16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development inform the Senatewhether he is satisfied with the progress that is being made in connexion with the Newnes shale oil project at Glen Davis? Will he also state whether the Government recently made another large advance to National Oil Proprietary Limited? Can the Minister assure the Senate that this company has actually produced oil from shale at Glen Davis, as claimed by the Minister for External Affairs, when he performed the opening ceremony at the company’s work at Glen Davis? Will the Minister advise the Senate whether the pipe line recently completed from the Glen Davis oil works to the railway line is working satisfactorily?
– The Government is not completely satisfied with the. progress made at the Newnes shale oil plant. The result has been disappointing, inasmuchas the Government had expected a greater output of oil than is now being obtained, but steps, which I believe will meet with success, are already being taken to overcome the difficulties that have been encountered. These have mainly occurred in connexion with the retorting of the shale. The Governmenthas made another advance to National Oil Proprietary Limited to enable it to carry on the further reconstruction work which is necessary owing to the present unsatisfactory position. I was advised only two days ago that the pipe line is working satisfactorily. I was told that petrol had been pumped from it, and that there was no sign of leakage throughout the whole length of the line.
– I have received from Dr. Alva J. Boyd a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of the Honorable James Arthur Boyd.
– I have received from Mr. Berry Hay a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of Mr. Alexander Hay.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform the Senate whether the honorable member for Henry (Mr. Coles) recently admitted that he was “ guilty of a small deceit “ in order to obtain £750 worth of dollars to enable him to travel from New Zealand to England ? Does the Government approve of the example set to Australia by a member of this Parliament in obtaining dollar exchangeby deceit? Would not the 3,000 odd dollars involved have been better expended on essential imports from the United States of America? Did the Commonwealth Government pay any part of the expenses incurred by Mr. Coles during his investigations in England on behalf of the Government?
– I shall refer the honorable senator’s questions to the Prime Minister, and get a reply to them.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development inform the Senate whether any special consideration, in connexion with the rationing of petrol, is given to one-legged persons, or to persons otherwise incapacitated, who use their motor cars to enable them to earn a livelihood?
– Invalids . and those who need their cars to enable them to earn a living receive special consideration. They should apply to the Liquid Fuel ControlBoard in the State in which they reside. The board will then consider their case, and give to them the appropriate ration.
Senator LECKIE laid on the table the report and recommendation of the Tariff Board on Bitumen.
Senator McBRIDE laid on the table the report of the Power Alcohol Committee of Inquiry.
– Is there any moratorium covering men in the motor car industry, particularly drivers of hire cars, who are purchasing motor vehicles on the hire-purchase system?
– The question of granting relief to persons in the motor car industry who are in financial difficulties because of war conditions is engaging the attention of the Government, but until a decision has been arrived at, I cannot give any information to the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister give an assurance that persons who are purchasing utility trucks and other motor vehicles under hire-purchase agreements from financiers will be protected against the seizure of their vehicles?
– Until the Government lias come to a decision in regard to this matter I cannot give any such under taking.-
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD,Will you, Mr. President, favorably consider adding, in parentheses, the words “serving abroad with the Australian Imperial Force” to any reference made in the records to the absence of Senator Wilson ?
– At the moment, I cannot see any good reason why the suggestion should not be given effect; indeed, there aire sound reasons why it should be adopted. However, I shall consider the matter, and announce my decision later.
– Should, the suggestion be agreed, to would an honorable senator who had . obtained leave of absence, for any reason also be entitled to have the reason for his absence recorded?
– Yes, if he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. …. - -
– As I. have indicated, I shall announce my decision after I have considered the whole question.
Dependants of MISSING Soldiers.
– Can the Minister representing- the Minister for the Army say whether it is the practice of the Department of the Army to stop allotments made by soldiers to their dependants on receipt of information that an Australian soldier serving- abroad has been posted as missing-?
– That is not the practice. Payment to a soldiers dependants is continued, for a period of three months in such circumstances, after which, I understand, the Repatriation Department pays to dependants the repatriation benefits authorized by law. There is no lag between the payment by the Department of the Army and the receipt of repatriation benefits.
– Is it the policy of the Government to make some payment to the next of kin, either by way of- a pension or otherwise, pending the receipt of the finding of a court of inquiry into the disappearance of a soldier? That has been done in one case to my knowledge. I should like to know whether that is the general practice?
– As the Minister representing the Minister for the Army has pointed out, the Army pay of soldiers posted as missing is continued to their dependants for a period of three months. Alter that time, should, the missing soldier not be discovered, -his dependants receive repatriation benefits. Should the missing soldier subsequently be. found alive, an adjustment is. made between the two rates of payment. I understand that any next of kin who may be eligible for a pension under the Repatriation. Act would be paid, but I shall look into the matter and make sure that that is the procedure.
– -Some time ago I asked a question in relation to Nazi No. 8, Herr Hess. In view of the many rumours, which are detrimental to recruiting arid to the prosecution of the war, can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say whether the Government will make representations to the British authorities with a. view to obtaining the full facts regarding Herr Hess and his relations with certain people in the Old Country ?
– Apart from the press statements that Herr Hess left, his fellow gangsters’ in Germany in order to save his skin, no information concerning him lias come to hand.
– Has the Government asked for further information regarding him ?
– The Dominion Governments arc kept fully informed of any information in the possession of tiro British Government in regard to matters of this kind.
– Is information being withheld from the public?
asked the Minister .representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
For tlie purpose o£ tlie future lumb and pork export trade, is it tlie intention of tlie Government to provide additional cool storage in the States concerned, so as to cope with supplies until overseas shipping is available?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer : -
The arrangements proposed by the Government for the handling of pork and lami) have been published. Sufficient cold storage has been provided to enable these arrangements to be carried out.
Responsibility of Tenants
asked the Ministor representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answers : -
Commonwealth Statistician’s Figures
asked the Minister representing tlie Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: - 1 and 2. Data as to rents arc supplied each quarter by representative house agents in respect of a large sample of houses inspected and selected by Government Field Officers. There is a Field Officer j.n Tasmania whose duty it is to see that these rents arc correctly recorded for Launceston and other centres. A Supervising field Officer periodically inspects the work of the Field Officer to ensure that it is well and faithfully done. The whole is regularly reviewed each quarter by an experienced senior officer under the control of the Commonwealth Statistician. The Supervising Field Officer has just completed bis regular periodical inspection of the work on collection of prices and rents in Tasmania and will confer with the Commonwealth Statistician at an early date. I will ask the Statistician to make a special examination of. the house rents of the city of Launceston in order to meet the honorable senator’s wishes.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : - 1. (a) Egyptian; (h) Egyptian.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice - ]. What is the rental proposed or agreed to be paid by the Government for the lease, for the use of the Taxation Department, of 3ix floors of the London Stores Building, situated at the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth streets, Melbourne, Victoria?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
What principle actuated the Government in deciding to pay £34,000 as contributionto the League ofNations?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questionis as follows : -
In deciding to pay its contribution for 1941 to the League of Nations, the Commonwealth Government took into account the following considerations:- (1 ) The League and kindred organizations are still performing practical tasks of great utility. Some part of the League’s work is now being carried on atthe Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, in the United States of America, and the International Labour Office is installed at the McGill University, Montreal, Canada. The work ofthe League in economic and financial matters and in the control of the opium traffic is regarded as of particular importance. (2) There is a wide recognition that it is necessary to maintain in being some organization for international collaboration. (3) The members of the British Common wealth were in favour of continuing financial support to the League (4) Every possible effort has been made to cut down League expenditure.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister forthe Army has supplied the following answer : - 1 and 2. The investigations into the matter of the alleged unauthorized appropriationof defence material at the Ordnance Workshops, Seymour, Victoria, have not yet been completed. These inquiries are being expedited asmuch as possible.
Supplies of Fruit
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
What quantities of the following fruits have been supplied by the Apple and Pear Board or other organizations tothe military camps during the past twelve months: - (a) Apples; (b) pears; (c) bananas?
SenatorFOLL. - The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer : -
Inquiries are beingmade and a reply will be furnished to thehonorable senator as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Supply and Development,upon notice - 1.Is it a fact that there are bowsers empty throughout Australia that could be used for storage for petrol?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice-
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are a.s follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice- -*
What steps are being taken to establish the magnesium industry in Tasmania?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer : -
For some considerable period a. company has been carrying out preliminary investigations iri connexion with proposals for establishing the magnesium industry in Tasmania. I understand that at the present time a pilot plant is being brought into operation by that company.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Will the Government confer with the Government of Tasmania with a view to making some satisfactory arrangements to assist those fruitgrowers in Tasmania who lost 100 per. cent, of their crops through hail, frost, and wind damage
-The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer: -
The Commonwealth Government has considered this matter and is not prepared to make any financial arrangements to assist’ fruit-growers who have sustained losses through hail, frost, and wind damage. Loan moneys have been made , available to the- Government of Tasmania for the relief of berry fruit-growers.
The Minister for Commerce will discuss with State Ministers of Agriculture at the meeting- of the Agricultural Council now being held at Canberra the question of State government schemes for insurance by fruit-growers against losses through hail, frost, and wind damage.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for .Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Government consider the fixing of a minimum price for potatoes this year?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer:-
The matter of potato prices is now under consideration .and an early statement on this subject will bc made by the Minister for Trade and Customs.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer : - 1 and 2. All aspects of the fertilizer position are at present under consideration.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of the Government’s decision to build the east-west road, will the Minister assure the Senate that the standardization of the railway gauges is still under consideration?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
Yes. Having regard, however, to all the circumstances and particularly to tlie expenditure which would be involved, it is regretted that provision for this work could not be included’ in the present defence programme of the Commonwealth.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The issue of canteen orders is controlled by the defence authorities, the post office merely acting as selling agent. The question, therefore, is really one forthe Army Minister, but I am able to submit the following information : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
SenatorFRASER asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Is it a fact that, as the. result of additions made to the dwellings on the TransAustralian railway for the employees of the Railway Commissioner, the rents have been raised from 24s. 9d. per fortnight to 28s.?
If so does the Minister approve of this increase in view of the previous lack of facilities in these dwellings?
