16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
– Honorable senators will have read with regret of the tragic death yesterday of ex-Senator Charles Hardy, . who lost his life in an aeroplane accident in northern Queensland. At the time of his death he was engaged in defence work. The late Mr. Hardy was elected to the Senate, as a representative of New South Wales, at the general elections in 1931, and was a senator from 1932 to 1938. He was leader of the Country party in the Senate from October, 1935, to the 30th June, 1938. He enlisted for service in the Australian Imperial Force in 1917, and embarked for overseas with the 1st Field Company Engineers in June of that year. He was wounded in action and was also gassed, and he returned to Australia in 1919. The late Mr. Hardy will be well remembered by many members of this chamber, and I am sure that we all have a deep sense of sorrow at his untimely passing. On behalf of the Senate I extend to his widow find family our deepest sympathy. I move -
That the Senate expresses its profound regret at the tragic death of former Senator Charles Hardy, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and extends its sincere sympathy to his widow and family in their bereavement.
– I am sure that no recent news has been received so sadly by members of the Senate as that which came through yesterday afternoon that ex-Senator Charles Hardy had met his death as the result of an aeroplane Accident in northern Queensland. Most members of this chamber knew the late Mr. Hardy very well. Many of his characteristics were admirable, particularly his conduct in the Senate. He was young, strong, and energetic, both physically and mentally. He never spoke on any important subject in this chamber unless he had fully prepared himself for the work. Whilst I and other members of the Opposition did not share his political outlook, we admired his courage and capacity, and his thoroughness in all that he did in connexion with his parliamentary duties. He had had a distinguished career, although only a comparatively short portion of his life had been devoted to parliamentary activities. Probably very few men of his age had experienced so much adversity as had the late Mr. Hardy, but whether he was faced with temporary ill health, adversity in business ventures or ill fortune in the political sphere, he always had a smile, and he met his friends and acquaintances with a hearty handshake and a cheery word. I recall with great pleasure my experiences with him in this Senate. When matters were not so easy with the Opposition as they have been during recent years owing to its increased strength the late Mr. Hardy would come into this chamber with a sheaf of notes that he had prepared, and, while checking them over, he would smile across the chamber at me. Despite the fact that we were in different political camps we were close friends. It was impossible to be other than friendly with Charlie Hardy, and, when I received the news of his death, I was deeply grieved. When the word passed around the parliamentary lobbies that he had met with an untimely death, every one of us was greatly shocked. When an old man dies one feels that the inevitable has arrived, but when a man in the prime of life passes, while serving his country and discharging duties which he had undertaken voluntarily, one is particularly sad.
The late Mr. Hardy loved Australia and was a true patriot. We extend our sympathy to his widow and children, whom he loved, and of whom he was very proud. Every member of the Opposition joins with the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) in expressing his sympathy with the widow and family. Severe as the blow is, we hope that it will be tempered by the knowledge that those who were closely associated politically with the late Mr. Hardy appreciated his worth and feel his death deeply.
– I desire to associate the members of the Country party in the Senate with this motion of condolence. We all have very pleasant memories of the late ex-Senator Charles Hardy during the period when he was a representative of New South Wales in this chamber. The news of his death yesterday came as a great blow to us, but it was comforting to hear that he had died in the service of his country. He will be well remembered in this chamber as a man of strong personality, a forceful speaker, and a great fighter. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) expressed one of his outstanding characteristics perfectly when he said that Charlie Hardy was always well prepared when he spoke in the Senate. I was personally associated with the honorable gentleman when he was Leader of the Country party in the Senate, and I know well the great amount of time that was occupied by him in preparing for the speeches which he made in this chamber. The passing of a man of his experience and untiring energy, both physically and mentally, is a great loss to Australia, especially at such a critical time as the present. On behalf of the members of the Country party in the Senate, I express deep sympathy with his widow and family in their great sorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
– Is the Leader of the Senate aware that last Sunday night the Minister for Information indulged in political propaganda when he made a speech on his trip to the Netherlands East Indies which was broadcast over the national stations?
– I am aware that my colleague broadcast a speech on Sunday night, and I was proud to hear it spoken of as an excellent speech designed to lead to closer relations between Australia and the Netherlands East Indies.
– The Minister has not answered my question. I asked if he was aware that the Minister for Information had used the national broadcasting service to indulge in political propaganda?
– The Minister has already answered the question in his own way.
– Is the Minister for Aircraft Production in a position to say when the first Australianmade Bristol Beaufort bomber will be produced in Australia?
– I thought that the honorable senator would have known that the firstBristol Beaufort bomber produced in Australia has been flying for about two months. A second machine of the same type is also already in the air.
– I do not know whether or not the Minister understood my question. It referred, not to aircraft made of fabricated parts and assembled in Australia, but to the first Australian-made Bristol Beaufort bomber.
– That machine is already in the air.
– Was the machine made in Australia, or was it only assembled here?
– The first Beaufort bomber was largely made of imported fabricated parts. That was a much harder job than if the whole of the machine had been made here, because it meant that every part had to be redesigned and fitted. The second machine was made of materials which were fabricated in Australia, but not necessarily produced here. As each successive machine is produced, a larger quantity of Australian raw material in fabricated form will be used, until eventually it is expected that about 96 per cent. of the materials used in manufacturing the machines will be of Australian origin.
– When does the Government expect to be able to announce that the manufacture of Bristol Beaufighter machines has begun in Australia?
– The Government has never announced that Beaufort fighter machines will be produced in Australia ; it has announced that a first-class fighter will be manufactured here. Plans are being prepared to that end.
– Yesterday, Senator Keane asked a question relating to pairs, and I undertook to furnish an answer. I now inform the honorable senator that the Senate does not take cognizance of pairs, and that any inquiry on the subject should be addressed personally to the party Whip.
Commonwealth Government for travelling baby health trains, similar to those provided by the States of New South Wales and South Australia, to service the districts covered by Commonwealth railways?
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answers : -
I desire to add that if the honorable senator will let me know of any particular district in which he thinks that the Commonwealth railways should provide a. travelling baby health train, my interview with the Minister for the Interior will be facilitated.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and ‘Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator McBride) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
.- My remarks on this bill will be exceedingly brief. It was my intention to take advantage of the opportunity afforded to honorable senators when a bill of this nature is before them to discuss many matters which I regard as of importance, but as Supply is being asked for only a short period, I have decided that this is not the appropriate occasion to deal with them. We have had an advance copy of the second-reading speech to be delivered by the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) on this bill, and also a copy of the measure in which the amounts to be provided for each department are set out. It is essential that the Government should have Supply and as the period for which Supply was previously granted is almost exhausted, it is desirable that this bill should be passed by the Senate without delay in order that payments to public servants, pensioners and others may not be held up. As an opportunity will shortly be afforded to us to deal with the budget, and to say the things which we feel should be said, I shall defer my further remarks until a later date.
.The last paragraph of the second-reading speech to be delivered by the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) reads as follows : -
Except in the case of defence and war services, no provision is made in the bill for any new expenditure, and no departure from existing policy is involved.
The members of the Labour party in this chamber realize that the Government must have the money asked for in this bill in order to enable it to carry on until the budget is passed. I take this opportunity, one of the few afforded to us, to raise one or two important matters. I should like the Government to inquire into an incident that happened on the Spirit of Progress train on Tuesday last. At about 8.45 p.m., a soldier who had been invalided home from the Middle East, went to the dining car for a meal. He was asked by the attendant if he had a warrant for the meal. He replied that he had, and he was served with a meal, the cost of which was 5s. When he produced his authorization from the department, it read “ Supply Melbourne to Brisbane,1s. 3d.”. The unfortunate soldier was placed in an awkward position. Naturally, because of his ignorance of the procedure, he blamed the railway staff for the trouble that ensued. For an invalided soldier to be provided with such a warrant for meals between Melbourne and Brisbane shows that a shocking blunder had been made or that somebody had badly fallen down on his job. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army (Senator Foll) to look into this matter.
