17th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Presentation to the Governor General.
– I have to acquaint the Senate that this day, accompanied by honorable senators, I waited on the GovernorGeneral and presented to him the AddressinReply to His Excellency’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament, agreed to on the 30th September. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply : -
I desire to thank you for the Addressin Reply, which you have just presented to me. It will afford me much pleasure to convey to His Most Gracious Majesty the King the message of loyalty from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, to which the Address gives expression.
SenatorKEANE (Victoria - Minister for Trade and Customs). - by leave - It is with pleasure that I inform the Senate that the communique received to-day from General Douglas MacArthur’s head quarters contains the following information : -
Rabaul. - The enemy has sustained a disastrous defeat from air attack at Rabaul. With complete secrecy the mass of our Air Force was concentrated and launched against his air and naval forces there using fields made possible by our occupation late in June of the island groups north of New Guinea. Recently we crushed the right wing of his air command at Wewak, this time our objective was his left wing at Rabaul. The division of his air forces into two great groups based upon Wewak and Rabaul has made it possible to use our main mass against first one flank and then the other, thus acquiring in each case superiority of force at the point of combat and destroying his force in detail. The surprise at Rabaul was as complete as at Wewak. Mustering every appropriate plane available, we struck at midday. The enemy was caught completely unaware with his planes, both bombers and fighters, on the ground. While our medium bombers raked the aerodromes, our heavy echelon swept shipping in the harbour. Both were covered by our fighters. A total of 350 tons of bombs were dropped and 250,000 rounds of ammunition fired. Our low-flying medium bombers striking at Vunakanau, Rapopo and Tobera aerodromes, destroyed 100 enemy aircraft caught on the ground, and severely damaged 51 others. So complete was the surprise that the enemy could put but 40 fighters in the air to defend; 20 of these were shot down in combat. In all 177 aeroplanes or approximately 00 per cent of the enemy’s accumulated air strength at this base were lost to him in this attack. Operations, buildings, radio installations, and many fuel and ammunition dumps were demolished or heavily damaged, anti-aircraft positions were silenced and a motor transport pool was wrecked. Fires raged throughout the areas. In the assault on the enemy’s shipping, our heavy bombers with 1,000lb. bombs sank or destroyed three destroyers, two merchant ships of 5,800 tons each and one of 7,000 tons, 43 seagoing cargo vessels ranging from 100 to 500 tons, and 70 harbour craft. In addition they hit and severely damaged a submarine and its 5,000ton tender, a 6,800ton destroyer tender, and a 7,000ton cargo ship. On shore two wharfs and a warehouse were destroyed, waterfront installations wrecked and many fires started. Five of our planes are missingand others were damaged. This operation, including the first phase at Wewak, gives us definite mastery in the air over the Solomons Sea and adjacent waters and thereby threatens the enemy’s whole perimeter ofdefence.
Release of Man-power - Casualties in New Guinea.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army inform the Senate whether a reasonable proportion of the men to be released from the Army for work on the food front will be made available to assist wheat farmers?
SenatorFRASER. - I take it that men released from the Army will be apportioned in accordance with the priority of the work for which they are released. I assume that application for release will be made by members of the Army, and, upon approval being granted, they will be allotted in accordance with the priorities.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether the casualties among troops in
Nc-w Guinea resulting from illness following the contraction of malaria are greater than actual combat casualties? If this is so, is it due to the fact that the measures taken to prevent the ravages of tropical diseases among those troops are inadequate? Further, is the rank of Army hygiene officers sufficient to allow them to give effect to the preventive measures necessary; and, if not, will the Minister investigate the matter with a view to taking remedial action?
– It is true that in the early stages of the New Guinea campaign casualties resulting from tropical diseases were greater than actual combat casualties. However, I have examined at first hand some of the measures taken in New Guinea to overcome the great difficulties which confronted Army hygiene officers in the early stages of that campaign. I assure the honorable senator that every attention is now being given to combating malaria and other tropical diseases.
– Will the Minister answer the last part of my question?
– The ranking of Army hygiene officers in New Guinea is very high. One of those officers was previously on the staff of the Commonwealth Health Department, and was seconded to the Army for that specific work. If the honorable senator desires additional information, I suggest that he place his question on the notice-paper.
Appointment to Department ok Postwar Reconstruction.
– Is Dr. Lloyd Ross, formerly secretary of the New South. Wales Branch of the Australian Railways Union, who was recently appointed to the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, a Communist? Is it true that he is to take over the duties of the Director-General of Post-war Reconstruction, Dj. Coombs?
– Dr. Ross is not a Communist; and he is not to take over the duties of the Director-General. He is to be a research officer in the department.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether he is aware that great inconvenience is being caused to a large number of primary producers because they are unable to obtain supplies of barbed wire and netting, whereas, at the same time, dumps of these articles which can be seen by the public at many places are being held by the Army authorities? Whilst I recognize the Army’s need of these articles, will the Minister give an assurance that steps will be taken to ensure that the Army authorities do not over-order requirements of these commodities and retain them in dumps at a time when they, are urgently required by primary producers?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for the Army.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping to request the Minister to review the motor car priorities now given to clergymen of all denominations, with a view to granting them a much higher priority.
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
– by leave - read a copy of the statement made in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister (vide page 557).
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Can the Leader of the Senate say who are the members of the Cabinet subcommittee on the coal-mining industry whose appointment he announced in the statement which he read this afternoon?
– The members of the sub-committee are the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), and the Minister for Transport and External Territories (Mr. Ward).
Formal Motion fob Adjournment.
– I have received f rom the Leader of the Opposition (Senator MeLeay) 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 seriousness of the continuous industrial upheaval in the New South Wales coal-mines, and its effect on the Australian war effort “.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 0 a.m.
– Is the motion supported?
Four honorable senators having risen in support of the motion,
– I move this motion in order to give to the Senate an opportunity to discuss a matter of very great national importance. I appreciate the fact that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) indicated yesterday that the Prime Minister would be making a statement on the coal position in Parliament to-day. I think that everybody was staggered on reading in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning a statement attributed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) which read- 2,000,000 tons of coal lost this year in NewSouth Wales on account of absenteeism and strikes.
This loss represents almost one-sixth of Australia’s total coal production in one year. Since I decided ‘ to move this motion, I have had an opportunity, hy courtesy of the Prime- Minister (Mr. Curtin), to study the statement which has just been read by the Leader of the Senate. This problem is above party politics. However, the Opposition has a duty to the people to direct the Government’s attention to the seriousness of the present position in the coal-mining industry, and to suggest to the Government methods by. which the present difficulties might be overcome. Judging by the information which I was able to obtain when Minister for Supply and Development, in discussing these matters with those associated with the industry, the coal-miners have never enjoyed better conditions since 1939. Their hours are shorter and their wages higher than they have ever been since the industry was established. In view of the serious war situation and the sacrifices being made by large sections of the community, particularly members of the fighting forces, it is deplorable that 2,000,000 tons of coal have been lost through strikes and absenteeism. I have taken the trouble to trace the policy of the Government in dealing with the coal industry since it took office.
– What about the Government of which the honorable senator was a member?
– The Menzies Government, particularly its leader, did all it possibly could to get the miners to play the game. If members of the Curtin Government wish to revive that subject, they will be reminded . that the then Opposition was not as co-operative with the Menzies Government as it might have been. At a later stage, in dealing with the proposals set out by the Government to-day, I shall draw attention tq the disastrous effect which” the coal shortage has had on the war effort. In my opinion, the policy of appeasement adopted by the Curtin Government during the last two years has proved a failure. It is interesting to study the regulations issued and powers taken by the Government in attempting to handle this problem. I remind the Senate that in February, 1942, the Prime Minister said : “ The coal-miners must work or fight “. On the 13th May, 1942, the Prime Minister, in a lengthy statement in Parliament on the upheaval in tile coal-mining industry, said_ -
I accept the duty to enforce the law in order that those who are called upon to do their utmost for Australia shall, in the absence of their own volition, none the less be given only the choice that the law gives to them. . . . I .say to them: stand or fall by the issue: if they do not, the Government will invoke all its authority to compel them to do so.
On the 23rd November, 1941, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in a statement deploring the coal-mining industry upheaval, said -
At the present moment when the Commonwealth Ministers are working day and night to overhaul and improve the nation’s war organization, this stay-in strike is utterly mad and utterly bad. . . . We find that, when the Government is bringing down regulations for facilitating the settlement of disputes in the coal industry - and an appointment of a tribunal is about to be made - a few men make this melodramatic and futile gesture which further holds up production. With the war at such a critical stage, their action will be resented and condemned by the rank and file of the workers throughout the Commonwealth.
On the 9th April, 1942, the Prime Minister said -
I feel the greatest admiration for the way the coal-miners are keeping on the job in every State except New South Wales. I cannot imagine that the problems of the industry are greater there than in other States, and having regard to the requirements of the country and its desperate struggle for existence, I doubt if any man could be satisfied with the piffling reasons advanced as justification for the stoppages, with great losses of production. The cumulative effect has greatly impaired the total war effort. A coalminer who is not producing coal is in the same category as a munitions worker who is not producing munitions or a soldier who. has deserted his post.
Honorable senators will also be aware of the various powers taken by the Government from time to time to deal with this problem. I say most emphatically that in spite of the Prime Minister’s repeated promises to the people of Australia the Government has not been prepared to enforce the law, and that the policy of appeasement is one of the reasons for the chaotic position that prevails in the industry to-day. I ask the Leader of the Senate to tell me when power was taken by the Government and promises made by its leader that men of military age who were on strike would have to work or fight, and when fines were inflicted and charges made, why were the fines remitted and the charges withdrawn? By whom were they withdrawn? Is it proper that the Government should enforce the law of the land against the Australian Imperial Force, yet as regards others who are enjoying much better conditions, because of the policy of appeasement and of political implications, the Government ha3 not the courage to act?
When we compare what has been said in the past with the statements which’ have been made to-day, we must insist on the Government answering that charge, not only to the Senate, but to the people of Australia. It can be said that the failure of the Government to enforce the law, and the attitude of the extremists in the coalmining industry, have made it plain to the people of Australia that responsible parliamentary government and law and order have been subordinated to union control and mob rule. The Government must also answer that charge to the people of this country. The policy of appeasement has not improved the position.
The proposals placed before the Senate this afternoon are more or less a repetition of promises made by the Prime Minister over the last two years. I suggest to the Government that, if it is to improve the position, if it wants to avoid the consequences of the rationing which it now proposes to introduce, and which will make things chaotic and inflict very great hardships on many sections of the community, the laws of the land must be enforced whether or not it means the loss of votes, or whatever the political consequences are. The first proposal in the statement made to-day by the Government is to remove the malcontents. We know what happened when inspectors were placed on the wharfs in Sydney to locate those who were shirking their duty to their country. A number of unionists on the wharfs immediately went on strike in sympathy with those who were being called up. On that occasion, for political reasons, the Government was not prepared to enforce the law.
– We fixed it all right.
– I do not know how the Minister for Trade and. Customs can justify that remark in view of the Prime Minister’s statement to-day in regard to conditions that exist in the industry.
In regard to the proposal that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) should act as a liaison officer between the coal-miners and the Prime Minister, I may say that whilst I have the highest regard for that honorable member, who, I am sure, has a thorough knowledge of the mining industry, I am afraid that it is just this type of political interference with the work of properly constituted tribunals that has been one of the most important causes of the continued strikes and unrest in the coalmining industry. We are committed to a system of industrial arbitration, and it is wrong for any Prime Minister or, in fact, any Minister to interfere with judicial authorities which have been set up to make awards and determinations. When an Arbitration Court judge or some other properly constituted authority has made a decision, it is not right that any honorable member, who may depend upon the vote of the coal-miners at the next elections, should be able to approach the Prime Minister and have that decision upset; but that lias been done in the past, and in that way our arbitration system has been seriously undermined. We have been informed to-“day that it is proposed further to reduce coal supplies to the railways by 25 per cent. In the past, we have had the sorry spectacle of wounded soldiers being unable to obtain sleeping accommodation on the trains because a shortage of coal has forced a reduction of services. We have also seen men of our armed services travelling in cattle trucks whilst on leave, and men who have rendered long service outside Australia have been unable to visit their homes before departing for N”ew Guinea owing to the shortage of transport. I understand that recently Army leave has had to be cancelled in certain instances for the same reason. If all that has been taking place prior to this further reduction of coal supplies, honorable senators can imagine how much worse the position will be in the future. I do not propose* to go any farther into the details of this matter, because it must be obvious to all honorable senators that the reduction of 12£ per cent, will have an effect upon our munitions production, and will involve lighting restrictions and other unnecessary inconveniences, to the detriment of our war effort generally. If the law is to be enforced against members of the
Australian Imperial Force and against other sections of the community, the Government should have the courage also to enforce it against its own political supporters. It has been stated that a vigorous campaign of publicity will be undertaken. That means that, despite the already serious shortage of manpower, another department will be set up to handle rationing, and, in addition, men will be engaged to tell the people of Australia how necessary it is to ration coal. The Government should have the courage- to go to the root of the trouble and see that more coal is produced.
– ‘How would the honorable senator do that?
– As Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, I would stand by the Prime Minister’s original declaration that if the coalminers were not prepared to work they’ would be made to fight, and if they were too old to fight they would find themselves in internment camps. I urge the Government to take its courage in its hands, and deal with this matter in a manner worthy of a responsible administration.
