16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whatsteps have been taken to publish the effect, or at least a precis of National Security Regulations, about which I asked a question some time ago?
– I shall make a statement on the subject later.
– As it has been clearly shown by the speeches of honorable senators in discussing the Australian Broadcasting Bill that a revision of the Copyright Act is urgently necessary, will the Leader of the Senate urge upon the Prime Minister that action in this direction be taken?
– I shall not urge the Prime Minister to take action, but the suggestion made by the honorable senator will be passed on to him.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether the telephone line between Tasmania and the mainland was out of commission to-day from 10 a.m. till 1 p.m., except for a period of six minutes? If the answer is in the affirmative, what is the cause of the line being out of commission? If a call is in progress when a line goes out of commission, will that call receive priority over other calls when the line is repaired ?
– The honorable senator notified me that he intended to ask this question, and I have obtained a reply. There is no breakdown in telephone communication between the mainland and Tasmania, but it was reported to me this morning that the lines between Canberra and Melbourne have been interrupted intermittently. This is due to certain line trouble at Wagga, but contact with Melbourne has been maintained by routing calls through Sydney. Work to effect the necessary repairs is in progress.
– In view of the damaging effect of the questions asked by Senator Lamp in the Senate last week, concerning the presence of a secret Japanese wireless set at two Sydney addresses, will the Leader of the Senate state whether he has received a letter on this subject from the office of the Sydney Bulletin, and, if so, does he intend to make a statement to the Senate on the matter, so that a totally unwarranted stigmacast under the cover of parliamentary privilege will not be permitted toremain ? I understand that the person concerned served with the Australian forces in the last war, and has two sons serving in the present war.
– The question is disallowed. Last week I ruled that the question of which Senator Lamp sought to give notice was out of order, and, therefore, the question now asked is also out of order.
– On the 1st May I promised that information would be obtained in answer to the following question which SenatorUppill asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice: -
The Minister for Labour and National Service has now supplied the following answers : -
The Government does not regard -
Use by Fighting Services.
– On the 30th April Senator Cooper asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army the following questions, upon notice: -
The Minister for the Army has now furnished the following answers: -
Gazette, No. 93 of 25th March, 1942. In addition to return on capital, together with rates, taxes and insurance, provision is made in the Order for depreciation and the replacement of any physical damage.
The rate of return -4 per cent. net on capital invested - is calculated as the equivalent of 1 per cent. above the rate payable on bonds by the Commonwealth. The average net return would not be greater than this amount.
– On the 1st
May, Senator Lamp asked me a question, without notice, as to the stage that had been reached with regard to the use of Tasmanian woods for aircraft production.I undertook to furnish a report as to the progress that has been made, and I now wish to inform the honorable senator that extensive investigations have been made into this matter by my department in. collaboration with the Division of Forest Products of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. An officer of the Forestry Division was sent to Tasmania to select timber suitable for aircraft purposes from a number of Tasmanian species. Fifteen trees each of Mountain Ash (Swamp Gum), Alpine Ash (Gum Top or Whitetop Stringybark), and thirty trees each of Blackwood, King William Pine, Celery Top Pine and Leatherwood were selected and suitable lengths forwarded to the division in Melbourne for testing. Extensive mechanical tests were carried out and have been completed for all species, with the exception of Celery Top Pine. Altogether, over 50,000 individual tests were made, and to carry out the work as rapidly as possible, the testing machines were operated on a two-shift basis. The results of these tests showed that Mountain Ash and Alpine Ash were suitable for major structural parts of aircraft. Through the Standards Association of Australia, emergency standard specifications were drawn up and these have been published. King William Pine was shown to be suitable for lightly stressed and unstressed parts where its light weight is a very desirable factor. An emergency specification is in course of preparation and will be issued shortly. Meanwhile, 10,000 super feet of King William Pine have been supplied against aircraft requirements. Blackwood and Celery Top Pine do not appear to he so promising. Leatherwood appeared to be suitable for plywood, so a large number of logs were peeled on the lathe of the division and extensive tests on the veneer and plywood were carried out. An emergency specification for leatherwood plywood has been published and the material is at present undergoing a practical test in service aircraft. The results so far are very promising. Aircraft specifications are very exacting and besides the question of inherent suitability of the timber, there is the problem of supply in the quality desired. Usually it is found that only a small percentage of the timber cut is suitable for aircraft work.
Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
– I have received from Senator McBride an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The unsatisfactory handling by the Commonwealth Government of the Australian coal-mining industry “.
.- I move-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow at 10 a.m.
– Is the motion supported ?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– In view of the importance of the coal industry and the public pronouncements that havebeen made upon it recently, I find it desirable to make a few comments upon the matter.
The public of Australia is thoroughly dissatisfied with the Commonwealth Government’s handling of this industry. In every country, coal-miners are recognized as a militant and difficult section of industry.
– What does the honorable senator mean by “ difficult “ ?
– Difficult to control; and the Minister will admit that that is the experience of this Government. However, in war-time, we cannot tolerate continual stoppages and strikes in a basic industry. It is very disturbing to know that frequent holdups in the coal industry have meant a loss in production, during a period of six months, of over 500,000 tons.
– The stoppages have never been tolerated.
– They have not been remedied.
– The honorable senator did not say “ remedied “ ; he said “ tolerated “.
– The Government, having the full facts before it, decided on certain ways and means of remedying the industrial troubles in the coal industry. I do not purpose here to discuss the methods that have been tried, except to say that when the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) makes threats to the workers engaged in any industry, he should be prepared, if challenged, to carry them out. More than three months ago he made a public statement that the coal-miners must work or fight; but up to the present he has notbeen prepared’ to implement that threat. Coal being a source of power for most of our war industries, it is an essential commodity at this time.
In approaching this subject, I should like to comment quite briefly on the conditions prevailing in the industry. Since the outbreak of war, the wages of those engaged in it have been increasedby 27 per cent., and the hours worked have been reduced from 44 to 40 per week. I shall not discuss the questions of wages and conditions on their merits or demerits, and I mention them only to indicate that those engaged in this industry have received generous consideration by the industrial tribunals of this country. I have informa tion relating to the earnings of the contract workers in one large colliery in the north of New South Wales for the fortnight ended the 18th April last, which is a quite recent date. The figures represent the average, not the individual, earnings of the men. During that period, the average wages earned per day were: miners, 40s. 2d. ; cutters, 52s. 8d. ; borers, 47s. 6d. ; and wheelers, 31s. 4d.
– Do they do that for 365 days a year?
– No ; because miners have never attempted to work for that length of time. From workers with such good earnings, I should say we might reasonably expect peace and continuity in the industry.
– We have now got it.
– I do not know whether present conditions in the coal industry represent the Minister’s idea of peace and continuity, to my mind they represent the opposite. When the Commonwealth Government asked the employees in the industry to work on Easter Monday, they protested, and the president of the Miners Central Executive, Mr. Wells, in justification of the objection, said that the men were overworked, and that the human machine required rest. Because of this pressure the Government eventually declared Easter Monday a holiday in the coal-mining industry. Honorable senators ought to he informed of the hours worked by miners, so that they can judge for themselves whether the coalmining industry, of all industries connected with the war effort, should have Easter Monday declared a holiday. The facts are that, under their award, coalminers are now required to work eight hours a day for five days a week, so that, if they worked full time, they would have two days per week for a rest period. That, however, is not the whole story, because the eight hours are calculated from the time the first man enters a pit until the last man has been brought to the surface after his day’s work.
– That system was in operation in the last war.
– I am not discussing that at the moment, but am endeavouring to give the Senate an idea of the hours these men work, so that honorable senators can judge whether Easter Monday should have been proclaimed a holiday for them.
– Has the honorable senator any objection to that?
– I have no comment to make on it; 1 am merely trying to state the facts. It is impossible under the conditions I have outlined for any man to work at the coal face for the full eight hours a day; but the probability is that, deducting the time taken to travel from the pit to the working places, less a half-hour meal period, which also is deducted from the eight-hour period, the average production time will be little more than six hours a. day. During an investigation of holiday pay made in December last, it was stated that the average working time in all pits for the year 1941 was four days per week, which is equivalent to 208 days per year. Applying this weekly period, it means that the contract miner works 24 hours out of the total weekly hours of 168, or a little more than 14 per cent. of his time. If he worked the full five instead of four days his working time would be 30 hours per week of 168 hours, or 17.8 of his time. The court has granted him holidays amounting to approximately two weeks per annum. That is based on the number of days he actually works, but I understand that the intention is that if he works his time, he should be allowed a fortnight’s holiday per annum’. The miners work at the face for production on the morning shift only, but in some instances on developmental work an afternoon shift is operated. That is done, however, only to a very limited extent. It will be realized that under these very favorable conditions the people of this country are entitled to expect continuity of work in the industry. I. should like to make it quite clear that I do not suggest that the coal-miners are out to sabotage our war effort, or are in any way disloyal. In fact, at the moment, quite deliberately I say exactly the opposite. The number of en listments from coal-mining areas refutes any suggestion of disloyalty; but I do think that some coal-miners are what I shall describe as joyously irresponsible. Apparently they do not yet realize the seriousness of this war, and are endeavouring to continue their activities on a peace-time basis. That is to say, in time of peace they started disputes and strikes over what might be called frivolous complaints, and they are continuing in the same manner. In addition to the other benefits which I have already mentioned, the coal-miners are now enjoying a pension to which men now receiving pensions have not contributed one penny. It is true that in future they will be called upon to contribute approximately 2s. 6d. a week or a maximum of £6 10s. per annum, and that, I think, is an admirable way of meeting the position. I should like to point out that these privileges which the miners enjoy, and which I am not questioning at the moment, are costing a total of 8d. on every ton of coal produced - 5d. a ton for the pension right, and 3d. a ton for the holiday right. Therefore, I am confident that most people agree that the miners are being generously treated by the community.
I was very interested to read an article published in the Newcastle Herald of 21st November, 1941, contributed by the general secretary of the Miners Federation, Mr. Grant, which stated that from information which the writer had received from Chatwood Hall, Moscow, a very fine example had been set by Russian miners to the miners of all allied countries in their fight against Fascism. The article points out that production norms, which in Russia are the same as dargs in Australia, became something not merely to be fulfilled but to he many times over-fulfilled, although many miners of military service age had been called to the front. Even women and miners on pension, their patriotism reaching new heights and their bitter hatred of Fascism aroused to fever pitch, are voluntarily contributing their share to the struggle on the coal front to smash Hitlerism once and for all. Mr. Grant then cites some instancesof the results of this patriotic fervour. He names three miners and says that between the time of descending their pit at the normal hour, and reaching the surface again at the end of their shift, they produced twelve times as much coal as their regular norm called for. In the same pit the driver of an underground coal train f ound that the two loaders of the gondola wagons had beencalled up by the army. Undeterred, the driver decided to do the loading of his own wagons as well as driving the train. He exceeded by 80 per cent. the ordinary volume of work done by two workers. These are not my statements ; they were cited by Mr. Grant and I accept the authenticity of them.
– The mines are nationalized in Russia.
– We have a nationalized mine in New South Wales, but I have not heard of it achieving results such as those which I have cited. With these amazing examples before them, I believe that the coal-miners of Australia will be prepared to produce their quota in a like manner in order to further the allied cause.
From time to time we hear allegations that huge profits are being amassed by the employers in the coal-mining industry, but I suggest that the coal-mining industry is the last one against which such a charge should be made. I should like to place before honorable senators in a concise form the financial position of this ‘ industry to-day. Figures with respect to coal-mining companies in New South Wales, appearing in the Stock Exchange Gazette, show a paid-up capital of £5,324,290 which, if it had been invested in 4 per cent. Commonwealth loans would have returned to shareholders the sum of £2,129,716 during the ten-year period from 1931 to 1940 inclusive. However, so unprofitable was the industry during this period that dividends of only £760,801 were received by shareholders, representing less than 1½ per cent. per annum on the capital invested. In other words, if instead of developing the coal-mines the shareholders had played safe and put their money into Commonwealth loans they would have benefited by an amount of £1,368.915. In addition’ to that, we mustrealize that coal-mines are a depreciating asset and that during the ten-year period to which I have referred coal deposits were reduced by approximately 100,000,000 tons.
I should like to make some brief observations in regard to what I think could he done to improve the position on the coal-fields. Every industry in this country has been or is being classified in order of priority. Some industries - those classed as non-essential or luxury industries - are being severely restricted or completely wiped out. Other industries are being restricted in various ways and the essential industries are being boosted in order to produce those things which we need for the conduct 01” the war. Even in the essential industries plant and man-power are being rationalized and reorganized in order to achieve maximum production. In most cases the industrial unions have co-operated very fully in meeting these altered conditions. For instance, the engineering unions have agreed to the dilution of labour, but so far no such call has been made upon the employees in the coal industry. In fact, owing to the irresponsible attitude of some of the men the production per man in this industry has not increased at all. The Government should seriously consider taking steps, in which it should have the co-operation of both the employers and the employees, to increase the rate ofproduction and at the same time economize in man-power during the war period. Further mechanization of mines is one method of effecting economy. Some degree of mechanization has been introduced in a number of mines,but these developments have alwaysbeen strenuously resisted by the employees’ industrial organizations. In war-time, the employees should co-operate to the fullest degree in bringing about the mechanization of mines. I am reliably informed that the ratio of output per man as between a fully mechanized mine and a hand-worked mine is 5 to 3; in other words, a 60 per cent. increase of output could be brought about ‘by mechanizing those mines which are capable of being mechanized. I realize that certain mines are unsuitable for complete mechanization, but many others could be profitably mechanized in order to assist war production. Further,I suggest that mining could quite well, for the duration of the war, be confined to certain pits where conditions are good, working easy, and the haul from the pit to the port is the shortest possible distance. If some of the more distant collieries were temporarily closed down and the workers transferred to other collieries, the aggregate production might well be increased. This would mean, of course, that the miners would have to agree to working at least two shifts per day, but, as the coal-miners of Great Britain are working two, and in some instances three shifts daily in the collieries of that country, I believe that Australian miners would be prepared to render a similar national service.
– The British miners also go on strike now and again.
– I am aware of that. I said earlier that this was a difficult industry.
I refer now to the subject of coal trucks, which constitute a very important link in the production and transportation of coal. At present, collieries, or groups of collieries, have their own trucks for the transport of their coal from the pit to the point of shipment. It frequently occurs that some collieries at particular periods are actually short of trucks, which causes a. hold-up of production, whilst other collieries have a surplus of empty trucks. Some arrangement could be made to pool these trucks so that, in instances like this, trucks belonging to any colliery could be sent to a colliery where a shortage existed. This matter would have to be discussed between the owners, ‘but I believe that a solution could readily be found. Apparently, the public, and indeed the miners, do not realize what continual stoppages mean to our war production. Owing to the frequent stoppages on the south coast insufficient coal is being produced at one place to keep important war industries in full production. In order to meet this need about 5,000 tons of coal per week is being railed from Newcastle to the south coast - a distance of about 150 miles. This is an intolerable position. At present, one of the real bottle-necks in our industrial and service organizations is transport, and because of the irresponsibility of certain miners, this huge volume of freight space is taken from other essential uses in order to carry coal from Newcastle, as it were, to Newcastle. The public will not be pleased with this state of affairs, particularly in view of the fact that, in order to conserve man-power, coal, and rolling stock, the normal services on the New South Wales railways have been substantially curtailed. Whilst I have no doubt that Australians are prepared to submit to necessary curtailment, cuts brought about or accentuated by actions such as these will not be tolerated by the public at large. The widest possible publicity should be given to matters such as this so that the public can express its views upon them.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
i - Senator McBride has submitted a motion for the adjournment of the Senate in order to discuss a matter of urgent public importance. This subject was very fully debated in the House of Representatives at the end of last week, not under the cover of a motion for the adjournment of the House, but as a specific matter of national importance, and a decision was reached there. Members of that chamber who strangely enough represent the same State as Senator McBride, produced all the alleged facts which he tas given- to us this afternoon.
– They did not say that they produced “ all the alleged facts “.
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber do not propose to accept them as accurate; we do not regard Senator McBride as an authority on coal-mining. Apparently, being disappointed a.t the result of the vote in the House of Representatives, he has decided to continue the fight here. The honorable senator is within his rights. He will not say that the miners are disloyal-
– I said that they were not disloyal.
– The honorable senator did not say that. He said that he would not say that they were disloyal. I shall not say that he is disloyal, but I ask the Senate to consider the position for a few minutes. Australia is to-day more desperately concerned with the prosecution of the war than it was yesterday. The situation has deteriorated to such a degree that the Government, charged with the responsibility of harnessing the nation for its greatest war effort-
– That is the trouble. There is too much harness and not enough horse.
– I am sorry that my honorable friend cannot be influenced by a statement of cold fact. The position is as I have stated it, and the task before us is of such importance that this Parliament should not waste one hour, much less one afternoon, one day, or one week, with these non-essentials.
– Coal non-essential? That is nonsense.
– The honorable senator has never mined an ounce of coal in his life and he never will, hut he has grown financially fat on the sweat of those men who do, and he knows it.
– Rubbish !
– It is a matter of cold fact. When my friend says that the miners are difficult, I tell him that his statement is quite true; but they are difficult because of the damnable conditions under which they have had to work throughout the centuries. It was within the recollection of my forbears that, prior to the passage by Lord Shaftesbury of the Reform Bill, women, stripped naked to the waist, and with chains round their waists, were employed in the coal mines in England. So poor and degraded were they that action had to be taken, not because the miners were difficult, but because coal-mining was difficult.
– The honorable senator should bring his remarks up to date.
– I intend to do that. We are told now that the coalminer works only six hours a day. I do not wish to be unkind to Senator McBride, but he could not stand up to one hour of the work in a coal mine on any day, let alone work for six hours a day. Some time ago, during a long parliamentary recess, I had the opportunity to do some trout fishing on the Murrumbidgee River. I camped for a week, and one of the men I met - he was not in my camp - was one of the biggest coal mine-owners in this country. He had a trout-fishing outfit which cost £200! Of course, the miners are difficult. They have to sweat in the mines. They have advantages such as pensions, but they also have the disadvantages of death through falls of earth, and through contracting miners’ phthisis, in carrying out one of the hardest and most dangerous jobs in the world. The honorable senator would be “ difficult “ under those conditions, and I am amazed at the case presented by him.
We have heard before the sordid story told by the honorable senator. We must not do anything to improve the conditions of the miners, otherwise the dividends of the mine-owners will cease. The honorable senator was not original this afternoon. So bad a case did he present that he transgressed Standing Order 406 by reading practically every word of his speech, and he made a miserable job of the imperfect brief that had been handed to him. But for the fact that any disturbance would have put him out of his stride, I should have asked you, Mr. President, to rule that he was out of order in reading his speech. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and some of his colleagues are working day and night in trying to overcome the difficulty that alone gives any semblance of reason for the speech made to-day by the honorable senator. The difficulty is to find a means of obtaining the necessary production of coal. I know that the protagonists of the honorable senator believe, and have always believed, that the remedy for all industrial upheavals is to “fire low and lay them out”; but that would not get coal.
– The Government is putting up a smoke screen of regulations.
– When the object is to obtain the desired result, why does the honorable senator attempt to remove a portion of the regulations? There is no man in the Labour party, least of all the Prime Minister and his colleagues, who has the slightest sympathy with those who do anything tending to reduce the production of the essentials of war. Despite all that has happened, and all that has been said, the coal production of Australia for the last twelve months is the largest that this country has ever had.
– That applies to many industries.
– The honorable senator has dealt specifically with the coal industry, and the statements made by him regarding loss of coal production have only a relative value.
– The statements repeated in this chamber were made by the Prime Minister.