– The answers tothe honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
– I move -
That a joint committee of the Parliament he appointed to inquire into and report upon all matters relating to -
My purpose in moving this motion is to endeavour to assist the Minister, the Government, the Flax Production Committee, or whoever maybe administering this industryby having a select committee appointed to investigate and report upon the production of flax in Australia. My object is to have the flax industry placed upon a sound footing, so that it will be of some real value in post-war reconstruction. From investigations which I have made, I believe that if this industry continues along existing lines it lias no prospect whatever of being established as a post-war industry. That is what I am vitally concerned with at present. I am not unmindful of how flax production in this country was rushed upon the Commonwealth Government by the British Government, nor am I unmindful of the haste with which the mills had to be erected to get the industry established. The State governments have co-operated in an endeavour to make theproject a success, and now that the industry is in operation,those who have taken an interest in its development can see quite clearly that great improvements could be effected in certain directions. We can also see that although it is hoped to increase the output by 100 per cent. next year, unless some drastic alterations are made, the whole industry will be thrown into a state of chaos. It is to avoid such an eventuality that I suggest the appointment of a select committee. I shall cite some of tlie deficiencies at present manifesting themselves in the production of flax - deficiencies which in due course will prevent the undertaking from becoming a successful post-war industry. I shall start by describing the layout of the mills. I realize that the Government had to’ depend on outside advice, or in other words, upon whatever , so-called experts could be obtained. The. laying-out of a flax-producing plant’ is a task for an engineer who has a. full knowledge of the industry. He should know all the processes in the .production of fibre .from flax, and without that knowledge he would not be an. experienced engineer in that sphere of industry. The various component buildings of the present” mills have been laid out in such a way that thu cost of production is excessive owing to unnecessary handling. I shall outline for the information of honorable senators some of the processes through which the flax has to pass, and the set-up of the plant generally. The. Government purchases the flax as it comes from the field. It is then stacked in paddocks either adjacent to the mills or in suitable locations nearby. It has to be loaded on lorries and carted from the stacks to the deseeding shed, and after it leaves the de-seeding shed it is dew-retted or pitretted. At present, the Flax Board is experimenting with a more modern process which will dispense with much of this work, but at present we are depending on dew-retting and pit-retting. After it has been pit-retted, it is taken from the pits on lorries to another shed called the drying shed, and when it has been dried, it is again loaded on lorries and taken to the skutching shed. From .there it is carted to the store shed. The existing plants are so laid out that constant handling and carting pf the product at its various stages is involved. In fact, the handling and carting is so extensive that the flax is very nearly retted before it goes to the retting pits. The haphazard location of the various .buildings suggests that the plan for them was prepared by throwing a handful of chips into the air and marking the places where they landed as the sites for sheds. -Had the designing engineer known the .various processes involved in the production of flax ‘ fibre, ‘he would have laid out the buildings in such a way as to involve the minimum of handling and transport, and enough money would have been saved to build Dutch barns at the end of the mills to house practically the whole of the flax instead of stacking it in the paddocks. The flax then could have been, conveyed right through the mill without ever going ou to a lorry except, perhaps, for carting to the paddocks for dew-retting, and an enormous saving in production cost3 could have been effected. Although the mills are now established, I claim that it would be most beneficial to the industry if the various sheds were moved to their proper locations, thus facilitating more economic operation. Then we come to the de-seeding of the straw. Some of the mills have their own winnowers supplied to them by the Government, but they are not finishing and grading a perfectly clear article. After the material comes from the winnowers, it has to he graded by some private firm at so much a bushel. Some mills have not had big winnowers supplied by the Government, and are operating small hand machines. One could say that that system of processing and cleaning seed went down with the Titanic many years ago. I have given only a few examples of avenues in which savings could be effected. Then we come to the temporary mills which had to be erected rapidly to aid ns for the time being. Some of these are handling as large a quantity of flax as is being handled at the permanent mills, in the face of difficulties which, to my mind, are appalling. To illustrate my point, I mention in particular the mill at Lilydale, about IS miles from Launceston. Many hundreds of tons of flax were brought to that mill, and after it was de-seeded it was taken out into the paddocks to be dew retted. Some of the paddocks are so steep that nobody could stand on a lorry to throw the sheaves off, and therefore they had to be poked off. From my experience it would be impossible for any lorry to be driven along, the sides of, and up and down, those hills in damp weather in order to load the flax. Much of the flax would have to be gathered and sledged to level ground to enable it to be loaded on the lorries and taken to the mill. When it is carried back to the mill most of it is placed in another stack at the same mill-, side. It stays there for a considerable time, after which it is loaded on a lorry and taken another 37 miles on a hush road to Scotsdale to be scutched. But even the Scotsdale mill is only a temporary one, and there is the same loading and unloading across a paddock to and from the- showground sheds where the machinery has been- set up. The seed which was separated at Lilydale has to be loaded on a lorry and’ carried to a winnower at Scotsdale, and’ then carted the same distance back to Launceston to be cleaned, whereas it could have been taken to Launceston in the first place. It may be necessary to establish further mill’s, although on a small scale, in order to save the wastage due to carriage over such a long .distance.
I shall now refer to some of the other temporary mills, because I consider that honorable senators should bc made aware of what is taking place. There is unnecessary handling’ in carrying the flax out of the stacks and into the mills, and it is being transferred into sheds that are unsuitable for the purpose. There are three or four handlings in getting the flax to the de-seeding plant, and three or four more in. conveying it from that plant to the lorries. Then it has to go through the same process as I have mentioned for dew retting. It is brought back, in the majority of cases, and stacked in the mill where it is left lying for some time. Then it is loaded on another lorry and taken to another mill- to be scutched. If we have to dew ret the flax, I do not see why it should not be loaded on the lorry in level paddocks and carried direct to the scutching mill. I shall now describe the process of cleaning the seed in one .of the temporary mills. One is an old brewery which. is totally unsuitable for such work. After the flax is deseeded, the seed is carried to another floor by means of a block and . rope operated by hand.. It is then cleaned by means of a small hand .winnower, after ..which it is lowered down by . means of a block and tackle to the bottom floor, and has to be sent another 30 miles along the coast to be graded. I claim that adequate machinery could be installed to not only roughly clean the .seed, but also grade it at the same time. An electric- power line runs past the mill, and, by means of a dynamo, a few cog wheels and a belt, an up-to-date winnower could be installed. This would enable the cleaning to be done on a more economic basis than’ at present. Another permanent mill is situated at Wynyard, and, in ordinary seasons, it would be located in a swamp. The shed being used is totally unsuitable for a flax mill. The- prod.net has to he handled- three- or four times to be taken into the shed to be de-seeded, and it has to be handled two or three times more to be put back into the same shed to be scutched. After scutching it has- still to be handled two or three times again before it is got rid of. If this industry is to survive, it will be necessary to lay out the mills on proper lines. There is another mill at Smithton. I was so disgusted with what I had seen at the other mills that I did- not visit the Smithton mill when I was told: that the flax was handled to and f-rom the mill at Smithton by means of a team of bullocks and a wagon. That is the archaic means of transport adopted at one’ of the mills that has been passed as a permanent establishment. If the lay-out of the mills were right in the first place, there would- be no need for lorries, horse-wagons, or bullock- drays to handle the flax into, the mills- and to the different sheds.-
I should like a committee appointed to investigate the various phases of processing fibre from flax. At present, it is being processed in Tasmania, and in most 6f the-mainland mills by a system. of dew-retting. I understand that in England and. Ireland and elsewhere, pitretting ‘ is used extensively. Pits have recently been constructed at the Hagley mill for the purpose of pit-retting flax. If. this method be necessary - and’ I claim that it would be of great advantage - it is time steps were taken to install” pits at the other permanent mills while suitable labour is available for that class of work. I contend that pit-retting offers a tremendous saving as compared with dewretting, and would not be so risky. If we had experienced normal weather conditions in Tasmania this year, instead of a phenomenally dry season, it is quite on the cards that we should have lost one half of the flax that was lying out to be dew-retted. If we get a break in the weather during the next few weeks, we shall lose practically the whole of the flax which is bring dew-retted.
– That is not so.
– I am speaking only from investigations that I have made, and I have found thatwhen the flax has been continuously wet, the fibre rots after it is dried.
– Is the honorable senator speaking of stacks, or of dewretting in the paddocks?
– I am referring to the dew-retting of flax that has been continuously wet. I have known wet weather to continue for 30 days without a break. In view of the phenomenal spell of dry weather, we have been very fortunate in Tasmania this season, but we cannot expect the dry conditions to continue throughout the year. If there is any other way of processing fibre from flax without the danger of losing one-half of the crop, that is what we want to find out.
– Where is the flax from the pits dried.
– In a properly equipped drying shed. I desire to assist the Government to make this industry a success. My object in bringing the matter forward is toendeavour to make this a. post-war industry, and I ask for the co-operation of honorable senators opposite, as well as the assistance that I know I shall have from my colleagues on the Opposition side of the chamber. I do not suggest that dew-retting could be entirely dispensed with, but, if we could build sufficient pits, the whole of the flax could be dealt with by the pit-retting process. Which is the better method is a matter on which there is disagreement. Some claim that dew-retting is the superior process, and others say that pitretting gives equally good results.
– It depends largely on the climate.
– Yes. If the weather is too fine, or too wet, the dewretting process is interfered with, and therefore if pit-retting will produce a fibre equal to that obtained from dewretting, it would be wise to install pits for the purpose. Moreover, other means of treating the flax may be found if an inquiry were instituted. I have been informed that two decorticators have been ordered by theFlax Production Committee. Should the machines be successful, there will be no need for the retting process. I understand also that there is in Australia a gentleman who has carried out fairly extensive experiments in connexion with the decorticating of flax, but that no facilities have been afforded to him to continue his investigations. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that information, but I believe that it is authentic.
– Does the honorable gentleman refer to a gentleman at Portarlington?
– At this stage I do not propose to mention any individual by name. I merely say that a certain gentleman has carried out fairly extensive experiments by which fibre has been obtained from flax without either dewretting or pit-retting. I understand that his experiments proved that after the flax had passed through the decorticator there was much less bulk to handle than when other processes were employed and also that by dew-retting the fibre, for a certain period after leaving the machine, its quality was improved. Unfortunately, that gentleman has not been given charge of one of the machines ordered by the Flax Production Committee. If, as is stated, the process of decorticating flax by means of these machines is still in the experimentalstage, I cannot understand why four of them were ordered. I am amazed that this man, who has devoted so much of his time to experimenting with flax, should not have been given charge of one of the machines. Indeed until I told him that four machines had been manufactured he had no knowledge that they had been ordered. I desire the appointment of a committee in order that various phases of the processing of flax fibre and also the suitability of certain localities for the erection of mills may be investigated.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that he knows more about this subject than do the people who are already associated with the flax industry ?