.- I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has taken this opportunity to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss this vitally important matter. It wa3 unworthy of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to allege, by way of interjection, that this action was being taken as part of some political game. I am sure that every honorable senator, irrespective of his party affiliation or his political views, is convinced of the necessity to ensure that this essential industry is carried on without these continual stoppages involving serious loss of production. There is no doubt that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), like his immediate predecessors in office, has been let down badly by those responsible for the production of coal in this country. It was deplorable indeed that honorable senators, who earlier to-day listened enthusiastically to a story of a wonderful victory in the South-West Pacific Area, should have had to listen immediately afterwards to a statement drawing attention to the fact that this vital industry, which is the foundation of most of our war activities, was causing .so much concern to the Government and to the nation, that coal supplies were to be more severely rationed, not because of additional war demands, but because those individuals engaged in the industry were not prepared to do their share and to “back the attack “. I feel just as sorry for the Prime Minister as I did for his predecessors, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), when they were confronted with the same difficulty. In my view, the present state of affairs in the coal-mining industry has been brought about mainly because of the fact that for years past the miners have been able to bluff government after government, and Prime Minister after Prime Minister. By means of clever and subtle propaganda they have been able to convince successive governments and the people of Australia that their industry is one in which very special qualifications are necessary, and that these qualifications are handed down from father to son, generation after generation. The fact is that coal-mining is not half so difficult as the work in many other Australian industries; but the propaganda has met with considerable success in political circles, and among the people of Australia generally. In addition, the miners have put up a vigorous fight against the mechanization of coal production. I was pleased that the Prime Minister, in his statement, said that the Government intended to fight this matter with the miners, and to ensure that mechanization of the coal-mines would continue. In no other industry have the workers been permitted to prevent the introduction of modern methods as the coal-miners have done. In the textile industry, the aircraft industry, and the motor car industry, every conceivable development in modern machinery has been exploited to the fullest, both to ease the lot of workers, and to make, production more efficient; yet, just because the introduction of machines might displace a few men, the miners’ organizations have been able to wage a successful fight against mechani- zation. I believe that much of the present difficulty will be overcome when uptodate methods are adopted in our coalmines. Also, by means of clever and subtle propaganda, the coal-miners have been successful in convincing the people of this country that their work is more arduous and more strenuous than that in any other pursuit. Nobody will claim that a coal-miner’s life is a bed of roses. Working conditions underground are certainly not so pleasant as those on the surface, such as in modern factories, but, in the northern parts of Queensland and in outback portions of South Australia and Western Australia, men are called upon to endure conditions that would make a day’s “work in a coal-mine seem to them like a holiday. One could cite the case of the fettlers on the Trans-Australian Railway, who often have to work in temperatures ranging from 112 to 120 degrees in the shade. One also recalls the long hours worked by men engaged in primary production, such as the sugar-cane-growers and dairyfarmers. To many of those men a day in the coal-mines would be a picnic, yet for years the industries of this country have been held to ransom by the workers in the coal-mines, because their bluff has not been called.
The proposals of the Government for increased coal production are to be commended. I congratulate it upon what it is doing to eliminate certain undesirable elements in the coal-mining industry. If, as suggested in the statement delivered to-day by the Minister for Trade and Customs, there are men in that industry who seem to take a delight in holding up the other industries of Australia, they should be dealt with promptly and severely. I fear, however, that the Government has adopted a cowardly method in attempting to solve the problem by the rationing of coal. Instead of concentrating on the reduction of train services and of the quantity of coal allowed to various industries, the Government should have made every possible effort to speed up production. The weakness of the Government’s proposals is that it has not exhausted every possibility of obtaining the requisite production of coal. Instead of making a determined effort to produce the coal required
Hie Government has adopted the cowardly attitude of inflicting burdens on the industries in need of coal. If the men engaged in coal production are not prepared to do the work required of them, others- should be put in their places, as was done in connexion with the loading n.nd unloading of ships. Many men now employed by the Allied Works Council, or serving in the Army, could be transferred to the coal-mining industry. I do not say that the coal-mine owners are entirely free from blame for the way in which production has been held up. Some of the mine managers may have adopted irritating tactics, but the irritations have not been of a sufficiently serious nature to warrant the reduction of production that has been witnessed. It is regrettable that the owners do not speak with one voice- in the same way as do the coalminers through their federation. If the mine-owners had spoken with a sufficiently strong voice, many of the disputes would probably have been avoided. I hope, with the Leader of the Opposition, that the conditions in the industry will improve from now on, but, if that is to happen, all parties concerned must evince willingness to co-operate. I trust that intimidation by the mine-owners will cease. The Prime Minister must take a strong stand, and, if there are elements in the industry that should be weeded out, I hope that the Government will act promptly in its efforts to secure the requisite production. I hope that the present restrictions will be of short duration. They are due, in the main, to the dog-in-a-manger attitude adopted by the nien engaged in the industry.
– Why did not the Government with which the honorable senator was associated do something in the matter?
– I stated at the outset of my speech that the previous Government had been bluffed in the same way as had the Curtin Government. The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) lives at Lithgow, where men are working twelve-hour shifts to keep the war effort going at full blast.
– The miners at Lithgow are working well.
– I commend any minors who work industriously. No doubt there are men employed in war production at Lithgow who work harder than, or at least equally as hard as, those engaged in coal production. The present restrictions are most unfair, and I hope that they will be removed at an early date, as a result of the increased production to which we look forward.
– In common with other members of the Senate, I express complete approval of the statement which has been read to us this afternoon by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), and made originally by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in the House of Representatives. My first comment is that the statement is belated. It is the first frank and complete statement made by the present Government during its occupancy of the treasury bench, and it will cause a great deal of concern and, perhaps, some dislocation, throughout Australia. We on this side appreciate as fully as does the Government the difficulties associated with the coal-mining industry. It was while I was Minister for Supply and Development that the first coal commission was set up in this country for the purpose of increasing the output of coal. Consequently, although I make no pretence to be an authority on coal-mining, I have some knowledge of the fundamentals of the industry. I recognize that in all countries it is a troublesome industry, due largely to the conditions under which the miners have to work. In peace-time, coal-mining gives only intermittent employment. That is a bad feature of the industry. I say frankly that, in my opinion, a great deal of the trouble that has arisen, particularly in pre-war days, although naturally it has been carried over into the war period, has been due to the lack of organization of the industry itself. The way in which the industry has been carried on has not been conducive to either harmony or full production. However, we might reasonably have expected that under war-time conditions, when all sections of the community are giving of their best in the interests of the country’s war effort, the miners would subordinate some of their grievances in the interests of the common ‘ good. But, as has been pointed out on many occasions, in spite of the fact that all kinds of industrial machinery - tribunals, commissions and other forms of arbitration - have been set up to iron out difficulties and resolve the many problems which arise, the troubles are increasing instead of lessening. Supporters of the Government have asked us on this side why we were unable to do better when we were in office. There were a number of reasons, some of which apply with equal force now that another government is in office. But one main reason was that we could not get to grips with the problem because of the misrepresentation of the situation on the coal-fields by members of the then Opposition. On numerous occasions they supported in toto the stand taken by the miners, when, had they taken the trouble to investigate the complaints, I believe that they would have found that conditions were not as they were represented to be. They would have found that many disputes were not caused by the mineowners or outside authorities, but were due to differences within the miners’ organizations themselves. Prior to the recent elections, when I had something to say on this subject, the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) disputed certain figures setting out the loss of coal production due to disputes which I presented to the Senate. Now those figures have been confirmed by the statement read this afternoon.
– The figures are riot the same.
– Moreover, the present Leader of the Senate is reported to have said in Melbourne during the election campaign that 90 per cent, of the stoppages were justified. I hope that the Minister was not correctly reported on that occasion.
– I have not a bad memory, but I do not remember saying that.
– That is the kind of statement that has been bandied about this country in order to deceive the people and to obtain support for the miners in their frequent stoppages of work. Some months before the elections the Minister in control of the industry is reported to have said at a conference in Melbourne -
I ask you, us representatives of the workers, to ask members of the union not to stop work for the next, four to six mouths. There must not be any absenteeism. If there is any further industrial turmoil, it will lessen the chance of the Labour Government at the next election.
Honorable senators will notice that the appeal to continue work was not for the tin ration of the war, but only until after the elections. I believe that the approach of elections is the reason why a statement similar to that which has been made to-day was not made earlier. The concern of the Government was not so much that coal should be produced in quantities sufficient for Australia’s best war effort, but that votes should be cast for government candidates. How can the miners be expected to live up to their obligations when they are told, not only by speakers on public platforms, but also by members of the National Parliament, that their action is justified, and that the trouble in the coal-mining industry is due to the irritation tactics adopted by mine owners and mine managers - indeed by any one excepting the miners themselves? Ministers must know the frivolous causes of many of the disputes that have occurred. In most cases, the stoppages have been due to internal dissension in the miners’ organizations, with which the owners and managers have had nothing to do. Had the statement which lias been made public to-day been given publicity earlier, the people of this country would have had a better understanding of what has been going on in the coal-mining industry. There has been a great deal of misrepresentation. On a number of occasions the present. Government has made some brave statements. I hold strongly that no Prime Minister, or government, is justified in making threats against any section of the community unless it is prepared to carry out those threats. Nothing is more conducive to turmoil and chaos in industry than for threats to be made by persons who do not intend to carry them out. I recall that a number of regulations has been issued giving complete power to the Government of the day to take effective action to settle industrial trouble, but I have yet to learn that any of those regulations have been acted upon by the Curtin Government. Now, the Prime Minister, who, during the whole of his term of office, has been playing with this problem, is endeavouring by one means and another to “ pass the buck “ to the miners, mine managers, or union officials. That is a disgraceful performance on the part of the head of a government. The Government is supposed to deal fairly with all sections of the community, and to administer the laws on that basis; but, in season and out of season, this Government tries to “ pass the buck “. More recently, it has tried to do so to the union officials themselves. What is the position of these officials? They are dependent for their positions upon the votes of the miners, because they must face executive elections every twelve months.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing; but it is a cowardly action on the part of the Government, which faces the electors only every three years, to take advantage of that fact to hand over to these men a job which it has not the courage itself to perform. Consequently, we find that these men refuse to accept the “ buck “. They speak loudly and strongly, but they do not act; and in the last resort they naturally side with the men upon whose votes they rely for re-election to their positions. Now, when another election of union officials is drawing near, they are certainly not going to tell the miners the real truth, or instruct them to do what they really think they should do. If they adopt that attitude, they will certainly not be re-elected to their present positions.
We have heard quite a lot about the production of coal. I commend the proposals contained in the Prime Minister’s latest statement, as I commended the proposals contained in the regulations previously enacted by the Government, but which the Prime Minister did not have the courage to implement. However, now that he has decided upon this course, I sincerely hope -that he will act immediately, and not dilly-dally again, and eventually fail to take any action whatever. The suggestion that coalmining is so peculiar, or so difficult, that no one but experienced miners oan undertake it is, as .Senator Foll has said, mere flapdoodle. Many skilled tradesmen, under the duress of war. have agreed to courses which they would normally reject in normal times. For instance, we have had dilution of labour in many industries, whereby the skilled workers in those industries have agreed to the admission of outsiders on a basis which would enable them to be trained as quickly as possible as operators in the industry. The object of that policy is to increase war production. The same policy can be implemented with respect to coal-mining. As a matter of fact, no evidence has yet been offered that the coal-mining industry really requires one single additional man at present. Had this 2,000,000 tons of coal which has been lost to this country actually been produced - and the natural inference is that the loss was due to strikes and absenteeism, and therefore could have been averted - we should not be obliged to-day to impose the drastic rationing of coal now proposed. To suggest that in order to placate these men we must transfer many men from other essential industries to the coal industry is only further evidence of the cowardice of the ‘Government in its approach to this problem. I say that if these men would work and produce at their pre-war rates we could step up production not by 2,000,000 tons, but by 4,000,000 tons annually.
– How did the honorable senator discover that?
– It is strange that the Government, which has been so concerned- about coal production, did not previously discover that fact. Of course, it will discover it in its own good time.
– How would the honorable senator make these men work?
– I repeat that I commend the Government’s latest proposals. It is well known in the industry, and I am sure it is not unknown to the Government, that there are elements in -the industry which, in season and out of season, .are causing trouble. They have been causing trouble since the war commenced. Yet, although it has been known all along that they have been responsible, no action has been taken against them because, so we are told, we need coal. No action whatever will be taken if the only way we can get coal is to tolerate these elements in the industry.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I have said in this chamber, and I now repeat it, that war conditions constitute the acid test of many of our ideas and institutions and methods of government. Many ideas that were held in pre-war days are now being abandoned in the light of war-time experience. The trouble in the coal-mining industry is really a test of some of our industrial methods. I repeat that practically all strikes and industrial disputes have their origin in dictatorial control on the part of the managements, and that the remedy is to democratize that control.
– Does not the honorable senator agree with the Prime Minister?
– I agree that the Prime Minister is making the correct approach to the problem. He is trying to bring about an improvement in the existing state of affairs with the least amount of friction. I agree entirely with him in that respect; but, as I have said, strikes and industrial disputes have their origin in dictatorial control, and the remedy is to democratize the control of industry. Any employer of labour, or any one who has made a close study of industrial strikes, will agree with that statement. During a debate in this chamber last session, I cited in support of that view statements made by Sir Herbert Gepp in an article in the June issue of Rydge’s Magazine, in which he pointed out that progress in the industrial world was to be made, not by bringing about a state of economic absolutism, which is just another term for dictatorial control, but by democratizing industry, in the same way as government is democratized in this country. He- urged that the workers in industry should be given representation in the management of industry. But the policy which prevails to-day ignores the workers’ claims altogether. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) assumed that only the miners are at fault. I have had con siderable experience in dealing with industrial disputes. In 1940 my colleagues and I visited the coal-fields in New South Wales when there was a strike in progress; and that strike was settled as the result of our efforts. But on that occasion I discovered that the employers were working at cross-purposes. They were not co-operating with each other as they should. Some of them were desirous of shutting up certain mines in order that they themselves could monopolize the production of coal. They had to be told in fairly plain terms that that sort of thing would not he tolerated. We also found that other obstacles due to the same causes had to be overcome. Strikes in the coal-mining industry, as Senator McBride has been good enough to admit, are not peculiar to Australia. Hold-ups in the industry are occurring in Great Britain, and have been occurring in that country since the beginning of the war, and also in the United States of America. But, generally, what do we find ? We find that nine out of ten of the members opposed to labour, in the Parliaments of those countries, instead of trying to understand the fundamental causes of industrial trouble do nothing but condemn the miners. They say, not directly, but by implication, that the men are disloyal and would sell out to the enemy. I reply quite dispassionately that if that is the Opposition’s approach to the settlement of strikes or industrial disputes, all it will do is to make what is already bad very much worse. If, however, it approaches the problem by trying to understand the conditions of management and of working peculiar to the coalmines, with a view to removing obstacles and difficulties, it will obtain different and better results. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) said that a number of tribunals had been appointed to deal with the matter. That is perfectly true, but he omitted to point out that not one of them was a free agent. They, are all circumscribed by preliminary conditions, and so are compelled to subordinate what they believe to what is laid down on paper for them
– The Government to which the honorable senator belongs laid down those conditions.
