16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer state whether members of the Australian Military Forces, on returning to Australia from service overseas, are liable to have stopped from their military pay income tax on income earned prior to enlistment? Is it also a fact that demands for such tax have been issued to members of the Australian Imperial Force on their return from service abroad?
– I shall obtain the information asked for by the honorable senator, and a reply will be furnished to him as soon as possible.
SenatorFOLL- Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform the Senate whether instructions have been issued by the censorship authorities that stoppages of work on the coal-fields are not to be reported in the press?
– I have no knowledge of any such instructions having been given.
– In view of the threat to essential war production arising as a result of an insufficient supply of coal, caused through continual strikes, will the Leader of the Senate state whether the Government will hand over to the Army the authority to produce the coal necessary for war purposes?
– It is not usual to disclose matters of government policy in reply to questions.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate whether the Government will again approach the State governments with the object of regulating the hours when hotels shall open?Is the Government aware that working men, after a day’s hard work, find it impossible to obtain a pot of beer, because hotels are closed owing to the supply of beer being exhausted?
– The regulation of hotel trading hours is a matter for the State authorities. Efforts were made at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers to secure a reform with regard to the liquor trade. I refer to the attempt made to have hotel lounges closed, but the State Premiers, by a majority, refused to agree to the proposal. It is a fact that some working men are unable to obtain a glass of beer at the end of a day’s work. The order of the Commonwealth Government was that 7,200,000 gallons of beer was the maximum quantity to be made available for civilian consumption in in any one month. That order has been meticulously observed, and the result is that there is a. shortage of beer in certain areas in Australia. Wherever possible, adjustments of the supply are made, but I regret to say that the supply of beer is being made an issue superiorto even more important national matters. The object of the order was to prevent indiscriminate drinking. This is the first occasion on which such control of the liquor trade has been attempted and to some degree the restriction has achieved its purpose.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whether it is the policy of the Minister for Labour and National Service purposely to withhold the tabling of vital regulations until the Parliament has gone into recess? I draw attention to his action with regard to Statutory Rules 1943 No. 75 which validates certain decisions given by the Women’s Employment Board, which is a hand-picked body. Although that statutory rule has been circulated amongst honorable senators for over a week, it has not yet been laid on the table of the Senate, and the delay has prevented the Opposition from taking appropriate action. Will the Leader of the Senate state whether the tabling of the statutory rule has been delayed by design, or, if not, why it has not been tabled? At the conclusion of the sittings of the Parliament immediately prior to last Christmas, a statutory rule providing for the appointment of a commission was tabled and the commission was “ sacked “ the day before the Parliament re-assembled.
– The Leader of the Opposition has asked a doublebarrelled question. In fact, the question resembles a machine-gun, and I admit that I am unable to keep pace with his shots. The Minister for Labour and National Service has no policy with regard to these matters. Whatever has been done in this connexion has been done with the authority of the Government, and that procedure will be followed.
– My question relates to a matter of procedure which is vital to the Senate. Will the Leader of the Senate make a statement, before the conclusion of the present sittings, as to the reason why StatutoryRules 1943 No. 75 has not been laid on the table? I cast no reflection on any Cabinet Minister. The Minister for Labour and National Service may have a perfectly good reason - -
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition has already asked his question.
– Despite the assurance now given by the Leader of the Opposition that he does not impute motives to any member of the Cabinet, the fact is that he asked his first question in a manner that suggested that the Minister for Labour and National Service had deliberately withheld the statutory rule mentioned. That is not a fair or accurate statement. I shall endeavour to obtain the information which the honorable senator appears to be most anxious to secure, and a reply will be given to him as soon as possible.
– As a large number of watchmakers’ lathes has already been impressed, will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, state whether the military authorities intend to impress the whole of the watchmakers’ lathes in Australia?
– I gave an assurance to the honorable senator last night that the representations made by him upon this matter would be investigated, and that he would be informed as to the result of the inquiry. That investigation is now being made, and the honorable senator will be supplied with an answer to his question immediately I am able to give it to him.
– On several occasions questions have been directed to the Government with regard to compensation to flax-growers and the prices to be paid for this year’s crop. The Leader of the Senate, in reply to a question asked by me yesterday, said that the Government had this matter under consideration. Will the Government make a prompt decision, because whether flax be grown this year will depend largely on whether the Government intends to pay compensation to the growers, and the price to be paid for flax? As the seeding time is rapidly approaching, will the Government make a decision as soon as possible?
– The matter is receiving the serious attention of the Government, and a public announcement will be made regarding it at the appropriate time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Will the Minister secure the annual reports for 1939, 1940, 1041 and 1942. of the Agricultural and Horticultural Research Station, Long Ashton, Bristol, upon the utilization of fruit and vegetables, so as to make use of the scientific knowledge contained therein in connexion with the products of Australia in this sphere?
– Action to secure the reports will be taken.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Bill returned from the House ofRepre- sentatives with a message intimating that it had agreed to amendments Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5, made by the Senate, and had agreed to amendment No. 3, with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message) :
Senate’s amendment No. X -
After clause 42, insert the following new clause: - “ 42a. After section fifty-five of the Principal Act the following section is inserted in Part IV.:- 55a. - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law of the Commonwealth or of any State or Territory of the Commonwealth or in any award, order or determination of any industrial tribunal or of any industrial agreement, preference shall, in the appointment of persons to the Public Service of the Commonwealth or to the service of an authority of the Commonwealth, be given to persons who have been members of the forces and have served outside Australia or in any area prescribed as a combat area for the purposes of this act and who are competent for the work required. (2. ) All contracts entered into with the Commonwealth for the performance of works or services shall be deemed to contain a clause whereby the contractor with the Commonwealth binds himself, under a penalty of Fifty pounds in respect of each breach of the clause, to grant, in engaging employees for the purpose of executing the contract, preference to persons specified in sub-section (1.) of this section. (3.) For the purposes of this section, “ authority of the Commonwealth “ includes any commission, board or other body created by or under any law of the Commonwealth or Territory of the Commonwealth or which is declared by the Governor-General by proclamation to be an authority for the purposes of this section.’ “.
House of Representatives’ amendment of Senate’s amendment -
Add at the end of sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 55a the words “ and . to persons who are so competent and who have, during .prescribed periods and under prescribed conditions, served, in a ship or as members of the crew of a civil aircraft, in any zone which, in relation to ships or aircraft, as the case may be, is prescribed as a combat zone for the purposes of this section “.
– I move -
That the amendment of the House of Representatives upon the Senate’s amendment No. 3 be agreed to.
