take cognizance of this new emergency also. I do not desire to be dogmatic on this subject, but I say that a great deal of flexibility is needed in our defence outlook and also a need to adopt the traditional concepts which have remained to us since the end of World War II. The new defence is certainly not going to be different in all respects from the old defence, but it must be different in some respects; and it is to those aspects that we should turn our minds. This is not a problem which we can take lightly or of which there can be an easy or a ready-made solution. It has to be met from day to day in the light of new developments. It may well be, and I hope that it is true, that our military advisers are turning their minds to these new developments; but it would not be amiss for the members of this committee also to turn their minds to some of these possibilities. When one considers the new things that should he done, one is forced to compile a long list of them. Each may seem small in itself, but each is a necessary part of the whole. In the few minutes at my disposal it is obvious that I can touch on only a few of the things that are needed to be done and then only by way of illustration. I do not suggest that the things that I shall mention cover everything that should be done, or even that they are the principal things that should be done. We must realize that if there is an atomic war it will be fought, not against soldiers, but against civilians. We must realize that none of the big centres will escape either in respect of their buildings and factories or the people who live in them. If that is so, our military forces should be prepared to meet such an emergency. That suggests that in some respects we should revert to the older type of Army organization. In some respects it suggests that the Government’s scheme of national service training is even better and more urgently needed than is sometimes thought. But quite apart from that, if one considers the matter as it affects a particular arm of the services, we might well ask ourselves why is the Navy not realizing that, in the event of an atomic attack, no developed port would be usable. Not only would it be liable to destruction, but because of certain technical factors with which I shall not weary honorable members, it would be rendered unusable for many months by the existence of continuing radio activity. Is it not necessary for the Government to develop a system whereby the Navy could operate without developed ports and dockyards? That is, I admit, a new concept - something which, from the naval point of view, may well seem to be asking the impossible. But, after all, the conditions of possibility are dictated, not by ourselves, but by our enemies. I am disappointed that some attention is not being paid to the development of helicopters as searchers for submarines. In the atomic age submarines might form one of the main menaces, and the only fleet which Russia could mount in the Pacific is a submarine fleet. For the detection of submarines, helicopters are unsurpassed. Recently, as honorable members know, techniques have been developed which enable helicopters to drop into the sea beneath them detection buoys wired to them and which, by means of asdic equipment, enable them to detect submarines in the area. One would think that the development of the use of the helicopter is a vital ingredient of our defence programme. One’ does not think, of course, that there is no place for the Air Force as it exists at present. I do not suggest that these are the only things that we should do; but I do suggest that in our planning a great deal more attention should be paid to the development of a helicopter force. Again, what about the dispersal of our factories - a move which becomes even more urgent in the atomic age? I was interested a few days ago to observe the complete lack of realism displayed by a State Minister in New South Wales who demanded the removal of Victoria Barracks, which he said was a target that imperilled the safety of the hospitals near it. Does he not realize that in an atomic age the radius of total destruction by an atomic bomb extends over many miles? The explosion of an atomic bomb over Sydney would imperil not merely one or two hospitals but every hospital near the centre of the explosion. A large bomb would result in the complete obliteration of all hospitals in the Sydney area. I do not suggest that such an eventuality is in prospect. I do not think that it would oe possible to-day because I do not believe that our Russian enemies hold large stocks of atomic bombs. If, however, the present rift between Russia and free nations continues, the Russians will certainly build up large stocks of atomic weapons in a comparatively few years. Since the defence Estimates which we are considering cover the programme, not of one year, but for a long term, it should have regard to eventualities of that character.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire to raise two administrative matters which I believe should be ventilated in the committee. One affects the Department of Defence Production and the other affects the Department of the Army. I want to make it quite clear at the outset that in respect of both matters in trying to get them straightened out I have received every assistance from the Ministers concerned. It appears, however, that because of policy decisions or administrative difficulties they have not been straightened out to the degree that one would like. The first relates to a decision which, apparently, was made some timeago that certain positions in government factories which had been occupied by temporary employees should be advertised with a view to the appointment to them of permanent officers. My complaint refers mainly to the ordnance factory at Bendigo, although I understand that similar complaints have been made in connexion with other government factories. In order that the position may be seen in proper perspective, I point out that the ordnance factory at Bendigo did not commence operations until 1942. When the factory was completed, because of the general shortage of man-power that then existed it was fairly difficult to find all the labour required to enable it to function as it was intended to function. When the factory commenced operations many persons were employed in it as temporary clerks. They continued to carry out their duties until the beginning of this year, when a policy decision was made that their positions should be filled by permanent employees. The positions were advertised and many temporary employees were replaced by permanent employees. Of the 37 clerical employeesaffected, 32 were ex-servicemen who, although they had performed their duties in an entirely satisfactory manner - some of them had occupied very high posts- were not eligible for permanent appointment because they had not passed the intermediate certificate examination. They were compelled to accept positions of lower standing at lower rates of remuneration. A similar situation has arisen at a number of other factories in both Melbourne and Sydney. Employees who were occupying temporary clerical positions at the outbreak of war in 19391 were guaranteed that their positions would not be be filled subsequently by permanent employees, and that they would be able to retain their positions provided that their services were satisfactory.. As the factory in Bendigo that I have mentioned was not established until 1942, it was not practicable for’ the management to make a similar promise to its original employees, and consequently it was not possible for five ex-servicemen clerically employed since the opening of the factory to continue to hold their positions, although they had discharged their duties satisfactorily throughout their term of employment. I think that it is unwise for the Government to treat a government factory as though it were a part of the Public Service, because such factories are administered entirely differently from the manner in which both Commonwealth and State departments are administered. When the Government decides, for reasons best known to itself, to replace temporary employees who have carried out their duties satisfactorily by permanent employees, I consider that tha change should be implemented gradually, not in one fell swoop as in the case of the Bendigo factory. An employee of that factory, who was considered surplus to requirements, sought and found other employment elsewhere. When he endeavoured to obtain the benefits of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act he found that, as he had been declared surplus to requirements because no work was available for him, he was not eligible for those benefits. Even had he been discharged from the factory he would not have been eligible for them. In accordance with a ruling, as he had not been retrenched, and despite the fact that he had more than eight years service to his credit, he was not entitled to payment in lieu of furlough. I urge the Minister to review the provisions of the act with a view to ensuring that an employee, such as the man to whom I have referred, will not be prejudiced in relation to furlough entitlement, and also, when it becomes necessary to replace temporary employees by permanent employees, to effect the change gradually so that the employment of temporary employees will not be prejudiced.
I shall now refer to a matter in connexion with which I have already made representations to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis), who has helped me considerably. However, unfortunately the matter has still not been settled. In January and February, 1952, military manoeuvres were carried out in the Puckapunyal area, a portion of which is in my electorate, and considerable damage was caused to many of the roads, culverts and bridges in that area by heavy military vehicles. In February, 1952, at the conclusion of the manoeuvres, I was informed by the Mclvor Shire Council that it had made a claim upon the general officer commanding the Puckapunyal military establishment for compensation for the damage that had been caused to the roads, culverts and bridges in the shire, and on the 20th March, 1952, I directed the attention of the Minister for the Army to the matter. He promised to look into it to see whether settlement of the claim could be expedited. Although the Minister and I have exchanged many letters since then, unfortunately this matter has not yet been completed. In view of the facts that I shall relate, it is hard to resist the thought that a system should be instituted to ensure that claims of this kind will be dealt with quickly, so that- damage caused to public roads by heavy military vehicles engaged on manoeuvres can be repaired as soon as possible. In this instance a claim was submitted to a compensation board, and subsequently the board, accompanied by officers of the shire, inspected the damage. Agreement was reached between the board and the shire on the probable cost of repairing the damage, and the shire’3 claim was recognized as just and reasonable. The file was then referred to the Department of the Army, which subsequently referred the matter to the defence section of the Treasury, where a very thorough investigation was undertaken. I think that that was the correct procedure. However, because the claim exceeded £5,000 it was referred to the Co-ordinator-General of Works for investigation and decision. At the conclusion of his investigations the matter was again referred to the defence section of the Treasury for further investigation. Then, because a matter of policy was involved, the claim was referred to Canberra. In due course the file was forwarded to Victoria Barracks in Melbourne, whereupon discussions ensued between representatives of the Department of the Army and the Department of Defence. I understand that the file is still at Victoria Barracks in Melbourne, and that a decision has not ‘ yet been reached. Tha amount claimed by the shire was £6,850.
I am sure that all honorable members who have been connected with municipalities and shires know that those bodies have great difficulty in obtaining sufficient finance with which to carry out ordinary repairs. They should not be obliged to seek special finance in order to effect extensive repairs rendered necessary by military manoeuvres. The Shire of Mclvor is situated in a pastoral and dairying area of Victoria. As a result of the military manoeuvres that I have mentioned, many of the roads in that shire have been out of order during the last two winters. Considerable inconvenience has been caused to all the residents who are affected by the damage to the roads, and up to the present time, no information can be obtained as to when this claim will be settled. To me, this is a most serious matter. A brief recital of the sequence of events supports this view. A claim was made at the earliest possible moment, the fullest information was given, and every possible investigation was made to justify and prove the claim. In other words, the claim has been the subject of consideration by competent authorities, who have the power to deal with such matters. Yet so many different things have arisen in the ordinary administration of government departments that they have frustrated and thwarted the settlement of the claim and the payment of compensation to the shire concerned.
I make it clear that the Minister has done all that he possibly can do to assist me, but I am constantly receiving letters from the shire complaining that it cannot repair its roads, bridges and culverts and that, in the meantime, people are suffering inconvenience. I raise the matter now because I believe that, perhaps by a little more co-operation between government departments, a procedure may be devised that will save delay in the settlement of similar matters in the future. The delay of eighteen months that has occurred in this instance cannot be helped now, and I am concerned with finding ways and means to prevent a recurrence of delays of this kind to effect earlier payments. If we can do so, my action in raising the matter to-day will have been of some ‘ advantage and value. I feel sure that the Minister will agree that his department does not desire that the shire should be deprived of the amount that is necessary to enable it to repair its roads, bridges and culverts.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to say a few words about the Department of Supply insofar as it is concerned with the development of uranium. I begin by complimenting the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) upon the energy he has shown on the whole matter of uranium development. Despite a number of statements which have been made in this committee and in another place from time to time, I consider that the Minister has shown vision and imagination and that his work will be appreciated in the ensuing years. Uranium development, of course, is not a one-sided matter confined to the Rum Jungle deposits in the Northern Territory. Let us never forget that the South Australian Government, too, has played a notable part, owing to the energy shown by its leader, Mr. Playford, in the development of Radium Hill.
Radium Hill, of course, is primarily a South Australian concern, but I submit to the committee that Commonwealth assistance, or some measure of Commonwealth assistance, will be necessary for the speedy and adequate exploitation of that area. This argument is heightened by recent discoveries at Crocker’s Well and thereabouts, a distance of approximately 60 miles north of Radium Hill, together with the possibility of other really worthwhile finds in neighbouring districts.
I refer particularly to the poor transport facilities serving Radium Hill. These consist principally of the main road linking Adelaide and Broken Hill, and, secondly, the north-eastern railway, which also connects Broken Hill with Adelaide, and with Peterborough, Port Pirie and Port Augusta. There is also an airstrip. Honorable members may be surprised to learn that both the road and the railway are quite unworthy of the importance of Radium Hill to Australia and the world. I am pleased to see that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) is at the table, because he knows this district very well indeed. I should not be surprised if he has had unpleasant experiences in the past on this road in a district which he used to represent in this Parliament. After a moderate fall of rain, the road in the vicinity of Radium Hill is rendered impassable to traffic, sometimes for as long as two or three days. I admit that conditions are usually dry in the district, which has a low rainfall of approximately 7 inches a year, but even so, the surface of the road is indifferent, and, at times, extremely bad. The railway is notorious for being a singularly poor track. The rolling-stock is old fashioned, and the trains traversing this line can seldom average more than 25 miles per hour. As a rule they are slower than that. The north-eastern railway is more fitted to occupy a place in a museum of antiquities rather than to serve such important places as Broken Hill, Radium Hill, Peterborough, Port Pirie and the intervening pastoral country.
It is not sufficient to say that the remedy for this state of affairs lies in the hands of the South Australian Government. Let us remember that South Australia has an area equivalent to that of New South Wales, but its population is only about one-fifth of that of the senior State. The South Australian Government simply cannot afford to bitumenize the necessary 150 miles of road between Terowie and Cockburn. It has commitments in many other parts of the State. Even taking the most optimistic view, it would be a number of years before the State Government had sufficient funds to place this road in the condition in which it ought to be. But I submit that the growing importance of Radium. Hill demands modern transport facilities, and, accordingly, the case is strong for the Commonwealth to make a substantial grant, and some special facilities, to the South Australian Government to make this road, which serves, on any criterion, what is becoming a vital strategic defence area, into a first-class all-weather means of communication. I hope that the Minister and the Government will give this matter the most serious and careful attention. I need hardly say that if Radium Hill were situated in the United States of America, on the continent of Europe, or in the United Kingdom, a matter such as this would be attended to almost immediately. I know that the Minister, taking into consideration the progressive and imaginative record that he has so far gained in relation to uranium development, will look at this matter sympathetically, and try to give the South Australian Government, and, through it, the whole cause of uranium development in Australia, the assistance that the security of this country demands.
.- I take this further opportunity to speak on the Estimates for the defence services in order to avoid the necessity to make a personal explanation. I should like a clarification of a statement by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) after I had concluded my speech this morning.
– Does the honorable member refer to the speech in which he said that Ministers should not speak and subsequently invited them to speak ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Herbert is in order, and should be heard in silence.
– In presenting my case this morning, I used the names of two members of my family who endeavoured to join the services. The Minister said later that I had made the matter a family affair, and was unwise in doing so. I should like to make it perfectly clear that I hope there is no necessity for any member of my family to seek any assistance from this Government, and least of all from the Minister. I could have used the names of several other people. Very often honorable members use letters that they have received from constituents in order to support an argument. On this occasion I did not have to refer to any one outside my own home to provide evidence in support of my contention. I did not consider that my sons were entitled to any special consideration. I did npt wish them to be considered as different from any other person who had endeavoured to enlist in the services and had been rejected. My son who endeavoured to get into the services was rejected at the same time as 49 others were rejected. For the sake of illustrating my argument I could have named any of the other 49 persons. Instead of citing the lady whom I stated had been rejected by the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service, I could have cited the names of a number of other applicants who had been rejected on the same occasion. These applicants were given no prospect of getting into the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service except that two of them were told that there might be a vacancy in seven months’ time. The Minister for the Army said that it was unfortunate that I mentioned that case, because a bad medical record was connected with it.
– I did not say that.
– It will be apparent from Hansard what the Minister said. The lad to whom I referred is in Wacol camp doing his training under the national service scheme. After being there for nine days he was- promoted to corporal. That fact indicates that there is nothing seriously wrong with him. He is as strong as a young bullock. Before he went into camp he was engaged in his normal occupation, to which he will return when he comes out of camp. The statements of the Minister have now been broadcast, and will be recorded in Hansard, and I wish to state that those statements are completely and utterly untrue.
. - In reply to the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), I wish to state that recruiting is not a function of the Army. Recruiting is undertaken by the Department of Defence. In a discussion that he had with me yesterday or the day before, the honorable member for Herbert expressed surprise that his son had not been accepted by the Army.
– I expressed surprise that the Army was not accepting lads at all.’
– I undertook to find out why the lad had been rejected. I obtained that information and conveyed it to the honorable gentleman. The honorable gentleman knows exactly what I said and I do not want to say anything further about the matter.
.- In speaking on the Estimates for the Department of Air and the Department of
Defence, I wish to inform the committee of a complaint that I have received from a number of residents in the Mascot area in New South Wales concerning low-flying planes, civil and otherwise, in that district.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) is speaking on a matter which concerns the Department of Civil Aviation and not the Department of Air. The honorable member knows that the Department of Air is concerned mainly with military aviation. The Department of Civil Aviation would deal with the matter of aeroplanes flying over Mascot. I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that you rule that the honorable member shall confine his remarks to the appropriate section of the Estimates.
-The Estimates of the Department of Civil Aviation have already been dealt with and any matter apertaining to them cannot be discussed now.
– It seems apparent that the Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), on behalf of the Government, is determined to prevent me from speaking whenever I rise in this chamber. But I do not intend to be deterred by the Ministers of a government which is facing destruction at the next general election. I am here to speak on behalf of my electors. I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to tell me when I can discuss aeroplanes if I cannot discuss them when the estimates for the Department of Air are being dealt with. I am not speaking only of civil aeroplanes but of aircraft of all descriptions. Millions of pounds have been used by the Department of Air for the purchase of aeroplanes which fly over my electorate and the homes of people who want to know what the Government will do to ensure that the aeroplanes fly at a reasonable height.
– Order! The honorable member knows that that is a matter for the Department of Civil Aviation and he is not to pursue the subject.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. But I am dealing with aircraft that fly - -
– Order ! The honorable member will not persist in that discussion if he does not wish to be ordered to resume his seat.