I propose now to direct your attention, Mr. President, to a small matter which, I think, comes partly under your jurisdiction as a member of the Joint House Committee. The men working in the lavatories in this building have been instructed by the housekeeper that they must refrain from smoking whilst engaged in that work. In the interests of their health, smoking should be allowed whilst they are working in the lavatories, particularly at a time such as this when highly contagions colds are so prevalent.
About eighteen months ago, a man named Mr. D. A. Craig, of Sydney, made an application to the Capital Issues Advisory Board for the right to form a company to import crude oil into Australia with the object of converting it into petrol, fuel oil and bitumen. The claim made by Mr. Craig was that, if approval were given for the raising of the necessary capital, the proposed company could produce 20,000,000 gallons of petrol, 10,000,000 gallons of crude oil and 70,000 tons of bitumen per annum. The application was held up by theCapital Issues Advisory Board because of some objection in relation to certain preference shares. After many months, the matter was referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report as to the economic aspects of the industry. That inquiry has since been held, but no effect has been given to the recommendations of the board and the application has been referred back to the Capital Issues
Advisory Board. Mr. Craig has been informed that the application will be considered by the full board on Monday next. Practically every Minister who may have some control of this matter has been interviewed by Mr. Craig and his associates, and I, myself, have done what I could to have the application granted. We have even gone so far as to see the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but without avail. The final objection raised is that Mr. Craig cannot get tankers to transport the crude oil from the United States of America to Australia. On two occasions, Mr. Craig made arrangements for the supply of crude oil and the chartering of the necessary tankers, but the arrangements had to be cancelled because the Capital Issues Advisory Board had. not authorized the raising of the capital required to float the company. Obviously, if authorization be not given Mr. Craig cannot get the tankers, the crude oil, or anything else. He and his associates are not asking the Government for financial assistance; they represent a financially sound group and have done big business in this country. In view of the shortage of petrol and fuel oil in Australia, surely this matter should be expedited. My dealings with the Capital Issues Advisory Board in respect of other matters have been highly successful, but in respect of this application I have been greatly disappointed. If approval be given for the raising of the necessary capital to start this venture in Australia, an important industry will be established here and it is probable that the company will engage in the extraction of crude oil from shale obtained from the deposits in Tasmania and New South Wales. I do not suggest for one moment that the oil companies have exerted an influence in this matter. But the handling of this application by government officials and boards has hardly been fair. I have personally interviewed every Minister who has had anything to do with the matter. The Minister for Supply and Development (.Senator McLeay) and the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) were helpful, but, apparently, their help has been of no avail. Mr. Craig visited Canberra last Thursday and interviewed the Prime Minister, but owing to recent political happenings, the latter was precluded from giving to the matter the careful attention it deserves.
– An appeal can be made from a decision of the Capital Issues Advisory Board to the Treasurer.
– But this man must first have a decision from the board. The Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) has indicated that he will not interfere with the board at all. The hearing of this application by the board is now set down for next Monday, but it has already taken nineteen months to deal -with it. I realize that the Capital Issues Advisory Board is an essential authority in time of war, and that that body is doing an excellent job. However, due to the changes of Ministers this matter has not yet been finalized. The Tariff Board approved the scheme. Ordinarily, the Government carries out the recommendations of that board, but in this case it has not done so. The matter has now to be referred back to the Capital Issues Advisory Board. The delay which has taken place does not reflect credit upon the administrative authorities concerned. Quite a lot of people suggest that there is some mystery at the bottom of the matter; hut I do not agree with that view. This man’s connexions, and ako his claim to be in touch with certain interests overseas, can easily be checked up. However, unless he has the authority of the Government to proceed with the venture, he cannot possibly secure supplies of oil from the United States of America. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) asked a question on this subject recently and was told that the matter was under consideration. It has been under consideration for nineteen months. This delay has involved Mr. Craig and the interests associated with him in an expenditure of up to £15,000. He hae visited the United States of America on two occasions and has ordered supplies of oil, but has been obliged to cancel the orders.
I trust that Parliament will be given an early opportunity to discuss the budget, and that the arrangement sought by the Opposition will be strictly observed. I hope that we shall have an opportunity to analyse the finances of the Commonwealth. When Mr. Theodore was Treasurer in the Scullin Government he circulated with the budget an explanatory note which enabled members generally to study the Government’s proposals intelligently. I suggest that that practice might be followed by this Government when it brings down its budget in the near future. It would certainly tend to shorten debate.
– I take this opportunity to emphasize the inconvenience caused to Western Australian senators and members owingto the inadequate accommodation provided at the federal members’ rooms at Perth. That accommodation compares very unfavorably with the facilities provided formembers in each of the other capital cities. It is so restricted that there is only one room to four members. In such circumstances it is most difficult to carry on interviews satisfactorily with members of the. public. Neither the members themselves, nor any individual who seeks an interview with a member, can do their business properly. I urge the Government to improve the accommodation at the federal members’ rooms in that city.
– In the present burly-burly of party politics and at a time when we are engaged in a struggle against totalitarianism, it is with diffidence that one speaks to a measure of this kind. However, I gave a promise to a number of blind workers in Brisbane that I would present a ease to the Senate setting out their difficult economic position. Owing to the fact that our friends opposite are in the. throes of internecine political warfare, possibly not much good will result from my representations at this juncture.
– What a contrast with the peaceful atmosphere of the meeting of the honorable senator’s party this morning!
– The row could be heard in Queanbeyan.
– I assure honorable senators opposite that our party was most united at its meeting this morning, and that all of my colleagues are convinced that when the Government parties, owing to their present quarrels, are compelled to relinquish office, the Labour party will be ready and able as a united party to carry on the government.
– This quarrelling is infectious.
– I admit that. However, I urge the United Australia party and the Country party to cease their quarrelling, and to get on with the business of the country. The Labour party cannot be blamed for the Government’s difficulty, because this party has given its wholehearted support to the present Administration in its prosecution of the war effort. Not only has it approved all of the Government’s war appropriations, but it has also appointed members to the various parliamentary joint committees, and has provided its best brains on the Advisory War Council. At a time when the country needs strong, enthusiastic and efficient government the Government parties should cease their petty quarrelling. If they did so we should not be witnessing the party intrigues which are now going on. I do not indulge in personalities; I believe that most honorable senators opposite are anxious to see this country united in the present crisis. I do not believe that any individual honorable senator opposite has taken partin those intrigues. Particularly in times of stress, there are certain enemies of democracy who are ever-ready to point the finger of scorn at parliamentary government, and for that reason any government should be very careful in its actions. I do not wish to detain the Senate at length at this stage, but in themidst of the existing political intrigue we should not be unmindful of those who are suffering the terrible infliction of blindness. These people have not much voice in the affairs of this country and, for that reason, they do not make much impression on governing bodies. If an organization is economically strong, like the Broken Hill ProprietaryCompany Limited, it has a tremendous influence in the affairs of a country. Similarly, if a body can control many thousands of votes, it also is a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, the blind have neither of these advantages. Their voice is weak, and too frequently it is ignored by officials and by the Government. Consequently, there is a tendency to forget them.