In my judgment, all men and women who have contributed to the defence of the Empire and are mentally and physically fit should be provided with the opportunity of earning a livelihood under the very best conditions. Up to date, so far as my reading and experience inform me, that has not been done after any previous war, including the Great “War of 1914-18, despite the fact that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia was organized throughout Australia for that purpose. I submit to honorable senators that to do that is well within the realm of political possibilities. It would not be an impossible task to provide that all men who have contributed to the defence of the Empire in terms of the amendment of the House of Representatives shall have an opportunity to earn a livelihood under the very best conditions. Holding that view, I cannot conceive any opposition to the amendment. Had such action been taken after the last war to the degree that was then possible, Australia would have been in a very much better position to-day in defending itself against attacks by Axis countries. Honorable senators are aware that, before the declaration of war, many thousands of returned men from the last war who were not eligible for pensions were fit and able in every way to be engaged in useful and necessary occupations in the development of the national wealth of this country, thus enabling their dependants to be educated and trained. As that was not done, a wider degree of preference is necessary. I have yet to learn that there is any argument or reason which would justify discharged soldiers or others being compelled to live for long periods in enforced idleness in a country like Australia, or that it is impossible for any government that may be so disposed to provide the additional opportunities, without restricting in any way the opportunities of those who are entitled to preference. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has rightfully .said that this proposal is merely an affirmation of a principle with which we all agree, that it does not provide any machinery, and that it amounts to no more than a statement of the policy to which the Government is committed and has given effect. Provision in respect of it is contained in all Commonwealth contracts.
– The Minister has in mind preference to unionists.
– The Commonwealth Public Service Act, and Commonwealth contracts, contain the provision that returned soldiers shall be given preference. Where is the right of discharged soldiers to appeal if, in the judgment of those who are in charge of private employment, they are not competent to perform the tasks in which they seek to be engaged? There should be some means of enabling them to appeal in such an event; but, so far as I know, action along those lines has not been taken. The -interjection in reference to preference to unionists reminds me that on Monday last I was privileged, on behalf of the Government, to christen the 1,000th Gipsy engine associated with the manufacture of aircraft by General Motors-Holdens Limited. Mr. Hartnett informed me that 3,000 of the employees of that firm had volunteered for service with the defence forces of Australia, and that it was intended to do everything possible to retain their jobs for them. He also said that the policy of the firm was preference to unionists, because it had been found that that policy had worked very successfully. He authorized me to say that during the war the firm had not lost one man-hour because of any industrial dispute. I make that statement in reply to the interjection, in order to indicate that preference to unionists is desired for the same reason as preference to soldiers is advocated. Many thousands, possibly the majority, of soldiers are unionists. It is the policy of the Government that all men and women shall have the opportunity to earn a livelihood. I am authorized to say on its behalf that, had the Senate agreed to a previous request, a separate bill would have been introduced dealing more comprehensively with the matter than is possible in the existing circumstances.
– The bill was brought forward in the House of Representatives, and was then dropped.
– It was not as comprehensive as it should have been When the committee of the Senate was discussing the provision relating to the continuance of the special repatriation committee as a standing committee, I said that in my judgment the matter of preference could very well be left to such a body. It was generally admitted that the special committee had done an excellent job in connexion with repatriation matters. The proposed standing committee could have done just as good a job, and one that is very necessary, in respect of preference. It could have taken evidence from the Returned Sailors Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which I understand, has drafted legislation for consideration by the Government. It was well within the realm of possibility that the committee would have presented a report that would have given satisfaction to honorable senators on both sides of the chamber.
– The Government is accepting the Senate’s amendment. Why, then, argue the matter?
– The Government desires to widen the amendment. The Opposition has asked for the compromise which the Government is prepared to make ; it has demanded that the amendment made by the Senate shall be accepted. Honorable senators opposite declined to accept the proposal that a more comprehensive bill should be introduced. The Government, having considered the matter in that light, has now made a very reasonable request. It is prepared to accept the Senate’s amendment, but asks that the Senate shall agree to the widening of its application.
– Another instance of “tacking.”!
– The honorable senator is privileged to place his own construction on what has been done. I do not desire to interfere with his exercise of that privilege, but I do question hi3 wisdom and knowledge. Unquestionably, the mercantile marine will come out of this war with flying colours. Members of it have risked their all, including their lives. Many of them have been sent to their deaths without having an opportunity to fire a single shot in self-defence, simply because they were not armed. The same may be said of the air crews of civil aircraft. For obvious reasons, the risks which they have incurred and the sacrifices they have made cannot be fully particularized. However, honorable senators are aware that these men have never refused to carry out any task assigned to them which would facilitate the conduct of the war in the interests of the Empire. I submit, in their name and on their behalf, that the Senate should agree to the amendment of the House of Representatives, in order that they, as well as others, may be given preference. If that be done, I am perfectly certain that the Government will be prepared to meet the wishes of the Opposition by later bringing down a comprehensive bill to give the widest application to the principle consistently with the resources of the nation. I commend the amendment to the good sense of honorable senators.
.- I shall vote against the motion of the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron). The Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act provides for the rehabilitation of members of the defence services, and neither merchant seamen nor civil air pilots and crews come within that definition. No one will deny the splendid war services that these men have rendered, but the correct place to give some concrete appreciation of those services is not in the bill now before the committee. Moreover, it is doubtful whether merchant seamen and civil aviation personnel will need any preference at all after the war. If, as is predicted, there will be a tremendous development of air transport in the post-war period in respect of both persons and goods, no qualified air pilot should find any great difficulty in obtaining employment. Moreover, when all the British ships which sail the seas return to port after the war, they will again be commissioned for trade purposes, and any vacancies for seamen which then exist will, no doubt, be filled by the appointment of men who have served on such vessels. If the Government really desires to give preference to merchant seamen, it can introduce a bill to amend the Seamen’s Compensation Act, in which event I am confident that the measure would receive careful consideration by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. It has been said that the Senate’s amendment which was passed last week was designed to embarrass the Government. Such a statement is unfair to soldier senators of the Opposition who, for two and a half years, in season and out of season, have urged the Government to introduce legislation to give effect to a definite policy of preference to members of the fighting services. The Menzies Government appointed a committee to deal with this matter and that committee continued to function until it was chloroformed by the present Government. The object of the Senate’s amendment was to place on the statute-book legislation embodying the principle of preference to members of the defence services who had served, or may serve, outside Australia, or in a combat area. The Government has approved that policy.
– The Senate’s amendment was only so much political humbug.
– I have here a sheaf of telegrams which I have received from various parts of Victoria. Other Opposition senators have received similar telegrams asking that first preference he given to members of the fighting services.
– Propaganda !
– It is not propaganda. The gist of the telegrams is that the Senate should not accept any amendment which would rob members of the fighting services of preference. The telegrams are here for any honorable senator to see.