– I would not for a minute think that you, Mr. Chairman, would join in the crusade to prevent me from presenting my views in this chamber. I should like the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) to make some comments in connexion with the proposed vote of £200,000,000 for the Department of Defence. In a most excellent speech, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) informed the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) that a considerable amount of money was being squandered by his department in connexion with national service training. I am not satisfied with the glib explanation of that matter that was given by the Minister for the Army with all the assurance of one who was certain that he was right although he did not even know that the charges were to be made until a couple of moments before he spoke. This Government spends too much time in defending army, navy and air force personnel at all costs. “We know that the officers of these services cannot always be right. There are good citizens among them. But the Minister for the Army would have been wiser if he had undertaken to have a full investigation made instead of simply discarding the criticism of the honorable member for Yarra. It is a disgraceful state of affairs that the people’s money is being squandered on square dancing in a national service camp instead of on training.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) told how money was being squandered on the staff of defence establishments and his allegations, which were supported by accurate figures, require an answer. What kind of cars are the armed services using? I understand that they are buying expensive vehicles for the transport of officers and others. Why should the services not confine the purchase of motor cars to the Australian-made Holden? The Government has claimed that it is reducing expenditure. Yet Humbers and other expensive cars have been purchased for the use of the services and the Government should provide a full explanation of those purchases. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale), who sits and smirks while these matters are being discussed, should investigate what has happened in his department.
The Opposition believes that money provided for defence is being squandered. Inefficient and top-heavy administration causes waste, and equipment out of all proportion to the needs of the armed forces is purchased. An annual expenditure of £200,000,000 is probably needed to provide for the adequate defence of Australia, but we are not satisfied that the money appropriated by the Parliament is being properly used. Why has not the Government used defence funds in order to make additional grants to the States for the purpose of stimulating food production so that Australia can be a self-contained nation in the event of war ? Instead of permitting money to be squandered on Humber motor cars and square dancing, why has it not used defence funds for the construction and improvement of roads, which are vital in time of war? Why has it failed to allocate defence funds to the huge developmental works programmes that will be of first-class importance in the event of war? It’ is idle for the Government to say that Australia has plenty of welltrained men and equipment if our roads are not capable of carrying defence traffic, and if our primary and secondary industries have been neglected.
– What about railway services?
– They urgently need attention. We believe that some proportion of the proposed vote for defence services should be made available for the construction of new railways and the improvement of existing lines. The people should be supplied with a full explanation of the uses to which defence funds have been directed.
Whenever the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) finds himself in difficulties, he announces that a war is likely to occur within twelve or eighteen months, but whenever he thinks that the political situation has improved, from his point of view, he puts back the date of the emergency. Even the Vice-President of the Executive Council a couple of years ago announced that there would be wai within eighteen months. He had heard the news secretly in London, or somewhere else, he said. Because of these alarmist statements, an amount of £200,000,000 was set aside by the Parliament last year so that the nation might be protected, and it is proposed that a similar sum shall be appropriated for the same purpose this year. Yet the Government has failed consistently to tell the people how the money has been used. No doubt the Public Accounts Committee will examine the finances of the various defence departments in the near future. I notice by the intelligent look on the face of the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), who is the chairman of the committee, that he is in agreement with some of my criticism. I am sure that he will be able to verify my charges when the committee studies details of the expenditure by defence departments. Let us hope that the committee will make recommendations that will enable economies to be effected before the next budget is presented to this Parliament. The Ministers who are in charge of these important departments should be made to realize the tragedy of Australia’s position while they continue to permit wasteful expenditure of vast sums. I can appreciate the Government’s desire to suppress the truth. I readily understand that Ministers do not like to be called upon to explain why money has been squandered when it should have been used to provide for the security of the nation.
– They have not even tried to give an explanation.
-That is so. The Minister for Supply, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, the Minister for the Army and the Minister for Defence often make long-winded statements on subjects of little importance, but they sit idly by when we demand to know why money is squandered in ways that obviously are not in the best interests of the nation, and refuse to justify their administration. For that reason they deserve our condemnation.
The most incompetent of them all. the Minister for Supply, refuses to tell us what price we receive for our uranium.
His only intelligent remarks in this chamber are made by way of interjection. We have been able to gain no knowledge from his speeches. He should try to give us all possible information about the activities of his department, instead of squirming out of his responsibilities, as he did earlier to-day, when the honorable member for Yarra put him on the spot. The honorable gentleman, backed by a ruling given by the Chairman, evaded a pertinent question that was raised by the honorable member for Yarra and did not answer it. I am not satisfied with the manner in which this Government is administering defence expenditure or with the explanations that have been given to the Parliament by the various Ministers. It is time that these . honorable gentlemen realized their responsibilities to the Australian people and announced the results that have been obtained from the expenditure of huge sums of public money for the defence of the nation.
– If there is one subject that should be above party politics in this chamber, it is the subject of defence. Therefore, the Government never objects to constructive criticism, or soundly based suggestions for the improvement of defence policy or administration. It is eager to secure the best possible results from the expenditure of the money that is allocated for defence. For that reason I have been thoroughly disappointed to-day, because only two members of the Opposition have made contributions to this discussion that could be described as sincere and constructive. I think it is generally recognized that these honorable gentlemen, who spoke in moderate terms, know something about defence. Their sincerity was obvious,’ and I welcome the suggestions and criticism that they have offered. However, before I reply to their criticism, I shall briefly set out the basis of the Government’s defence programme. It is important that I should do so because, recently, many public figures, including the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, have been barnstorming around the country and making statements on defence that anybody with an elementary knowledge of the Government’s plans would refrain from making, not with the intention to aid Australia’s defence, hut with the intention to create doubts in the minds of the people. The people of Australia should understand the basis of our defence programme and the objectives that we hope to achieve.
Doubts have been raised concerning the adequacy of our defence preparations in northern Australia. They have concerned, in particular, increasing vulnerability of the north as a result of Communist cold war activities throughout South-East Asia. It has been suggested that to ensure the security of northern Australia, immediate action should be taken to station additional armed forces at northern bases. In the first place, I point out, that in view of the limited martime capacity of the probable enemy, an invasion of Australia is in the highest degree unlikely, at least for some years to come. The security of Australia depends upon the success of the British Commonwealth and our allies in the decisive conflicts which may take place in Europe, the Middle East and South-East Asia. Our most effective defence, therefore, lies in rendering all possible assistance to our allies in combating Communist cold-war activities, whilst, at the same time, building up our strength against the possibility of a global war. It would be strategically unsound, and economically wasteful, to station a large proportion of available forces in northern Australia in existing circumstances. Any assessments of the defence preparations necessary to ensure the security of northern Australia must be made against the background of the overall scheme for the defence of Australia, and its territories. This in turn, must he correctly related to the threat and to the system of collective security and allied strategy upon which Australian defence policy has been formulated.
If there should be a global war in the foreseeable future, it will result from aggression by international communism. Apart from long-range submarines, the Communist powers do not possess great naval and mercantile strength, and are incapable of moving large land forces across the open seas as Japan did in the last war. The important strategic fact which must inevitably influence our defence policy, therefore, is that an invasion of Australia, such as was possible prior to 1945, is in the highest degree unlikely, at least for some years to come. In a global war. the security of Australia will depend upon the outcome of major conflicts in the vital land areas of Europe, the Middle East and South-East Asia, against which the Communists are capable of launching land and air offensives. Whilst South-East Asia is held, defence in depth is provided to Australia and there will be no direct threat, except to sea communications in the form of submarine attacks and mine laying. Only if South-East Asia should fall, and if the enemy were able to establish effective bases to the north of Australia, would a direct air threat exist to the mainland. In a global war, the United States of America, the British Commonwealth, and the other Western Powers will be interdependent, and no one country will survive without the others. Australia, therefore, must continue to rely upon a policy of collective security and must, in its own and the general interest, make the maximum possible contribution to the vital theatres in close co-operation with its allies. The theatres in which this .contribution will be made will be decided by the government of the day in the light of the current strategic situation. Military planning to meet the various contingencies which may arise is being actively carried out in conjunction with our allies.
The forces required for the local security of Australia in a global war will he governed to a great degree by the success or otherwise of Communist efforts to expand during the cold war period. An extension of the present Communist cold war policy could result in the whole of the mainland of SouthEast Asia being lost to the allies unless adequate steps are taken to counter it. Our defence policy is accordingly der signed to have forces readily available to meet our cold war obligations under the United Nations Charter, and commitments undertaken as a member of the British Commonwealth or as a result of the Anzus pact. In accordance with this policy, Australian forces, in conjunction with those of our allies, are taking their part in cold war tasks in Korea, Malaya and the Middle East.
In. peace-time, if military forces are to be maintained with reasonable economy, and properly, trained for their war tasks, they must be located close to their training facilities and within the areas from which they are supplied. It is not customary in peace for forces to be deployed at all their war stations. The requirement in northern Australia- in present circumstances is not for large forces on the spot, but for nucleus bases, capable of rapid reinforcement and expansion should a threat develop. The forces, particularly the naval and air forces, have great mobility and can readily concentrate when and where required in an emergency. A specific illustration is the Lockheed Neptune aircraft recently acquired from the United States of America. These aircraft have been specifically designed for long-range reconnaissance duties, and- have considerably strengthened the maritime reconnaissance role of the Air Force. Adequate Navy, Army and Air Force units are maintained in northern areas for their peace-time tasks. To increase the strength of those units at this stage beyond the necessary minimum would be uneconomical and wasteful.
In conclusion, I say that the1 home defence of the, Commonwealth is best, achieved by mobile forces capable of. rapid concentration where required, and. this basic principle has been followed in the development and disposition of the three services. The forces at present stationed in Northern Australia are considered’ by the three services to be adequate for the discharge of their peacetime duties. The defence of the area, in the light of the current threat, is effectively provided for by the maintenance of strategic bases and the mobility of the forces. I can assure the committee therefore that the fears that have been expressed about the adequacy of the northern defences of this country are completely unfounded. We have allotted to that area forces that we consider to be adequate- in the present circumstances. When consideration is being given to the Government’s defence programme, one must bear in mind the economic position and thu resources of Australia. Any country that embarks on a defence programme thai cannot be supported by its resources is bound to fail.
I was extremely interested to hear the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) say that he was in favour of the £200,000,000 defence programme; but he immediately began to show that the money should be spent on completely non-defence projects. That was ludicrous: The projects that he mentioned, road and railways projects, are not the responsibility of this Government or of the department that. I administer. The- development of our natural resources must be undertaken, but not as a part of the defence programme. We believe that the defence expenditure upon which we have decided can be supported adequately by the resources of the country. We believe also that, by undertaking a programme of that magnitude, we are meeting our commitments to the British Commonwealth and the United Nations but are not asking too much of the people of Australia. Our defence programme will impose on the Australian people a lesser strain than the programmes of most of our allies will impose upon the people of those countries. We are spending £200,000,000 a year, or approximately 5.8 per cent, of our national income, on defence. Canada is spending 10.3 per- cent: and the United Kingdom 11.7 per cent. The United States- of America, which is not getting much credit from honorable members opposite, is expending 17.6 per cent, of its national income, not only on its own defence but also on the defence of the democratic world. It is entitled to more credit and appreciation for that than it has received.
The programme upon which we have embarked has enabled us to meet our obligations in the cold war. We have forces in Korea, Japan, Malaya and the Middle East. The maintenance of those forces has imposed quite a strain upon the limited resources of service personnel in this country. In Korea and Japan we have two infantry battalions, with headquarters and communications zone troops, two ships and two air force squadrons, involving the use of 4,971 men. In Malaya, we have a bomber squadron with 210 men, and in Malta a fighter wing with 282 men. In those areas, 5,463 men are engaged. “We believe that to be a reasonable contribution to the cold war. Other democratic countries have larger forces engaged, but I believe our forces represent a fair acceptance of our responsibilities.
The- honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), in one of the most moderate and constructive speeches delivered from the Opposition benches, accepted unreservedly that the Regular Army, the Citizen Military Forces, the national service trainees and the personnel of the other Services were doing an excellent job. He made no criticism of the Regular Army, the Citizen Military Forces, or the national service trainees. He recognized the necessity for the national service training scheme, which, when it was proposed by this Government, was opposed by the Labour party. It is useless for the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) to try to persuade the people at this late stage that the members of the Opposition are in favour of national service training. They had an opportunity to support the scheme at its inception but they opposed it completely. Even worse, when asked to support voluntary enlistment into the Citizen Military Forces not one of them took part in the recruiting campaign. Therefore^ it is mere hypocrisy when they talk at this stage about their interest in the defence of this country.
– I rise to order. The word “hypocrisy” used by the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) to describe the attitude of the Labour party to defence, is most offensive to me. The Minister spoke only from his ignorance when he said that honorable members on this side of the chamber did not do anything to help voluntary recruitment.
– The Minister did not apply the word “hypocrisy” directly to the honorable member for Yarra.
– The honorable member for Ballarat suggested - I do not think his remarks amounted to’ criticism - that we should encourage more national service trainees to enlist voluntarily in the Citizen Military Forces. We are hopeful that a large number of the trainees will do so, but honorable members must realise that many of these young men are now discharging their national service obligations in the Citizen Military Forces. At the appropriate time, we shall see whether they are prepared to volunteer for further service in that force. Having regard to the enthusiasm they have shown, I am satisfied that a great number of them will do so. The honorable member for Ballarat asked how the replacement of service personnel by civilians was proceeding in the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy. I cannot give him precise figures, but I can assure him that it is proceeding satisfactorily, and that our target is being reached rapidly.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who dealt with the financial aspect of defence, suggested that there was some bad estimating of defence expenditure last year. In dealing with an expenditure of £200,000,000, it would be very fortunate indeed if the actual expenditure coincided with the estimated expenditure. Consequently, it is not astonishing that last year actual expenditure exceeded estimated expenditure, hut the principal reason for the additional expenditure was that, at a very late stage, long after the estimate had been made, certain accounts were rendered to us in connexion with Korean operations. Although they were unexpected, they had to be met in that year. I shall be astonished if our actual expenditure this year is exactly £200,000,000. We shall try to keep within our allotment, but if unforeseen contingencies arise the estimate may be exceeded. I was interested in what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports had to say about his fear that waste will occur. I do not want the committee to believe that we do not entertain a similar fear. It is perfectly obvious that when large sums of money are expended in diverse ways, as the Government spends money in carrying out its defence programmes, there is scope for waste and inefficiency. This Government has been so concerned with that aspect of defence expenditure that already it has set up two committees to investigate the matter. Only recently, it established a board of businessmen, the object being to obtain the benefit of the advice and experience of the members of the board and thus endeavour to ensure that this huge defence programme that we have undertaken will be carried out as efficiently as is possible. I can say, therefore, that although we are not always completely satisfied that the very best use has been made of money expended for defence purposes and the most efficient administrative action taken at all times, the committee and the people of Australia may be assured that, as far as is possible, good value is being obtained for the money expended.
The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) referred this morning to the proposed vote in respect of recruiting, and criticized the Government somewhat harshly on the ground that certain people had presented themselves for enlistment and had been rejected. Unfortunately, that is a fact. As the honorable gentleman requested me to furnish him with statistics in relation to this matter, I have obtained the relevant figures for the last six months, and I shall refer to them for the benefit of the honorable member and the committee generally. During the last six months, 1,240 applications were received for enlistment in the permanent naval forces, but only 385 applicants were accepted. A variety of reasons exists for applicants not being accepted. Those reasons are not concerned solely with the medical fitness of the applicants. The various services classify personnel into categories called ratings or musterings, according to the branch of the services concerned. Obviously, if applications are made by unqualified persons for enlistment in categories for which certain qualifications are required, the applications are not accepted. That does not mean that the services decline to provide training in those categories; it simply means that, as far as possible, they try to enlist in those categories people who are trained, at least to some degree, for the work they will have to perform. Consequently, there is a big degree of wastage between the number of applica tions received and the number of enlistments.
During the period to which I have referred, 3,901 applications were received for enlistment in the Army, and 1,223 persons were enlisted. There were 986 applications for enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force and 403 persons were enlisted. The total for the permanent forces, therefore, was 7,127 applications and 2,011 enlistments.
The same considerations apply in respect of the Reserve and Citizen Military Forces. There were 260 applications for enlistment in the Royal Australian Navy and 126 enlistments. Unfortunately, the total number of applications for enlistment in the reserve and Citizen Military Forces cannot be given because many applicants are made by individuals direct to units of the Citizen Military Forces. “We do not receive particulars of those applications, but we have a record of those who enlist. The number who enlisted in the period under review was 2,819. In respect of the Royal Australian Air Force, there were 451 applications and 177 enlistments. It will be seen, therefore, that in respect of the citizen forces there was a total of 3,122 enlistments during that period, and a total enlistment of 5,133 in the permanent and citizen forces.
– Order ! The time allotted for discussion of the proposed votes for the Defence Services has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Proposed vote, £17,717,000.
Refunds of Revenue
Proposed vote, £18,000,000.
Advance to the Treasurer.
Proposed vote, £16,000,000.
Bounties and Subsidies
Proposed vote, £21,165,000. “War and Repatriation Services.