– The Government inherited a system of doing things in time of war which unfortunately cannot be changed overnight. If we were living in times of peace our approach would be different, but ever since the Government was constituted it has often, for practical purposes, as I have repeatedly said, placed its policy in cold storage rather than make a change at this juncture. Speaking for myself, I would much rather take a. risk with my political enemies than with enemies outside our shores. If the Opposition wishes to indict the Government, and make a reasonable approach to the question, it should be prepared to give the Government credit in that respect, and take into consideration the circumstances in which it came into being two years ago and is still working. If we are to have a. reasonable period of peace in the coal industry and increased production, we must democratize the control. One step which could be taken, and which I have found very effective in aircraft production - and I understand that it has been found most effective in war-time production generally - is to make the working and managerial staffs in all vital wartime industries directly responsible to the Government rather than to private employers or boards of directors, who are much more concerned about competing one another out of existence than about assisting the nation to overcome its enemies.
– Would the Minister nationalize the coal industry 1
– My personal preference is that the industry should be owned by the people in the interests of the people, rather than by private individuals in their own interests and at the expense of the people. Honorable senators can call that policy any name they like, but they are faced with the hard and stubborn fact that unless a more efficient form of management is brought into being, eliminating working fit cross-purposes and unnecessary and wasteful competition, it will be impossible to achieve much better results.
The Wonthaggi coal-mine is much more difficult to work than many in New South Wales, but the managerial and working staffs are directly responsible to the Victorian Government. They work in the closest collaboration with governmental officers and the officers of the Miners Union. Prior to the war there were many strikes, as we all know, but the lesson that they have learned there is one which apparently has still to be learned in New South Wales and elsewhere. They discovered that with less dictatorial control and more consultation in the direction of conferring with the men, and. agreeing with them if possible through their representatives, very much better results were achieved. When the Avar came and the appeal was made, that policy was put into effect, since when there has not been one stoppage at that mine. That is a practical illustration of what can be done. I am not at all impressed by the suggestion made by honorable senators opposite that for all practical purposes only the miners are at fault . and the managers are beyond suspicion.
– No one said that.
– Senator McBride admitted that that was the general tenor of the statements made, particularly by the anti-Labour press, which is pretty well in the same category as private employers and much more concerned about discrediting the Government and the miners than with achieving results.
Senator Poll made reference to the mechanization of the mines. I agree with him that that is desirable. I have seen the Burwood mine at Newcastle at work. It is a modern mine compared with others, and possibly the most highly mechanized in Australia. I suggest to Senator Foll that, in his approach to the question of mechanization, he should endeavour to view the problem from the standpoint of the miners. What do we find ? To the degree that we mechanize industry so we reduce the time required for production, we reduce also the aggregate wage; and, in time of peace, when we reduce the aggregate wage we also increase unemployment. The miners’ approach to the problem, then, is that mechanization means a lower aggregate wage, because, although nominally the wage of a few individuals may be increased, the cost of production in terms of labour time, and also in terms of money, will be lowered, and unemployment increased. If the coal-mining industry is to be mechanized, then we should do the fair thing by the men engaged in that industry and take that fact into consideration. The miners should be given some assurance that, in the event of the effects of mechanization being detrimental to them, suitable adjustments will be made. That has not been done in the past. The miners have been told merely that the mines were to be mechanized and if they did not like it they could starve. Fortunately, that line of action cannot be taken in time of war. We are living under a system of conscription. In time of peace, if terms of employment are not acceptable to the workers concerned, then, particularly when the supply of workers is in excess of the demand, they have no option but to accept the terms, or go on the bread line. In time of war, however, when man-power is much more indispensable than in time of peace, some individuals, including at least one honorable member in the House of Representatives, would resort to military conscription. All these expedients have been tried and have failed. In the final analysis, adjustments have to be made all along the line, but, unfortunately, in the past these adjustments have never been made until after the damage has been done. That applies particularly to the coal-mines. I was glad to hear included in the Prime Minister’s statement that an approach was to be made along those lines in an endeavour to discover exactly what was wrong, so that the necessary adjustment could be made.
Senator McBride referred to undesirable elements in the coal-mining industry, but he did not specify what they were. The point is that these undesirable elements are found not only in the ranks of the workers ; they are found also in the ranks of employers, managers and members of boards of directors.
– Apparently the Minister would look for these undesirable elements only in the ranks of employers?
– No. I know many employers who are of a most desirable type, and I have always managed to get along very well with them. Probably more than any other honorable senator, over a long number of years I have been associated with negotiations with employers for the settlement of industrial disputes. I found that many of them were willing to make an effort to see the problem from the other fellow’s standpoint, and in that way they have contributed greatly to the settlement of industrial disputes. I am not condemning employers as a class, but I do condemn those whom I would classify as undesirable elements; men with whom the profit motive is the dominating thought, to the exclusion of all other considerations. These men certainly are undesirable, and they should be spoken to in a clear and convincing manner.
– Only spoken to?
– One step at a time. If it were found that an employer was not amenable to reason then perhaps a little more drastic action might be necessary, but first I would speak to* him just as courteously as I am endeavouring to speak to Senator Leckie at the moment. Recently I had the privilege of addressing members of the Stock Exchange, and I spoke to them most courteously, although I joined issue with them on a number of questions. They reciprocated, and we got along very wei indeed. However, when we speak of undesirable elements we should not assume invariably, as does a section of the press, that these elements are to be found only ill the ranks of the workers.
This is a problem which cannot be tackled in time of war as it would be in time of peace. That is where I join issue with Senator McBride, who argued that if this or that thing could be done in time of peace it could be done also in time of war. In time of war the coal-miners cannot be dealt with as they would be in time of peace. I regret to say that in time of peace, particularly during the depression years, the way in which the coa.1- miners were treated was vindictive indeed. Thousands of them were reduced to working for the dole. Obviously, such a state of affairs cannot exist in war-time. In view of the Prime Minister’s statement that another approach to the problem is to be made with the . assistance of representatives of all those who are actively and prominently associated with the coal-mining industry, the results achieved in the near future should be much better than has been the case in the past, and I trust that in the months to come there will not be the same cause for complaint that there has been during the last few days.
– For many years I have asked why men working in the coal-mining industry, not only in Australia, but also in other parts of the world, are generally very restive and truculent, and cause endless industrial trouble, both in war and peace. This trouble is not peculiar to Australia. I have met it in other countries, including Natal and Southern Rhodesia. I have never yet received an answer to my question that seems to fill the bill. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) said that in times of war the acid test is put on all of us, and I quite agree with him. Since we have become embroiled in this war, many men engaged in the coal-mining industry have failed when that test has been applied. The Minister also stated that he favours democratized control. I do not know what he means by that, and he did not explain the term. He is against dictatorial control, and I should say that on the miners’ side we have had many examples of that control. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has been, patient and persuasive. He has done his best, and he has issued threats time and time again, but a good guiding principle is, “ Never threaten unless you . are prepared to go the whole hog. Dp not draw your gun unless you are ready to shoot “. Threats get us nowhere. I agree with the Prime Minister that the undesirable elements in the industry should be weeded out. It is high time to do that. Men who fall down on their jobs in time of war are doing Hitler’s work. Coal-miners who are holding up production for trivial reasons are friends of Hitler, and if they were not living in a British country they would get short shrift. I presume that by democratized control of coalmining the Minister for Aircraft Production means nationalization of the industry.
– Why not?
-.- That would be quite in keeping with the Labour party’s policy with regard to industry. It has frequently been enunciated, but never put into effect. Every member of the Labour party was required formerly to sign a pledge, and he may still be required to sign it, that the party’s objective is the socialization of production, distribution and exchange. Will nationalization get us anywhere? The record of State-owned coal-mines is no better than that of other coal-mines. It would take too long to read the history of the Lithgow State coal-mine and of the Victorian State coal-mine at Wonthaggi. The nationalization of the coal-mines would not prove a remedy for the present failure to produce sufficient coal for Australia’s vital needs. Therefore, the reference to the nationalization of the industry is without point with regard to the present situation. What is needed is more coal here and now. Nationalization would not increase the powers and control exercisable by the Government over the mine-owners and employees. Under the’ National Security Act the Government has all the power needed to enable it to enforce its will in this matter. The trade union leaders and the strikers have signally failed to demonstrate that private ownership of the coal-mines is responsible for any conditions in the mines to-day which could be remedied by nationalization.
– Be constructive and tell us how to get more coal.
– That is the responsibility of the Government. It already has all the machinery needed for the rectification of the individual grievances of the mine-owners and the employees, and it has had it for a long time.
– It can handle everything except human nature.
– Exactly. I trust that the Prime Minister and the other members of the Cabinet will carry out the promise indicated in the statement to which we have listened to-day. Two years ago we heard what the Prime Minister has now said, but no determined attempt has been made to give effect to the Government’s undertaking. In time of war nothing justifies men in downing tools and causing a loss- of production which is required for our war effort. We have all the necessary machinery to deal with the industry, and there is a sympathetic government to see that the grievances of the mineowners and the employees, if they really exist, are redressed. With all this machinery for the settlement of grievances in existence, it is time that drastic action was taken to deal with men who will not produce all the coal required in war-time. I agree with the Minister for -Aircraft Production that war provides the acid test. I trust that the Government will, in fact, remove from the coal-mining industry the undesirable element to which the statement presented this afternoon refer?. The proposal is well worthy of a trial. It is useless, however, to issue a threat of that nature and then to sit back with folded hands, and fail to carry out the threat should circumstances justify strong action. The remedy is not the nationalization of coal-mines. The Government must govern. I trust that this is the beginning of a brighter era for the coal-mining industry, and that, as the result of the decision of the Government, sufficient coal to meet our requirements will be produced. As to the rationing of coal, all that I shall say now is that that, seems to be running away from the problem. ‘ We need coal, and coal we must have.
Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) 1 4.53. - It is regrettable that we find ourselves short of coal when the nation is at war. but every country has, at some time or other, faced a similar problem. Listening to Opposition members, one would think that no other government had previously been confronted with the .problem which now exists in the coal-mining industry, but previous governments had to face exactly the same- difficulties.
– No previous government had to ration coal.
– When the honorable senator was a member of a previous administration there was a time when he had to- sit up all night in a railway or. Triage because there was not sufficient coal to allow sleeping carriages to be used. In some places firewood instead of coal was used in locomotives. Surely that was rationing. However, nothing is to bc -gained by such recriminations. When it was announced that the Opposition intended to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss the coal-mining industry, we, naturally, expected that itf. members would bring forward some constructive ideas, but, so far, uo constructive suggestion, other than support of proposals contained in the statement which was read, has been presented to us by honorable senators opposite. They have criticized some of the Government’s proposals, particularly those relating to the rationing of coal. One honorable senator went so far as to describe that proposal as cowardly. I say that if coal is not rationed, the wheels of industry will cease to turn. Surely it is not cowardly to take action which will ensure that industries will carry on. Senator McBride accused the miners of adopting intimidatory tactics, but I regard their actios; in a different light. In order to secure the maximum war-time production, contracts have been let for the production of various kinds of arms and munitions. Those contracts are being carried out, and the arms and munitions required are being produced. The reason is tha* the persons in charge of those undertakings know how to handle men. Senator Sampson described as “ Hitlers “ men who fall down on their jobs in war-time. 1 say that it is the coal-owners and the mine managers who have fallen down on the job. There are right and wrong ways of dealing with men. Managers who handle men in the right way get satisfactory results. It is useless to look for satisfactory results when industry is in. the hands of men who rule with an iron hand and want all the cake for themselves. The crux of the whole position is the ability, or lack of ability, to handle mcn. The coal-owners have let Australia clown badly in its time of greatest need; they have failed to deliver coal at the very time that a great offensive is taking place in the South-West Pacific Area. There is only one remedy : It is the same remedy as is applied to industry in peacetime. Should the manager of a concern not produce the goods that the owners think should be produced he is replaced by another manager. Similarly, I say that if the coal-owners do not produce the coal that is required they should make way for others who will get results. The Government should take control of the coal-mines for the duration of the war. ami place in charge of them men who will produce results. Governments consisting of the parties represented by honorable senators opposite failed to find a remedy for the problems which existed then, as well as now, in the coal-mining industry. I do not say that 100 per cent, production would be realized, even if the Government took over the coal-mines, but 1 claim that the output from the mines would equal that of other industries; ami should the production of coal be equal to that of the metalliferous mines throughout Australia the result could scarcely bc described as unsatisfactory. T therefore suggest that the Government should take over the control of the coalmines for the duration of the war. Should that not give the desired results I would go farther: I would put every person in Australia capable of playing a part in production - coal-owners, mine managers, workers generally, as well as members of Parliament - whether in the Army or on other productive work, and pay them all at the same rate of pay. That is the only way to get the maximum results.