It has been stated that the introduction of this subject in the Senate was premature and should have been delayed until a bill prepared by the Federal Executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia was submitted to the Government. I have not seen the final draft of that bill, but I know that it does not contain any provision for the granting of preference to seamen, civil pilots or Civil Constructional Corps workers.
– That measure aims at preference being given to members of the fighting services not only in the Commonwealth Public Service but also in the public services of the States, in local bodies, as well as in all phases of industry. It is a most comprehensive bill, but a few hurdles will have to be overcome before it can become law. First, the Commonwealth will need to have complete powers to legislate for preference in employment under State governments, local authorities, and in all .industries ; and, secondly, the trade unions will have to agree to first preference being given to soldiers. I am confident that they will not agree, and that supporters of the present Government, however sympathetic they may be to the claims of service men, will have to vote as they are directed. The amendment of the Senate provides for preference not only in the Commonwealth Public Service but also in the Commonwealth Railways, the Commonwealth Bank, the Lighthouse Service, and in munitions factories throughout the Commonwealth, and also that in all Government contracts and other undertakings in which Commonwealth money is expended, the principle of preference to members of the fighting service shall operate. That covers a fairly wide field. The Government and its followers have repeatedly expressed their strong opposition to conscription for the Service in the defence of Australia outside the Commonwealth. They have also avowed their faith in the number and quality of the volunteers who would form the spearhead of the great offensive which it is contemplated that General MacArthur will launch. Is it not fitting, therefore, that the greatest possible rewards should be offered to those volunteers when they return victorious from battle?
It has been argued that the bill before us does not provide the machinery to give effect to a policy of preference to soldiers. If that he so, the Government could introduce the legislation necessary to give effect to that policy. I suggest that when that legislation is introduced it should contain a provision for an appeal against the decision of any head of a department who fails to give preference to service men.
.- The Opposition will vote against the motion of the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron). I assure the committee that Opposition senators appreciate the fact that the Government has seen the light and has agreed to accept the vital amendments made by the Senate in this bill. That fact, coupled with the report read by the President this morning, which indicated that the Government had also seen the light and had accepted an amendment made by the Senate to a vital taxation proposal is clear evidence that the Senate as a House of review is watching legislation closely and is not lightly to be set aside. I give the lie direct to any suggestion that the Opposition in the Senate is trying to embarrass the Government. Senator Brand was privileged to move the amendment for which he and other soldier and ex-soldier senators have pleaded for so long. Senators Sampson, Wilson, Collett, and other members of the Senate have given to this subject their most earnest consideration and have rendered great service to their country. Senator Collett particularly has pleaded in season and out .of season for preference to returned soldiers to be made the law of the land.
– Why did not previous governments give effect to that policy?
– As a member of the Menzies Government Senator Collett placed before Cabinet a report on this subject. in June, 1940. A further report on the- larger issues associated with this complicated problem was before that Government in June, 1941. Those reports were available to the present, Government when it assumed office in October, 1941.
– I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the subject before the Chair.
– I was merely pointing out that previous governments had given much attention to this subject. The reason why the present Government has not been able to make up its mind about preference to returned soldiers is that it could not get authority from the Australasian Council of Trade Unions.
– I rise to order. The observations of the Leader of the Opposition are not connected with the subject before the Chair.
– Does not the Minister like to hear the truth?
– It is not the truth, and Senator McBride knows that it is not.
– I have already told the Leader of the Opposition that he must connect his remarks with the motion before the Chair. I again ask him to do so.
– There is no need to get heated. This matter should be dealt with promptly, as members of the staff of the Repatriation Department are waiting for this bill to be passed, so that they can get on with their important tasks. I shall give three reasons for opposing the motion. First, it is a further instance of “ tacking “. When the Government realized the difficulties that confronted it, an attempt was made to tack on to the principle of preference to returned soldiers, certain benefits to civilians. These benefits should be incorporated in a measure dealing with civilians, not in a measure which deals specifically with the repatriation of members of the fighting services. I suggest that the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, No. 60 of 1940, is the appropriate act to deal with civilians who render valuable war service.
– So is the Commonwealth. Public Service Act.
– It has been said that the members of the Opposition are not sympathetic with the claims of the mercantile marine for recognition. I have as great an admiration for the work that these men have performed, and are performing in this war, as has any honorable senator, but I prefer not to cloud the issue, and desire that there shall be a clear line of demarcation between soldier preference and civilian preference. By soldier preference I mean preference to members of all the fighting services who have served overseas as defined in various acts. The term includes nurses. I have also given serious consideration to an appropriate amendment which could be inserted in the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. It would be necessary to insert only one amending clause. In order to make certain that it could be done in that way I consulted legal advisers, and was informed that the appropriate act in which to make the amendment is the one which [ have mentioned. If the Government is anxious to make provision for mariners who have served in war areas, let it bring in a measure for this purpose, and the Opposition will consider it on its merits. Let it bring in its bill to-day, and if it meets with our approval we shall agree to the suspension of the Standing Orders so thatit may be put through without delay. As for preference to soldiers, I have been advised by legal authorities that the appropriate place in which to include such a provision is the Repatriation Bill.
– It would amount to “ tacking “.
– It would not. Placitum 6, of section 51, of the Constitution states -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
The naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States, and the control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth:
I am opposed to the Government’s amendment because I regard Senator Brand’s amendment as the foundation stone of preference to members of the fighting forces. I admit that the Government is confronted with a serious problem in defining the various degrees of preference, but let us not forget that, first and foremost, there must be preference to members of the fighting forces. Members of the Government know that the Opposition has advocated the formation of one Army. At the present time, only members of the Australian Imperial Force may be sent overseas to fight the enemy.
– I rise to order. Is not the honorable senator out of order in discussing the constitution of the Army at this stage?
– In fairness to every one, a certain amount of latitude should, I think, be allowed. I do not propose to carry out my duties as chairman in an unreasonable manner; but, at the same time, honorable senators should try to connect their remarks with the amendment before the committee. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to keep that in mind.
– I assure you, Mr. Chairman, that I was trying to do so. When Senator Brand’s amendment becomes law, there may be some doubt as to the power of the States to give it effect, but we have it on the authority of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) that the Commonwealth certainly has power during the period of the war, and for some time thereafter, to give effect to this provision under the National Security Act, and even to empower the States to do so also. However,
I arn anxious that, for the sake of uniformity, the six State Parliaments should pass legislation similar to the Commonwealth legislation. In the meantime, let us not cloud the issue in any way, but accept Senator Brand’s amendment as it stands.