– The honorable senator can have his quarrel with the Prime Minister, but at the moment he must quarrel with me. One would think that this Government was not doing anything. The extreme need to-day for essential war production is due to the fact that the Government of which the honorable senator was a member left Australia naked to the world, when the Labour party assumed office. I was greatly amused by the sudden discovery by Senator McBride that the coal-owners are banded together because of the fact that they are whole.souled philanthropists. They could have invested their money, in Commonwealth loans and made a profit of £2,000,000, or £1,750,000, more profit than he alleges they made in the coal industry. But investors in Commonwealth loans cannot water stock, build up secret reserves, or benefit from the issue of bonus shares. Consequently, these people do not invest in Commonwealth loans, but in coal; and that is the story of the industry. The interests which control the industry are interlocked with shipping and other big commercial interests. Indeed, the honorable senator comes into court with a tainted brief, because he and his connexions, political and social, are associated with the interests which interlock our big industries, and make their profits by wringing sweat out of unfortunate people who have nothing to sell but their labour and must work in order to live, whether it be down a mine or in any other sphere. The Senate should not have been asked to waste time on this matter. The Australian Broadcasting Bill is awaiting our further attention, and much remains to be done in connexion with that activity.
– Has broadcasting anything to do with the war effort?
– It is linked up with our war effort. What could we do if we did not possess an efficient broadcasting service giving people the facts from day to day and maintaining their morale ?
– We have one.
– It may seem a little ungracious of me, after I have used my allotted time, to suggest that honorable senators should shorten this debate as much as possible. However, the Government is anxious to proceed with consideration of the Australian Broadcasting Bill; and if there be nothing more important for us to deal with than the matter raised by the honorable senator Ministers would like to get on with urgent work directly associated with the war effort. In view of our present urgent position, I suggest to honorable senators on this side that they teach Senator McBride a salutary lesson by refraining from wasting time on this subject. Should honorable senators opposite disagree with that view, we shall be enabled to make up our mind whether or not they really want to get on with the war effort.
– At the outset, I assure honorable senators that I hold no brief from outside in this matter. When we consider the present imminent terrible threat to our country, to our lives and to our liberties, it is as well, perhaps, to devote a few thoughts to the subject as to how we as a people are preparing to meet that danger which is ever drawing nearer. That danger is imminent. Therefore, this is not a time for levity. I ask myself whether we are conducting ourselves as a rational people, or as a people who have every reason to know that a brutal, ruthless, resourceful, implacable, and, up to now, an invincible foe, is preparing to make a furious onslaught on our coast. I ask myself whether we, to-day, are better prepared than was Malaya or Burma. From a military point of view, I think that we are. I devoutly hope so ; but I think that the answer to the first part of my question, although it seems wellnigh incredible to say so, is “No”. Our position to-day politically is deplorable. It is little better than the political situation that existed in France before the debacle in that country. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin ) has said, “ It is the clear-cut determination of the Government to yield no part of the country to the enemy “. I support that statement up to the hilt. It .is a most excellent aspiration. However, the Prime Minister and his Ministers have already yielded the coal-fields of New South Wales to the enemy within our gates. Week by week, the Government permits the coal industry, which is the key cf our nacional defence, to be disted by a campaign of persistent industrial anarchy. We cannot get away from that fact. One Minister, whose special province is to see ‘that industrial discipline is maintained, has succeeded, under the guise of an alleged peace mission to the coal-fields, to further accentuate the disorder and idleness, and reckless defiance of authority. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), whose biased and inflammatory public statements, and open support of the more militant coal-miners, are unprecedented examples of ministerial irresponsibility, has acted utterly in contempt of the rules of Cabinet administration. He should have been dismissed from office long ago. Without a blush he gives the lie direct to the Prime Minister. After considering the facts, the Prime Minister said some little time ago that, in his opinion, the coal mine-owners were not to blame for the troubles on the coalfields. But the Minister for Labour and National Service said that the owners were to blame ; and the miners themselves continue to give the lie to the Minister by stopping work on frivolous excuses.
At present a general stoppage of the mines is threatened because the Miners Federation is at loggerheads with the Federated Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Union over some union rivalry. I ask myself: Is it possible that these misguided men fail to realize the frightful peril that confronts all unions and unionists in this country? Has not the Minister for Labour and National Service sufficient brains and common sense to realize what will happen to our industrial system under the tender mercies of the Japanese? Apparently, judging by his conduct, he has not.
– Is the honorable senator in order in describing a Minister as lacking in brains and common sense?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown) . - I have listened carefully to the honorable senator’s speech, and J have not yet heard him make a statement that is unparliamentary.
– This Government must realize the awful possibility of our defeat at the hands of the enemy, and it must know that the possibility cannot but be heightened by the partial paralysis of the coal industry. I suggest that the present inaction of the Government is sheer madness, and I ask this question : Will the Government still play at party politics, and will it suffer itself to be blackmailed and bullied by a small but loud-voiced band of traitorous men. I know that it will require courage to scotch this trouble, but the trouble must be scotched if we are to win through and obtain the best from the resources of this country. It is, in my humble opinion, a palpable and evergrowing threat to our national security, endangering every Australian man, woman, and child. More disgraceful still, it adds to the perils so unselfishly confronted by those large numbers of gallant allies who have come to the aid of this country in its dire peril. It is time, and high time, that this crazy and sordid industrial brawl was put to an end, because, if that is not done, we shall be betraying the common cause, our friends, and ourselves.
– I am firmly convinced that the action taken in the Senate to-day is merely a continuation of the PackerTheodore - coal-owner - Bulletin - Opposition vendetta against the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), and that nothing of the kind advocated by Senator McBride is required to adjust the coal difficulty. I am convinced that the campaign against the Minister for Labour and National Service has been continued for a long period, and that the coal-miner has been used as the stalking-horse to obscure fie facts. That is obvious when we find the Daily Telegraph publishing this statement, “Ward defies his own Government on strike issue. Won’t use rule 77 against workers; Cabinet row likely”. The paper quoted the Minister as saying that he would never use rule 77 against the workers, and it quoted the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) as saying that the rule would be used against fifteen wheelers who had struck the previous day at Wongawilli mine, on the south coast. The statement added that the men were back at work. Those fifteen men who were on strike at Wongawilli were not proceeded against; but, according to Mr. Loudon and the Prime Minister, the stoppage waa caused by provocation by the management. It was not caused by the miners. Nevertheless, the mineowners, the members of the Opposition, the Daily Telegraph, and other persons and organizations that dislike the Minister, are prepared to do anything to cause his colleagues to oppose him.
The Daily Telegraph, along with Senator McBride and other Opposition members, must be very disappointed because the coal-miners are not on strike to-day. The Daily Telegraph wept yesterday when it published a statement that there was no strike, but that two mines were idle. It was evidently sorry that, in the circumstances, it could not further abuse the Minister for Labour and National Service and disparage his good work. A member of any government who could go among the miners of Australia and arrange that 22,000 of them should work to a degree that must impose a strain on them, deserves commendation. The men had refused^ to work because of the tactics of the mineowners, but to-day, thanks to the Minister, they are hewing coal for the war effort. What a stupid statement it was that fifteen men out of 22,000 were idle ! More men would be found to be idle in any section of industry where 22,000 were employed. I believe that no man has done better work for Australia than the Minister for Labour and National Service has done, and this Senate ought not to be discussing a motion such as this unless with the object of paying a tribute to him.
Senator McBride said that the stoppages could not be tolerated, and that they were “frivolous”. The Daily Telegraph has found some one to say that a horse had been the cause of a strike ‘because it was too fast. I do not know how the animal was quietened, but I do know that such a horse would be a most dangerous animal in a pit. When hauling skips to the wheeler, or from the wheeler to the miner, the horse might tear up the rails, pull the skips off the rails, and crush the driver or wheeler against the rock face and kill him. Worse than that could happen, because he might tear down the pit props, as a result of which rock and earth might fall upon the men and crush them. That, however, does not matter, according to the Daily Telegraph. Any man who works in a mine would agree that an objection to the use of such a horse was not a “ frivolous “ matter, as the Daily Telegraph alleged. The miners of this country are doing good work, and if members of the Opposition were employing themselves in th<» war effort as well as the miners are doing, the result would be better for Australia. Senator McBride has admitted the justice of some of the complaints about the shuffling of trucks. It has for many years been the practice of the coal-owners to stop a pit at their own will. They are doing it to-day, because they can make more money by taking the coal from one mine than from another. That is why some mines are starved for trucks, and, of course, if there are no trucks the coal cannot be transported. Because of these tactics, the Daily Telegraph and members of the Opposition say that these terrible, uncontrollable miners should be disciplined. Yet the ‘best story they could find on which to spill their ink was that fifteen men out of 22,000 were on strike. I am whole-heartedly with the Minister for Labour and National Service in his contention that the licences of the owners of the coalmines should be revoked, and that the men should be employed direct by the Government. The tactics employed by the owners and the managements in the past should not be allowed to continue. Under government management there would be, not greater efficiency, but better conditions for the miners than those existing to-day. It would ensure full production if the mine-owners had their licences withdrawn.
– Greater efficiency was not achieved by the New South Wales State mine.
– The State mine was operated successfully until trouble arose, not between the miners and the employers, but between various ‘organizations within the coal-mining industry. However, that trouble has now been adjusted. The Minister for Labour and National Service has had all the difficulties ironed out. lt is cowardly to make an attack upon men such as the Minister for Labour and National Service, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), who have done excellent work in eliminating production troubles in the mining and munitions industries. The achievement of the Minister for Labour and National Service was creditable, and I, as an Australian, shall not hear him vilified. Such attacks make one wonder what would happen if an invasion of Australia actually took place.
– The people of Australia appreciate the importance of coal in the war effort, and having watched with interest the repeated stoppages in the coal-mining industry, they feel depressed because of the repeated, but unfulfilled, promises made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to take action against the coal-miners. Up to date, there has been a notable lack of action against extremists in this industry. My colleague, Senator McBride, pointed out very clearly that since the outbreak of war, wages in the coal-mining industry have increased by 20 per cent., and that working hours have been reduced from 44 to 40 a week. He also showed that the average wage earned in the coal mines to-day was £2 0s. 2d. a day. All that is ample evidence that the coal-miners of this country enjoy much better conditions than do their colleagues in any other part of the world. The Senate is indebted to Senator McBride for placing these facts before it, calmly, fairly and clearly, in the interests of the people of Australia. I was somewhat surprised when the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) became so heated, and dealt with all aspects of the matter except those referred to in the speech delivered by Senator McBride. All sections of the community deplore these continuous stoppages. Disputes have persisted despite all that has been said by the Prime Minister. What is the position to-day?
– All the mines are working.
– Senator Keane displays a surprising lack of knowledge when he says that. For the benefit of the Minister, I draw attention to the fact that in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day, it is stated that the Burwood colliery, which produces a larger quantity of coal than any other coal-mine in the Commonwealth, was idle yesterday when 600 men returned to their homes because the Transport Department officials set them down 400 yards from the entrance to the mine. Side by side with that statement, in the columns of the same newspaper was a report that twelve Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force men had escaped from Java in a 30-ft. boat and had spent 44 gruelling days at sea. How can the sacrifices which are being made to-day by the coal-miners compare with the trying experiences of those men? Such comparisons give food for thought and provoke action. It is proper that in the National Parliament these important matters should be debated., and that the Government should be reminded of the necessity to take immediate action. I am informed that in addition to the Burwood colliery, the Millfield colliery also is idle to-day.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– It is evident that the Minister does not yet know about it. We are all aware of the seriousness of the war position which was referred to by the Leader of the Senate; we know that enemy planes were reported to be over Townsville last Saturday ; but what do we find in the coal-mining industry? Strikes again on the Monday ! To-day, the secretary of Northern Collieries Limited sent the following telegram to. the Prime Minister : -
I am directed by my board to advise Millfield colliery again idle to-day, grounds, miners refuse accept decision Central Reference Board which ground comes under your heading trifling. Respectful lj’ suggest your handling coa) situation damaging Australia’s war effort. Unless you apply Regulation 168 immediately you can expect further challenges to constitutional authority. If you are not prepared make effective present regulations respectfully ask you to publicly say so thereby supporting Labour Minister Ward’s public refusal in both regulations against strikers. If you allow matter to remain in present unsatisfactory position we contemplate calling public meeting as mentioned our telegram’ 29th February last.
– Sheer propaganda!
– That is not correct. This telegram was not sent to Senator McBride. It was handed to me five minutes before the Senate met to-day. Despite the fact that, as the Leader of the Senate has said, the war position is more serious to-day than ever, these two coal mines are idle. Is it any wonder that the people of Australia are concerned? I submit that we have a perfect right to challenge the Prime Minister to take action in this matter. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the following press statement published on the 1 Oth January last : -
Because there was no general resumption of work at the Kew South Wales coalfields this morning, the Federal Government at noon today promulgated a new national security order making it an offence against the National Security Act for any person, normally employed at a coal-mine, to refuse work when the mine is open and when he has been directed, or otherwise advised, to work by the committee of management of his union.
Persons who contravene the regulation are liable for a fine of £100, or imprisonment for six months, or both, if proceeded against summarily ; or for an unlimited fine and unlimited imprisonment if prosecuted on indictment.
The regulations also enable the right of exemption from military service, now accorded to employees in the coal-mining industry, to bc withdrawn from a person who refuses to work, thus rendering him liable to be called up for military service.
Announcing that this provision had been made, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said that the Government was determined that every body able to do so must either work or fight to win the war, and those who refused without reasonable excuse to work in essential industries would be called up to fight.
The public was misled by the statements that were made by the Prime Minister and the Government spokesman over a period of four months. In January it was said that action would be taken against the miners under the then existing regulations. When members of the Opposition in this chamber objected to those regulations and pointed out that they would not work, because they placed upon the Miners Federation the onus of sending strikers back tO’ work, members and supporters of the Government opposed that point of view strongly, and they debated the matter with such skill that they convinced two honorable senators on this side of the chamber that they were right. Within a few months, however, the Government repealed the regulations and carried out our suggestion by placing the responsibility for sending strikers back to work in the hands of the Coal Commissioner, where it should have rested originally. Then Statutory Rule No. 77, which contains drastic regulations empowering the Government to order people to do this, that or the other thing, was issued, and again the Government spokesman said that the new regulations were necessary in order to deal with the coal-miners. We on this side of the chamber, and the public generally, are disgusted with the inaction of the Government. I take this opportunity to place the facts before Senate Ministers and to urge them to do something, knowing that strikes will continue unless the Government plucks up sufficient courage to deal with the extremists in the coalmining industry and show them who is to govern the nation.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– I suggest that Senator Cameron display a little courage as a member of the Government and help to take action under existing regulations in order to deal with the extremists in the industry. The spineless, procrastinating attitude of the Government is deplorable in this time of emergency, and I appeal to Senate Ministers to endeavour to persuade Cabinet to act instead of talk.
– The only factor that has been revealed by the speeches of honorable senators opposite is that they are jealous of the results that were obtained by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) during his recent tour of the coal-fields. They are definitely disappointed because the Minister was successful. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) wants the
Government to apply force to the employees in the industry regardless of the facts which investigations have disclosed. I can put no other interpretation upon his speech than that. I remind the honorable gentleman that there are always two sides to an argument. Although he launched a vicious attack upon the employees, he did not mention the flouting of the regulations and industrial awards by the employers.
– What caused the two strikes which occurred to-day?
– I have not had time to make investigations yet; neither has the honorable senator. During his speech, he quoted a telegram that was framed as soon as it was intimated that this motion for the adjournment of the Senate would be moved to-day. It was a propaganda telegram prepared for the honorable senator to read to-day.
– I quoted a telegram that I received at ten minutes to 3 o’clock to-day. Senator Aylett has suggested that arrangements were made for that telegram to be sent as propaganda, and I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
– Senator Aylett may proceed.
– I say that the telegram was merely propaganda designed to boost the Opposition’s arguments on this motion. Prom my own experience of employers in Tasmania I am aware of the pinpricking attitude that has been adopted by the employers in industry towards employees. The Minister for Labour and National Service has stated openly that such pinpricking is going on in New .South Wales and has caused many industrial stoppages. He has made a personal investigation of the whole position, and I prefer to accept his statements, particularly in view of my own knowledge of what is taking place in other States, instead of the propaganda telegram which was read by the Leader of the Opposition. Senator Sampson launched a vicious attack upon the Minister for Labour and National Service. Like the Leader of the Opposition, he apparently overlooked the fact that “ you can lead a horse to water but you can never make it drink if it does not want to drink”. We must adopt the best methods avail able in order to maintain full production from our industries. Up to the present, this Government has endeavoured to use every means possible in order to secure the maximum rate of production that can be obtained under existing conditions. Honorable senators opposite know that to impose compulsion upon the employees because they stopped work as the result of provocative actions by the employers would only cause chaos in tin whole industry. They know that the employers have endeavoured to caustfriction amongst the employees in ord”.]to make them discontented and resentful of their actions. If the Government imposed compulsion upon the men in such circumstances they would all connout on strike. That is what honorable senators opposite would like to happen to-day. Senator McBride informed us, in the opening stages of his speech, thai he would deal not only with the employees, against whom he launched such a vicious attack, but also with the eniployers. All that he told us about the employers was the profits that they hamade.
– And how hard up they were!
– Yes, but he did not mention that the owners of the coalmines are also the owners of the big industrial monopolies of Australia.
– I stuck to the truth.
– The mine-owners cannot make huge profits on every one of their concerns. Even if they did not make much profit from the coal-mines, they did secure huge profits from the Newcastle steel-works, the shipping companies and their other big monopolies Honorable senators opposite should not imagine that we are not aware of the fact that the mine-owners also own the other big monopolies, and that their accumulated profits amount to a huge sum. Senator McBride referred at length to the hours of work in the coal-mines. The honorable senator would not know a coal-mine if he fell into one. He made that abundantly clear during his speech by the lack of knowledge of the industry that he displayed. He stated that if a coal-miner worked full time for five days a week he would be employed for only 30 hours out of 168 hours. Does he expect a miner to work continuously, and have no time off for meals and rest?
– What I said is correct.
– The honorable senator was incorrect in stating that miners worked only 30 hours during a five-day week. No greater misstatement has ever been made in this chamber. It is hard work for a miner carrying his “ crib “ to walk for an hour in a crouched position under a roof 4 feet high, in order to reach a stops where the actual mining takes place. I know the conditions under which the men work in the coal-mines, and I have not yet met a miner who would not put in an extra hour’s work at the face in preference to spending an extra half-hour in carrying his “ crib “ in a crouched position to the wall where he has to work. If the honorable senator would go down a coal-mine we would hear different speeches from those made by him in this chamber. He has complained about the pension that the miner receives; but surely a man whose work exposes him to the risk of contracting miners’ phthisis, and having his life shortened by perhaps a score of years, as well as the risk of accidents due to falls of earth, is entitled to compensation. The miners spend the best years of their lives in recovering coal for the owners, and, as they may eventually become physical wrecks, they have every rightto a pension. The honorable senator seems to resent the fact that the men are entitled to a pension after spending the best of their lives in producing coal that enables men like the honorable senator to live in comfort.
The honorable senator referred to the stoppages that -had occurred recently in the coal-mining industry, but he did not draw a comparison with the number of stoppages that took place during his regime as Minister for Supply and Development. He has not suggested how any steps’ other than those taken by the Government could be taken to reduce the number of stoppages. He said that by mechanizing the mines 5 tons of coal could be produced as compared with 3 tons being obtained by means of hand work. However, investigations have shown that in- some of the mines where mechanized methods have been adopted less coal has been produced than by hand work. Those investigations were made by experienced men, and were not based on assumptions, as are the arguments advanced by the honorable senator. He has said that some of the miners were most disloyal.
– That remark is just as inaccurate as are other statements by the honorable senator.
– Some of the employers are certainly disloyal.
– I did not make the statement attributed to me by the honorable senator.
– There would be as much justification for accusing the employers of disloyalty as there is for levelling that charge against the employees.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– When an honorable senator in the responsible position of Leader of the Opposition states a case in this chamber, the least we expect from him is a reasonable measure of fairness, and in that regard the honorable senator has failed in his contribution to the debate this afternoon. We have heard a highly coloured story of interference by miners to such a degree that the production of coal has been seriously reduced. All of the blame has been placed on the shoulders of one section of th, industry! The least the honorable senator should have done was to paint, if only in subdued colours, the other side of the picture. Since the Opposition has failed to paint it, I shall endeavour to do so. Owing to vindictive action on the part of the owner of a certain colliery, a watchman named Mitchell was sacked some time ago. He was not regarded highly by the other miners from a trade union point of view. His trade union background had been bad, but, because of advancing age, he bad been given a job as watchman. For some reason, his services were dispensed with. The miners threatened to go on strike, but because of representations made to them by their delegates, they agreed to continue at work.