– I add my tribute to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) upon the very frank statement which was read this afternoon by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane). Neither I, nor, I think, the people of Australia, have any complaint against the utterances made from time to time by the Prime Ministerwith regard to the position in the coalmining industry. Early in 1942, the Prime Minister stated that nien who went on strike in war-time were traitors to the country. He said that the policy of his Government was, “Work or fight”; that any employees, or employers, who were not prepared to work would be called up and made to fight. To that declaration the people said, “ Hear, hear !” To-day, our complaint is not that the Government does not say the right thing, but that it does not do anything. After two years of Labour rule we have the amazing statement made by the Prime Minister to-day that the cause of the trouble in the coal industry is due to the presence of a minority of malcontents in the industry; and he says that those malcontents are men of military age, starting-price book makers, dog trainers and taxi drivers. For two years his Government has allowed those dog trainers and bookmakers, and men of military age who are sheltering in the coal-mining industry, to hold up this country to ransom. Where is the Government’s policy of “ work or fight”? Had the Government, in 1942, when the Prime Minister made that momentous statement, called up every man of military age the day he went on strike, we should not. have the trouble now existing in the industry. The whole of our industrial trouble in this country is due to the lax methods of the Government. We have no discipline. The mob is ruling the Government instead of the Government ruling the mob. I now cite figures given in the Prime Minister’s statement. In 1939, when the Menzies Government was in office, our total coal production was 13,400,000 tons. In 1940, it was 11,700,000 tons. In 1941, during most of which the Menzies and Fadden Governments were in office, it was 14,100,000 tons. In 1942, when the Curtin Government was in office, our coal production rose to the record total of 14,900,000 tons. At that time the war was in progress and we should have produced a record total. But what has happened this year through lack of discipline, and the failure of the Government to carry out the policy it enunciated? Allowing that everything goes as favorably as possible, the most optimistic estimate that the Prime Minister can give is that our coal production this year may be 12,500,000 tons. The reason for this decline is stated candidly by the Prime Minister, and, as I said in my opening remarks, I commend him for his frankness. He said that the loss of coal this year is 2,000,000 tons, half of that loss being due to strikes, and half to absenteeism. That loss is equivalent to the loss that would be incurred if every man in the coal industry had been absentwithout leave, or on strike, for a period of two months in the year. That state of affairs has been allowed to continue by a government whose leader had said that his policy is “ work or fight “.
– What would the honorable senator have done?
– On previous occasions I have said that the first nian who went on strike should have been e:, lied up .by the Army, placed on Army’ pay at the rate of 8s. 6d. a day, 2s. of which is deferred pay, disciplined and sent to some fairly hot place where he would have had to work. Had that been done, not only he, .but also everybody else in the industry, would have realized that, they were not so badly off when employed producing coal.
– That will not produce coal.
– That is utter nonsense, because the coal-miners themselves have asked that a number of unskilled men be sent to the mines. That is the miners’ own request, because they know that unskilled men can be taught to produce coal within a few weeks or months. Consequently, it is sheer nonsense to ask who is going to produce the coal. If a number of coal-miners prefer to act as traitors to this country, plenty of our people will be prepared to hew the coal so that we can keep our war industries going. We heard from Senator Aylett a tirade of abuse against the coal-owners. I am not able to say whether the coal-owners contribute to any degree at all to the trouble in the industry. However, as this Government has been in office for two years, it has had ample opportunity to find out what exactly is the cause of the trouble. In addition, it possesses the greatest powers possessed by any government in the history of this country. It has power to do almost everything but make a man a woman, or a woman a man. It has absolute powers. Nevertheless, it has done nothing. If, as Senator Aylett says, the coal-owners are at fault I ask what the Government has done about it. Why have they not been disciplined and made to do their job? If the cause of the trouble be that the industry should be nationalized, I ask why the Government has not nationalized it.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of nationalization of the coal industry?
– Yes, if that be the best way to produce coal in order to carry on the war effort. Since the commencement of the war we have nationalized many of our industries. My view is that where nationalized control is the better system of control it should be adopted. The Government has been in a position to discover the whole facts and figures. Therefore, it is useless for it to try to throw the blame for the trouble upon the owners, or to say that the trouble is due to the fact that the industry is not nationalized. I agree with the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister two years ago, namely, “ Work or fight “. Every coal-miner who is absent without leave, if he be of military age, should be called up for military service and sent to the centre of Australia, or somewhere else, where he would be subject to very severe discipline and training. No man who is illegally on strike should be allowed to retain his ration book. Any man whom the Prime Minister has described as a traitor to his country is not entitled to a share of rationed goods. AH ration books of strikers should be called in immediately they go on strike. I also put forward another suggestion: As it is an offence for any person to harbour a soldier who deserts from the Army, or is absent without leave, it should be equally an offence for any person to harbour any man who is illegally on strike, or, as the Prime Minister has said, is a traitor to his country. I do not know whether the Government thinks these men are traitors, but as long as it persists with its weak policy, and allows indiscipline to continue, the trouble will get worse and worse. Coal rationing as proposed will do no good. Immediately coal is rationed the malcontents to whom the Prime Minister refers will reduce production still further, and the Government will have to impose further restrictions. There is only one way to get gid of the malcontents. The position is exactly the same as it was when the Prime Minister said that they must work or fight. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) cited Wonthaggi, and suggested improvements which lie thought could be made in the industry and which, no doubt, the Government will consider. I am sure we all welcome improvements and suggestions. If the suggestions made by the Minister will help the industry they .should be adopted. If he repeated his eloquent address to Cabinet, saying, “ Here is a remedy, put it into effect “, we might get something done. It is useless to say, “ The country has been held to ransom for two years because such and such Ls wrong, but my Government will not do anything about it”. The Government has the responsibility of governing. If it is not prepared to govern and enforce law and order it should resign. I hope that, after two years of doing nothing, we shall find the Prime Minister carrying into effect the policy that he has enunciated in his momentous statement to-day.
– How can the honorable senator reconcile his statement that nothing has been done for two years with the fact that the production of coal in 1042 was a record ?
– There was a record demand in that year, and a record production was essential then as it is to-day. In war-time we have to increase production in nearly every direction, and everybody ha3 to work harder. It is most disappointing to find that after achieving a record in 1942 all the good work has been impaired by the disastrous policy of allowing miners to be absent without leave or to go on strike for the equivalent of two months in every year. I therefore urge the Government to act. We have too often heard the Government say it is going to do something, but nothing has been done. We are facing now the greatest crisis that Australia has faced during the war. We run the risk of having the whole of the supplies for our Army, Air Force and Navy, and, in fact, all our production, held up because a minority of coal-miners refuse to work. The Government must act.
– Having listened with deep interest to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in the House of Representatives to-day and having heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in that chamber adopt a conciliatory attitude, I was rather surprised, on coming into this chamber, to find the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) taking up a contrary attitude. It serves to show that the chaotic state of the Opposition parties still prevails. There is only unity in disunity on their side. Honorable senators opposite are the members of a disunited Australia party. Other speakers on that side have compounded the mistake by carrying on the debate. So far I have not heard any constructive suggestion from them as to how to get on with the job and produce coal. They seem to be at variance, even on the question of nationalization. One honorable senator opposite at least does not believe in nationalization, but Senator Wilson said that he would accept it if it were in the best interests of the country. It is not difficult to ascertain that it must be, seeing that in time of war.it has been found necessary to nationalize or socialize every industry which is essential to a 100 per cent, war effort, in order to get’ the best out of it.
Senator Sampson showed a very inquiring mind when he said that he had always asked himself why the coal-mining industry had given so much trouble in all countries. Apparently he is addressing that question to us now. He said that that condition was not peculiar to this country, that it is not a local matter, but an international problem, because all countries suffered the same disability. Had the honorable senator been anxious to learn he would have studied the economic action taken in various countries to deal with the problem. Having done so, he would have learned that during the last war the British Government set up a royal commission, presided over by Lord Sankey, one of the most eminent judges in England, and that that commission brought down a recommendation to nationalize the coal-mines. The honorable senator said that nationalization was not a remedy. He might not have said that if he had noticed that the royal commission set up by the Lloyd George Government in the last war recommended it as a remedy.
– Did the radical government then in power in England put the recommendation into effect?
– The war had ended then, so that the honorable senator’s question is rather an inane one. Not merely during this war or the last war, but right down the ages disputes have arisen in the coal-mining industry. I have- read about the state of affairs in the coal-mines in the old days, when Jack Cade sought to regulate the hours and conditions of labour. The hours for adults were anything from ten to fourteen a day, and child labour was quite common in the coal and iron mines of Great Britain. There were howls of indignation from the prototypes of honorable senators opposite when an attempt was made to regulate the hours of labour and remove children from the mines. They said, through their press representatives, that the very foundations of the British Empire rested on the coal and iron mines of Great Britain, and that any attempt to tamper with them would undermine the Empire and bring it to ruin. People of that type do not seem to have grown up. They seem, like Senator Wilson, to imagine that they are still living in the rope’s-end and marlin-spike age. They do not understand anything but the rule of force. They do not realize that it is possible to secure, results by the application of kindness and tenderness.
– Is that how the Government has secured results during the past two years?
– It is how we secured results at the last elections. I have not heard one honorable senator opposite make a constructive suggestion in the course of this debate. I suggest that they should read a book which is most popular to-day, The Socialist Sixth nf the World, by the Dean of Canterbury. Tt is a wonderful book, and if honorable senators opposite were to take the trouble to read it, they would find in it a solution of the coal-mining problem. My opinion is that during the war period we could profitably, and in the best interests of the nation, nationalize the coal-mines, but that ultimately the method of converting coal to power, mentioned in the book to which I have referred, must be adopted. It requires very little manual labour, and is most economic and efficient. It is claimed that coal must be brought to the surface to be u.-ed on the railways, but one has only to make a journey in certain parts of the Common wealth to see coal seams projecting to the surface of the earth. Surely, from these outcrops, we could derive suffi cient coal to meet the needs of our transport system for the next few years until a new motive power can be employed. Our transport system is undergoing radical changes, and I can visualize the day when it w]11 no longer be necessary to carry coal on the tenders of engines and so add to the weight of the train, and to the labour of the operatives. I can isualize a new form of propulsion which will eliminate what I consider to be the obsolete methods employed to-day. Unfortunately, honorable senators opposite have not that same range of vision. The method of burning the coal in the mines to produce gas was first devised by an Englishman. It has been used extensively by the Soviet Government in the development of the Donetz Basin, and the practice was spreading rapidly when war broke out and interrupted progress. I believe that there is a great future for that system and I have no doubt that, in that way, eventually our own coal deposits will bc exploited much more fully than they arc at present. In addition to completely burning out every ton of coal that is available, it should be possible to devise some method of bringing the ash to the surface if it be required for any purpose. However, in the meantime, the coal-mining industry should be nationalized. That is the first step. In fact, every essential industry should be nationalized, or, if honorable senators prefer the word, “ socialized “, not merely for the duration of the war, but also for all time.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the coalmines should be taken over by the Government without compensation?
– No, I do not believe in repudiation. To put my views in the ugliest terms, I believe in confiscation with compensation. No individual should be permitted to exploit, the needs of the community for personal profit.
I have made these few remarks because honorable senators opposite have failed entirely to make a constructive contribution to the debate. I contend that my suggestion for the socialization of the coal-mines is a constructive one. I am not afraid to use the word “socialization”. It is only a bogy and upon examination it will be found to bc no more harmful than a scarecrow used to frighten birds away from crops. I repeat that although the nationalization of the coal-mines should be the immediate step, eventually we must adopt the system of exploiting our coal resources in the manner suggested in England about 90 years ago, but which was rejected by the mine-owners. It is a system which enables a complete exploitation of resources, without the arduous labour, dirt and filth associated with coal-mining to-day.
– I congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) on the statement he made in this chamber on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin). The honorable senator is deserving of the thanks of the Senate. The statement was illuminating iia that it contained some interesting information as well as a promise of improved conditions in the future. Unfortunately, we have heard so many such promises that we may be pardoned for being a little sceptical about this one. Although we have been told for many years that the coal-mining industry is a most skilled calling, and that the work can be undertaken only by a small body of trained men, we were informed to-day that members of the Miners Federation include starting-price bookmakers, taxi drivers and greyhound trainers. If coalmining is the skilled undertaking that we have been led to believe, how is it that these men are members of the Miners Federation? “When Senator Wilson asked who employed these men, the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) said, by way of interjection, that the mine managers employed them, but the Minister knows quite well that no man can be employed in the coalmining industry unless he is a member of the Miners Federation. Up to the present, 21 regulations appertaining to the coal-mining industry have been gazetted. I sincerely hope that the promise contained in the Prime Minister’s statement to-day will be fulfilled and that steps will be taken to implement regulation No. 7 of the National Security (Coal Control) Regulations, which states -
The purpose of these Regulations is to secure that, for all purposes arising out of the war in which His Majesty is engaged, an adequate provision of coal is made and maintained not only in States and places supplied by local production but also in other Sta tei. and places in Australia, and to that end to set up an authority to govern and direct the production, treatment, handling, supply, distribution, marketing and consumption of coal and to co-operate with the Shipping Control Board, and these Regulations shall be administered accordingly.
If the proposals contained in the statement submitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs to-day are put into operation they should he observed more closely than at any time previously. Senators Aylett and Sampson have stressed the fact that there has been industrial trouble in the coal-mining industry in practically all parts of the world, but I do not believe that the trouble has been so acute elsewhere as in this country. Dr. Lloyd Ross, secretary of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Railways Union, who recently visited Great Britain, states that, during 1941 and 1942, 2,554 strikes occurred in Great Britain, involving S16,000 persons. When we examine the position in Australia we find that for the first three months of this year there were 2,143 strikes, involving S56,000 persons. Therefore, Australia has experienced more industrial trouble in its coal-mines in three months than occurred in Great Britain in two years. Great Britain has not so many facilities for settling industrial disputes as we have in Australia. Dr. Ross further remarked -
Compulsory arbitration in the Australian meaning of the term does not exist, because there are voluntary agreements covering almost every eventuality in most industries.