.- The Government acted wisely in accepting the Senate’s amendment, and it is a great pity that it spoiled a sound decision by seeking to include two classes of persons not provided for in the original amendment. As was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and by Senator Brand, the Senate’s amendment was intended to lay the foundation of preference to members of the fighting services. Preference should not be regarded as a reward for bravery, but as a means of putting men, who have for years been absent from their civil occupations, on an equal footing with others after the war. The inclusion of merchant seamen and civil pilots amounts to the introduction of an entirely new principle. I have nothing but admiration for seamen who serve in war zones, and for civil pilots serving in New Guinea and other such places, but the fact remains that they continue to follow their civil occupations. If they are to be rewarded for serving in danger zones, the reward should take some form other than that of preference equal to that afforded to soldiers. There are no braver men in the world than the members of the London Police Force and the London Fire Brigade, many thousands of whom lost their lives during enemy raids on London. Nevertheless, it cannot be argued that they have the same claim to preference as have members of the fighting forces. The Prime Minister said recently, that the war may continue for three years more. We hope that it will be over sooner than that, but if not, some members of the fighting forces will, by the time it ends, have been absent from their civil employment for 6 or, 7 years. We know that the man who is nearest to the executive in any business or department is the one who gets promotion.
– I rise to order. I do not wish to make your position more difficult, Mr. Chairman, but we take strong opposition to the succession of second-reading speeches which are being made by honorable senators opposite.
– What is the point of order?
– I take exception to the fact that the honorable senator, on the motion that the amendment be agreed to, should be discussing members of the London Fire Brigade.
– What is your point of order?
– My point of order is that we should not have to listen to second-reading speeches. The honorable senator should confine his remarks to the amendment. I object to what he is doing.
– It is not a matter of personal objection. I have followed the remarks of Senator Foll very closely, and he was connecting his remarks with the amendment before the Chair. He was pointing out how, if seaman and civil pilots in Britain were to be given preference a claim could also be made by members of the London Fire Brigade and of the London Police Force.
– But the amendment makes no reference to such persons.
- Senator Foll is in order in making such comparisons to illustrate his point.
– If merchant seamen and civil pilots are included under the provisions of this measure, the way will be opened for the inclusion of many other classes of persons. The Minister said that it would probably be necessary to introduce legislation for the purpose of giving effect to preference to soldiers. I foresee that it will probably be necessary to establish several degrees of preference. For instance, many men who have been called up for home service would have liked to serve overseas, but hey have not been given the opportunity to do so. However, they have been removed from their civil occupations, and they have a case for some measure of preference. I know an accountant with a substantial business who was called up for the Militia, with the result that his business had to be severely curtailed. Other accountants, who have not been called up, can continue to practise their profession without interruption.
The time may come when the first mentioned may need a measure of preference so that he can rehabilitate himself in civil life. I appeal to the Government to accept the Senate’s amendment as it stands. Senator Brand pointed out that the Returned Sailors Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia was preparing a draft bill covering preference to members of the fighting forces. It might be advisable for the Government to appoint a select committee of the Senate to consider the extension of degrees of preference to those who have served during this war in various capacities other than in active combat against the enemy. The amendment lays the foundation of preference in respect of men who serve in combat areas as some reward for their being taken away from their civil occupations. I urge the Government to accept the Senate’s amendment, and not to tack anything on to it.
.- I oppose the amendment proposed by the House of Representatives. It attempts to insert into a bill which is concerned wholly with the repatriation of soldiers a provision which is designed to give preference to classes of persons who are not soldiers. Had the matter not been raised in the House of Representatives, I, myself, should have been disposed in this chamber to object to the amendment as being out of order. The bill seeks to amend the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. Both the act and the bill as originally drafted are concerned solely with the repatriation of soldiers. The subject of preference to soldiers is, itself, directly relevant to the whole problem of the repatriation of soldiers.
– It has become so only now.
– No ; it has always been. I remind the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that the special committee which was appointed by the Government to review our repatriation law recommended that preference to returned soldiers should be provided. _
– It was not included in any previous repatriation measure.
– Possibly the occasion to do so did not arise; but a very good reason exists for making such provision in this measure. As I pointed out previously, the repatriation of members of the fighting forces comprehends not merely the provision. of benefits to members who may suffer disabilities, but also the rehabilitation of members of the forces in civil life; and, therefore, Senator Brand’s original amendment was directly relevant to the principal act and the bill. The bill relates only to members of the fighting forces. Now, the Government proposes that we should put into the bill which is solely concerned with members of the fighting forces a proposal that preference should be extended to persons engaged in certain civil occupations. I cannot imagine a more unsuitable measure in which to insert such a proposal. Obviously, it has no relation to either the bill or the principal act. That is not merely a technical objection ; it illustrates the fact that the problem of preference to soldiers on the one hand, and that of preference to persons engaged in civil occupations on the other, are distinct problems, which should be dealt with on their merits as distinct subjects. I say without fear of contradiction that no section of the community stands in the same place as the members of the fighting forces in this respect. The conditions of no other section of the community are comparable with those of the fighting forces. Therefore, it is proper that we should consider the problem of preference in relation to the members of the fighting forces as something distinct in itself. Under the amendment proposed by the House of Representatives, honorable senators opposite wish to place on the same plane as members of the fighting forces certain persons who have rendered very valuable service to the country and to the Empire - that, no one denies - but whose circumstances and conditions of employment at present differ entirely from those which appertain to members of the fighting forces. Let us consider one of the classes of persons which the Government desires to include in this bill. From the point of view of preference in employment are merchant seamen to be considered in- exactly the same light as members of the fighting forces? Their conditions of employment at present are entirely different. Because of the dangerous character of the merchant seaman’s occupation he is to-day receiving rewards which the soldier does not receive. The merchant seaman has his own compensation act, which makes provision for him should he suffer incapacity, or for his dependants should he be killed. All those conditions of employment must be taken into account when we consider whether that man is to be placed on exactly the same plane as members of the fighting forces. The Government just comes along and submits this amendment as if it were beyond argument that the circumstances of the two classes of persons are exactly the same. Let me emphasize another important difference. A member of the fighting forces undertakes to serve for the period of the war and twelve months thereafter. Regardless of his own wishes, he is bound to continue that service anywhere he may be sent. That condition does not apply to a man in civil employment. He may be able to change his occupation. He is not bound for the period of the war, and he is not necessarily bound to go to places which are dangerous and in respect of which service he receives special remuneration. That illustrates the fact that it is not possible, properly, to deal with this matter in the way which the Government proposes, namely, that wo should just insert in the bill a provision which gives preference to persons who are engaged in civil employment in circumstances entirely different from those under which members of the fighting forces are hound to serve. Therefore, I oppose the amendment proposed by the House of Representatives. The Senate’s amendment originally proposed by Senator Brand is sound, and I am glad that the Government has seen fit to accept it. Indeed, the Government now seeks to take credit to itself because it is prepared to accept the Senate’s amendment.