– I certainly know more about the erection of mills for the processing of fibre from flax than does the engineer who designed the mill to which I have referred. However, I shall not criticize him now, because I want to see this industry established in Australia. The appointment of a committee would enable the layout of mills to be investigated, and would provide an opportunity to obtain valuable information from persona interested in the growing and processing of flax. At the conclusion of its investigations, the committee would be in a position to furnish a report which should be of great value to the Government, members of this Parliament, the Flax Production Committee, and all others associated with the flax industry. I do not know whether the other committees which are to he set up will deal with the flax industry; hut I urge that this investigation should begin at the earliest possible moment, particularly as Australia has been asked: to double ‘its production, of flax, -and, also because persons whom the Government regards as authorities on the processing of flax have furnished information which. I know to be incorrect. One of. these supposed authorities gave the cost of producing flax in Tasmania as £4 10s. an acre. That statement, is ridiculous. However, it would appear that it was- regarded as correct ‘by the Government, seeing that the guaranteed price for flax was fixed at £4 10s. an acre. I hope (hai the Government will, agree to the appointment of a commitee to investigate this industry, which should prove of great value to Australia.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLEAY) adjourned.
– T move -
In view of the plight ‘of farmers throughout Australia generally, I desire the appointment of a joint select committee to investigate the increased, cost of superphosphate. I am aware that in past years the manufacture of this commodity has been investigated. In 1929, the Tariff Board conducted an inquiry into the price and distribution of superphosphate, and in 1932 a further inquiry was undertaken by Mr. John Gunn. . However, I am concerned not so much with what took place in the past as with what is. happening to-day. Soon- after Professor Copland was appointed Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, his attention was directed to the price of superphosphate. Professor Copland has done a good job in relation to some commodities, but I do not agree with all of his decisions. For instance, he has permitted the price of tea to be increased, notwithstanding that the companies which distribute that commodity arc paying dividends as high as 15 per cent. In dealing with superphosphate I am concerned with happenings before Professor Copland was appointed to his present position. In Western Australia, the prices of commodities before the commencement -of the war are taken into’ consideration when’ fixing prices, and it would appear that Professor Copland also should be -empowered to take prewar prices into consideration.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the Prices Commissioner should limit his investigations to any particular period!
– The Prices Commissioner was appointed after the .war broke out, and, as far as I have been able to gather, he cannot investigate, conditions and prices prior to. the 31st August 1939. . That- is a very important point. A motion was moved in the Legislative Assembly . in Western, Australia, on the 23rd October last, asking for the appointment of a select committee to investigate the price of superphosphate because, soon after the Prices Commissioner had fixed the price, a rise of 10.3. a ton was approved. Shortly after that the Commissioner approved of a further increase of 20s. a ton; but later he. changed his mind - on what grounds I am unable to say - and reduced the price by 4s. a ton, making the total increase since the outbreak of war 26s. a ton.
– Is not the price of superphosphate determined by the cost of phosphatic rock imported into this country from Nauru?
– I shall’ deal with that.
– Does the honorable senator think that he knows more about the subject than does Professor Copland?
– I have made no sur-h claim. I simply say that neither the people nor the Government of Western Australia are satisfied that the price is a fair and just one.
– Does the honorable senator say that the decision of the Prices Commissioner was wrong?
– My sole purpose in asking for the appointment of a select committee is to ensure that the whole matter be investigated. Although the Leader of the Senate may he able to enlighten us as to the justification for these increases he cannot get away from the fact that since the war broke out the price of superphosphate has been increased by 26s. a ton.
– By how much have freight rates increased?
– As far as I know, by 40 per cent.
– And Avar risk marine insurance?
– If the honorable senator will have patience I shall tell him all I know about this commodity. The bulk of the phosphatic rock imported into Australia comes from Nauru, an island about 2,000 miles from the Queensland coast. It will therefore be difficult to explain the increases that have taken place by claiming that they can be attributed largely to the increase of freight rates. Neither can it be contended that war risk marine insurance enters largely into the cost of superphosphate. The waters between Nauru and Australia arc not regarded as highly dangerous to shipping. The whole question of the manufacture and sale of superphosphate was discussed at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council last year, and on the motion of a South Australian Minister of the Crown, who is a supporter of the party to which the Leader of the Senate belongs, the council carried the following resolution : -
That the Commonwealth .Government make every endeavour to reduce the cost of Mme.phosphate to pre-war levels and if these efforts prove inadequate, that the price he pegged at tlie figure existing on the 31st December, 1930, as is the case in New Zealand.
According to Western Australian Ilansard, No. 19, of the 4th December, 1940, page 2529, the Western Australian representative, in seconding that motion, said : -
I have no doubt that the Commonwealth Government, through its officers, has already made some investigation of the position. Substantial reductions will have to be effected, however, if primary production is to continue as it should do in these da’ s. If. as w:is stated a while ago when we were dealing with wine, the Commonwealth Government cannot, under existing machinery, instruct the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner to investigate prices ruling prior to the. 31st August. 10SB, it should make provision to do so. I am anxious to ascertain whether the ruling prices of superphosphate at the 31st August were fair or unfair. It may be that profiteering was going on then. If that is so. it would be illogical and unjust to fall ben vii v on the wartime profiteer but to allow the peace-time profiteer to continue his profiteering in wartime. Under thu Western Austin’ ian legislation the State Prices Commissioner may investigate whether prices were fair or unfair prior to the 31st August . . .
It may bc that substitutes may bo found for some of thu high-priced imported ingredients pf superphosphates. I hope that we shall be able to produce, in Western Australia, some of the ingredients that are now being imported at a high price and in the near future may become still more expensive. Surely the Commonwealth and State Governments, acting both separately and conjointly, can do something to meet this situation. It will be foolish for us to sit back and accept these increases’ of prices as inevitable.
Immediately following the announcement of the increase of the price of superphosphate in July of last year, the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Willcock, in a communication to the Prime Minister, said :-
I desire to urge that the Commonwealth Government, which has already recognized the necessity for providing’ assistance to farmers in their time of trouble and to various forms of primary industries, particularly thu wheat industry by means of the flour tax, should extend very favorable consideration to this matter. I sincerely trust’ that you will find it possible to take action to counteract to some extent the serious effect upon these industries of this heavy increase in the cost of production.
I understand that the Prime Minister promised an early review. Subsequently he said that he was prepared to investigate the matter thoroughly on the lines requestedby Mr. Willcock. Following more recent protests an investigation was made by the Commonwealth Department of Commerce. This report was forwarded to the Western Australian Government, but in spite of that the Western Australian Parliament carried a motion for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into and report upon all matters relative to the manufacture and sale of superphosphate in Western Australia. I am not in a position to say whether the price of superphosphate is a just or an unjust one; but, like the members of the Western Australian House of Assembly, I say definitely that if the Prices Commissioner has taken as the basis for his computations the price ruling at the , 31st August, 1939, his decision may , not be a just one because the manufacturers may at that time have been indulging in profiteering.Let us consider how the increased price of superphosphate affects the farmers in my own State. The latest decision of the Prices. Commissioner means that an increased annualburden of between £360,000 and £400,000 willbe placed on Western Australian farmers.
– The honorable senator cannot blame the Prices Commissioner for that.
– I am not doing so; he cannot go beyond the terms of his appointment. It cannot be denied, however, that the high price of superphosphate will retard production and react detrimentally, notonly to the primary producer but also to the country as a whole.
– The primary producers are threatened with a further increase of £2 a ton.
SenatorFRASER.- I shall deal with that later. On an average, the farmers of Western Australia use 300,000 tons of superphosphate annually, at a cost of £1,500,000. That figure is rapidly increasing, owing to the greater use of superphosphate for top-dressing. Reporting on the 27th September, 1932, on the superphosphate industry, the Director of
Development, Mr. J. Gunn, and his colleague Mr. Jas. A. Stevenson, Acting Chief Investigating Officer, stated -
It is of interest to record that in 1913-14 when the price of rock was approximately £2 7s.6d. per ton, of sulphur £418s.6d. per ton, and ofbags6s. 7d.per dozen, the list price of 17 per cent. water soluble superphosphate was £4 7s.6d. per ton. Just after the war, the price of raw materials increased considerably, and the price of 17 per cent. superphosphate went up to £6 3s. per ton. In 1931-32 with rock costing an average of £25s.10d. per ton, c.i.f., and sulphur averaging £7 10s. per ton,landedin store, Melbourne, and withbags at an average price of9s. per dozen, the list price of 22per cent. superphosphate (20.5 per cent. water soluble) is £415s. per ton for terms, and £4 10s. per ton for cash. The price of £4 10s. for 20.5 per cent. water soluble is equivalent to £3 14s.8d. per ton of 17 per cent. water soluble. In 1913-1914 there was no difference between terms and cash prices.
The figures indicate that although there has been an increase in the cost of raw materials (excepting phosphate rock) since 1913-14, the price of superphosphate to the farmer has decreased by 14.70 per cent.
I emphasize that the resolution of the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into this industry was adopted with full knowledge on the part of that chamber of the representations made by the State Government, and the resolution of protest adopted by the Australian Agricultural Council as well as the representations madeby the Premier of Western Australia and the investigations already made by the Commonwealth Government into the industry. All of those phases of the matter were carefully examined. There can be no doubt that the growers are not satisfied with the present position. They demand a Commonwealth inquiry. Should such an investigation prove the Prices Commissioner tobe in the right, no harm willbe done.
– In order to justify the appointment of a select committee, the honorable senator should prove that the Prices Commissioner has acted wrongly.
SenatorFRASER. - As I have already stated, the Minister for Lands in Western Australia pointed out that the Prices Commissioner is not empowered to inquire into conditions existing prior to the 3lst August, 1939, in order to ascertain the profits then made. The present dissatisfaction of the farmers is aggravated by the fact that a further increase of price is contemplated.- Tn these circumstances it is desirable that the fullest possible information should be furnished regarding existing stocks of phosphate rock in this country. The farmers are entitled to be assured that unfair profits are not being made. They cannot shoulder a further increase of price. To-day many farmers not only in Western Australia but also in other States, are in serious financial difficulty. Many of them are on the verge of bankruptcy; they are simply holders of properties for the banks. An inquiry by a select committee of this Parliament would also disclose whether or not the present scale of shipping freights is fair.
– Has not the honorable senator heard about mines and German raiders?
– Yes; but I have also heard that, despite such risks, to shipping, big profits are still being made by the shipping companies.
– The companies handling superphosphate are cooperative concerns.
– I can best answer that interjection by the following quotation from a speech made by Mr. Boyle, a member of tlie Country party, in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia on the 23rd October, 1940-
Perhaps the members of the select committee could find out. through a railway department witness, whether the increase of 10 per cent, from port to the super works a few miles away has represented a. profit. The Cresc o works Iia ve to pay 4s. fid. per ton to land supplies at Bayswater from Fremantle. I suggest that a trainload of superphosphate from Fremantle to Bayswater at 4s. Od. per ton would certainly be payable.