There are many persons in the community who are suffering from grave disabilities, but whose ailments have not reached a stage which renders them totally and permanently incapacitated. I have been approached on several occasions in regard to this matter. In one case a resident of Goondiwindi was refused a pension because he was not regarded as totally and permanently incapacitated. Officials are unable to grant pensions to many invalids because they are still able to do some work. I recall one case very well: A friend of mine suffering from tuberculosis could not walk 10 yards without spitting blood, and it took him a quarter of an hour to walk 50 yards from the tram to my office. I made strong representations to the department, but I was informed that nothing could be clone for him because he could sit on, say, a verandah and make articles of some description. He was in possession of all his faculties. Regardless of the political party in power, it is the duty of the
Government to amend the legislation to provide some assistance for those who, although not totally disabled, are unable to work.
Blind people have always urged - and rightly so - that they should receive the pension as a right, regardless of their earnings. We have a precedent for that in the Commonwealth child endowment legislation, under which payments are made to mothers regardless of earnings. Similarly, a soldier’s pension has no limitation in the matter of earnings. That is right, and the same privilege should be extended to industrial soldiers suffering from blindness. Of course, these people recognize that at this juncture they have not much chance to obtain that concession, but they do urge that their permissible income should be increased commensurate with the increase of the cost of living. At present a pensioner’s income, including the pension, may be £4 9s. a week. That is to say, in addition to the pension of £1 ls. 6d. a week, he may earn £3 7s. 6d. a week. The permissible combined income of a husband and wife is £2 6s. a week, which, in addition to the pension of £1 ls. 6d. each, makes £4 9s.
In other words, the thrifty are penalized. If a blind pensioner is anxious to improve his lot, say, by buying a house, as soon as his income, including the pension, exceeds £4 9s. a week, the pension is reduced. Obviously that is penalizing the thrifty.. Another restriction is that a pensioner may not have more than £50 in a bank. Pensioners are also prohibited from letting their house. That restriction is often a hardship, especially in the case of pensioners who wish to live nearer to their employment. As is the case with invalid and old-age pensioners, if a blind pensioner lets his house, the rent received is included in his income. I submit that a pensioner should be permitted to let his house without being penalized. Several amendments relating to permissible income have already been made to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, a copy of which I have obtained from Mr. Magee, of the Pensions Department, but I do not propose to read them at this juncture. At present a number of people in Brisbane are having their pensions reduced, and I have here copies of notices of alteration sent out by the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions in that city, one of which intimates to a man and his wife that their pension has been reduced from 39s. 6d. to 33s. a week as from the 26th June last because of an increase of the husband’s income. As there has been a considerable increase in the cost of living, the pensioners urge that there should be at least a corresponding increase in their permissible income. At a later date, I hope to go more fully into this subject. I have been supplied with all the facts relating to blind pensioners. Although the time may not be opportune to discuss details of this matter, I ask the Government to show some consideration for the disabilities and difficulties of blind workers upon whose shoulders a heavy burden is placed.
– I should like to make a few observations regarding the activities of the Government. Much political propaganda has been indulged in with regard to the calling up of the women’s army. It is hard to understand why, when the Government continues to talk of its great war activity, there is any necessity for the formation of a women’s army, since there is a large number of unemployed men throughout Australia. If it be necessary to call up women so that they may do the work of men, something should be done simultaneously to solve the problem of unemployment. Does the Government intend to put women to work in order to enable employers of labour to get jobs done more cheaply than at present? Although men are told that they can obtain jobs in the country if they are prepared to leave their homes, there are no public works of a major character to which they can go. It has often been said that the great Australian Labour party has done much to destroy home life, but I contend that the widespread employment of women in various avenues where men were formerly employed would inevitably have a detrimental effect upon the home life of the community. I am afraid that we shall see an army of women employed on trams, trains and buses, and that their services will also be widely utilized on farms. Their services are already being requisitioned in the wool industry, and they are to be employed in harvesting operations in the agricultural areas. I fear that the Government intends to distribute women workers throughout the country districts. In many instances, the wives of unemployed men are asked to proceed to outlying parts of Australia, but I claim that married women should not be induced to leave their homes in the cities in order to work in the country. If the plight of the farmers is desperate, and there is urgent necessity for farm labour, I suggest that members of the Militia could be sent to various districts at harvest time in order to assist the farmers to take off their crops. In Great Britain, this expedient has been resorted to, and in a short period the necessary harvest work has been accomplished. I do not suggest that this work should be done in Australia by members of the Militia Forces at the Army rate of pay. They should receive the basic wage while engaged in taking off the farmers’ crops. The women do not know what they are being called up for, and the men fear that women will continue to hold men’s jobs when the war is over. I am afraid that many men will have an experience similar to that of those who returned after the last war and were unable to find employment.
The people of Sydney have to pay 4d. each for good apples although throughout the fruit-growing districts, apples are left rotting on the ground. The price of potatoes has been fixed at £16 a ton, but at Guyra, in New South Wales, the potato-growers have found it unprofitable to dig their crops. I happen to know a lady who paid men to dig potatoes, and although she had a good crop, the incidental expenses, such as the price of bags and the cost of carting and digging, were so great that she lost £150 on the transaction. In that district, hundreds of acres of potatoes have been left in the ground, although the price has been fixed at £16 a ton.
– That is the maximum price.
– I have read in the newspapers that it is the fixed price and only a temporary one.
Under the National .Security Regulations, the Government has established an intelligence force, as a sort of police force. The head of the organization was formerly private secretary to Sir Alfred Davidson, chairman of directors of the Bank of New South Wales. Among others associated with the force are Colonel Longfield Lloyd, Captain Cohen and members of the staff of the Bank of New South Wales. Each State has a police force and a criminal investigation branch, whilst there is also a Commonwealth police force, and a Commonwealth Investigation Branch, in addition to Navy and Army intelligence services. Therefore, I see no necessity whatever for the formation of the latest force. When the public is aware of its establishment, I feel sure that many protests will be heard. This body is intended to stand over the Commonwealth and State police forces. If the police forces and the intelligence staffs already established have not sufficient ability to do the work required of them, they should be replaced, but we should not set up a Gestapo in Australia.
When the Air Board decided to conduct a recruiting campaign and issued posters relating to the calling up df men required for the Air Force, it enlisted the services of men for a variety of tasks. Among others, it called up storemen, who were prepared to serve either in Australia or overseas, but many of these men now find themselves dumped in various depots in Australia. Much to their regret, a number of them are at the Waterloo Stores Depot, and they have had to do the work of wharf labourers. Paints have been dumped at the stores and the men have had to shift them to the wharfs. Althoughthese men enlisted for service in the Air Force, they now find themselves to be worse off than “Menzies’ penguins “.
– Why are they called penguins?
– Because they never fly. On Monday of this week a new order was promulgated. These boys are required to do guard duty, and it may happen that on three days a week they serve in that capacity from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. and then continue working until 9.30 p.m. Those conditions are far inferior to those prescribed by the waterside workers’ award. I do not know whether, in an attempt to get even cheaper labour, similar conditions will apply to women. I do not believe that honorable senators opposite stand for that sort of thing. It is a. matter which should be investigated, and the person responsible for it should be put out of the service.
In carrying out its war effort Australia has found it necessary to place certain officers in control of the Army. We had as General Officer Commanding Eastern Command, Lieutenant-General Miles, but recently Major-General Wynter was brought back from the Middle East because of ill health. I regret the cause of his return, because I understand that he is an excellent officer. Major-General Wynter has been appointed General Officer Commanding Training Operations, Eastern Command. If he is well enough to be employed, his place isat the front.
– Men who are returned on account of ill health generally get well again after some time in Australia.
– The position at the moment is that there are two men holding the position of General Officer Commanding, Eastern Command.