– We have said that we are prepared to accept it.
– I am. glad to hear that. I am surprised that, despite that fact, some Ministers should wish to reflect upon the virtue of the amendment.
– We wish to improve it.
– That is the issue before us. We shall detract from the whole conception of the Senate’s amendment should we attach to it a proposition to extend to civilians the preference to which only members of the fighting forces are entitled.
– The amendment proposed by the House of Representatives fails to take into consideration a number of factors, some of which have been elaborated by Senator Spicer; but there is another point which is entirely fatal to that amendment. The validity of the principal act and the bill rests entirely on the defence powers of the Commonwealth. By no stretch of the imagination can we deal with other than members of the fighting forces. It is competent for the Commonwealth, in dealing with members of the fighting forces, to go a good deal further than is proposed in the bill. I see no necessity for obtaining additional authority in that respect. But what is involved in the amendment proposed by the House of Representatives? It deals with classes of persons who are not members of the fighting services, and, therefore, are not related to the subject-matter of the bill. The point was raised whether Senator Brand’s amendment was relevant to the bill. The re-employment of soldiers goes to the very heart of repatriation, and the Commonwealth’s defence powers are so extraordinarily wide that we can effectively provide for preference to members of the fighting forces. However, to suggest that under that power we could provide for preference to persons engaged in civil occupations under entirely different conditions is straining our idea of our constitutional powers too much. Whilst I believe, that the Commonwealth under its defence powers could completely provide for preference to members of the fighting forces, I do not think that it could enforce tha!, principle in respect of civilian occupations. If the Government is really in earnest in this matter - and I believe it is - it should not deal with it in this piecemeal fashion. Whether we can constitutionally legislate in respect of members of the mercantile marine, to whom Got eat Britain owes the existence of its life-line, or members of the crews of civil aircraft who from time to time operate in war zones, is another matter altogether. In view of the numerous classes of persons who have some claim to preference, we must realize that it is necessary to provide degrees of preference. For instance, preference cannot be unlimited from the point of view of time. The majority of the members of the fighting forces do not imagine for a moment that preference can be given for all time. We cannot shut out for ever those persons who, because they were too young, or for some other good reason, were unable to join the forces. There must be degrees of preference even from the point of view of time ; and other factors also exist to make degrees of preference imperative. The Government’s action in this matter is irregular from the point of view of parliamentary practice, and it is outside its constitutional power. Therefore, it should bring down a separate measure to provide for preference for all classes of persons, in addition to soldiers, whose war service qualifies them for preference. Senator Brand’s amendment is far too limited. It provides that soldiers shall receive preference in the Commonwealth Public Service and from government instrumentalities and contractors carrying out government contracts, but I would vote to give preference to them in all fields of employment. It is a mistake to attempt to drag civilians into a bill which deals entirely with repatriation of members of the fighting services. For God’s sake, let the Senate rise above charges that a step taken for the protection of men who deserve all that this country can give them has the sinister motive of party advantage.
– Senator Brand said that preference would not be needed for members of the mercantile marine and civil airmen. Why, then, does he object to their inclusion in this bill? But the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) believes that members of .the mercantile marine do need preference, because he is prepared to support an amendment of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act for the purpose of providing that preference. I submit to Senator Brand and those who share his view that merchant seamen will not need preference, that it is reasonably certain that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of them will not be able to follow their calling after the war and that it will be necessary for them to find other occupations. No suggestion has been made by the Opposition that some provision should be made for them. I? it suggested that they should join the ranks of the unemployed and exist on the dole, as so many of them had to do after the last war? Merchant seamen are worthy of consideration. The secretary of the Mercantile Marine Sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia does not agree with Senator Brand, for this is what he wrote in a short letter to the Sydney Morning Herald of yesterday -
Sir. - The merchant seamen of Australia and the ships they sail through danger-infested seas are as much in the firing-line as any of the strictly combatant forces. Because no casualty list of merchant seamen is issued it is not well known that hundreds of Australian seamen have paid the supreme sacrifice, and a very great number have suffered, the horrors caused by collision, fire, and attack by enemy planes, surface vessels, and submarine.
Mr. Menzies, in speaking in the Federal House, said that he did not, see any reason why merchant seamen should be included in any act giving preference to the returned soldiers. Well, we see no reason why they should not be; and the returned soldiers, at the annual congresses of the R..S.L., have consistently advocated that all privileges extended to them should also be granted to the merchant seamen. It is pleasing to note that Mr. Hughes, the leader of Mr. Menzies’s party, wishes to include the seamen and those gallant knights of the air, the Civil Air Force, and the members of the A.A.N.S. Perhaps, had Mr. Menzies gone overseas during the last war, he would better understand the work and claims of the merchant service, Civil Air Force, and nursing sisters, and would be prepared to honour those very gallant services by giving his support to any act that may do them justice.
We ask of Australia justice to the fighting merchantmen and Civil Air Force of stout hearts who bring food to our troops, without which they could not live, the munitions without which they could not fight, the oil that feeds the fires of our Navy and the engines of our Air Force, without which the whole of the fighting forces would be reduced to inactivity.
I could not set before Senator Brand and his colleagues a higher authority on this matter than the returned soldiers themselves.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to “ tacking “. This is the first time that preference has been tacked on to a repatriation bill, proving conclusively that the Opposition’s desire is to embarrass the Government rather than to deal with the merits of the situation.
– That cannot be so, because Senator Brand’s amendment does not contain a provision for the enforcement of preference. What he has said, in effect, is that contractors shall be allowed to say to a returned soldier who is applying for a job : “ I do not require your services because you are not competent.”
– I rise to order. I submit that the Minister is not in order in discussing the merits of the original proposal which the Government has accepted.
– The two proposals are inter-related and I shall not try to separate them. When speaking on one proposal, an honorable senator must necessarily refer to the other.
– I am simply stating that the Opposition cannot make charges of tacking, against the Government because the Opposition has been guilty of tacking on to the Repatriation Bill something which has never been embodied in repatriation legislation.
– And honorable senators opposite have held office for most of the time.
– Yes. Senator Spicer compared the part played by members of the fighting forces with that of the civilian population, so I may be pardoned if I make a similar comparison. As frequently as possible, I visit the workshops. At some of the factories skilled men are working in airconditioned rooms under the very best possible conditions. The rooms are not airconditioned for their benefit; they are airconditioned to meet the requirements of the machinery which is extraordinarily sensitive to changes of temperature. Those men are vitally necessary. Without their high precision work, their concentration, their genius, and their ingenuity the fighting services would be powerless. They are needed to produce the 25-pounder guns, the Bren guns, the Austen guns, and other weapons of war without which soldiers would be ineffective.
– Is the honorable senator opposing preference to returned soldiers ?
