16th Parliament · 1st Session
ThePresident (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
NEW BUSINESS AFTER 10.30 P.M.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended forthe present sitting to enable new business to be taken after 1 0.30 p.m. this day.
The PRESIDENT. - There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present and no dissentient voice, 1 declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce state when the first payment will be made on this season’s wheat, and how much a bushel will be paid ?
SenatorFRASER. - The Minister for Commerce has already stated in the’ House of Representatives that 3s. a bushel will be paid for bagged wheat and 2s.10d. a bushel for bulk wheat, and that the payment will be made as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
SenatorFRASER.-The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
Control of Press and Broadcasting Stations
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The reply to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : - 1., 2. and 3. - The Government already possesses the power to compel newspapers and broadcasting stations to observe the requirements of national security. It is not proposed to extend this power in the manner suggested by the honorable senator.
War with Japan, Finland, Hungary and Rumania.
Debate resumed from the 16th Decem ber (vide page 1067), on motion by Senator Collings -
That the following papers be printed: -
Documents relating to United Slates of America-Japanese Conversations, NovemberDecember, 1 941 .
Declaration of existence of state of war with Finland, Hungary, Rumania and Japan 8th December, 1941 - Documents relating to procedure of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia.
– I appreciate the attitude of the Government in agreeing yesterday to the adjournment of the debate on this motion in order to give to the Opposition an opportunity to study the statement dealing with international affairs, which is a brief historical record of the events leading up to the declaration of war by Japan. I am sure that all honorable senators appreciate both the importance of the statement and the great difficulties that confront the Empire. It is the duty of the Opposition to speak fearlessly, and to give to the Government all the support it needs in these difficult times, not hesitating to make suggestions which it considers essential to the safety of Australia and of the British Empire generally, and of the democracies throughout the world. An interesting feature of the statement read to us yesterday by the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) was that it disclosed that, despite all we had hoped from countries that have made progress, international agreements and other solemn documents are still treated lightly by some nations. I propose to quote the following paragraph that appeared in the statement read by the Minister in connexion with the Hague Convention No. 3, of 1907: -
The Hague Convention No. 3 of 1907, which was ratified by both Japan and the United States, provided that hostilities between the Contracting Powers “ must not commence without a previous and explicit warning, in the form of cither a declaration of war, giving reasons, or an intimation with a conditional declaration of war “. Even those who contend that war may legitimately be commenced without prior declaration or notice oppose the opinion that one country may be justified in taking another unawares. According to Westlake, “ an attack which nothing had foreshadowed would be infamous “. In the present case, diplomatic negotiations were still in progress; therefore the action of Japan was indeed both “ infamous “ and “ treacherous “.
Despite that solemn agreement,” it has been treated as a scrap of paper, and that fact should be a guide to us for the future as to the faith we should have in international agreements. Having examined the ministerial statement carefully, and having heard what was said on this subject in the House of Representatives, I should like the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) to advise us as to what was meant by the paragraph which I propose to quote. It contains a comment which is serious and farreaching, and discloses that great difference of opinion between the Labour party and the party to which I have the honour to belong. The paragraph reads -
But what of the defence of these shores? The Government has been stocktaking. It has inherited a situation in which, for one reason or another, the defence of our country has been treated as a subordinate and subsidiary part of a distant war. From now onwards we shall be thrown back more and more upon our own resources. “ Tis well! I from this day forward we shall know
That in ourselves our safety must be sought ;
That by our own right hands it must be wrought;
That we must stand unpropped, or be laid low.”
I do not raise this subject with any desire to embarrass the Government; I bring it forward in the most friendly and sincere spirit. I do say, however, that I have frequently been embarrassed by statements made by prominent Labour leaders since the outbreak of war as to the wisdom of sending expeditionary forces overseas. The statement which I have read seems to express an attitude of cynical isolation. I appeal to the Government to face the fact that the safety of Australia still depends largely upon the British navy and the success of allied arms in other parts of the world. I have noticed a tendency on the part of some Labour leaders to disagree with the policy of previous governments in sending troops to Malaya, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Russia and Great Britain.
– We approved of troops being sent there.
– If the honorable senator will read Hansard he will find that prominent Labour leaders have said that they were not in favour of sending expeditionary forces overseas. We on this side of the chamber believe that we can never repay Great Britain for what was accomplished at Dunkirk. We agree with Mr. Churchill that “never did so many owe so much to so few “. I remind the Senate of the gallant fight that has been put up by naval men in the battle of the Atlantic, and of the heroic struggle of the people of London and other parts of Great Britain. Knowing something of what they have suffered we agree that it was a privilege to give to them whatever help we have been able to give. Had we been able to do more for them, we could not have done too much. I disagree with the statement that Australia has not paid proper regard to the defence of this country. In the sacrifice of others we have sheltered ; their success has been our protection. I sincerely trust that at the conclusion of this sitting we can return to our homes with an assurance from the Labour Government that it will do all in its power to ensure that adequate reinforcements will be sent to Malaya, Syria, Iran and Egypt in order that those who have gone there to fight our ‘battles will not ‘be left stranded. This is a matter of the utmost importance.
– We must have some regard to the defence of Australia itself.
– I agree with the honorable senator, but I do not approve of the ostrich-like attitude of some supporters of the Government who appear to think that we should not send men or ships beyond Australian territorial waters in order to fight an enemy as far as possible from our shores. Before the Senate rises for the Christmas recess I hope to receive an assurance from the Government that, if necessary reinforcements will be sent overseas.
I appreciate the prompt action of the Government following the declaration of war with Japan, and I realize the difficulties confronting it in regard to the best utilization of our man-power. The Government has been in office for a little over ten weeks, and I assure it that the Opposition has followed its proposals closely during that period. I urge the Government to hasten the fulfilment of the promise made ten weeks ago to divert labour from non-essential industries to war activities.
I also urge an amendment of the National Security Act in order to vest in the Government complete powers for the mobilization of man-power, womanpower, wealth and industry, in order that it may be unfettered in its attempts to do all that it considers necessary for the safety of Australia. I draw attention to paragraph a of sub-section (7) of section 5 of the National Security Act which reads -
Nothing in this section shall authorize -
In order that the Government shall have the fullest powers, I urge that that paragraph be repealed. In doing so, I realize that the legislation of which it forms a part was introduced by a Government of which I was a member. However, the situation has changed entirely since that measure was introduced. I also draw attention to section 13a which reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the Governor-General may make such regulations making provision for requiring persons to place themselves, their services and their property at the disposal of the Commonwealth, as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the Commonwealth and the Territories of the Commonwealth, or theefficient prosecution ofany war in which His Majesty is or maybe engaged:
Provided that nothing in this section shall authorize the imposition of any form of compulsory service beyond the limits of Australia.
When the National Security Bill was before the Senate we had an opportunity to discuss the effects of the proviso which I have just read, but since then the position has entirely changed. With war in the Pacific we know that at any time it may become necessary to send men from Australia to Portuguese Timor, the Malay States, Singapore, New Guinea, the Netherlands East Indies, the Pacific Islands or even to our sister dominion, New Zealand. An undesirable position exists to-day under the law as it stands. We are compelling men to serve in the MilitiaForces, but the Government has no power to send them to the Pacific Islands in case or emergency. The position is urgent; the time factor must be considered. Some of our opponents will undoubtedly contend that in saying this I am advocating conscription. Suggestions have been made in the press that an Australian war zone, including certain Pacific islands, should be defined. I urge the Government to give very earnest consideration to the desirability of repealing the sections of the National Security Act to which I have referred. If these sections are repealed it will not mean that we shall have conscription, but that the Government will have full power in case of an emergency to provide for the adequate defence of this country. The Government could then declare by regulation that our Militia Forces shall be sent to islands near Australia or to any part of the world at a moment’s notice if their presence is required elsewhere to stem a likely attack upon this country. I regard this matter as of extreme urgency and I trust that it will he so considered by the Government.
– Consideration is being given to it.
– My third suggestion is that the Leader of the Senate should approach the Prime Minister and ask him again, in view of the grave emergency that confronts us, to consent to the formation of a national government. Whatever criticisms maybe levelled against this Parliament it is the highest authority in the land. The people of Australia are looking to responsible leaders of all parties for a lead in this great crisis. I say with all sincerity that if I were asked by the people to-day to name the greatest service this Parliament could render to the war effort I would say unhesitatingly that it would be the formation of a national government. If the Government is not prepared to agree to such a proposal I suggest that it give consideration to the establishment of a Supreme War Council clothed with full executive authority to enable it to make quick decisions in regard to the war policy of Australia. 1 suggest that a Supreme War Council be composed of a small number of representatives of each party in this Parliament, that it be clothed with full power to deal with matters relating to the war, and that the administration of other departments be left to their present Ministers. If that were done we would set a splendid example of solidarity to the people of Australia; but if we continue as we have been going in the past we cannot hope to inspire the people toa 100 per cent. war effort.
– That is only an assertion.
– The Leader of the Senate has not been very long in office, but he must appreciate the difficulties that confront Ministers in these troublous times. I suggest that it is impossible for Ministers looking after big departments such as the Department of Munitions and the Department of Supply and Development to attend meetings of the Advisory War Council, the War Cabinet, the full Cabinet and, finally, the Labour caucus to see if the decisions which they have made are supported by their party. That cumbersome procedure occupies four out of five days every week. Is it possible to get quick decisions when all of these formalities have first to be overcome? Let us consider fora moment what happened last week. Executive officers from the service departments in Melbourne were summoned to be in constant attendance at meetings of the Advisory War Council and the
War Cabinet and to advise Ministers generally on all aspects of the developments in the Pacific. Yet when we came here on Monday morning we found that these men who had been called upon to work long hours after Cabinet meetings had ended were in Canberra attending to the requirements of Ministers. While they are here their important work in Melbourne is being neglected.
– That is not correct. The honorable senator knows that their work goes on in their absence.
– It is not conducted as efficiently and as expeditiously in their absence as is desirable. I take this opportunity to pay the highest tribute to the executive officers of Commonwealth departments. I have had the privilege of seeing them at work, and I know of no body of men more steadfast in applying themselves to their duties. We are testing them to the utmost physically and mentally. If the Government accepts my suggestion and appoints a Supreme War Council, not only shall we get quick decisions, not only will honorable senators be given an opportunity to play a more important part in the war effort, hut also the executive heads of service departments will be relieved of the necessity of attending these many council and Cabinet meetings, and our war effort will progress more smoothly than it has in the past. Former Ministers of the Crown will gladly accept any task allotted to them. At the last general elections held about fifteen months ago more than onehalf of the electors of Australia voted for representatives of the United Australia party and the United Country party in this Senate and elected sixteen out of the nineteen candidates elected to this chamber. The party which I represent said to the people at that time, “ If we are returned to office we shall do everything in our power to form a national government”. It would give the greatest satisfaction to those who supported the parties now sitting in opposition if we could achieve our objective of a national government, but failing that they would be satisfied with the appointment of a Supreme War Council, because such a body would protect all interests, make quick decisions and attack in a resolute manner every important problem that came before it. I sincerely trust that the Government will give urgent consideration to the three suggestions that I have just made. In conclusion, I assure the Government that I shall be only too pleased to assist it in whatever way it may think that I can do so. At the same time, however, the Opposition in this chamber owes a duty to the people of tin’s country. I shall certainly take every opportunity in this chamber to express my convictions regardless of their popularity or otherwise.