Subsequently, the matter was referred to a board of reference; and that body decided that the mine-owners were in the wrong; that they should not have sacked Mitchell. It was of opinion that the owners had not made out a case to support their action. However, the owners refused to accept the board’s decision. They continued to refuse to reinstate Mitchell. Those are the details of just one of many instances that could he cited in order to show that there are two sides to these disputes, and that each side is not absolutely blameless.
– And the Government applied Statutory Rule No. 77 in that case?
– It was reported in the press that the Government had done so.
– The opinion exists in this chamber that the honorable senator opposite has reached the age of reason. I ask him not to do anything that would destroy that opinion. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) was informed ‘by telegram that the owners were approached only last week by the Commonwealth Government on this matter, and had been ordered to carry out the decision of a board of reference. To-day, however, information was received that they have not done so. Consequently, the owners are continuing in conflict with the Government and the miners on the job by absolutely refusing to accept the decision of an independent tribunal about whom we hear so much from honorable senators opposite. Times out of number, honorable senators opposite have declared that the decision of the referee should always be accepted. However, neither the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) nor Senator McBride, who .moved this motion, made any mention of that dispute. They were content to present only one side of the picture. In submitting a case of this kind for the consideration of the Senate, Senator McBride should endeavour to plow the facts fairly before us, in order that the blame may not be placed entirely on one side. I say that neither side is absolutely blameless. I am not here to defend either the mine-owners or the miners as such. However, the honorable senator who moved this motion was bound in fairness to both sides to place all of the facts before us.
.- Not one honorable senator opposite will deny that the conduct of the coal industry is of particular importance at present, or that it is our key industry, upon which the great majority of other industries are dependent for their life blood. Therefore, they must realize that any hold-up in the coal industry is of vital concern to our industrial life as a whole. Neither will it be disputed that the coal industry is in a better position than other industries to hold up the economic activity of the community, and. therefore, in a better position than any other industry to bargain. This debate is not directly concerned with the coalminers. I presume that the Government is governing the country. Parliament has given to it absolute power over the personal property and behaviour of every individual in the community. The Government is managing the affairs of thi* country on behalf of the nation as a whole. However, I have never seen a more pitiable exhibition of weakness than that which it has given to the country in dealing with the coal industry. I do not attack the miners at all. I simply say that it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that coal is won. But what is the Government doing about the matter? Nothing! I can quite imagine the daily prayer of the coal-miner to be : “ Give us this day our daily strike ; or two, or even three, strikes “ ; and the daily prayer of the Government to be : “ Give us this day our daily regulation “. However, when a regulation is passed, the Minister charged with its administration declares that, so long as he lives, it will not be used against the workers.
– When did he say that?
– The Minister did say that. His statement has been reported in practically every newspaper, and it has not been denied. I attack, not the coal-miners, but the Government, because of its weakness in controlling the coal industry. How can we expect the Government to manage a body of men like the coal-miners, when every one of its supporters in this chamber, who ha? so far spoken in this debate, has justified the actions of the miners in going on strike and holding up industry? Every honorable senator opposite who has spoken this afternoon has stated that the action of the miners, in holding up our industries in a time of war, has been justified.
– That is not true. Mo honorable senator on this side has made that statement.
– The honorable senator has a way of reasoning of his own. If the facts do not suit him, so much the worse for the facts. Does the Government intend to do anything about this problem?
– ‘What does the honorable senator suggest ?
– The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) is one of the directors who are now charged with managing the business of Australia. One of the Government’s vital duties is to ensure a full supply of coal to industry. That supply is not forthcoming. Yet the Minister calmly asks me what I would suggest! I suggest that the Government should have the guts “ to implement its own regulations for the control of the coal industry. Up to date, I assumed that it was taking appropriate action in order to ensure a full supply of coal to industry. However, 1 find that it is impotent in this matter. One of its members is so helpless that he now asks me what I think the Government should do. Put us back on the Government side of the chamber and we will tell you how to get coal. We will certainly have the courage to implement our regulations, and we would not issue regulations that we were afraid to implement.
– How would the honorable senator do that?
– That is for the Government to say. Why does the Government issue a regulation if it cannot, or will not, implement it? Why does it say, “ We are the strong people. Look at that regulation which gives power to us to take control of every man, woman and child in the community, and to tell them what work they have to do, and what they have to stop doing ! “ The Government issues a regulation to take full power to itself, but on the question of coal it goes back in the breeching and will not pull the cart any further. It then says, “ W e did not mean this “. These aristocrats of labour in the coal industry can hold up the rest of the community merely because they are the aristocrats of labour, and because they are the big political power in this country. The Government says to them, “ We will not touch you ; we will stroke you down and calm you. You can have your daily strikes, and we will justify them in Parliament. Although we proclaim from the housetops the danger the community is in, the urgent necessity for coal, the shortage of man-power, and the importance of coal as the life-blood of the community, we will not do one single thing that will in any way offend you “.
Senator McBride was quite justified in attempting to show how impudent, how futile, the Government had been in this matter. The Leader of the Senate, with his usual enthusiastic incoherence, attempted to justify the coal-miners by attacking, as if we were responsible, honorable senators on this side of the chamber, but he did not attempt to justify the Government’s inaction. He “ said’, “ We will fix this up “. but that has ‘been said daily for many months. There is always going to be, but there never is, something better. The Prime Minister is always going to implement Statutory Rule No. 77, but the Minister for Labour and National Service says it will never be used against the workers. Senator McBride’s statement to-day has been entirely justified, but the Government has not said how itis going to overcome the difficulty. It has not stated how a full supply of coal can be obtained in the most dangerous period of our history. It has not even acknowledged that coal is a national necessity, but its supporters have, one after another, attempted to justify the miners for withholding coal from industries that are essential to the safety of the nation. When Senator McBride said that this sort of thing could not be tolerated, the Leader of the Senate became annoyed, although the Government knows that it is tolerating the present situation, and is not achieving results. I hope that before the debate is over a Government spokesman will tell the chamber and the people outside what the Government intends to do to obtain a full supply of coal. No one is worried very much about the cost of the coal, but it is well known that coal is a necessity. If a small section of people is permitted to defy the Government, the Government is not fit to occupy the treasury bench.
– I have never -worked in a coal mine, but I have a family interest in mining. I had three brothers who were miners, and they were men of magnificent physique. The first one was killed at 38 years of age, the second one worked underground for 30 years, and the third one is broken in health. The two who are alive are suffering because of the unhealthy conditions of their work. A party of parliamentarians went to Lithgow about two years ago, and were taken down the State coal-mine. I said to the manager, “ How far is it to the face “, and he replied, “ I should not advise you to go there ; it is about a 2-mile walk “. Yet Senator McBride objects to the miners being paid for the walk. Senator Aylett showed how difficult it was to walk those 2 miles, and explained that the miners would rather be working at the face than walking. I am glad that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) drew attention to a statement made by Senator McBride about women in mines. Senator McBride evidently approves of women working in mines. I remember a commission that made investigations in England years ago, when action was taken to prohibit women, stripped to the waist, working in the mines.
– I merely read the statement; I made no comment on it.
– The honorable senator put the statement forward as a reason why such things should be done. Some years ago a doctor, who was also a psychologist, gave evidence before a commission in England to the effect that men who worked underground year after year, out of the sunlight, suffered in health, and that they took a different view from that taken by men who worked in the sunlight. That furnishes a strong reason why the miners should be allowed to bring their grievances forward. I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service did all he could to bring about continuous production of coal. It has been said that the application of Statutory Rule No. 77 might have caused a complete stoppage in the coal industry. Miners are loyal to one another, and a sympathy strike could have stopped the coal supply. If it is possible by interviewing the owners and the miners, and by listening to the grievances of the men, to bring about a reconciliation, such action should be taken. The Minister for Labour and National Service induced the men to go back to work. There has never been proof that the faults are all on the one side ; the evidence in New South Wales is to the contrary. I believe that the men have just grievances from time to time. They do not fail to realize that if we do not win the war they will lose all their industrial advantages, and they are not such fools as not to know that if Japan succeeds they will lose all the trade union privileges for which they have fought hard. I give them credit for realizing that, although members of the Opposition do not do so. I think that it would have been better had we adopted the suggestion made by the Leader of the Senate, and allowed all the talk in regard to this matter to come from honorable senators opposite. In the course of this debate Senator McBride has been smiling, but I cannot sees anything to laugh about in the war position to-day. However, smiles, laughs and jeers are all that I have had in this chamber since I came here four years ago. Apparently the honorable senator does not realize the importance of matters such as this. He is the most irresponsible man in the chamber. I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service went about this task in the best way possible, and that he did contribute largely to the establishment of peace on the coal-fields. It was only right that, by means of conferences with the men and the owners, he should do his best to secure maximum production of coal which is so essential at present.
– In this chamber some days ago, Senator Leckie remarked that the Leader of the Senate (Senator
Collings) would be perfectly happy if the Senate were a kindergarten and. he were the schoolmaster, but I am pleased to see that honorable senators opposite did not accede to their leader’s appeal not to debate this motion. They have their own opinions and they are entitled to express them.
In the course of this debate a good deal has been said as to who is responsible for the stoppages on the coal-fields, and, in turn, first one side and then the other has been blamed. But the question before the Senate to-day is not who is to blame for the strikes, but whether or not the Government has done everything possible to avoid these disputes. “We have a Commonwealth Arbitration Court and any infringement of awards, either by employers or employees; or in fact any trouble between coal-miners and the mine-owners is entirely a matter for that court. But I ask honorable senators whether or not the Government has done everything in its power to see that the law of the land as laid down by the Arbitration Court has been observed by both the employer and employee? Apparently early this year the Government believed that the Arbitration Court’s rulings were not being observed by all sections of the coal-mining industry, because, on the 9th Januarylast, regulations were promulgated setting out what should be done by the coal-miners and the mine-owners, and stating that action would be taken against any one who did not comply with the Arbitration Court’s awards. This afternoon Senator McBride pointed out that the Government, although it realized that stoppages were occurring in the industry and that somebody was to blame, had not exercised the powers which it possessed under these regulations to ensure that the awards were enforced. There can be no doubt that the Government is to blame for the continued disputes in the coalmining industry, irrespective of whether they have been originated by the coalminers or the mine-owners, because under the regulations to which I have referred action could have been taken against either party.We have heard to-day that certain action was taken, but if that be so, it could have been only of a minor nature and hardly worth mentioning. Between the 9th January, when the regulations were issued, and now there has been ample opportunity to use the new powers, but no such action has been taken. Naturally enough we in this chamber are anxious that the coal-mining industry should continue to produce sufficient coal to meet this country’s requirements, especially in view of the fact that coal is so vitally important in our war effort. Another good point which . was made by Senator McBride was that it was ridiculous to haul coal 150 miles to areas in which an ample supply of coal existed.
A great deal has been said in recent months about coal production and about the alleged benefits accruing from the visit of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) to the coal-fields. It has been suggested that the Minister returned from his trip satisfied that he had found a solution of the problems. Personally I believe that the Minister returned from the coal-fields with nothing more than he had when he went there. I am reminded very much of an argument which I once heard around a camp fire at a place 250 miles beyond Oodnadatta, and allegedly on the direct route to what is known as Lassetter’s Reef. Some time previously a party had gone out to search for the reef, and there was considerable speculation as to what had been found by that party. In the course of the camp-fire discussion one man said that he knew that the search party had found gold because he had seen members of the party returning with specimens. However, another speaker said that he knew perfectly well that the party had not found anything, because he had seen members of it go out, and they had the specimens with them then. The same can be said of the Minister’s visit to the coalfields. He had all the information with him when he went; he did not get it when he arrived there.
– That is incorrect.
– I am merely expressing my own opinion.I do not think that the Minister can be regarded as an authority on this matter because I understand that on one occasion at least he and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) were not allowed to accompany the Minister when he attended a meeting at Lithgow, but had to remain outside while the discussions took place.
We have heard a great deal about the wonderful production of coal that has been achieved during the last few weeks. However, I have here an extract from a report published in a reliable newspaper of a statement made by the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell. It reads -
Australian coal production during the past eight weeks has fallen below the rate of consumption, with reserve stocks rapidly being depleted, said the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner, Mr. N. Mighell, to-night.
The greatest contributing cause to the production lag was undoubtedly the compulsory retirement of 2,000 men who reached the retiring age under the New South Wales miners’ insurance scheme, Mr. Mighell added. Lost production from this cause was estimated at about 30.000 tons a fortnight, about 750,000 tons a year. Many of these men were ready, anxious and fit for work.
I think it tragic that a State law should be permitted to force to idleness experienced men from an industry on which perhaps the very safety of this Commonwealth depends. None of these retired miners has gone back to the mines, although the Miners Federation has now agreed to the slack in man-power being made up from their number.
The question before the Senate is not whether this state of affairs is the fault of the miners or the fault of the owners. The blame rests entirely with the Government. If the Government was of the opinion that the coal-mining industry was operating satisfactorily, why did it issue regulations? But, having issued regulations to control the industry, it should have taken action under them when the need to do so arose.
– Senator McBride said that the coalminers were difficult to manage. That is admitted. All workers are difficult to manage when they are working under extremely provocative conditions, and, obviously, if the task of management is to be made easier, the workers’ conditions must be made better. Commonwealth public servants are not so difficult to manage as coal-miners. Why? Because the conditions under which they work are very much better, more congenial, and more secure than the conditions under which the miners work. Several honorable senators have very properly asked what the Government should do. In my judgment, the Government should now be prepared to take much more drastic action against the mineowners than it has taken hitherto. The Government, in good faith, left it to the mine-owners to do the right thing by the miners in order that coal should be produced in the increasing quantities which are so badly needed. It is obvious that everything depended upon the mine-owners, and, if they had done the right thing, the position of which complaint has been made to-day would never have arisen. What are the conditions under which the mine-owners operate? Senator McBride and Senator James McLachlan have said, in effect, that the organization of the mines is unbalanced.
– I did not say anything of the kind ; I did not even suggest that.
– The honorable senator did say so in effect. For example, he admitted that on occasions there were more trucks than were needed at some mines and not sufficient at others. That is evidence of unbalanced organization, and where there is unbalanced organization there is also unbalanced production and all of the difficulties of which honorable senators complain. Senator James McLachlan said that he could not understand why coal should be brought a distance of 150 miles when it could be obtained locally. The existence of that apparent anomaly is further evidence of unbalanced management. Whilst that may be reasonably safe in times of peace, it is desperately dangerous in times of war, and, whether we like it or not, we must deal more drastically with the owners of the mines unless of their own volition they take steps to remedy the position. But those controlling the mines are not prepared to take such action, because they are competing with one another for monopoly control, and when there is fierce competition for such control, not only in the mining industry, but also in other industries, the conditions of the workers are made more and more intolerable. It is well known that mine-owners themselves have deliberately provoked strikes in order to make difficulties for their competitors and put them out of business. I asked .Senator Leckie and Senator Mcleay to suggest what action should be taken in order to remedy the position in the industry, but I did not obtain an answer. These honorable gentlemen put themselves in the position of critics, but they offer no constructive suggestions. I venture to say that, if the Government should be forced to take more drastic action against the mine-owners in order to organize balanced production, eliminate wastage of man-power and money, establish the industry on a more efficient and economical basis, and make the working of mines almost as safe as the working of underground railways, the first persons who will object and challenge the Government on the ground that it is interfering with private enterprise will be honorable senators opposite. When a desperate war-time situation arises we must be prepared to bring about national control of industry, where necessary, in order to obtain better results. Where there is divided and competitive control, more managerial staffs than are needed, the expenditure of more money than is necessary, and an irregular supply of trucks, there will always be industrial disputes.- That is happening in the engineering industry to-day. In some workshops there are more machines than are needed, and in other workshops there are not enough. I have outlined the course that must be taken, and I shall urge the Government, particularly in view of the discussion which has taken place here to-day, to take action immediately against provocative, incompetent and wasteful management of coal mines. Senator McBride referred to the position in Russia by way of comparison. What is the position in Russia ?
– It seems strange that Senator McBride should do that.
– It does not seem strange to me, because I believe that Senator McBride could not possibly fail to notice the marked contrast between conditions in Australia and conditions in Russia. In Russian coal-mines there are no directors who draw high fees and there is no divided and competing managements. No shareholders draw profits from the mines. The workers in Russia get the full benefit of the product of the mines, and that makes all the difference. In time of war the nation’s resources of coal and all other commodities are pooled. The people all fight in the defence of their country, and against the Fascists of Germany. There is no declaration of dividends anc no appropriation of enormous profits. In short, the Russians are working foi themselves and for the defence of their country, and not for the profits of shareholders and directors. Would honorable senators opposite agree that the members of the Miners Federation be allowed to work under similar conditions?
– Would the miners accept similar wages and conditions to those obtaining in Russia? Of course not.
– The average coal-miner in Australia is ready to make the same sacrifice for his country as is the average coal-miner in Russia, but he is not prepared to allow shareholders and others to batten upon him when, at the same time, he is expected to fight in defence of his country. Do you, Mr. President, think that honorable senators opposite would agree to put all the shareholders and directors of the coal-mines out of commission, and say to them, “ From this day onwards your managerial staffs shall be directly responsible to the Government, your incomes shall cease, and all of you shall be put to work in production in the coal-mines, the munitions factories or elsewhere ? “ Under those conditions, we should have a national effort true to name. We should have a set of conditions that would appeal to the best in men and women. But are we appealing to the best in them when they work under conditions which are camouflaged ? It is said that they are unpatriotic simply because they object to building up the bank balances of the employers. Give them conditions under which there will be equality of sacrifice, not in name but in reality, and where the privileged and pampered section will contribute its share in production, and we shall hear no more of difficulties in the coal-mining or any other industry. The exigencies of this war, the most desperate in which we have ever been engaged, will enforce such conditions upon us whether we like them or not. Do the mine-owners and shareholders intend to wait until they are forced into a position in which they will have to “ do their bit “, as well as the men employed in the mines, or do they intend to be patriotic and take a proper view of the whole position, saying ‘of their own volition to the employees, “We shall make sacrifices equal to yours “.
– What does the Government propose to do about it?
– In my judgment the Government has been depending on the mine-owners to do the right thing. [ make no apology for that. That is the proper thing for the Government to do. [f the mine-owners say, “ We are prepared to do the fair thing”, well and good: but the evidence we have to-day, particularly the case of the watchman, Mitchell, which has been mentioned by Senator Armstrong, and numerous other cases, leads one to assume that the mine-owners do not intend to do the right thing. In these circumstances the Government will have no alternative but to act in the direction I have indicated. Lf it does, the most strenuous opposition will no doubt come from honorable senators opposite.
– No amount of vociferation and rhetoric, such as has been indulged in by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) is a satisfactory reply to the indictment of the Government for its administration of the coal-mining industry. Whether the fault lies with the miners or with the mine-owners, the people of Australia are looking for action. Threats and conferences for the purpose of bringing the parties into line are no longer sufficient. Our allies in the north have lost Corregidor in the Philippines. Ls this a time when we should be prating about the nationalization of industry?
– Who brought this matter up?
– The vacillation and pusillanimity on the part of the Government is responsible for this debate. The present position is due to political fear in the hearts of Ministers, when there should be room for none, because they know full well that the Opposition would stand behind them were they firm in their action, whether in regard to the employees or the management. We have heard threats and suggestions that the management is at fault, but why has not the Government the courage to prosecute the mine-owners? If the management were at fault I should be 100 per cent, behind the Government in prosecuting the mine-owners.
– The Government with which the honorable senator was associated did not prosecute anybody in connexion with the trouble in the industry.