– No. I am in favour of preference, but I want to ensure that no employer shall have the right to say to a soldier, “ I will not employ you because you are not competent “. The employers are given that right by the original amendment. Senator Spicer is in favour of preference which is limited by that right, but he is not in favour of returned soldiers being able to say, “ We are quite competent. We have been judged wrongly and we demand work”. In 1923 there were between 350 and 400 returned soldiers in the Victorian Police Force. Those men, among the finest to return from the last war, were well disciplined men doing their duty, but they were dissatisfied with the conditions under which they were employed by the then Victorian Government, and, because they had the temerity to challenge those conditions, they were discharged and never reinstated.
– What has that to do with the amendment?
– It shows the way in which the returned soldiers were treated after the last war. A worse case occurred in 1928 when 1,500 returned soldiers were replaced on the wharves by Italians and other foreigners who could not even speak English. One returned soldier was shot by a foreigner, and I have yet to learn that he was punished for his crime.
– I rise to order. I submit that the principle of preference to soldiers has been accepted, and that we are discussing an amendment to include certain classes of civilians.
– The amendment that was originally carried by the Senate and agreed to by the House of Representatives deals with preference to soldiers, sailors, airmen and others in the fighting forces. The amendment in its amended form extends its scope. Under the original amendment, a member of the fighting forces applying for a job must be given preference if the employer considers him competent. Under the amended amendment should ex-service men and merchant seamen or civil airmen apply for a position the employer could not discriminate. Therefore, the two proposals are inter-related, and I cannot see how they can be separated.
– I have yet- to learn that any honorable senators ,on the Opposition side stood behind the 350 returned soldiers who were discharged by the Victorian Government at the time I speak of, said a word in their defence, made representations for their reinstatement, or protested against Italians, who were provided with police protection, taking their places on the wharfs.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
– I disagree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and with Senator Brand. The latter may be able to fool the members of the Opposition and some of the people, but he cannot, by the limited form of preference which he offers to them, fool the boys who are fighting in this war. The Opposition refuses to agree to the Government’s amendment, not because it disagrees with the sentiment behind it, but because it is argued that the merchant seamen will, after the war, continue to follow their present avocation, and have better jobs because of improved conditions on the ships and the disappearance of war-time dangers. The Opposition says that therefore there i3 no necessity for preference for those- men. It also argues that there is no need to give preference to the crews of civil aircraft, because after the war improved air travel conditions will bring a greater number of passengers, and more goods will be carried by cargo planes, with the result that their services will be much more extensively utilized. I am convinced that, from the 19th of February, the Opposition determined to use its nineteen votes to embarrass the Curtin Government, and to attempt to discredit it in the eyes of the nation. It is piffle to accuse the Government of “ tacking “ in this matter. If ever “ tacking “ took place, it was when the Opposition placed this amendment in the Repatriation Bill. The legislation which should have been amended was the Commonwealth Public Service Act. I cannot understand how men can refuse, for any other object than to embarrass the Government at the instance of the right honorable mem., ber for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), to give preference to injured merchant seamen who at the end of the war cannot follow their ordinary avocation. When they apply for jobs on shore, the Opposition denies their right to preference. That attitude is not sincere. I do not. believe that one honorable senator opposite really believes that such men are not entitled to preference. The Opposition is simply playing dirty, low politics because it has the numbers. The soldiers themselves do not accept its move as being made in any spirit of helpfulness to them. During the week-end I discussed the matter with members of the executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, who regard the Senate’s amendment as purely political. When Senator Brand, who claims to be full of sympathy for the soldiers, includes in his amendment the words “ and who are competent for the work required “, he knows that he destroys the very basis of preference. Not one man in any section of the armed forces could apply for a position with any hope of success while that provision remains, .because the employer is to determine who is competent. Having to engage the labour, he will say to the soldier, “Yes, you have wonderful credentials and high qualifications, but I am sorry to say that I do not think you are competent to do the job “. Who is, going to be the arbiter to say that his attitude is wrong ? I warn the members of the Opposition that they will not fool the diggers by what they are doing. These boys do not want preference. Senator Foll even suggested that there should be a first, second and third preference, which would mean the introduction of priorities to decide whether A, B or 0 shall get a job. That would be a fine advertisement for Australia. What would the boys who have done a wonderful job at the front think of that sort of treatment? At this stage, God only knows how many of those who are here to-day will be here when the war ends, or how many others will be dragged into the fighting services. The Opposition used all the speed at its command to try to force its amendment upon the Government, not to improve the lot of the soldier,, but definitely to embarrass the Government, and now it proposes to annoy the Government more by rejecting its amendment. What the soldier, the merchant seaman and the civil aviation pilot will want when the war ends is security and the certainty of employment, and not to score off his mate by means of preference. I said years ago and have maintained all through, that no honest soldier, no “ cove “ who was prepared to go into the front line, would want on his return to take the coward’s course of scoring off his brother, his mate, or the boys whose fathers paid the supreme sacrifice. These men believed that, if they had the ability to go into the front line, they would be considered to have the qualifications to command jobs without any preference. It would certainly sadden them to think that the men in New Guinea when they returned might bc given second or third preferences and wiped off the list of those eligible for employment, on the ground that they were not fully competent to do the work. The newspapers have already pointed out that the Opposition is simply attempting to embarrass the Government. I trust that the people will realize that there is no sincerity in what the Opposition is doing. One honorable senator opposite said that the provision for merchant seamen should be made in an amendment of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, and not in this bill. Similarly I say that the Senate’s amendment should have been made in the Commonwealth Public Service Act. The honorable senator argued that the Government’s amendment was useless, because there would be no merchant seamen or civil aviation pilots who would need assistance under it. The nineteen honorable senators opposite are determined not only to embarrass the Government, but also to rub in the dirt. They thought that they would get the bill through before luncheon to-day by means of a policy of silence, thus pleasing some people who want to see the Government embarrassed, and enabling them to leave Canberra by 4 o’clock this afternoon. The Government should insist on this important matter” being fully debated. The Opposition has no right, at this stage, to embarrass the Government by holding up the bill, at the behest of the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) or the legal luminaries in its own ranks, who are directing its tactics. Whatever it does, it cannot fool the public of Australia. I remember numerous cases in which the Stevens Preference Act of New South Wales fooled the people. The Commonwealth preference measure, with the words “ other things being equal “, debarred “ dinkum “ soldiers from obtaining any jobs except on the end of a pick or shovel. The position of secretary of the Prince Alfred Hospital, worth approximately £1,000 a year, was not given to a returned soldier. The phrases “ other things being equal “, and “ competent for the work required “ make it practically impossible for a soldier to get a job. The Opposition party has absolutely destroyed preference, and it knows it. It has put forward its amendment simply for political purposes.