The MINISTER roil WORKS - Who holds the shares in Cresco?
Mr. BOYLE. ; Cresco is a farmers’ company, and therefore it is socked for 4s. (id. per ton.
Mr. Cross. ; The select committee can investigate that point too.
Mr. BOYLE ; A good case can he made out for an inquiry regarding the whole of the superphosphate business in this State. I was in touch with Mr. Holyoake - T think that is his name - who is the son of the founder of the Pivot Company in Victoria, The concern was established in 1927 as a farmers’ company and worked on the basis that anything over cost, was rebated to the shareholders. A farmer there is entitled to a ton of super phosphate for every share he holds. Evidently they have gone into the matter very closely because I notice that when our superphospte - it had a 23 per cent, content - cost us ?3 12s. (id. per ton, the Victorian farmers were paying ?2 17s. per ton net. That represents a difference of Jos. Gd. per ton, or nearly 30 per cent. For the five years from 1934 to 1939 the company sold superphosphate at under ?3 per ton to its shareholder -farmers in Victoria. To-day the Commonwealth Price Fixing Commissioner has forced the company to increase its price to ?4 IBs. per ton, less 5s. per ton for cash, which is the same as the rate charged in Western Australia.
– Forced ?
– Yes, forced. That is the sort of thing which should be investigated; no one can charge less than the price fixed by the Prices Commissioner.
– Does that apply only in respect of superphosphate?
– I am quoting a statement made by a responsible member of the Country party in Western Australia, who understands this matter thoroughly. In any case that statement has hot yet been denied. However, such thoughts are running through the minds of farmers to-day. They want to.be reassured that the basis upon which the Prices Commissioner fixed the price of superphosphates is fair and just.
– Does the honorable senator say that the Pivot Company was forced by the Prices Commissioner to charge the price fixed by him?
– I am reiterating a statement, made by Mr. Boyle in the Western Australian Parliament, when he moved for the appointment of a select committee to inquire into all matters relative to the manufacture and sale of superphosphate in that State. That statement has not been contradicted. The price of superphosphates was increased, first, by 10s. a ton and later by 20s. a ton. Apparently the Prices Commissioner was not sure of the basis on which he awarded the latter increase, because shortly after it was announced he reduced the price by 4s. per ton. Thus, the price of superphosphate has increased by 26s. a ton over the pre-war price. I again warn the Government that many primary producers in Western Australia will be driven off the land if the price be further increased. Whether the representations
I have placed before the Senate be proved to be right or wrong, the appointment of a select committee to investigate this matter will be justified’ if thereby the primary producers of Australia as a whole can. be assured that the present price is fair.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Debate resumed from, the 12th December, 1940 (vide page 953, Volume 165), on motion by Senator Abbott -
That, humbly relying on Almighty Gods the British Commonwealth of Nations and all upholders of freedom in the world must fight on and accept no peace till they are beyond all question in a- position to demand complete security as an indispensable result of peace and that all nations whether belligerent or not should be called upon to join in establishing one world-armament commonwealth representtative of and equally elected by. each to which they shall under an agreed constitution coin?pletely and irrevocably surrender the sole absolute and exclusive control, ownership, manufacture and possession .of armaments and all means and instruments of war and their sovereign rights in relation thereto, and that such constitution to guarantee security must be permanent and indissoluble. 2. («) That such body shall ‘be given possession of all existing armaments upon trust for the whole as one people, (b) Such body shall, from its inception be entirely and exclusively responsible for the peace and- good -order and also the guaranteeing of. the otherwise un-restricted rights nf free self-government of each of the nations, (c) Such body shall also be exclusively responsible for the enforcement of all or any treaty made between the nations, registration of which with such body shall have been mutually, requested by such nations, (ri) There shall be vested in such body such incidental powers and- authorities that may be agreed upon including an appropriately empowered judiciary for the purpose of effectuating the objects for which it is established.
This Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in exercise of its constitutional rights in that behalf authorizes and directs Mr,. President to present this resolution to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, respectfully requesting that it be conveyed to His Most Gracious Majesty, the King, with the Senate’s most earnest expression of opinion that it should be communicated - !-at the appropriate time - to all the. nations of the- world for the pui-.pu.se of examination and action by them.
– Honorable senators will recall that when I moved this motion at the end of last year, I was given leave to continue my remarks. On the eve of: my term of office as a senator I wish to be quite frank with the Senate. I shall not press this matter to a conclusion at. this stage,, but I wish to .place certain factors on record, because I hope- that whether this motion be or. be not passed - after all that does not matter, so much - I shall perhaps,, with the friendly attention and. assistance of my fellow senators, have been privileged to sow a small seed that, in time may grow into an important plant, of which they themselves, and all the world, will be proud. All I ask in this motion is that this Senate shall make a very strong declaration to the world that all loT:.ers of freedom - democratic countries, and: particularly tks British family of nations - will at the conclusion ‘of this war absolutely refuse to- accept a so-called peace which does, not ensure absolute security against a recurrence, of the dreadful evils caused by war that is devastating the world to-day. That is all I wish, to do., If honorable senators analyse this long motion they will, find that that is all it means. But it does purport to make .a suggestion based on our. own constitution and on the constitution of our American cousins; it does attempt to point .out that the real road to world security lies- in, the application of the Federal principle to any world body that may be set up after the war. It is unthinkable that at the conclusion of hostilities every reasonable man in the world will not bend his might towards the attainment- of a solution of this pressing problem. We thought wehad a solution in the League of. Nations. Some people say that the .League of Nations failed”; I have never said that. I ‘believe that from the very weaknesses, errors, and mistakes of the League of Nations, we should derive the necessary lessons to eliminate the deficiencies that made aggression” possible, and thus bring to successful fruition the good, work that was started, by the League. At least, the League of Nations did establish for us the ideal of world collective security, and I want this Senate to proclaim to the world that we shall’ cling steadfastly to that ideal. This afternoon, I asked a quest-ion which was answered by the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay).
I deliberately asked why the Australian Government was at present contributing: £34,000 annually towards the upkeep of the League of Nations, and although the answer was not so strong as I should, have liked it to have been, I was very pleased to hear the reply. . It contained- the following declaration : -
There is a wide recognition, of the need for maintaining in being some organization for international collaboration .. . .
I believe everyone will agree with that sentiment, but may I call the attention of the Senate to what I think was ‘fi stronger expression by a very great manwhom we all admire for the sterling work he has done in hurling defiance at the Germ<an tyrants. I refer to FieldMarshal Smuts, Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa. The question was also raised in the South African Parliament as to why that Government was paying a contribution towards the upkeep of the League of Nations. The following is a report which contains the declaration of Field-Marshal Smuts: - “Many deep thinkers ure still convinced that the only hope of salvation for the world lies along the League road”, said the Prime Minister, General Smuts, announcing a vote of £25,600” for the League of Nations.
The vote is being criticized in Parliament by Nationalist members. “It is my opinion, I may be Wrongs that it would be stupid if the only instrument binding the world together were left in the lurch by South Africa “, declared General Smuts.
Only the ideal of the League remained. Even the buildings no longer were available, but was not tlie ideal the soul of the whole matter?
In the. circumstances there was a strong obligation- upon South Africa to help maintain this instrument, which may yet provide a way through difficult times. ‘
General Smuts undertook to maintain the subscription to the League this year and perhaps next.
I shall” not go into the. details of’ my motion because I have sent literature concerning it to honora’ble senators. I” trust that they have read the booklet which was prepared, at the time when om- armies were sitting down in supposed safety behind the Maginot line. Since then much water has run under the bridge.
– Dirty water, too.
– Yes. Since then, there ha.ve been several opportunities to bring this motion before honorable sena tors, but I trust I shall not be charged with . laxity or want of enthusiasm in that respect. I remind my colleagues that when those opportunities did present themselves, major international crises were occurring and we could not have devoted our minds completely to the consideration of other matters. I am not in the least bit perturbed about that,, because -as many honorable senators recollect, some time ago a motion was passed in this chamber with the support of the Leader of the Opposition- (Senator Collings) and most other honorable, senators, twenty-one of whom are still members- of this chamber. Twenty-one senators signed the constitution of a body which we carried on in a mild way, and through which we sent material to many parts of the- world. Literaturewas sent to the Foreign Relations Committee of the American Senate and to the corresponding body of the House of Representatives in that country. It was also sent to many members of the British House of Commons, and honorable senators ‘ opposite will be pleased to learn that ‘amongst the recipients there were about 7.0 members of the Labour party. Encouraging expressions have come from many parts of the world, and although no specific motion, may he carried now, I am thankful for the privilege of acting for my country in this Senate ‘by putting forward this ideal. I am not concerned with, whether or not this matter culminates in a specific resolution, because, as I havesaid, we have sown a seed which I think, will grow more and more in the minds of men and women throughout the world as we come to. the closing stages of this unhappy and disastrous struggle.
I should like to cite a few expressions of support for this ideal, because I hope that our efforts will not languish, and that in the future, individual senators will give it their utmost support. Several days ago, through the. courtesy of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), I received .a letter from the secretary of. the Australian Labour party, Mr. MacNamara, enclosing a reprint of a letter which he had written quite off his own. bat to the Melbourne Age, and not, I presume, as the result- of any views I have expressed. It is a valuable effort, and the striking point about it is that the writer was thinking apparently almost on the same lines as I was, although he did not suggest a form of machinery by which the ideal could, be implemented.
Mr. Herbert Morrison some time ago said ;
Tlie Nazis’ new European - order is that of the slave plantation . .- .
I conceive- an -International Air Force. It will- then’ not again he possible for the thug; with bombers, ‘ to -terrorize the Continent, smash homes and cities, crush the innocent bodies of women and children,, and. blast to powder the fruits of man’s toil and the monuments of his greatness. Whatever a peace may bring or take away that at least must go on forever.
The - separate Air Forced- the tommygunof the international .gangster - must ‘ be abolished.
I have here a. rather, interesting note from a ‘well-known- “member .of -the American’ Senate, Senator Elbert Thomas, who has”, figured largely, in the press’ because of his participation .in those debates which are of such’ interest tothe British’ Commonwealth of. Nations. He said; inter aiia-
I have often pointed’ out that in the technique of Fede’ral control there is a solution of many of the world’s” ills,- such a solution; especially, as the great contribution you arc now making.’. - .-“ - ‘’.’:.
Your/views are constructive’. May .they have a .real bearing” when the proper time comes.