.- I view the present situation not as a politician, but as a General. I picture myself in command of a division which may or may not be supported when engaged, determined to fight to a finish. Opposite the area for which I am responsible, is a locality which an enemy desires to secure. ‘Some units of the division are fighting hard to deny him the right to occupy that locality from which he could launch a large-scale offensive. If I sat tight and did not strengthen those forward units I would soon be replaced. On the Western Front in theGreat War such situations did occur. The responsible General put forth every effort short of involving his whole command - to remove the menace - to deny the Germans permanent occupancy. ChippleySpur, on the 8th August,1918, stands out vividly in my mind as one example. Itis a minor example, perhaps, but the analogy between Singapore and Australia holds good. Singapore is a locality; if occupied by the Japanese, will he a menace to Australia. We must, with other Empire troops, remove that menace. Japan might, not consider an efficient, determined Australian Army a sufficient deterrent to launch a large scale attack. The unexpected is continually happening in this war. What, is the proper course of action ? Sit down and wait forthe enemy? No! Do everything possible without unduly depleting or jeopardizing the main force which might be required in ease of failure.
Reinforce our men in Malaya. Where are these reinforcements coming from? The Militia, of course, no other source. We cannot, send self-contained units but we can send individuals anxious to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force
Hundreds are straining at the leash to go overseas, but their names are just taken and recorded as Australian Imperial Force reserves. That is not good enough. The strength of a modern division, including all ranks, is 13,000. Following major operations extending over a period of two or three weeks and involving heavy casualties, a division usually requires 50 per cent, reinforcements to replace casualties and other wastage. The reason given for debarring enlistment from the Militia is that the organization will be disturbed and gaps created in the ranks. My answer is : Call up more men and more men not engaged in essential civil services and production of war material, and replace them by older military unfit mcn, women and youths.
I have always advocated, as a deterrent to a large scale invasion, a home defence army of 500,000 men including replacements, backed by a strong air force. A deterring force with the frontier locality or localities blocked is preferable to a deterring force with all the avenues of approach open to the invader. The former keeps the enemy off, the latter contains an element of danger. “We must not, risk war coming to Australia. Head it away at whatever cost. Sooner or later wo must expect air raids on certain localities. They are inevitable. Our virile Royal Australian Air Force cannot be everywhere. Japanese bombers are bound to get through somewhere. I hope that the Government will take steps to enlarge the zone of Australia’s defence system to include distant locations which might be used as bases for enemy operations southward.
.- I endorse the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that the Government should immediately amend the National Security Act in the directions he has indicated. Should Parliament fail to give such power to the Government before it adjourns for the Christmas recess, we shall be guilty of criminal folly in so far as the safety of this country is concerned. At a time like the present, we cannot afford to discuss the merits and demerits of conscription for service beyond our shores. We are faced with the fact that within a comparatively short distance from this country stands an enemy of over 100,000,000 people. That nation possesses a powerful fleet, and has gained an initial advantage by its treacherous violation of a pact to which it was a signatory at The Hague. Without warning, it set upon its neighbours, and in so doing gained .a considerable advantage. In addition, the measure of our security has been seriously reduced as the result of the loss of the British battleship Prince of Wales and the battle cruiser Repulse. We arc not here to criticize those responsible for that disaster, should such responsibility rest upon any one. We only regret that the brave efforts which those ships put forward was not successful. At the same time, we must recognize that as the result of that loss, the danger to Australia has become more imminent. It is useless to reply to the Opposition’s request that the Government be given unshackled power in this emergency by saying that we ourselves failed to take such power when we were in office. Had we done so at that particular time we should have caused a controversy both inside and outside of this Parliament which would have seriously impaired our war effort. Since then, however, circumstances have changed considerably. My sole reason for urging the Government to amend the National Security Act in the directions indicated by my leader is in order that the Government shall not find itself handicapped for want of that power in an extreme emergency.
– All of the men we require will be forthcoming.
– It is not so much a matter of getting men, but rather whether the Government will lack power which it may require in an extreme emergency. At present we are handicapped by the National Security Act and the Defence Act because we cannot utilize those, acts to the fullest degree. It is only fair that we should have some regard for what is being done by our neighbours and allies. When Japan struck, one of the first acts of the United States of America was to remove whatever obstacles existed to the sending of American troops to any part of the world. Legislation to give that authority to the executive was passed through the United States of America Congress without debate, so that no handicap would exist in the prosecution of the war. At present, the Defence Act and the National Security Act place us in an anomalous position. The Government could send militia units to Papua but, although they could proceed as far as the Dutch border, they could not legally cross that border should the enemy land in the adjoining Dutch territory. The position is ludicrous. The Government should have power to send our troops into these territories should the necessity arise, and such a contingency is not at all improbable. Within a few hours of Japan’s move into Thailand and Malaya, owing to the great demand made upon Empire air force units stationed in theFar East - apparently there was not the volume of air support that we should have liked - our allies in the Netherlands East Indies, who have built up a substantial air force in a comparatively short time, sent air force units into Malaya in order to assist our troops. We should be in a position to reciprocate by going to the aid of the Netherlands East Indies should the need arise. It may be deemed necessary in the near future that militia units at Darwin should go to adjoining territories such as Timor or other islands only a few miles from our coast, but unless the Defence Act be amended, that could not he done. So far as I know no such limitation exists in other dominions or in other Pacific countries. The Government of our sister dominion, New Zealand, has assumed full power to send men to any part of the world where it is thought the battle of New Zealand can best be fought, and apparently the same position applies in the Netherland East Indies. The Government should at least adopt the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition for the creation of an Australian defence zone and thus avoid the necessity to call Parliament together should the sending of troops to adjoining territories become imperative in the near future.
– How does the honorable senator suggest that these men would be equipped?
SenatorFOLL. - That is merely a catch-cry which the honorable senator has seized upon. As I said earlier, it might be deemed necessary to send some of our fully equipped anti-aircraft batteries to adjacent territories. I merely cited that unit as an example of what could be done. No one on this side of the chamber has ever suggested that Australian soldiers should be sent away without equipment, and no government of which I have been a member has ever sent our men away without proper equipment. It is true that we have not at all times had all the equipment that we should have liked, but on all occasions, before Australian troops went into action, we insisted that they should be adequately equipped. That assurance was always sought and secured. I remind Senator Arthur, who is so ready to make suggestions, that few people know the difficulties which have confronted the heads of the service departments in equipping our men. Yesterday, on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I spoke for a few minutes regarding articles in a Sydney newspaper which practically pilloried three or four heads of our defence services. It was most unfair to select men like Sir Charles Burnett, Major-General Gordon Bennett, Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, and LieutenantGeneral Sturdee for such attacks. I know, and honorable senators opposite know, of the difficulties that had to be faced in the early days of munitions manufacture and aircraft production in this country. Our war industries started about two years ago from practically nothing. On numerous occasions orders were placed overseas and advice was received from the Old Country that certain engines, guns and equipment of all kinds had left for Australia, only to be sunk by enemy action. The problems which confronted the heads of the service departments and the service Ministers themselves, under such conditions were of a tremendous character, and they still arise. Therefore, I do not intend to rush in blindly to criticize even my political opponents who are now in control of the service departments. Such criticism should be made only in the light of the fullest information, and not merely for the sake of criticizing. No doubt our troubles will be even greater than they have been in the past, and it ill-becomes anyof us toattempt toallowmenwho have rendered splendid service to their country. If it can be proved that men are incompetent, then no doubt the Government has the power to replace them, but, merely for the sake of cheap popularity and notoriety, I have no intention of joining in a heresy hunt or a head-hunting competition until I know definitely that some one has fallen down on his job. It was not until the outbreak of war that the Empire Air Training Scheme was brought into being. The war was actually in progress before the foundations of the scheme were laid. A former Minister for Air, the late Mr.Fairbairn, accompanied by certain air force officials, proceeded to Canada and laid the foundations of the scheme. I am not exaggerating when I say that the work being done under that scheme may turn the scales in favour of the Empire, because it will assure an adequate supply of pilots and other airmen. I recall the difficulties with which we were faced owing to certain differences of opinion among some of the senior officers of the Royal Australian Air Force when the scheme was launched, and I know how essential it was that Australia should obtain from overseas the services of an officer of the type of Sir Charles Burnett. It was necessary that we should not only get the benefit of the vast experience of such an officer, but also send some of our own young officers abroad for training. At that time our Air Force was comparatively small. If honorable senators will recall its dimensions at the time of the Munich incident, as compared with its strength to-day, I think that it will be agreed that the officials at the head of it are entitled to a great deal of credit for the improvement that has been effected. Similar remarks are applicable to many of our other service chiefs. It is not sound policy, because the war seems to have gone against us at the outset, to look around for scapegoats. At present we must hold our chins up and keep our heads cool. We should have faith in our leaders until it has been actually demonstrated that they have fallen down on their job. We should not commence a heresy hunt amongst officers on the administrative side of our fighting services. Statements made by amateur strategists should be discounted, because those critics are not acquainted with the control and organization of the various branches of the fighting service.
I was pleased recently to notice that the Government had announced that it would review the list of exempted occupations. I have always held the opinion that large numbers of persons who are sheltering in reserved occupations could well be called upon to strike a blow for their country. I have contended that the list of reserved occupations was drawn up too much in accordance with old-world conditions, and in a manner suitable for a much larger population than that of Australia. I hope that the Government will not be stampeded, as the result of representations made to it from time to time, into receding from the stand that it has made with regard to the list of reserved occupations. I still believe that it will be found necessary to mobilize woman-power, so that women may take the place of men now employed in reserved occupations. We must realize that the population of this country is only about 7,000,000. I have no doubt that Britain and her Allies will finally smash the Japanese forces ; but, if the war lasts a long time, and the Japanese are able to continue the minor successes that they have already gained, it may be necessary for every man who is capable of doing something in the defence of this country to be called upon to do so. The Government should not hesitate to take every necessary power to ensure that all members of the community pull their full weight in the defence of Australia. If people ask me whether in a national emergency I am in favour of the conscription of wealth and property, I say definitely that I am, because I believe that the Government of the day should take everything that is required for defence purposes. If men are called upon to give their lives in the defence of Australia, the Government should not hesitate to take anything that it requires from individuals. What is there of greater value that we could lose than our lives and the right to live in freedom? To me every inch of our land is sacred. Mr. Churchill, after the disaster at Dunkirk, told the Huns that if they effected a landing on British soil they would be fought in every city, town, village and street. That is the spirit of the people of Australia. Every one of us should he prepared to do all he can to ensure that no alien invader shall set foot in this country. I am prepared to give to the Government in an honorary capacity any service of which I am capable. I shall gladly do that because we have now reached a time when we in list forget party divisions and all pull together. The enemy is only two days’ sail from our shores. We are fighting against an unscrupulous and well organized foe. There is nothing that we should not be prepared to do to ensure the safety of this country.
Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) [3.55 . - I believe that the present Government has done its job well, and I appreciate the lucid statement on international affairs submitted yesterday by the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley). The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) made a serious mistake when he said that when Ministers were unable to attend their departments in the capital cities 100 per cent, war effort was not being obtained. It ill becomes the Leader of the Opposition to suggest that departmental heads and other government officials do not give their best services when the Minister in charge of a department is not present.
– He did not say anything of the kind.
– He said that when the Minister was not present a 100 per cent, effort was not being obtained, but that is not a true statement. What a Minister can do in Melbourne he can also do in Canberra, Sydney or Brisbane. He is quite capable of doing his job on behalf of the people of Australia, irrespective of where his services may bc required for the time being.