– Bui the Government trembles to do anything. It is fearful of the result of any action it might take. That is the indictment which Senator McBride has levelled against it this afternoon. It is idle for us to engage in a metaphysical discussion such as the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) essayed this afternoon when he visualized a revolution of our social system. He simply avoided the issue and slid away from it as he has done so successfully when he has been engaged in combats in another capacity. It is idle to engage in special pleading in this matter. Tribunals galore exist to deal with disputes in the industry. We have had tribunals since the royal commission over which Mr. Justice Davison presided thoroughly investigated conditions in the industry; The Government is not without means of ascertaining whether strikes, or disturbances, in the industry are frivolous, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) suggested in respect of one recent dispute. It has means of finding out whether real grievances exist. It has at its disposal means of ascertaining whether the miners, or the mine-owners, are at fault. Should either be at fault, they should be dealt with. But the Government has not the courage to deal with the miners, because of political fears. Such fears are groundless. We want a 100 per cent, production in the industry. States which depend on coal from New South Wales have been bled white by the tribute demanded from them .by the coal industry in that State. It was for that reason that Victoria was driven to establish its great industry at Yallourn. Unfortunately, South Australia has not yet been able to discover coal deposits of the requisite value to enable it to establish a similar industry. The recurring strikes and disputes in the coal industry in New South Wales are due to the fact that the industry has never been stabilized. I could also mention certain aspects which have been testified to by more than one leading unionist in New South Wales. The Minister for Aircraft Production concluded by advocating the nationalization of the coal industry. With the enemy at our door, how ridiculous it would be to entertain any thought of changing our social system. What would happen if the coal industry were nationalized? I recall a story told by a distinguished Labour premier of South Australia, who afterwards graced this Senate. He said that on one occasion when he was Premier of South Australia, the “ boys “ came to him and said, “ J ohn you must nationalize something. You know that it is part of the programme “. Being a copper-miner, he immediately nationalized copper-mines at Moonta, which in its day had been a great producer. Incidentally, owing largely to representations made by the late Mr. Charles Hawker, the mine was re-opened during the economic depression, and provided at least a living for the miners who at that time were in dire straits. However, after “ John “ nationalized that mine, he found that things were not going to his liking, and, being a practical miner, he visited’ the mine himself. Subsequently, he reported to the Labour caucus : “ I went tip to Moonta to see a copper mine working. I found a. lying-in home “. Much the same sort of thing would happen, should we nationalize the coal industry as advocated by the Minister for Aircraft Production. It is useless for the Minister in his specious way to try to get away from the issue involved in this matter by preaching nationalization. Senator McBride has simply stated that whoever is to blame in these disputes should be dealt with effectively. A few days ago, I read in the press that one dispute arose because a fast pony was used in a mine. The report stated that two ponies were available, and that, if necessary, an extra man would be made available to lead the fast pony. Surely in a time of war, when we are really up against things, somebody must put a stop to that sort of thing. It is the duty of the Government to do so, and I implore it to take the necessary action. There is nothing sinister about this motion. We on this side seek no political kudos in supporting it. Unless the Government wakes up to realities, it will soon learn that the men who are to-day risking their lives and their all for this country will not stand tamely by and see the favoured few do as they please. Regardless of the interests of either the coal-owners or the miners, the Government must enforce the law. That is all that Senator McBride asks. It is what the Government should have done long ago.
– The previous Government of which the honorable senator was a supporter fined labourers at Port Kembla because they refused to load pig iron, on ships bound for Japan.
– I opposed the export of iron ore to Japan. lt was I who prevented the Japanese from obtaining an interest at Yampi Sound. However, what did we get in exchange for our pig iron?
– We are getting it back to-day in bombs.
– And we are helping to safeguard the lives of the bravest of our sons who are fighting to save our skins, because, in return for our pig iron, we received material of great value for safeguarding- our aviators. Surely honorable senators opposite do not think that the previous Government was so idiotic that it failed to realize what was likely to happen. This Government can thank its lucky stars that we exported a certain quantity of scrap iron. But what is that scrap iron compared with the materials we are receiving to-day from our great ally, the United States of America? The coalminers are merely amused with this Government. They take the view that it is afraid of them, and that they are masters of the situation. Therefore, they can do as they please. The Government must ensure that the production of coal is maintained at the greatest possible rate. We cannot contrast the conditions of workers in this country with those imposed on the workers in Great Britain without feeling that our workers are infinitely better off. I again urge the Government to take its courage in its hands and to translate into action the words of its own leader on this subject. We must see’ this business through, or, otherwise, the whole transport system of Australia will be disorganized. God forbid that I should say one word to make it more difficult to settle this trouble, but it is obvious that action must be taken. Tribunals are established to bring about a settlement, but they cannot do so. We Iia ve to take the more definite action that the Prime Minister promised under Statutory Rule No. 77. I commend Senator McBride for bringing the matter forward, because it is of more than passing moment. It is vital to Australia’s interests that the production of coal should be not only continued, but also increased.
– I agree with Senator A. J. McLachlan that there should be less talk and more action. More than an hour has been wasted in talk this afternoon, and, apart from the proposal by Senator McBride, no formula has been advanced that could in any way be used to solve the many difficulties that have always confronted the coal-mining industry. I listened with attention to Senator A. J. McLachlan. I would direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that a previous government of which he was a supporter and once a member, had a leader who, when thousands of miners were .on strike on the northern coal-fields, pleaded with them to go back and work in the mines. Because the present Minister for Labour and National Service has been successful in inducing many of the miners to go back into production, members of the Opposition are annoyed. It would please them if they could read in the newspapers to-day that half a dozen mines were idle because the men were out on strike. As a member of the Government, I would welcome a formula or suggestion of practical value. We are prepared to accept any advice that is practical, but we do not accept as practical the solution offered on many occasions by members of the Opposition. Miners, it is urged, should be placed in labour corp3 and given uniforms.
– Elias the Government any solution?
– The mines are all working. Senator McBride knows as well as I do that if it were thought by the Government that Statutory Rule No. 77 should be implemented, it would be implemented. It will be implemented, however, when the Government decides, and not when the Opposition decides. We are in charge of the treasury bench to-day. The Opposition has drawn a red herring across the trail, and has failed in its attack. The action taken to-day is merely in support of a previous attack upon the Government, when its patriotism was challenged because it went to the United States of America for help. An attempt is now being made to create trouble in the industrial world. The argument has been featured throughout the press and was prominent in the House of Representatives last week. The mover of the motion has suggested that there should be some regimentation of the coal-mining industry, that the small mines should be put out of operation, and more monopolies created.
– I did not refer to the small mines.
– The honorable senator said “some mines”, and if his proffered solution could be made practicable, it would mean putting the small mines out of existence. That cannot be done for a reason that I shall explain. He does not know the conditions in the coalmining industry, although he may know all about the pastoral industry. . In the first place, let us be reasonable.
– And let us speak the truth.
– I shall not speak anything but the truth, and I shall not permit the honorable senator or any one else to accuse me of doing otherwise. He has suggested that the miners should bc moved from one field to another. Where would he move them from and to? No indication has been given of that. He merely made the bald statement that he would regulate the industry. I suggest that he should obtain further information from the Colliery Proprietors’ Association, from which he no doubt obtained the information he used this afternoon.
– I did not.
– Through that avenue he could ascertain that his proposition could not be operated. There are three mining fields in New South Wales - the north, the west and the south. Would Senator McBride move miners from the north to the south, or the west to the south?
– The Minister is perfectly ridiculous. I did not suggest either alternative.
– The honorable senator suggested regimenting the industry, but he did not say how it should be done. He made a sensible suggestion in regard to skips. He said that skips that were not being used in a particular mine should be brought into a mine where they could be used, irrespective of who owned them. To suggest, however, that miners could be taken from the north to the south, or vice versa, is entirely impracticable. Reference has been made to the increased cost of coal and the increased wages of miners. May I direct attention to what happened during the war of 1914 to 1918, when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was Prime Minister. He gave an advance to the miners of 6d. a ton, and at the same time gave 2s. a ton to the proprietors of the mines to keep peace in the industry. The present Government is not buying peace in industry to-day in that way. It has been alleged that the miners were unreasonable in ceasing work. I was at one of the meetings in the west where a coal-mine was out of production because a weighbridge, as admitted by the proprietors, was weighing up to half a cwt. short. In some pits the men have to walk 2 or 3 miles to and from the coal-face, and sometimes the height from the floor to the roof is only 4 feet, so that the men have to crouch in order to get through. I suggest to the honorable senator who was so concerned about the bank-to-bank principle of eight hours which has been fought for over a period of years, and is recognized by the courts, that he should not take exception-
– I did not take exception to it.
– The honorable senator introduced the matter in support of his argument this afternoon, and stated that the men worked for only sis hours daily. I am merely pointing out the reason for that. I should like to see the honorable senator do six hours’ work after walking for 3 miles, and then walk another 3 miles at the end of his shift. I am sure that he would not be wasting his time as he has done in the chamber to-day, but would be having a good sleep.
Reference has been made to the transfer of coal from the northern coal-fields to the south coast, but the mover of the motion did not state why that transfer was being made. It may be that the coal is required for a special purpose, such as the making of coke.
– It is being transferred because, owing to stoppages, production on the southern coal-fields has been insufficient.
– I accept the honorable senator’s word, but I doubt very much whether that is the position and I shall have inquiries made. I have known coal to be transported from the western coal-fields to the south coast for the manufacture of coke because the coal in the western districts is more suitable for that purpose.
Senator James McLachlan said thatI had been prevented from attending a miners’ meeting at Lithgow. That is a misstatement of the position. I was in Lithgow attending a miners’ meeting, and at the same time a meeting of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, which was attended by the Minister for Labour and National Service, was being held. It is a rule of that union that only members can attend its meetings, except by a resolution of the meeting. Mr. Ward went to the meeting an hour before I did, and was admitted by such a special resolution. When I went to the door I was informed that I would have to wait until my presence was notified and a resolution had been passed, but as it was then 1.30 p.m. I decided to go to lunch instead.
– Then the press statement was incorrect?
– No. The honorable senator said that it was a miners’ meeting. Apparently he did not understand the press statement. The report did not state that it was a miners’ meeting.
There has been much talk on this subject to-day, but talk will not solve the miners’ troubles. We have wasted hours this afternoon, but not one tangible suggestion has been made as to how peace can be secured in the coal-mining industry. Every one knows that this industry has many difficulties with which to contend. Not long ago some miners in England were on strike for three months, and all that was involved was an expenditure of £50 a week.
– I should like some more information in regard to that statement. What is the name of the mine?
– I shall provide the honorable senator with the facts.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown). - Order! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Senator ARTHUR (New South Wales) 6.8]. - In my opinion this matter should never have come before the Senate. We ure asked to support a motion for the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, but although I have listened attentively to the debate, I have failed to perceive what the matter of public importance actually is. Senator McBride made, or rather read - we do not know whether the document was prepared by the Mine Owners Consultative Council or by the legal fraternity which usually acts on its behalf - a statement to the effect that the public of Australia was disgusted with the Government because of the way in which it had handled the coal-mining industry. I should like to know how the honorable senator knows just what the public of Australia thinks. Tt was also stated by the honorable senator that production amounting to 500,000 tons had been lost through stoppages during the last six months. I understand that he obtained that information from a statement made by the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, but I definitely disbelieve it. Anybody conversant with the conditions in the industry will realize that the statement was definitely misleading.
– Mr. Mighell said 750,000 tons.
– He must have been thinking of the profits made by the mine-owners. The honorable senator went on to say that the Government had; before it the facts necessary to remedy the position.
– I did not say that.
– If the Government had those facts we should expect it to make use of them, but the honorable senator did not indicate what the facts were. The honorable gentleman spoke of the conditions of the sweated slaves of the mining industry, and said that their rates of pay had been increased by 27 per cent. I should like the honorable gentleman to tell me of one instance in which the miners have been granted an. increase of the hewing rate. All of this work is done on contract. let us examinethe position of the coal-mining industry in 1915, when the same conditions asapply to-day were operating under avaricious owners. At that time, we thought that we were fortunate if we earned £4 10s. for a full fortnight’s work of eleven days. To-day the miners are working fairly constantly and earning a little more than they were a few years ago, because they have not worked somuch since the depression, when many of them were obliged to accept the dole because of the way in which orthodox financiers, particularly bankers, carried on the affairs of this country. But the usual thing is for the owners, through, their bookworm managers, to set out each, fortnight what they consider to be a fair amount for the miners to earn. I speak in earnest when I refer to mine managers as bookworms. I shall explain why I use that term. In order to be a practical miner, a man must work for two years at the coal face with a qualified man. Until he has completed this term, he is not entitled to work by himself. That is provided by the law of New South Wales.
– All mine managers have to be certificated men. That also is provided by the law of New South Wales.
– In order to become a mine manager a man must work for five years in or about a mine. Under that provision an owner could take a man of the same intellectual capacity as Senator McLeay and put him to work in the office adding up figures, collecting the wages tax from the miners, or putting tickets on coal trucks, and, with a little study and some attendance at a technical college that man could obtain his manager’s certificate without having been underground. Many mine managers have obtained their certificates by that means, and that state of affairs is the root cause of the trouble. It is further aggravated by the actions of the financial councils which are interested not only in coal mines but also in interlocking concerns, such as shipping companies, iron and steel works, banks and the newspapers. Take for example the Adelaide Steamship Company Limited. Senator McBride could have told us about that firm’s financial interest in coal-mines. The affairs of Howard Smith Limited and other companies are also worthy of investigation. Senator McBride said that the miners earned 40s. 2d. a day. He did not state that that was the average figure.
– I said that it was the average for the period which I mentioned.
– I challenge the honorable senator’s statement; it was definitely wrong. He may have picked out a particular mine where men averaged that rate for a fortnight because the railway trucks were there to be filled, but he omitted to refer to the increased price of coal paid to the owners at the pit mouth. He said that the miners’ rate had increased by 27 per cent. He should have pointed out also that the price of coal has increased by 70 per cent. since the beginning of the war.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. 64.
Sitting suspended from 6.17 to 8 p.m.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Owing to the increasing number of repatriation appeal cases awaiting attention in Western Australia by the Appeal Tribunal, will the Minister make arrangements as early as possible for the Appeal Tribunal to visit Perth to hear and determine these urgent cases ?
– The Minister for Repatriation has replied in the affirmative.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Hospital Patients in Middle East.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing ‘the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that Mr. Beck had been discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on “War Expenditure.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time*
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As honorable senators know, the Commonwealth Government recently decided, subject to His Majesty’s approval, that the Honorable Sir Owen Dixon, K.C.M.G., Justice of the High Court of Australia, should become His Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America in succession to the Right Honorable R. G. Casey. The object of this bill is to enable the Government to utilize the services of the Honorable Sir Owen Dixon in that office, without his position as a justice of the High Court of Australia being prejudiced in any way. Section 8 of the Judiciary Act reads -
A justice of the High Court shall not be capable of accepting or holding any other office or any other place of profit within the Commonwealth except any such judicial office as may be conferred upon him by or under any law of the Commonwealth.
It is not quite clear whether this section would exclude Sir Owen Dixon from accepting this appointment, while remaining a justice of the High Court; but, in order to remove any doubt, provision is made by clause’ 3 of the bill to override that section by providing -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Judiciary Act 1903-1940, if His Majesty shall see fit to appoint the Honorable Owen Dixon to be Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America, he may accept that appointment and hold the same as well as the office of a justice of the High Court of Australia, and his service as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary for the Commonwealth of Australia in the United States of America shall for all purposes count as service in the office of a justice.
Under section 48a of the Judiciary Act the pension of a justice of the High Court on retirement depends upon the number of years in which he has served in that office. It is desirable, therefore, to make it clear that any period during which Sir Owen Dixon may hold the office of Commonwealth Minister in the United States of America and perform the duties of that office shall be regarded as included in his period of service as a justice of the High Court.
Whilst the bill, for simplicity, contains no reference to the present war, the necessity for the utilization of SiT Owen’s services has arisen out of the war, and the special significance attaching to the diplomatic relations between the two countries at the present time renders it vital that the Commonwealth’s representative should be a man of the highest attainments and reputation. I feel confident that honorable senators will agree that Sir Owen Dixon is eminently suited for the position. He has had a distinguished career. After a successful period at the bar, he was appointed a justice of the High Court of Australia in 1929, a position which he has continued to occupy with great distinction. Sir Owen lias, in addition to his duties as a justice of the High Court, performed services Cor this country as chairman of the Central Wool Committee since 1940, and chairman of the Australian Coastal Shipping Control Board and Marine War Risks Insurance Board since 1941. The Government considers itself fortunate in having been able to obtain the services of an Australian of such outstanding ability to fill its most important diplomatic post abroad. I feel sure that this appointment will not only commend itself to honorable senators, but also receive the approval of the people of Australia. [ trust that the bill will have a speedy passage.
– I endorse the eulogistic references by the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) to this distinguished Australian. I congratulate the Government upon having succeeded in persuading Sir Owen Dixon to accept this high office in these difficult times. During the early stage of the war, I, as Minister for Commerce, had an opportunity of close contact with Sir Owen Dixon, and I look upon him as a brilliant and outstanding Australian. I am proud to know that a man of such calibre will represent Australia at Washington.
– I join with the
Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) in congratulating theGovernment upon having secured the services of Sir Owen Dixon for the important post of representative of Australia in the United States of America. We all know that he has had a brilliant legal career, and is well suited for the important po’st to which he has been appointed at Washington. It is indeed pleasing to know that his service abroad will count as service for the purpose of his pension as a member of the High Court Bench, and all doubt on the matter is to be removed by the passage of this bill. It seems to me that the Government should have congratulated the Right Honorable R. G. Casey, our retiring representative at Washington. This opportunity should have been seized by the Government to commend Mr. Casey upon the valuable services rendered by him to the Commonwealth, and upon the fact that he has been elevated to a very high position as a member .of the British Cabinet. It falls to the lot of few Australians to gain such a distinction, and, although Mr. Casey is no longer associated with Commonwealth administration, 1 feel sure that he will remain a good Australian and will continue to represent the Commonwealth overseas. It is not possible for him to forget his native country, as I believe he represents about the third or fourth generation of his family in this country. He is to be congratulated upon the great work he did for Australia.
– The honorable senator is not in order in discussing the appointment of Mr. Casey to another office on the second reading of this bill.
– 1 am sure that Sir Owen Dixon will be a worthy successor to Mr. Casey, and will continue at Washington the great work for Australia commenced by his predecessor.
.- I join with other honorable senators in commending the Government upon the choice which it has made in the appointment of Sir Owen Dixon to the important post of representative of Australia at Washington. Sir Owen Dixon is one of Australia’s most distinguished citizens, and it would not be an extreme statement to say that he probably possesses capacity equal to that of any man in the Empire. [ have no doubt whatever that he will fill this post with the great ability that he has displayed in every other position that he has occupied.
I should like to indicate some misgivings which I entertain in respect of the practice that appears to be growing up of appointing members of the judiciary to posts of this kind. I believe that it is a very sound rule that men who are appointed to judicial office should be appointed for life; and that they should hold those offices for life without possibility of promotion, or change, so far as Government appointments may be concerned. In saying this, I do not criticize this Government in particular, because the previous Government followed this practice. I realize that in circumstances such as we are faced with to-day, we are obliged, perhaps, to do rather extraordinary things. Precedents for this practice can be found even in the United Kingdom. However, it is not undesirable to sound a word of caution against a too frequent departure from what I believe to be the very sound basis of our judicial system, namely, that judges should hold their office as judges for life, and there should be no possibility of any one suggesting that they may be able to obtain favours by promotion, or otherwise, from a government.
– Nothing to hope for, and nothing to fear.
– That is a very sound rule indeed in relation to the judiciary. I make these remarks not in criticism of this appointment, but simply in order to indicate that we should keep before us at all times the very sound rule to which I have referred, and which, I believe, is at the root of the fine judicial system that still exists in British communities.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 1st May (vide page 793).
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause8 - (1.) The commission shall consist of five commissioners, one of whom shall be a woman.
.- I move -
That after the word “ commissioners “ the words “at least” be inserted.
As the clause stands, the number of women who may be appointed to the commission is limited to one. My amendment will permit of the appointment of more than one ; and I move it because of the fact that nearly all avenues of activity in the community are now open to women.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added to the clause: - “ (3.) The commissioners shall be appointed by the Governor-General.”