Proposed vote, £18,162,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- The proposed votes that we are discussing include the vote for repatriation which, of course, includes the vote for service pensions generally. It is to that matter that I shall direct my remarks. There is a history behind this problem. The way in which the Government is dealing with the problem illustrates one of the ugliest features of the very ugly budget on which the Estimates are based. One enchanted evening about a week ago we heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) speak on this subject. He said that the budget was the greatest budget in the world - reminiscent of Gracie Fields’ aspidistra, which keeps on growing better and better as it goes along. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, analysis shows the budget to be very much the reverse. A comparison of the tax concessions extended to rich companies with the meagre payments made to ex-servicemen will show how appallingly bad the budget is.
– I rise to order. The proposed vote to which the honorable member is speaking covers repatriation services, which concerns matters entirely different from pensions. The subject pf pensions has already been debated on the Estimates. I suggest to you, Mr. Chairman, that if you permit a discussion on this subject now we shall have honorable members making their speeches on the budget all over again.
– On the point of order, 1 submit that the proposed vote under the heading, “ Special Appropriations “, for “ “War Pensions (Act No. 5 of 1953 and Act. No. - of 1954) “ is £38,887,000, which surely includes repatriation pensions. Would you advise me, Mr. Chairman, what opportunity other than this one we shall have to discuss repatriation pensions during the debate on the Estimates? I can understand the reluctance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) to have pensions discussed.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. It is the administration of the departments concerned that is under consideration when the committee debates the Estimates item by item. I submit that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is entirely out of order, because a discussion of the budget and its application to repatriation problems is out of order. The matters that should be referred to now are such things as salaries,’ wages and conditions of employees of the Department of Repatriation. Honorable members should not make this an occasion for delivering their speeches on the budget all over again.
– We each have only fifteen minutes allotted to us on each item. What is the Minister for the Army afraid of?
– I am not afraid of anything, as the honorable member knows by now. I say that it is entirely improper of the honorable member to use the debate on this item as an excuse for making a second Speech on the budget. The purpose of the debate on the item is to bring the. administration and the activities of the department itself under review.
– This is more than beer bottles in a drill hall. This is connected with the pensions of ex-servicemen.
– Do not be insulting.
– I address myself to the point of order. The proposed votes under discussion cover the item, “ Repatriation Benefits “, under which are listed the following : -
Surely the point of order taken by the Vice-President of the Executive Council cannot he upheld, because under the heading of “ Special Appropriations “ we find the entry -
War Pensions (Act No. 5 of 1953 and Act No. 7 nf 1954) £38,887,000.
If we cannot discuss pensions under the heading of “ Special Appropriations “ then when can we discuss them, because pensions are specially appropriated. They are not annually voted as other items are. This’ money, when once specially appropriated, is ultimately paid out to the pensioners.
– The points raised by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) are valid. These are items that are specifically mentioned in the Estimates. I see no particular reference to pensions, hut I shall allow the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to proceed.
– I thank you, Mr. Chairman, because this is a serious problem. As I have said, I can understand the reluctance of the VicePresident of the Executive Council to discuss any kind of pensions, because we can prove in the few minutes at the disposal of each honorable member on this side of the committee how completely dishonest has been the approach of the Government
– I rise to order. I ask the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) to withdraw the word “ dishonest “. It is unparliamentary.
– I withdraw the word. I shall now illustrate how factual the remark was by pointing out that in his 1949 policy speech the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had this to say about repatriation, a subject which, I stress, is covered by the Estimates that we are now debating -
We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
I shall contrast that statement with the facts. I should like to discover where are the “ speed, the financial and human justice and understanding “ in a half-crown a week increase for the 100 per cent, pensioner, who belongs to the class of pensioner I am discussing. I should like further to point out just what the proposed increases of pensions really amount to. I shall be brief necessarily, because my time has been severely sub-edited by honorable members who have taken points of order. Here is the outcome of the noble sentiment uttered by that prince of repertory, the Prime Minister, that veritable Bland Holt, who struts up and down the chamber and uses magnificent words that mean nothing. The 2s. 6d. a week increase given to the 100 per cent, pensioner is, by a process of reduction, an increase to the 50 per cent, pensioner of1s. 3d. a week, to the 40 per cent, pensioner1s., to the 20 per cent, pensioner 7½d., and to the 10 per cent, pensioner 3d. a. week. Where is evidence of this wonderful budget tobe found in the Esti mates that are based on it ? Where is the implementation of the noble sentiment uttered by the Prime Minister that his Government would have a proud responsibility to ex-servicemen, and’would see to it - that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems?
These words have been proved to be entirely devoid of meaning. The Prime Minister loves the oleaginous phrase. I shall give him a few phrases from Shakespeare which read -
Let me have men about me that are fat Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights Yond Cassius hath a lean and hungry look.
The ex-serviceman has a lean and hungry look to-day, because he is not getting the amount of pension that he requires. But the fat man has been made fatter still. The Government has given concessions that total £33,000,000 to rich companies which pay, according to the Commonwealth Year-Booh, dividends of 8 per cent, per annum. Let honorable members compare that with the other side of the picture. The Government’s professed urgent desire to do the right thing in respect of repatriation has resulted in a worsening of the pensions received by the repatriation pensioners, from the level of nearly 50 per cent, of the basic wage when the Chifley Government was in office to27 per cent, of the basic wage to-day. There is no getting away from these basic facts. Money has been handed out to people whodo not need it and it will possibly find its way back to the Liberal party, tohelp that party at the next general election. The party will certainly need help. But there has been no close assessment of the situation as far as pensioners are concerned. I refer particularly to the repatriation pensioners. The 10 per cent, pensioner whose permanent disability asa result of war has affected by 10 percent., his ability to work, is to receive an increase of 3d. a week from this great and generous Government. The budget papers which contain that horrible and’ insulting message cost probably £200 or £300 to print. Leaders of exservicemen’s and women’s organizations have stated their opinion of theincrease of pensions. It is not necessary for me to condemn those increases in my own words. I shall merely need to quote statements of the leaders of such associations. Sir George Holland, the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, who was knighted by this Government for grand services to the community, said that the 2s. 6d. rise was pocket money for children and was a slap in the face. We have been told often, even to the point of embarrassment, how many ex-servicemen there are on the Government side of the chamber. These honorable gentlemen have not done the job that they should have done, which was to see that ex-servicemen got a better deal. Mr. N. D. Wilson, another ex-servicemen’s leader, said that the increase was an insult to ex-servicemen. Mr. H. 0. Bennett, of the Limbless Soldiers Association, said -
We are very disappointed. We expected a minimum of 10s.
The War Widows Guild was most shockingly treated by the Government in this matter. When the increase of war widows pensions was announced, the acting president of the Guild, Mrs. J. Neylon, said it was like throwing a bone without meat to a dog. Apparently, the Government has money to throw away. By concessions in company taxation it has relieved big companies, such as Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, General Motors - Holden’s Limited and chain store organizations of the obligation to pay millions of pounds. That being the position, the Government should have been able to give the ex-servicemen better treatment. The Government does not want pensions to be discussed by the committee. It is trying every avenue in an endeavour to ora wl out of the distasteful position into which it has put itself. The points of order that have been raised by supporters of the Government in the course of my speech are not accidental. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, who is the Minister at the table, knows that the miserable increases proposed for pensioners form the Achilles heel of the Government. This is a horrible way to treat the pensioners. It exemplifies the true nature of the loving care that the Government pro fesses to lavish upon ex-servicemen. The 10 per cent, pensioner will get 3d. a week. The 50 .per cent, pensioner will get ls. 3d. The 100 per cent, pensioner will get a whole 2s. 6d. a week. That is the maximum amount to be given to men who have suffered the full degree of disability in the service of their country. Yet the Government proposes to hand out £33,000,000 to industrial organizations that have fattened on war profits while working on the cost plus system and now are at their wits’ end to find accountants with the ability to hide their profits. With average company profits standing currently at 8 per cent., as the Year-Book shows, there was no reason why the standards of ex-servicemen’s pensions should not have been brought back to the level of 50 per cent, of the basic wage that applied under the Chifley Government.
Honorable members are frequently told that ex-servicemen form a majority in the ranks of the Government supporters in this chamber. Where were they when the pensions for ex-servicemen and the dependants of servicemen were being considered by the Cabinet? Surely, honorable- members on the Government side have an ex-servicemen’s committee. Did they raise their voices to the Prime Minister on this matter and if so what was his reply? The pensioners who are directly concerned would like to know the answer to those questions. The pensions proposals of the Government art; monstrous. Perhaps the Government’s motives could be understood if it had been honest about the budget.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has continually charged the Government with dishonesty. His statements to that effect are offensive and he should withdraw them.
– Order ! There is no point of order. The honorable member for Parkes may continue.
– There is no need for me to emphasize unduly the poignant and tragic situation in which war widows are placed. Honorable members should not have to be persuaded that every consideration should be given to their need. It wat promised to them. Delegations approached honorable members on both sides of this chamber and it was generally expected that the war widows would get an increase of at least 10s. 6d. a week. As World War II. recedes! into history their plight is becoming worse. They are faced with occupational difficulties, the worries of growing children and the usual problems that accompany increasing age. A few moments conversation with the president of the War Widows Guild, Mrs. Vasey, or the acting president, Mrs. Neylon, will convince anybody who meets them of the reality of their plight. The war widows present the most tragic segment of the pensions problem. I know that honorable members opposite are ash’amed of the budget proposals. The Government has virtually neglected the ex-serviceman and the dependants of servicemen. It need not have been so paltry in its approach to this problem. The amount that the Government offered them need not have been so meagre. If the Government was prepared to make concessions to the community, the relief should have been properly balanced. Why should the Government give to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited tax concessions which will amount to £1,000,000 or more? That amount spread among war pensioners would have made a material difference to them.. If the Government intends to do more to help those pensioners it should do so at once.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), in his characteristic fashion, spoke about the burden that the Government has placed upon the 100 per cent, pensioner. I take it that he was speaking in anger rather than in sorrow, because the fact is that the Government which he supported failed to treat pensioners in this class as generously as this Government has treated them under similar economic conditions. Let us have a look at the facts. If they support the argument that the honorable member has advanced, his argument will stand; but if they do not support that argument, then no matter how specious it may be, and no matter how much the honorable member may speak in headlines to the public or tear his passion to shreds, his argument is worthless. I shall examine the record of the Government which he supported, and which occupied the Treasury bench for a long period of years, and see if it was as generous as the honorable member has claimed in comparison with this Government, which he alleges has treated service pensioners in a niggardly fashion. Let us see how stingily this Government has acted towards these pensioners. The facts cannot be gainsaid. In 1948, when the Chifley Government was trying desperately to hold its position, prices were increasing rapidly. According to Mr. Chifley, the increase in the cost of living in that year was 9 per cent. In such circumstances, one would expect that the government of the day would enable pensioners to meet that increase; but the fact is that that allegedly generous Government increased the rate of the 100 per cent, pension by the magnificent sum of 5s. a week. That is not the finish of the story, because that Government, which the honorable member claimed was so generous failed to grant any increase at all in 1949. Therefore pensioners had to be content with the 1948 increase for two years - an actual increase of only 2s. 6d. a year. This socalled generous Labour Government was defeated at the following general election. The Menzies Government assumed office at the beginning of 1950 and, in that year, increased the 100 per cent, pension by 15s. a week. In 1952, it further increased the rate of pension by - 10s. a week. In 1953, the cost of living rose by only 4 per cent., and this Government now proposes to increase the rate of pension by a further 2s. 6d.
I turn now to the war widows’ pension. Under the budget, the great majority of war widows will receive an increase not of 2s. 6d. but of 5s. a week, because of the 25,000 war widows in this country at least 20,000 will also receive a domestic allowance. A war widow who has dependent children under sixteen years of age, or is over the age of 50 years, or is not in employment, will receive a domestic allowance of £1 14s. 6d., which includes the increase of 2s. 6d. a week to be provided under the budget. Thus, the great majority of war widows will receive by way of pension and domestic allowance an increase not of 2s. 6d. but of 5s. a week. When the Government’s present proposal is implemented, they will receive a pension of £3 12s. 6d. plus a domestic allowance of £1 14s. 6d., which will make a total of £5 7s. a week. Whilst the honorable member for Parkes was tearing his passion to shreds, he failed to tell the people that under the budget the rate of pension payable to a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman who, unlike the recipient of the 100 Pe, cent, pension, is unable to engage in employment, will be increased by 10s. a week. I advise members of the Opposition, when they seek in their attacks upon the Government to treat its pensions record as its Achilles Heel,- to remember the far less favorable record of the Government which they supported in regard to pensions.
.- I had not intended to deal with the rates of service pensions, but I am provoked to do so by the maze of figures which the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) has cited. However, I shall cite only a few simple figures which every one will readily understand and thus will realize that the VicePresident of the Executive Council merely endeavoured to confuse the public mind on this matter. The fact is that the percentage increases of service pensions which the Labour Government granted were substantially greater than those that have been granted by this Government. J relate the rate of pension to the basic wage because, after all, the great majority of ex-servicemen are on the basic wage, and, therefore, are only too well aware of its purchasing power. Whereas in 1939 the basic wage was £3 18s. a week, it had increased to £6 14s. at the end of 1949 when the Chifley Government relinquished office. The first Menzies Government and the Fadden Government were in office from 1939 to 1941, but during the ten-year period ended December, 1949, the basic wage increased by only £2 16s. a week. In 1943, Mr. Curtin, who was then. Prime Minister, appointed an all-party committee to examine service pensions, and on the recommendation of that committee, and notwithstanding the fact that between 1941 and 1943 the basic wage had not increased by anything like 22 per cent, since Labour assumed office, the Curtin Government increased the rate of service pension by that percentage. From that time onward progressive increases were granted in order to maintain the purchasing power of the service pension in relation to the basic wage. Since the present Government assumed office the basic wage has increased from £6 14s. a week to £11 5s. a week, or an increase of £5 ls. a week in the last three years compared with an increase of £2 16s. during the period of ten years ended the 31st December, 1949, when the Chifley Government went out of office. The average person can understand those figures. Consequently, the statements made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council about the generosity of this Government to servicepensioners will not deceive anybody. Pensioners of all classes are primarily concerned about the purchasing power of the benefit that they receive.
I turn now to the subject of war service homes. An examination of costs of construction of war service homes reveals clearly the decline in the purchasing power of the £1 under this Government compared with its purchasing power when the Chifley Government was in office. The report of the War Service Homes Commission, which was circulated to honorable members to-day, reveals that whereas in New South Wales in 1948-49 the cost of construction of a war service home, including the cost of the requisite land, was £1,836, that cost had risen at the 30th June last to £2,942, or an increase of £1,106 in the four years since this Government assumed office. No body who considers those figures impartially will be misled by Government supporters when they claim that this Government has stabilized the economy and put value back into the £1. If honorable members opposite object to my citation of costs in New South Wales on the ground that conditions in that State are abnormal because it is governed by a Labour administration, I shall be glad to cite the figures that relate to South Australia, which is governed by an anti-Labour Government. In South Australia the position is’ much worse. In that State. the average cost of building a war service home increased from £1,617 in 1948-49 to £2,940 in 1952-53, or by £1,323, which would itself have financed the building of a war service home during the period of administration of the Chifley and Curtin Governments. Why do honorable members opposite blow and bluster about this matter except for the purpose of confusing the people? Let us examine the figures relative to the amounts made available for war service homes by this Government. In 1951-52 the Government made available for war service homes an amount of £27,607,279. In 1952-53, despite the ever-increasing number of applications, which the Director of War Service Homes described as a record, the Government provided £27,976,575, an additional £369,296, or sufficient to build only 150 more homes. That additional provision was totally inadequate to meet the greatly increased flow of applications from exservicemen who are still eager to obtain war service homes. Honorable members opposite will undoubtedly quote extracts from the report of the Director of War Service Homes to compare the number of homes built this year with the number built last year and in preceding years; but they will not say one word about the fact that with the passing of each year since the end of the war facilities for the building of houses have progressively increased. The War Service Homes Division has not built more war service homes this year than it built last year despite the fact that the number of applications for war service homes has greatly increased. Indeed, last year the position became so serious that the Director of War Service Homes in his report for the year 1952-53 stated -
It is important to keep in mind also that a bigger percentage of the building applications being lodged since firm prices were established will be effective. This, combined with the quicker rate of completion of homes, makes it necessary to provide additional funds for the satisfaction of an equal number of applications, and with the increase in the number of applications being received, the provision of additional funds becomes even moTe .necessary unless the waiting period is to increase progressively.
Has the Government paid any attention to that statement in the report? Has it increased the allocation of money this year to the degree warranted by the report? Not at all. At present-day costs the additional amount provided this year is sufficient to build only a few hen houses. The situation became so desperate that the Director of War Service Homes informed his deputy directors that after the end of September they could no longer continue to deal with applications on the basis on which they had dealt with them during the preceding twelve months because insufficient money was available. He said, in effect, “ If an ex-serviceman spots a newly built house which he desires to purchase, he cannot obtain the requisite funds from the War Service Homes Division immediately. He will have to place his name on a priority list and wait his turn. If he is able to obtain the requisite finance from a private financial institution or a money-lender for a period of twelve months he may be able to finance the purchase by that means “. Just imagine an ex-serviceman seven years after the end of the war who has, say, a capital of £150, going to a private financial institution and expecting to raise a loan for the purchase of a house at a reasonable rate of interest for a period of only twelve months pending the making available of a loan from the War Service Homes Division ! The instructions issued by the Director of War Service Homes to his deputy directors were clear and unequivocal. He told them that those restrictions must be imposed because of the failure of the Government to provide adequate money to meet requirements. I do not blame the War Service Homes Division for what has occurred. The blame rests solely on the Government which has been parsimonious in its treatment of ex-servicemen. The Director of War Service Homes had no option but to issue the instructions to which I have referred. He said that adoption of a priority system was necessary to ensure that justice should be donn to those who had been on the waiting list for homes for a. long time.