All I ask’in the motion I have moved is that it should be forwarded at the appropriate time’ to the proper authorities. I do not suggest that now is necessarily the appropriate time. We have to do everything to win the war, and crush the tyrants ; . the time will then be appropriate. But, ‘ when the time .is appropriate, let us be prepared .to take steps to stop for all time this gangstering. Mr. W. W. Waimark, a. well-known American journalist, who with a. colleague of his recently, toured’ this country inquiring into Australia’s war effort, wrote the following letter to me recently from Des Moines, United States of America : -
I was delighted to learn of your activity in Australia. Here and there, through just a few personal contacts and through bits of news which I saw from time to time in the press, both in Australia and New Zealand. I gathered the impression that there is at least a considerable body of support in those countries for what you and I believe in.
In a letter to mc, Mr. David Adams, of the British Labour party, who is known to many of us, said : -
Yesterday in the House of Commons. London, the Parliamentary Labour party had under discussion the question of peace aims to bc sought after the conclusion of the war. The party are unanimous in requesting the British Government to declare their peace aims without delay, which declaration may have an important and favorable influence upon neutrals and our allies in the strengthening of the opposition to the dictators. This would particularly apply to the nations in Europe which arc now under the heel of Hitler.
I will pass on your booklet to others interested in this great movement.
Through the editor of the K-H NewsLetter Service, I have received the follow^ ing communication- from Commander Stephen King-Hall, M.P., one of the directors of K-H- Services Limited :-
Both the Commander and I have read with great interest your booklet “The Key to World” Security “”. Certainly- now is the moment for. us to begin to think about the kind of world which .we wish to see emerge from the war, and we are trying from time to time, through the” medium of tlie K-H NewsLetter, to impress upon our readers the importance of this question.
In another letter which I received from the K-H News-Letter Service I find these words : -
The. moment when British statesmen can show, in a clear and positive manner, how a British victory can guarantee to Europe, not only liberty, but also economic peace and security, this country will find ranged on ils side new allies all over the world, anxious to make certain that it is the British pattern of post-war society which shall shape the lives of to-morrow’s children.
Some time before he visited America, recently, Sir Robert Garran, who is wellknown in this country as a high constitutional authority, in discussing this motion with me, told me that he thought that,- after the war, it was almost inescapable that there must be a surrendering of limited sovereign rights. That brings us to the idea of a central body, and I am sure that many others are thinking along similar lines. The Hon. C. R. Attlee. addressing a Labour conference in England, said : -
The problem to-day is not merely the defeat of German aggression, but the establishment of conditions which will make aggression impossible. Without the rule of law there will be war in the future as in the past … If aggression is to cease, there must be some force by which the aggressor can be compelled in the last resort tq desist; if there is to be a rule of law, there must be some means of enforcing that ]aM
Mr. Noel Coward, who visited Australia recently, .has written to me as follows : -
With you I feel that wo cannot give too -much serious consideration to- a sane plan for reconstruction and world peace. Although we have not met” in: person I feel .privileged to meet you through your work.
From a former member of .the House of Representatives I have received the following communication : -
I have read carefully and with keen appreciation your IIa.nna.rd speech and booklet’ “ The Key to World Security “, and all congratulations must go out to you as being the first man in the world to make such a move in his National Parliament. No more fortunate time could have arisen for the consideration of such a motion, and in that regard you must press on with it and in no way weaken your endeavour. If I remember aright it was “Billy” Hughes, at the Versailles Conference, who made the point and the only one to ‘do so, that Wilson’s fourteen, points would never work because there was ho police force to make them effective”.
A great -captain of’ industry, the late Mi:. Ii. Ri Lysaght; head-, of the large Australian engineering firm, of John -Lysaght (Australia) Proprietary Limited^ , and a man who was respected by all sections of industry, employers and employees .alike, stated.:-^ ‘ ‘ . ‘ -
I have referred to this letter because I Iia ve heard a whisper that I have submitted a mere pacifist motion, and that this is the wrong time to put it before the world; but I believe with Mr. Lysaght that it can do nothing hut good. Can it do anything but good if Ave should, say to Hitler “ We will have none of your aggression in the future, and. we will not let up. We will not leave any stone unturned, until we have made you and your system impossible in the future world”? When ‘we have devised, a scheme that will be fair to every nation, we shall be led almost irresistibly to the federal avenue of approach -to this problem. The adoption of that method of approach would, guarantee the preservation of the democratic system, in every country, because an.. election of representatives of all nations to a central body would not -be possible without a uniform electoral office and system of voting. Any method of election similar to the faked ballots held under the Hitler regime shortly before the war would be the antithesis of that which is dear to democratic countries.
I have- said many times that an international relations committee of this Sena,te should be appointed, consisting of an. equal number of members from each side of the chamber, the chairman to be a member of .the Government of the day, regardless of the party which happened to be in power. . Such a body could examine international problems, anC when those matters came before the Parliament for- debate, ‘there would be a highly informed and thoughtful approach to them as they arose. The Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane wrote to me as follows : -
May I say at once that I am in complete agreement, not only with your ideals, but also with the outline of your scheme. … I believe, too, that you. are entirely right in claiming that no such federation is possible without some supreme judiciary to settle claim’s and without some armed forces .which shall, ensure the enforcement of the judiciary’s conclusions.
His Grace, Dr. Gilroy, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, made this comment- -
I applaud your, sincere effort .to promote that which all nien of goodwill desire.
The director of 2SM radio station,
Sydney, writing to a friend of. mine who passed the letter on to me, stated -
I have read Senator Abbott’s pamphlet with great inte’rest. I believe it should be in the hands of every thinking man. I should advise the Senator to send some copies to. the Apostolic Delegate for. his own perusal and for forwarding to the Holy Father. I am sure both will be grateful for such a clear statement.
I have received many similar letters, including one from the Right Reverend the Archbishop of Hobart, who, writing from St. Mary’s Cathedral, remarked -
May I offer you my sincere congratulations on your praiseworthy attempt to focus- world attention on your suggestion?
Sir Drummond Shiels, acting on behalf of Sir Howard D’Egville, as secretary of the Empire Parliamentary Association, wrote in these terms -
Your letter onthe 24thMay with enclosure has been received during Sir Howard D’Egville’s absence on a visit to Canada. . . . I am sure he will read your thought-provoking pamphlet with as much interest as I have done.
When this motion first came before the Senate the Christian Science Monitor of the 13th April, 1940, which is reputed to have one of the best international news services in the world, had the following double-column heading to a description of my proposal : - “ Abbott Arms Proposal Held Key to World Peace “. Incidentally I may mention that from that heading I got the idea of the title for my booklet “ The Key to World Security “.
On the eve of my servicein the Senate I have not asked honorable senators to consider some light, foolish or frivolous motion. What the details of the scheme may be is immaterial, so long as the framework provides that we shall never consent to any peace without undoubted security for the future. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said recently, we prefer to die on our feet than to live on our knees. We are prepared to die on our feet in order to insist that, when victory has been won, it shall be such a victory that, together with the great republic across the water, and other freedomloving nations of the world, we may provide machinery - and it could be done by remedying the weaknesses of the League of Nations - so as to guarantee to the world for all time that aggression of this kind shall never occur again. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.18 to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed : -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
.A similar motion hasbeen moved on so many occasions that it has almost become stereotyped procedure. I desire to know the reason for such a motion being moved in connexion with this measure. Does the Government intend to impose the “ guillotine “ whenever it considers such action necessary, or is the measure really urgent? Since I have been a member of this chamber I have never heard reasons given in support of such a motion. I am prepared to consider any reasons given for regarding this measure as urgent, but if the motion is only a matter of form and no good reason is advanced for such haste, I shall not support it. I submit that every bill placed before us should be considered on its merits and ample time afforded for debate. No legislation should be hurried through the chamber unless it is indeed an urgent measure. I do not know what attitude my colleagues on this side of the chamber will adopt in regard to the motion now before the Senate, but unless the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) is able to give good reasons for its introduction I shall challenge it and every similar motion whenever it is submitted without any explanation of its urgency; I desire the honorable gentleman to know that I am not here merely to act as a rubber stamp in order tomeet the convenience of the Government; but if the Government says that legislation shouldbe passed quickly in order to assist the country’s war effort, I am prepared to give favorable consideration to any request for its speedy passage.
– in reply - The motion which I have submitted to the Senate appears on the notice-paper every day. In his recent broadcast speech the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) indicated that it was desirable to split up the work of some departments in order to facilitate the country’s war effort. He referred particularly to the departments under control of my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride). As soonas the Prime Minister had delivered his secondreading speech on thisbill, I arranged for a. copy of it to be distributed among members of the Opposition in this chamber, so that they would know the purpose of the legislation, and be able to deal with the bill as expeditiously as it was dealt with in the House of Representatives. I agree withSenator Cameron that bills shouldnotbe rushed throughwithout good reason,but I believe that, the objects sought to be achieved by this bill are important and urgently necessary. The Opposition in the House of Representatives readily acquiesed in the desire of theGovernment to give this measure a speedy passage, and I appeal to Senator Cameron to assist in placing it on the statu te-book.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first time.
– I move -
Thatthe bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to amend the Ministers of State Act, under which the permissible number of Ministers of State provided for in the Constitution has from time to time been increased. The number of Ministers allowed by the act is eleven. That number was increased to twelve by a regulation made under the National Security Act in October last, but the statutory maximum number of Ministers is eleven. That will explain to honorable senators why the increase authorized by this measure is to be from eleven to nineteen instead of from twelve to nineteen Ministers. The actual number of Ministers now is not twelve, as provided for by the regulation, but sixteen, because there are four Assistant Ministers. The post of Assistant Minister in, the Commonwealth administration was devised about 30 years ago.
It is desirable that every person who sits incabinet should sit there as a Minister of State with specific responsibility for some department of State, and with accountability to Parliament for theway in which he administers that department. Consequently, it is desirable to abolish the post of Assistant Minister and to provide that each man who is a Minister shall be a Minister of State with responsibilities for a department of State. As I have said, we now have sixteen Ministers, four of whom are described as Assistant Ministers. It is proposed to establish special ministerial responsibility for three war activities which seem to he of sufficient importance to warrant it. I take them in no particular order, hut they are, first aircraft production, secondly civil defence, including in particular air raid precautions, and thirdly the problem of the re-organization of civil resources. The lastmentioned is an extremely difficult problem which will involve a great deal ofcontact with various organizations of civil production throughout Australia. Each of those matters is so important as to warrant a special ministerial department.
It is not proposed to provide that, instead of sixteen Ministers of State there should be nineteen, each to be remunerated as a full Minister, because the extra cost would be excessive. The proposal is that there shall be such addition to the ministerial salary pool as will provide for twelve Ministers of State, whowould be remunerated as full Ministers of State are now remunerated, and; instead of four Assistant Ministers, seven other Ministers of State with their own responsibilities, each to be remunerated on the basis on which Assistant Ministers are now remunerated. The total addition to the Cabinet fund would not be very great.