Senator Foll referred to the statement by Mr. Churchill after the withdrawal from Dunkirk, and stated that Mr. Churchill had declared that, if the Germans landed in Britain, every town, village and street would be defended. Senator Foll went on to say that Australia would be defended in a similar manner if the enemy came to our shores. Yet he i3 prepared to see Australia denuded of its man-power in order that islands around Australia may be defended. My recollection of what Mr. Churchill said was that the British forces would defend Britain first, the trade routes second, the dominions third and the colonies fourth, and that if the colonies were lost they could be re-taken later. At the outbreak of the present war Senator Brand declared that Australia would never again be prepared to have its man-power depleted. At that time the Japanese had not entered the war, and Japan had not joined the Axis Powers. The late Mr. Street, formerly Minister for the Army, made a similar statement at a time when Japan had not entered the war, but to-day Japan is knocking at the door of Australia and we cannot prevent it. But we can defend Australia by having such a force in this country that will be capable of doing the job. Our men should be not only equipped, but they should have equipment of the best quality and in such quantity as is required. I should like to see the Australian Imperial Force brought back from Syria to Malaya. I should feel much more contented, and I believe that the people of Australia generally would feel much safer, if the Australian troops now in Syria were in Malaya. We have capable airmen and trained pilots who could be brought backto Australia for the purpose of operating machines in this country in order to defend our women and children. I should like to see those who have been sent to Canada under the Empire Air Training Scheme brought back to Australia for a similar purpose. I am opposed to any man leaving Australia until such time as the British or American fleets, in cooperation, can stem the Japanese attack, and clear Malaya and the Philippines of the invaders, as well as drop a few bombs on Tokyo. Then Australia could review the position, but, until such time as we have driven the invaders back, Australians - men, women and children - should be protected.
– Does not the honorable senator think that we should help to push them back?
– In defending an island which may mean nothing to Australia, we may lose Australia.
SenatorFoll. - The defence of some islands to the north of Australia may mean a lot to us.
– I am concerned with the defence of Australia. Too long has international capital controlled the world to its own advantage and the disadvantage of the people generally.
SenatorFoll. - We do not want the enemy to get bases near to Australia.
– I am concerned with protecting first the people of this country, just as the people of Great Britain are concerned primarily with their own safety. Why any member of this Parliament should say that the statement that Australian soldiers left this country without proper equipment is untrue, I cannot understand, because, unfortunately, it is true that Australian soldiers who fought in Libya, Greece and Crete did not have proper equipment. Surely no honorable senator feels proud of that record. We must ensure that no man will again leave Australia without proper equipment, and continuous supplies of food and equipment. Those on whom may fall the responsibility of defending our shores are entitled to the best equipment possible, and that is why we need order, not panic, in the community. Nothing is to be gained by having people running from place to place uncertain what to do next. We should see that our rural population continues to work in an orderly way until itis required for other purposes associated with the defence of the Commonwealth. Those responsible for maintaining our food supplies should be allowed to continue working in an orderly way. Indeed, every person in the community should be encouraged to carry on in his usual occupation until called up for service in the Army, or in some other capacity, and when called up he should know that he will be properly trained and given the maximum of protection. It is futile to put men into uniform unless they are supplied with rifles or other equipment.
The Government has done a good job in connexion with air raid precautions. In this connexion, I deprecate the statement attributed to Major-General Sir Thomas Blarney that the need for such precautions does not exist in Australia It is probable that a fortnight ago the people of Honolulu were of the same opinion as Sir Thomas Blarney. The Commonwealth Government has done well to provide against air raids. Order must he maintained in the community if Australia is not to be handed over to the Japanese nation.
– I wish to refer briefly to the attempt of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) to discredit the Government and its supporters because they have questioned the wisdom of sending men overseas. In accordance with his usual custom, the honorable senator confined himself to general statements, and did not particularize either as to persons or statements. To say the least, the attitude adopted by the Leader of the Opposition is not in keeping with the position that he occupies in this chamber. I agree that he is entitled to express his views, but I submit that those views should be based on facts, rather than on hearsay, assumptions and opinions.
– Does not the Minister read Hansard ?
– I do read Hansard, and for the information of the honorable gentleman, I shall quote from that publication. On the 19th September, 1939, the late Honorable G. A. Street, who was then Minister for Defence, said-
The Government of the United Kingdom has itself recognized that at the present juncture the best contribution that Australia can make is to defend itself.
Great Britain itself is not asking for volunteers at the moment.
The late Mr. Hawker, who was a captain in the Australian Imperial Force in the war of 1914-18 and represented the division of Wakefield, said in the House of Representatives on the 28th April, 1938-
I cannot imagine any circumstances in which Australia could send overseas an enormous expedition such as was despatched during the lost war. The world position is such that we cannot afford to denude Australia of defence.
Another victim of a tragic air disaster was Sir Henry Gullett, who, while Minister for External Affairs in April, 1938. said, as reported in Mansard of the 29th April of that year -
Every body must subscribe to the statement made yesterday by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker) that one cannot possibly visualize stripping this country of its manhood as was done in the Great War. It may be that wecould send two or three divisions somewhere overseas, but they would be volunteers, and wo could always be certain of getting volunteers.
Senator Brand, who is still with us, said in this chamber in October, 1938 -
It was unnecessary for the Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Curtin) to broadcast to the world that no Australian soldier would bo sent to fight overseas. The world situation to-day is quite different from what it was in 1914. There is no likelihood of the formation of another Australian Imperial Force. All our industrial, economic and service defence preparations have one objective - home defence.
Speaking again in the Senate on the 13th September, 1939, Senator Brand said -
Honorable members should not think for one moment that I am visualizing an expeditionary overseas force.
I have already said that the despatch of such a force, voluntarily enlisted, is a remote possibility.
No government would dare denude this country of its virile manhood unless some extraordinary development warranted such action.
– That has happened now.
– That is so. My purpose in making these quotations is to point out that gentlemen opposed to the Labour party in politics have questioned the wisdom of sending men overseas. I am not reflecting on them, but I refer to their statements because, obviously, the Leader of the Opposition intended his remarks as a reflection on the present Government and its supporters. In his speech on the 13th September, 1939, Senator Brand went on to say that Australia’s defence problem was different altogether from that of New Zealand or any other dominion. In October, 1938, the then Attorney-General, the Right Honorable W. M, Hughes, said in effect that it was problematical if any overseas expeditionary force would ever (reach its destination. When the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), who is now Minister for the Army, interjected : “ Would the right honorable gentleman have sent Australian troops to a war over Czechoslovakia?” Mr. Hughes replied: “ I doubt if any Australian troops would ever get to Czechoslovakia “.
Mr. V. C. Thompson, a member of the Country party who represented New England in the House of Representatives, said on the 16th June, 1939-
I know that thousands of people in my electorate and thousands of others firmly believe that a statutory obligation to serve overseas does not exist.
WhileI am a member of this Parliament, I shall use my endeavours to see that no alteration is made in our defence policy in that respect. The people are quite prepared to support a policy under which the manhood of this country may be compelled to serve for home defence, but would oppose an expeditionary force going to New Guinea, Norfolk Island or anywhere else where the British flag may be raised.
I agree that circumstances have changed since then, but such changes do not justify the attempt of the Leader of the Opposition to-day to discredit the Government and its supporters on the question of whether men should or should not be sent overseas. When the Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. S. M. Bruce, addressed a meeting of members of this Parliament in Melbourne in February, 1939, he emphasized that the people of Great Britain did not expect Australia to send men overseas, as they believed that Australia might require them for its own defence. At a time of unprecedented crisis, no honorable senator should attempt to make political capital out of the situation, or out of statements made in good faith by other members of Parliament. I think that I have said sufficient to prove that members of political parties opposed to Labour, as well as military authorities who are better qualified to speak on the subject than is the Leader of the Opposition, have questioned the wisdom of sending men away from Australia to fight overseas.
– The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) has established his case that there is diversity of opinion as to the wisdom or otherwise of sending Australian troops overseas. Of course there are differences of opinion on that subject. The Minister quoted authorities who asked if we would not denude Australia of defence by sending our men overseas. That would depend to some degree on how many men were sent overseas, but generally speaking we are not denuding the country of defence in this way, because our fighting mcn are defending Australia wherever they may be. Does the Minister think that the members of the first Australian Imperial Force were defending Australia when they were fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula, in Palestine, Syria, Belgium and France during the last war? They were defending Australia very well. Senator Amour seems to have missed completely a very important point when he said that if he had his way he would bring back to Australia the members of the Australian Imperial Force now in Libya. Palestine and Syria.
– He said that they should be brought back not to Australia, but to Malaya.
– The honorable senator also said that we should bring buck to Australia the members of the Royal Australian Air Force who are now in Canada and England in order to defend the women and children of this country. Are they noi defending our women and children overseas by fighting the battles of this country and the Empire overseas? If we proceed along those lines we shall he asking for trouble. The point that Senator Amour missed altogether in his suggestion that we should withdraw our troops to our own country is that such a move would leave undefended close to this continent some vital possible bases of enemy action. Their is no need for me to mention them by name; to any student of war strategy they are obvious. One of them at present is not occupied by our people or by our allies, and is a potential danger to Australia. If we are content to sit. down in our own country and wait for the enemy to come to us, allowing him to secure bases close to our shores from which to operate his aircraft, we are asking for trouble.
T agree with the Minister that, the deadly peril which now faces this country is unprecedented in its history. I was very cheered indeed to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) indicate in a broadcast speech last week that stern and ruthless action would be taken in regard to a number of things. Amongst other things, he said that it would bo necessary to freeze supplies of petrol, and he appealed to the people not to use their cars for pleasure purposes. His appeal was couched in dignified language, to which one would have thought that anyone with intelligence or sense of decency would have responded. I was appalled and amazed on the very next night when I was returning from an outer suburb of Melbourne to see the large number of private cars parked outside three suburban picture theatres. Outside one theatre at least, 60 cars were lined up; outside another there were at least 60 or 70, and outside a. third well over 100 cars were parked. Just imagine the minds of people who respond in that way to an appeal by the first citizen in the land who is charged with the responsibility of governing this country in these difficult days. The time for appeal has long passed; this is a time for compulsion. In the interests of national security, the people should be told what to do and should be made to do it. Compulsion will have to be resorted to in matters of this kind because voluntary appeals, no matter how well they are couched, will not get results from some people. It is necessary for the Government to take stern and ruthless action now. At a time like this, it would ill become me or any one else to indulge in destructive criticism of the Government. I have no intention of doing .so; but I should like to make one or two remarks on some thoughts that have been uppermost in my mind during the last week or two, particularly in regard to the defence of Australia. The anomalous position in which we have placed ourselves all through the years in regard to our Army has disturbed me for many years. Our Army should be one coherent body under one command and enjoying the same conditions of service, but. to-day we have the Australian Imperial Force composed of volunteers for service in Australia or overseas, the Militia and also the compulsory military trainees who have been called up for training under the Defence Act, and, in addition, the Volunteer Defence Corps and other voluntary organizations. It is all-important at this time that we should have a unified Australian Army for the defence of the Commonwealth which the government of thu day could employ where it willed without statutory restriction. I do not suggest that our fighting men should be sent to the four corners of the earth, but that we should have a force ready to hand capable of being sent wherever the strategic situation demands their immediate presence. The Permanent Forces, the Australian Imperial Force, the Militia, the compulsory military trainees and the volunteer reserve should all be under one command and he able to be used without quibble or hesitation. I do not, intend to discuss policy in regard to the different arms of the service because T am only an old “has-been” as far as soldiering is concerned. I am told that, at 59, I am far too old to be of any use, though I think that 1! am still capable of performing a useful service. However, 1 would like to see the Royal Australian Air Force brought, into closer co-operation with our military forces or with whatever troops it is supporting at the moment. Although that is merely a personal opinion, I feel sure thai it is because of the lack of such support that British forces and our own forces .have failed in the past. Some people have suggested that, we should define a limited /.one of defence. Such a /.one would not be fixed by us, but by the enemy. The distinction that exists between the Australian Imperial Force and the Militia is a great, pity. The cheap, disgusting and unfair sneers indulged in at the expense of the boys in the Militia have pained me very much. We should endeavour to wipe out all distinctions of that kind. The members of both forces are rendering noble service in the defence of their country, and in the circumstances that exist to-day, any distinction between them should be swept away. Members of both forces should receive the same pay and enjoy the same conditions. Any suggestion that wo should bring our troops back to Australia is misguided and reveals muddled thinking. If such a doctrine were adopted in its entirety, it would bring nothing but woe and suffering. Malaya and the Pacific islands are as much a part of Australia for defence purposes as are any of our coastal ports, and we should be able, as Senator Foll said, without having to enact legislation, to send our men overseas, to the neighbouring Dominion of New Zealand, to
Timor. or wherever necessary, in order to deny the enemy land bases from which to operate his aircraft. The isolationist’s idea of defence assumes that we have no choice but to fight in our own last, ditch. If we accept that doctrine in its entirety we shall fight in our own last ditch, but without, effectual allies, because our Allies with equal justification will adopt the same policy and refuse to come to our aid.