I protest against the parsimonious attitude of the Government in connexion with war service homes. I do not make this attack in any bitter partisan spirit. I make it solely in an endeavour to convince the Government and its supporters of the need to examine closely the report of the Director of War Service Homes and to act upon the advice which he has tendered. I appeal to honorable members opposite not to be led astray by comparisons between the number of war service homes built this year and in preceding years.
– When a debating team has a very weak case it has two courses open to it; one is to keep quiet, and the other is to try to attack along its line of weakness. Obviously the Opposition is attacking along its line of weakness. The two Opposition members who have spoken on the subject of war service homes know that in the ranks of the Opposition there are very few ex-servicemen, whereas in the ranks .of Government supporters there are 50 ex-servicemen and six former prisoners of war. Having regard to the weak case which the Opposition can present in connexion with this matter its spokesmen have done a fairly good job. They realized ‘ that their best chance of success was to get the call soon after 8 o’clock - the best broadcasting time - and make an emotional attack upon the Government for having done the very thing it set out to do. In three and a half years of Labour rule, from the 1st July, 1946, to the 31st December, 1949, the number of war service homes built and financed totalled 16,518. In the three and a half years of the regime of this Government, from the 1st January, 1950, to the 30th June, 1953, the number of war service homes built and financed was 48,784, or an almost three-fold increase. The dissection of those figures shows that the number of homes built under the Labour Administration was 5,789 and compared with 15,731 under the administration of this Government. In the same period 10,729 homes purchased were financed by the Labour Government and 33,053 were financed by the present Government. Under the Labour Administration the total expenditure was £22,287.817 and under this Government it was £89,663,020, or a fourfold increase. Those figures shows the great weakness in the Opposition’s case.
Let us examine the position in relation to war pensions. The provision of those pensions in the year ended the 30th June, 1949, when Labour was in office, necessitated an expenditure of £19,000,000. The proposed vote under that heading for thi3 financial year is £36,250,000. The expenditure on war pensions in 1949 was £1,500,000, compared with a proposed expenditure in this financial year of £2,750,000. The general rate service pension of £2 15s. a week in 1949 when Labour was in office, compares with £4 2s. 6d. a week to-day. The rate has been increased by £1 7s. 6d. a week. In 1949 a pension of £5 6s. a week was provided for blinded and totally and permanently, incapacitated ex-servicemen, compared with the present pension of £9 5s. a week. These pensions have been increased by £3 19s. a week since 1949. Similarly, allowances paid to the wives and children of those pensioners have been increased from £1 4s. and 9s. a week in 1949, to £1 15s. 6d. and 12s. 6d. a week respectively. In 1949, the war widow’s pension was £3 a week. It is now £3 12s. 6d. a week. The allowance for domestic assistance has been increased, from 7s. 6d. a week in 1949 to £1 14s. 6d. a week. During the regime of the previous Labour Government, war widows were paid a total amount of £3 7s. 6d. a week, compared with £5 7s. a week to-day. It is therefore obvious that this Government has carried out the sacred trust that was reposed in it by the people, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who reminded the committee that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated during the general election campaign in 1949 -
Repatriation remains a great and proud responsibility. … We shall see to it that there is speed, financial and human justice and understanding in our administration of soldier problems.
That promise has been honoured, and the ex-servicemen are being well looked after by this Government. If any honorable member opposite fears .that the problems of ex-servicemen will not be dealt with adequately, I remind him that, there are many men on this side of tha chamber who will want to know the reason why that is not done if the Government should fail to do it. We have stuck to the ex-servicemen ever since this Government came to office. There is no need for me to say any more about that aspect of the matter because this Government’s treatment of ex-servicemen proves conclusively that their interests receive the utmost consideration.
I shall now direct my attention to the proposed vote of £21,000,000 for the payment of bounties and subsidies. Of that amount £15,400,000 will be applied to the dairying industry in order to ensure that dairy products shall be available to the consuming public at reasonable prices. In view of the principles to which we subscribe, it is with reluctance that we are continuing subsidies, because we do not believe in them. We believe that if a subsidy is paid in respect of the products of an industry, that industry contains the seed of its own death. It should not be necessary for the Government to bolster up an industry, but it is essential to maintain a proper relationship between the producers and the consumers without introducing an artificial stimulant. With one exception, the irresponsible State Labour governments have declared that the difference between the price that the consumer pays and the price that the producer receives for butter and cheese should be bridged by subsidy. I am happy to remind the committee that Mr. Cosgrove, the Premier of Tasmania, has stated that he does not believe in subsidies because - to use his own words -
Subsidies are paid at the whim of any political treasurer who comes along, and that is too dangerous to the industry concerned.
This Government is continuing subsidies only as a matter of temporary expediency, in order to overcome a difficulty. We disagree, in principle, with the payment of subsidies, because the system can be used to gain political patronage. As has been truly said, votes can be bought with subsidies. Certain honorable members may recollect that some years ago, just prior to a general election, subsidies of 3d. were granted in respect of particular commodities. In an economy that is based on a condition of full employment the payment of a subsidy to an inefficient industry may result in men and materials being attracted to that industry fro:::i r flier efficient indus- tries. I want to make it quite clear that this Government would abolish subsidies if it were possible to do so at present. Last year an agreement was entered into between the Government and the dairying industry that the subsidy on butter of slightly more than ls. Id. per lb. would be reduced progressively during the next five years by 2£d. a year, until it was wiped out. In fact, last year the subsidy was reduced to 10¾d. per lb. Subsidies have been continued without any reduction this year, only because of the existence of an extraordinary set of circumstances. The amounts of the subsidies depend on a number of factors in the marketing of our primary products, particularly butter and cheese. This Government adopted a very liberal approach when computing the price of butter, which has risen within a relatively short period from a little more than 2s. per lb. to more than 4s. per lb. In the year ended June, 1953, prices and subsidies totalling £90,000,000 were paid in respect of butter and cheese. The amount paid in relation to cheese was slightly more than £10,000,000. In the last financial year in which a subsidy will be paid it is expected that the amount of price plus subsidy paid for butter will be £56,000,000 with a smaller amount for cheese. Therefore, the dairying industry is now receiving a return that this Government considers adequate. We believe that an industry which produces important articles of foodstuffs and which assists to relieve the shortage of food overseas should be kept going. Therefore, we have retained subsidies in relation to industries the products of which have been difficult to sell because of increased costs.
Although the dairying industry agreed to a reduction of the subsidy on butter by approximately 2jd. per lb., the Government decided to continue the subsidy at the same rate as last year, in order to overcome a temporary difficulty. Let us consider the nature of that difficulty. In the first place, the consumption of butter in Australia, in common with that of other commodities, commenced to decline last year because of sales resistance. That fall in consumption gave rise to fears in marketing circles that if the price of butter were to rise again, additional sales resistance would be encountered. Furthermore, the industry was faced with serious competition from margarine, the quota for the production of which was increased by the State governments. We consumed only’ an average of 29.4 lb. of butter a head of population in the last financial year, compared with 32.6 lb. a head in 1938- - a decrease of slightly more than 3 lb. of butter a head of our population. In the same period, the consumption of table margarine and other margarine rose from an average of 4.9 lb. a head of population to 7.5 lb. a head. We must heed the warning that the dairying industry will be faced with serious competition from other edible fats. It is noteworthy that the consumption of butter in the United States of America - and the quality of the product of that country is not as good as ours - fell during the same period from an average of 16 lb. a head of population in 1938 to 8.7 lb. a head in the last financial year. On the other hand, the consumption of margarine in that country during the same period rose from 2.9 lb. a head of population to 7.7 lb. a head. New Zealand has the highest consumption of butter of any country of the world. The average consumption per head of population in that country is about 42 lb. per annum. It is obvious, however, that in certain countries the consumption of margarine is increasing, while the consumption of butter is decreasing, slowly but surely, and we must take notice of that trend.
Having regard to the necessity to stabilize the dairying industry, this Government took steps to ensure that the producers of the industry would receive a dignified, proper, and decent return for their products. At that stage the Government had to consider the prices at which dairy products could be sold. The free market is not so strong as it was a while ago. The production of butter has gained momentum since the end of World War II., and larger quantities’ of this commodity are now available. Some fears have been expressed about the pool of butter held in the United States of America, but out of the blue this year, Russia, which some members of the Labour party regard as Utopia, suddenly purchased 33,000 tons of butter at a price which we have not been able to discover. Perhaps it is a kind of poetic justice. We do not reveal the price at which we sell our uranium to the United Kingdom and the United States of America, because we desire to keep that information from the Russians. However, in the case of butter, it is the Russians who know the price while we are kept in the dark. At any rate, the purchase by Russia of 33,000 tons of butter gave us a breathing space, as it were, on the world’s market. The British have not been concerned with any rise of price, and our markets in the East are not so satisfactory as they have been in the past. The prices of tin and rubber are falling, and some Europeans who resided in the East have returned to their homes. Consequently, we no longer enjoy the same premiums as we could get for our free butter in the past.
The stage is now being reached at which efficiency in production is important. Our objective is to ensure that the producer will receive an adequate return for his product, but at the same time, we must avoid trouble, because an excessive price would cause a reduction of sales on the valuable home market. The majority of dairy-farmers agree with the policy of the Government, which is to maintain the status quo. Consumption is not declining unduly, and the dairyfarmer and his family receive an adequate return for their production. The owneroperator of a dairy-farm is allowed £950 a year for his own work compared with £300 when the preceding Labour Government was in office. We hate to take political advantage of these matters–
– The honorable member for Lalor (Mr.. Pollard) may laugh as much as he likes. When he was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, a soundly based submission for an adequate return for butter was refused by the Chifley Labour Government on the advice of the’ then Prices Commissioner, Sir Douglas Copland. At that time, the price of butter was ls. 7£d. per lb., and the submission sought an increase of 4d. per lb. A later submission for an increase of 2d. per !b. was also refused by the Labour government. This unfair policy kept millions of pounds out of the industry, which is only now beginning to recover from the setback. The effect of a low price is not felt in six months, one year or two years, but is experienced over a long term. In like manner the effect of a high price might not be felt immediately. It would be dangerous now to increase the price of butter, because consumers would reduce their purchases of that commodity. At the same time, it would be dangerous to refuse the producer the price to which he is entitled.
I believe that the Labour party was the worst enemy that the dairy-farmer has ever had. Proof of that statement may be found in the conditions of the dairying industry in the period 194)5 to 1949 when the price of butter was kept low. The first act of the present Government, when it assumed office on the 10th December, 1949,’ was to give a guarantee to dairy-farmers, and ensure that they would receive the amount of money that they needed.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– My principal purpose in participating in this discussion is to direct attention to the plight of the dependent parents of deceased servicemen, but before doing so, I shall reply to the statement of the honorable member for MacArthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) about war service homes. The honorable member dealt with the number of war service homes erected in 1949 and 1951, and also cited the latest figures available. I inform him that the housing programme was affected by a serious shortage of materials and tradesmen in 1949, and that the former Minister for Immigration, Mr. Calwell, took action to bring many immigrants to Australia principally to produce goods and materials that were in short supply. In the natural order of things, the output of building materials has increased in the last few years. Government supporters refer from time to time to the successful housing programme of the Liberal Government in South Australia. However. an examina tion of the situation in that State, where the Liberal Government has been in office for many years, reveals the same steady progress in building that is evident in other States. This progress is not attributable to the special merits of a particular government. The explanation, of it is to be found in the increased supply of man-power and materials.
Building costs are so high at the present time that many ex-servicemen have been obliged to withdraw their applications for war service homes.
– There is a waiting list of applicants for war service homes.
– That does not get away from the fact that many exservicemen in receipt of low wages are not able to purchase dwellings, and have been forced to withdraw their applications.
I should now like to make a plea to the Government on behalf of the dependent parents of deceased servicemen, and I shall briefly trace the history of the developments which, I feel, have placed these people in an unfair position. ‘In. the 1920’s a Liberal government provided a pension of £1 a week for the mother of a deceased serviceman, and in addition, she was paid the age pension. The payment of £1 a week was not regarded as income in the computation of the age pension. During the financial emergency in the early 1930’s, that arrangement was altered, and the pension of £1 a week was reckoned as income. A permissible income of 12s. 6d. a week was allowed before the rate of the age pension was affected, and, accordingly, the age pension of the mother of a deceased serviceman was reduced by 7s. 6d. a week. I admit that this change was made when a Labour government was in office. I am not attempting to make party political capital out if this matter. My sole purpose in referring to it to-night is to obta<n amelioration of the conditions of tho section of the community to whom I am referring. The whole situation has arisen as a result of the force of circumstances, and I do not blame this Government foi it. However, a limit was later placed on the amount of war pension and age pension that a person was entitled to receive. At that time, the dependent parents of deceased servicemen were drawing a small pension from the Department of Repatriation and, in addition, a percentage of the age pension. Some of us suggested that the system should be altered. We asked, “ Why should the recipients have to get £1 a week from the Department of Repatriation and the age pension of 32s. 6d. or 37s. 6d. a week from the Department of Social Services? Why should not the two payments be made from the same source?”. The Repatriation Act was amended in 1951, and a regulation was promulgated which provided that a pensioner could draw the combined pension from the Department of Repatriation. At the present time, thb limit is £8 a fortnight.
The dependent parents of a deceased serviceman have approached me and asked why they are not eligible to obtain free medical attention and free medicine under the free medicine scheme applicable to pensioners generally. I raised the matter with the Repatriation Department at the beginning of this year, and was informed in reply that the maximum payment to which the two parents, who, incidentally are old and ill, are entitled is £S each a fortnight. Of this amount £6 10s. is represented by the age pension, and the remaining £9 10s. a fortnight is payable under regulation 34aa of the Repatriation Act 1951. When I raised the matter with the Department of Repatriation, I was informed that nothing could be done because persons who were receiving a repatriation pension were not eligible for free medicine. I took the matter up with the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), with a view to ascertaining whether the original system for the payment of pensions could he re-introduced, so that the dependent parents of a deceased serviceman could he paid a portion of their allowance by the Department of Repatriation and the balance by the Department of Social Services, as many people are being paid to-day,! and, in that way, become entitled to obtain free medicine. The Minister for Repatriation considered the matter for some months, and I received the following reply from him this week - 1 regret to inform you that there is no provision under the Repatriation Act or Regulations whereby medical benefits may be provided at. departmental expense for these parents.
I am also informed that the National Health (Medical Service to Pensioners) Regulations specifically exclude from medical benefits persons (other than Service pensioners) who receive pensions from the Repatriation Department.
This is the point. Mr. and Mrs. X, in order to receive medical benefits, must surrender their war pensions, and apply to the Department of Social Services for the age pension. As war pensioners they receive only 25s. a week more than they would both receive if they were paid the age pension. But because their money comes from the Repatriation Department they cannot receive free medical treatment. If they are to obtain this benefit they will have to give up the pension that they were granted because their son was killed in the war.
I think that the Health Department does not appreciate how difficult a position these people are in. Recently the Government announced that a man who received £6 a week in superannuation would he allowed £5 a week social services pension under the amended social services legislation and that, in addition, he would be eligible for free medical services. If superannuated persons receive free medical services why should not people who have a smaller income receive them? At present the couple to whom I have referred receive £8 a week. If they were receiving the age pension they would receive £6 15s. a week between them, only 25s. a week less, yet they cannot obtain free medical benefits. The mother has to go to the doctor every week and the father has to go to the doctor every few weeks so that medical attention costs them more than 25s. a week. I have told them that their only apparent course is to give up the war pension and accept the age pension. I ask the Government to examine this case. I have given it my attention since last February, but the Government will not assist these people and is doing them an injustice. It might be said that before receiving the age pension they would be subject to a means test. They could pass the means test quite easily. They had to do that in order to receive their pension of £8 a week. Honorable members should ensure that the parents of a son who has lost his life in the war should not have to relinquish a pension that this Parliament has granted to them in order that they may obtain a benefit to which other people are entitled. I ask that the Government give this matter serious consideration. Regardless of what legislation requires amendment in order to assist these people I ask that it be altered. To-day I sent two letters to other people in a similar position to the couple that I have mentioned. No doubt hundreds of other folk are suffering in the same way.
.- I greatly deplore certain remarks that have been made in this chamber in discussions on repatriation pensions. These discussions concern men who have served their country and the subject of their disability has been made a political football in this Parliament. I do not wish to absolve any party from blame in that regard. But I believe that the practice that has been adopted by certain honorable members is wrong. I have already suggested that the situation could be remedied by removing entirely from the political field the responsibility for fixing repatriation pensions. I suggest that increases and decreases of repatriation pensions should be decided by a tribunal or a court after hearing evidence. Obviously, whatever pension any government may provide, it will provide either too little or too much. Somebody will always make political capital out of the rate of pension payable.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) referred to the extent to which the South Australian Government had provided ex-servicemen with homes. He correctly enumerated the factors which have contributed to the number of homes that have been constructed, but he omitted to mention one factor, namely, the availability of -basic materials. Increased supplies of thesematerials have been due to the fact that during the past three years this country has enjoyed a period of industrial peace unequalled in its history. That is the major factor contributing to the housing achievements of the State governments. This country has enjoyed a period of industrial peace which has brought the greatest possible contentment to the workers who are responsible for producing basic materials.