Certain rearrangements of the Cabinet business will be made, and it is hoped that this will make the handling of that business more effective in the future. The Ministers of State Act now provides’ for the appropriation of £18,600 per annum for the payment of Ministers ofState. It is proposed to increase that appropriation to £21,250.
It is not designed by this measure to increase the salary of any existing Minister. The whole purpose is to secure three additional Ministers, who would, under the existing scheme, be called Assistant Ministers,but who, under the new scheme, will be given special responsibilities for those particular departments of State.
SenatorCOLLINGS (QueenslandLeader of the Opposition) [8.11]. - This bill is an exceedingly simple one and all honorable senators On this side of the chamber have known of its contents for some time. It is intimately associated with Australia’s war effort and, therefore,
I believe that it should be given a speedy passage through the Senate.I should not be prepared to adopt that attitude in all circumstances, but this measure follows the lines indicated in the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Menzies) recent broadcast speech, in which he said that it was essential that ministerial responsibility, especially in respect of certain important war departments, should be more evenly distributed. We on this side agree with that statement. At times we have complained -I believe, with justification - that some things which ought to have been done were not being done, and that other things were not being done as expeditiously as the situation demanded. There was talk of red tape, bottle-necks, and so on. As this bill is designed to remove some of those obstacles, and to enable the nation’s war effort to be accelerated, its passage through the Parliament should not be delayed. I approve of the bill as a whole, but I am particularly pleased with one aspect’ of it. It has always seemed to me to be unfair that the pool of ministerial salaries should be! limited toa certain amount, andthat although Ministers are supposed to receive a certain salary, they maynot,infact,receivethatamount. I donotkonwwhatarragementsare madeforthedistributionofthemoney in that pool,andIdonotwanttoknow, butIsubmitthatifaMinisterisquali- fiedtodohisjob,andisdoingitsatis- factorily,heisentitledtothefullsalary forthatjob.Ishouldresentanarbitrary cutofmyremuneration,andIresentany interferencewithacontractenteredinto forthepaymentofanyspecifiedsumto aMinisterofState.Ifitisnecessaryto appointAssistantMinisters-andit wouldappearthattheirappointmentis necessary-theirsalariesshouldbeaddi- tionaltotheamountrequiredtopaythe salariesofMinistersofStateinaccor- dancewiththecontractsenteredinto withthem.Theadditionalamountof £2,650tobeprovidedunderthisbillis notworthtalkingabout,ifweare now togetabetterservice.Wecan agree to that without any qualms of conscience. The LeaderoftheSenatein hissecondreadingspeechtolduswhat the Prime Minister saidintheHouseof Representatives.I express my thanks to the honorable senator for having supplied members -of the Opposition with a copy of the Prime Minister’s second-reading speech as soon as it was available. It is all to the good that we are to have these three war effort departments so shared out that their problems will get more complete and more rapid attention. When the new Ministers are appointed, we should be able to get from the talking stage to theaction stage with as little delay as possible.Nobody would say that it is not a good thing that aircraft production should be investigated and speeded up. If this bill will have that effect I am sure that the Opposition will be satisfied the right thing is being done. Our civil defences, particularly air raid precautions, are badly in need of attention. A very big -job is being done in Queensland in that connexion under the guidance of the State Government. A good deal of the speeding up of air raid precaution work in New South Wales is accounted for by the recent change of Government in that State. The fact remains, however, that there is a great need for the tightening upforour civil defences with special emphasis on preparation for trial blackouts, and the provision of air raid shelters. If this bill effects an improvement in that direction, we shall be more than justified in passing it. The same remarks applytothedevelopmentofourcivil resources and civil production. I say now, however-thoughnotinanyway asathreat-thatifafterthebillis passedthereisnoappreciablechangein thequalityoftheworkputintothese departmentsbytheGovernment,anda decidedimprovementinthespeedwith whichitisaccomplished,afullmeasure ofcriticismwillcomefrom the Opposition benches.Itrustthatthebillwill be passed without undue delay and that the Government, will complete its part of the job and let us see what it can do.
– I agreeintotothat the Government should be assisted in every way possible to organize a total war effort. A total war-time effort means at the very least that all who are capable should bear an equal share of the burden, and that nonessentialindustries should not be allowed to operate to the detriment of the war effort. At ajoint meeting of senators and members of the. House of Representatives, I asked what was intended to be done in that direction, and I was sup- . plied with an answer which did not convey any idea of the intentions of the Government-. We are asked to say now, in effect, that we accept in good faith the promise of the Government that it will do all that we think it should do. Although we have had 22 months of war, many of the things that should have been done have remained undone. For example, it has been said that there is a scarcity of labour necessary for building operations required so urgently for defence purposes. At the same time, however,, we find, that in almost ever.y capital city and country town of any importance in Australia palatial buildings of all kinds are being erected, absorbing the labour power and materials that should he used for defence purposes. That has gone on. ever since the war started, and it is going on today. .We are asked in this bill to ‘agree to the appointment of additional Ministers. If it could be shown that’ the work that should be done is being done, and if we were given the assurance that further efforts would be, made in the. directions that are so necessary, we could acquiesce- in the passage of this bill ; hut that is not the position. In every capital city and country town in ‘Australia we- find services being duplicated and multiplied in every direction. If appropriate action were taken an enormous amount of . labour-power and, -millions of pounds- worth of materials could heutilized to far better advantage. In company with fellow senators and members of another place’, I visited the Small Arms Factory at Footscray and found, to my amazement, that many machines in the key machine shop were idle. I asked the manager, Mr. Statton, what was the reason for that, and he said that private enterprise was taking-, his key men. In other words, the Munition Department is being sabotaged by private enterprise, and the Government is doing, nothing to help it. That is the only construction that I could place upon his words. I asked him if I wore at liberty to mention his name in this matter, and he consented. That ia why I mention it now. I sought’ to ascertain the reason for this. The only answer that suggests itself to my mind is that private enterprise has so much capital invested in non-essential .and luxury industries that it is not prepared to make the sacrifice that is so necessary unless it can he actually .forced to do go. That is the position that has existed in England. If honorable senators read the reports that come from other sources, they will .find that for all practical purposes the British Government and private enterprise supporting the Government have been virtually bombed into acquiescence’ or to improving on their war effort.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B; Hayes): - The honorable senator is departing from the- principle of” the bill.
– The object of the bill is- said to expedite, our war-time effort, and for. that purpose it. provides for the appointment of additional Ministers. I am endeavouring to show that, with all the. power at- their disposal, Ministers have, not, up to date, done what they should have done. It has been said that, we have made a good joh of our war-time effort. I agree that it is. good up to a point; but it is not’ as good- as it should be. Thousands and thousands of men and millions of pounds worth of: material could be used to far better advantage than they are being used to-day. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has’ said that Ministers should be paid their full salaries. I agree ; but what is that salary ? Is it in excess of their requirements? If it is, I suggest that it should not be. paid. If it is just sufficient for their requirements, then’ it should be. paid, However, at this time, when people are: going’ from door to door asking men. and women to make contributions to all sorts of funds, such as comforts funds, it is incumbent on members of Parliament to be prepared to make some sacrifice.. I do not think it is quite a legitimate proposal in time of war that, if additional Ministers are appointed, they should be paid in excess of their actual needs. I do not know what Ministers actually receive, but I assume their remuneration is much in excess of what they actually need. In these circumstances, I. do not believe that the people should be called upon to provide the additional amount required to meet the Government’s proposal in this bill.
A t least in a time of war Ministers should bear in mind that our men at the front are receiving only 5s- a day, and that’ the purchasing- power of that sum is con- siderably less to-day than it was during the last war, and during the South African War of 1901-1002. They should also bear in mind “that the purchasing power of those who are engaged in the manufacture- of munitions’ is considerably less than, it was before the outbreak of the war. When ‘the people are being asked to make sacrifices Ministers should be prepared to set a, good example. ‘ We cannot- justify paying’ the same ‘ salarie’s to Ministers in a time of war as in prewar days. . ‘We ‘ should be prepared to carry on with ‘-the very least’- we require for our needs.
– Would the honorable senator apply that observation to every one ?
– The honorable senator will remember that when we were discussing the last budget proposals I “ urged that no man, or woman, receiving less than £500 a year should be taxed until all persons in the community in receipt of more than that sum were taxed to the degree by which their income exceeded that figure. If that were done, the Government would have so much move purchasing power at its disposal, and could use that money to far better advantage than it is- being used at present. I do not advocate that people should at all times be obliged to live according to their bare needs; but in a time of war, not only members of Parliament but also all persons receiving considerably in excess of £1,000 a year should be prepared to accept the very least on which they can live. Until that is done we cannot claim that we have’ equity -of sacrifice, or that we are organizing a total war’.effort. Consequently, a bill of this kind which does not make provision for that sort- of thing should be opposed. Any member of Parliament -‘iri receipt of £1,000 a year should be prepared to serve in. any capacity, either as a Minister, or as a member of a committee, without any additional remuneration- whatever, provided it can- be shown that he is not being put to any additional expense while working in those capacities. I am not suggesting for’ one’ moment that any member of Parliament, or any person outside, should unnecessarily make himself or herself a martyr; but I urge that members of Parliament should, so far as it is humanly practicable, set an example to the nation in this respect. If we propose to continue to pay salaries to Ministers at the same rate as before the war, plus all of the allowances they have hitherto received, and- at- the same time, we tell the people that they are to be reduced to the lowest possible, minimum, we are not ‘ setting a good example. We “know that prices’ are rising, and that every ‘increase of prices reduces the purchasing power of those upon whom the prosperity of the nation principally depends, namely, the workers in the factories, and our soldiers in battle. If we are sincere in preaching equality of sacrifice, and in urging the greatest possible war effort, we should be the first to set an example to the people whom we desire to follow us.
– I approve the measure. On this occasion, however, I cannot refrain from remarking that throughout the history of the Country party, even at a time when that party had six or seven members in this chamber and the Government was entirely dependent upon their assistance to secure the passage of legislation through the Senate, on not one occasion when a new ministry was being formed has a member of the Country party in the Senate been offered a portfolio. As I am on the eve of relinquishing my seat in this chamber, honorable senators will admit that 1 have no axe to grind in this matter. I direct these few remarks to the Government as a healthy reminder which, if it “cannot be acted upon at this juncture, will,. I hope, be borne in mind in the future. This is a matter to which, in all fairness to members of the Country party, the attention of the Government should be drawn.
Question resolved in. the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its .remaining stages without amendment or debate. -
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 11 a.m.