– That is propaganda.
– It is not, propaganda. I am talking from a national point of view about a subject of which I know something, and in the interests of a country which I love and have fought for in two wars. My statement does not contain a scintilla of propaganda. I have never indulged in propaganda, in this chamber. A person who would sink to that level, having regard to the serious position in which our country finds itself to-day, must be low indeed; and any man who would impute such a motive to me must have a pretty rotten and diseased mind. The Government must have power to employ as it. may wish any Australian troops anywhere, be they volunteers or men raised under our universal training law. We must have a coherent army, and not one whose parts are in watertight compartments. To-day, however, some of our soldiers can be sent abroad, whilst others cannot be sent beyond our shores. Thu suggestion that that bar should be removed at the present juncture represents a common sense attitude, and in all sincerity I urge the. Government to give serious and immediate consideration to the proposal.
– Much of what, has been said by honorable senators opposite can very easily be misconstrued and used by our enemies as propaganda against us. 1 emphasize that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are just as desirous as are honorable senators opposite, if not more so, to ensure that Australia is adequately defended. Senator Sampson stated that regardless of where Australian troops were fighting whether in Egypt, Europe, Malaya or anywhere else they were defending this country. With that we all agree. However, there is a limit to our capacity to send soldiers abroad, whether it be to Europe or Africa, and, at the same time, adequately protect our shores against an enemy which is now right at our very door. Honorable senators opposite, particularly Senator Sampson and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), declared it was our duty to keep up reinforcements to our troops now in Libya.
– Does not the honorable senator agree with that?
– If we could spare such reinforcements my reply is “ Yes “ ; but to the implication that we should send soldiers overseas regardless of our own defence requirements, I say “No”. Senator Sampson implied that we in Australia are merely sitting back and waiting for the enemy to come to our shores; that we are adopting an isolationist policy, and shall fight only on our own soil. On what information does the honorable senator base that implication? Apparently, his ears and eyes have been closed to what has been going on in this country. He would be of a different opinion if he were inundated with telephone calls and telegrams, as I have been, since I arrived in Canberra, dealing with the calling up of men from all sections of primary and secondary industry. Such facts prove that the Government is attending effectively and urgently to our defence requirements. The honorable senator, apparently, is not aware of those things. No honorable senator on this side has said that our troops in Malaya and Singapore should not be fully reinforced, or that the Government should not do everything possible to meet the enemy beyond our shores.
– The Government has not the power to send men abroad, even if it wanted to do so.
– The honorable senator is not aware of the whole of the facts. Honorable senators opposite are doing a greater disservice to this country by providing propaganda for our enemies when they say that this Government will not allow Australian soldiers to be sent beyond our shores, and suggest that we are not prepared to meet our enemy at Singapore and Malaya. That is the kind of statement I condemn when I describe certain remarks made by honorable senators opposite as propaganda. When I interjected to that effect Senator Sampson replied that any one who would make such a suggestion must have a very low mind indeed. If the honorable senator did not really mean what he said I readily forgive him; but that is my interpretation of his statement. Certainly our enemies will interpret his remarks to meanthat the Government of this country will not allow our soldiers to meet them beyond our shores.
– I rise to a point of order. I cannot allow an honorable senator to put words into my mouth which I did not utter.
The DEPUT Y PRESIDENT (Senator Brown). - The honorable senator has not raiseda point of order.
– The Government is fully aware of our present difficulties. No honorable senator on this side has ever suggested that it is not prepared to meet our enemies beyond our shores; but that implication was apparent in practically the whole of the speech made by Senator Sampson. Such a speech was entirely wrong.
– And harmful.
– It provides propaganda of which our enemies will make the greatest possible use. Goebbels will certainly capitalize it. Honorable senators opposite advocate the setting up of a supreme war council. Such a body already exists.
– With executive powers ?
– Yes; but the Leader of the Opposition is grieved because he is not a member of it. The members of that body are quite capable of dealing with the problems which confront them. If honorable senators opposite will give to the Government only 50 per cent. of the co-operation which we gave to the previous Government when we were in opposition they will have no cause to worry.
– There are one or two features of Japan’s attack upon the democracies which we must bear in mind.
A few years ago we witnessed an unprovoked attack by Japan upon Manchukuo. The Lytton Commission reported upon it; and one distinguished Chinese pundit said at the time that Japan’s aggression on that occasion marked the beginning of a world war. How truly he spoke! Shortly afterwards we witnessed the violation of all international relations by Italy, now a partner in the Asis, in its conquest of Abyssinia. It was not hindered by the powers which stood for peace, and, for sinister reasons we are told, no effort was made in that direction by the League of Nations, which was charged with the preservation of international peace. I do -not know whether honorable senators have read Van Paassen’s remarkable book, Days of Our Years, in which he discloses the absolute treachery and lack of morality in international affairs, except on the part of English-speaking nations, and a few of their allies. Can we envisage anything more terrible than the story which this author tells, and which has been confirmed, concerning the proposal by Goering to bomb Paris overnight by an air attack without warning? Let it be said to the credit of some people in Germany that they did not accept such a proposal as part of Germany’s policy. But having destroyed all opposition in Germany, the Fuhrer interviewed Mussolini at Venice, and put the proposition to him, but it was rejected. Following that interview, Mussolini published in the Italian press a statement which was not nattering to his present ally. But what was the national morality of Italy in that regard? Certainly Italy refused to be a party to the bombing of Paris, but its action on that occasion was the price of Laval’s treachery to Great Britain and Abyssinia, and his refusal to give to Britain the use of the French Mediterranean and West African bases to enable us to keep Italy in check. One can realize how Italy was influenced by that refusal. That was the beginning of the present war. Wo have seen the rape of Czechoslovakia and Poland; country after country has become dominated by German force. We have seen valiant peoples crumble under the heel of this European dictator; but now, at last, he is confronted with a power which is likely to begin his overthrow. The British Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill) said that in a ttacking Russia Hitler made one of his greatest mistakes; but i3 that so? Had he waited longer, would things have been any better for him? Only too well did he know what was going on in Russia. After the last war Germany built up armed forces in Russia in contravention of the Versailles Treaty. It was in Russia that the great Krupp armament works operated when we could find no trace of arms production in Germany; it was in Russia that the vast Essen interests began to build up the mighty mechanized organization that it is to-day. Russia knew better than the British Secret Service what Germany was doing, and so Russia prepared, and knowing the intensity of Russian preparations, Hitler accelerated Germany’s plans. He feared the might of Russia, and so he struck. Mr. Churchill said that he struck foolishly, but I think that he struck because he feared the immense preparations that were being carried out by the Russian people. Then, when disaster overtook the German forces in Russia, Hitler and his confederate, Mussolini, dragged into this world conflagration a neighbouring nation of ours - a nation which America stirred into the first activities of civilization; a nation that was happy and contented within itself; a nation which Captain Perry said would come under the heavy barrage of guns unless it came out from its seclusion and traded with the world; a nation which has turned out to be extraordinarily fertile in various regards, and amazingly capable of living under conditions which we are unable to live under; a nation which has done well in commerce, and manufacture; and one which permeated into the highest civilizations of Europe and joined the League of Nations. Unfortunately, it was also a nation with territorial ambitions. The second point to which I should like to draw the attention of honorable senators is this: Every propaganda technique which the Central European Axis partners pioneered - protests against alleged encirclement, demands for living space, and suggestions of imminent attack by imaginary foes - has been exploited to the
I’u I i by the Japanese. Japan lias also copied another technique which has been used successfully by Germany in every var in which that country has been engaged in recent years - namely, the technique of fighting its battles in other countries. Last week Japan launched out and struck hard while u message from President Roosevelt was in transit to the Emperor of Japan. The Japanese attacked fan wise; they struck at America, the British Empire and the Netherlands East Indies, in such a manner as to keep the war out of its own country. Fortunately, for Japan, the war in China had reached such a stage that bases were available for launching these attacks to the south. Vet even in the face of these happeningsome people in this country are inclined to regard with complacency the possibility of fighting of our battles at Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Fremantle. Every nation which realizes the devastating effect of war is endeavouring to keep the conflict inside the boundaries of other countries. France was devastated during the last war; Palestine was a battleground and Gallipoli was a battleground - all well away from the German borders. Some of the statements made by Senator Sampson to-day seemed to indicate that many of us have lost sight of the imperative necessity to keep war away from our shores. To-day, we who have been living under the sheltering arm of Great Britain are threatened. It was for our safety that Britain established, at tremendous cost, the vast Singapore naval base and fortifications, which, I venture to suggest, will withstand all attacks by Japan. No doubt, having regard to the feelings of the people of this country, Britain despatched its latest battleship, Prince of Wales and a formidable battle cruiser, the Repulse, to our northern waters. Unfortunately, as is often the case with the British race, risks were taken with those ships, and they were lost. I read with admiration, the statement by Admiral Sir Tom Phillips, in regard to the risk he was taking of being bombed by suicide squads of Japanese airmen. On one occasion when I was discussing with a certain gentleman bow useless aeroplanes were against pro- perly armed and air-escorted battleships, I was told that a battleship would be dealt with by hundreds of aircraft dropping heavy bombs on all the vital parts of the vessel. The gentleman with whom 1 was discussing the matter is a very gallant Australian who has proved himself a capable aviator. He was in charge of the Centaurus, the first big flying boat to come to this country. I asked him how many planes used in such a way against a battleship would return, and he said, “ None “. I suggested to him he was visualizing suicide squads, and he replied that that was exactly what he ha-l in mind. The Japanese philosophy in regard to after-life makes it easy indeed for them to engage in such hazardous tasks. While they may not be as great fighters as the British, French, Dutch and Germans, in the hope of future enchantment they go to their doom with great cheerfulness. I can well understand the apprehension which Admiral Sir Tom Phillips felt when he ventured into the waters in which he eventually lost his ship. On, or two honorable senators opposite have become a little hot under the collar about observations made by Senator Sampson, but I appeal to them to be tolerant. Those of us who have been in the Senate for a number of years know Senator Sampson well. In season and out of season, hp has advocated the need for preparedness in this country. He spoke with all possible sincerity, and even in the mid.?i of our gravest financial worries, hp begged and prayed of the Government of the day not to undo a great deal of the preparatory and educational defence work which had already been accomplished in this country. To-day, Senator Sampson spoke with his usual sincerity and earnestness, and I urge honorable senators who may not know him as well as I do to endeavour to understand him. I assure them that his statements to-day were the same as those which he has been making ever since I came into this chamber fifteen or sixteen years ago. They are sound sentiments; he believes that the first line of defence of this country is beyond our shores. Should anything befall the Netherlands East Indies, what hope have we in this country? Our oil supplies have already been considerably reduced, but if our source of supply in the Netherlands East Indies were to he cut off, we should be in a perilous state.
SenatorCourtice. -We would still fight; we would have to.