I shall refer now to the proposed vote under the heading of “ Miscellaneous Services “. I do not know why such a huge amount of money which is required for fifteen departments should be shown in the Estimates under this one heading. I do not think that this proposed expenditure should continue to be shown under this heading. The Government itself is not responsible for this presentation of the Estimates which is due to departmental accounting. The Estimates of the fifteen departments set out under this heading have already been dealt with by this committee; yet they appear again under the heading of “Miscellaneous Services “. This heading may be of advantage in providing an ingenious member with an opportunity to traverse again the affairs of departments that have already been dealt with, but it also serves to cover up the true extent of departmental activities. It prevents honorable members from ascertaining the true cost of administering each department. It would not be difficult for the Estimates to be presented in such a form that the whole expenditure of each department would be shown under the one proposed vote. If honorable members will turn to page S4 of the Estimates they will find a vote of £949,000 proposed under the heading of “ Miscellaneous Services “ in respect of the expenditure of the Department of External Affairs outside Australia. A vote of £1,915,000 has also been proposed for this department on page 13 of the Estimates. That includes the cost of our diplomatic representation abroad. However, reference to Division No. 190 under the heading of Miscellaneous Services and all other items associated with the Department of External Affairs shows that the total proposed expenditure of the department under various headings is £7,500,000. This, of course, includes the amount of £3,000,000 that Australia contributes annually to the Colombo plan. That is the cost to Australia of presenting a bold face to the world, or, at any rate, of maintaining a position that we consider to be in keeping with our importance as a nation. A considerable amount of investigation is required in order to discover the full amount of £7,500,000. The Public Accounts Committee is concerned with administrative costs only. Wider issues, which affect national policy, should be determined by the Government and the Parliament. 1 suggest that the Parliament should consider whether this expenditure of £7,500,000 in the field of international affairs is justified. Are we, as a proud nation, merely attempting to live up to the Jones’s next door? The method of presenting accounts to which I have referred is not new. It has developed during the last 50 years, and it is the responsibility of honorable members .to make sure that they are better informed in future on subjects that are dealt with in the Estimates. I hope that at least some of them will study the system of framing the Estimates so that, in future discussions of this kind, they will have the details at their fingertips and will be able to speak intelligently about them.
Item 31 in Division 187 provides for a Commonwealth contribution of £50,000 to the Coronation Gift Fund. This fund has been instituted at the suggestion of the Government that some sort of memorial should be established in every State to celebrate the coronation of Her Majesty the Queen. The Queen has graciously proposed that the memorials should be for the benefit of mothers and children, and it is regrettable that, in some States, arguments have arisen concerning the nature of the memorials. Some unedifying and undignified discussions have taken place. This is’ not complimentary to Her Majesty, who, I am sure, would not be happy to learn that a State government proposed to use its share of the fund in order to avoid expenditure that would normally be its responsibility. The fund was not intended, for example, to finance the construction of an additional wing for a hospital, which normally would be the duty of the State government concerned. The memorial in each instance should be some special institution towards which members of the public can contribute. The Government should inform the State governments that their share of the £50,000 is not intended to relieve them of any part of their normal duties.
– This is only sham fighting.
– I suggest that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) study the report for 1952 of the
Services Canteens Trust Fund, in which the following passage appears: -
Since undertaking this special task of assisting afflicted children to obtain the benefit of whatever medical or other facilities are available which might contribute to their recovery or alleviate their condition, the Trustees have been appalled by the frightful disabilities suffered by so many children and the feeling of utter helplessness on the part of the parents in their inability to help their children.
– On what page of the report does that passage appear?
– For the benefit of the honorable member for Grayndler, who seems not to have a spark of humanity in him, I repeat that I have quoted this passage from the 1952 report df the Services Canteens Trust Fund. I suggest that the Coronation Gift Fund could not be devoted to a better purpose than the assistance of those afflicted children who are popularly known as spastic children. There is a spastic centre in every State to-day as a result of voluntary efforts by public-spirited citizens. Spastic children, I remind honorable members, are not mentally afflicted children. They suffer only from an affection of the brain which limits their muscular movements. If they receive special education and treatment from early infancy, they can be relieved sufficiently to enable them to enjoy the things that the honorable member for Grayndler can enjoy. I suggest that the Government could well assist work of this sort. There was no spastic centre in Western Australia twelve months ago, but in October, 1952, the Sir James Mitchell Spastic Welfare Association acquired a seven-roomed house, and, since then, the building has been expanded into a three-story structure, containing three times the original accommodation, where treatment is provided daily for 100 children.
– That has been done under a Labour government.
– It has been done by voluntary contributions. The association has raised £30,000 by that means.
– Under a Labour government.
– Order ! The Opposition Whip should set an example instead of leading the interjectors.
– I do not think that the honorable member, in fact, is as inhuman at heart as his interjections might lead listeners to believe. Actually, the Sir James Mitchell Spastic Welfare Association has incurred expenditure amounting to £60,000 and therefore it is considerably in debt. Voluntary work of this sort, which is being done in all States, shows that this movement has the support of the people. There is no more worthy cause than that of assisting those who have been afflicted by circumstances entirely beyond their own control. It is time that honorable members, collectively and individually, examined their consciences in regard to this matter.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It was inevitable that the discussion of the proposed votes now before the committee should concentrate principally on the provision for war and repatriation services. Members of the Opposition are eager to debate the subject because the Government and the people of Australia have a bounden duty to ensure that those who have suffered injury as a result of their service to the nation shall be adequately compensated. The only limit to the measure of compensation should be the resources of the nation. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), both of whom have given years of their lives to the defence of this land, have championed the cause of exservicemen, war widows and others who should benefit from the proposed vote. I said it was inevitable that these matters would be discussed. It was just as inevitable that Government supporters would treat them as they would the black plague. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) crumpled up after he had been speaking for only fifteen minutes. Obviously he did not relish this debate. He is the spokesman for the Government when the Prime Minister is not in the chamber, and one would expect him to tell the nation why this parsimonious and niggardly treatment is being meted out to men who placed their bodies hetween the Australian people and the enemy. As the honorable member for Parkes has pointed Out, the exserviceman in receipt of a 100 per cent, repatriation pension will benefit hy only 2s. 6d. a week. The 50 per cent, pension is to be increased by ls. 3d. a week, and the 40 per cent, pension by ls. a week. When we get down to the ex-serviceman who receives only ‘ a 20 per cent, pension, we find that his increase is to be 6d. a week, and in the case of the 10 per cent, pensioner it is to be 3d. a week. That is the treatment that is being meted out to disabled ex-servicemen by the munificent Government which boasts so loudly of its generous budget and its sympathy for men who fought for their country. On the other hand, of course, the Government is able to give millions of pounds to big companies such as General MotorsHolden’s Limited and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I know that the name “ B.H.P. “ is sacrosanct on the Government side. It is a name that must never be mentioned in critical terms, because the Government owes so much to that great monopoly and to the other monopolies that have provided the sinews of the election campaigns of the present Government parties. The comparison between the Government’s treatment of monopolies and its treatment of ex-servicemen is striking.
– Order ! The proposed votes now under discussion have nothing whatever to do with monopolies.
– I shall refer then only to the paltry treatment of pensioners and leave to the imagination of honorable members and of the nation the treatment of the friends of the Government. Following the spate of words from the Vice-President of the Executive Council - -words which meant nothing at all and in no sense answered the case presented from this side of the chamber - the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) was “the next speaker from the Government side of the chamber. He made only a brief reference to repatriation matters and then proceeded to discuss subsidies - the last subject that should be discussed in this important debate. Surely the first concern of all honorable members must be this Government’s treatment of war pensioners.
– Order ! An honorable member may speak on any subject that is before the Chair.
– I am merely replying to the honorable member for Macarthur. When he spoke about subsidies he was on very shaky ground. In fact he was on ground that he should not have traversed at all. It is essential that foodstuffs should be as cheap as possible and if by means of subsidies we can keep down the price of bread, meat, milk, and other essential commodities, we shall be doing a fine job for those unfortunate members of the community whose plight we are discussing to-night. However, I shall not proceed further on those lines. The truth of my remarks must be obvious to all honorable members and to the nation as a whole. The case that has been made out to-night by honorable members on this side of the chamber is unanswerable. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) after dealing briefly with repatriation matters, immediately shifted his ground and began to discuss another topic.
Mr. Leslie, interjecting,
– Order! The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has already spoken in this debate, and he must remain silent. I also warn the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) that he is out of his proper place in the chamber and has no right to interject.
– I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your intervention on .my behalf. The honorable member for Moore mentioned the need for a voluntary contribution. He also referred to that very worthy organization which cares for spastics. I am sure that every honorable member whole-heartedly supports what the honorable member for Moore said on that subject. We all recognize the need for good wholesome Christian charity in our land ; but surely Christian charity is not to relieve the Parliament of its duty to provide adequately for families whose breadwinner has been taken, or for ex-servicemen who suffer disabilities as the result of their war service.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Macquarie in order in using the fate of poor, defenceless children for party political purposes?
– There is no point of order.
– I commend the work of the honorable member for Moore, as I would commend the work of any one engaged in useful charitable activity. I have made what I consider to be pertinent comments. I wish to deal also with what I consider to be the inadequacies of the law and certain serious shortcomings in administration. I believe that the legislature has endeavoured to treat justly those members of the community who have suffered as a result of war; but it has not gone far enough. Some members of the community have been inadequately compensated, while others are still striving for compensation. There should be a complete shake-up in repatriation administration. The onus of proof provisions seem to be observed rather in the breach than the observance. I invite honorable members to consider the activities of the various instrumentalities that function within the ambit of the Repatriation Department. No less than 30 per cent, of claims for repatriation pensions ultimately reach the entitlement appeal tribunals. Surely there must be something radically wrong. If just treatment were given to applicants in the first place, there would be no need for 30 per cent, of them to take their claims to the appeal tribunals. I believe that if there were a shake-up throughout the Repatriation Department, many of the problems that now exist could be solved. The Assessment Appeals Tribunal has the extraordinarily fine record of having allowed 80 per cent, of the appeals that have come before it. Therefore, it is obvious that justice was not done to the successful appellants at the outset. I want to make an appeal on behalf of the local medical officers. They are rendering yeoman service to applicants for pensions throughout Australia, but the Repatriation Department appears to adopt the extraordinary attitude that they cannot be trusted. A number of cases has been brought to my notice in which the opinion of the local medical officer was thrown overboard and a specialist in the department expressed an extraordinary view of the applicant’s medical condition. I have been told that the medical examination of some applicants is so speedy that a doctor has been known to go up in a lift, examine a patient and go down in the lift on its next downward journey. Let me direct the attention of the committee to an extraordinary case. An ex-serviceman who served in “World War II. and was granted a pension by the Repatriation Department went to Sydney for a check of his medical condition. His hack and legs were encased in plaster. A doctor started to screw at his legs to find out what was wrong with them. After some complaint had been made, the doctor, an orthopaedic surgeon, decided finally that the unfortunate exserviceman was suffering from shortage of breath ! Such are the conditions at the head office of the Repatriation Department at the present time. Probably a man who went there to see a doctor who specialized in the respiratory organs would be told that he was suffering from fallen arches or something of that kind. In many cases there is inordinate delay. I have been informed of the case of a man who was shot through the neck in World War I. In the first instance, he was granted a pension at the rate of 33^ per cent.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is characteristic of the Opposition that the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) turned to the proposed vote for the Department of Repatriation in order to distill from the subject of repatriation the greatest amount of emotional content that he could get from it. It is deplorable that that should be done, especially by the honorable member for Macquarie. He brushed aside lightly the Estimates for bounties and subsidies, although the economic future of the country depends very largely on the manner in which the Government administers its policy in relation to those matters. The committee is dealing also with the Treasurer’s advance account. Surely that is of great importance. We ought to be considering the wisdom or otherwise of allowing the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden to have such a large sum of money that he can spend without the prior approval of the Parliament.
I have risen because this is the last occasion on which we shall have an opportunity to discuss the Estimates until the Government asks for Supply again next year. I want to elaborate on some of the ideas expressed by the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), and to inform the committee that there is a movement on foot, sponsored by the Public Accounts Committee and assisted by the AuditorGeneral and officers of the Treasury and other departments, to see whether the Estimates can be presented in a form that will be more attractive, and more useful to the Parliament than the present form of presentation. If the Parliament is to perform its duty of controlling the purse, it. is imperative that the Estimates be presented in a form that will enable that control to be exercised. I turn, as did the honorable member for Moore, to the proposed vote for “ Miscellaneous Services “. Honorable members are aware that the items of expenditure in relation to “ Miscellaneous Services “ are contained in a special section of the Estimates. I mention “ Miscellaneous Services “ only to indicate the extraordinary range of governmental activities to-day. One sees that the items listed under the Prime Minister’s Department range from grants in respect of bush fires to grants for universities, grants for adult education and expenses in connexion with visits of distinguished people. The proposed vote this year for the miscellaneous services of the Prime Minister’s Department is considerably greater than the vote last year, because a large sum has been set aside to finance the royal visit.
The honorable member for Moore said, rather more dogmatically than I am prepared to say it, that all those items should have been included in the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department rather than in the “Miscellaneous Services “ section of the Estimates. I cannot see any particular connexion between the Prime Minister’s Department and many of the items listed under that heading in the vote for “Miscellaneous Services “. It seems to me that any connexion is only accidental. If those items were included in the vote for the Prime Minister’s Department, it would be necessary to put them in the summary of expenditure which appears at the bottom of page 9 and make it quite clear that they were miscellaneous items that had been included in that vote only fortuitously. There would be no logical reason why many of the items should appear there at all. One wonders whether the whole of the items appearing under “ Miscellaneous Services “ should be grouped in that way or should be included in the Estimates for the departments under which they are classified at present.
The problem is not simple. It may be that honorable members believe it is more useful to have all the items in respect of “ Miscellaneous Services “ set out in the present form than it would be to group them in the Estimates for the departments to which they relate. Let me refer to one item to illustrate what I mean. We have been distressed by the death of many of our colleagues. If all the items in respect of funerals were grouped together in the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, would that be better than itemizing in the “ Miscellaneous Services “ section each occasion on which the Government made a contribution to the cost of the State funeral of one of our late lamented colleagues? I cannot answer that question. But I suggest to the committee that it is necessary to think about it, because if the Parliament is to control expenditure it must have some knowledge of the items upon which the money that it votes will be spent. For example, when we come to capital works and services in respect of the Postmaster-General’s Department we see a lump sum of some millions of pounds from which no idea can be gained about where that money is to be spent and who will benefit from its expenditure. It does not even show clearly in which States it will be spent. In my opinion, it is desirable to itemize these accounts even further and to present them in such a way that people will be able to follow matters in which they are particularly interested. However, after listening to the debate on the Estimates, I wonder whether honorable members are really interested in effecting this kind of reform. The whole of the debate has been concerned with matters which should have been dealt with during the budget debate. Unless one is prepared to take the items of expenditure and examine them, it is useless to speak about the Parliament controlling the public purse. So long as the accounts are presented in the way in which they are now airy platitudes will continue to be expressed, and no attention will be paid to the votes of the various departments.
I wish now to refer to Division 205, “ Advance to the Treasurer “. It will be noted that the proposed vote this year is £16,000,000, against £15,000,000 last year. That money is to be voted to the Treasurer in order to enable him to meet unforeseen expenditure, which, unfortunately, increases as the comprehensive character of government grows. In the report of the Auditor-General, which was tabled in the Parliament in sufficient time to allow us to use it during this debate, attention is drawn to the fact that the appropriation in respect of the advance to the Treasurer was again exceeded last year. That is but one criticism of a number of criticisms, which fill two pages of the report, concerning the way in which the various departments have conducted their affairs. It is criticism not of Ministers, but of administration. The Auditor-General has taken the trouble to consider this item of expenditure. It may be that the Department of the Treasury has increased the provision for this year to £16,000,000 because of the comments of the AuditorGeneral. It may be that it has done so because of the great expansion of government business, as a result of which the Treasury is obliged to meet all kinds of new and unforeseen expenditures which are legitimately provided for in this way. But expenditure from this advance is expenditure made without the approval of the Parliament. It is made in anticipation of that approval. The Parliament will not be able to examine such expenditure until the Government introduces its next budget papers, which will show the items on which the money has been’ expended.
We are now almost at the end of the debate on the Estimates. I have here in my hand the Auditor-General’s report, which is redolent with wise suggestions about administration and the manner in which government expenditure lias been incurred. At the end of the report there is a whole section dealing with irregularities. There are two full pages of comments concerning .the way in which the accounts have been kept, and references to things which should not have been done. Yet not one voice has been raised in this chamber during the last three weeks about any of those matters, nor has there been the slightest inclination on the part of any one to say, “ This is the report of the man we have appointed to tell us how we are keeping our accounts. Let us see what he has to say.” Instead, we have ignored his report. It has been ignored this year in circumstances which are even more discreditable to the Parliament than is usually the case,” because this year the Auditor-General has presented his report in sufficient time for honorable members to be able to use it in connexion with the debate on the Estimates. Nevertheless, it has been ignored. Could a more effective insult he offered to a highly responsible official ?