I realize that my amendment is covered by the Acts Interpretation Act. However, very few people know of the existence of that act. It is desirable that every act should bear on its face its own definitions in order to enable the general public to grasp its full meaning. If this be not done, some acts will be mere ciphers, which must be interpreted by reference to a code, namely, the Acts Interpretation Act. The provision I propose was contained in the previous act.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10- (1.) Subject to this section, the commissioners shall receive such remuneration and allowances as the Governor-General determines. (2.) The remuneration of the commissioners shall not exceed -
– I move -
That sub-clause (1.) be left out.
That in sub-clause (2.) the words “not exceed “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ be at the rate of “ ;
That the following sub-clause be added to the clause: - “ (3.) The commissioners shall receive such travelling and other allowances as the Governor-General determines.”
Honorable senators will realize that as the report of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting was presented on the 25th March, the Government did not have much time in which to prepare the bill for presentation to Parliament last Wednesday. Since then certain imperfections have been observed.Some of the amendments which I shall propose are mainly for the purpose of improving the construction of certain clauses. The remainder are the result of further discussions which I have had with the chairman of the joint committee, Senator Gibson. Their object is to ensure that certain provisions of the bill effecting alterations of existing conditions will be more in keeping with the relevant recommendations of the joint committee.
The fundamental effect of the proposed amendments to clause 10 is to prescribe the actual remuneration payable to commissioners instead of fixing a maximum as at present. The elimination of subclause 1 is consequential upon the other amendments to the clause.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 11 - (2.) In case of the illness or absence of both the chairman and the vice-chairman, the commissioners present may appoint one of their number to act as chairman :
Provided that the Governor-General may, if he thinks fit, appoint a person to act as chairman for such period as the GovernorGeneral specifies. (3.) If the Governor-General appoints a person to act as chairman, the appointment shall be at such remuneration as is determined by the Governor-General, not exceeding the maximum remuneration fixed, in the case of the chairman, by section 10 of this act.
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That, in sub-clause (8.), the word “maximum “ be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 12 consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 -
A commissioner shall be deemed to have vacated his office -
if he absents himself (except with leave granted by the GovernorGeneral) from all meetings of the commission held during two consecutive months; or
.- This clause is taken from the current act, but it seems to me that paragraph e is stringent, and may at times prove inconvenient. Two points occur to me in regard to it. First, I do not know how frequently the commission will meet, but I should think that it would not be impossible to have a period of two months in which there would be only two or three meetings. We know that virtually the consent of the Governor-General means the consent of the Minister, but formalities have to be gone through. I shall not move an amendment, but I suggest that if the period is to be two consecutive months, it should be sufficient to obtain the consent of the commission. The Minister should consider substituting the word “ commission “ for the words “ Governor-General “.
– I can see the force of the suggestion. Although the provision is taken from the current act, I am prepared to give consideration to suggestions for improvements. Would an extension of the period to three months meet the case?
– A period of three months would be better than two months, hut if the consent of the GovernorGen eral has tobe obtained, the period should be six months.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 to 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 -
Thecommission shall broadcast free of charge from all of the national broadcasting stations: or from such of them as are specified by the Minister, any matter the broadcasting of which is directed by the Minister in writing as being in the public interest.
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That before the words “ The commission “ the words “ Subject to this act “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 24- (1.) The commission shall not broadcast advertisements. (2.) Nothing in this section shall be construed as preventing the commission from broadcasting, if it thinks fit -
– This clause precludes the commission from broadcasting advertisements. Some mischievous person may classify Treasury announcements relating to the war or the raising of a war loan as advertisements. In fact, such announcements are, in essence, advertisements. I know that the associated press of the country look upon them as advertisements, and many other professional advertisers consider that a number of the announcements made by the broadcasting commission are advertisements.
– If the point were tested I do not think that the announcements referred to would be held to be advertisements. They refer chiefly to loans, recruitments and other matters affecting the war and the national interest.
.- The amendment that the committee has made in clause 23 precludes the Minister from saying that the point raised by Senator Allan MacDonald is covered by that clause. As originally drafted the clause provided that the commission should broadcast, free of charge, any matter the broadcasting of which is directed by the Minister. That has now been made “ Subject to this act “. Therefore, clause 23 must he read subject to other provisions of the bill, including clause 24. The Minister cannot, therefore, rely on clause 23 to get him out of the difficulty.
– We do not admit that Treasury announcements are advertisements.
– Some of the announcements made over the national stations at night can be found in the newspapers next morning in the form of advertisements. I suppose the Leader of the Senate will admit that they are advertisements when they appear in the newspapers.
– They are government announcements at night and paid advertisements in the newspapers the following morning.
– A government announcement may still take the form of an advertisement. It is only within recent years that the spoken word has been regarded as an advertisement. It is logical to say that both announcements, one at night over the air and the other the following morning in the newspapers, are advertisements. I suggest to the Minister that clarification of the clause is required.
– The simplest procedure would be to recommit clause 28 with a view to eliminating the words “Subject to this act”. The clause as drafted would provide a complete answer to Senator Allan MacDonald.
.- The words “Subject to this act” were inserted at the beginning of clause 23 on legal advice, and I am informed that the same words need to be inserted in later clauses relating to elections.
– The point I raised has not been answered by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), and there is a still more glaring case of advertising in the periodical broadcast announcements of the commission relating to the sale of the A.B.C. Weekly. That journal is, of course, a commercial venture. Other persons who publish weekly programmes are just as much entitled to ask for free advertisements as is the Australian Broadcasting Commission. So far as I can ascertain, the A.B.C. Weekly is not very popular in Western Australia. We had excellent radio publications in that State long before the Australian Broadcasting Commission decided to establish its own journal. The taxpayers of Western Australia would be quite entitled to take legal action to restrain the Australian Broadcasting Commission from advertising the commercial value of the A.B.C. Weekly, or boosting its sales.
– The argument seems to hinge on the definition of what is an advertisement and what is an announcement. In this case, I claim that the broadcasts referred to are announcements, but the Opposition claims that they are advertisements. I am informed by the Government’s legal advisers that the present wording is entirely in order.
.- Apparently the . Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) accepts the ruling that if payment is made for a broadcast then it is an advertisement, and if payment is not made, then it is an announcement. That is what it amounts to. The Minister’s argument that the wording is approved by legal advisers is weak, because two legal gentlemen in this chamber have expressed entirely opposite views. In any case, we all know how legal opinions vary. Probably the Minister’s legal advisers have not looked upon the matter in this light. I suggest that the committee would be satisfied if the Minister undertook to give the matter further attention in view of what has been said in this chamber, and then, if necessary, to recommit the clause. The definition of an advertisement as being something for which payment is made is hardly adequate, and I advise the honorable senator to seek further legal advice, [f he agrees to recommit the clause should an alteration be desirable, it may overcome a lot of difficulties, and no harm can be done.
– I have no desire to be obstinate in regard to this matter. In accepting the advice of the Attorney-General’s Department I am merely doing what Senator Leckie did on many occasions when he was a Minister. However, I am agreeable to postpone consideration of the clause because, as I said in the course of my secondreading speech, I am prepared to give favorable consideration to any suggestion which will improve the measure.
.- It seems to me that honorable senators are at cross-purposes. This provision has operated for the last ten years, and so far as I know it has caused no difficulty whatever. The broadcasts referred to are not advertisements; they are simply announcements by the Government, and have to be approved by the Minister before they can be made. No charge is made for them, and they cannot in any sense be called advertisements. They are announcements in the public interest, and if they have been good enough for the last ten years, they should be good enough for the next ten years.
– I see no reason for quibbling on this matter. Senator Allan MacDonald claims that this clause might result in attempts to boost the sales of the A.B.C. Weekly to the detriment of other radio journals in Western Australia, but if the honorable senator reads the report of the committee thoroughly, he will see that it is recommended that the A. B.C. Weekly be not published in Western Australia. Apparently, there is some fear that the A.B.C. Weekly will receive undue publicity and the owners of other publications wish to prevent the national stations from being used for that purpose; but, as Senator Gibson has pointed out, this clause was in the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act of 1932, and no objection has been taken to it. I see no reason why there should be any objection now.
.- I do not dispute the legal reasons which have induced the Attorney-General’s Department to insert in clause 23 the words “ Subject to this act “. There may be very good legal reasons for that, but the difficulty occurs in relation to clause 24, and honorable senators on this side of the chamber are only raising this question in order that the matter may be put beyond doubt. I suggest to the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) that all doubt would be eliminated by adding in clause 24, sub-clause 2, the following new paragraph: -
It is all very well to say that an announcement is not an advertisement, but obviously whoever was responsible for drafting this bill in the first place entertained some doubt, because in paragraph (a) of this clause he excluded from advertisements “ any announcement relating to any activity or proposed activity of the Commission “. All doubt can be eliminated in the manner which I have indicated. No lawyer would be able then to suggest that a matter directed to be broadcast under clause 23 was a prohibited advertisement.
– I am prepared to endeavour to meet the wishes of the committee in regard to this matter. To overcome the difficulty raised by honorable senators opposite, I move -
That in sub-clause (1), after the word “ advertisements “, the following words be added: - “other than advertisements the broadcasting of which has been directed under the last preceding section “.
– That amendment would not cover the second and most important point raised by Senator Allan MacDonald, namely, that some persons who have interests in journals competing with the A.B.C. Weekly may take steps to prevent the broadcasting of advertisements proclaiming the Australian Broadcasting Commission journal. There are certain legal difficulties and implications in this matter and I suggest that the Postmaster-General should give an undertaking to seek further legal advice on the matter and to recommit the clause if necessary. Obviously, it is impos sible, during a debate, to draft an amendment which will meet all contingencies raised by honorable senators. I am sure that honorable senators would be prepared to let the bill go through provided that an undertaking were given that this clause will be recommitted if necessary. If the Minister were not prepared to recommit the bill in this chamber, he could effect any necessary alterations when the measure reached the House of Representatives. I am afraid that unless something is done the Australian Broadcasting Commission will strike trouble.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales-
Postmaster-General and Minister for Information) [8.59l]. - I am prepared to accept the honorable senator’s suggestion and I shall endeavour to recommit the clause to-night. In the meantime, I shall seek advice upon the matter.
– There is no need to postpone consideration of the clause. We shall let it go through if the Minister is prepared to recommit it if necessary.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 25 and 26 agreed to.
Clause 27- (2.) The amount referred to in the last preceding sub-section shall, in respect of the licence-fee received in respect of each broadcast listener’s licence in force on or after the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and forty-two, be the aggregate of the following amounts: -
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the words “ the aggregate of the following amounts “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ a» follows “.
– This is a very important clause because it provides that the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall receive an amount of lis. out of each listener’s licence-fee, whereas, in the past, it received only 10s. In ordinary circumstances, I should allow this provision to pass unquestioned, but, as money is urgently required for national purposes, I should like to know whether the Government is fully assured that it can reduce the contribution to the national exchequer from this source without damage to the war effort. In my opinion, this is not an opportune time to increase the commission’s share of revenue from listeners’ licence-fees. I would vote against any alteration of the existing allotment during the period of the war if I had the opportunity to do so. At any rate, I should like to Hear the considered view of the Government on this poin t.
– The reduction which was made to the commission’s share of licence-fee revenue by a previous Postmaster-General had an adverse effect on the development of the commission’s educational work and programmes generally. I assure the honorable senator that the amount involved in this proposal will be easily met and that no hardships will be imposed upon any government department.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 28 to 32 agreed to.
The payment by the commission of compen- sation exceeding in any individual case £100 to members of the commission, its officers or servants, or other bodies or persons, shall not be made without the approval of the Minister.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) inform the committee whether any compensation has ever been paid to members of the commission or its officers?
– I am informed that no compensation has been paid to any member of the commission.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 34 to 48 agreed to.
Th e Minister may. from time to time, by notice in writing, prohibit the commission from broadcasting anymatter, or matter of any class or character, specified in the notice, or may require the commission to refrain from broadcasting any such matter.
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That before the words “ The Minister “ the following words be inserted : - “ Subject to this Act “.
– I move -
That after the word “ notice “, first occurring, the following words be inserted: - “ given orally, by telegram or “.
The reason for this amendment is that Senator A. J. McLachlan drew my attention, during the second-reading stages of the bill, to the fact that occasions might arise when emergency notice should be given to a station and when the Minister might not be in a position to give notice in writing in time for it to be effective. The amendment will enable the Minister to give instructions by telephone or telegram and to confirm them subsequently in writing.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That, at the end of the clause, the following sub-clause be added: - “ (2.) If any such notice is given orally, the Minister shall forthwith confirm it in writing.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 50 and 51 agreed to.
Clause 52 (Grant of licences for commercial broadcasting stations).
– Sub-clause 2 of this clause states -
The Minister may require any applicant for a licence for a commercial broadcasting station to furnish such particulars as he thinks fit.
Last week I brought to the notice of the Senate the way in which radio can be used for either good or evil. I have been asked by an influential body in Melbourne to bring to the notice of the Minister the advisability of granting licences to persons who are determined to educate children away from war as children of this generation have been trained in other countries. The clause seems to give a great deal of power to the Minister, and I hope that he will take notice of my remarks.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 53 -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1936, the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station may erect and operate the station in accordance with the terms and conditions of the licence.
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the clause be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new clause: - “ 53. - The establishment, erection, maintenance or use, in pursuance of a licence granted under this Part, of a commercial broadcasting station shall be deemed not to be in contravention of the Wireless Telegraphy Ant 1905-1036 or the regulations thereunder.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 54 (Period of licence and renewals thereof).
.- During ray second-reading speechI questioned the wisdom of sub-clause 2 of this clause, which provides that, after the initial licensing period of three years, renewals of licences may not be operative for more than one year at a time. I did so having in mind the fact that B class stations should be as competent, well conducted and educative as possible. I doubt whether they could afford to expend large sums of money on the improvement of their services if, after the initial three years licensing period, they could not expect security of tenure for more than one year at a time. I have not consulted any representatives of the commercial stations on this subject, but, looking at the matter from a business man’s point of view, it seems to me that this provision restricts the incentive to develop commercial broadcasting and is likely to prevent the owners of B class stations from investing large sums of money in equipment and other improvements. No business man would like to know that his business would be secure for only twelve months at a time, and no investor would be likely to regard such an undertaking favorably. So far as I can see, the Minister has no power to cancel the licence of a wireless station except for broadcasting anything offensive or detrimental to the public welfare. At the end of twelve months, the Minister may cancel the licence of a commercial station if he considers that its programmes are poor. The Government seems to have made up its mind that the B class stations are to carry on, and it ought to enable them to continue their work under the best possible conditions. In other clauses, it is provided that the licence may be cancelled if the station broadcasts objectionable matter, andI quite agree that that power should be exercised by the Minister ; but, under this clause, it would be easy for the Government to close the commercial stations one by one. I am wondering if the clause is so phrased as to enable the Government to change its mind with regard to the commercial stations without reference to Parliament.
.- The commercial stations have been operating under regulations, but now they are to be recognized in the act. In their evidence before the Joint Committee on Broadcasting, their representatives did not raise the point that has been taken by Senator Leckie. They seem to be quite satisfied with a three years’ licence and the annual renewal of the licence thereafter. I do not think that any government would take from them their present rights, unless it intended to nationalize the’ broadcasting system.
– The commercial stations have built up an important industry, but the threat which Senator Leckie has referred to has been hanging over their heads throughout the whole period of their operations. I do not think that the honorable senator wishes to imply that I would exercise any greater powers with regard to them than those which have been used in the past. Up to the present, the commercial stations have been working under regulations, but they are now to be given recognition by act of Parliament.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 55 to 67 agreed to.
Clause 68- (3.) The Minister may, by notice in writing, prohibit the licensee from broadcasting any matter . . .
Amendments (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That the words “ by notice “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ from time to time, by notice given orally, by telegram or “.
That, at the end of the clause, the following sub-clause be added: - “ (4.) If any such noticeis given orally, the Minister shall forthwith confirm it in writing.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 69 to 77 agreed to.
Clause 78 (Lights on masts).
– Has any regulation been promulgated indemnifying commercial stations for non-compliance with this clause? It would be ridiculous for them to have lights on their masts which would provide a guide to enemy aircraft operating over a territory of the Commonwealth.
– This clause would become operative only at the request of the Department of Air, and, if necessary, the direction would be forwarded to the station by my department.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 79 agreed to.
Clause 80 (Constitution .of committee).
.- This seems to me to be the worst clause in the bill. It provides for the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee for the dual purpose of interfering with the operations of both the commission and the Minister in the administration of the act.
– It could make recommendations only.
– Yes; but every fi et of the commission could be the subject >f a recommendation by the proposed interference committee. It seems to me that the Joint Committee on Broadcasting was so pleased with its voluminous report that it thought that a similar committee should continue to operate.
– But it did a good job.
– Admittedly ; but it seems undesirable, after the whole system has been investigated, to appoint another committee that would probably interfere continuously with the administration of the act. The proposed committee will be merely a nuisance committee. Should an important problem arise in the future, Parliament can appoint another joint committee to inquire into it. I am opposed to this clause and the following clause; and as it appears that honorable senators generally accept them, I take this opportunity to enter my protest. I do not think that the proposed committee will work well. It will certainly work to the detriment of the commission, and, very often, against the wishes of the Minister. I repeat that its only value will be a nuisance value.
.- I disagree with my colleague, Senator Leckie, on this matter. The proposed committee will deal only with matters which are referred to it by resolution of either House, the PostmasterGeneral, the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, or the Australian Broadcasting Commission. No individual commercial station, or any disgruntled body, or individual, will be able to place any matter before it.
– What will be the use of it?
– Extraordinary developments are certain to take place in the field of broadcasting in the near future. For instance, licences will have to be granted in respect of television, facsimile reproduction, and frequency modulation. No honorable senator will suggest that the responsibility for the granting of such licences should rest solely upon the Postmaster-General. Obviously, a thorough and independent investigation must be made into these very important matters. It will be the duty of the standing committee to make such investigations, and to report thereon to Parliament. Then Parliament, or the Minister, will deal with such matters. I submit that the developments which I have mentioned will represent a far greater undertaking than broadcasting as we know it to-day.
– The commission issues new licences?
– No; licences are issued by the Minister. Whilst there are 100 commercial stations operating in Australia at present, there is a waiting li3t of 600 applicants for licences for the four remaining wavelengths. It would be too much to expect the PostmasterGeneral to say to whom those wavelengths should be issued.
– Are there only four more wavelengths available? What about that part of the band which has not yet been allocated?
– It has been earmarked for the establishment of national stations as provided for in the act. I believe that the proposed committee will do a good job. I emphasize that no individual commercial station, but only the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, as a body, will be able to place matters before the committee. The federation is an excellent organization. Its members meet annually, and elect a committee and executive officers. It has laid down a code of ethics governing the behaviour of commercial stations. It is a very influential organization. I hope that the committee will adopt the amendment.
– This clause implements a recommendation of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting with which I entirely agree. I point out to Senator Leckie that I have no desire to shirk work. I approve this provision because it ensures that each State will be represented on the proposed committee. I have no desire to repeat what has just been said by Senator Gibson. However, there is a big future for the broadcasting industry, and we must ensure that developments in this field will be thoroughly investigated. The constitution of the proposed committee is most democratic. As Senator Gibson has pointed out, it will investigate only matters referred to it by certain specified authorities, and report on such matters to Parliament. I urge the committee to agree to the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 81 to 92 agreed to.
The committee shall, subject to the provisions of this act, consider and report to the Parliament upon every matter affecting broadcasting in Australia or the Territories of the Commonwealth which either House of the Parliament, by resolution, refers to the committee and upon every other matter referred to the committee by the Minister.
Amendments (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That after the word “ other “ the word “ such “ be inserted.
That at the end of the clause the following sub-clause be added: - “ (2.) The Minister shall refer to the committee any such matter which the commission or the body known, at the commencement of this act, as the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations requests him to refer to the committee.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 94 agreed to.
Clause 95 (State Broadcasting Advisory Committees).
.- I should like to have more information about these proposed advisory committees. Under the existing act the Australian Broadcasting Commission is empowered to appoint State Advisory Committees, and such committees have been appointed in some of the States. Tim clause proposes to alter the law by giving that power to the Postmaster-General instead of to the commission. I should like to know the reason for the alteration. Another feature of the clause is that it now makes it mandatory for the Minister to appoint State Broadcasting Advisory Committees. Such a clause should also provide for the constitution of these committees. That should not he left indefinite.