– And a cheap fraud.
– That is quite true. If the Opposition believes that its amendment is a good one, it should readily accept the Government’s amendment. If it will not include it in this bill, but will embody it in the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, its insincerity is apparent. I hope that the Government will reject the embarrassing amendment which the Senate has made in the bill, and will let the people of Australia know exactly what the position is.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) suggested that the granting of preference to merchant seamen could be ensured by an appropriate amendment of the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act, but that proposal overlooks the claims of the crews of civil aircraft operating in combat zones. Obviously, the whole problem of preference could be better dealt with in one act instead of in two or three acts.
– “Why has not the Government done that?
– Why did not the United Australia party government make that provision?
– The present Government has had eighteen months in which to introduce a comprehensive bill.
– Previous governments had longer than that, but failed to take action.
– The Senate’s amendment to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill is without precedent. When this amendment was first submitted, I suggested, on behalf of the Government, that the Opposition should defer action in order to enable the Government to introduce a comprehensive measure. I emphasized the advantage of appointing a committee representing all parties in this chamber to examine the matter. When that proposal was rejected, the Government had no opportunity to introduce a comprehensive bill. I warn honorable senators opposite that their action will jeopardize the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill.
– It will not.
– The responsibility for delaying the granting of the benefits that this bill will confer upon those entitled to receive them, will rest with the Opposition. Honorable senators opposite must understand that. Representatives of returned soldiers’ organizations have assured me officially that they have no objection to the granting of preference, as the Government proposes, to merchant seamen and to the crews of civil aircraft operating in combat zones. Why do honorable senators opposite attempt to jeopardize the bill when all the evidence proves that the Government is actuated by the highest motives in seeking to provide for all categories who are entitled to receive repatriation benefits? We should try to do better after this war than was done after the last war for returned soldiers. A good deal has been said about a “new order” and we all hope that a better social and economic order will be established after this war. If the suggestion of Senator Foll for introducing a system of priorities in the matter of preference be adopted, returned soldiers will be divided among themselves. Each of three brothers might be in a different category. That would represent industrial regimentation in its’ most provocative form and would cause endless disputes and recriminations. That unrest could be avoided if the Opposition will accept the Government’s amendment.
Question put -
That the amendment of the House of Representatives upon the Senate’s amendment No. 3 be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Brown.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Resolution reported : report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That Senators McLeay, McBride and Brand be a committee to draw up reasons for disagreeing to the amendment made by the House of Representatives.
– On behalf of the committee I bring up the following report: -
As members of the committee appointed to draw up reasons for the Senate’s disagreement to the amendment of the House of Representatives upon amendment No. 3 of the Senate in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill 1943, we now present to the Senate for its consideration the following reason: -
That the question of preference to those engaged in civil occupations should not be dealt with in a measure purely related to members of the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the reason be adopted.
Sitting suspended from 2.80 to4p.m.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it did not insist on its amendment to amendment No. 3 made by the Senate, and that it had now agreed to the Senate’s amendment.
SenatorKEANE. - This morning
The Treasurer has now supplied the following answer : -
Yes, there is the actual liability, but the Commissioner of Taxation knows of no case where such liability has been enforced and doubts very much whether any Deputy Commissioner would attempt to enforce such liability on the military pay. It may be that if the member of the forces has other civilian income the liability for payment may be enforced in respect of such civilian income. With regard generally to liability for tax in respect of income earned before enlistment, the Taxation Department has been adopting a very sympathetic policy towards members of the forces. Where the enlistment has brought about a restriction of income and the soldier would be financially embarrassed if compelled to meet the tax from his military pay, no attempt has been made to enforce payment. Where, however, the circumstances are such that the taxpayer should have met his tax liability before enlistment, and there is no good reason to believe that he will not be in a position to meet the liability from his civilian income after discharge, the department has postponed the collection of the tax for review at the conclusion of the war. It might be added, for the information of honorable senators, that, speaking generally, pay and allowances of members of the forces are exempt from taxation both in respect of such earned prior to as well as after embarkation.
– Earlier to-day
asked me a question relating to the publication in the press of news regarding strikes in the coal-mining industry. I am now in a position to inform him that the censorship authorities have not prohibited the publication in the press of news relating to that matter.
Motion (by Senator Collings) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour, to be fixed by the President, but not later than the 23rd June next, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Magnesium - Man-power in Rural
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I understand that the Government proposes to expend some millions of pounds on the production of aluminium, but I point and that in the United States of America, aluminium is regarded as not so suitable as magnesium for the manufacture of aeroplane parts. The use of magnesium, except for the manufacture of fireworks and similar purposes, was unknown in Great Britain and the United States of America until recently, but the Government of the United States of America now subsidizes the Dow Chemical Company, which is producing this year 400,000,000 lb. of magnesium. This metal is one- third lighter than aluminium. It was not known that it was suitable for the manufacture of aeroplane parts until an examination of a Messerschmitt aircraft, which had been shot down, revealed that the engines and other parts were made of magnesium. The process of manufacturing magnesium is simple. It is made from sea-water. At first this metal was produced from material obtained from salt wells and lakes, but, as the supply from that source was found insufficient, the Dow Chemical Company adopted the process of pumping 300,000,000 gallons of sea-water daily over a long neck of land, and the waste water emerges on the opposite side 7 miles away so that the same water is not used again. Magnesium is extracted from the water and when the metal is rolled into bars and sheets is not inflammable ; in fact, it cannot be ignited with a blow lamp. The general impression formerly was that magnesium was too expensive to manufacture, but the Wright Aeronautical Corporation has a special plant for casting magnesium and manufacturing it into 150 different parts. A great deal of the metal now used in aircraft in America is composed of magnesium, and more could be used. The Government of the United States of America has subsidized other, companies besides the Dow Chemical Company to enable them to produce this valuable metal.
It seems to me that the Commonwealth Government should make a full investigation of the uses to which this metal can be put, .and inquire regarding the possibility of manufacturing it in Australia before proceeding with the production of aluminium. All sea-water contains a certain proportion of magnesium, and I venture the opinion that many of the salt lakes in Australia are highly impregnated with magnesium and could be used for the production of this metal. The weight of metal in an aeroplane with four engines constructed of magnesium parts is 360 lb. less than an aeroplane with four engines in which aluminium parts are used. The Dow Chemical Company produces magnesium at a cost of lid. per lb., and this metal is only one-fourth the weight of steel and it i.« nne-third lighter than aluminium.