– Is not Major General Wynter, General Officer Commanding Training Operations, Eastern Command ?
– Then what does the other General Officer Commanding, Eastern Command, do? A man who occupies the position of General Officer Commanding Eastern Command should have the ability to carry out the duties of that office.
– He must have a staff.
– The authorities have brought back to Australia Lieutenant-General Mackay who is to be General Officer Commanding Australia. That means that we shall have in New South Wales a General Officer Commanding Eastern Command ; a General Officer Commanding Training Operations, Eastern Command; and a General Officer Commanding, Australia.
SenatorFoll. - Lieutenant-General Mackay will not confine his operations to New South Wales.
– The biggest part of his work will be in New South Wales. There are more men in military uniforms moving from place to place in Australia than are to be found in Great Britain. There are sufficient officers in Australia to control the whole of the British Expeditionary Force.
– Nonsense !
– The Minister knows that the authorities find difficulty in finding places for so many military officers. He may be interested to know that many of these men are not friendly towards the Government. I have heard people say that a man looks better in uniform than in civilian clothes, but there is no necessity to put every man who gallivants around Australia in uniform in order that he may look well dressed. I have no objection to the appointment of army generals, or other officers capable of training men as soldiers, provided that they are either medically unfit for active service or are over the age for service overseas. Apart from men within those categories, there should be no other men in uniform in Australia. If some of these men were deprived of their uniforms there would he a different story to tell. I cannot see any reason why some men who have been able to secure jobs as clerks in, say, the District Finance Office, should be in uniform. Of course I realize that, being in uniform, they are entitled to be addressed as “ Major “ or “Colonel” instead of “Mister”. But probably the worst thing that has happened is that Major-General “ Bertie “ Lloyd has been allowed to continue his activities.
– He is a very brilliant soldier.
-. - He is also a very brilliant Fascist, as is also Major de Groot.
– Does the honorable senator refer to the man who opened the Sydney Harbour Bridge?
– I refer to the fanatic who was placed in a mental asylum, but is now in charge of a battalion of men at Parramatta.
-. - These men have a great admiration for Hitler; they regard him as the beacon light of the world. How long are they to be allowed to have charge of Australian soldiers? lt is dangerous, as well as undemocratic, to continue them in their present positions.
It is not right that under the Home Security Regulations a man’s home may be entered and searched without a warrant. It may lead to all sorts of happenings. I am fearful that the Lloyds, Campbells and de Groots in the community will some day bring off a coup. Only a fool would have clone what de Groot did on the day of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He was in his right place when in a mental asylum.
– How long was he there?
– Not long enough.
– If the Government desires harmony among the people of Australia, it should make it clear that it is opposed to Nazism in every form, that it has no faith in the de Groots in the community, and is determined to get rid of the Fascists among us. Until that has been done, Australia cannot be said to be doing its job properly.
– 1 rise to direct attention to what I regard as a matter of paramount importance, namely, the disturbed state of certain sections of industry. I do so because every day anti-Labour newspapers, which have their own axes to grind, criticize workers who are associated with industrial disputes. On very few occasions do we find a newspaper making a sincere effort to establish any relationship between cause and effect. Most critics assume - it is a convenient assumption - that persons who are associated with industrial disputes are always wrong, and that those who condemn them are invariably right. That attitude merely aggravates the position and does not in any way ameliorate conditions or remove the causes of unrest. Therefore, it is incumbent on those who think differently, and desire that there shall be industrial peace throughout the country, to use their best endeavours to direct attention to the facts. One of the causes of industrial unrest is the cost-plus profit system under which many contracts are let. In the Economic Monograph No. 19, issued by the New South Wales Branch of the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand, that system is described as follows : -
This type of contract is designed to meet conditions where there has been no experience of production. Originally it was designed for munitions annexes, on specialized work, and 4 per cent, is paid on allowable expenses. These include direct costs of labour and material plus allowable overhead expenses which are attributable to the contract.
The cost-plus system has been in operation for a considerable time. Dealing with this system a leading article in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st August contained the following statement : -
It is important that. “ cost-plus “ payments should be replaced by some more satisfactory form of contract, providing a direct incentive to economy. Even though the great majority of manufacturers have no desire to profiteer, no way should be left open for the unscrupulous few. It should be made the direct interest of contractors to economize and improve their methods, so that the need for Government .policing can be reduced to a minimum. The pressure against rising costs must; ite unrelenting in thi* time of enormously expanding Government expenditure. otherwise the result may well .be rising prices instead of rising output. Economy can he achieved only through the constant” vigilance of the men in charge of production, and they are in danger of losing sight of the importance of this factor when the services are clamouring for deliveries.’ Economy i3 in the interest not merely of the taxpayer, but of output. Now that war-time scarcities are being felt, .production will lag if there in waste of materials or of skill in the factories, and too much of such wastage is already taking place
The article continues -
There can, of course, be no thought of a return to the tender system.
Thus, no less an authority than the Sydney Morning Herald condemns the cost-plus system and also the tender system. The Government knows what is taking place, and should realize that the time has now arrived when it should endeavour to organize and introduce another system under which much better results could be obtained. The moral effect on the workers of the cost-plus system can be well imagined. In every industry employees of all kinds work for fixed wages. Out of their fixed wage they have to meet rising prices and provide against ‘breaks in the continuity of their work. They know that, under the cost-plus system, contractors are allowed to add to their cost a proportion of profit, and that it has been suggested - and they have good reason to believe correctly - that, in many instances, their costs are heavily loaded. In addition to loaded costs, contractors operating under the cost-plus system are allowed overhead expenses. The impression in the minds of the workers is nhat those firms operating under tho cost-plus system can fix their return at almost any rate they think fit or that they believe will be allowed.
– That is not correct and the honorable senator knows it.
– The Government has yet to prove that it is not correct. I have the best of reasons for believing that the Government is prepared to allow very liberal overhead charges. A contractor may say, “My services are worth £20 a week “ when, as a matter of fact, they may not be worth as much as these of the average tradesman under his supervision.
– No doubt, in the opinion of the honorable senator, they, would not be worth as much as that.
– If the Minister, for Munitions (Senator McBride) were, the contractor and his management of the contract approximated to his management of his department, I am afraid that his services would not be worth the basic wage. If we are to have industrial peace, the Government must give serious attention to what is being done under the costplus system. Another factor causing industrial unrest is the policy of the Government in connexion with its employees when it is compelled to undertake certain public works, such as the alteration?” now being made to the London Stores Building in Melbourne. When such a job is completed, the Government says, to its employees, “ We do not want your services any longer. Go out into the. street and look for another job.” That has a bad moral effect on the workers who believe that the Government should, adopt a system of registration so that, us far as it is humanly possible to do so. continuity of employment is given to its employees. When men are working under the hire-and-fire system bad feeling is engendered among those who are put off as opposed to those who are kept on. They feel that those in charge discriminate unfairly between them. I am not in a position to say whether or not such discrimination is taking place, but it cannot be denied that both the cost-plus system and the hire-and-fire system cause industrial trouble. We find no less a person than the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) saying that those who cause dissension are traitors. I say to the right honorable gentleman that, if he were treated as these men have been treated, I believe that, knowing him as I do, we would probably find him leading agitations to cease work.
– He would bo a Communist.