If we wish to be able to talk intelligently about this question of parliamentary control of public expenditure, I suggest that we should start with the Auditor-General’s report concerning the accounts for the past year. Then, when honorable members examine the Estimates for the current financial year, they will be aware of what the AuditorGeneral has had to say about the previous year’s expenditure, and can bear those comments in mind when trying to reconcile the past and proposed expenditure.
Let me refer to the miscellaneous vote of the Prime Minister’s Department, which the committee has been considering. If honorable members pick up the Estimates and turn to the proposed vote for the Prime Minister’s Department, they will see a reference to a total of expenditure which appears to be complete. However, there is a footnote which says that if it is desired to ascertain the real cost of the department, it is necessary to turn to the budget papers. On turning to the budget papers, it will be found that the cost of running the department will not be £2,000,000 as disclosed in the Estimates, but £5,975,000. That amount includes miscellaneous expenses, such as the grant to the National University, rents of buildings, repairs and maintenance, and interest on sinking fund. Honorable members may recollect that when the Minister for “Works (Mr. Kent Hughes) was discussing this matter recently, he stated that the Department of Works is in a position similar to that of the Prime Minister’s Department, in that it was obliged to include a number of items which had been incurred for other departments. It may be that that is the correct way to deal with the matter, hut perhaps it is not the correct way. Perhaps we should consider the whole form of our accounts in order to make them intelligible to the person who wants to find his way through them and who has no technical knowledge.
Instead of having four volumes - thebudget speech, the budget papers, the Auditor-General’s report, and the Estimates - it might be better if we tried to reduce the accounts to as small a compass as possible, leaving out tables which should not he included, and incorporating other information, so that honorable members, in the six months before the Estimates are again presented to the Parliament, might be able to turn their minds to this matter and endeavour to decide whether this work of reform should or should not be pursued.
– Honorable members always listen with great interest to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) when he deals with the subject of parliamentary control over the public purse. The honorable member is the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, which is a joint committee of this Parliament. It is generally recognized that that committee has done some very valuable work in re-asserting control, on behalf of this Parliament, over the expenditure of the people’s money. After listening to the honorable member, and agreeing with most of what he said, I believe it to be unfortunate that he has not been able to convince the Government, of which he is a supporter, of the necessity to put into effect the positive and constructive suggestions which he has made. It is a pity that the honorable member has not been able to get the ear of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and persuade him to give effect to the many valuable suggestions and reforms which he has in mind.
I wish to support, particularly, the honorable member’s suggestion regarding the form in which the accounts are presented to the Parliament. As he said, at present those accounts are presented in four volumes, three of which are very bulky. From that mass of information, honorable members must try to dig out the information which they require. I remember last evening wondering, when the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) was trying to find his way through this mass of figures, just what were the details of expenditure concerning the Atomic Energy Commission, the amount of money which it had devoted to research, the amount of revenue it had received, and how much the commission had expended under the various heads. It was necessary to look in seven or eight different places before that information could be obtained. It is high time that the Estimates and budget papers were presented to the Parliament in a more intelligible form. The documents should be simplified so that the information will be more readily accessible to honorable members, thus enabling them to debate these matters with greater facility.
I wish to draw attention to Item Number 17, “Australian National University - Running expenses - Supplementary grant, £325,000,” under Division Number 187, in the proposed vote for miscellaneous services of the Prime Minister’s Department. On a previous occasion when discussing the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department, I drew attention to the fact that the Australian National University has been receiving very liberal grants from this Government. It is to receive a total amount of £650,000 for running expenses this year, in addition to £975,000 to cover its capital expenditure. On that occasion, I criticized the university for not having complied with the express statutory obligation imposed on it to place a detailed account before this Parliament of the way in which it is expending the moneys made available to it. The report of the university’s council giving these details is two years in arrears. I wish to draw the attention of the committee now to the parlous plight of the State universities, which is in sharp contract to the opulent financial position of the Australian National University, which is receiving these substantial grants The State universities are performing a vital work. This is a growing country, and we live in an age when the technical man and the trained expert are at a premium, because it is on these skilled specialists that we rely for an increase of our primary production, for the expansion of our secondary industries and to assist in the development of the nation. We look to the State universities to train these men, who will gain at these universities the special qualifications that will enable them to do the work that must be done if this nation is to progress.
The State universities, which give us these highly qualified men, have teaching staffs which not only turn out graduates but also, at the same time, engage in research work. I put it to the committee that the work of teaching and research should go hand in hand, and that a university teacher, in order to do his job properly, should engage in research work so that he will be at the top of his field and have the admiration and respect of his students. A research worker should also be a teacher so that he will not have his head in the clouds, but will have his feet on the earth and will face reality. That is the contrast I wish to draw between the Australian National University, which is a purely research university, and the State universities which engage in teaching as well as research activities.
In my opinion the Australian Government should devote more money to education. There may not be much prospect of it granting more money to education in the general sphere at present, but in this sphere of higher education it should grant more money to the State universities to assist them with their running expenses, which are increasing steadily so that they are not able to pay their way, let alone finance further work on research and development, or carry on postgraduate work. Unless the Commonwealth assists more than it is now doing by means of the grants it makes to the
State universities, these institutions will not be able to continue to play the valuable and vital role that they play in our national development.
Whilst I am dealing with this problem I should like to make another remark regarding the Australian National University. I am not animated hy any hostility to that institution. I realize that it has the capacity to do work of tremendous benefit to the nation, particularly in the John Curtin School of Medical Research and in the Research School of Physical Sciences. I consider, however, that the Research School of Social Sciences and the Research School of Pacific Studies cannot render that service to the country which would justify the present great expenditure on them, if they are purely research schools where teaching is not done in association with research. I consider that the work these two schools are doing would be more effective if they were associated with the State universities, so that the men doing research work would be also engaged in teaching. It is a great pity that the talents of the distinguished scholars, who are working in the Research School of Social Sciences and the Research School of Pacific Studies are not available to some of the State universities so that, in addition to doing research work these eminent and learned men could also engage in the active work of training graduates. There is little doubt that research work in these subjects would be more effective if it were associated with teaching. That point is brought out in a book, written by Mr. Orwell de R. Foenander, a very - eminent Australian who is a senior lecturer in industrial economics at the University of Melbourne.’ The book is called Studies in Australian Labour, Law and Relations. Mr. Finander is a very distinguished research scholar. Every honorable member probably knows of his work. It is frequently referred to with approval. He has written a number of authoritative works on this subject, and has done valuable research work that compares favorably with similar research by any other man. He is engaged in active teaching but is also able to do valuable research at the same time. I suggest that the gentlemen in the two schools that,
I have mentioned at the Australian National University would he able to do research work of benefit to the nation, and perform a task of more value to this country if they were also attached to a teaching university.
As regards the other schools in the Australian National University, the medical school and the Research School of Physical Sciences, I admit readily that there is in these spheres scope for fundamental research that need not be associated with teaching. I should like, if time permits, to make some reference to the role of the Research School of Physical Sciences, which is concerned with nuclear and atomic developments and its relation to the Atomic Energy Commission, which is the body that has been charged by this Parliament with looking after all aspects of atomic power, the discovery of uranium, its development, and marketing, and with research work. We read of the very valuable research work in the application of atomic power to the study of medicine, particularly in the field of cancer research, and the development of nuclear power for industrial purposes, that is being done abroad. The public and members of the committee are anxious to know what is being done in that respect in Australia. The people want to know the relationship between this well-equipped branch of the Australian National University, which has been established with expensive equipment in order to specialize in atomic research, and the Atomic Energy Commission, which has an overriding authority in all atomic matters. No statement has yet been made and honorable members are waiting anxiously to learn what is being done in that respect.
I believe that the Australian Government should give sympathetic consideration also to a proposal that was recently put forward in a booklet, The Case for an Australian Rural University. I am astonished that more honorable members have not risen in the Parliament to support that excellent proposal. Australia’s population is expanding. Existing universities will not be able to cope with the students who will be offering in the near future. In the case that is advanced in this booklet, which is drafted principally by Mr. W. A. Merrylees, the authors suggest that within a few years, five- rural universities should be established in Australia, each with a Faculty of Arts, a Faculty of Science and a Faculty of Rural Science designed for the study of science in relation to rural industries, and to train the men who are required to direct the development of primary production. T believe that that proposal should have the support of every honorable member. It is made even more appealing by its novelty.
The booklet contains a suggestion that the rural universities should be established on substantial properties with a carrying capacity equivalent to 50,000 sheep so that the university in each case would be able to produce the meat, butter, eggs, fruit and vegetables required by 2,000 students, the staff, dependants and visitors. Those who put the plan forward considered that 2,000 students would be the ideal number for a self-contained university. The author of the case for rural universities, which has been put before the Government, suggested, perhaps optimistically, that at the ruling prices for wool and using student labour largely, each property could be expected to meet running costs by the sale of its wool. The proposition should appeal to honorable members.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have listened with great interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), but I venture to suggest to him that he has used several arguments that “ are not entirely consistent one with the other. The honorable member seems to have made a collection of points, all of them interesting, but some of them cancelling out others. For example, the honorable member complained, I thought, that the Government was spending too much money upon the Australian National University and too little on the State universities. Having made a powerful case, which the Government has fully recognized, about the needs of the State universities for financial help, the honorable member went on to say that we might undertake the establishment of new rural universities. Undoubtedly there is a powerful case for the establishment of a rural university, but it can hardly be reconciled with the first argument that the honorable member put forward unless he is proposing that the Australian Government should increase vastly its expenditure in that field.
The honorable member also suggested that the Australian National University should not, in certain fields, be purely a research university, but that it should have undergraduates and that the persons engaged at the university should add teaching occupations to those that they pursue now. The honorable member will realize at once that apart from any other consideration that action would increase enormously the capital expenditure and annual running costs associated with the Australian National University. One cannot discuss all of those matters on this occasion, but I direct the attention of the committee to several matters in connexion with the Government’s position in relation to . universities. I take some pleasure in the fact that for the first time the Government has set up a scheme under which it makes grants to the States for the State universities. Those grants are very substantial. It would be a poor thing to fail to recognize that they have been of vital assistance to the State universities.
– Would the right honorable gentleman consider a grant for a university at Newcastle?
– I must leave the bidding to other people. I want to mention two or three simple facts because the committee should bear them in mind. In round figures, the Government has provided in the Estimates a total sum of £650,000 for the running expenses of the Australian National University. It is true that that is much more than was originally contemplated, but everything connected with that university is much more than was contemplated originally. I remember that estimates were made when proposals were put before us by the previous Government for the establishment of this university. I have never been able to discover where they came from, but they were ludicrously below the mark. I remember that the estimate made for the construction of one of the great schools - I forget momentarily whether it was the school of physical research or the school of medicine - was less than £300,000. No change in the value of money can excuse the fact that when we first looked at the project in terms of reality, because the building had been started, we found that that amount was one-third of the true estimate of its cost. However, we have gone on with the project because we believe in this great national research university. Therefore, this year the Government is providing £650,000 for it. Of that amount, £325,000 will be the statutory grant and the remaining £325,000 is being provided as a further appropriation.
Under a new scheme that has been inaugurated by this Government, we are providing in this year also grants to the States for the State universities totalling £1,368,000. That can scarcely he regarded as a niggardly provision. In addition, the Government has started a great scheme of Commonwealth scholarships and in the very accounts that have been criticized there is provision for just over £1,000,000 for that scheme. Of that £1,000,000, it is estimated that about £600,000 will be devoted to the payment of fees and of the £600,000, £550,000 will go to the State universities. That is an item additional to the £1,368,000 that I have mentioned. In these Estimates, the Government is also providing for reconstruction training. That is not as great a factor as it was, but a sum of £250,000 has been provided for that purpose. Of that amount over £70,000 is in respect of fees, most of which will be paid to the universities of the States. Compared with the sum of £650,000 to be provided in respect of the Australian National University, we are this year finding approximately £2,000,000 for State universities either in direct grants or by way of payment of fees. I do not want to engage in a purely academical argument about this matter. I have no doubt that money expended on universities is well expended. No one can say that their staffs are overpaid. For the greater part of my life I thought that they were underpaid. Therefore, we are not dealing with extravagant bodies which provide rather silky, luxurious posts. There is always a case for expenditure in this direction. Thinking as I do about this matter, asis well-known, all I say to the committee is that I derive some satisfaction from the fact that at any rate we have madethis contribution. Apart from reconstruction training arrangements which arose out of the war, the Australian Government has not previously, excepting a small expenditure in respect of one or two research accounts, made any direct, regular, well-organized and wellcalculated assistance to the universitiesof the States. The Australian National University existed on paper, for all practical purposes. Certain persons had! been engaged, but the hard job of establishing the university in circumstances of difficulty has’been ours. In those circumstances, I trust that the committee will think that we have shown our bona fides in relation to this matter by finding, as we do this year, approximately £1,Q00,00& in respect of capital expenditure on thisgreat institution which, I hope, will, in due course, be famous in the world and make a great contribution to knowledge in the world. After that sum of £650,000 which will be provided from revenue, we shall also find for the universities of the States a total sum of £2,000,000. As honorable members know, that is not just an isolated grant. This assistance is being made available as a part of a continuing scheme, under which we have made not only primary but also secondary grants on a basis recommended by a committee of inquiry which involves the States and the universities themselves making their effective contributions; and we have supplemented such contributions in this style which, I believe, is a first-class style. If honorable members opposite say that the provision ought to be greater, I reply that I wish it were. I do not need to be sold that argument. I have lived long enough to know that it is not a bad idea to take one step at a time in a matter of this kind ; and a contribution of approximately £3,500,000 in one year for university education is not a bad first step. It is a greater first step than has ever been taken by any other government in this country.
.- I agree with everything that the Prime
Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said in regard to the Australian National University and tertiary education. I do not think that any one can claim that £1 of the expenditure incurred in that direction has not been well expended. This Government has carried on the concept of a national university which was initiated by its predecessor; and it has carried on a system of aid to persons studying at universities in the States which, also, was initiated by its predecessor under the Commonwealth’s defence power in respect of rehabilitation. This is one non-party political subject in this country which will commend itself to the Government’s successors. Indeed, education is absorbing an increasingly larger part of the budget of each of the States. At present, education is the largest item in each of those budgets. 1 have no doubt that, as with every activity in respect of which the Australian Government makes finance available, the Commonwealth will gradually be obliged to take over that function from the States. Everybody in Australia is entitled, without cost to the individual, to the same educational facilities, whether it be in respect of small or large States or in respect of education at the kindergarten or tertiary stage or the postgraduate stage. If this country is to be developed and administered efficiently it must have a reservoir of trained men, and for that purpose universities are essential. The standard maintained at Australian universities is equal to that of any university in the world. They are not the oldest universities in the Pacific area - I suppose that the Spaniards hold that distinction - but their graduates are trained to a standard that enables them to compete with graduates of any other university. One would hope that that would be the position regardless of whatever government happened to be in office.
I now turn to the estimates in respect of war and repatriation services. As earlier speakers on this side of the chamber have pointed out, no other budget has ever left war pensions and ancillary benefits at a lower value, and no government has made so small an increase in the rate of pensions as this Government has proposed under this budget. At page 12 of the presidential report to be presented to the 38 th annual congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which is to be held in Melbourne on the 27th of this month - the report has been circulated among honorable members - it is stated that the first year in which the war pension dropped below 40 per cent, of the basic wage was 1951, that it dropped still lower last year and is lower now than it was at the corresponding period of last year. When the Chifley Government went out of office, in December, 1949, the 100 per cent, disability pension was £2 15s. a week and the basic wage for the Sydney metropolitan area was £6 12s., the pension being 41.7 per cent, of the basic wage at that time. Under this budget it is proposed to increase the pension to £4 2s. 6d. but as the Sydney metropolitan basic wage is now £12 3s., that means that the pension has declined from 41.7 per cent, to 34 per cent, of the basic wage. When honorable members on this side of the chamber reproach the Government for having left ordinary social services benefits at a lower figure under this budget than they were when the Chifley Government went out of power four years ago. honorable members opposite claim that we should disregard the loading of £1 that was introduced by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in December. 3950. Government supporters contend that that increase did not represent an increase in the cost of living, but was purely a prosperity loading which the court had capriciously added to the basic wage. However, disregarding that increase of £1, the basic wage in New South Wales, on the basis of the C series index, would be £11 4s. Thus the rate of pension to be provided under this budget will be 3R.8 per cent, of that index, compared with a percentage of 41.7 per cent, when the Chifley Government went out of office.
In the policy speech of the present Government parties during the general election campaign in 1949, the present Prime Minister said -
We will sympathetically review financial allowances, particularly those relating to dis ability or war widowhood, in the light of all the circumstances, including the fall in the value of money…….
Ex-servicemen might well ask to he spared the sympathy of the present Government.