Therefore it is not .an expensive metal to manufacture. I understand that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited manufactures magnesium at present from ore, but not by the simple process adopted by the Dow Chemical Company. I am informed that the system adopted by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is more costly than that used in the United States of America. I hope that the Government will endeavour to ensure that possibilities of manufacturing magnesium on a large scale in Australia are fully explored. A full description of the progress made in the manufacture of this metal in the United States of America from sea-water is to be found in theReader’s Digest of March, 1942. The article states that in the near future tools such as shovels, will be made of this metal, which is as strong as steel and onethird lighter than aluminium. I recommend the Government to request theCouncil for Scientific and Industrial Research to investigate the possibility of the salt lakes of Australia yielding magnesium. Every bath-tub- full of sea-water is said to contain material from which i lb. of this metal, which is the third most common metal in the world, can beproduced.
.. - I direct attention to the call up of fulltime rural workers from farms in Tasmania. These men are either farmers ormen engaged on full time rural production who previously had been called upby the military authorities but were afterwards exempted from military service on the strong recommendation of the DeputyDirector of Man Power. Although now on the area reserve, they will come under the control of the Army authorities. In Tasmania the labour necessary to carry on rural production has been reduced to the bare minimum. It is true that about 1,500 men were temporarily released from the Army to engage in rural production in that State, but most of them, were released for only a few weeks duringthe harvesting period, and are now back in the Army. The 300 or 400 men who are on the area reserve represent the bare minimum of labour required to maintain rural production, but the Army is now calling up some of them. Should they be called up regardless of the recommendation of the Deputy Director of Man Power, primary production in Tasmania, where the output is greater in proportion to the population than in any other State, will drop by about 50 per cent. If the position be so serious that the last man must be grabbed by the fighting services in order to save Australia 1 agree that these men must -be taken from rural production, but if, as appears to be the case, Australia is preparing for another two or three years of war, I fear that our food production will suffer if these men are called up for army service. I do not know whether the Government is aware of what is taking place, but as it appears not to know 1 suggest that this matter he investigated with a view to seeing whether labour could not he withdrawn from some less important industry, if necessary,’ to maintain the fighting services at the requisite strength, rather than that men should he withdrawn from rural industries.
– Senator Gibson has advocated the production of magnesium, particularly for aeroplane construction. I remind the Government that this subject was raised some time ago by Tasmanian members of this Parliament, and that their representations were brought to the notice of the then Minister for Supply and Development as well as officers of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The use of magnesium in preference to aluminium for aeroplane construction is not new. “When this matter was under consideration some years ago a powerful company gave close attention to it, and afterwards decided to continue with the manufacture of aluminium. The revival of this subject will be of interest to Tasmanian senators, and I hope that in investigating it the representations made some time ago will be considered.
SenatorLECKIE (Victoria) [4.50].- About a fortnight ago I asked some questions relating to the extension of the aerodrome at Essendon, Victoria. Answers were supplied to me, but the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) who supplied them was of the opinion that they should not be published. They therefore were not included in Hansard. I have no quarrel with that act of censorship, hut I should like an assurance from the Minister that he will look into this matter again, with a view to satisfying himself that there are sufficient reasons why a considerable number of people should be inconvenienced. I should also like his assurance that the contemplated action is necessary, so that the people concerned may know that their interests have not been neglected by me,or by the Minister.
.- Recently the 9th Division returned to Australia from the Middle East. The men of that division have followed in the wake of others who had previously returned from that theatre of war. According to news which has come to hand lately the campaign in the Middle East appears to be drawing to a close, and for that we are thankful. It seems likely that the battle for North Africa will shortly be concluded. I ask the Government to give consideration either to making representations to the British Government that a medal should be struck for the men who served in the Middle East, or failing that being done, to striking an Australian medal to commemorate the gallant exploits of Australians in that theatre of war.
– Would the honorable senator include the men who have fought in New Guinea?
– I refer particularly to the Middle East campaign because until recently, it was somewhat separate from the general campaign, but I do not wish to detract in any way from the merit of the achievements of our men in New Guinea. Over a fairly long period Australian and New Zealand troops, with their Allies, have been operating in the Middle East, and, indeed, their efforts saved the situation when it looked as though Alexandria would fall. The original “ Rats of Tobruk “ were men of the 9th Division, and the breaking of the El Alamein line was due largely to their efforts. Although I cannot verify the statement, I am advised that until 1939 an Imperial Medal was issued to men who served in the Middle East, but that the issue was discontinued in that year. The average returned soldier, unless he has gained some individual distinction such as a D.S.O. or an M.C. - and these distinctions are not conferred on many men - is debarred from wearing any decoration on his tunic whilst serving with the Forces, whilst other medals such as a Peace Medal are usually not issued until long after the cessation of hostilities. As Senator Brand pointed out some time ago, the only distinctive badge that men who have returned from the Middle East are entitled to wear is a blue service chevron on their sleeves. Many of them are wearing three or four chevrons. The Middle East conflict which fortunately now appears to be drawing to a close may be regarded as a complete campaign in itself, and in view of the good work that has been accomplished, the Government should give some consideration to striking a special medal to be awarded to those who have fought in that war zone, so that it can be awarded to them now, or in the near future and not, as has been the case in the past, some time after the’ close of hostilities which may be some years ahead.
, - I was very interested in the helpful suggestion made by Senator Gibson in regard to the production of magnesium. I have here a watch which bears the inscription “ Senator K. C. Wilson - from his fellow senators on his enlistment in the A.I.F., 30th May, 1940 “. I prize that watch as much as any gift that I have ever received in my life. It has accompanied me through the various countries in which I have served. To-day it is kept around my wrist by a band, of the very metal to which Senator Gibson has referred, made from a piece of a German Messerschmitt. The band was fashioned by my batman with practically no tools at all, demonstrating once again the amazing ingenuity of the. Australian. As Senator Gibson pointed nut, magnesium has some definite advantages over aluminium in regard to aircraft construction, and is extremely light and flexible. I am sure that the Government will make a thorough investigation into the possibility of producing magnesium in this country at the earliest possible date. In Australia we do not recognize the word “ can’t “. In this war we have proved that we can do anything if only we try. Before the war we heard over and over again that we could not do this and we could not do that, but since we have been thrown upon our own resources, we have shown that nothing is beyond us. Senator Gibson’s suggestion is worthy of the fullest consideration.
I take this opportunity also’ to thank honorable senators for the glorious sendoff which they accorded to me when I enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, for the marvellous gift which they gave to me on that occasion, and for the warm welcome extended to me upon my return. I trust that when the Senate meets again honorable senators will he refreshed and will be eager to join in a wholehearted war effort towards victory.
Questionresolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Bankruptcy Act - Fourteenth Annual Report by the Attorney-General, for year ended 31st July, 1942.
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Taking possession of land, &c. (46). Use of land (8).
Senate adjourned at 5 p.m. to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. President, such date and hour to be not later than the 23rd June, next.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 April 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19430401_senate_16_174/>.