– Any selfrespecting man who is not prepared to tolerate injustices will not put up with that sort of thing without some resistance. If industrial peace be desired, Ministers of the Crown should adopt a more tolerant approach to this problem. Before rushing into print to condemn as traitors those who object to the conditions under which they are employed, they would achieve more satisfactory results if they first ascertained the cause of the trouble. The average intelligent man would be the very last to condemn as traitors most of those who endeavour, by the only means in their power, to settle their grievances. Very serious industrial disturbances have occurred in the United States of America; but what did the Government of that country do? The following cabled report was published in the Melbourne Age of the 25th August, 194.1 :-
The United States Navy has taken over the Federal Shipbuilding Company’s dry docks at Kearny, New Jersey, where a strike has been in progress for sixteen days. Work will be resumed on Tuesday morning. Union officials immediately withdrew their picket lines. An immediate start will be made on defence contracts, which include the construction of two cruisers, six destroyers, three tankers and two freighters.
I assume from that report that highly responsible politicians representing the Government of the United States of America saw that the only way by which peace in industry could be established was by making the workers themselves directly responsible to the Government rather than to shareholders or directors, who are more concerned about making profits than about the safety of the nation, and who bring to bear all the pressure they possibly can in order to compel employees to work for .the lowest possible rate of wages, and irritate them in various ways in order to subjugate them to their will. It is evident to me, understanding the industrial position as I do as the result of 30 years’ experience in industrial matters, that the Government of the United States of America has decided that, in essential industries, the working staffs must be made directly responsible to the Government, and in doing so it was prepared to concede the best possible conditions in order to obtain the best results from its staffs. The longer this war lasts the more necessary it will become for the Government of this country to adopt a similar policy. Such a policy must be adopted in connexion with the coal-mining industry. The settlement of unrest in the coal-mining industry can never be achieved bv the means proposed under regulation 189, but only by the adoption of a policy which will satisfy the average coal-miner that he is being dealt with fairly, and he, in turn, should be prepared to deal fairly with the Government. I was privileged a couple of weeks ago to inspect the wonderful workshops of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, at Newcastle. There I saw men working under very strenuous and exacting conditions, particularly those handling huge ingots of steel to* be rolled into plates and ribbons, for the manufacture of pipes, elbows, bends and plates for shipbuilding and for other purposes. These men are anxious to continue their work in the interests of the nation, but they are well aware that the huge profits being made by their employers are benefiting private individuals and not the nation. In fact, much of the money that the employers are thus accumulating is actually being loaned to the Government at substantial interest rates. In such circumstances the men say, among themselves, “ Why should we be expected to work ourselves to a standstill day after day before these blazing hot furnaces, handling these huge ingots of steel which are required for national purposes, under conditions which are yielding huge profits to private individuals but not to the nation?’”’ It is natural that such ideas should cause average workers considerable resentment, and such resentment at times develops into an industrial dispute and possibly, later, into a strike. When that period is reached the newspapers declare that the men are holding up the national effort, and the Prime Minister says, “ These men are traitors “. It will be impossible to organize a 100 per cent, war effort, which implies peace in industry and maximum service from all individuals, until it can be demonstrated that the fair thing is being done by the workers and that a few privileged individuals are not reaping inordinate profits. Whatever happens in the political arena, we must see that industry is kept in operation. To ensure that result, industry must be managed by men who know what they are doing, and who are prepared to take all necessary steps to see that the workers receive an honest deal. Such a condition of affairs will not be achieved while the cost-plus system. the tendeT system, and the hire-and-fire system are retained in industry. The peculative or profiteering system, which is characteristic of such monopolist organizations as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, is not suitable for war-time needs. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Sir Iven Mackay stated in Sydney yesterday
We cannot toy with things; we have to be wholehearted and full of earnestness.
– Surely that is true?
– I agree wholeheartedly with Sir Iven Mackay’s sentiments. My complaint is that the Government is toying with things. So long as it allows the present practices to continue in industry it cannot be said to be engaged in a wholehearted and earnest war effort.
– Does the honorable senator believe in deeds rather than words ?
– I do. I am uncompromisingly opposed to the words which have been used by critics of the workers and to which I am directing attention. I am also uncompromisingly opposed to the man holding the highest office in this country describing the workers as traitors, for he knows, possibly ‘ better than I do, the conditions under which the workers are toiling. I shall, however, support and use such words as are necessary to reveal the present state of affairs, in the hope that thereby we may be able to achieve better results.
– The Prime Minister has called no one a traitor.
– I direct the attention of the Minister to the following report which appeared in the Melbourne Age on the 28th July last: -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) addressing a large audience at an Empire rally at Balwyn yesterday declared that men who
Bowed dissension, or refused to take disputes to one of the abundant tribunals set up to deal with them, were traitors to this country.
– Hear! hear! Does not the honorable senator agree with those words?
– I do not. I consider that the Prime Minister’s utterance was extremely provocative. Such utterances do more to make a bad position worse than anything else that
I can call to mind. Evidently the Prime Minister, like some of his colleagues, believes that he is reasoning with people when, in fact, he is abusing them.
– What is the honorable senator doing now?
– If I were prepared to follow the bad example set by the Prime Minister, I should probably call quite a number of people traitors who are using our war-time effort to enrich themselves at the expense of the workers in our factories and of the members of our fighting services oversea*. If the Minister desires to set a better example than that set by the Prime Minister he should take some strong action in Cabinet. Personally, I would always try to reason with people rather than abuse them. I believe that such a policy would yield far better results than the Government is at present obtaining. The .Prime Minister, in the address to which I have already referred, also said -
Any man who, in this country of oura, ia not prepared to take his dispute to one of the abundant tribunals set up to solve it, but is prepared instead to deny your sons and brothers shells, guns and ammunition, is. a traitor to this country.
The ordinary unsophisticated reader of such a statement would probably think it was all right. But what are these tribunals to which the Prime Minister referred? In most instances they are presided over by men of legal training who are well qualified to appear in courts of law to argue on legal matters. My view is that unless the persons sitting on these various tribunals have a good working knowledge of the industries with which they are expected to deal, they cannot possibly he competent to deal with them. They may be excellent advocates on legal questions, but they cannot possibly be qualified to deal with the details of industrial disputes. The workers have discovered this by bitter experience. If an effort were made to discuss the merits and demerits of the cost-plus system before any industrial court, the judge would dismiss the matter with a wave of the hand and the remark that it was government policy. Had the judge known his job, he would have listened attentively to the arguments being submitted to him and he would then have made a recommendation that the system be changed. But that course was not followed. These legal gentlemen are creatures of precedent rather than of initiative. Precedents must be followed by them. The adoption of that attitude to a particular industry usually causes ‘a dispute, then a bitter clash, and next a strike, with the holding up of industry and the wastage of man-power, material, money and everything else. All this happens because the person presiding over a particular tribunal lacks knowledge of the job which has been delegated1 to him by the Government. J do not make these remarks merely to criticize the Government. I make them in the hope that the Government will heed what I am saying and try to improve the position. I am supported in my submissions by statements which have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, one of the leading newspapers of the Commonwealth. Whatever happens in this Parliament, we must surely see to it that industry is kept moving. When the workers are properly treated, they will keep industry moving. If a right approach be made to the workers on the waterfront, on the coal-fields, or in any other branch of industry where the workers have a reputation, manufactured’ for them by their opponents, of always wishing to go on strike, it will be found that they are reasonable men.
– What approach did the honorable senator and his colleagues make to the coal-miners when they were on strike last year?