The nature of many strikes in Australia indicates that they are caused by malcontents who do not wish to work themselves, and who do everything they can to keep their fellow employees from working. I have before me a long list of extracts from the daily press showing that many strikes in the coal-mining industry have occurred for trivial causes. This list is a complete answer to Senator Aylett, who practically told us that the coal-mine owners are more responsible than the miners for the hold-up of production. In many instances there have been strikes merely because the miners did not wish to work. The Sydney
Daily Telegraph of the 22nd November, 1942, contained the following items : -
Four collieries, employing 1,160 men, and producing 3,200 tons of coal a day, were idle yesterday.
In the south, Corrimal, Coalcliff and Bulli were idle “ because of dissatisfaction with recent awards of the Central Reference Board “.
We cannot blame the mineowners for that.
Millfield-Greta, in the north, was idle “ because of a dispute over the manning terms of the scraperloaders “. The pit will be idle again today.
The 22 collieries idle on the South Maitland field on Monday, “ because of a dispute over the position of a deputy at Stanford Main No. 1 “, returned to work yesterday.
A report published in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 25th November last stated -
Recent decisions of the Central Board of Reference were discussed at a meeting of the Miners Southern Delegate Board today. It was decided to inform the authorities that the southern miners were not satisfied with decisions by JudgeDrake-Brockman and Mr. Finnis.
The mineowners had nothing to do with that. The Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 28th November contained the following paragraph : -
Seven mines were idle in New South Wales yesterday. They employ 2,300 men and normally produce 7,000 tons of coal a day. They are -
Stockton Borehole. - Claim for standing time when men have entered the mine but arc called out again.
North Wallarah. - Dispute over lorry drivers.
Hebburn No. 1. - Men demand a guaranteed daily wage when skips are short.
Bellbird. - Protest against daylight saving.
Seaham No. 2. - Men joined in search for woman lost near Swansea.
Bulli and Keira. - Local disputes.
On the 28th November the Melbourne Herald published the following item: -
Miners at Burwood colliery, one of Australia’s largest mines, went on strike to-day because they object to beef rationing and daylight saving.
I do not suppose that the mineowners had anything to do with that. On the 29th November the Melbourne Herald contained the following report: -
There were four new disputes in the north, where the miners are protesting against a Taxation Department ruling that money expended for explosives is not an allowance deduction.
I should think that that was due to a decision of the Taxation Department rather than the mineowners. On the 1st October the Melbourne Herald reported that, at Cessnock No. 1 mine, the miners had gone on strike against alleged over crowding in a bus which takes the men to work. The mineowners had nothing to do with that. I have indicated some of the paltry excuses that have been advanced in an attempt to justify production hold ups on the coalfields. The Prime Minister has made many promises, and I hope that he will honour that contained in the statement which we have heard to-day. If he does so every member of this chamber will support him. In his appeal to the people of Australia to subscribe to the present loan, the Prime Minister said that workers who pleaded for holidays and other privileges would not “ back the attack “. When he recently attended a conference to meet the coal miners’ representatives the bait he offered was that if the miners behaved themselves they would get certain holidays at Christmas. In his latest statement the right honorable gentleman says that he will reconsider that offer. If he stands firm on his latest undertaking he will have the support of, not only the members of this Parliament, but also the whole of the people of Australia.
– I should not have spoken had it not been for the incorrect statements made by Senator McBride, who, I regret, is not now in the chamber. The debate has not revealed any constructive contribution to a settlement of the troubles confronting the coalmining industry.
– There were several constructive suggestions from both sides of the chamber.
– I acknowledge the fairness of some honorable senators opposite in admitting that the problems confronting us in Australia are world-wide, but I was astonished that other honorable senators should seek to draw certain conclusions by comparing coalmining with other industries. Obviously, those honorable senators know little of coalmining. They may not know, for instance, that in many coal mines in Australia the miners have to walk i»p to 3 miles in a stooping position to reach the face. The height of the drives is such that ponies only 14 hands high have to be employed in the mines.
– In many mines the miners are taken in electric trolleys to the face where they work.
– That is so in some mines, but it is not the general practice.
– The Minister should tell the truth.
– I am telling the truth when I say that in some mines men have to travel as far as 2 or 3 miles in a stooping position to reach the place they work with only a lamp to show them the way. I am aware that in some up-to-date mines, such as those which are under State government control, conditions are better, and electric trolleys do convey the men. from the shaft to the working face. In mining districts it is not infrequent to see men walking along the streets still in the stooped position in which they are forced to walk in the mines.
– Will the Minister tell us to which mines he refers?
– I shall do so later. I realize that in many factories, especially those where a good deal of overtime is worked, the conditions cause fatigue, but even so they are not to be compared with the conditions which have to be endured by workers in the bowels of the earth. Senator McBride said that the statement presented to the Senate this afternoon verified the charge made by him last June that the loss of production in 1942, due to disputes, was 2,000,000 tons of coal. The only satisfactory way to test the accuracy of his statement is by adopting the basis of the man-days worked. In the year mentioned 177,566 man-days were lost in the coal-mining industry. The honorable senator said that the loss of production in 1942 was 2,000,000 tons of coal. I remind him that in 1940, when the Menzies Government was in office, 1,364,310 man-days, were lost in (he coal-mines. On the same basis, the loss of coal in that year would have been 15,000,000 tons! That shows the absurdity of the honorable senator’s statement. Some honorable senators this afternoon repeated what Senator McBride said last June regarding the effects of absenteeism among miners. On that occasion the honorable senator did not mention absenteeism, but to-day, in order to justify the stand taken by him in June, he accepted the figures contained in the statement supplied by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and read by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane). That statement shows that the loss of coal due to industrial stoppages was 1,041,471 tons. The honorable senator brought in the figures for absenteeism, which account for the loss of over 1,000,000 tons of coal. One reason why absenteeism exists in the coal-mining industry is that most of the young miners responded to the call of the colours when war broke out - the enlistments from mining districts in the early stages of the war were greater than from any other part of Australia. The result was that only the older men have been left to work the mines; they are not so capable of carrying out the arduous work of rnining for long shifts as are younger nien. That the miners in this country want to play their part in the war effort is made clear by their willingness to train young men in coal-mining so that the production of coal can be increased. There is no justification for much of the criticism levelled against the miners. I remind Senator James McLachlan, who was severe in his criticism, that transport is a matter of considerable importance to miners’. The honorable senator may be one who, when wet weather conditions exist, avails himself of transport services provided to convey him to and from Parliament House. A miner is just as much entitled to reasonable transport facilities as is a member of Parliament. On wet days miners who live in districts served by buses may find it difficult, or impossible, to travel by a bus which will get them to their work in time.
– Why are not two or more buses provided?
– It should not be the responsibility of the miners to see that sufficient buses are available.
– Let it be the responsibility of the Government.
– If the industry were controlled by the Government, we should not have difficulties of that kind in the industry. Not one honorable senator opposite has made a single constructive suggestion during this debate. I recall that in 1940. when 10,000 men were on strike on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), who was then Prime Minister, left this Parliament to visit those fields. What d id he do there ? He pleaded with the men to go back to work. Neither he, nor his Government, took any action to make the men return to work. Obviously, he realized that no government can get men to produce coal by putting them into the Army, or by putting them in gaol. He did not have recourse to the law on that occasion, although the loss of production was far more serious than it is at present. Nor did he resort to any of the methods which some honorable senators opposite now so glibly advocate. Honorable senators opposite merely criticized the Government and the men. They must realize that such an attitude is not helpful. ‘Some solution of this trouble must bc found, and if the Opposition submits a practical suggestion I, for one, shall endeavour to ensure that it is implemented. When the Leader of the Opposition is replying to the debate he will have an opportunity to show the sincerity of the Opposition by making some practical suggestion. I recall that last June Senator McBride moved the adjournment of the Senate in order to discuss holdups in the coal industry. On that occasion he said that the Opposition was prepared to help the Government. The Opposition, apparently, is always prepared to help the Government, but the fact remains that it has failed to make one practical suggestion in that direction. On the contrary, honorable senators opposite merely indulge in criticizing the Government. I have already pointed out that during the regime of the Menzies Government, 1,364,310 man-days were lost in the coal industry, whilst the number of man-days lost in 1941 and 1942 was 275,605 and 177,566 respectively. At the same time, our total production last year was nearly 15,000,000 tons, which is an all-time record in the history of the industry in this country, the quantities of coal produced during the last four years being 13,535,142 tons in 1939, 11,716,682 tons in 1940, 14,212,450 tons in 1941 and 14,971,893 tons in 1942. I am sorry that Senator McBride is not present to hear my correction of his statement. I hope that he has not endeavoured to mislead the Senate, but I notice that he has repeated the error which lie made in June last when, in giving the losses of production, he coupled the losses due to absenteeism with those due to industrial disputes. Obviously, the two causes are entirely distinct. For instance, owing to the fact that a greater number of aged miners are now engaged in the industry, the proportion of absenteeism due to sickness and accidents naturally tends to increase.
– The Minister’s time tas expired.
– I have a high regard for the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley), but I am impelled to correct some of his statements. First, he said that in some coal-mines the miners had to proceed in a stooped position for a distance of 3 miles to the coal face.
– That is true.
– In April last, accompanied by Senator Amour, I visited the John Darling mine at Newcastle, and, in conversation with miners of long experience, I obtained as much information as I could relating to conditions in the industry. We went down that mine. I was informed that it was one of the best pits in New South Wales. It in mechanized and exceedingly well equipped.
– But the honorable senator had to keep his head down for a considerable distance.
– No, not until we approached the coal face.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I have spoken of the conditions which I found in the coal-mines at Newcastle, and more particularly in the John Darling mine, which I had the pleasure of going down. I have also commented upon the highly mechanized state of that mine. The assurances given to me in Newcastle by members of the Miners Federation and the mineowners’ association were that conditions in that area, which is, I suppose, the biggest coal-mining area in Australia, were very good and had improved wonderfully over a period of years. We are not discussing to-day the conditions in the mines themselves, because if these had been bad the unions and officials would have had them al fared years ago. Senator James McLachla’n showed that in the long list of reasons given for strikes and stoppages no mention was made of bad conditions in the mines. We may, therefore, take it that the conditions are reasonably good.
The statement read by the Leader of the Senate dealt with the way in which the Government is tackling the problem of producing more coal. It had nothing to do with the conditions in the mines. It also dealt with the problem of how the Government could induce the miners to pull their weight in the war effort. I firmly believe that at least 9S per cent, of the miners are loyal mon, anxious to do all they can for the war effort. Probably many of them have sons and brothers in the forces and daughters and sisters in the auxiliary services. I am sure that it is the 2 per cent, that is causing all the trouble. Ministers have asked for any suggestions that wc can make to prevent it. The Prime Minister, in the statement read by the Leader of the Senate, has, I think, supplied the answer, because he has definitely stated that he is prepared to deal, and will deal, with those individuals who are creating trouble in the industry. I feel that if that small percentage were dealt with - and probably it would have to be dealt with ruthlessly - the loyal miners and workers would be prepared to give a 100 per cent, output. All we can do is to wait and see what happens to the proposals which have been enunciated in the ministerial statement to-day. If the Prime Minister is prepared to go on with his proposals I am sure that the members of the Opposition will be 100 per cent, behind him in whatever measures he takes to carry them out. In the past, proposals have been made and regulations issued. Threats have even been made to deal with, the malcontents in the mining industry, but, unfortunately, nothing effective has been done. The policy of the Government has been one of appeasement, but the Govern ment now realizes that it has not been successful. I hope that the Prime “Minister will go right ahead with the proposals that he has made; if he does I am sure that the Opposition and the majority of the people will he behind him.
– I regret that this motion was moved, in view of the fact that yesterday, in answer to the Leader of the Opposition (.Senator McLeay), I promised to make a statement to-day on the coal position. M’y regret that the motion has been moved arises largely out. of the very obvious desire on the part of every one of us that the war effort should not be impeded by any action of the Commonwealth Parliament, and more particularly of members of this chamber. The facts arc that the coal-mining industry is a very difficult one to control, and has been a source of industrial trouble right down the ages, not only in this country, but also in every other part of the world. Miners have a psychology of their own. They are amazing men. Ordinarily, in other countries, and even in Australia, they have had a shockingly bad time industrially. Honorable senators do not need a very keen memory to recall that a few years ago there were 9,000 surplus miners on the Newcastle field. When coal was not in demand their services were not required, and many of them were very bitter. They are members of a section of the community which for industrial and physical courage cannot be excelled by any other section in this or any other country. I have a vivid recollection of an explosion at the Wonthaggi mine in Victoria. I remember the shift boss, who was by no means friendly to the men, leading a rescue party into the mine, which was filled with explosive gas. The sight of 100 to 150 miners begging to be allowed to go below to what might have been certain death has always remained in my memory. I had some experience of industrial disputes when I was associated with railway men. On one occasion a big strike occurred at Newcastle, and I had an opportunity of getting very close to the miners. I agree with Senator Sampson that they have a queer psychology. When the party opposite was in power, and when other governments comprised of members of this party were in power, they. invariably had some trouble with the coal-mining industry.
In the statement, read to-day the word “ undesirable “ was not used. It referred to “ irresponsible “ men, and there are young men who evidently are irresponsible. It is calamitous, as Senator Foll has said, that, on a day when we announced what looks to me to be the opening of a wonderful push, in which our men and our Allies have had such a signal success, we should be in the sorry position of telling not only this Parliament but also our Allies that we are rationing coal. That is a shocking admission to have to make, particularly in. view of the all-round success of the industrial effort of Australia. The previous governments and this Government have done everything possible to maintain production. To secure that end we appointed suitable tribunals. The Prime Minister introduced repressive regulations, but. at the request of the unions, members of this party, and the business community of Australia, he refrained from enforcing them, because while there was peace on the coal-fields there was some hope of an improvement in the coal position. Whether we talk of repression or threaten the men with punishment the coal that the community needs will not be produced.