Questions - Public Trustee at Dakwin : - PETROL Rationing - Superphosphate - Film “ Defence of Tobruk’” - Price of Tea - Compulsory . Military Service - Naval Recruits.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
J !i»t the Senate do now adjourn..
– I take this opportunity to correct myself in respect of a question which I asked, will tout notice, this afternoon. The question was -
I find that the figure of £750 on which I based my question is wrong. In the first proof of Ilansard containing the statement made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles) in the House of Representatives, the figure of £750 appeared. After I asked this question to-day my attention was called to the corrected copy of Ilansard in which I find that the figure is £75, and not £750. In view of this fact I can only say that my question was wrongly founded. I have no more interest in the matter except to make this explanation.
– I shall advise the honorable member for Henty of the honorable senator’s explanation.
– The second matter with which I wish to deal concerns the subject of censorship. Occasionally, honorable senators on this side are very disturbed at the operation of the military censorship. To-day, however, I am a little disturbed concerning the censorship of certain questions which I asked in this chamber. Perhaps, a satisfactory explanation will be forthcoming; I hope so. I am entirely dissatisfied with what was done to two questions which I placed on the notice-paper on the. 28th May last, and which were answered only to-day. Following are the questions that I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs: -
I submit that there was nothing improper, or in contravention of any standing order ‘ or regulation, in the language used in those two questions, but they appeared on the notice-paper in the following form : -
I do not know what is meant by “ a later Parliament”. I wanted to make it clear that the shortage is due to the action of anti-Labour governments, and for that reason I specified the governments. The tobacco industry was practically ruined until the position w-as remedied.
– I assure the honorable senator now that no government censorship has been responsible for any alteration of his questions.
– The fact remains that they were altered. If I put in a question which is improperly worded, . it should be sent back to me for concurrence in any alterations that are made before it is placed on the notice-paper.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - I have not seen the questions to which the honorable senator refers, but I shall look into the matter and give him an explanation later.
– In those circumstances that is all I need say oh the subject. I was astounded to see that alterations had been made.
– I direct the attention of the Government to the action taken recently by the Public Trustee in Darwin. A man named Webb, who resided at Perth, a carpenter by trade, went ito Darwin, where he was killed on Saturday, 21st September last. Although eight months- have elapsed since his death, his estate has not yet been, finalized by the authorities. On the 4th February of this year, his widow received a letter stating that Ids tools had. been sold for £9 and *hat his clothes were in the hands of *he Public Trustee. Honorable senators will agree that no qualified carpenter would travel anywhere without a good set of tools. Certainly a carpenter would not contemplate buying tools in Darwin and paying unusally high prices- for them even if they were available there. The late Mr. Webb’s widow and his father lave informed me that he had a full kit of tools, including two big planes valued at 37s. 6d. each, several smaller planes, four saws,- and a tool case valued at 25s. The tools were sold by the Public Trustee at Darwin without the permission of the man’s widow, who was his next of kin. That is a very wrong practice. The Public Trustee had no right to sell the tools without first obtaining authority. I contend that the powers of the Public Trustee in’ this respect should be cur- * Sailed. The secretary of the union to which the deceased belonged in Western Australia wrote to his widow saying that the tools were supposed to . be sent from Darwin to Perth. I understand that a carpenter offered Mrs. “Webb £25 for the kit. A statement received from the office of the Public Trustee in Darwin relating to the estate of the late Mr. Webb said that on the 12th October the following goods had %een sold by auction at the prices stated: -
The undermentioned amounts were collected :-
Proceeds from the sale of tools, * &c,* .. -.. .. 7 11 10
The statement added that the estate was now ready for distribution and would be completed next month. I told the ‘ lady not to accept the cheque because the procedure adopted was most unfair. Anybody knows that a carpenter’s kit of tools is worth £25 or £30, yet this kit was sold for only £9. The excuse given was that all the tools were not there. Who is to know that the tools were not there? The man was killed and his tools should have been sent back to hi3 relatives without any delay. Public trustees should not have power to sell the belongings of deceased persons without the authority of their next of. kin.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Government two matters, one of which relates to petrol rationing. There is a large number of settlers in Western Australia, and no doubt in other States, who are on small holdings situated from 5 to 25 miles from a railway. Some of them have no horses, and they depend for their transport on small utility trucks or old cars. I appeal to the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) to see that, in implementing petrol rationing, every consideration is given to such people. A friend of mine who has a small property carrying 200 or 300 sheep has been left to manage the holding by himself, because his sons have gone . to the wai*. His only means of transport is an old car which he .uses in travelling over his property and to obtain his supplies from the railway siding several miles distant. There are many such cases, and while I would certainly not argue in this chamber in favour of special consideration being given to people in the cities who can easily travel by tram, rail or bus, I contend that the man on the land who depends for his living on managing his holding efficiently should be given sympathetic treatment. Even if the city people have no petrol at all for pleasure the small farmer with an old car or utility truck should receive sufficient to enable him to run his property efficiently. Many of these people cannot afford to install producergas units while, in some cases, the vehicles are of too low a horse-power to permit the use of such units. When I was in Western Australia recently several such cases were “brought to my notice by members of the Western Australian Parliament. 1 hope that whatever policy the Government may pursue in regard to restricting the use of petrol, greater consideration will be given to farmers owning small .properties.
– We want a Western Australian on the Liquid Fuel Control Board.
– We do. arid Western Australian members have urged this repeatedly. I am sure that Senator Clothier will support me in this matter as he has always clone on any question concerning the primary producers of Western Australia.
I should like to deal also with the price of superphosphate. In doing so I shall not, refer to the motion that my colleague from Western Australia so ably and properly introduced into this chamber to-day, because I should be out of order in so doing. As honorable senators are aware, since the outbreak of war there has been an increase of 2Gs. a ton in the price of superphosphate. Co-operative companies iu Western Australia have issued circulars advising wheat-growers and others to .buy superphosphate at once and lay in a reserve supply for next year, because the price will increase considerably, possibly by £2 a ton. - That is all very well for those comparatively few settlers who have the necessary financial resources to place their orders, now, .but the great majority of our settlers are living from hand to mouth. They are oppressed by everincreasing costs of production and they had great difficulty in paying for the small quantity of superphosphate that they were able to buy this year at the increased price. They are not able to order next year’s supply now, and I should like to know what the Government intends to do about the matter. Does it intend to. -carry the increased price of superphosphate, or does it intend to ask these people, who cannot alford to pay for next year’s supply- now, to submit tamely to paying an extra £2 a ton? That may be all right for the people on some of the richer lands in the eastern States, but m udi of the settlement in Western Australia is on comparatively poor land, which without superphosphate is unproductive. It is the duty of the Commonweal.rh Government to do justice to these people. As I mentioned in a question this afternoon, a lead has been given in New Zealand, where the Labour Government has carried the whole of the increased price of superphosphate since the outbreak of war. In’ addition, I understand, that superphosphate and other artificial manures are carried free on the government-owned railways, reliance being placed on increased production to make the railways pay. I am not asking the Commonwealth Government to do that, but surely an administration of which the Country party is an integral part - a party which exists for the pur- , pose of protecting the interests of primary producers - should not be less solicitous of the interests of men and women on the land throughout Australia than is the Government of New Zealand. I trust a. quick and favorable decision will be given in this serious matter. As the Government of New Zealand has carried the increased .cost of superphosphate since the outbreak of war, surely the Commonwealth Government should not do less for the primary producers of Australia. It is the clear duty of the Federal Country party to insist on this being done.
.- All honorable senators will agree that one of the best means of propaganda tq-day is the proper use of tlie cinema or talking picture. I saw an excellent picture that was recently released by the Department of Information called “ The Defence of
Tobruk”. The photography was excellent, and the commentary all that could 8>e desired. If this picture is distributed through the ordinary channels, a long time will elapse before it will be seen throughout Australia, and I suggest that a large number of copies of the film should be made to enable the various picture theatres to exhibit it within the next fortnight. The best time to appeal to the ‘ public for support is when public interest is at its height, and I suggest that the defence of Tobruk is a matter now occupying a prominent place in the thoughts of the great majority of 4he people. The picture shows the defences of Tobruk as built by the Italians -and also its defence by the Australians, lit gives a good idea of the country in which our men .are fighting, and of what they have to defend. It also furnishes an excellent representation of the conditions Hinder which they live. Photographs of army ‘bakeries show how the troops are fed. There is an excellent photograph of Tobruk Harbour. A picture of the arrival of mails indicates how great is the appreciation of the men of the letters received from home, and this is all good propaganda. In my opinion, the best feature of the film is that which shows an air raid on shipping on the harbour. The raid was successful, the bombs falling around a ship and sinking it. The bring- ing down of an enemy aircraft is also depicted. The Minister for Information ((Senator Foll) might give consideration to. the production of a large number of these films and their distribution throughout Australia, so that they could he exhibited within the next fortnight. .
– I protest against the method by which the price of tea is fixed. According to any reading of recent press reports, the price of this commodity has been increased, by Sd.. per lb. since the declaration of Avar. The reason given is that increased charges are made for tea over.seas and increased freight charges are imposed. I accept that explanation, but I protest against the whole of the in- creased charges being passed on to the consumers, because rents, rates of interest and profits have not been reduced. It may he said that the Prices Commissioner has mot power to reduce rents, rates of interest and profits, hut this is a matter to which the Government should give consideration. The larger the number of men who leave Australia for service overseas, the smaller is the quantity of tea consumed, and where it can be shown to the satisfaction of the Prices Commissioner that a trader cannot carry on at the pre-war rate of profit, the price of tea is increased. If there is to he equality of sacrifice, and if landlords and wholesalers and retailei’3 are to bear their fair share of the war-time burden, the exorbitant rents charged for shops used- for the purpose of retailing tea and other commodities should be reduced, the interest rates” charged by banks should be reduced, and, in fact, all charges recovered through the price of tea should be reduced. The. Prices Commissioner, however, is maintaining the status quo for the landlord, the financier, and the wholesaler and- retailer of tea, and the whole of the hurden is being passed oh to the consumer. If the Government considers that the workers should give up the right to strike it must do something in respect of the right to profiteer. We cannot allow progressive profiteering, and at the same time maintain industrial peace. To the extent that these charges are passed on, and the purchasing power of the workers is reduced both directly and indirectly, the Government is primarily responsible for any industrial strikes and disputes that may occur. In a time of war, increases of prices cannot be justified.
– Is that true of wages also?