– We made such an effective approach that the dispute was quickly settled. I shall describe to the Minister what actually happened. When the coal-miners went on strike last year, the Prime Minister made an appeal to them which proved to be futile. Other persons also made futile appeals. Threats followed, and these, too, were futile. Then the Emergency Committee, consisting of the president of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, Mr. A. E. Monk; the secretary, Mr. C. Crofts; Mr. Cleary, M.L.C., and I, went to Sydney. We made no threats and we did not reflect upon anybody. We called a meeting of representatives of the men concerned in the dispute and discussed with them the merits of their case. We also interviewed certain representatives of owners and discovered some difficulties which proved to be quite easy to settle. Within a few days, the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes), the then Treasurer (Mr. Spender), the then Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Mair) and representatives of the miners and allied’ industries sat around a table with us and in two or three hours we settled a dispute which others had been unable to settle after weeks of effort. The attitude of the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) suggests to me that he does not desire industrial disputes to be settled. He is looking for a law-and-order cry for an election campaign. He would welcome an excuse to bring soldiers out to shoot their fellow-workers.
– Nonsense !
– The honorable gentleman would probably also like to bring out the police force. Unless he is prepared to adopt a more reasonable attitude in these matters and to cease making stupid interjections which have no bearing on the subject at issue, he will never achieve better results than he is at present obtaining. The average worker who is criticized because he is associated with industrial strikes is just as loyal and sincere as many of his critics. The workers want to see the principle of equality of sacrifice actually applied.- That is not an unreasonable request. While they work hard in .the factories, and do their best to bring about a maximum output, they expect that others, more favorably placed, shall do something approximating to what they do. They do not expect that they should be asked, in the name of equality of sacrifice, .to work their hardest, and at the lowest wage, while others receive a veritable harvest of profit. You can talk as much as you like,’ but you cannot convince them that those conditions approximate to equality of sacrifice. The Government should make it clear that sacrifices shall be made in accordance with the ability of all sections to make sacrifices. If that be done, you will have very little dissension in industry. To-day, the people see Ministers travelling around the country spending a great deal in excess of .their need - and this observation also applies to ourselves - while they are expected to pay, without protest, increased prices for tea and other necessaries of life. Those conditions do not represent equality of sacrifice. Unless something is done in the direction I have indicated, we shall not have peace in industry. Those who criticize simply for the sake of criticizing, and go round the country, posing as ultra patriots, condemning the workers because they dare protest against these conditions, only assist to make a bad position worse. If the few words I have uttered this afternoon have any effect in bringing about a change for the better in our industrial life, I shall feel amply repaid.
– In view of the wonderful work Senator Cameron performed as a conciliator in the coal strike in New South Wales last year, and in other grave industrial upheavals over a long period of years, the Government parties might avail themselves of his services to solve the troubles in which they find themselves to-day. Having heard so much from honorable senators opposite of the tribunals that could be availed of by the workers in order to solve their troubles, it seems a shame that they themselves, who set up these tribunals, cannot ask these brain trusts to solve their own troubles.
I had hoped to take advantage of the debate on the ministerial statement made in this chamber last week to deal generally with government policy; but anticipating that I shall have an early opportunity to deal fully with such matters, I propose, at this juncture, to address myself only to one or two subjects. A report of a meeting of the Red Cross Society, appearing in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, deals with a matter which- has troubled my mind ever since the outbreak of the war. According to that report speakers at that meeting said that the defence authorities were sponging on the society. Those authorities are sponging on not only the Red Cross Society, but also on nearly every other organization which has been set up for the purpose of raising funds for patriotic purposes, including the Lord Mayor’s Fund Committee in Sydney. Requests are made repeatedly by the military and naval authorities to these organizations for articles for the members of the services which it is the first duty of the Government to provide. I recall that requests were made to the Lord Mayor’s Fund Committee for such things as socks, singlets and underwear for members of our fighting services. Such articles should be a first charge on the Government; but for some reason or other, the Government shirks that responsibility as it shirks every responsibility which it can evade. The Red Cross Society has presented a mobile hygiene and bacteriological unit to the Army, and a refrigerator to the Navy to be installed on H.M.A.S. Sydney. No honorable senator, I feel sure, would suggest that that is right. If articles of that kind are required by the Army or the Navy, it is the Government’s duty to provide them. However, according to the report which I have mentioned, Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn told the meeting that although these things were necessary, they were not items that the Red Cross Society should supply. He went on to say that if the society could obtain them more quickly than the authorities concerned, the Government should recompense the society for such expenditure. The statement that a body, such as the Red Cross Society, can obtain supplies even more quickly than the Government is, to say the least, amazing. It is an indictment of the business methods of the Government. Another gentleman at that meeting, Mir. George Paterson, said that the authorities were apt to sponge on the society. This is a matter to which, I suggest, the Government should, in its few remaining troubled days of office, give consideration. It reminds me of the Government’s policy of obtaining men from private enterprise and appointing them to extremely high executive positions without pay. All thinking men will, on principle, disagree with that practice. The fact that many men in the community arc prepared to offer their services to the Government in an honorary capacity is to be commended, but, while appreciating such offers, the Government should pay for the services of any man it employs in that way. T d-d ay, when we have budgets, not of the old totals of £60,000,000 and £70.000,000. but nearly £200,000,000. the least we can do is to pay wages to men whose services we employ in our war effort, and also ensure that essential articles required by the Army and the Navy are not sponged from charitable institutions such as the Red Cross Society. Those organizations have a big enough job to do in their own particular provinces.
I desire to say a few words concerning the effect of petrol rationing in country districts. All honorable senators frequently receive communications from drivers of motor vehicles in the country districts who complain of the effect of the present drastic petrol rationing. The man in the country - and I now refer to people who reside, not in country towns, but in areas about 8 or 10 miles from any town - is in a different position in this respect from the man in the city. When the latter is deprived of his quota of petrol for pleasure purposes he can still avail himself of other means of transport, and can turn to other forms of entertainment which’ take the place of the motoring which he previously enjoyed. I have received a letter from a gentleman who resides about 12 miles out of Canowindra, in which he states that his pleasure ration has been absolutely eliminated. He is still allowed his ration for work around his farm. The point I emphasize is that pleasure in the country districts is inextricably bound up with transport facilities. In most cases a country resident seeks his pleasure in visits to other districts, or to the local township where the farmers of the district are accustomed to congregate. With the elimination of his quota of petrol for pleasure purposes, the man in country areas is now denied such amenities.
– -He receives special, consideration; but, in any case, his position would be worse if he were in Tobruk.
– The honorable senator’s observation hardly applies in this connexion. If I were to deal more widely with petrol rationing I could point out that the Army authorities in Australia, by wasting petrol, are not showing a very good example to their comrades in Tobruk.
– Can the honorable senator prove that?
– On previous occasions I have proved waste in the use of petrol on the part of the Army authorities. I have shown that not one vehicle used in military-camps is equipped with a producer-gas unit. It is obvious that a certain percentage of the department’s motor vehicles must be retained for ordinary commercial work, and I suggest that such vehicles, as distinct from cars and trucks actually used in military work, should be fitted with producer-gas units.
– Those who know do not agree with the honorable senator.
– That interjection is similar to the interjections which the honorable senator invariably has made when I have been speaking on similar subjects in the past. I recall that when I presented a case for shipbuilding in Australia, he used practically the same words, saying that those who knew did not agree with me. Yet, two months later, the Government, on the advice of experts, inaugurated a programme of shipbuilding. Apparently the necessity for doing certain things must be forced right under the nose of the Government before it can realize the inevitability of such action being taken. A high percentage of military vehicles used by the Russian Army are equipped with producer-gas units ; yet Russia has ample supplies of petrol at its doorstep. We have failed to take action in this direction simply because the Government lacks the drive and determination essential to the handling of problems of this kind. Producergas units figure prominently in the every-day life of the Scandinavian countries.
– And in Australia also.
– No ; the percentage of producer-gas units used in transport operations in Australia is a scathing indictment of the efforts of the Government to solve the petrol position. The Government has been on the retreat the whole of the time, and its indecision finally plunged this country, commercially and in other respects, into a depression which could have been avoided.