The rationing scheme proposed is imperative. Whatever measures are taken we cannot overcome the fact that we must apply these cuts to the community generally. As honorable senators on both sides realize, the Government cannot hold up its head and say, “ We are going to ask the people to make sacrifices whilst a section of the community holds up the business of the country”. I, with every honorable senator, say that that will not be tolerated. Suitable tribunals have been given to the men, but the blame does not lie all the time with them. I do not think that in any dispute the fault can be entirely on one side. Some of the instances given ii- the statement which I read to-day are only a few of a number of very annoying hold-ups which to you and me seem to be matters that should be adjusted on the job. Pit-head committees have been formed, on which the men have been given representation. Local reference boards and a central reference board, with a special judge assigned to it, have been appointed. In spite of all these efforts, we are 2,000,000 tons short of the coal so urgently needed for the country’s requirements. The objective of the Government, and I believe of every honorable senator, is to ensure that this appalling position is overcome. Threats such as Senator Wilson used, to take the men and put them in the Army, will not produce coal. Their old policy of “one out, all out” is very hard to change with a strong union of 17,000 nien. I remind honorable senators that, with the exception of New South Wales, there have been no hold-ups in the coal-mining industry of Australia, although, of course, the great bulk of the coal is won in that State. Wonthaggi has for some years had an excellent record, as Senator Leckie knows.
– What about Lithgow ?
– Lithgow for a long time past has been doing an excellent job. There have possibly been some disputes, but not comparable with others.
The nationalization of the coal-mines has been mentioned. Personally, I say that their nationalization would mean their purchase outright by the Government when the price which would have to be paid would be outrageously high because of the tremendous demand for coal. I do not .favour it. I do favour some directions being given by the Government concerning the coal industry of this country. Honorable senators may say that that will not make the men work better. Union opinion is that it would make them work better. I do not know, and nobody here knows, whether that would or would not be so, but I believe that it would bring about some improvement. The history of the private ownership of mines in this country, as Senator Leckie well knows, is very malodorous. Senator Gibson, Senator J. B. Hayes and Senator Sampson were in this Parliament when a dispute occurred at Newcastle and >a prosecution was launched against Mr. J. A. Brown, the millionaire mine-owner, for locking out miners. The Chief Justice of the High Court at that time was Sir Adrian Knox.
The prosecution was withdrawn. When Mr. J. A. Brown died it was found that the principal beneficiary under his will was Sir Adrian Knox. Do honorable senators think that the miners are not suspicious? Of course they are. What happened on that occasion did more to shake the belief of the miners in the sincerity of the owners than anything else that has happened in the industry.
The Government has done everything possible to obtain a full coal output. It has brought down regulations. When Prime Minister, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) courageously went to the fields and faced a hostile crowd in an effort to keep the mines producing, but he failed. We sent members of our Government there, and for some time the mines went well, but trouble again developed. If we were all to go to the coal-fields we would not be able to alter the psychology of the men. However, the facts are that the Government is not going to tolerate a hold-up of the business of this country by a group of men, whoever they may be. The action proposed in the statement made to Parliament to-day will be taken. If it is not, then we have no right to be .here.
.- I. regret that I am unable to join in the chorus of adulation from honorable senators opposite of the statement on the coalmining industry made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) this afternoon. At a time when the national life of this country is threatened by one isolated section of the community, we should think as a nation and not as members of individual parties. I am afraid that the Government has approached this problem not as an Australian government, but as & Labour government. There is a vast difference between the two. Whereas one expresses a national point of view, the other expresses only a party point of view. Having heard from Government supporters cries of approval of .the Prime Minister’s statement, I have examined it more thoroughly, and I find that a large proportion of it consists of an acknowledgment of the fact that the Government has failed abjectly to secure the production of adequate sup plies of coal. That part of the statement is quite clear, and I am sure that the nation will accept the Government’s apology. However, despite that clear admission of the Government, certain honorable senators opposite, including Ministers, have, in the course of this debate, sought to justify the action of the miners in holding up supplies of coal, which is the life-blood of our war industries. What did the Prime Minister say after apologizing for the shortcomings of his administration? He claimed that most of the trouble on the coal-fields was due to the action of certain irresponsible individuals, including taxi drivers, starting-price bookmakers, billiard-room proprietors and dog trainers who had engaged in mining activities in order to avoid being called up for military service or for pressing national work. Surely there could be no greater condemnation of the 70,000 miners of this country than to say that their attitude towards this war, and towards our national safety, is guided by a few taxi drivers, starting-price bookmakers, billiard-room proprietors and dog trainers! That is the worst slur that I have ever heard cast upon the coal-miners, and it is clear that condemnation of the miners is not being voiced from only this side of the chamber. This matter has been raised in the Senate to-day only because it is a national issue. We on this side of the chamber gain no party political advantage from this action because honorable senators opposite almost certainly will occupy the treasury bench for the next three years. Within that time the war should be over, and any drastic action which the Government may find necessary now to discipline the coal-miners will have been forgotten altogether. What surprises me is that instead of accepting the Prime Minister’s admission of the Government’s failure honorable senators opposite have endeavoured to justify the action of the miners in striking. That was the attitude adopted by the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley).
– I rise to order. Is Senator Leckie in order in attributing to me a statement which I did not make? I ask that the statement be withdrawn.
– The Minister has not raised a point of order.
– In a pathetic voice the Postmaster-General drew a harrowing picture of how the coalmiiners had to creep along 2 miles of tunnels far below the surface of the earth before reaching the coal face. Then, even more pathetically, he depicted these men creeping back again along 3 miles of tunnels at the end of their day’s work. While we are bound to accept the statements of responsible Ministers as being substantially accurate, it seems to me that the miners must be doing an excellent, day’s work if at the end of a five-hour shift they have to walk back a mile farther than they had to travel before commencing work.
– Again I rise to order. The statement which Senator
Leckie has attributed to me is quite inaccurate.
– Provided that honorable senators observe the standing orders, they are permitted to make their speeches in their own way, and to place their own interpretation upon speeches made in this chamber. When Senator Leckie has concluded his speech, the Postmaster-General will, by leave of the Senate, have an opportunity to make a personal explanation. The objection which he now raises is not a point of order.
– Senator Leckie is being permitted to burlesque my speech.
– I rise to order. Is Senator Leckie in order in leaving his seat and acting the clown while making a speech in this chamber?
– Order ! The honorable senator has not raised- a point of order.
– What proposal has the Prime Minister made to remedy the shortage of 2,500,000 tons of coal in the production last year? He has not announced any steps to overcome the shortage, but has stated that the deficiency will be met by stringent rationing. Mention is made also of the appointment of fuel watchers, but the duties of these people are not stated.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order No. G4.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Is it the wish of the Senate that leave be granted to the Postmaster-‘General (Senator Ashley) to make a personal explanation?
Leave not granted.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the estimated annual expenditure (for a full year, say, two years after hostilities cease) in respect to the following items:- - Invalid and old-age pensions, child endowment. widows’ pensions, maternity allowance, public service pensions, war pensions, war service pensions, other aid or relief contemplated by the National Welfare Fund Act 1943.
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
It is impossible to make the estimates required by the honorable senator. Expenditure for’ the year 1946-47 is estimated as follows: - Invalid and old-age pensions, £24,000,000; child endowment, £12,000,000; widows’ pensions, £3,000,000; maternity allowance, £2,500,000; public service pensions, £725,000. War and war service pensions - War pensions are increasing each year, and it is impossible to say now what they will eventually cost. Estimated expenditure this year on war and war service pensions is £11,030,000. National Welfare Fund - In advance of the passing of legislation relating to national welfare projects no reliable estimates of expenditure from the National Welfare Fund two years after hostilities cease can be made.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: - 1 and 2. Where a house is built for six months or less in any year the War Damage Commission docs not charge a full year’s contribution. Contributions For new buildings arc payable for the remainder of each calendar year on the basis of1s. for each£100 in respect of each quarter or part thereof. The rate for a full year is 4s. for each £100.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
Will the Minister take up with the Emu Bay railway engineering shops the question of the manufacture of essentia] farming machinery so as to prevent the further dismissal of skilled tradesmen from that establishment and to prevent a further loss of population to Tasmania?
– The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following answer : -
The Minister for Munitions will be pleased to investigate the suggestion that the Emu Bay railway engineering shops might be utilized for the production of agricultural imple ments. The matter will be referred to the appropriate Section of his department for immediate attention.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Government make arrangements to pay the Public Service in Tasmania on Wednesday or Thursday instead of Friday, to enable the various employees to make their purchases for the. week-end on Friday, in view of the closing of shops in the south of the island on Saturday mornings.
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The necessary inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice - 1.Is the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research still investigating the use of virus for the destruction of rabbits?
SenatorCAMERON. - The Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has supplied the following answers : -
– by leave - On the 24th September, 1943, Senator Nash, in the course of his speech on the AddressinReply, suggested that the appropriate Minister should examine the accommodation provided for railway employees on the Trans-Australian Railway. So far as Commonwealth railways employees are concerned it is .the policy ti.- provide improved housing accommodation and better living conditions for employees located at remote wayside places .along the trans-Au3tralian line. Some idea 33 to the extent to which this policy has been pursued in respect of housing may be gathered from the expenditure for the period of three and a half Tears from the 1st January, 1940, to the 30th June, 1943. The sum of £63,500 was expended on the provision of 76 residences for married men, whilst £14,500 was expended on 40 sets of quarters for the accommodation of 80 single men. Additions and improvements to existing residences for married employees cost a further £4,640.
Tentative provision has been made in the estimates of expenditure for the current financial year for the following: -
In addition, work estimated to cost £7,500 is in hand for barrack accommodation at Cook for train crews. These barracks will be equipped with dining rooms, sleeping accommodation, lounge and bath rooms. Ample verandah space is also being provided.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
International Affairs - Statement by the Minister for External Affairs, dated the 14th October, 1043 (vide page 567). and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Senator
– by leave - On the 29th September Senator Herbert
Hays, speaking during the committee stage of a supply bill, requested an explanation regarding the provision of £10,000 for plant and machinery for flax mills at a time when production was being curtailed, and suggested that surplus plant in some localities could be transferred to other districts, thus avoiding additional expenditure. I am now able to inform the honorable senator that part of his question is based on a wrong conception of the complete Australian programme. It is true that some Tasmanian mills have been closed. This is due to an insufficient area of land suitable for flax production being offered by growers. This, in turn, is partly accounted for by the competition occasioned by vegetable-growing and the erection of dehydration plants. However, the failure to secure acreage in Tasmania in accordance with its allocation doe3 not mean a curtailment of Australian production; other States have made up the deficiency, and the total acreage for Australia is being maintained at approximately 60,000 acres. It is hoped to increase the total acreage to 70,000. The plant and machinery from mills which have been closed is already being used, or will be used, in other mills where it is possible to utilize it. Some of the min.or items such as roller deseeders and small winnowers are now obsolete because of improved processing methods introduced by the Flax Production Committee. These items, together with any surplus of general engineering supplies, such as shafting and pulleys, will be disposed of through the Commonwealth Contracts Board. The amount included on the Estimates for machinery and plant is principally associated with the conversion of a number of mills to water retting, and with the mechanical harvesting and handling of flax.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that the following members had been appointed members of the Broadcasting Committee: - Mr. Bowden, Mr. Bryson, Mr. Chambers, Mr. Francis, Mr. Guy and Mr. Watkins.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into and report upon war expenditure, and requesting the concurrence of the Senate therein, and the appointment of two members of the Senate tothe committee.
Motion (by Senator Keane) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Senate agrees to the appointment of a joint committee to examine current expenditure defrayed out of moneys voted by the Parliament for the defence services and other services directly connected with the war, and to report what, if any, economies consistent with the execution of the policy decided on by the Government may be effected therein.
That Senators Large and A. J. McLachlan be appointed to serve on such committee with members of the House of Representatives.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members; and to refer to any such sub-committees any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine;
the committee or any sub-committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament; and have leave to report from time to time the evidence taken ;
the committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, and any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report; (d)three members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee and two members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that subcommittee; and
the committee have power, in cases where considerations of national security preclude the publication of any recommendations and of the arguments on which they are based, or both, to address a memorandum to the Prime Minister for the consideration of the War Cabinet, but, on every occasion when the committee exercises this power, the committee shall report to the Parliament accordingly.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into and report upon social and living conditions in Australia, and requesting the concurrence of the Senate therein, and the appointment of two members of the Senate to the committee.
Motion (by Senator Keane) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Senate agrees to the appointment of a joint committee to inquire into and, from time to time, report upon ways and means of improving social and living conditions in Australia and of rectifying any anomalies in existing legislation.
That Senators Cooper and Tangney be appointed to serve on such committee with members of the House of Representatives.
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
The committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to adjourn from place to place, and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament and during the sittings of either House of the Parliament, and have leave to report from time to time the evidence taken;
the committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings, and any member of the committee may add a protest or dissent to any report;
three members of the committee constitute a quorum.