– ‘Certain penalties are provided in later clauses in respect of infringement of regulations; and it is desirable that independent committees should report on such misdemeanours. Under the bill the commercial stations are subject to the same provisions in this respect as the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I do not think that Senator Spicer would suggest that advisory committees appointed by the commission should adjudicate upon claims, or alleged misdemeanours, on the part of commercial stations. The appointment of these committees will not preclude the commission retaining its present advisory committees such as the “ talks “ committees. It is proposed that these committees shall consist of seven representatives consisting of a representative of the commission, a representative of the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations, a representative of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and four independent members.
– Why not put that in the bill?
– That will be the procedure. I give the assurance that representation on these committees will be along the lines that I have just indicated.
Senator ARNOLD (New South Wales) [9.44 J. - I take it that these committees will deal with adult education over the air. The report of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting referred to this important subject in a number of places ; and 1 had hoped that the Government would have %een more specific in dealing with the matter in this measure. I expected that a definite direction would he given to the commission to provide for adult education over the air. Has the PostmasterGeneral any objection to making it mandatory upon the commission to conduct adult education programmes?
– That is a function of the commission. If any representation is made to me by the honorable senator I shall certainly bring his wishes before the commission.
– I understand that four members of each of the proposed advisory committees will be chosen from the public. I should like to know how they will be chosen, by whom they will be chosen, and from which sections of the community they will be selected. Will certain organizations have an opportunity to make nominations to the Minister? I suggest to the Minister that among the four should be a representative of the churches, which are extremely interested in the work, and collectively support it. They have a right to some voice in the broadcasting business. The Council of Churches, or some other representative church body, should be given the opportunity to make nominations.
Senator McLEAY (South Australia). 9.47] . - The committee ought to be given more information as to the constitution of the proposed advisory committees. The Minister has told us of three sections to be represented, but it seems to me that the size of a committee will be out of proportion to the work it will do. It will consist of seven members, although the Australian Broadcasting Commission will consist of only five members. It will be far too large, and the largest committee I could suggest would be a committee of five, seeing that the commission consists of only five members.
– The Joint Committee on Broadcasting represented that such bodies ought to be appointed to judge the actions of those persons who use the microphone to broadcast subtle jokes, some of which are nauseating to the public. The committee recommended that certain penalties should be imposed, and that when the Minister wished to exercise his power to penalize an individual or a station, his decision should be referred to an advisory committee. It was then pointed out that the only advisory committee that functioned was in Western Australia, and that although committees had been appointed in the other States, they were not functioning. The Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations contended that it was wrong that a charge against them should be referred to a committee appointed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. As a result, the committee agreed that the new committees should consist of seven persons. It was thought that there would be one representative from the Postal Department, one from the commercial stations, and one from the Australian Broadcasting Commission, so that unless four representatives of the public were added-, unfair decisions might be made. I am of opinion, and the committee should be also, that a competent body should be appointed in each State because the penalties imposed, although they are. not so heavy as I should like them to be, are nevertheless very drastic. Before they are enforced, they will be submitted to a committee, which will report to the Minister on the action to be taken. .The committees will have other duties, but that will be their most important function.
.- The piling up of committee on committee seems to me ridiculous. In addition to Parliament, there i3 the Minister, the commission, a parliamentary committee, and advisory committee. The Government says that the bill is a good one, and that we are going to have a broadcasting commission consisting of experts. It indicates, however, that it is not satisfied with the persons it will appoint, so it will impose on them a standing committee and other committees. It reminds me of the quotation -
Big fleas have littlefleas upon their backs to bite ‘em,
And little fleas have lesser still, and so ad infinitum.
The commission will have parasites to “bite em “. I do not know whether that will keep them up to the collar, but it will certainly have the same effect as hobbling them. The joint parliamentary committee reported that the commission had done good work, but, unfortunately, the committee spoiled its recommendation by saying: “Although this commission has done excellent work, and although we expect the new commission to do excellent work also, we want it hobbled so that it cannot do what the experts think it should do, but must do what we as non-experts think it should do “. There is a commission which will advise the Minister, who will advise the Government, which will advise Parliament, and so on. It is so ridiculous that every body will be broadcasting or advising on broadcasting. There will be constant complaints and demands to the Minister to “ Put me on this nuisance committee in Western Australia, or South Australia, so that I can gain fame by complaining about the Australian Broadcasting Commission “. The bill, taking it all round, is good, but the Government is seeking to spoil it by appointing too many watch-dogs. It is not common sense to hobble the commission in all its operations.
SenatorGIBSON (Victoria) [9.56].- I should like to enlighten Senator Leckie and Senator McLeay. The proposal in the bill will reduce existing advisory committees by thirteen members. In Western Australia, there is a committee of twenty members, and in South Australia a committee of twenty members.We propose to reduce those committees to seven. I confess that the problem is rather difficult. I would have preferred two committees, but I shall support the Minister’s proposal. We have had a long conference on the subject, and the provision in the bill is the best practicable solution.
– I shall not pursue Senator Leckie’s argument, but I wish to say something about the reasons that moved the Government to suggest State advisory committees. It was my desire when Postmaster-General that all the States should become interested in this tremendous scientific power of broadcasting. I found that the people of Western Australia thought that they were almost outside Australia. There were certain difficulties regarding broadcasting. The State advisory committees, of which we have a large one in South Australia, have never functioned.
– That shows how unnecessary they are.
– They seem to me to be necessary because they keep the central bodies - the Postmaster-General, his department, and the commission - in touch with local feeling.
– If that were so, the central body would hear nothing but growls.
– I ask the committee to stick to the scheme. The committees are only a little gesture, but they enable the States to feel that they are in the business. Broadcasting is only in its infancy, and there are things that appeal in different ways to the different States. Although the scheme has not operated, it will operate in future. It will gi ve the commercial broadcasters and the general public an opportunity to present their views, and will help the Australian Broadcasting Commission in deciding the class of programmes to be broadcast. The proposed standing committee also will ensure that State points of view are put forward, because the bill provides that the committee shall include one member from each State. The appointment of the committees will be in the hands of the Postmaster-General, who has outlined how he proposes to exercise his powers. I have felt that for a number of years the commercial stations have not been getting a fair deal in regard to their security of tenure. That also is a matter which can be brought before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting or the State committees if necessary, which could investigate the matter and make recommendations which no government could ignore. Broadcasting to-day is only in a transitory stage. No one knows what will be done in the future in regard to such developments as television. I support the Government in this clause.
– I ask the committee to agree to the appointment of these committees. I am sure that honorable senators from Western Australia will agree that magnificent work has been done by the advisory committee in that State. The desire of the Government is that a similar committee should function in each . S’tate. As Senator A. J. McLachlan has pointed out, the volume of work which has to be done by these committees will increase as time goes on, and it will be a great advantage to the Government to be able to consult representatives of the various States on all matters affecting broadcasting.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 96 (Local talent to be encouraged).
.- Sub-clause 2 of clause 96 provides - (2.) Not less than two and one-half per centum of the total time occupied by the National Broadcasting Service and not less than two and one-half per centum of the total time occupied by any commercial broadcasting station in the broadcasting of music shall be devoted to the broadcasting of works of Australian composers, produced either on sound records made in Australia or by artists actually present in the studio of the broadcasting station concerned.
In my opinion the 2£ per cent, mentioned in the sub-clause is insufficient. For a number of years, I have been endeavouring to induce the Australian Broadcasting Commission to encourage local talent by holding State competitions and then a Commonwealth grand championship each year, using the talent so discovered for broadcasting purposes, thus obviating the necessity to import bo many overseas’ artists. Song writers and composers generally in this country have great difficulty in getting their work broadcast over the national stations or recorded by the gramophone companies. At present, the gramophone recording companies are controlled by an outside monopoly and all profits go to other countries. My suggestion is that the 2£ per cent, provided for in this subclause be stepped up gradually to 50 per cent., say, over a period of ten years. Surely we have song-writers and musicians in Australia who are capable of giving us Australian music, and so reducing the broadcasting of imported jazz items. In support of my argument T desire to place on record a statement which I think sets out concisely the views of Australian composers in regard to this matter. It is written by an Australian song-writer whose songs were produced and broadcast in England, one written with an Australian collaborator, winning a first prize offered by the British Broadcasting Corporation, and another having a world broadcast through that Corporation since the composer returned to Australia. She was to appear before the British Broadcasting Corporation, London, in September, 1940, but having worked in evacuation centres and volunteered for evacuation by sea, was appointed to help to bring 480 British evacuated children to Australia in August of that year. Since returning to Australia she has found the nation’s songwriters in the same position as they were when the conditions of boycott forced her to leave the country in 1938, when less than 1 per cent, of the songs circulated throughout Australia were Australianwritten. She has letters proving that the boycott dates from 1925, when one of the Australian importers of Hollywood songs wrote to her confessing that her songs contained merit but that his firm was bound by overseas’ contracts. This same influence, but to-day considerably wealthier, blocked the song of the British evacuated children from being recorded and published on their arrival, after its great publicity in the Australian press and at all the ports of call on the historic voyage from Liverpool to Sydney. The Children’s Welfare Department, Melbourne, asked the composer in vain for a record of the song, which is needed for the Australia-Britain talks of the evacuated children to-day, whilst such songs as Hallelujah, I’m .a Bum and FiatFooted Floojie are recorded, and are for sale everywhere in Australia.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Brown).Order! I have listened very carefully to the honorable senator’s remarks and 1 cannot see how they can be related to the clause now under discussion. They would have been quite in order on the second reading of the bill.
– I am merely trying to prove that Australian song-writers arc not getting a fair deal from gramophone recording companies, and from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. My suggestion is that the percentage of Australian music broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission should be increased.
– The honorable senator will be in order if he can connect his remarks with the clause now under discussion.
– I am endeavouring to show honorable senators why Australia is flooded with imported music.
– The honorable senator’s remarks would have been quite in order on the second reading of the bill. He is in order in drawing the attention of the committee to the fact that, in his opinion, the clause now under discussion should be amended to provide that the time devoted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to local artists should be increased, but a general statement such as that which he is now making cannot be made at this stage.
– May I have it incorporated in Hansard at this stage?
– No. It will be competent for the honorable senator to deal with that subject on the third reading of the bill.
– All I can say is that, you, Mr. Chairman, are prohibiting legitimate argument in support of Australian song- writers.
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to make such a statement I should be the last to provent relevant discussion, but as I have already pointed out, it will be competent for the honorable senator to raise the subject on the motion for the third reading of the bill.
– The Joint Committee on Broadcasting considered that the percentage of Australian compositions used by our broadcasting systems could be greatly increased, and it inquired as to their capacity to use at least 10 per cent, of Australian compositions in their programmes. At present they use about 5 per cent, of Australian compositions. The contemplated increase was very great, and it was not known whether either the commercial system or the national stations would be able to use 10 per cent, of local works. Columbia Graphophone (Australia) Proprietary Limited might have difficulty in recording that quantity of Australian works, but the committee has recommended that the firm should be required to do so. If that were done a great deal of assistance would be given to Australian composers. The committee was just as mindful as Senator Lamp of this problem and i; investigated the matter thoroughly. I assure the honorable senator that there would be grave difficulty in finding suitable talent, because listeners expect to hear the very best in radio broadcasts. I consider that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has done a great deal to encourage Australian talent, and, if it continues this good work, the date when 2£ per cent, of Australian compositions will be broadcast cannot be far distant. I am sure that both the national stations and the commercial stations are anxious and willing to use Australian compositions if sufficient good talent is available.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 97 (Political broadcasts).
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the clause be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new clauses -
I’ 97. - (1.) Subject to the provisions of this section, the commission may determine to what extent and in what manner, during the period commencing on the date of the issue of the writs, and ending on the date fixed for the return of the writs, for an election for the Parliament of the Commonwealth or a State or for any House of any such Parliament or for any vacancy in any such House ( in this section referred to as ‘ the election period’) political speeches or any matter relating to a political subject may be broadcast from national broadcasting stations, and the licensee of a commercial broadcasting station may during the election period arrange for the broadcasting of such speeches or matter from that station. (2.) During the election period, the broadcasting of any political speech or of any matter relating to a political subject shall be subject to the following provisions : -
.- The clauses proposed to be inserted by this amendment deal with a very important subject - the broadcasting of political matter at election times. Both clause 97, as originally drafted, and the proposed new clause 97 are, in my opinion, unsatisfactory. The new clause, as drafted, applies to all kinds of political elections in this country. It applies to Commonwealth elections and State elections, whether they be general elections or byelections, and it applies to elections for the lower house of a State and for the upper house of a State. The important part of proposed new clause 97 is to be found in sub-clause 2, which provides that during the election period - which may merely be the period of a byelection in some State - the broadcasting of any politicalmatter in any part of the Commonwealth, and any matter relating to a political subject, shall be prohibited for the three days immediately prior to the election. In other words, if a by-election should be held for some remote constituency in the State of Western Australia for the upper house of that State, no broadcasts could be made in any State on Commonwealth political subjects. The proposed clause contains no definition of “ political speeches “ or of “ matter relating to a political subject “. As a matter of fact, looking at the matter from the strict legal point of view, I doubt very much whether, during the three days immediately prior to any kind of election in Australia, anybody would be entitled to broadcast matter relating to the politics of Great Britain or any other part of the Empire. All such political topics would be excluded for the period of three days.
– The press will not be subject to the prohibition.
-That is so. Many people might regard this proposed clause as a godsend and hope that there would be some sort of election at least once a week in order to prevent the broadcasting of political matter. But that is not the object that the Government has in mind. It has in mind the laudable object of placing a restriction upon the use of broadcasting stations for political purposes during an election campaign. But surely such a restriction should apply only to the use of stations in connexion with the particular election which is being held. It is nonsense to suggest that, because some by-election for the Legislative Council of Victoria might be in progress, we could not have any discussion over wireless stations anywhere in Australia in relation to Commonwealth politics for three days during that election campaign. It is obvious that the clause in its present form is entirely unacceptable. I confess that I have no ready-made alternative, because I do not consider that it would be easy to draft a satisfactory clause. I suggest to the Minister that the matter would be best left in the hands of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– But what about the Federation of Commercial Stations?
– That does create a difficulty. However, I suggest that the matter is so intricate, when it is considered in relation to all of the various types of elections that might be held, that it might be better to leave it to regulations or in the power of somebody, perhaps the Minister, to determine to what degree the broadcasting of political matter during an election campaign should be restricted. The clause in its present form is a hopeless proposition and should not be accepted by the committee.
– I point out the difficulties that would be involved in policing the scheme suggested by Senator Spicer. Take for instance the Corowa station, which is in New South Wales near the Victorian boundary and serves nearly the whole of Victoria. If an election were held in Victoria, and the broadcasting of political matter were still permitted in New South Wales, matter relating to that election could be broadcast to Victoria from that station.
– I did not suggest anything like that.
– We cannot place a wire fence around broadcasting. At night it is possible to pick up broadcasts from almost every State in Australia on the one receiving set. That shows how difficult it would be to police the honorable senator’s suggestion. Therefore, I ask the committee to accept the proposed clause as I have submitted it. I have investigated this matter with the Joint Committee on Broadcasting, and I consider that we have arrived at a fair compromise in the proposed new clause which I have submitted.
– I am astounded at the Minister making a statement like that. Surely the Government does not intend that for, say, 120 days in the year - the average time occupied by by-elections in any year - no re ference shall be made to any political matters, State, Commonwealth, British or otherwise, over the wireless broadcasting stations? The Minister does not seem to realize what is involved in the proposed new clause.
– It would be a treat for the people if the radio stations were silent on political matters for a while.
– Is “ the Government spokesman “ to be stopped ?
– I shall see to that.
– The proposed new clause 97a provides .that the commission, in the case of a national broadcasting station, or the licensee, in the case of a commercial broadcasting station, shall cause to be announced the true name and description of every speaker. What doe» that mean? Many writers in Australia have pen-names under which they are well known, but their true- names would mean little or nothing to listeners. What does the Minister mean by “ description “ ? Would a description such as thi* have to be given of a lady who was giving a broadcast, “ Gladys Brown, blue eyes, fair hair, height 5 feet”? I should hesitate to have a description of the Minister or myself given over the air. If a statement is required only as to the name and profession of the speaker, that should be made clear in the bill. Why should a famous author or musical authority who has adopted a nomdeplume which has become world-famous be required to divulge his identity? It is quite possible the broadcasting in Western Australia of any speech on a political matter could be prohibited under this clause because of a by-election in Queensland. The Minister should postpone consideration of this clause in order to draft a provision that would overcome the objections that have been raised. I am sure that the Minister does not desire to do anything unreasonable.
– The Joint Committee on Broadcasting investigated this’ matter, as will be seen by the following statement on page 40 of its report : -
We examined the Canadian Broadcasting Act. 1930, section 22 of which contains the following provisions: -
Dramatized political broadcasts areprohibited.
The names of. the sponsor or sponsors and the political party, if any, upon whose behalf any political speech or address is broadcast shall be announced immediately preceding and immediately after such broad- casts.
Political broadcasts on any Dominion, Provincial or Municipal election day and on the two days immediately preceding any such election day are prohibited.
The provision contained in this clause has operated in Canada since 1936. What is desired is that the names of the sponsors of political addresses should he made known. At the last elections a certain political party broadcast over commercial stations a dramatized statement said to be of German origin. It was stated that Hitler would be pleased if the Labour party were to win the elections. Every member of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting made a sincere effort to discover the cause of the trouble, and it was found that certain stations had objected to broadcasting the dramatized speech referred to. The committee considered that such items should be banned. Surely a person delivering an address should not be ashamed to have his name made known. If he were ashamed to have his name announced at the beginning and conclusion of his address, he must be ashamed of, not only the matter broadcast, but also the political party con- cerned.
– The prohibition refers also to current events.
– It refers only to political broadcasts. I trust that some regulation will be framed to prevent the press from publishing election notices or election speeches during the election period, in order to conform with this measure.
.- The fundamental objection raised by Senator Spicer has apparently not been answered. According to the honorable senator, during a byelection in north Queensland, no political matter could be broadcast by a Commonwealth Minister in Canberra.
.- [ am not concerned with this matter from the point of view of allowing a New South Wales station to broadcast material during an election campaign and of preventing a Victorian station from doing so. If the Minister will consider this clause, I think that the position will he quite clear to him. It says that during the election period - in the case of a byelection in Queensland it would be a period of three days - the commission shall not broadcast any political speech or any matter relating to a political subject. That means that, if there is a byelection in Queensland, no speech by a Commonwealth Minister relating to a national matter, and having nothing whatever to do with the by-election in Queensland, may be broadcast. That is what the clause provides in perfectly plain language. It also provides in equally clear language that during that by-election period no matter relating to a political subject may be broadcast. We could not be told during those three days what was going on in the House of Commons, or what was taking place in this Senate. The committee did not intend that. What it intended was that there should not be broadcast during that period any matter relating to a political subject that was in issue in the particular election concerned. It did not mean that, because of a byelection in Queensland, a Commonwealth Minister could not broadcast a speech about Commonwealth politics. The provision is so wide as to make it ridiculous. I do not pretend to suggest what precise words should be inserted. Consideration of this clause should be postponed, or the matter should he left to regulations.
– If the committee agrees to this clause, I shall endeavour to see what can be done to improve it when the bill reaches the House of Representatives. I shall refer the matter to the Crown Law officers and consult Senator Spicer regarding the matter to-morrow.
.- The proposition of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), if agreed to, will make this chamber look ridiculous. He has merely said that the matter will be looked into; but we have not been given a guarantee that the clause will be amended. This matter has been looked into on two occasions, and it has been made twice as bad as it was originally. The Postmaster-General tas asked the Committee to agree to a ridiculous proposition. If we do so, I have uo doubt that the members of the House of Representatives will say to themselves : “ Look what the Senate passed “.
– The procedure, I suggest, was followed on many occasions by the previous Government.