I have cited the figures for disability pensions. I shall now cite the figures in relation to pensions for war widows. When the Chifley Government fell, the war widow was receiving £3 a week, or 45.4 per cent, of the basic wage. Under the proposals in the present budget a war widow will receive £3 12s. 6d. a week, or 29.8 per cent, of the basic wage. If we disregard the loading of the basic wage by 19s. in the eastern States and 21s. in the three smaller States, made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in December, 1950, the new pension rate would represent 32.3 per cent, of the basic wage. In other words, there has been a fall from 45.4 per cent, to 32.3 per cent, of the basic wage since the defeat of the Chifley Government. I shall not deal with other pensions. I shall quote from a letter on this subject, a copy of which I presume was received by all honorable members, but which honorable members oppocite are taking good care” not to quote. Et was sent to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) by exSenator Guthrie, who once supported the parties of resistance - the United Australia party or the Nationalist party, whatever its nom-de-guerre or alias may have been. This is what he said -
Re pensions for partly blinded personnel - [ cannot understand the attitude of your Department and the Government generally as regards this matter. In fact I think it is very unfair and very unwise. How can a par.t:ally. blinded soldier with one eye and facial disfigurement be expected to live on £2 14s. a week, when unskilled workmen are earning that much, and some of them much more, per day?
One becomes nauseated by the constant repetition by honorable members opposite of the number of ex-servicemen in their ranks. Not many of them make their way into the Cabinet. The present Cabinet includes only three returned soldiers from World War II., and they are the tail-enders who were appointed in 1951, and who do not wag the dog very much ! The policy. speech of the Government parties from which I quoted earlier also stated -
We shall establish ex-servicemen’s committees of Cabinet and of Parliament.
Have we ever heard of an ex-servicemen’s committee of ‘Cabinet Ministers or of members of Parliament ?
– There is an exservicemen’s committee of honorable members on this side of the chamber.
– It is true that an ex-servicemen’s committee of Government supporters was formed, but when did it last confer with the ex-servicemen’s organizations ?
– Last Thursday.
– If conferences with ex-servicemen’s organizations did take place, they certainly did not produce any result. When the organizations asked in recent months for an increase of the rate of war pensions by approximately 25 per cent, they were fobbed off with an increase of 3 per cent, or less. We recollect the publicity that was given in the press to the agitation by ex-servicemen’s organizations on this subject in 1949. Very little has been said in the press on this occasion. Earlier speakers from this side of the House have quoted the dissatisfaction that has been expressed by responsible leaders of the ex-servicemen’s organizations, some of whom have received knighthoods in recognition of their public service and, possibly, of their service to the present regime.
– The honorable member is learning the lowest form of Labour propaganda.
– If, as the honorable member for Moore has said, this subject should not be made a political football, the Government should peg pensions to the cost of living. No better opportunity to do so has arisen than now when the basic wage itself has been pegged. If pensions were pegged to the basic wage justice would be done and this subject would no longer be made a political football.
I turn now to the War Service Homes Division. Whatever may have been done in past years the present Government has not met the demand for war service homes. In the last budget that’ was presented by the Chifley Government sufficient money was included to provide 10,303 war service homes. In the first year of office of the present Government funds were provided for 15,165 homes, and in the following year for 15,388 homes ; but last year provision was made for only 12,422 homes. Thus, last year, there was a decline of 20 per cent, in the number of war service homes provided, notwithstanding the fact that the number of applications continued to show a slight rise. The demand is being decreasingly met. Notwithstanding that men and materials are becoming available in greater volume the number of war service homes built is declining. Building construction generally in Australia is declining. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) recently informed us that the amount of money spent on private building in Australia had decreased from £173,000,000 in 1951-52 to £154,000,000 in 1952-53 and that the amount spent on public building had decreased from £36,000,000 to £34,000,000 during the same period.
There is a third respect in which the present Government has proved recreant to its promises. Honorable members will recollect that the Government promised to encourage and speed up war service land settlement. In November last, the responsible Minister, the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) said that because of cuts that were taking place in the programmes of the three principal States - New South “Wales, Victoria and .Queensland - he would take over war service land settlement in those States; but he did nothing about the matter. In answer to a question which I directed to him yesterday he said he would do nothing about it this year. Although he is dissatisfied with the matter he will do nothing about it. In relation to war service land settlement as in the case of war service homes, the Commonwealth has undoubted jurisdiction under the defence power to make the necessary provision, but it has failed to exercise that power. It is content to leave the States to stew in their own iii ice. In 1951-52, the States had £225.000,000 to spend on public works, including war service land settlement. In the following year the amount was reduced to £190,000.000. In the present, financial year they will receive only £200,000,000. In these circumstances can any one blame the States for having decided to refrain from settling one exserviceman on the land when the amount of money thus saved would keep eighteen other men in employment ? Which would the ex-servicemen rather have - one of their number settled on the land or fifteen men sacked from their jobs?
I have summarized the three respects in which the Government has proved false not only to its promises but also to its trust in relation to war and repatriation services. I conclude by referring to the expenditure of £34,102 last year on the Australian War History. Undoubtedly a part of that money was spent on the volume prepared by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) entitled The Government and the People, in which .the honorable gentleman chronicled the decline and fall of the first Menzies Government. I have no doubt that, if it falls to his lot to write a. companion volume on the decline and fall of the second Menzies Government in relation to its treatment of the ex-servicemen, it will fill a whole chapter.
.- I wish to refer to certain observations that were made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), particularly in relation to servicemen’s pensions. The honorable member advocated that pensions for disabled ex-servicemen, their widows and dependants should be related to the basic wage. There is not an ex-servicemen’s organization which has not said, a thousand times, that it would not support such a proposal. The basis of the honorable member’s speech was hopelessly illogical and completely opposed to that upon which ex-servicemen themselves1 wish their pensions to be determined. The basic wage was fixed on the needs of a man, his wife and one child. There was subsequently added to that a prosperity loading of £1 a week. The honorable member should know that the basis has since changed entirely. It is now the maximum that industry can pay. I have met the representatives of ex-servicemen’s organizations on many occasions.
– Why do they use the basic wage as a yardstick when making complaints to honorable members on this side of the chamber?
– They do not do that.
– All I can say is that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is out of touch entirely with ex-servicemen. ,
Opposition members interjecting,
– -Order ! As the last speaker was heard in silence, I insist that similar courtesy shall be extended 10 the Minister.
– One of the chief reasons why the ex-servicemen do not want their rates of pension to be related to the basic wage is that this Government, by the budget that it introduced recently and its administrative acts, has arrested the rising cost of living in this country. The cost of living will soon come down. If honorable members opposite would take the trouble to read the advertisements in our daily newspapers they would find that the prices of many goods produced by the softgoods trade and almost every other “trade have been reduced substantially as a result of the remissions of taxation generally, and the reduction of sales tax in particular, granted by this Government. When the time arrives for the basic wage to be reviewed it is almost certain to come down. If honorable members opposite would tie repatriation pensions in any way to a basic wage that is coming down, they would earn the wrath of exservicemen’s organizations through this country, and would suffer from it, because they have miserably misled our ex-servicemen. That is my reply to the extraordinary proposals that have been advanced by the honorable member for Werriwa.
Let us compare what this Government has done for the ex-servicemen during its four- years of office with what was done for them during the last four years of Labour’s regime. In the four years 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949 the 100 per cent, general rate pensions increased by only 5s. a week. In the four years 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953 this Government increased it by £1 7s. 6d. a week. Therefore, the increase that has been granted by this Government during its four years of office is eight times as great as was the . increase that was granted by the previous Labour Administration in its last four years of office. During that period, Labour increased the special rate pension payable to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen by 10s. a week. Since we have been in office we have increased that pension by £3 19s. a week. That increase is five times as much as the increase that was granted by Labour in its last four years of office. These are but a few examples showing by comparison, the help that has been given to ex-service men and women and their dependants. This is a full and complete answer to what the honorable member ha3 said. This Government has always stood by the ex-servicemen, in season and out of season, and whether the cost of living was rising or falling.
The figures speak for themselves. 1 shall go through the whole list of increases, and compare the total increases that have been granted under various headings by this Government during its four years of office with the increases that were granted by Labour during the last four years that it was in office. We have increased widows’ pensions by 12s. 6d. a week, compared with the total increase of 10s. a week in that period granted by Labour. The amount of domestic allowance that was paid by Labour was 7s. 6d. a week throughout the period. We started by paying 7s. 6d. a week, and subsequently increased the allowance to 10s. a week, and then £1 12s. a week. The allowance now paid is £1 14s. 6d. a week. The total increase granted by this Government has been 27s. a week, or four times as much as the increase that was granted by Labour. Let us consider the amounts of allowances to the children of widows. In its last four years in office Labour did not grant any increase of allowances in respect of the first child, or the second and subsequent children. We have increased the allowance for the first child by 9s. a week, and the allowance in respect of the second child and subsequent children by 6s. a week. These figures effectively refute the allegations that have been made by honorable members opposite. Let us consider the position of double orphans. During Labour’s regime the allowance paid in respect of orphans between fourteen and. sixteen years of age was 17s. 6d. a week. This Government amalgamated the divisions and increased the allowance payable to 40s. a week in each of its first two years of office, and 48s. a week during 4he next two years. Labour did not. increase the allowance for double orphans at all during the time that it was in office, but since we have been in office we have increased the allowance payable by 30a. 6d. a week. Labour did not increase the allowance for children in the second grade, that is, orphans between sixteen and twenty years of age, but this Government has increased the allowance [payable in respect of those children by :28s. a week. This Government’s record cannot be challenged, because the exservicemen know that we have at all times had their interests and their well-being at heart.
.- In spite of the figures that have been poured nut to-night by various Ministers-
– I rise to order! This morning, Mr. Chairman, after you had upheld a precedent, the matter went to a division in order to test your ruling that when a Minister rises merely to reply to statements that have been made by a member of the Opposition, that fact does not debar a member on the Governmnent side from receiving the next call. I therefore ask you to conform to your own ruling, which was upheld, by giving the call to a supporter of the Government.
– That is a shocking challenge to the Chair.
– Order ! The question that went to a division this morning was whether my ruling should he dissented from. I endeavour to give equal consideration to both sides of the chamber.
– Despite all of the “figures that have been quoted by Ministers to-night, the Government has failed completely to answer to the satisfaction of the Opposition and the members of the public who are listening to the broadcast of these proceedings, the devastating condemnation of its attitude towards exservicemen, widows, and other pensioners. Throughout the evening Government members have been on the defensive, and they are now like an army retreating disorderly as a result of the attacks that have been made by honorable members on this side of the chamber. The increases of pensions that have been mentioned by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) do not convince any pensioner that the actual value of pensions has been increased. The true test that should be applied to the value of pensions is - “ What quantity of food, boots and shoes, clothing, electric light and rental will £1 buy to-day ? “ This Government cannot stand up to that test, because the value of the £1 has almost disappeared. The Commonwealth Statistician has stated that the value of the Australian £1 to-day is only 5s. 6d., compared with its value of 12s. 6d. in 1949. That factor should be considered in conjunction with the figures that have been mentioned tonight. The increases have not restored to the pensioners the purchasing power that they had when the present Government came to office. That is the real answer to the statements that have been made by Ministers. If this Government remains in office for much longer it will be necessary for people to carry pound notes around in a wheelbarrow when they go shopping. The time allotted to me has been seriously curtailed by disorderly interruptions. However, I wish to make a plea to the Government on behalf of one of Tasmania’s disappearing industries.
-I refer to the small fruits industry, which is frequently called the berry fruits industry. This industry, which is centred in southern Tasmania, is in the process of an economic blackout for many reasons. I shall offer some suggestions as to how the industry may be salvaged for Australia.
Tasmania grows 85 per cent, of Australia’s total production of small fruits, such as raspberries, gooseberries, loganberries, youngberries, strawberries and black-currants. Having experienced an insecure market last season, the growers are threatened to-day with the utter collapse of their industry, which has meant an income of £2,500,000 to Tasmania each year. Approximately 600 farmers are interested in this industry, and employment is given to fruit-pickers in tb, season and the workers in the processing factories in Hobart. But so serious is the economic blizzard which has hit this industry that 100 acres of raspberry and currant canes have been ripped out in the last few weeks. Other growers have reduced their acreages by 10 per cent., 30 per cent., and even 50 per cent., and many of them do not know what they will produce as an alternative crop.
The small fruits industry is valuable in the economy of Tasmania and the nation. It deserves to he salvaged. If this Government can help in any way, the industry will indeed be grateful. The Tasmanian berry fruits industry received a grant of £100,000 from this Government in the last financial year. That assistance was greatly appreciated, but it was not given until many representations had been made to the Government through the best possible means. Big deputations made submissions on the matter, and a deputation proceeded by air to Adelaide in order to discuss one aspect of the problem with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). Finally, the berry fruits industry was granted £100,000, but that amount barely saved more than one-half of the growers. This financial assistance did not compensate for lost markets sufficiently to save the remaining growers.
I shall outline some ways in which we may he able to save the industry. The bounty paid last year was given because South African berry . fruit-growers were able to put their berry fruit juices and tinned berry fruits on the English market for £20 to £30 a ton less. than the price of Tasmanian berry fruit juices and tinned berry fruits. Therefore, England is buying South African small fruits to-day, and our industry is going out of existence. What is just as serious is that the berry fruit-growers produced 7,000 tons of berry fruits last season, hut the processors in Hobart would take only 2,000 tons, and the remaining 5,000 tons were left to drop on to the ground. It is n crime, no matter where it happens, if food falls to the ground to rot in this twentieth century, when so- many people need food. That is. in my opinion, an insult to God Himself, and we shall have tn answer for it some day.
The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, which determines the price of berry fruits, fixed the price last season at from 2d. to 3d per lb. below the cost of production. I remind honorable members that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics made a survey of this industry, at the direction of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), and reported on the cost of production. How can farmers carry on when the price paid to them is from 2d. to 3d. per lb. below the cost of production ? That was the second reason why so many of our growers of small fruits have been hard hit. Another reason for its decline is the dictatorship of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, about which I shall speak more fully in a few moments. Meanwhile, I shall cite figures relating to the reduction of acreage in this industry. In 1950-51, there were 4,394 acres sown down to small fruits, a reduction of 996 acres, or 19 per cent., compared with the pre-war area. Despite that reduced acreage, the growers produced 7,000 tons of small fruits last year. I have already explained that 2,000 tons of that crop were bought by the processors, and the rest of it was left to rot. It would not be fair to the growers if I did not criticize the set-up of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. The growers have only one representative; the processors have more than one representative. Yet this committee fixes the price that shally be paid to the growers for their small fruits. If any honorable member knows of a more dictatorial set-up than that in Australia, I should like to hear about it.
– Who appointed the Committee ?
– I have not gone back that far.
– The Chifley Government appointed the committee, and the honorable member voted for it.
– I shall criticize th* committee, no matter who set it up. But the present Government has been in office for nearly four years, and during that time the small fruits industry has gone down and down, and the Government has not taken any action to change the representation on the committee.
I shall now make a few suggestions for the salvaging of this industry. My first proposal is that the Commonwealth inaugurate a subsidy scheme for a period of five years. The Commonwealth provided an amount of £21,000,000 for subsidies during the last financial year. The Tasmanian small fruits industry can be saved by only one means, because the South African growers are able to put their products on the English market more cheaply than the Tasmanian growers can market their small fruits in the United Kingdom. The industry must be supported with a subsidy. If the industry is worth saving, it is worth subsidizing for a period of five years. Honorable members should not forget that the industry brings in £2,500,000 to the economy of Tasmania, and, therefore, it is worth salvaging.
The industry has been languishing for some years because of the uncertainty of markets. The Tasmanian growers of small fruits should not be obliged to depend on overseas markets for the sale of their products. In how many shops in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria do we see small fruits from Tasmania ?
– Is Tasmanian jam good ?
– It is excellent jam. The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has undoubtedly heard of the IXL brand. However, I am referring particularly to berry fruit jams, and fruit juices. Fruit juices are prescribed by doctors as a health food. They are much better than brandy and whisky. I believe that the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee should be roundly condemned for its failure to. increase the markets for berry fruits on the mainland. This Government can help to find new markets in such places as Malaya, Singapore and the Philippines. The Tasmanian small fruits industry has also suffered from a lack of publicity. That defect can be remedied by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. Fruit juices are served for breakfast in many homes in Canada and the United States of America every morning. How many of us in Australia have fruit juice for breakfast?
– What has that to do with the Government?
– Nothing. I am merely suggesting how we can help the small fruits industry. I do not want funny interjections.
– From a member of the Australian Country party, too.
– Yes, a member of the Australian Country party jokes about this matter when I am offering suggestions to save an important rural industry. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has failed to make Tasmanian small fruits popular with the public in Australia to anything like the same degree as has been done in Canada and the United States of America. I also suggest that we can quick-freeze or shock-freeze these fruit? in punnets and send them by air to Melbourne and Sydney. Honorable member? may not be aware that aircraft are loaded in California in the evening, and earn berry fruits 3,000 miles across the United States of America to New York for sale the following morning.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.-! wish to deal with the proposed vote for the Repatriation Department. I am one of those people who believe that -it doe* not matter how much money the Government gives to ex-servicemen, it could never pay them adequately for what they have gone through in serving this country. No government has yet adequately paid these men for their services. I have been disgusted with the speeches made by three honorable members who have been in this chamber for some considerable time, namely the honorable member for Parke? (Mr. Haylen), the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). It is the first portion of the speech of the honorable member -for Wilmot to which I object. I shall not comment on the speeches of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) because they are new members and do not realize what happened when the Labour Government was in power prior to 1949. I deplore the fact that the first three members whom I mentioned tried to gain some political capital out of their arguments. They compared what this Government has done for ex-servicemen with what the Labour Government had done up to 1949.