– by leave - On the 30th September, several honorable senators expressed a wish to be supplied with more information than has hitherto been made available regarding the nature and extent of lend-lease and reciprocal lendlease arrangements between Australia and the United States of America. Copies of the formal documents relating to these arrangements were tabled in the House of Representatives on the 8th October, 1942. They were also printed and made available for general information at the same time. Those documents included the agreement of the 3rd September, 1942, between the Governments of Australia and the United States of America and the United States of America Lend-Lease Act of the 11th March, 1941. The Treasurer’s budget speech included some figures revealing the extent of reciprocal aid which Australia is now extending to the armed forces of the United States of America: Expenditure on reciprocal aid to the 30th June of this year totalled £65,000,000 and for the current year the expenditure is expected to be approximately £100,000,000. Australia may well take pride in the contribution it is making from its limited resources by way of reciprocal aid. For security and other reasons, it has so far been deemed inadvisable to release any figures relating to the value of lend-lease aid supplied by the United States of America to Australia. However, I am in full sympathy with the desire of honorable senators to obtain some broad indication of the nature and extent of the aid supplied to Australia under lend-lease and of the obligations incurred by Australia by reason of its participation in lend-lease arrangements. The question is particularly difficult because, as honorable senators will appreciate, any figures which disclose details of the actual quantities of the various types of lend-lease goods which have reached, and are reaching, Australia would be of great value to the enemy, and it is therefore necessary to take the strictest precautions to keep such details absolutely secret. Common prudence makes it desirable to keep information of this kind within the smallest possible circle. I have, however, looked into this matter closely, and I believe that, without any breach of security requirements, I can now supply honorable senators with a few broad figures in a form which will give to them some general picture of the extent and types of assistance which Australia is obtaining from the United States of America under lend-lease. Before I give any figures, however, I should say that when goods of services are supplied to Australia by the Government of the United States of America, we do not incur any specific debit expressed in monetary values. Similarly, the Commonwealth Government does not debit the Government of the United States of America with the cost of furnishing goods and services to the American forces under reciprocal lendlease; However, for our own accounting purposes, we do maintain a record of the value of the goods and services supplied to the American forces, so far as it is practicable to do so, and the Treasurer has already given the total figures in his budget speech. On its part, the Govern- ment of the United States of America also maintains records for its own purposes of the value of the lend-lease aid granted to the various lend-lease areas. President Roosevelt’s eleventh report to Congress on lend-lease operations gives the following tentative figures showing the value of lend-lease exports from the inception of lend-lease in March, 1941, up to the end of June, 1943 : -
The report points out that these figures are incomplete. Separate figures for Australia, are not given in the published report. Indeed, the ramifications of lendlease are so extensive that it is extraordinarily difficult to isolate the benefits received by any one country. This is particularly true of the countries of the British Commonwealth, which are treated by the United States of America administration as a single unit for lend-lease purposes, and have pooled their resources so completely that any precise accounting has become virtually impossible. For example, Australian troops serving in the Middle East and other theatres of war have been issued with considerable quantities of stores by the United Kingdom service departments. Some of those stores were originally supplied to the United Kingdom under lend-lease. Again, there are great practical difficulties in maintaining adequate up-to-date records of transfers of war equipment in the field between American and Australian units. These are only two examples of the complicated nature and ‘world-wide scope of lend-lease transactions, but they illustrate the impossibility of providing accurate figures showing the extent of the benefits received by any one country at any given time. Nevertheless, the United States of America Lend-lease Administration has compiled tentative figures shewing the value of lend-lease aid granted to Australia. These figures, which have not previously been published, show that the total value of sea-borne exports from the United States of America to Australia under lend-lease up to the end of June. 1943, was estimated at $470,000,000. Services supplied to Australia under lend-lease over the same period were estimated by the United States of America administration to amount to $82,000,000, giving a total figure of $552,000,000 for the value of goods and services. There are also other forms of lend-lease aid to Australia which would not bc included. These preliminary estimates are, however, the most complete United States of America official figures which are as yet available, and they will serve to give honorable senators some general impression of the dimensions which lend-lease aid to Australia has now reached. For security reasons I cannot disclose quantity or value figures .relating to the various types of goods supplied to Australia under lend-lease, but some general idea of the types of goods supplied was given by the Treasurer in his budget speech. He mentioned that the range of supplies received included aircraft, armoured fighting vehicles, weapons, ammunition, motor vehicles, petroleum products, machine and hand tools, radio and electrical machinery and raw materials including tinned plate, metals, woodpulp, chemicals and minerals. I have had some figures taken out from the departmental records of the goods received under lendlease giving the percentages for each broad category. The percentages are as follows : -
Thus, over one-half of the value of the goods supplied to Australia under lendlease has been in the form of direct war materials, and of the remainder by far the greater part is directly or indirectly associated with our military effort. Petroleum products stand high in the list. Before the outbreak of hostilities in the Pacific, Australia depended very largely on the Netherlands Indies for its petroleum requirements. Now that the oil-fields in this region have fallen under Japanese control, Australia is very heavily dependent on the United States of America for the petroleum products which are so vital to our military and industrial war effort. Machine tools and other machinery and raw materials supplied under lend-lease, have made, and are making, a substantial contribution to our own war production programme. Machine tools in particular are the key to large-scale production, and the value of the lend-lease machine tools made available by the Government of the United States of America is to be measured by the increased output of our war factories which they have made possible rather than by the value of the machine tools themselves. Under the heading of metals, the principal item is tinned plate, which is required chiefly for canning Australian foodstuffs for the consumption of the Australian and Allied forces in this area, for export to the United Kingdom and, to a lesser degree, for essential civilian purposes. Many of the other items supplied to Australia under lend-lease are used in the production of goods which are, in turn, supplied by the Australian Government to the American forces under reciprocal lend-lease. Whilst the flow of lend-lease supplies to Australia is increasing we are not, of course, getting all that we would like to get as fast as we desire. Although the productive resources of the United States of America are enormous, the demands which are being made upon them are such that in most categories the question is one of dividing a deficiency rather than of sharing a surplus. Many raw materials are in critical short supply - rubber is perhaps the outstanding example - and this imposes a definite limit on American production. The American authorities have been obliged to adopt an elaborate priority system in order to ensure that preference is given to the most urgent needs of the various fighting fronts in conformity with the master strategic plan for the conduct of the war. I may say, however, that Australia’s special needs are now fully recognized in both London and Washington and that, whilst due regard must be paid to demands from other theatres of war, Australia’s needs will be met to the greatest degree possible.
Debate resumed from the 13 th October (vide page 422), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending the 30th June, 1944.
The Budget 1943-44 Papers presented by the Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., on the occasion of the budget of 1943-44.
– The speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) in introducing the Estimates and Budget Papers for 1943-44 was along, lines similar to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech and the Treasurer’s budget speech. The former gave some idea of the legislative programme of the Government, whilst the latter is unique because it proposes the largest expenditure yet submitted for the approval of any parliament in this country. Like the GovernorGeneral’s Speech and the Prime Minister’s policy speech at the last elections, the budget speech sets out the measures considered to be necessary to ensure the future welfare of our people, but it does not devote one word to the actual implementation of the measures proposed. Since the outbreak of the war our war expenditure has risen steeply, the figures for the intervening years being as follows: 1938-39, £14,000,000; 1939-40, £55,000,000; 1940-41. £170,000,000 ; 1941-42, £320,000,000; and 1942-43, £460,000,000, whilst the estimate of war expenditure in this budget for the ensuing twelve months is £570,000,000.
– And it will be greater next. year.
– I do not altogether agree with that view. Since the outbreak of the war, this country’s achievements have been very great indeed. During that period, we have, no doubt, made mistakes, but some of them are pardonable, because, with the enemy at our gates, it was natural that we should not consider the cost of the work we were obliged to do as quickly as possible. To-day, however, we have reached a stage when without curtailing our war effort we can well take stock of our war expenditure. It is clear from the budget that we have reached saturation point so far as our manpower is concerned. The Treasurer says that the use of manpower and womanpower is the best evidence of the magnitude of our war effort, and that the number of people now employed in the Commonwealth is 3,370,000, or practically half of our population. Therefore, it can be said that in that respect we have reached saturation point. The second point I emphasize is that the Treasurer’s estimate of war expenditure of £570,000,000 for the ensuing twelve months exceeds war expenditure incurred last year by only £8,000,000. It would appear that our war expenditure is now stabilized round about that figure. The Treasurer also repeats the statement made so frequently by the Prime Minister in recent months that Australia is now free from the danger of invasion, and that we have shifted from the defensive to the offensive. When surveying all these facts, the Treasurer, in his budget speech, should have made some attempt to propose ways and means to enable us to meet our liabilities from national income to a greater degree than we are doing. When the Prime Minister opened the loan campaign recently he made the astounding statement that out of our national income of £1,223,000,000 we had contributed to the war effort the sum of £562,000,000. That statement is misleading, because we have done nothing of the kind; and the budget speech contains no indication that we propose to do so in the ensuing twelve months. The Treasurer estimates income from taxation at £273,000,000, and other receipts at £39,000,000, making a total of £312,000,000. That is only approximately 25 per cent of our national income.
– Is the honorable senator treating treasurybills as national income ?
– No. The Prime Minister said that last year we had provided for war expenditure out of national income the sum of £562,000,000 ; but the fact is that last year our revenue from taxation amounted to £267,000,000. Our war expenditure amounted to £562,000,000, and expenditure for other purposes to £108,000,000, making a total expenditure of £670,000,000. That leaves a balance of £463,000,000 to be provided either by way of loans or bank credit.’ The actual revenue from loans amounted to £187,000,000, whilst the Treasurer mentions a sum of £200,000,000 under the heading of treasury-bills. Does the Prime Minister believe that we pay our debts simply by giving I O TJ s ? In effect, he says that the £200,000,000 in respect of treasurybills has been contributed out of national incomes. That is not the case. The fact is that we are in arrears by that amount. Therefore, I submit that the Treasurer should have made provision to use a greater portion of our national income of £1,223,000,000 to meet war expenditure. This could be done, for instance, through the medium of compulsory loans. I know of no sound argument against that method.
– “Would the honorable senator make up the gap in the budget solely from compulsory loans?
– How much would the people then have left to live upon?
– They would retain the difference between the national income of £1,233,000,000 and our total expenditure of about £700,000,000. For too long we have relied upon the voluntary system to raise the money we require for war purposes. Subscriptions to war loans, and the sales of war savings certificates, have fallen short of the goals set by the Government. Despite the fact that considerable expenditure has been incurred in the publicizing of loans, and that the launching of these campaigns has been accompanied by a flood of oratory from prominent Australians, as well as costly advertisements depicting the photographs of our political leaders, and appeals autographed by those leaders, we have not yet succeeded in obtaining the goals set by the Government.
– That is not correct. The last loan was oversubscribed.
– What about the loan before that?
– It was oversubscribed also.
– No. Subscriptions to the first loan of £100,000,000 amounted to only £S7,000,000. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) knows perfectly well that £25,000,000 of that loan was in respect of conversions, and did not represent new subscriptions at all. At the same time, however, the people were given to understand that £100,000,000 new money was subscribed on that occasion. In no year since the inception of war savings certificates have the sales exceeded one-third of the Government’s estimates of receipts from that source’. I believe that an additional £100,000,000 of the national income could be obtained for war purposes. It is not the amount of money that a man earns, but what he saves that makes him wealthy; and the same is true of nations. The Government could easily save £25,000,000 a year, because it is now anticipating the release of man-power from the armed services and war industries. It proposes to release 50,000 men in that way. By releasing 100,000 men, the Government’s present wages bill would be reduced by £25,000,000 a year. In view of the fact that we have reached saturation point so far as man-power is concerned, we can reasonably release that number from war industries and the armed services. However, at present, the release of man-power from the armed services and war industries is a mere trickle. The Government proposes to release man-power at the rate of 2,000 a month. The Treasurer says that to-day 1,320,000 workers, or over 40 per cent, of the population, are engaged in war work. This, of course, includes the personnel of the armed forces as well as that of the war industries. According to the Prime Minister’s figures 820,000 men and women are in uniform, leaving 500,000, or half a million people, in war work apart from the army personnel. Yet the Government seems to think that it will take twelve months to complete the release of the full complement promised to the primary industries. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) addressing an Australian Labour party conference recently, stated that there were often 10,000 personnel absent without leave from the Army at one time, lt’ that number can be continuously away from the Army, it surely should not take ten or twelve months to get 10,000 men out of the Army into primary industries. These men are being held for the production of munitions, and for military purposes although the primary industries are in dire need of assistance. Foodstuffs arc of vital importance. If half the skill and organization which is put into the control and rationing of those goods were devoted to the production of them, there would be practically no scarcity. Every newspaper printed in Australia during the last two or three months has devoted half a column a day to the production’ of potatoes. I do not think that potatoes have ever had such prominence since the great famine in Ireland. One would think that they constituted the staple food of the Australian people. I do not know how many persons arc engaged in the control of potatoes, but if each of them was given a fork and sent out to dig them, the production would bc increased enormously. The present position in regard to the price of potatoes is ridiculous. It fluctuates every day. The producer gets £20 a ton, and the consumer pays £10 a ton, although there is nothing to prevent him from paying the full price. We are told by the New South Wales expert that in a week or two’s time there will be an ample supply of potatoes.
Reference has been made to the rationing of meat. That is positively ridiculous in a country such as ours. If we have failed to a certain degree to fulfil our contracts with Great Britain it is due not to a lack of meat but to a lack of facilities to reach the markets. We have in this country 125,000,000 sheep and 14,000,000 cattle. That is more than we have ever had. Our annual slaughterings of sheep are about 19,000,000 and of cattle from 3,500,000 to 4,000,000. With such stocks in a country such as this, the idea of any scarcity of meat is entirely attributable to the fact that we have not had the man-power to do the work. Until recently we had in Australia what was known as the Australian Meat Board, a body of men carefully selected, who knew every phase of the industry and had been trained for years in the export of meat, but the Government in its supposed wisdom dispensed with that board and appointed one of its own selection. Ever since the new body was appointed we have heard nothing but talk of floor prices arid ceiling prices, and the rationing and controlling of meat. Such talk is simply ridiculous in this country. Take the mutton position in its relation to man-power. We have 125,000,000 sheep, more than we have ever had in Australia before. The usual mating of our ewes in Australia is something like 50,000,000 or 60,000,000 sheep annually, which gives us an increase every year of 35,000,000 to 45,000,000 lambs. Up to 15,000,000 of these sheep were not mated last year on account of lack of man-power, and therefore we have lost an increase of from 12,000,000 to 15,000,000 lambs. What makes the meat position more ridiculous is that we are using meat to feed dogs and cats while the people of Great Britain are asking us to send them more meat than we are sending now. People in Australia do not realize what the consumption of meat by dogs and cats amounts to. Those animals are looked after in Australia much better than in any other country. We have 750,000 dogs, and many cats also, but I shall deal for the moment with what are known as racing dogs. We have 120,000 of them and they consume about 52,000,000 lb. of meat in a year. Converted into sheep that means that we are feeding our dogs with 1,755,000 sheep each of 30 lb. every year. Converted into beef, we are feeding them with 104,000 bullocks each of 500 lb. every year. That is for our racing dogs alone, yet there is talk of rationing meat.