– This proposition will make the Senate look ridiculous. We should not be asked to make a poppy show of ourselves. It should not be difficult for the PostmasterGeneral to say in respect of any election held in Queensland or New South Wales that no matter of a political character shall be broadcast on specified days; but it is another matter entirely to say that in respect of other States Commonwealth broadcasts on political subjects, or even broadcasts dealing with external politics, such as British politics, shall be banned for 120 days in the year. I ask the Minister to withdraw the clause.
– I fail to perceive what Senator Leckie desires in this matter. The Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) has made a more open offer than has ever been made by any Minister in this chamber. He has even asked Senator Spicer to confer with him to-morrow with a view to examining the clause. I am quite certain that Senator Spicer has no objection to that suggestion. It was he who first perceived the difficulties arising in this matter. After he had pointed them out, other honorable senators were prepared to follow him, declaring that the difficulties were obvious. But they were not obvious to them until Senator Spicer pointed them out. The Postmaster-General’s invitation to the honorable senator to1* confer with him to-morrow with a view to reconstructing the clause is evidence of his good faith in the matter, and should satisfy the committee.
– If the reconstructed clause be placed before us, I shall ba satisfied.
– Naturally, it will go to the House of Representatives and the amended clause will be submitted *o us; but, surely, honorable senators opposite can trust one of their own colleagues.
– Senator Spicer will not have all the say in the matter.
– His advice will be more than, welcome. Now that the Postmaster-General and honorable senators generally comprehend what Senator Spicer has in mind, the only problem is to devise a formula to meet the position.
.- I suggest that the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) delete the clause, and allow the bill to pass without it. The reconstructed clause can be inserted in the House of Representatives, and considered by the committee later. If that be done, every honorable senator will be satisfied. The matter raised by Senator Spicer is a little too difficult to be dealt with in the manner suggested by the PostmasterGeneral.
– I am prepared to accept Senator Gibson’s suggestion. I appreciate very much the assistance which honorable senators have given to me in considering this measure. However, I feel confident that whatever is done in the matter, it will not satisfy Senator Leckie. One of the clauses about which he complained so much was embodied in a regulation passed by the previous Government. I shall confer with Senator Spicer and Senator Gibson to-morrow with a view to drafting a new clause to cover the points raised.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clauses 98 and 99 agreed to.
Clause 100 (Publication of text of item transmitted by broadcasting station).
.- This is another clause which might be reconstructed. It seems to me that if station 3DB, Victoria, which is owned by the Melbourne Herald, broadcast an item of news which it received from overseas, the Herald would be precluded from publishing the same item in its evening edition without the approval of the Minister. Surely that is not the intention of the Government.
– This provision was embodied in a regulation passed by the previous Government, and has been in operation for many years.
– I am glad to note that the Postmaster-General’s innate toryism is coming out. He seems to take the view that anything that has been in operation for a number of years must be absolutely right. I am astonished to hear an argument of that kind from him. 1 should have thought that he would take the opposite view. I am endeavouring to improve this measure. I do not wish the Postmaster-General to make a mistake in respect of it. He is responsible for the measure, but when an honorable senator raises a point of this kind, which could be met by a simple amendment, he becomes angry. He thinks that he is being baited all the time.
– The honorable senator has not tried to assist me.
– Already in respect of three matters in this measure we have prevented the Postmaster-General from making himself look supremely ridiculous. It seems to me that some amendment to this clause is necessary. I can imagine quite a lot of things which might happen under it. For instance, the proprietor of a small country newspaper might hear an important item of news broadcast, and thinking that it was universal, publish it. Under this clause such a person would be liable to a penalty for publishing the item. Many innocent people might suffer in that way. L have no doubt that honorable senators generally can imagine the troubles that might arise. The Postmaster-General could overcome the objections to the clause by giving power to newspapers to publish items which are broadcast by their own stations.
.- The object of this clause is simply to safeguard telegraphic revenue of the Postmaster-General’s Department. When I was Postmaster-General, tremendous pressure was brought to bear upon me by 600 newspapers to permit them to publish items broadcast over the air. If that had been done, our telegraphic revenue would have vanished. This regulation has been in operation for years, and no one has taken exception to it. At first sight, it would appear that Senator Leckie’s objections are justified. How ever, it is quite another matter. This provision is designed to protect telegraphic revenue.
– It has been in operation for years in the form of a regulation.
.- I object to the argument that because a provision has been in operation in the form of a regulation, it should be passed automatically. The fact that the matter has hitherto been in the form of a regulation might not be known to most people. However, it is now being embodied in an act of Parliament, and will therefore be readily accessible to every one. I find it difficult to combat the arguments advanced by Senator Leckie that this provision is expressed in such wide terms as to prevent the Herald newspaper, for instance, from publishing items which have been broadcast over that newspaper’s own broadcasting station.
– They are not allowed to do so now.
– But they do it.
– The Postmaster-General’s Department would soon intervene if that were the case.
– How do they get their news items?
– They pay a huge sum annually for a cable service.
– I should have thought that it frequently happens that a message appears in a newspaper in the form in which it has been broadcast over the air.
– The Postmaster-General’s Department is constantly on watch in order to see that the telegraphic revenue does not suffer.
Clause agreed to.
Cla n? p 101 (Medical talks).
– Does the definition of a medical talk in this clause include the diatribes which are usually heard over the air in the advertising of patent medicines? During the secondreading debate, I, and other honorable senators, criticized this objectionable practice. Very often the offending advertisement includes a long talk concerning the misfortunes which will befall listeners suffering from certain complaints if they do not purchase the patent medicine being advertised. Does that come within the category of a medical talk, seeing that it is a medical subject?
– That is dealt with in clause 69.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 102 agreed to.
Clause 103- (2.) Except as otherwise prescribed by the regulations, a person shall hold a broadcast listener’s licence in respect of each appliance in his possession which is capable of being used for the reception of broadcast programmes. (5.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1936, the licensee may erect and operate any appliance in respect of which a broadcast listener’s licence has been granted to him and is in force. (6.) The occupier of any premises in which is installed any appliance which is capable of being used for the reception of broadcast programmes and in respect of which a broadcast listener’s licence is not in force shall be guilty of an offence against this act.
Amendments (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That sub-clause (2.) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following subclause: - “ (2.) Except as otherwise prescribed by the regulations, a person shall hold such number of broadcast listeners’ licences as is equivalent to the number of appliances in his possession which are capable of being used for the reception of broadcast programmes.”
That sub-clause (5.) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following subclause: - “ (5.) The erection, maintenance or use, in pursuance of a broadcast listener’s licence, under this act, of an appliance capable of bring used for the reception of broadcast programmes shall be deemed not to be in contravention of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905-1936 or the regulations thereunder.”
That in sub-clause (6.) the words “in which is installed “ be left out with a view to insert in lien thereof the words “ or place in which there is “.
That the following sub-clause be added to the clause: - “ (8.) Any person who, without reasonable excuse (proof whereof shall lie upon him) -
is in occupation of any premises or place, or part of any premises or place, in which there is. any appliance capable of being used for the reception of broadcast programmes, and who doesnot, on demandby an authorized officer. forthwith produce, or cause to be produced, a. broadcast listener’s licence authorizing the erection and operation of the appliance, which was in force at the time the appliance was established, erected, maintained or used by, in the possession of, or in the premises or place, or part of the premises or place, occupied by. the person, shall be guilty of an offence against this act.”
– Sub-clause 6 relates to the issue of licences, and it refers to “ The occupier of any premises “, after which the words “ in which there is installed “ have been inserted. It appears that the sub-clause, as amended, would cover a garage where a car was being repaired in which there was an unlicensed wireless set. Under the bill, the occupier of the premises would he liable for prosecution. Sub-clause 7 states - ft shall be a defence to a prosecution for any such offence if the defendant proves that he was not aware and could not, with reasonable diligence, have become aware of the existence in the premises of the appliance in question.
That could not be pleaded in defence by a garage proprietor, because he would know that the car had a wireless receiving set in it. The sub-clause, I submit, should he recast so as to state the intention of the Government in more explicit language. Any one owning premises in which some one else’s unlicensed wireless set was housed for the time being would be liable to prosecution.
– If a car were left in a garage and it had in it an unlicensed wireless set, the garage proprietor would have no more responsibility in the matter than if the driver of the car had not a driving licence. He would not be the owner of the wireless set, and no man should be responsible for something he does not own.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 104 agreed to.
The fees payable in respect of any broadcast listener’s licence or any renewal thereof shall be as follows: -
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That all the words from and including “ in respect of any broadcast listener’s licence” to and including “ appliance “, last occurring, he left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ for broadcast listeners’ licences or renewals thereof granted under this act shall be as follows: -
in the case of a licence in respect of the possession by a person of one appliance which is capable of being used for the reception ofbroadcast programmes - Twenty shillings for each year or part of a year of the currency of the licence or renewal; and
in the case of a licence in respect of the possession by that person of each such appliance in excess of one - Ten shillings for each year or part of a year of the currency of the licence or renewal; and
in the case of a licence in respect of the possession by a person of one such appliance - Fourteen shillings for each year or part of a year of the currency of the licence or renewal; and
in the case of a licence in respect of the possession by that person of each such appliance in excess of one - Seven shillings for each year or part of a year of the currency of the licence or renewal “.
– I make an appeal to the Minister on behalf of State schools. I urge that free wireless licences granted to schools that have an enrolment of fewer than 50 pupils should be extended to schools with fewer than 100 pupils. I believe that free wireless licences should be granted to all schools, because of the exceptional value of the educational items broadcast from time to time. Parents and citizens associations, and progress and improvement societies are called upon to pay for the wireless receivers used in schools. These excellent bodies do a vast amount of work in the upkeep of school grounds, and it is unjust that they should have to pay for wireless licences used for purely educational purposes. The Minister should consider the granting of free licences to all schools, or of altering the figure 50 to 100.
I also appeal for free licences for invalid and old-age pensioners. Blind persons are already granted free licences. The argument generally used with respect to blind persons is that they must have some one in the home to assist them, and therefore are entitled to free licences. It is said in regard to invalid and old-age pensioners that a free licence would be used by other persons in the house. It is a fact, however, that many invalid and old-age pensioners must have assistance in their homes, and when they live alone no other persons participate in the use of their licence. They, as well as the blind people, are entitled to free licences. Blind people are allowed to earn up to the basic wage, but invalid and old-age pensioners are allowed only a meagre earning capacity. I ask the Minister to give favorable consideration to my request.
– I intended to move an amendment to this clause, but I was called away to the telephone and missed the opportunity to do so. I wish to protest, however, against the increase in the licence-fees. The Government has given a large sum to the commission by providing it with11s. in the £1 and charging a fee of 10s. on each additional set. I do not object to that charge for wireless sets on business premises or in hotels, but in the homes of the people an extra licencefee of 10s. should not be charged if there is a second receiving set or an extension of a set to another part of the premises. I know of many homes in which a new set has been purchased, and the original set has little or no value but remains in the nursery. Also, in many cases boys make crystal sets or small two-valve sets for use in their own rooms. In such instances, I think it is wrong to charge a second licence-fee, and I ask the Minister to see whether or not something can be done in this regard. I quite agree that in hotels or large blocks of flats where additional sets are installed the extra fees might be charged but not in private homes.
– In reply to Senator Lamp, I should like to point out that the object of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting in specifying the maximum number of pupils which a school may have in order to receive a free radio licence, was to confer a special benefit upon outback schools which have perhaps only one or two teachers and have no associated organizations such as parents and citizens associations, to pay the fee for them.
The reference made by Senator Johnston to small sets, such as those made by schoolboys for use in their own rooms at home, is worthy of consideration, but there would be great difficulty in establishing a line of demarcation. A man who can afford to pay £700 or £800 for a motor car fitted with a radio set should be able to afford to pay an extra 10s. a year for a wireless licence. Similarly, Any one who has three or four radio sets in a palatial home should he able to meet the additional cost. I am confident that no industry will be adversely affected as a result of this additional imposition.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
New clause 105a.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That after clause 105, the following new clause be inserted : - “ 1 05a. - ( 1 . ) The keeper of any hotel, inn, boarding house or lodging house who has on his premises -
a master receiving equipment, capable of being utilized for the reception of broadcast programmes or other wireless signals, which is connected, or capable of being connected, by wires to a receiving appliance in any room occupied, or available for occupation, by any lodger or tenant; or
any other receiving appliance capable of being so utilized which is installed in any such room. shall be in possession of a current broadcast listener’s licence in respect of every such master receiving equipment and a current broadcast listener’s licence in respect of every such receiving appliance in any such room. (2.) For the purposes of this section - keeper ‘, in relation to a hotel, inn, boarding house or lodging house, includes any person who, for reward, receives any person to lodge therein, either on his own behalf or as manager or otherwise on behalf of any other person; lodging house ‘ means any premises, whether furnished or unfurnished, where lodging or sleeping accommodation is provided for reward, and includes a flat.”.
Clause 106 (Sale of receiving equipment).
– I should like to know whether it wouldbe possible to provide under this clause that copies of hire purchase agreements also should be lodged with the senior radio inspector in each State. Most radios are sold on the timepayment system.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the honorable senator’s suggestion in view of the fact that it would involve a disclosure of the private affairs of purchasers of wireless sets.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 107 agreed to.
Clause 108 -
Every licence granted or deemed to have been granted under this act shall be subject to the provisions of this act and the regulations so far as they are applicable to the licence, and those provisions shall be deemed to be incorporated in the licence.
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That after the word “ licence “, last occurring, the following words be added: - “as terms and conditions of the licence “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 109 and 110 agreed to.
Clause 111 - (3.) The punishment for an offence against this act shall be -
Amendments (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That the word “ of “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “not exceeding “.
That, after the word “ for “, second occurring, the following words be inserted: - “ a term not exceeding “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
New clause 111a.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That after clause 111, the following new clause be inserted: - “111a. - A certificate in writing, signed by an authorized officer, certifying that a broad- cast listener’s licence was not, at the time specified in the certificate, in force in respect of any appliance (specified in the certificate) which is capable of being used for the reception of broadcast programmes shall be prima facie evidence that a broadcast listener’s licence was not, at that time, in force in respect of that appliance.”.
Clause 112 agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreedto.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to -
That the bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 24.
In committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 24 (Advertisements -vide page 882)-
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
T hat at theend of sub-clause (2.) the following words be added: - “or any matter the broadcasting of which is directed by the Minister in pursuance of the last preceding section.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with a further amendment; reports adopted.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I desire to advance further arguments in favour of increasing the percentage of Australian compositions compelled to be broadcast by Australian stations. The statement on this subject which I was prevented from quoting during the committee stages reads -
The reason why Australia is full of imported songs is because the work of local song-writers of ability are prevented from reaching the Australian public in the strength and effectiveness given to the imported numbers. There is plenty of classical music, plenty of Australian pianoforte pieces, but between these and the vulgar crooning and other dance music there is practically no happy Australian “ middle music “ of songs for the people. Anything written by Australian song-writers in bright happy dance songs is literally killed by the importers of the American dance songs, who control all the means of publicity. Thus if. as happened in my own case at least eight times between 1924 and 1940 - andI have all the proofs necessary between those dates, thanks largely to the Australian press - an Australian song is produced in public ami liked sufficiently for the public to enter shops to ask for copies of it, the men responsible for the boycott and monopoly refuse to publish or record the song, urging the retail shops to persuade the Australian inquirer to buy an imported song instead.
The composer himself is helpless, for he finds that recording is refused for the song, and the wireless stations use far more records than they use flesh-and-blood singers, finding the records much cheaper. Orchestration is refused by the publishers who publish orchestrations of the imported songs, and thus the composer cannot hear Australian orchestras or dance bands play his song. If he pays one of these men to do the orchestrations, the next orchestra leader wants to be paid to do a fresh lot. and the composer, getting no royalties, simply cannot afford to continue. T he song is thus kept from being recorded and broadcast several times a day (as the imported Hollywood crooning numbers are broadcast) . and kept from being played by orchestras and dancebands. There remains sheet- publication of copies, but (although that. too. is of course refused) the copies would not sell unless the song had previously been heard several times through being recorded and orchestrated throughout Australia. Here are someexamples of the results of the boycott, with, of course, press extracts proving each case: In 1935 a Sydney magazine offered a prize, with promises of full publicity to follow for Australian dance songs. I composed the music of the waltz song to which the first prize was given, the words being by Moore Raymond, the Australian journalist who is now entertainments editor of The Sunday Dispatch. London. The press in various States announced the result of the competition, and Chappels, of Sydney, published the song, “The Silent Waltz”, in sheet music. Recording was refused, so the public was prevented from hearing it on the A and B class chain of publicity; orchestrations were not distributed to the orchestras and dance bands throughout the land, and the published sheet-music, lying unheard on the shop shelves throughout Australia was withdrawn by Chappells and burnt. This song, when I reached London, was produced at Australia House at a big function just before the war, but in Australia it had been sent swiftly to oblivion by the force arrayed against it by the wealthy monopolists. Two Covent Garden artists introduced a song of mine and Sarah Sheldon’s in Australian city halls. (Sarah Sheldon is the Australian song-writer who collaborated with me in the song that was awarded national and Empire broadcasts by the British Broadcasting Corporation just before the war.) A representative hearing of what the Covent Garden artists had done to bring forward an Austra lian song they had expressed a high opinion of, said to me : “ Had that gesture been made outside your own country, it would have resulted in ^publication of your work. You must leave Australia.” A visiting Englishman, hearing that “ The Silent Waltz “, after winning the .Sydney competition, was supposed to be incorporated in an Australian film, said: “That simply will not be allowed to happen. J. am .in the film business,, and 1 have found, since my .arrival, that Australian films are contracted to American song interests for ten years ahead. You must get out of this country to .get a fair chance in Bongs.” The manager of the Queensland A class station, 4QG, who had broadcast, through living artists, Mrs. Sheldon’s and my songs, although, as they were not recorded, lie had to broadcast the imported songs much more often than .he could the Australian songs, wrote and said: “Australasian Performing Eight Association has been .formed. Now at last the boycott will be smashed. Get into touch quickly with them.” When I did get in touch with ‘Australasian Performing Bight Association, as it was called, J found that one of the men leading hi importing American songs was either its president- or its chairman. When I, rather unwillingly, called on a fighting type of newspaper to ask it if it would expose the position of Australian songs, it refused. I was told by a press-woman, later, that this refusal was due to the large amount of advertising given to the paper by one of the song monopolists.
Shortly after my arrival in London, .1 called on a comedian about to come out to Australia on contract, and took him a humorous Australian song. “It’s exactly what the people would like “, he said, “ for I know the Australian public, but one of your Australian men .connected with my tour has just flown over to Loudon and made mc promise to sing only the songs arranged for me “. In the West End of London, after I had won first prize at the British Broadcasting Corporation, a business mau who had lived in Australia remarked: “A song composer from Australia ! That’s rather strange. I remember the day when your leading song publisher tied up with foreign song interest to kill every Australian song lie could. It paid him ; he is a wealthy man out there now. But how can you be a .song-writer in a land where no song-writer can get his songs a chance?” When the Anzacs reached Britain, after war had been declared for some time, people asked why the Australian troops, unlike the Canadian, had no songs of their oVU. excepting “Waltzing Matilda”, but were singing Holywood syncopated tunes with American and negro phraseology. These songs sell at sixpence each in England, but in Australia the monopolists charge the public two shillings - a difference not accounted for by the difference in wages.. Lastly, although my list of songs includes many others treated likewise, the boycott killed the song of the evacuated British children, which had been recorded, broadcast and even filmed .at the many ports of call; both recording and publishing have been refused, as with nearly all songs that inspire and aid morale. Australia, the best fighting laud in the world, is robbed by the monopolist of tile song world of her own inspiring, fight ing songs at the greatest crisis of her history Finally, I hold the proof .that this position pre-dates “ talkies “ and wireless, so the importers who mis-call themselves publishers, blame those in vain, but they are still successfully, and with enormous financial profit to themselves, exploiting Australian children with unclean, imported songs and robbing them o!” songs of Anzac tradition and sentiment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate, tvt its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
– 1 protest against the Senate adjourning till next week when members of the Opposition are most anxious to discuss the motion for the printing of the Ministerial statement on the progress of the war. Furthermore, notices of motions were given to-day for the disallowance of two very important statutory rules. The Senate has not been meeting frequently, and in these days when statutory rules are pouring out in large numbers it is only fitting that the Senate should have an opportunity to discuss them promptly. Honorable senators who have come from distant States will be compelled to remain at Canberra to-morrow, but will not have a chance to proceed with the discussion of matters which are occupying their attention. I protest emphatically against this procedure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Secret Japanese Wireless Transmitting Set - Acquisition of Peas - Production of Vegetables - COMmonwealt i-i Finance - ‘Gold-mining Industry - National Security Act: Regulations.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– 1 take this opportunity to refer to a matter which I mentioned earlier to-day.. I have received a copy of a letter which has been sent to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) from The Bulletin office, 252 George-street, Sydney. The letter, which was signed by representatives of all the departments of The Bulletin, reads as follows : -
We desire to bring the following facts to your notice and to request that you will read this letter to the Senate on a suitable early occasion in order that it may be incorporated in the public records of Parliament and in Hansard.