– I shall deal with wages in a moment or two.’ I am assuming that it is true that the increases of the price of tea are passed on, but the Government is placing the whole of. the burden on the consumers, and particularly the consumers who cannot pass on increased costs. I point out to Senator Spicer that any increase of wages i3 nullified almost simultaneously by increases of commodity prices. We are told that increased prices must be charged when wages are increased, but, even if the basic wage’ were increased to £10 a week to-morrow, the increase would at once be met, under existing conditions, by increased prices, and the wage-worker would not be able to purchase any more loaves of bread, pounds of meat or fruit, or suits of clothes or housing than before. In terms of commodities and in terms of gold the basic wage is no higher to-day than it was when it was originally fixed at £2 2s. a week. That sum would purchase at that time the same quantity of food and clothing as could be bought for £49s., the basic wage of to-day.
– The workers did not have wireless sets then as they do now.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that they should not have wireless sets?
– Not at all.
– The cost of production in terms of labour-time, and in terms of gold is a diminishing factor, and it diminishes at a far greater rate thanthat at which the workers receive increased advantages in the shape of wireless sets which many have to purchase on the time payment system.
The position with regard to tea is similar to that regarding potatoes and other commodities where the growers are able to obtain prices sufficient to compensate them for the labour involved in their production. I suggest that the Prices Commissioner should take that matter into consideration. I do not suggest for a moment that he has the power to do wha should be done, but the Government should do what the New Zealand Government, is doing. It pays to the growers the maximum price that would enable them to live decently and pay their way, while at the same time they sold their products at the minimum price. Of course, there would be a balance to be made up.
– Where would that come from ?
– From the Consolidated Revenue. A man receiving £1,000 a year would contribute more to the Consolidated Revenue than a man on the basic wage. He should, in dutybound, assist the wage-earner and the potato-grower to carry on. I had the temerity to say that the whole process of price fixing was a fraud and a farce and I repeat that, because it will remain so until the Government deals more equitably with the matter. The industrial peace that we wish to maintain and the relationship which is necessary for the organization of a total war effort can be established only by the Government giving sympathetic consideration to this problem. If the Government says that extra charges should be passed on to the workers, thus reducing their purchasing power, we shall not do what should be done in the direction of organizing the war-time effort.
– What does the honorable senator suggest as an alternative?
– I repeat that, when the price of tea or any other commodity is fixed, rather than that the price should be increased to the detriment of the consumer, and particularly the wageworker whose wage is fixed and cannot be increased, the Government should direct its attention to the manner in which charges are inflated by exorbitant capital charges such as rents, rates of interest, and profits. All these charges should be reduced.
– Rent has been fixed, and so has interest.
– No; rents were not fixed . at the London Stores in, Melbourne.
– Wages are fixed according to the cost of Living.
– That may be; but should we succeed in convincing a judge of the Arbitration Court that the Statistician’s figures reveal an increase of living costs, with the result that wages are increased, that increase is immediately offset by additional charges for rent and other things.
– That is not so; rents are fixed.’
– The Government has notmade known to the people their rights under regulation 62, with the result that very few of them know what the true position is. When I directed the attention of certain tenants in the London Stores building, Melbourne, to the position it made a great deal of difference. Rents are being increased. It may be that a man pays £1 a week for a house, but should he sub-let certain rooms, thereby allowing two families to occupy the house, he may receive 30s. a week for it. The Government has never attempted to reduce pre-war scents in order to offset the reduced purchasing power of the people. According to the press, certain tea merchants have 2>een able to declare a dividend of 15 per -cent.
– To what newspaper does the honora.ble senator refer?
– One of them was the Melbourne Herald. By means of increases of commodity prices the purchasing power ‘-of wages is insidiously and ingeniously reduced. Such actions do snore to create industrial unrest than anything which an agitator may do. 1 direct attention to this matter in order that the Government will not be able #o plead ignorance of it. Senator. Spicer may think that this is a laughing matter, Suit I trust that other honorable senators on the Government benches will take a more serious view. Before sanctioning any increase of the price of tea,- and especially of commodities which are produced in Australia, .the Government should confer, with the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner in order to reduce, if possible, rents, rates of interest, profits and overhead charges generally. I do not suggest that employers should be asked to bear an undue burden, or to sacrifice their capital; but I do ask that. they shall hear “their fair share of the burden, and not leave it all on the shoulders of employees an factories rand the men who are fighting (the battles of the nation.
Senator FRASER (“Western Australia) (9.20 ] . - I wish to clear up some misunderstanding which has arisen out of a statement which I made in . this chamber on the 2nd April when I directed attention to certain matters affecting universal trainees under the Defence Act. Men called up under the compulsory provisions of the Defence Act to undergo a preliminary medical examination frequently lose a day’s pay, or a portion of a day’s pay, without receiving any compensation. In some instances these men have to travel into country centres for examination and lose time from their work. Workers in the timber industry and others in outback places should not be penalized in that way. I ask the Minister to see that these men are compensated for the losses incurred by them in complying with the Act.
Some time ago, I drew attention to the treatment of young men who applied to join the Royal Australian Navy, but were rejected because at some earlier period in their lives they had committed some minor misdemeanour. These young men were not even medically examined. The reason given to the applicants for. their rejection is that in- certain respects they do not comply with necessary qualifications. I got in touch with the Naval Depot at Fremantle, and asked the reason for the rejection of certain young men, but all that I could get from them was that the applicants had not been up to the required standard. Obviously, the standard referred to was neither physical nor mental, because the young men in question had not been subjected -to either a physical or an educational test. The ‘ applicants were told that, although unsuitable for the Navy, they could apply to join some other branch of the service. Such treatment of lads is wrong, and the Government should not permit it.
– Have these young men been rejected because of some previous misdemeanour?
– The naval authorities will not state the reasons for rejection. In these instances which came to any notice last month, the naval authorities merely said that the applications had not been approved.
– Had those boys been guilty of some misdemeanour?
– Yes. Recently, a magistrate in one of our Children’s Courts refused to impose a fine on a lad who had been found guilty of stealing apples because the recording of a conviction might prevent the lad from joining the Navy.
– If that action is being taken because of some early trivial offence, I can only say that it is silly.
– I shall supply the Minister with details of these cases if he so desires, and I hope that this policy will be altered.
.- I have already had an investigation made of the action taken by the Public Trustee at Darwin, to which Senator Clothier referred, but I shall look into it again to see if anything can be done. ‘
I assure Senator Johnston- that the Government recognizes that country motorists suffer many disabilities under petrol rationing which do not apply to dwellers in the cities. The Government intends to set up local committees in country districts to investigate these disabilities’. Their position is entirely different from that of city-dwellers who live close to tram and bus routes. I assure the honorable senator that country people will be given every opportunity to put their claims for extra petrol supplies before the proper authority.
I was pleased to hear Senator Lamp refer in terms of praise to the film released by the Department of Information depicting the defence of Tobruk. I agree with the honorable senator that such films constitute a very valuable part of our information service by keeping the people in touch with the doings, of our gallant troops. If it be possible to arrange for a wide and rapid exhibition of this film, and others depicting the exploits of our men abroad, the department will be only too glad to do so.
Senator Cameron referred to the recent increase of the price of ‘ tea by Id. per lb. I can assure the honorable senator that the Prices Commissioner fully investigated the matter before permitting the increase to be made.
– Has the Prices Commissioner power to reduce overhead charges?
– No; hut he has power to ascertain whether they are legitimate.
– On a pre-war basis ?
– On any basis. The honorable senator must know that the Government has vested the Prices Commissioner with absolute powers to investigate, all charges. If he finds that the distributors of tea, or of any other commodity, are unduly loading their overhead charges, he may take that into consideration when fixing the retail price at which the commodity must be sold. The Prices Commissioner is in no way subjected to Government interference.
– I suggest that instead of being passed on to the consumer, exorbitant overhead charges should be reduced.
– The Prices Commissioner investigates all charges before approving an increase of price. Therefore, additional overhead charges are taken into consideration.
– I do not suggest that there are additional overhead charges, but that the distributors are maintaining the status quo charges which enables them to increase the price of tea.
– It is only fair to point out to the honorable senator that, as the result of the establishment of our price-fixing machinery, it has been possible in Australia to maintain the prices of commodities generally at a lower level than those charged in any other belligerent country.-
– That may he true in respect of commodities produced or manufactured in Australia, but it does ‘ not apply to tea.
– Immediately after the outbreak of the war the Government took steps to protect the public against rising prices by establishing a price-fixing . authority. As the result of the activities of the Prices Commissioner it has been possible in Australia to control .the price of commodities to a greater degree than in other countries, and, as a result the cost of living is lower in Australia than in any other country engaged in the war. I shall bring the honorable, senator’s remarks to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison). If it can be shown that the distributors have < raised the price of tea unduly, I a-m satisfied that the Government will take whatever remedial measures are necessary to ensure that the interests of. the consumers are protected.
Senator Fraser has complained that the Naval authorities have refused to accept lads as naval recruits who, at some earlier period of their lives, had been guilty of some minor misdemeanour. If what the honorable senator said is true it signifies an intolerable state of affairs. I shall bring the honorable senator’s remarks to the. notice of my colleague, the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes).
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, 4c-
No. 8 of . 1941 - Arms, Explosives and Munition. Workers’ Federation of Australia.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Regulations- Statutory Rules 1941, No. 94.
Customs Act - Proclamation prohibiting the exportation (except under certain conditions) of Citric Acid and compounds of Citric Acid (dated 28th May, 1941).
Immigration Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No.66.
Judiciary Act and High Court Procedure Act - Rule of Court - Statutory Rules J941, No. 122.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Bathurst, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Bowen, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Cairns, Queensland - For Defence purposes (2).
Cambridge, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Chermside, Queensland- For Defence purposes.
Cloncurry, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Geraldton, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Glossop, . South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Kurrajong, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Latrobe, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Lithgow, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Manilla, NewSouth Wales - For Postal purpose’s.
Mena Creek, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Pearce, Western Australia- For Defence purposes.
Port Melbourne (near), Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Seyniour, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Wynyard, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
National Security Act -
National Security (Exchange Control) Regulations- Orders -
Exchange Control (Foreign Currency).
Exchange Control (Foreign Securities).
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders-
Inventions and designs (39).
Prohibited places (4).
Prohibiting work on land.
Taking possession of land, &c. (75).
Use of land (2).
National Security (Internment Camps) Regulations- -Orders -
Internment Camp (No.1).
Internment Camp (No. 2).
Internment Camp (No. 3).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941,Nos. 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 123, 125, 131, 132,133, 134.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 124.
NorfolkIsland Act - Regulations - No. 1 of 1941 (Public Service Ordinance),
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 126.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government . (Administration) Act - Ordinance No. 4 of 1941 - Canberra Community Hospital.
Supply and Development Acts - Regulations -Statutory Rules 1941, No. 119.
War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 130.
Senate adjourned at 9.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 June 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1941/19410625_senate_16_167/>.