– I have no doubt that the honorable senator is a man of courage, but has he ever studied this problem? Has he ever thought that we are merely a nation of 7,000,000 people? Has he ever considered how many men we could actually put into the field here to look after our thousands of miles of coastline? No doubt, we should be able to give a good account of ourselves, but is the honorable senator aware that in the absence of opposing sea power, Japan landed 1,500,000 men in China within three weeks of the launching of the attack upon that country several years ago? Honorable senators must face the facts. I do not wish tobe an alarmist. I believe that with the great American republic with us, and with the valuable support of the Netherlands East Indies, a staunch and capable ally equipped better than most of us imagine, the time has come for us to assert ourselves in the Pacific. Do not let us delude ourselves. Once our chain of defences in the north is broken, and perhaps our neighbouring dominion of New Zealand with its 1,500,000 people is under the domination of Japan, do not let us imagine for a moment that our shores can remain inviolate. Our air Force and our Navy, such as it is, will no doubt give a wonderful account of themselves. Our fighting men are as gallant and our people are as true as their forebears in Great Britain have proved themselves to be, but it is a question of numbers and of where we shall draw our supplies. The Government is perturbed about the petrol restrictions,but this precaution has become necessary in the interest of Australia’s defence. I am not criticizing anybody, but the position is so clear that we should not hesitate to fight the enemy on the blue waters of the Pacific as far away from Australia as possible. We should not permit the enemy to obtain a footing in New Zealand, which is as rich throughout the whole length of that dominion as the most fertile parts of Australia. Another possible base which should not be allowed to fall into the hands of an invader is Timor, which is about 300 miles, as the crow flies, from the most northern part of Australia. Imagine that island in the hands of a foe equipped with supplies of oil and petrol from the Netherlands East Indies ! The battle of the Pacific must be fought in the neighbourhood of Australia. I appreciate the full and frank ministerial statement that has been made upon the i n tern ati onal si tua ti on .
SenatorCourtice. - We have discussed almost everything except those papers.
– The white papers are technical in character, but I commended to honorable senators, as a document worth reading, the despatch transmitted by President Roosevelt to the Emperor of Japan.
On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate yesterday, Senator Foll referred to certain newspaper comments regarding the war situation. Surely that, is a matter for the taste of the newspapers themselves, but, in certain evening newspapers published in at least two capital cities, there have been comments designed to give the impression that the information has come from ministerial heads, and that officials in high military positions are shortly to be displaced.
– Has not the honorable senator read of similar happenings in England ?
– Yes ; I do not blame the Government, but I contend that such criticism should cease. If the Government considers that certain officers are too old for their jobs it should take appropriate action, but it is subversive of all discipline that rumours of the kind to which I have referred should he published in the press. Such statements make the officials concerned uneasy in their work because they wonder when the axe will fall. If the services of these officials ought to be dispensed with, there will be no criticism from me when they are discharged, but they should not bo left in a state of suspense for weeks.
I deplore the entry of Japan into the war. I had hoped that that country would have had the good sense not to embark on a venture which I believe will prove to be its undoing. I thought that the relations between Japan and Great Britain during the last war would have deterred that country from taking up arms against its former allies; but, unfortunately, national morality seems to be a thing of the past. I have had no illusions in that regard since 1914, when the solemn agreement between .Germany and Belgium was referred to as a scrap of paper. The action of Japan is only in keeping with what Hitler did after the Munich Conference. I hare no doubt that our democratic .allies will stand fast by their bond, for that is the only hope for civilization. What higher duty can a country have than to keep its covenants with its neighbours? The results of this war in blood, tears, famine and disease are such that civilization has been put back centuries. In all sincerity, I say that we should not trust our enemies in future.
– I rise with considerable diffidence to speak at this juncture. We are all aware of the grave danger with which this country is confronted, and I hope that I shall not say anything that will result in an accusation that I am attempting to make political capital out of the situation. Whilst I hold strong views regarding the efficacy of a national government, I recognize that every person in this country, whether in or out of Parliament, is most anxious to do all in his power to safeguard the integrity and freedom of Australia. I listened with interest to the statement read by the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley), and to the statement presented in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), to whom credit is due for the masterly way in which he surveyed the international situation. Although the Minister for External Affairs recognized that Australia was in great danger, he ‘held out great hope for us, because we have as an ally that powerful nation, the United States of America. I draw attention to the following paragraph in ‘his statement: -
T take leave to doubt whether the people of this country sufficiently appreciate the resources and latent power of the United States of America. They are immeasurable. All those resources will now bc devoted by a united nation to strike down for ever the might of the aggressors. It is wrong to lose con fidence in the ultimate outcome because of the severe shocks which have, been received at the beginning.
Having spent some time in the United States of America and Canada 25 or 30 years ago, I make bold to say that the Americans are not afraid to tackle any job. They have demonstrated their ability in the industrial field, and have undertaken work in that direction which other nations were not prepared to do. Whilst we deplore the terrible catastrophe that has overtaken the United States of America at Pearl Harbour, we must realize that that particular reverse has roused the American nation to such a degree that to-day it is as united as Australia in its determination to do everything possible to overcome the aggressors. When a country like the United States of America takes on a warlike task, we may rest assured that all the energies of its people and the full industrial capacity of the country will be put -into the work of producing the means essential to victory. In the meantime, however, there are terrible weeks and months ahead of Australia, and we must not forget the presence of a great danger.
The political representatives of the Labour movement are determined to do everything possible to safeguard this country. To those who may not see eye to eye with us politically, I point out that the policy of Labour is to support our troops overseas. When the Menzies Government was in power, it received cordial support in that direction from, the Opposition. Since the policy of the Labour party is to furnish reinforcements for our troops overseas, it is wrong to accuse that party or the present Government of acting contrary to its own policy It has not done so yet, and it will not do so. The present Labour Government will not do anything inimical to the interests of our men in Malaya; it will not forget Australia’s obligations to them. I have mixed a good deal with the men in the various camps, and I know that they are only too anxious to assist their comrades. They are ready to go to Malaya, or wherever they are needed. Recently, at a picture show I saw photographs and heard the voices of some of our men in Darwin. They said that they did not want this and that in the way of comforts ; all that they wanted was to get at the enemy. Do honorable senators think that a Labour government will ignore the advice of those who control the naval, military and air forces of the Commonwealth? The policy of the Australian Labour party is in opposition to conscription for service overseas. No one denies that. At the present time we have conscription for home service; every man between the ages of 18 and 60 years can be called upon for the defence of Australia. Under the powers vested in it, the Government is calling up thousands of men for home defence. Some men have already been trained, and others will be trained. The Labour Government has taken, and is taking, all necessary steps to safeguard Australia, and at the same time thousands of men are flocking to the colours and are willing to go wherever they may be sent. There is no legal ob.iect.ion to sending to M’alaya any man who volunteers to go overseas. I put it to honorable senators, without bitterness or enmity of any kind, that at the present time there is no need for the demand that the existing law should be altered, because should the call be made, thousands of good Australians will be ready to go to Malaya. There is no crisis in that regard at the present time, and there is not likely to be any crisis because of the need to safeguard Australia against attacks by the Japanese. At least, that is the position as I see it. There is no need for those who favour overseas conscription to throw a spanner into the works.
I agree with Senator Foll and others that industry should be placed at the service of the Commonwealth Government. We have seen great changes economically in Germany, Russia and Italy, and we have read of similar changes in Japan. All of those changes have been towards unified control in tie interests of the State. Throughout the world there is a tendency towards the centralization of the control of the instruments of production, and of both civil and military forces, to the end that the best results shall be achieved from the employment of the labour of the community. The present Government must know, as must also its predecessors, of the antagonisms within the economic and industrial machine because of conflicting vested interests. My attention was drawn to this matter recently by a man in Brisbane, who told me that because of certain antagonisms between two rival companies, one of them was precluded from putting forward its best efforts in the production of materials of war. Senator Arthur has also told me of similar cases in Sydney. These problems have been completely overcome in Germany, Russia and Italy, because the governments of those countries will not allow petty antagonisms to keep machinery idle. Because of the danger confronting Australia, I am convinced that the time has arrived for the Government to take complete control of industry in the interests of the nation. Every man capable of producing munitions, or in any way assisting in the prosecution of the war, must be employed to his fullest capacity in connexion with the war effort. I say nothing against men associated with vested interests in this country, because they are the product of their environment; but. like many of our military leaders, they have forgotten the lessons of the past, and consequently they are jeopardizing the future. To-day, conditions are such that it is essential that the whole of the powers of the country shall be ordered. The time is ripe for the complete control of industry by the Government to the end that every man and woman shall be fully employed in prosecuting the war.
– All profit should be taken out of industry.
– I realize that profit is part and parcel of the present capitalist system, and that a revolution may be needed to eliminate it entirely from industry. If, in order to maintain the maximum production, it is necessary that the opportunity to make profits shall exist, then, so far as I am concerned, let men make profits if they want to do so. It may be that the incentive of profits is essential to the maximum production; but whether profits are made or not, there must be the fullest and most complete economic organization possible. I have heard on good authority that thousands of labour hours have been lost because men in some munitions establishments which operate on the cost-plus basis are not allowed to work. That such a state of alf airs is possible indicates that there is something wrong. Recently, a. man visited me at my home and told me that several nien in one establishment were thinking of going on strike because they had been told to “ hang around “ and they would be given a job. They were being paid for doing nothing. The reason was that their employer was being paid on the basis of the cost of production plus a. certain percentage of profit. I know that the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) and others have done splendid work in increasing the production of munitions, and eliminating the worst features of the cost-plus system. .1. am not, criticizing the previous Government for the cost-plus system ; but it is wrong that men should feel impelled to go on strike in order to draw attention to the fact, that they are not allowed to do their best for the country’s war effort. I appeal to honorable senators to refrain from political recrimination. The time has come when we should forget the past in a realization of the magnitude of the task confronting us. 1 arn under no illusions as to the strength of our enemies. On a number of occasions I have been criticized for saying that in respect of discipline, ma nam v ring, gunpower and the things that constitute an efficient navy, Japan has one of the finest navies in the world. Naval strategists who are competent to judge, class the Japanese Navy as Al. The people of the world have been misled by magazine articles and newspaper writers as to the strength of Japan. They have been misled also by military and naval authorities who should have known better. The world has been told that although Japan has a large navy and possesses secret weapons, its naval guns are so big that they would wreck a ship if brought into action. We were told also that Japan had only a thirdrate air force. The world was led to believe that at, heights exceeding a few thousand feet certain physical disabilities, which, are common to most Japanese airmen, would affect their capacity to render effective service. Because of cer- tain alleged physical disabilities, such as the inability to close one eye, Japanese soldiers were said to be poor marksmen. All of these things have been said of the nation with which we are now at war; but the fact remains that the Japanese air force has performed deeds of destruction which its Axis partners have been unable to do. Members of the Royal Australian Air Force, who are among the finest air fighters in the world, have been struck with the effectiveness of the Japanese air force in destroying the Prince of Wales and the Repulse., We cannot afford to underrate the Japanese, and it is a pity that we are only now realizing that fact. However, it is useless) for us to repine. The situation confronting us is that the Japanese are making progress in Malaya, and are approaching Singapore by land. It was once thought that Singapore could bc attacked only from the sea; but. if the Japanese troops take airfield after airfield in Malaya, our position will become precarious. No one in Australia will do anything that will result in our men in Malaya being left in danger if it is possible to help them. This Labour Government is pledged to carry out a policy of attacking the aggressors in such a way as to get the best, possible results from the men at its command. I ask honorable senators opposite to give the members of the Government credit, for being as loyal as themselves, to he assured that it will carry out its policy of reinforcing the boys overseas, and that it will do its best to organize Australia to the end that this country shall remain free.