The signatories represent all departments of the staff of the Bulletin Newspaper Company Limited, 252 George-street, Sydney.
Our attention has been directed to the following question asked in the Senate on 29th and 30th April by Senator Lamp: - “ Will the Minister issue instructions for all the Fascist houses in Australia to be searched for a secret Japanese wireless transmitting set? If so, will he commence with the premises at 44 Bradley’s Headroad, Mosman, and The Bulletin office at 252 George-street, Sydney? “
We further have seen the report of an alleged interview with Senator Lamp which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 2nd May, 1942, in the course of which the senator is alleged to have said - “ Senator Ashley has promised me that he will send my question and facts I disclosed to him to the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Beasley) immediately. “ As this indicates to me that the facts I possess will be investigated by the Attorney-General’s Department I have decided not to carry the matter further in the Senate for the present.”
If we felt that Senator Lamp’s question was based on a sincere belief that he had facts that justified it, there would be no cause for complaint. But it is obvious that if the senator had any evidence that secret wireless stations were operating at either of the addresses which he mentioned, he would not have discussed the matter publicly in Parliament, but would have informed either the Military Intelligence Department or the Attorney-General’s Department. Either of those agencies would assuredly have hastened to investigate so serious an allegation. To mention the matter in Parliament obviously would have been to warn the culprits and enable them to remove evidences of their guilt. Senator Lamp must have sufficient intelligence to appreciate this. We can, therefore, regard his question and subsequent statement only as spiteful slander, uttered under the protection of parliamentary privilege, from motives of malice and in the full knowledge that no evidence whatever existed of his untruthful accusations.
– Order! Senator Lamp’s question was ruled out of order.
Therefore, the honorable senator is not in order in discussing that phase of the matter.
– The letter continues -
The address, 44 Bradley’s Head-road, Mosman, which he mentions as a “ Fascist house “ and the possible head-quarters of a secret wireless operating treasonably in the interests of the Japanese enemy, is that of the home of the managing-director and publisher of the Bulletin Newspaper Company Limited, Mr Henry Kenneth Prior.
Mr. Prior’s history is as follows He is an Australian, and the son of an Australian. Hp was born in Broken Hill, New South Wales, in 1893. In 1914, he received a commission in the Commonwealth Military Forces. At the beginning of 1915, he entered the Australian Imperial Force as a lieutenant, and. shortly afterwards went overseas to Egypt and France
Both his brothers volunteered; one served, the other was rejected on medical grounds.
In France, he commanded the 51st Battery at the battle of Fromelles. He was promoted major, still in command of the 51st Battery. Fifth Division, Australian Imperial Force. He served with distinction. He was invalided home early in 1917, served for a time as artillery instructor at Holdsworthy camp. Although still in poor health, he returned to France and remained there, in command of the 51st Battery, till the end of the war.
Mr. Prior is now serving in the Volunteer Defence Corps.
On the outbreak of the present war, Mr. Prior informed the employees of the Bulletin Newspaper Company, in which he holds the controlling interest, that every man who desired to enlist would be assisted to do so. Every volunteer’s position would be kept open for him and the difference between his civil and military pay would be made up in full by the company for the duration of the war. The burden which has been taken cheerfully on his and the company’s hands by this decision, may be illustrated by the position of the literary section - only one section of several.
Nearly 80 per cent. of men in the literary section under 50 are or have been on actual service or about to go on service under the generous scheme proposed by the company. They include two of the highest paid men on the staff who, as privates in the Australian Imperial Force, are having their full salaries made up for the duration of the war by the company.
Apart from the literary staff, which is quoted merely as an example, the mechanical and office staffs have been denuded of eligible men who have been encouraged to enlist in the same way, and who have taken advantage of it just as readily and patriotically.
Mr. Prior’s two young sons followed the example of their father and their uncles so soon as they became of military age, and are now both on active service, thoughstill in their teens.
They have both lived, and still have their homes in the house in which Mr. Lamp declares that he has evidence of the presence of a secret wireless treasonably devoted to the service of the enemy. Some of the larger rooms of that house are, to our knowledge, lent regularly each week under arrangement: to local war workers.
Substantial space on two floors* of thu Bulletin building have also been donated to war working organizations - a large section on one floor to the voluntary body which makes camouflage nets and a floor to the V.E.N.T. organization.
In other ways, both the Bulletin Newspaper Company and its staff have helped willingly in every war activity in which their help has been needed or asked, and have subscribed liberally and regularly to war funds.
We desire to point out that the charge of acting as enemy agents made against us originated with a journal called The Tribune and some others of the other numerous newspapers published illegally in every respect by a body which styles itself “ The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia “. The Communist Party of Australia was suppressed in June. 1941. as a subversive organization. The ban upon it has become purely nominal since your government took office, and it carries on its many activities and publishes its papers free of the irksome duties of registration, the payment of taxation and submission to the law in general which is imposed on law-abiding citizens.
We ask that you will not only place these facte before Parliament and before the Senate, but that you will dissociate the Government from the’ wanton and untruthful slander uttered by Senator Lamp, which reflects upon very member of this staff, as well as upon the company and the managing director against whom it is vindictively aimed.
F have mentioned this matter on several occasions and I think that you, Mr. President, acted correctly in suppressing a question of a personal nature asked under the guise of privilege. I should not have raised this matter but for the fact that the statement appears in a Hansard proof which I have received and it has also been mentioned in the press. 1 suggest that honorable members on both sides of the chamber should not abuse parliamentary privilege, and should not make statements under parliamentary protection without taking every possible care to see that they are correct. I trust that the Senate will set a good example in this regard and that our privileges shall not be abused to malign people who have no opportunity in this chamber to defend themselves. It would appear that the Government will now be forced to make a statement on the subject to clear up the matter satisfactorily.
– On “Wednesday last I asked some questions which are of considerable importance to a number of primary producers and .to members representing Tasmania in the Commonwealth Parliament. The questions remain unanswered although I understand that the subject matter has been discussed with the Minis- ter for Agriculture in Tasmania, and that an agreement has been arrived at between the Commonwealth Government, and the Tasmanian Minister on the subject. I shall repeat the questions to enable honorable senators to see that they are plain and straightforward and could, I think, be answered readily by the Minister concerned. They read -
The Minister representing the Minister for Commerce replied that departments other than the Department of Commerce were concerned in the matter and that the information desired was being obtained. That reply was given a week ago. I now ask if the Minister will make an early statement setting out the terms and conditions under which the Government proposes to deal with the proposal to encourage the increased production of potatoes and other vegetables for the financial year 1942-43; and, will the scheme be carried out and controlled bv the Stares on behalf of the Commonwealth, or by officers of the Commonwealth? Those questions relate to Government policy which has been decided. The Government has given certain information on this subject to Ministers in another State. Agreements have been reached but the Government has made no pronouncement which would give information on these subjects to the representatives of .the people in the Commonwealth Parliament. Members of Parliament, when asked questions concerning the matter, are unable to give detailed information to their constituents. They are questions on which the Government must at present have information and I ask the Leader of the Senate why the information given to people outside of Parliament has not been given to us. Much discussion has arisen on the subject and I understand that the Government has appointed a control board in connexion with the production of potatoes, that it is giving a certain price in Tasmania, and, I presume, in other States, but still the questions I have asked remain unanswered. “Why was the information withheld from members of this Parliament. We should be in a position to explain the details of the decision reached by the Government. I understand that the Government has made a contract for the purchase from Tasmania of 6,000 tons of blue peas of A-grade quality at 15s. a bushel. If there be a surplus above 6,000 bushels, does the Government intend to control that quantity or is it to be sold on the open market? If there is a quantity of peas available over and above the needs of the fighting services, under what terms does the Government propose to take over that quantity? The producers are now preparing for next season’s crop, and the information desired should be made available so that there will be no misunderstanding over the next crop such as there has been over the last crop. It, may be that, the decision has been conveyed to the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, but members of this Parliament should not be placed in the invidous position of not knowing exactly the nature of the decision reached.
– Referring again to the way in which the war activities of Australia have been financed, I direct the attention of honorable senators to the following statement which was published this week in a Sydney newspaper: -
Since the introduction of the new financial policy, requiring the private trading banks to pay surplus earnings into a special deposit account with the Commonwealth Bank, about £37,000.000 has been so accumulated and is in this account, carrying interest at the rate of 15s. per cent.
A government spokesman claimed to-day that had this money not compulsorily been deposited with the Commonwealth Bank it would have been used in two ways -
Use of £40,000,000 by the banks for their own private enrichment could have resulted in a secondary inflation of about £100,000,000.
The spokesman added that the private banks were co-operating fully with the Commonwealth Government in its war-time policy.
If this policy has been in operation for only a few months, and the banks have accumulated surplus profits amounting to £37,000,000, we have another illustration of the enormous profits the banks are able to make; but I think that the newspaper statement is entirely misleading. I should like to know in what way this £37,000,000 is held. It cannot possibly be in the form of money, because the whole of the associated banks between them hold only a little over £15,000,000. I have always backed my statements on finance by reliable authorities. Following is a statement made by Sir Vincent C. Vickers in November, 1939: - “ Unless we can contrive to design and establish an improved and reformed financial system, which is the first essential towards a new and better economy in our own country, no satisfactory outcome of the war is possible.” “ it would have been wise to have expended some of our energies in strengthening our home defences by placing democracy in an impregnable position under a money-machine managed and controlled by its Government and worthy of the public confidence.” (The Daily Mirror, 24/10/41.)
Sir Vincent C. Vickers, November, 1939, after 22 years a Director of Vickers Ltd., a Director of the Bank of England from 1910 to 1919. and a Deputy-Lieutenant of the City of London, has lifted the lid off the Bankers’ Box of Tricks in his book Finance in the Melting Pot. “ I hold views,” he says, “ which the London Press would not publish. Let us recognise that great social change is coming to this country also, and that a serious social upheaval, even in this country, is not impossible; that prompt action only can ensure that the future shall bring reform and not revolution. “ I have watched for ten years every move, every wriggle, of financial policy; I have seen the effects of the greatest financial blunder the world has ever known - our return to the gold standard after the war. “ It is mainly the money system which is dragging us back, because it remains fundamentally as it was a hundred years ago. As long as the present system is allowed to remain unchanged, nothing can permanently alter the present tragic state of affairs or resolve this devastating economic paradox. “ It is the ‘same story wherever you turn. Reform and Progress, development in every field of human activity is being held up by want of money and the persistence of an outdated money system.”
In a book written just prior to his death, viz., Economic Tribulations, he says - “ If once we can decide what it is that constitutes a barrier between the producer and the consumer, whilst both remain dissatisfied, we shall have discovered not only the main cause of the world’s discontent and of the existing enmities and jealousies among the nations, but at the same time the true road to the peace of the world.”
Of the “Enemy Within “ he says: “Are we now fighting to uphold Freedom and Democracy, or are we fighting to uphold and strengthen the dictatorship of international finance? But this world power, with ite permitted control of the national money supply and with its support of a monetary system that has plunged every nation into the miseries of irretrievable debt and the world into economic strife should not be underestimated.”
Last week I told honorable senators that the latest dividends declared by five banks in Great Britain were 14 per cent., 18 per cent., 16 per cent., 12 per cent., and 15 per cent., respectively. If we continue under the present financial system we shall be faced with a great disaster and financial ruin.
– On the 1st May I addressed a series of questions regarding blue peas to the Minister assisting the Minister for Commerce, and, unless some explanation be given by the Government, I think that a good deal of confusion will be occasioned among farmers. My first question was -
The reply furnished to me was as follows : -
A shipment of peas from New Zealand has reached the Australian market. Blue peas from this shipment have been sold at 28s. 6d. per bushel in Sydney, but the consignment was not all blue peas, and .prices have varied.
Of course the price of peas varied, because a quantity consisted of grey peas which are being sold at lis. 3d. per bushel. 1 understand that the Government has acquired the crop of blue peas in Tasmania at 15s. per bushel, although they are selling in the open market to-day at 28s. 6d. per bushel. In fixing the price paid, the Government ought to take into consideration the market price. I also asked -
The answers to those questions were -
I do not understand what is meant by the expression “ a first advance of 12s. per bushel is being made “ because if the peas, were bought they should have been paid for in full. I am informed that many sales have been made at £1 per bushel although the Government has undertaken to pay the growers only 15s. per bushel. Was this transaction an acquisition or has a pool been established? In either case the situation requires explanation. My last question was answered in the following terms: -
In that instance the Government has introduced new verbiage. The growers naturally wish to know why the 3s. was withheld if the peas were acquired. If a pool has been formed may the growers expect to receive more than the additional 3s. if sales warrant such a payment? The phrase “pending determination of the final price “ requires elucidation. Obviously the answers to my questions need elaboration in order to prevent confusion. I therefore ask the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) to inquire from the Minister for Commerce exactly what is intended, and, in particular, whether, in fact, the growers may receive more than 15s. a bushel for their peas.
Thursday, 7 May 19J&.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western Australia) [12.4 am. - I ask the Minister for the Interior to furnish me with some additional information about the Government’s intentions- in relation to the gold-mining industry: Last Wednesday I inquired from the honorable gentleman whether an early pronouncement would be made on this subject. I have not yet received a satisfactory reply to that request. Some weeks ago I sent the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) a telegram from Kalgoorlie on the same subject. I have not received a reply to that message. Last time we met the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to discuss the subject he said that he would suggest to the Prime Minister that an early statement be made on the future of the industry. No such statement has yet been published. This is a matter of great importance to Western Australia as you, Mr. President, well realize. I appeal to the Minister for the Interior to make a statement in the Senate on this subject when we reassemble next Wednesday. The Premier of Western Australia Mr. Willcock, and the Minister for Mines, Mr. Panton, had a long conversation with the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) in Melbourne on this subject recently. A report of their conversation appeared in the Kalgoorlie Miner on the 30*th April. I quote the following extracts from it: - “Mr. Panton and I placed before Mr. Dedman the whole position as we see it,” said Mr. Willcock. “ We stressed the vital nature of the industry to Western Australia, explaining that it provides more than one quarter of our national income and one-fifth of our total State revenue. Vast areas of our State are completely dependent upon it and if it ceased operating these would inevitably be denuded of population. Whole towns would close down and the economy of the State would be completely disrupted. Many mines once closed down could never be re-opened and an industry which could be of tremendous value in providing employment during the post war reconstruction would be prevented from fulfilling this valuable function.”
Then followed certain statements on aspects of the subject to which I referred in the Senate recently. The report then adds these observations by Mr. Willcock -
Mr. Dedman informed us that when he had placed the position before the Chamber of Mines last week they had assured him that iter every physically fit man within the army age group, with the exception of a few indispensable key men, had been taken, and after a reasonable number of men had been provided for- works required by the- Allied Works Council,, it would, still be possible to carey on the industry on a fairly good scale.
I have received a copy of a lettergram sent to the Prime Minister try the Secretary of the Chamber of Mines, Kalgoorlie, on the 1st May, in relation to those remarks by Mr. Dedman. It reads as follows : -
We understand Dedman is of opinion and has expressed to Willcock State Premier that Chamber of Mines approves of his proposal that all fit men under forty-five be withdrawn from industry and that further number of men over forty-five be withdrawn for allied work* programme. He further stated Chamber wac of opinion that mines could be carried on on fairly reasonable scale of operations despite such withdrawal of labour. This is entirely wrong and we cannot understand how Dedman arrived at such conclusion.. Proposal was placed before representatives gold-mining industry as absolute minimum requirement* of man-power by Dedman who at same time told representatives it was not the Government’s intention to close the mines stop no acquiescence was asked for nor was it given to this proposal it was a plain statement as to what was to take place and the mining representatives did not consider they were serving any useful purpose by combating what was put to them as a condition which was inevitable whether the mining industry liked it. or not. If it is. the federal Government’s wish that goldmining should continue on a reasonable scale in the interests of Western Australia then it is perfectly obvious that it cannot do so if the man-power as outlined by Dedman is to be withdrawn. This was clearly stated in memorandum handed to Dedman at the conference in Kalgoorlie. This lettergram is sent to yon so that there should be no misunderstanding of the position when it is considered by the Government. In fact the position at present is so acute that the call up of approximately 450 men arranged for 11th May will seriously jeopardize existence of some mines. Anderton, Secretary, Chamber of Mines.
The whole matter is of immense importance to Western Australia, and I should like the Minister for the Interior to ask his Cabinet colleagues who are handling the subject what their intentions are in relation to gold-mining. Originally we feared that the blanketing of the whole industry was contemplated. It appears now from the statements attributed to Mr. Dedman, which I have just quoted, that some other procedure is likely. If Mr. Dedman’s proposal is put into operation it will undoubtedly destroy the goldmining industry, for it involves the denuding of the gold-fields of their manpower. The suggestion that allied works might be put in hand elsewhere is impracticable. It would be impossible for the miners to work many miles distant from their home, and for their families to remain on the gold-fields. I urge the Minister to endeavour to have some definite pronouncement made on the subject, because so many residents in Western Australia are dependent upon the mining industry for their livelihood, and are most anxious to know to what degree the Government’s man-power proposals will affect the future of the industry. Many fear that such proposals will go so far as to paralyse the goldmining industry.
. -in reply - I have listened carefully to the remarks made by honorable senators and I promise that the matters raised by each of them will receive attention. They will be advised as early as possible of the result of investigations into the respective matters.
On the 6th March, Senator A. J. McLachlan suggested that an officer of the Attorney-General’s Department should, in association with some one possessing journalistic ability, draw up a precis, couched in plain language and entirely free from legal terms, of regulations made under the National Security Act for publication in the press. The honorable senator stated that, if necessary, the Government could compel the publication of such statements or pay for the space occupied. I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that I have conferred with the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Beasley) regarding his suggestion, and I find that every effort is being made to give the widest publicity to all National Security Regulations. When a regulation is gazetted, the Gazette officer issues to the press an explanatory statement prepared for press purposes in the department dealing with the matter covered by the particular regulations gazetted. These statements are not always published in the form in which they are issued, and some of them are not published at all, as they relate to matters which are considered by the press to have no news value. The Government has no intention of compelling newspapers to publish any of these statements because that would be an unwarrantable interference with the freedom of the press. The Acting Attorney-General agrees that the arrangement under which press statements are now issued should not be disturbed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 16 of 1942 - Amalgamated Engineering Union.
No. 17 of 1942 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No. 18 of 1942 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia; and Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Wynyard. Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
National Security Act -
National Security ( Building Control ) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Basis of Compensation.
Boats (Information) (2).
Control of Hydrographical Publications.
Defence Quartering (Allied Forces).
Immobilization of Vessels (2).
Prohibited Places (2).
Protection of Exposed Personnel (Merchant Ships).
Removal of Direction Signs.
Requisitioning of property other than land (3).
Taking possession of land, &c. (129).
Use of land (10).
National Security (Medical Co-ordination and Equipment) Regulations - Order - Control of Medical Equipment.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 196, 197. 198. 199, 200, 201.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 202, 203, 204, 205.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulation No. 5 of 1942 (Cemeteries Ordinance) .
Senate adjourned at 12.14 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 May 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1942/19420506_senate_16_170/>.