– The honorable senator urged that petrol rationing was not necessary.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– His party did.
– Had the Labour party been in control within recent years, petrol rationing would not have become necessary. Restrictions on the use of petrol are not imposed in South Africa, and even in Great Britain the effect on users, proportionately to the number of commercial units involved, is less severe than in Australia, despite the fact that supplies have to be transported thousands of miles through hostile waters, and that probably from 16 per cent, to 20 per cent, of the vessels conveying it are sunk by enemy action. The defeatist attitude of the Minister for Supply and Development has characterized every action of the Government since the commencement of the war. An all-in war effort cannot be developed under the present administration. The sooner the existing turmoil in the ranks of the Government is brought to a head, and present Ministers are replaced on the Treasury bench by gentlemen who now sit in Opposition, the sooner will a war effort in accordance with the wishes of the people be put in operation. Every opportunity is afforded to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to place before the country, through the columns of the press and over the national network of broadcasting stations, the policy and programme of the Government, but we wait in vain for the translation of his words into action which will give hope to the men and women of the nation. What has happened to the new prospectus which was given birth when the Prime Minister returned from Great Britain? Three additional Ministers were appointed, and the promise was made that thenceforth the war effort would be on a proper basis. Has there since been any acceleration of operations which would alleviate the doubt felt by men and women of the adequacy of the measures being taken? Are tanks trundling along our main streets ? Are front-line fighter aeroplanes being produced? Has one Bristol Beaufort bomber been wholly constructed in Australia? The production of those things, by whose means alone can wars be won, is deplorably below anticipations, despite the fact that the war has been in progress for nearly two years. Another year or two years will elapse before there is evidence of the results desired, if the present occupants of the Treasury bench are allowed to continue in office. What is the use of having a standing army of 250,000 men, if it i3 armed only with the 303 rifle? What would be the position of this country if it were faced with a crisis ?
– The honorable senator is not up to date.
– I wish that I could believe what I am told by honorable gentlemen opposite; but I know that what I say is right. Not even the Prime Minister himself can point to one tank, fighter aeroplane, or Bristol Beaufort bomber which is being produced in Australia. Until that has been achieved, the present Government will not have done its part in making Australia safe from any attack which might be launched against its shores. Only when it has been driven from office is it likely that the will of the people will prevail in this Parliament. I lay the blame for the present position, not so much on the responsible officers of the Defence Department as on the psychology which gives rise to the view that this country cannot be defended. Because of that psychology, production in Australia is devoted not so much to those things which are needed for our own defence as to items which can be sent to other countries. The Army and the Air Force should not only be trained but also have placed at their disposal that which is essential to enable them to wage war.
The position of the country petrol user needs to be revised. Because of the war, and the shifting of population from country towns to the cities, in which munition works are situated, those towns which have not a military camp or other activity which will keep money in the district, are facing a parlous future. Many of the main streets of the principal towns in the western and southern portions of New South Wales have rows of empty shops, and unless the residents of the district are given sufficient petrol to enable them to conduct their operations, the fate of those towns is sealed. I urge the Minister so to act that country towns and industries may survive. This result can be achieved if the men and women who are developing those industries are encouraged to continue the work that they are doing in the interests of Australia.
– in reply - I appreciate the brevity of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), but I am unable to say that the good example which he set was closely followed by some of his colleagues; although, in the main, their contribution to the debate was quite worth while.
I agree with Senator Keane that Mr. Craig’s application to the Capital Issues Advisory Board might very well have been expedited; however, as the matter is now approaching finality, nothing further can be done.
I have also noted the suggestion of the honorable senator that some slight explanation of the budget might be made.
I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), and feel sure that, if possible, his desire will be met. I have also noted the reference of Senator Clothier to the federal members’ rooms in Perth. I shall bring that matter to the notice of the appropriate authorities, in order to see whether additional accommodation may be provided for senators and members who represent the State of Western Australia.
Senator Brown made certain remarks in respect of invalid pensions. A committee is at present engaged upon the investigation of the social services of this country, and I suggest that the points raised might very well be referred to it. The Government expects to receive from it a report dealing with the removal of the anomalies and hardships that exist under the present system.
Senator Amour was rather illogical, in first complaining of the prevalence of unemployment, and then making the further complaint that women are being employed and towns are being entirely denuded of their manpower. It must be admitted that the unemployment position is better at present than it has been previously in our history. The time is fast approaching when more extensive use will have to be made of female labour, in order that industries which are essential to the war effort may be carried on effectively.
Senator Cameron made a typical speech, containing statements which, if he makes them often enough, he will believe to be true. So far he has not, I suggest, convinced many persons of the soundness of the allegations he has made from time to time.
The cost-plus system is operating very successfully in my department, from the standpoint of both production and the cost to the Government. Honorable senators must, I am sure, recognize that, because of the variety and number of the activities which the Government was called upon to undertake, in many cases without any previous knowledge, some difficulties were bound to arise. The Government had to ascertain, first where certain articles should be made; and, secondly, the cost of making them. It was deemed advisable, indeed necessary, therefore, that some system should be introduced other than the contract or fixedprice system. After full consideration had been given to the matter by persons who were considered competent to deal with the subject, it was decided to add to the fixed-price system the target-price and cost-plus system. The cost-plus system is used only in connexion with those forms of production of which we have had no experience. Had manufacturers been asked to tender in the ordinary course of their business, not knowing the cost, the figure tendered would have included a generous allowance to cover all contingencies. It was felt that, in fairness to the manufacturers themselves, and to the Government in particular, it would be better to operate what has become known as the cost-plus system. It was never intended that that system should continue to operate for any great length of time ; the idea was that, so soon as the approximate cost of producing a given article had been ascertained, contracts should be let on a fixed-price basis, which would be fair to both the manufacturer and the Government. As an illustration, I refer to a particular component which is being made in an annexe in Sydney. When the annexe was completed, and operations were about to commence, negotiations were instituted with the firm which was to exercise control. Commonwealth executives felt, in view of the experience they had had in making somewhat similar components - under quite different circumstances, I admit - that the manufacture of this particular component would cost 18s. The firm was not prepared to undertake the contract at that price, and it was let to it on a cost-plus basis. Under that system costs are checked periodically, and in this instance a check has been made every three months. At each check considerable reductions in the cost of making this particular component were effected. That is only natural, because the workers become more adept at their various jobs and the production rate increases.
– How are the overhead charges assessed?
– They are assessed on a fixed basis. Certain overhead charges are allowable, but others, which normally would be included in the production costs of the firm, are disallowed. We have set out very fully the overhead costs which are allowable under the cost-plus system. The operation of that system in regard to the particular component to which I have referred was very gratifying. Whereas the price originally fixed as being fair w.as 18s. a unit, production costs have been reduced progressively until when the last check was made, the price was 8s. a unit, and I am authoritatively informed that with a few minor alterations to the machinery, the price will be reduced eventually to 6s. a unit - one-third of the original price. I mention that matter to assure honorable senators that in the many and varied forms of manufacture which are being undertaken a few abuses may occur, but in the main many items have been produced much quicker than would otherwise have been the case, and at a lower cast.