.- There is a good deal of force in some of the remarks made by Senator Brown, particularly his suggestion that, in this hour of grave danger to our country, we should forget some of the happenings of the past. All honorable senators agree that at no time in its history has Australia been in greater peril. In these circumstances, I would be the last to indulge in recriminations or to create difficulties for the Government which is charged with the responsibility of carrying on the affairs of this country. Two suggestions, however, made by the Leader of the Opposition during this debate deserve the reconsideration of the Government in the light of circumstances which exist to-day. J.n this atmosphere of grave peril, would not it be a good thing for the people of this community to know that the test brains of this Parliament were devoted to the cause of carrying on the Government of the nation?
– They know that now.
– I shall not deal with silly and facetious remarks like that. It is nonsense to say that all the brains in this Parliament are to be found within the ranks either of the Ministry or of the Opposition. I do not believe it can be seriously suggested that a ministry wholly drawn from either the parties in opposition or the party behind the Government represents the best that this country can produce to deal with the dangerous situation that confronts us. It would be well if the Ministry would look at the problem divorced from the history that has been associated with it and from all the tags that have been attached to it. We should consider seriously whether there is not Some means by which members of all parties in this Parliament can be drawn together in a responsible governing body charged with full executive responsibility to put into effect the war policy of this country. I urge the Leader of the Senate and his party to give further consideration to this matter. It is easy enough to say that we have an Advisory War Council, at the meetings of which representatives of the Government and of the Opposition meet and consider problems of war policy. It is true that they do so, but their decisions are not final. Under the present arrangements some of the best men in this Parliament, nien who have had a long experience of administration, and particularly of war administration, arc excluded from the responsibility of making important Executive decisions. I do not believe that we have exhausted all the possibilities and I urge the Government not to delay in this matter any longer.
The second matter to which I wish to refer briefly is the suggestion that the Government should seek the approval of the Parliament for an amendment of the National Security Act to enable it, if it so desires, to send our forces to any territory adjacent to Australia if such a course seems desirable in the interests of our safety. Here again, I suggest that it is desirable that we should look at this problem in the light of conditions which exist to-day. I know that there is a long history about conscription and there is strong opposition in this community - or there has been in the past - to conscripting men for what we describe as overseas service. The people have objected to compelling men to fight against their will on the battlefields of Europe. But that is not the situation we are dealing with today. We arc concerned with the question of sending men,, perhaps to some territory outside Australia it is true, but for the purposes of directly preventing an enemy from approaching our shores. This question is not one which directly involves a decision as to whether or not it is desirable to send men into overseas countries. Frankly, that is a question which .1. am not competent to answer ; the answer to it must depend, in a very large measure, upon the advice which the Government receives from its competent naval and military advisers. What I am concerned about is that the Government should not, find itself in a position where it may be hampered in giving effect to the advice of its military advisers.
– Does the honorable senator think that we have demonstrated that we have been afraid to take power where it was needed?
– So far the Government has not evidenced any temerity in that direction. All that is suggested is that the Government should have the power to decide whether this or that unit, whether of the Militia or of the Australian Imperial Force should be sent, if necessary, to a particular territory in order to defend Australia. With the hampering legislation winch exists at the moment, all sorts of difficulties may arise.
– They have not arisen yet.
– We do not know; but, there are all sorts of possibilities. Suppose we had a Militia unit in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and it became necessary to strengthen the defenders of Dutch New Guinea. As the law stands at present, we could not use the Militia force stationed in the Mandated Territory for that purpose.
– Such a force could be used if the men volunteered - and undoubtedly they would volunteer.
– Before they could be utilized it would be necessary to go through all the performance of securing volunteers. That indicates the hampering character of the legislation to which I have referred. One could suggest all sorts of possibilities.
– The honorable senator can manufacture them.
– I have no desire to manufacture them. As a matter of fact, this plea is put forward, not for the purpose of hampering the Government, but of helping it.
– The Government does not want help. It will seek further powers when it needs them.
– That is the point I am making. In order to secure increased powers, the Government would have to summon the Parliament to meet and delay would be inevitable. In all sincerity and without any desire to raise embarrassing questions I contend that it is desirable that the Government should ask the Parliament to grant it this power now to be exercised at its discretion.
– The honorable senator’s suggestion would bring about more trouble than it is worth.
– It could not bring about any trouble. If this matter were put to the people plainly and fairly, there would not be the least opposition to it. I believe that the Australian community realizes the absolute necessity which now confronts us to defend our own country and the territories around it. I believe that our people are prepared to do anything in order to make our defence completely effective. One way in which that can be done is to give to the Government complete power to direct that men can be used wherever it sees fit to use them. The Government would be wise to take that power. I for one would be perfectly satisfied with its decision as to how that power should be’ used.
– Senator Brown concluded his speech by appealing to honorable senators on this side of the chamber to recognize that his colleagues are quite as sincere as we are in dealing with the defence of this country. I can only ask honorable senators opposite to reciprocate by giving us credit for the same degree of sincerity in that respect, particularly in relation to the remarks made by my colleagues in this debate. Our criticism has been offered solely with a view to assisting the Government.
– We accept it in that spirit.
– Judging by interjections made by honorable senators opposite when Senator Spicer was speaking one would not think that that was the case. When we adjourned only three weeks ago, we anticipated that Parliament would remain in recess until the New Year, but in the meantime the trend of the war has altered entirely. It is now at our back door. Circumstances alter cases ; and what might have been quite all right two or three weeks ago is not quite all right to-day. The speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has been criticized very severely by supporters of the Government. He urged the formation of a national government, certain amendments of the National Security Act, and the appointment of a supreme war council. All of those proposals are made solely with the object of assisting the Government in the present crisis. We know that the Government does not favour the first two proposals. Ministers have assured us that if necessary reinforcements can be sent to our troops who are now fighting abroad. I submit that the Government does not possess power to do that; and our object in urging the Government to amend the National Security . Act is to give it that power. We do not suggest that the Government should order men to serve outside Australia. We feel that the Government should have that power simply because our present situation is so serious. Honorable senators opposite say that the Government can obtain that power at any time. That is nonsense. The Government cannot obtain that power unless Parliament gives it to it. Is it thought that we can hold up the war while Parliament is called together for that purpose?
– Does the honorable senator think that Australians will fail us?
– No; the Government is failing itself because it does not now possess power to send soldiers abroad. It could not send one man out of Australia unless he consented to go.
– Has not the honorable senator heard of the recruiting figures for last week?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Yes.
– Those men must be trained.
– The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) would lead us to believe that it is simply a matter of collecting men and putting them on a boat and sending them abroad. All of our soldiers must be properly trained. It is sheer murder to send men away untrained.
– Have any men yet been sent away without training?
– I am afraid so.
– Not since this Government came into office.
– Men have been sent to the Middle East after being only two days in the Army.
-I doubt that statement very much ; but even in that case the men would be trained overseas. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the Government should have the power to send troops abroad whenever and wherever it thinks fit, and that it should be given that power before Parliament adjourns. All of us are aware of Japan’s treacherous attack. At the very moment when Japanese emissaries were in the United States of America discussing terms with the representatives of that country Japan launched its attack in the Pacific. Let us learn our lesson from those events. I should imagine that even though the Government is not prepared to agree to the Opposition’s proposals with respect to the formation of a national government and amendments of the National Security Act in the directions we have indicated, it should at least agree to appoint a supreme war council, and for that purpose to utilize the best brains available in this Parliament. Senator A. J. McLachlan mentioned the Japanese base in Portuguese Timor. We should be well advised to adopt some of the tactics of our enemies. We should immediately take possession of the island of Timor, because if we allow the Japanese to establish a base on that island, not 300 miles from our shores, the future will be very uncomfortable indeed for us. A vital feature of the proposed supreme war council would he that it would possess executive authority to direct our war operations. Consequently it cannot be argued that the Advisory War Council is just as effective. The discussions of the Advisory War Council may or may not influence the Government. At any rate that body does not actually exercise control over our war operations. We confidently expect assistance from the United States of America. If such assistance is offered to us we shall certainly accept it. That being so, surely we cannot hesitate at this juncture to stretch out a helping hand to that country.
– What does the honorable senator think that we are doing? For goodness sake give us credit for something. Has not the honorable senator heard of the War Cabinet? Does he want another War Cabinet?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.No; I want a war Cabinet composed of the best brains in this Parliament and possessing authority to act, not merely to sit around a table and talk.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that that is what is being done?
– To a great degree, yes.
– That is because the honorable senator does not know all of the facts.
– I am anxious to help the Government in every possible way. I appeal to it to adopt the three proposals submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. At present in an extreme emergency it will be obliged to call Parliament together in order to obtain authority to send troops abroad. This Parliament is now prepared to give it that power.
.- I feel sure that there is not a man or woman in Australia who does not realize the gravity of our present situation. Some years ago, I read the opinion of a high military authority that the Japanese soldier was the most desperate in the world. ‘I recall the siege of Port Arthur. European military experts declared that Port Arthur was impregnable, yet the Japanese, advancing over thousands of their own dead, took that outpost by assault. lt was then the opinion that no European nation would have attempted to take such a position. However, under a treaty Japan was subsequently cheated out of the territory which it won. Only last week the Japanese Premier, General Tojo, said that in the 2,600 years of Japan’s history it had never been defeated. Some weeks ago I read that 30 troop transports, convoyed by a small number of warships, had left Japan for Indo-China. That brought to my mind an incident which occurred many years ago in Great Britain. The late Kaiser having claimed to possess the greatest army in the world, decided also to have the greatest navy. When the first units of his navy were completed he paid a courtesy visit to Great Britain to see King Edward VII. At that time Lord Fisher was First Lord of the Admiralty, and he attended the reception given to the German visitors. It is reported that a few days later Lord Fisher called upon King Edward VII. and said “ Your Majesty, the Kaiser has said that he intends to have a fleet at least equal to ours. No doubt when he accomplishes that aim ho will find some excuse to attack us. As a precautionary measure I suggest that we should sail to Germany and sink his ships while they are in the harbour “. Of course, such action was not countenanced, but I feel sure that had Lord Fisher been in charge of the British navy at this juncture the 30 transports mentioned would not have been permitted to reach Indo-China. The British ships would have sailed in and sunk them. Under the agreement with Indo-China Japan was permitted to have only 30,000 troops in that country, but now wc learn that they have over three times that number in that country. The
Japanese soldiers are good fighters because they believe that it is a groat honour to die for their country, and that such action will ensure the fullest happiness in the hereafter. All possible steps should be taken to ensure that the British troops in Malaya and other territories threatened by Japan have all the equipment and aircraft support that they require. I am sure that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber realize the extreme danger of the situation, and that they will do all they possibly can to assist Australia’s war effort.
– I express my appreciation of the Government’s action in summoning Parliament to meet in this critical period in our history. I believe that in any democratic country, it is wise that the national legislature should be called together in a crisis such as this, so that the Government can give to the Parliament, and through it to the people, a clear statement of the position. Unfortunately, too frequently during this war, and no doubt through previous wars “.ve have been misled and misinformed, perhaps not deliberately, but on occasions, in a very serious manner, and I think that it is proper that the people generally, as well as members of Parliament, should have placed before them a clear and definite official statement of the position. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) are to be commended for the statement presented to Parliament on international affairs. It is comprehensive, clear, and, so far as I know, accurate. Exception has been taken to one or two comments which have been made, but I do not wish to traverse the entire ground at this stage. That has been done adequately in the House of Representatives. I consider that as a general statement the speech of the Minister for External Affairs does give to the people of this country a clear outline of the critical position that we are now facing. As a member of the previous Government, charged with the administration of one of the most important war departments, I have a very real appreciation of the difficulties, responsibilities, and the heavy burdens which are being shouldered by the Ministers of the present Government. I assure them that anything I may say to-day is being said with the object, not of offering destructive criticism, but rather helpful advice. 1 have followed very closely the announcements that have been made from time to time by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and by other Service Ministers, in regard to considerations that have occupied the time of the Government, and decisions that have been made. For instance, important statements have been made in relation to decisions which have been rendered necessary by the altered circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day. Also, we have had a number of statements announcing decisions relating to the organization of the various civil services within this country such as internal transport. We all recognize that that matter is of supreme importance in the present circumstances. Statements have been made also in connexion with coastal seaborne traffic, proposals for the organization of industry, and the investigations that are now being made in connexion with the more intensive organization, and better use of our man-power. All these matters are of immense importance. They are features of our war administration which undoubtedly cause a great deal of hard thinking on the part of the responsible Ministers, and no doubt the decisions in relation to them have been made after due consideration of all information available to the Government.