On the 25th October, 1949, less than two months before the Labour Government was thrown out of office, I was forced to raise the subject of war pensions in this chamber during the debate on the adjournment of the House. On that occasion I made the following remarks : -
I refer to pensions for ex-servicemen and lay emphasis on pensions for totally and permanently incapacitated men. I had hoped to raise this matter earlier but the opportunity to do so did not occur. During the debate on the Estimates I had not sufficient time to deal with the subject as the time alloted for the discussion of five votes was only one and a half hours and only one Opposition member received a call.
During the present debate on the Estimates three hours have been allowed for the discussion of the five items to which I referred on that occasion and five members of the Opposition have had the opportunity to speak on them. That fact illustrates the difference between the state of affairs which existed in that Parliament and the State of affairs which exists in the present Parliament. Later in my speech, I said -
A partially disabled ex-serviceman can supplement his pension by earning some wages, but the totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman cannot work’ at all and should be given more consideration by this Government. Representatives of these men have visited Canberra and have discussed the matter with the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Repatriation (Mr, Barnard) but without success. They expected some relief in this year’s budget but were disappointed. I am not attacking the Minister for Repatriation. I have always claimed both inside and outside of this Parliament that the Minister for Repatriation is sympathetic to ex-servicemen, and particularly to totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen. I believe that he will do what he can to have these pensions increased, but 1 am afraid that he does not have the backing of Caucus or of the Government.
Shortly afterwards I said -
The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has summarized its recommendations in 36 points the consideration of which by the Government is being sought. I ask permission to have those 30 points incorporated in Hansard.
It is hard to believe that my request to have the 36 points of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia incorporated in Hansard was refused at the institgation of the then Minister for Repatriation. Labour members claim that they have done all that they could for the exservicemen, yet they refused to allow the points submitted by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia to be incorporated in Hansard. I tried to have the 36 points reported in Hansard by reading them very quickly, but after I had read 21 of them my time had expired and Mr. Barnard, who was the Minister for Repatriation, replied. He said that he knew of the 36 points to which I had referred. He said that several of them had been approved by the Government. In fact, only one of the points had been approved. This was the point relating to funeral allowances. The Minister said that the funeral allowance had been increased from £15 to £20. That was the only repatriation benefit that the Government increased in that year.
On the 22nd September, 1949, in answer to a question by Mr. White, the then honorable member for Balaclava, Mr. Barnard made the following statement : -
It is true that ex-servicemen’s pensions have not been increased to the same degree as the cost of living has risen.
Yet Opposition members have claimed that the ex-servicemen’s pensions have been increased in proportion to increases in the cost of living. The Minister stated definitely that that was not so. He said -
I point out to the House that such pensions have never been related to the basic wage. The Attorney-General reminds me that if they were so related they would be liable to be decreased as well as increased. We have had one experience in this country of pensions being related to the basic wage. When the basic wage rose and pensions were increased, the pensioners were quite satisfied, but immediately there . was a movement in the other direction they clamoured for the removal of the relationship.
That statement was made by the Minister for Repatriation in the last Labour Government who knew the most about this subject at the time. Finally, referring to a deputation which had asked that ex-servicemen be given some relief, Mr. Barnard said -
When the members of the deputation had seen me I took them to the Prime Minister, who explained to them that no provision had been made in the budget for the payment of increased pensions to ex-servicemen.
It was a pity that at that time the cost of living had risen much more than pensions. But no provision had been made in the budget for increased pensions as the then Prime Minister told the deputation, which then went sorrowfully away.
– I do not believe it.
– It is recorded in Hansard at page 465 of volume 204. I hope that the present Government and future governments will do all that they can for the men who served this country so well.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Proposed vote, £3,794,000.
Proposed vote, £68,922,000.
Proposed vote, £4,729,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
.- I am gravely concerned about the long delays that still occur in the provision of telephone services all over the metropolitan area of Sydney, but particularly in theelectorate that I represent. Notwithstanding statements by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) and departmental officers that the position is improving, applicants have been waiting to obtain telephones for as long as seven years in some instances. The present Minister told the people, when he was in Opposition, that if the parties he spoke for were elected to power, there would be a decided improvement of this situation. The department may be doing its best to meet the demand, but that best is not good enough for businessmen and others urgently in need of telephones who have been on the waiting list for many years. In Newtown, Marrickville and other parts of the Grayndler electorate, delays of up to several years are still fairly common. Something should be done to relieve this distressing shortage. What use is the Postal Department making of the funds appropriated for its purposes? Public telephone installations also are seriously lagging. Long delays occur in the provision of telephone boxes at street corners in crowded areas. Does the proposed vote for the department include a special provision for the cost of installing new telephones? The adoption of the duplex system has been of benefit to people in need of telephones, but in certain districts it is almost as difficult to obtain one of those installations as it is to obtain a private service. I speak with intimate knowledge of the delays that occur in my electorate.
Thousands of employees of the Postal Department have been discharged since the present Government has been in office. The Minister may be able to tell the committee whether any arrangements were made to overtake the lag in the telephone installation programme before these men and women were paid off. This matter concerns everybody in the community. Even the shortage of public telephone boxes causes endless inconvenience in metropolitan districts. The lack of private telephones on business premises and in private homes where there are sick persons causes considerable loss of business and, at the best, considerable discomfort and inconvenience to individuals. The present state of affairs is entirely unsatisfactory. I should not be critical of the present Government and the PostmasterGeneral had I not frequently heard the honorable gentleman, when he was a member of the Opposition, criticize the Labour administration for its failure to put an end to the shortage of telephones. This Government has been in office for four years and it is time the slack was taken up. There is plenty of labour available, because, for the first time in many years, skilled men and other workers are lining up daily to apply for jobs. There is no shortage of raw materials, we have been told. I wish the Minister would explain the reason for the delay whenlie present trend is supposed to be towards increased production of all sorts of goods. Under the provisions of this budget, there should be ample finance for telephone installations. Perhaps the Minister will make one of those inspiring speeches for which he was notorious when, as a member of the Opposition, he criticized the Labour Government for its failure to provide adequate telephone facilities for the community. Perhaps he will be good enough to read to us a few extracts from those stirring addresses, and he may even add a brief explanation of the cause of the present delays. Only a few sentences would be needed to tell us why he has failed as Postmaster-General to overcome this difficulty.
The Government also should review charges for telephone services. This, we have been told, is a price-reducing and tax-reducing Government. It has been in power for four years, and the same Postmaster-General has been in office throughout that period, but telephone rental charges have never been higher. The rates charged for telephone services can reasonably he described as exorbitant in comparison with the rates that were charged during the regime of the Chifley Government. Therefore, we are entitled to demand an explanation. Sometimes I wonder whether I shall live to see the day when there will no longer be a list at the General Post Office in Sydney of hundreds of people who are waiting for telephone installations. The Government should overcome its inertia and institute a positive Working programme. I ask the Minister also to make a pronouncement of policy in relation to telephone charges. Reductions should he effected. Postal charges also have increased out of all proportion since this Government has been in office. Thousands of people have been discharged from the Postal Department, but the charges still rise periodically. The Minister should explain to us why this is necessary. Is it due to his own incompetence or to the fact that the Government has realized that its rosy promises are impossible of fulfilment? These matters intimately concern everybody in the community and are of special importance to residents of metropolitan areas.
Another matter that relates to the administration of the Postal Department concerns various industries in my electorate which, during the war years under the Chifley Government, installed equipment and apparatus for the manufacture of certain items essential to the installation of telephone services. Under the present Postmaster-General, the depart? ment has adopted a policy, which denies contracts to these companies, with the result that their special equipment is wasted. Many employees in these industries have been paid off, and Australian companies which formerly gave efficient service in the manufacture of badly needed components of telephone services have virtually gone out of business. Thus, the Government has lost a means of obtaining vital parts on the domestic market. What does the Minister intend to do to overcome this anomalous situation? Will he explain why Australian industries are not receiving contracts and tell the committee which overseas companies are obtaining these contracts at the expense of local companies? Australian companies are capable of making certain types of telephone equipment and are prepared to do so. If their services were properly used, the shortage of telephones throughout the community could he greatly relieved in a very short space of time. I have read in the press hints that postal charges are to be further increased. I should like the PostmasterGeneral to indicate whether that is so.
– What about wireless licences ?
– Yes. The PostmasterGeneral might tell us also whether the wireless licence-fee is to be increased, and whether postage rates and charges for telephone calls are to rise. There should be a complete explanation of the Government’s proposals in relation to postal, telephone and broadcasting services. We should also be interested to know what is being done about television. Honorable members will recall that the Postmaster-General was to introduce television into this country immediately he returned from America not long ago. Apparently Cabinet had to pull him into line because he has turned a complete somersault and changed his policy. As I have said, Australian industries that are capable of manufacturing equipment for the Postmaster-General’s Department are most concerned about the future policy of that department. They want to know where its orders are to be placed. I have endeavoured to pose these questions in an impartial spirit, and I hope that they will be answered by the PostmasterGeneral before this debate ends. We shall all be most interested to hear what the honorable gentleman has done to implement the suggestions which he was so fond of making when he was on this side of the chamber. I am afraid that in his four years of office he has been able to. give little satisfaction to the many thousands of people who are still waiting for telephones. I trust that a full statement of the Government’s policy, if there be such a thing in its archives, will be forthcoming at the earliest possible moment.
.- My object in rising is not to talk about the activities of the Postmaster-General’s Department, in spite of the remarks of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly. I have no doubt that when the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) chooses to reply, he will be able to give a more than convincing answer to the irresponsible allegations made by the honorable member. I wish to say a few words about the Commonwealth railways. I believe that the Government has not received sufficient credit for the reorganization it made a year or two ago of the transcontinental service. A number of honorable members of both sides of the chamber travelled on the new TransAustralian train when it made its inaugural run last November. Not only those of us who were fortunate enough to go on that expedition, but also members of the travelling public who have been enthusiastically patronizing that railway ever since, have been immensely impressed. I believe, therefore, that this is a proper occasion to congratulate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), within whose jurisdiction the Commonwealth railways fall, and also the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Mr. Hannaberry, upon having brought to this country what is easily one of the finest trains in the world. In common with various other honorable members who had the good fortune to be abroad this year, I have travelled on various trains in Great Britain and on the
European continent, including some of the crack expresses, but on none did I find smoother running or better service than one enjoys on the Trans-Australian line. Generally speaking, railways on the Continent and in Great Britain do not give such a high standard of comfort and speed for such a low fare as is charged on the Trans-Australian line.
Expenditure on improvements to the Trans-Australian Railway service has amounted to approximately £1,000,000 and, as honorable members are aware, the great bulk of that money was made available out of the 100,000,000-dollar loan that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) negotiated during his first visit to North America. That expenditure is rapidly justifying itself, and proving indeed a matter of sound economics. Not only is the passenger traffic increasing substantially because of the vastly improved service, the quicker trip, and the higher standard of comfort, but also, as the result of the introduction of dieselelectric locomotives, operating costs have been reduced to an amazing degree. Whereas with the use of steam locomotives the cost was approximately 275d. a mile, since last November that cost has fallen to the low figure of 47d. a mile. It is easy to ascertain by a simple mathematical calculation that in a relatively short time these great reforms initiated by this Government will pay for themselves.
The success of these innovations presents a strong case for their extension, and I should like to direct the attention of the Government to a matter which I am sure has been considered from time to time. I refer to the standardization of the railway gauge between Perth and Kalgoorlie and between Port Pirie and Broken Hill, in collaboration with the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia, respectively. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner claims that if he were given a uniform track from one side of the continent to another, it would be possible to run this new diesel-electric train from coast to coast in 48 hours. The advantages of that, of course, do not simply stand on the grounds of improved service and greater convenience. The defence arguments are very obvious, and no doubt have already been weighed. I admit, at once, that in considering the standardization of railway gauges from coast to coast, we are confronted immediately with the difficulty of obtaining the wherewithall to do the job. No one on this side of the committee, at least, will suggest that the money should he raised by additional taxes ; and looking at the state of the loan market, it does not appear possible that, in the immediate future, sufficient funds will be obtained from that source. However, the loan market is already showing a more responsive trend, and when funds are available, if not within this country then from overseas, those schemes will warrant a high priority, and I hope the Government will see that they get it.
.- I am pleased that the Trans-Australian Railway is a great success. It made a profit of £117,000 in the last financial year. The reason why it has been able to make a profit is that it is not burdened with interest charges on capital as other national projects are.
I have been trying for some time to persuade the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) to do something about outstanding applications for telephones in my electorate. When I raised this matter with him last year and pointed out that there are over 5,000 people waiting for telephones in the Banks electorate, he said that it must be the most prosperous electorate in Australia. I do not know the reason, but the waiting list is very large. Recently, I looked at the indicator board at the Sydney General Post Office, and discovered that the total number of persons waiting for telephones has not been reduced greatly. There has been some reduction of the number, but that is because some people who have been waiting for telephones, in some instances for periods up to seven years, have withdrawn their applications because the rentals have been increased so much since they lodged their applications that they can no longer afford to have a telephone. When Labour was in power, the cost of a domestic telephone service was about £6 a year.
– I rise to order. Mr. Chairman, will you prevent the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) from wandering all over the chamber and talking to honorable members while the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) is speaking?
– I ask honorablemembers to be quiet while the honorablemember for Banks (Mr. Costa) is making-, his speech.
– Since Labour left office, telephone rentals have increased by nearly 100 per cent. That is the reason why some people have withdrawn their applications for. telephones, hut thenumber of outstanding applications in my electorate is still very great. Thereare 716 outstanding applications in the area served by the Bankstown exchange, 1,355 in the area served by the Hurstville exchange, 600 in the area served by thePeakhurst exchange, 1,057 in the area served by the Lakemba exchange, and 2.13- in the area served by the Revesby exchange. Over 4,000 people are waiting: for telephone services in my electorate. Although there are so many outstanding applications for telephones, the proposed vote in respect of telephone services for this financial year is £17,000,000, compared with £18,000,000 last year. That is a disgrace. I do not know how thePostmasterGeneral expects to satisfy outstanding applications when expenditureis being reduced. The population, in my electorate is increasing constantly. In 1949, 42,000 people were on the electoral roll, and today there are 57,000 on> it. Many new houses are being built there and industry is expanding, but the Postal Department is doing nothing to- cope with, that expansion.
Many of the people who have cancelled1 their applications for telephones- because of increased rentals should be given someconsideration by the department. They are sick people, invalid pensioners and blind people. They need telephones but, owing to the tremendous increase of charges, they are unable to afford them. Consideration should be given to rental1 charges for telephones in country districts. People who live more than 2’ miles from a country telephone exchangehave to pay about £3 a year more for ittelephone than do people who are fortunate enough to live within 2 miles of anexchange. The Public Accounts Committee has referred to the fact that there- lias ‘been a tremendous decline of telegraph business. The Director of Posts and Telegraphs has indicated that, because of the reduction of business, it may be necessary to retrench telegraphists employed by the department. Is any one astonished at the decrease of telegraph business when he considers the high charges made for telegrams? The charge for an urgent telegram delivered within a. 15-mile radius of a telegraph office is 4s. 6d. for twelve words. The charge for a reply-paid telegram is 9s. A telegram contains a signature and an address, and a reply-paid telegram must contain the words “ reply paid “. I venture to say that an address, a signature and the words “ reply paid “ would contain at least twelve words.
– Usually there is the word “ love “ at the end of the text.
– That is right. Is it astonishing that, in view of such high charges, the telegraph branch of the Postal Department is losing business? In a metropolitan area, it might be cheaper for a person to take a taxi to deliver an urgent message in another suburb than to send a telegram. The taxi fare might be about 5s., but the cost of a telegram might be 15s. or 16s. The Minister should do something to’ make telegrams more attractive. At one time, greetings telegrams and congratulatory telegrams at cheap rates were available. They wore very popular. I believe that the department, instead of dismissing trained officers because telegraph business is falling off, should try to make the valuable telegraph service more attractive to the public by reducing its charges. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; progress reported.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Territory (Administration Act) -
Ordinances -1953 -
No. 1 - Dentists Registration.
No. 2 - Prisons.
No. 3 - Landlord and Tenant (Control of Rents).
No. 4 - Crown Lands.
No. 5 - Minerals (Acquisition).
No.6 - Mining-. No. 7 - Aboriginals.’
No. 8 - Control of Roads.
No. 9 - Aboriginals (No. 2).
No. 10 - Licensing.
Regulations - 1 953- -
No. 1 (Supply of Services Ordinance).
No. 2 (Brands Ordinance).
War Service Homes Act - Annual Report for year 1952-63.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Health and Medical Services
Royal Australian’ AIRFORCE. .
Interior will now be carried out by private companies?
House adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 October 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19531001_reps_20_hor1/>.