The Government has not fallen down on its war effort, as. has been suggested by Senator Armstrong. Indeed, in the House of Representatives last night one of the honorable senator’s colleagues expressed a view diametrically opposed to that of the honorable senator. He said in effect - and I am in entire agreed ment with him - that Australia had nothing to apologize for with regard to its war effort. Indeed, I think that this country has given one of the finest examples that could be cited of what can be done by industrial organization, even with a limited population. Not only has the Government not fallen down on its job, but with the full co-operation of industry, and of the workers, generally, it has also done something which was not thought possible before this war occurred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
The Supply Act (No. 1) 1941-42 covers a period of two months up to the 31st August. Supply is now sought for a further period of two months - to the 31st October, 1941. The measure makes provision for an amount of £11,576,000 to meet expenditure under the following heads : -
The amounts included in the bill are based on the rates of expenditure approved in the appropriation for 1940-41. Only in a few isolated items, in connexion with which the expenditure is heavier in the earlier part of the year, has the proportion of one-third of last year’s provision been exceeded. The provision made for defence and war services in this bill and in the previous Supply Act represents the amount which will be available from revenue receipts for the first four months of the year after making allowance for our other obligations. In addition to the expenditure from this defence vote there will, of course, be much greater expenditure which will be covered by existing loan appropriations. No provision has been made under the heading “Advance to the Treasurer” as the amount of £5,000,000 in Supply Act (No. 1) is adequate for requirements. Except in the case of defence and war services no provision is made in the bill for any new expenditure, and no departure from existing policy is involved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till a date and hour to be fixed by the President, but not later than the 17th September next, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I am not entirely satisfied with the answers which I received yesterday from the Minister representing the Treasurer to my questions relating to exemptions over and above a wife and one child for taxation purposes, and I wish to bring certain aspects of the matter to the notice of the Government. The reply given to my questions was to the effect that circulars had not been issued by the Commissioner of Taxation stating that deductions would not be allowable in respect of children for whom child endowment is payable. That is contrary to the information which I have received from several people in Tasmania. The following is an extract from a letter forwarded to me by a taxpayer: -
By a footnote on the base of a taxation circular recently received, my list of exemptions for dependants is limited to wife and one child, owing presumably to child endowment, but I have five children under the age of sixteen years.
Apparently that taxpayer had a circular attached to his taxation form informing him that deductions would be allowable only in respect of his wife and one child, whereas actually he has five children. It seems that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) is endeavouring, by means of back-door methods, to extract something from taxpayers without the authority of Parliament. The Minister knows that, because in answer to my question yesterday he said that the Treasurer had indicated to certain departments that these deductions were contemplated. The deductions are not being made at present unless the assessments are challenged by the taxpayers, and exemptions are asked for. That is a most cowardly way of approaching the matter. Taxpayers started to receive endowment only at the beginning of the financial year 1941-42, but the Government is seeking to deprive them of taxation exemption in respect of the income earned in the previous year. The Minister has admitted that the Treasurer issued instructions to that effect, though he had no legal power to do so.
– Of course be had.
– I challenge the Minister to produce and lay on the table of the Senate the regulation under which the Treasurer acted. The Minister knows very well that the Treasurer had no such power; he was just trying to slip a swift one over the public. This is the gentleman who is now seeking to become Prime Minister of Australia. I have mentioned one of the tricks that he has been getting up to even before he has attained that high position. What may we expect from him, if he ever does achieve his ambition? The Minister may smile, but we all know very well what the Treasurer is after. We. know why we were called here to Canberra a week before the fixed date. It was because of the chaos which had developed in the ranks of the Government’s supporters - because Mr. Fadden and one or two of his friends were seeking to employ against Mr. Menzies the same tactics as that gentleman himself had used against the ex-Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons.
Another anomaly has to do with the refusal of the Treasurer to allow income tax exemption to the parent of an invalid child over sixteen years of age if that parent is in receipt of a certain income - and it need not be a very large income. The invalid child cannot obtain a pension because the parent is in receipt of more than the stipulated income, and the parent cannot receive income tax exemption in respect of that child because the child is over sixteen years of age. The Government is trying to get it both ways. I say that a father who is not receiving a large income is entitled to a £50 exemption in respect of an invalid child over sixteen years whom he is supporting. In order to qualify for a pension, the invalid child must leave its parents’ home and wander the streets, or go to a boarding house and, being unable to pay its board, have itself brought before the court as a destitute person. That is an anomaly which cries aloud for correction.
It would he greatly to the advantage of members of Parliament, anr] to the public generally, if Ministers were able to attend more expeditiously to matters brought to their notice. During the lost period of this session of Parliament, I approached the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) with a request that fares be paid to soldiers returning on leave to their homes in isolated places not served by railway or suitable ships. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and I put the case to the Minister, who promised to give to it sympathetic consideration, and to furnish a reply later. No reply was received. I sent a letter to the Minister jogging his memory and this time he replied saying that the matter was receiving his attention. Several weeks later I received another letter from him, but it did not deal with this matter - it waa on a different subject altogether. Then I wrote a long letter to the Minister in which I repeated the original request. After another week had elapsed I received a reply from him saying that the matter was receiving attention. A few weeks later - since the beginning of this period of the session - I received from the Minister the following reply: -
Witta reference to your further representations of 28th July, in regard to free transport for members of the military forced proceeding to and from Flinders Island on leave, I desire to inform you that as the provision of free air transport concerns all services, it has been necessary to refer the matter to the Department of Defence Co-ordination for consideration.
As soon as a decision is made, further advice will be furnished.
Thus, after he had been considering the matter for months, he suddenly realized that it did not concern him at all, and referred it to the Department of Defence Coordination. The same sort of thing happened in regard to a matter which touched upon shipping. I addressed the application in the first instance to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison). I do not know whether I was right in doing that, but it is very hard to keep track of Ministers, and their depart* ments in these days when they are being changed around so rapidly. After a few weeks, a reply was sent stating that the request had been received. Then, two weeks later, a communication came from the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McLeay) stating that the application was receiving consideration. A few days ago, I received a further communication stating that the matter did not concern Senator McLeay’s department, but should be dealt with by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), to whom he had referred it. I saw the secretary of that department, who promised to speed things up, but I have heard nothing since. I am curious to know whether the next reply will be from the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes). I do not for a moment believe that these delays are due to the wilful neglect of Ministers, but if they are caused by the present unstable political situation, then the sooner the Government parties can come to some understanding among themselves or get out and allow some one else to govern; the better it will be for Australia.
SenatorMcBRIDE (South AustraliaMinister for Munitions) [4.41]. - This morning, Senator Clothier asked the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Labour and National Service the following question : -
Can the Minister give the Senate any information as to the action proposed by the Government to ensure that sufficient manpower is left available to the gold-mining industry to prevent the threatened wholesale closing down in some districts of Western Australia ?
The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer : -
Labour supply for the gold-mining industry was discussed personally with the Premier of Western Australia in Melbourne on the 11th August, and immediate action was taken by the Department of Labour and National Service, the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee and the military authorities in Western Australia to meet the special difficulties to which the Premier called attention. A report was received from Perth on the 15th August that the matter had been adjusted to the satisfaction of the Western Australian Minister for Mines. A high proportion of occupations in the industry were alreadyon the reserved list, and it was arranged that substantial numbers of non-reserved goldmining employees should not be called up for militia training. Special consideration has been extended to isolated mines. This whole question is now engaging the attention of the newly-formed Man-power Priorities Board.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at St. Mary’s, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator,&c. -
No. 21 of 1941 - Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners of Australia; Plumbers and Gasfitters Employees’ Union of Australia: and Vehicle Builders Employees’ Federa tion of Australia.
No. 22 of 1941 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union; and Commonwealth Naval Storehousemen’s Association.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired near Werribee, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
The Senate adjourned at 4.40 p.m. till a date and hour to be fixed by the President, such date and hour to be not later than Wednesday the 17th September next, at 3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 August 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1941/19410828_senate_16_168/>.