Silting suspended from 6.15 to 8p.m.
– On several matters that appear to me to be of great importance, we have not yet had much information from the Government.I shall first refer to the man-power position. Every honorable senator will agree that one of the urgent needs at present is a maximum production of munitions and other war equipment. A board has been set up to investigate the man-power position, and no doubt its report will be considered by the Government.I hope that the Government will take the earliest opportunity, not only to consider the report, but also to implement a policy that will result in considerably speeding up the production of munitions. It is estimated that in the present programme for providing munitions and other service requirements, about 240,000 workers will be required in the next twelve months. Since almost all workers are already fully employed, it is obvious that, in order to meet this demand, it will be necessary to take into account the labour available for the purpose. A great deal of the work now being done by male labour could be well undertaken by female labour. As to the degree to which this would relieve the position, I have no accurate figures, but there are probably 60,000 females now unemployed who could be placed in useful occupations. The balance would have to be obtained, first, from the natural increase, and, secondly, by the diversion of labour from non-essential civil industries to essential war industries. This transfer cannot be effected in a short time, and I urge upon the Government the necessity for making an immediate start to deal with the problem.
Another matter of almost equal importance with regard to our war effort was mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in his budget speech. I refer to the problem of rationing. A good deal of time has been available to the Government to consider that matter, and to make some progress in the handling of it, but I understand that a final decision has not been reached. The position with respect to consumption goods is becoming more acute every day, and I trust that the Government will take prompt steps to complete the institution of civil rationing. A decision has been reached with regard to petrol, one of the most important war commodities. We are told that there is to be a 20 per cent. reduction of the present allowance of petrol to civilians. I urge the Ministry to impose that reduction immediately. No administrative difficulty would prevent that being done. The holders of licences could be informed that the rations already received for December, and in some eases for January also, would have to last them for a longer period-.
I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and other honorable senators in connexion with the proposal that has come from the opposition side of the chamber for an amendment of the National Security Act. I shall not traverse the ground that has been well covered during the debate. I was pleased to hearhonorable senators on the Government side of the chamber support a statement made by the Prime Minister . (Mr.Curtin) that the present Ministry will reinforce all of our troops overseas. I have no doubt as to the honesty of the Government in its intentions in that direction, but one can well conceive of circumstances arising in which, if the Government desired to give effect to its undertaking, it might be necessary to send overseas troops at present in the Militia Forces. Of course, that is a matter for decision by the Government, acting on the advice of it? chiefs of staff. It would be a tragedy which the Government could not contemplate, if a body of militia troops were at a certain point and the necessary transport were available to take them to another locality in the Pacific, and if that could not be done by reason of failure to amend the National : Security Act.
– It could be done by regulation.
– As the act now stands, the Government could not, by regulation, do what I suggest it might wish to do. If the Government has already considered this matter the Opposition asks it to reconsider it, and to seek the opinion of its legal advisers. I am convinced that the proper course to follow is that suggested by the Opposition.
This is not a time for disputes between political parties, or for attempts to take party advantages regarding matters concerning the national interests. The Prime Minister has asked for, and the Opposition is willing to give to the utmost of its ability, its co-operation and assistance. Therefore, the Prime Minister should reciprocate the goodwill that the Opposition is prepared to extend to the Government I was appalled when a statement issued by the Prime Minister over the air and also published in the press, announcing the loss of a British battleship and a battle cruiser near to Malaya, contained the rider that the disaster vindicated fully his advocacy of a powerful air force.
– The honorable senator will not deny that that has been advocated by the Prime Minister.
– The Opposition has not raised that matter. If there are to be recriminations of that kind, implying that the Opposition has made political capital out of defence matters, it will reply to such suggestions. The Opposition not only supported the policy of increasing and strengthening the air force, but also took action, when in office, to do so. Before this country was at war, the previous Government assisted in the setting up of an aeroplane factory which is now rendering yeoman service in producing planes for training and other purposes which are of immense value at this critical time.
Shortly before the conclusion of the sitting, we heard an interjection by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) suggesting that the Government had spent its time cleaning up a mess left by the previous Administration. If that remark indicates the kind of goodwill and co-operation to be extended by the Government to the Opposition, I am afraid that the Minister will cut a sorry figure in public estimation. It is unnecessary for me to remind honorable senators of the legacy that the present Government took over from the previous Ministry. It is not for me to measure the war effort of this country under the previous Administration. That can be done by people who are well qualified to express an opinion on that matter. I merely call the attention of honorable senators to the fact that everybody who has come to this country and has examined our war effort has stated in no uncertain terms that it is at least equal to that of any other part of the Empire. When we hear statements like that made by the Leader of the Senate, we are entitled to consider that the Government is not sincere in asking the Opposition to co-operate with it at this time of crisis. I did not want to raise this subject, but unless the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Senate refrain from party politics the people of Australia will be their . judges.
SenatorCourtice. - The honorable senator is spoiling a good speech.
– We on this side of the chamber are wholeheartedly behind the Government in its war effort. Those of us who have held office during the war realize the responsibilities and burdens which Ministers have to bear. We are prepared to offer to the Government our full co-operation in the difficult task that lies ahead, but we ask, in return, that Ministers shall drop party politics and devote their attention to the security of this country.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 8.17 to 8.37 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The present grave emergency in the Pacific will result in an increase of expenditure over the budget estimate of such magnitude that it has been necessary for the Government to bring down special measures to increase its revenues in order to provide in part for the increased expenditure. This bill gives effect to the first part of the Government’s proposals, namely, the imposition of a special war tax on incomes of individuals. The second part of the Government’s proposal is an increase of the ordinary company rate of tax which will be dealt with in a later bill. On the basis of the budget introduced in October it was estimated that £139,000,000 would have to be borrowed in order to bridge the gap between revenue and expenditure for the current financial year. About £39,000,000 of that amount has already been borrowed. The increased expenditure which will be incurred owing to the war in the Pacific will very much increase the gap between the budget estimate of revenue and the total expenditure that will now have to be met. The proposals of the Government regarding increased taxes will produce additional revenue in a full assessment year of about £24,000,000 of which this measure will produce about £20,000,000.
As however, the tax proposed by this measure will apply for only the second half of the current assessment year it will yield about £10,000,000 during the period from the 1st January to the 30th June, 1942. It is expected that £8,000,000 of that amount will actually be collected during that half year. The war tax will be imposed on all income and earnings over £3 a week, that is, £156 per annum. Collections will begin on the 1st January, 1942, out of current wages and salaries. The tax will commence at6d. in the £1 and increase’ gradually to1s. in the £1, which rate applies to all war tax income in excess of £300 per annum. However, the Government decreed that it would not be equitable toimpose a war tax upon the pay of memberso f the fighting forces in the lowerranks. Accordingly the liability to war tax will not apply to a member of the forces whose pay does not exceed £200. In ascertaining this £200 the allowances paid by the Government to the dependants of the member will not be included. The tax will be assessed on the amount of income remaining - called war tax income - after current federal income tax has been deducted. The income to be assessed is the actual income without the statutory exemption or deductions of a concessional nature. The most important of the deductions which are allowed for ordinary income tax purposes, but which will not be allowed for war tax purposes, are those for dependants, medical and funeral expenses, life assurance, superannuation and State income tax. As I have said however, a deduction will be allowed for federal income tax. Although no deduction from income will be allowed for dependants there will be an annual rebate of tax of £2 12s. in respect of a wife and each dependent child. The reason for making the allowance in this way is to ensure that am an on a low salary will gain as much benefit from the rebate as will a man. on a high salary. I emphasize the fact that the rebate of tax is given for all dependent children under sixteen years of age. The effect of the proposals is that a married man on the basic wage with two dependent children will receive a rebate approximately equal to the tax which he would otherwise have to pay, so that this class of family will not be called upon to pay any war tax.
Two tables have been distributed to honorable senators’ showing the effect of the war tax upon incomes in different grades, and upon a taxpayer without dependants, a taxpayer with a wife and no children, a taxp’ayer with a wife and one child and a taxpayer with a wife and two children. ‘ It ‘was necessary to bring in some simple form of tax to obtain increased revenue in order to enable the legislation to be immediately brought into operation and to commence to yield revenue within a few weeks. The Government proposes to review the proposals during the next few months, and, if necessary, to modify them in order to fit them harmoniously into the general financial structure. Any such modification will not apply to the current financial year, but will be implemented for the financial year 1942-1943.
– The Opposition has not had an opportunity to consider the provisions of this bill very closely. The details of the Government’s proposals were set. out, clearly in this morning’s press. As I understand that the Government is most anxious that the measure be passed to-night I do not propose to make a second-reading speech on it. Honorable senators may do so if they wish, or they may prefer to discuss it when it reaches the committee stage.
.- It is not ray intention to delay the passage of this .bill ; but it is only reasonable that honorable senators on this side of the chamber should take this opportunity to draw the attention of the Government to the fact that the proposals contained in this measure are even more drastic than those made by the Fadden Government. Although honorable senators opposite condemned the provision in the Fadden budget for a sound scheme of compulsory savings, in the form of post-war credits, they support this measure which proposes to levy heavy taxation on those in the lowest ranges of income. No one knows better than I do the difficulties that, confront the Government in raising the necessary revenues with which to prosecute the war, and therefore I shall not oppose this measure; but the macro fact that it has become necessary so soon after the presentation of the budget to increase taxes to meet our ever expanding expenditure must bring home to the Government the force of the criticism which we levelled at the budget when it was presented during the last sittings of the Parliament. I remember on that occasion the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) took me to task because of criticism which I had levelled at the Government’s financial proposals. Instead of bringing in a measure such as this it would have been far better had the Government adopted the system of post-war credits advocated by its predecessor. Under that system the people were asked to accept as their contribution to the war effort a system of deferred payment of compulsory loans, on somewhat parallel lines to the system of deferred pay granted to men serving in the armed forces. It would have provided a nest egg for many people at a time when they would probably need it most. We recognize that expenditure cannot be continued on the present basis when conditions become normal. Therefore, the public’s attention should be called to the fact that the financial policy of the Fadden and Menzies Governments is now being adopted by this Government, whose supporters previously criticized that policy so severely. This fact shows that the financial policy of those Governments was sound. I am wondering how Senator Darcey and other honorable senators opposite feel about this change. They said that once Labour assumed office they would show us how we could get money for nothing.
– I did not mention money.
– At any rate the honorable senator promised to give us something for nothing.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator repeatedly quoted paragraph 504 of the report of the Hoya! Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. Now that he and his colleagues occupy the Government benches and a Government is in office which he said would be prepared to accept his Father Christmas proposals.
I note that it has not yet done so, but on the contrary now proposes to do what we on this side always contended it would be obliged to do. I recall Senator Brown telling us how our financial system would be changed, and how our national credit would be expanded immediately Labour was given a chance to govern. I well remember the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) himself waxing hot on the mere suggestion t hat any one earning £150 a year should be obliged to pay a direct tax at all. However, these are times when we must be realistic. Therefore, we can afford to be a little generous to the Government. At t he same time, I am justified in drawing public attention to the fact that the financial policy outlined by the Menzies and Fadden Governments must have been sound when this Government now proposes to adopt a similar policy.
– To me it seems very strange that this Government should bring down a measure of this kind within a few weeks of the defeat of the Fadden Government on a similar issue. Apparently honorable senators opposite now realize that money must be raised from this source. This change of attitude is probably a case of coming events casting their shadows before them. This afternoon, some honorable senators debated conscription for military service abroad. This measure is evidence thai the first line of the Government’s defence of the voluntary system in the financial sphere has collapsed. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), in introducing his budget, emphasized the fact that by exempting the lower incomes, recipients of those incomes would be enabled to subscribe to Government funds by way of purchase of war savings certificates.
– It was announced over the radio to-night that today’spurchases of war savings certificates, constitute a record.
– That may be so. Nevertheless this measure is evidence that the Government is changing its policy. I sincerely hope it, will realize that it. cannot, under the voluntary system, obtain the revenue it requires.
.- The Government has introduced a new procedure for making known the measures which it intends to bring before this Parliament. The first indication which honorable senators obtained that this bill was to be introduced was in reports in the press. Out of courtesy to members of this chamber and of the House of Representatives, such announcements should first he made in this Parliament. Previous governments followed that practice, and
I sincerely hope that in future this Government will first make announcements of this kind, not in the press, but in Parliament.
– I have no doubt that honorable senators will agree to the measure. All of us realize that the bill represents a remarkable change of policy on the part of the Government. At the same time, there has been a dramatic change in the war situation. We realize that it is the Government’s responsibility to raise the money required for war expenditure. I should like information on one point. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), in his secondreading speech, stated that the Government decided that it would not be equitable to impose the tax on incomes of members of the fighting forces in the lower ranks. Does that mean that this tax is to apply to members of the Australian. Imperial Force serving abroad’?
– I am glad to have that assurance.
Question resolved in the ‘affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Imposition of war tax).
. -Was the Minister correct when he informed Senator Johnston that this fax will not apply to members of the forces at all ? The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that incomes of members of the forces under £200 per annum would be exempt.
– The tax will not apply to members of the Australian Imperial Force serving abroad, but it will apply members of the Australian Imperial Force on home service.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Keane) pro posed -
That the bill be nowread a third time.
– I should like to be clear on clause 4. What is meant by “Defence Force”? Replying to Senator Johnston, the Minister said that the tax would not apply to members of the Australian Imperial Force. However, the bill distinctly provides that the tax shall be imposed in the case of a member of the Defence Force having a war tax income which includes pay and allowances earned by him as a member of that force, and which exceeds £200. Is not a member of the Australian Imperial Force a member of the Defence Force ?
– The tax is not applicable to members of the Australian Imperial Force serving abroad, because their income is exempt under the Income Tax Act.
Questionresolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN, as chairman, brought up the second and third progress reports of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I have already explained the Government’s proposals generally for the raising of an additional £12,000,000 of revenue during the current financial year. This bill will give effect to the second part of those proposals, namely, the increase of the normal company rate of tax from 3s. in the £1, as is now provided, to 4s. in the £1. The additional1s. will, it is estimated, increase revenue from this source for a full assessment year by £4.500,000, but it will produce only £4,000,000 during the balance of the current financial year. With this addition, the estimated total yield from the ordinary income tax imposed on companies for a full assessment year is £18,300,000. Of this total, it is expected that £16,800,000 will be collected before the 30th June, 1942.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to inform me whether the Government has yet given effect to its promise to appoint a special committee to examine taxation anomalies and the incidence of taxation, particularly as affecting private companies. If the committee has not yet been appointed, will the Minister be in a position to announce the personnel before this sitting concludes?
The proposed increase of company tax by 331/3 per cent., and the other impositions that we discussed a few weeks ago. will place many private companies in a hopeless position. The amending legislation which was passed in November contained an extraordinary provision that fixed the “ ceiling “ of combined Federal and State taxes at 18s. in the £1. The example which the Minister cited on that occasion was that if federal tax were 14?. in the £1 and State tax 7s. in the £1, the Commonwealth would forgo 2s. and hope and pray that the States would refund1s. to the taxpayer. I ask the Minister whether the States have been approached to agree to that proposal. If they have not, does the Government propose to discuss the subject at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers next Friday? I warn the Government that this legislation will compel many private companies to go out of business.
– in reply - Although the special committee to review taxation anomalies has not yet been appointed, the matter is under consideration, and in due course the personnel will he announced. The proposal that the States should refund1s. in the £1 to taxpayers whose assessments exceed 18s. in the £1 has been submitted to the State Treasurers, hut no finality has been reached.
– How was the proposal received in New South Wales?
– I do not know.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
SenatorJAMES McLACHLAN (South Australia) [9.5]. - I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to give me an assurance that the Senate will be represented upon the special committee which will inquire into taxation anomalies.
– I shall make the necessary representations to the Government. I may add that I share the view expressed by the honorable senator, that on all such committees the Senate should have representation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is necessary for the purpose of providing for a war tax income, upon which the war tax introduced to the Senate in another bill will be levied. The bill introduces a new part to the principal act - Part IIIb - War Tax - which provides the method of ascertaining war tax income. The tax will be imposed upon actual income ascertained before allowing the statutory exemption and certain deductions of a concessional nature, including State income tax. A short statement of the deductions that are not to be allowed has already been given in my speech upon the bill imposing the rates of war tax, but a deduction will be allowed for Commonwealth income tax. The Government recognizes that to-day Commonwealth income tax absorbs so much of the income of the individual that the liability for war tax should be determined only after taking into account the Commonwealth tax that is payable on that income. If the income thus ascertained does not exceed £156 - or £200 in the case of a member of the Defence Forces - there will be no liability for war tax. If the income exceeds the’ amounts stated, tax is levied upon the total income. In those cases where the income exceeds £156 only by a small amount, there is a saving provision in the taxing Act that the tax shall not be greater than one half of the income in excess of £156, or £200, as the case may be.
The basis of the liability is assessable income for ordinary income tax purposes. Income which is exempt for ordinary income tax purposes is also exempt for war tax purposes. Among the concessional deductions which it is not proposed to allow in ascertaining war tax income is the deduction for dependants which is allowed under the Income Tax Assessment Act. However, the bill recognizes that a taxpayer is entitled to a concession in this connexion and provides, in lieu thereof, for an annual rebate of tax amounting to £2 12s. for each dependant. This fixed amount applies to all taxpayers irrespective of the amount of income. The dependants in respect of whom the rebate will be allowed consist of wife, dependent mother, and all dependent children under the age of sixteen years. As the tax will be in operation for only one-half of the present financial year, one-half only of this rebate will be allowable.
I have already referred to the fact that in the case of members of the Forces, the liability for tax does not commence until the pay of the member exceeds ?200 per annum. In arriving at this amount the Government does not propose to include the allowances paid to the wife for herself and dependent children, but it will, of course, include any allotment of pay made to those dependants by the member himself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Collings) - 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 Collings) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till a date and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Reference has been made in several newspapers to writs issued against me by the Commonwealth Taxation Department and the State Taxation Department of Western Australia. The statements published have been very brief, and I should like to read to honorable senators a letter sent by my solicitor, under my direct instructions, to the West Australian newspaper, giving details of the claims that have not been published in the eastern States. The letter reads -
At the request of Senator E. B. Johnston I am drawing your attention to the following facts relative to the writs issued by the State Commissioner of Taxation and the Federal Commissioner of Taxation against him for income and other taxes.
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) N. B. Robinson.
I do not wish to comment upon the facts set out in that communication.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. For the first time in my political career an honorable senator attempted this afternoon to put into my mouth words that I did not utter. Senator Aylett alleged that I had said that this Government would not allow Australian troops to go outside Australia. That is quite incorrect and quite untrue; I did not use those words.
– I draw the attention of honorable senators to a question which I asked to-day upon notice. To me the answer is most unsatisfactory. Unfortunately, statements are frequently made in the press which are quite untruthful. There was a flagrant case this week which has been referred to already in this chamber and in the House of Representatives. The questions which I asked read -
The answer reads - 1, 2 and 3. The Government already possesses the power to compel newspapers and broadcasting stations to observe the requirements of national security. It is not proposed to extend this power in the manner suggested by the honorable senator.
My opinion is that the power possessed by the Government is not exerted at all. On frequent occasions I have seen reference made in the press to political issues, but usually only one side of the question is given. Also, persons broadcasting frequently distort my political opinions, especially in regard to finance, and no opportunity is afforded to broadcast the truth. In view of the statements made in a Sydney newspaper a few days ago strongly criticizing certain service chiefs, it is time the Government exercised its powers to suppress such attacks. I do not think that sufficient supervision is exercised over radio broadcasts and the press, and in this case, the comment published about men in high positions in our armed forces was very unfair. Such attacks will cause the people to lose confidence in the men controlling our war services. I repeat that the answer given to my question is far from satisfactory.
.- I direct the attention of the Government to the confusion which apparently exists in this country in regard to action which should be taken in the event of air raids. Although we all sincerely hope that air raids will notoccur, we must be prepared for them. I read in a newspaper this morning that when certain air raid sirens sounded inadvertently recently, a considerable amount of confusion was caused because apparently the people were not fully acquainted with the best steps to take in the event of a raid. Last week I discussed this subject for a few minutes with the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in Australia, Sir Ronald Cross, who, of course, was in London during some of the heaviest air bombardments on that city. Sir Ronald said that very often many lives could be saved and property protected if people observed certain simple rules. It occurred to me that the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley) might be able to make arrangements for the A and B class stations to broadcast at specified periods a few simple rules and general information in regard to air raids. I realize that air raid precautions are matters for the States, but statements appear continually in the press which are both confusing and contradictory. It would be of great assistance if people knew what to do in an emergency, and many lives might be’ preserved and property saved if the people had a general knowledge of how to protect themselves and how to deal with incendiary bombs. People write to the press giving unreliable information.
– I did not use the actual words which Senator Sampson accused me of uttering, but, in view of the honorable senator’s speech, one could arrive at no other conclusion. I did say that the honorable senator accused the Labour party of adopting an isolationist policy. . . However, I accept the apology which he has just made for his earlier speech.
– With reference to the questions asked by Senator Darcey earlier to-day, I wish to state that I agree entirely with the answer given. I do not think it advisable that any more restrictions should be placed on the press than are necessary. The Department of Information is concerned only with the security of the nation. It is our task to prevent the dissemination of any information which may be of value to the enemy.
With regard to the matter raised by Senator Foll, I think that it would only lead to confusion if I were to instruct the press of this country how they could assist by giving advice in regard to air raids. However, I draw the honorable senator’s attention to the fact that the Department of Information has inaugurated a radio session to give general information to the public at 12.30, 1.30 and 7.10p.m. daily. This session wall be continued after Parliament has adjourned. The object is to contradict the many rumours which are so damaging to public morale. At a later date, when Parliament is not in session, instructions may be given to supply information along the lines suggested by Senator Foll. It is not the intention of the department to issue any instructions to the press.
– I was not referring to editorials, but to the fact that people write to the newspapers giving advice as to what to do in air raids, much of which is of a contradictory nature.
– I have no intention of giving instructions to the press as to what advice should be given to the people, but I shall give consideration to the question of having simple authoritative suggestions broadcast.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Rocklea, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
National Security Act -
National Security (Exchange Control) Regulations - Order - Sterling Areas - Iraq.
National Security (Shipping; Requisition) Regulations - Resolutions by the Shipping Control Board (2).
Senate adjourned at 9.29 p.m., till a date and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 December 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1941/19411217_senate_16_169/>.