– Would the honorable senator give those dogs Werribee beef?
– It is this Government that make3 Werribee beef available. Senator Gibson and I are opposed to its use. In the munitions factories and the military forces there are many men. who could be spared for agricultural production. The production of foodstuffs is as important to the country as any problem that we have to solve. Men and women working to-day in munitions factories admit that there is not sufficient work to keep them going. A great number of them could easily be released. The Melbourne Argus recently published the following report: -
Spencer Vaughan, of Royal-parade, Caulfield, and father of one of the accused, said he had worked at Maribyrnong for nine mouths, and knew the conditions there. In the first place one did not work. He had walked about with an oilcan for niue months and had never done anything. Nobody else worked there. He had received just on £7 a week to oil machines that were never going. It was the greatest racket he. had ever seen in his life. There would be 20, 30 and 40 women sitting in a bay talking about hats and dresses. They could not be blamed. They were there to work, but the work was not there for them to do.
– That was proved to be incorrect. Why not quote the answer to it?
– It was sworn evidence given in court. I do not know anything about the case personally. If those conditions exist, it would be easy to release many of those people to work in the primary industries.
– And the profit they are making.
– Yes. Only experts are of any use on such- a committee. It is useless to put laymen on a job of that description. All they can do is to travel about and waste time and money, and their reports are of no value.
– Is the honorable senator a member of the War Expenditure Committee?
– No. I admit that I am not competent to act on it, and I very much doubt whether any honorable senator is. I do not believe that we have an. accountant in this chamber, except possibly the Minister for Trade and Customs.
I should like provision to be made in the budget for the pay-as-you-earn principle in respect of taxation. After a great deal of controversy I understand that a committee is to be set up to inquire into it. In my opinion there can be no valid argument against it. It should be put into operation not only for the sake of the people, but also for the sake of the Government, because I am positive that on the cessation of the war a great number of people, although they will not be out of employment, will not receive nearly as much as they have earned in recent years, and the Government will lose considerably in the matter of income, tax.
– The department is collecting £5 a week out of my salary now.
– That is for the previous year’s tax.
– Then the Government will be losing twelve months’ tax.
– It cannot lose an amount which is not due. The pay-as-you-earn system has been adopted in the United States of America, Great Britain and Canada after a great deal of thought. The case of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) who has ceased to be a Minister, has been cited in the press, and mentioned in the House of Representatives. It is well worth using as an illustration. Whereas that honorable member was earning approximately £2,300 a year when he was Minister for Transport, and out of that sum was paying approximately £11 a week in income tax, this year, while he is earning, say, £1,000 a year, he will have to pay tax on £2,300. There is also the case of our late President, ex-Senator Cunningham, whose widow is now faced with the payment of income tax on a salary of approximately £2,500.. These cases are typical of many that occur almost daily. Under the present taxation system, which provides for the payment of income tax in March or April, should a man die at that time, his widow or dependants would have to pay two years’ taxation instead of one, in addition to probate duties.
I trust that the Government will give serious consideration to the raising of more -revenue by means of taxation and loans than is provided for in this budget. It is scandalous that approximately 2,750,000 people, earning £560,000,000 per annum, did not subscribe as much as 3d. in the £1 of their incomes to the last war loan. The earning of these people represents about half the national income of this country, and surely it is up to them to contribute more than Id. in the £1 of their incomes to our war loans. It is the responsibility of the Government to see that the burden of financing this war is distributed over the community as evenly as possible. The less we have to resort to bank credit to finance this war, the better will be our financial position when the war ends. I suggest that serious consideration be given to the introduction of a scheme of compulsory loans.
– Before dealing with the budget I should like to correct, two statements that have been made by Senator Tames McLachlan in regard to war loans. First, I remind the honorable senator that to the £100,000,000 war loan floated in November, 1942, the people of Australia subscribed approximately £82,700,000 in cash, and that conversions amounted to approximately £21,770,000, making a total of £104.470,000 or an oversubscription of £4,470,000. In “March last the £100;000,000 loan was oversubscribed by £1,S22,000, which I think disposes of the honorable senator’s claim that this Government is unable to obtain the money that it requires by way of loans.
The budget falls naturally into two parts - war expenditure and ordinary civilian expenditure - and I am sure that with the first part no honorable senator will quarrel. I am neither a mathematician nor a financier, but, as an ordinary Australian citizen, I do know that during the past four years the people of this country have been called upon to bear an immense burden, which, despite what may be said by honorable senators opposite, has been fairly and evenly distributed throughout the community, and has been borne more or less cheerfully by all sections of the community, secure in the belief that if that is the greatest impact of war that they are to feel then they should be grateful indeed. Our war effort has been a stupendous one. Australia is a vast country with a relatively small population. In fact, our population is only equal to that of London or New York, whilst our continent is the size of Europe or the United States of America. In addition, we have commitments in various other theatres of war, as one of the very active components of the Allied nations. Those commitments have been carried out faithfully, and now we, the people of Australia, are called upon to support, through our financial efforts, the work that has been done so ably by the men and women of the fighting forces and by others who have kept actual invasion away from our shores. In the second part of the budget - that devoted to expenditure other than war expenditure - there is a great deal that calls for comment. I was surprised yesterday to’ hear one honorable senator opposite deploring the fact that the cost of our social services had risen from £31,000,000 to £68,000,000 in two years ; but if we think of their cost in terms of war expenditure we find that it is very modest indeed. For instance, our annua] maternity allowance bill is equivalent to only one day and four hours of our present war expenditure. On the same basis, war pensions represent three days and eight hours of war expenditure, invalid and old-age pensions thirteen and a half days, child endowment a little less than one week, and widows’ pensions less than two days, making a total of approximately 26 days. There are various aspects of our social services which I consider call for special comment. I trust that honorable senators will not regard me as a fiddler with only one string to his fiddle, if I deal again with the question of social services. What I have said in regard to that matter appears to have struck a responsive note throughout all States of the Commonwealth because during the past three weeks I have received more than 2,000 letters from people in all walks of life. That is a good indication of how the people of Australia generally regard this important matter. In my view, the most objectionable feature of our present treatment of the aged is the fact that they are herded info institutions. The distressing effects of such a system were clearly shown in the course of a recent inquiry into the management of a certain institution in New South Wales. It is obvious that if we have hundreds of men and women herded into institutions under these unfortunate conditions, they are not able to get the care and treatment to which they are entitled. I should like to see all such institutions brought under the control of the Commonwealth Government and the care of the aged placed upon a more humane footing by the establishment of the cottage system. The practice of segregating sexes in institutions for the aged is extremely hard upon men and women who have reached the eventide of life. The husband is sent to one institution, and the wife to another perhaps sonic miles away, and very often a substantial part of their meagre pension has to be used in the payment of fares when they are visiting each other. The existing system calls for a drastic overhaul, and I hope that the Social Security Committee, to which I have had the honour of being appointed, will be able to bring down some concrete proposals in this regard. The present child endowment payment of 5s. a week is quite inadequate. Honorable senators will appreciate the difficulty of caring for a child on this meagre sura, especially in these days of rising prices. Incidentally, I have been surprised to find that the cost of living in the eastern States has increased much more rapidly than has been the case in Western Australia. In fact, with wages pegged, I do not know how many of the working people of the eastern States are able to pay their way at all. In that regard also there are many anomalies which I trust we shall be able to iron out in the current financial year. t come now to the widows’ pensions. As I have pointed out, expenditure -on widows’ pensions for a whole year is equivalent only to what we are spending on the war every 28 hours. I contend that something should be done as soon as possible to raise the limit upon the income which a widow may earn whilst receiving a pension. I am not suggesting that widows should be given something for nothing, although one weekly journal has represented me as believing that the Commonwealth Government should be a sort of Father Christmas giving everybody something for nothing from the cradle to the grave. Widows are prohibited from earning more than 1.2s. 6d. a week which, together with their pension of £1 6s. 6d. a week, provides less than £2 a week, out of which they are expected to provide accommodation, food, clothing, . &c. Yet every one is talking of the shortage of manpower and woman-power. Many widows would be prepared to work one, two, or three days a week if they were permitted to do so and still receive the pension. That is only one of several anomalies which are apparent, and which I trust, we shall be able to eliminate entirely in the near future.
With regard to the grants that are made by the Commonwealth- to the less populous States, I believe that Western Australia has- a particular claim because of the special problems which confront the people of that State. We have a huge, area and a very sparse population, which makes the cost of our social services and public utilities very much greater than is the case in the more closely settled States. In particular, our education system suffers very badly. In Western Australia less than £2 per head of the population is spent on education each year. That is why I am pleased to see that there has. been a. slight increase of the grant to Western Australia this year. But that does not tackle the real problem, which, in my opinion, is the adoption of a Commonwealthwide system of education so that the poorer sections of the community, and particularly the children in the hackblocks, will have educational opportunities equal to those enjoyed by more privileged sections of the community. Tasmania has supplied a good lead by the establishment of area schools, and I hope’ that action along those lines will be taken in Western Australia; -but the problem would be accentuated in that State because of the necessity for resident hostels to enable pupils to attend such schools. Under the present State system of education such hostels could not be provided.
Another aspect of education which should appeal to all honorable senators is university education. I should like this Parliament to face up to its responsibility in this matter. It has already done so to some degree. For the first time in the history of federation, I understand, it lias realized that university education is a national responsibility. Last year it decided that admission to the university was. to be granted according to ability, and not according to ability to pay. In 1939, when I attended n conference of university representatives, we had before us the report of a commission which had inquired into the financial standing of the parents of university students throughout Australia. “In “Western Australia the income range of parents was very much lower than in any other State, -the reason being that in that State there is a free university. I could not have had a university education if it had not been free. There are many people who could -have derived much benefit from a university training, hut have been prevented from doing so because of the high fees charged. “We found from a survey that of those taking the medical course in the universities in Australia only one in eleven came from a working-class home in which there was an income of £9 a week or less. “Where does the opposition come from to most of the ideas of the Labour party with regard to the nationalization of medical services? The British Medical Association is hostile to any suggestion for the nationalization of health services. Many of the members of that organization do good work, but cannot understand what money means to people in workingclass homes who need medical attention. Assistance should be given, not only to university students, but also to the universities themselves, because we must look to the universities for our leaders in the arts and sciences. “We must have leaders “if we are to succeed as a democracy. We have now established the principle of equality of opportunity for university students, and we must also give some assistance to the universities themselves, most of which are floundering at present in financial difficulties. Yet their graduates must rise to international standards and obtain international recognition. Many graduates from Western Australia and other universities of Australia are filling important positions in various parts of the British Empire, because up to the present they have reached a standard as high as, if not higher than, that attained in any other country, but those standards cannot be maintained if our universities are starved. The Government subsidizes the production of wheat, pigs and almost everything under the sun. Why should it not subsidize brains? I urge the Government to face up to the whole problem of education, from the primary school to the university. If it does that the result will be most helpful in the period of post-war reconstruction.
I was disappointed at not finding any reference in the budget to the Australian, aborigines. I hope that they are included among the “ other services “ of one of the departments. The care of the aborigines is definitely a national responsibility, lt has been regarded as such, but the State authorities have been left, to deal with the problem and very little has been. done. [ have received a communication from an official of one of the aboriginal settlements in Western Australia, and in pathetic terms I am advised as to the lack of educational facilities for the natives at that centre. They are -not educated in any way at all. In a letter outlining a day’s routine this official wrote-
Now I will just give you u brief idea of the life of these people here; they are all hunted out of bed at 0 o’clock in the morning, lie it hot oi’ cold. Young and old alike and those few who do u little work of course go to their respective jobs. The rest sit around all day until they are herded into their dormitory again at sundown and locked up for the night. There is nothing to break the monotony except an occasional fight among themselves. No picture show even, and, no matter how long they stay here, that is the life they are expected to lead.
I contend that the care of the aborigines is a Commonwealth responsibility. . The Commonwealth Government has previously appointed a commission to investigate the welfare of the aborigines. The half-caste problem is becoming increasingly acute. The proportion of halfcastes to the white population lias practically doubled since the beginning ‘of the century, and the position will become worse instead of better, unless we approach it from a national point of view. In J 910 Dr. Ramsay Smith, of Adelaide, wrote a report on the aborigines of Australia, which appeared in the Commonwealth Year-Booh, in which he said -
I f matter* go on as at present for the next two or three generations, there appears to be’ no prospect of anything but difficulties and complications for us. and misery, death and disease for the blacks.
That has been the experience since Dr. Ramsay Smith made that statement. We have, been told that the lack of national policy to aid the aborigines has been due to vested interests. Let me quote from the book Australian Native Policy by Edmund J. B. Foxcroft, M.A., a professor of the Melbourne University. He cannot bc accused of having a vested interests complex. He state? -
Australian native policy has so often -in the past been wrecked by the use of wrong methods, by inadequate finances and by vested -interests. I he experience of the nineteenth century suggests that the possibilities of failure arc many: first, that in spite of apparent professions to the contrary, the wrong methods will be used; secondly, that even if the right methods are used, not enough support will bc given them; and thirdly, that vested interests and prejudice may be permitted to wreck even the best plans.
We must make certain that vested interests do not wreck any plans inaugurated by the Commonwealth Government for the welfare of the aborigines. When child endowment was introduced it was decided to extend it to half-castes who have a standard of living comparable with that of white people. In Western Australia this resulted in an influx of aborigines to the towns. We know how difficult it is for anybody to get a house nowadays, therefore, the half-castes had no chance of obtaining decent housing accommodation, and they camped in paddocks near the towns until they were sent away. Their standard of living then became incomparable with that of white folk, and they could not receive the endowment. In the southern districts of Western Australia, where the majority of the natives are now living, the white residents refuse to send their children to the ‘local schools which are attended by coloured children. When I visited some of the aboriginal encampments, it waa sad to see the subterfuges resorted to bv the natives to make their homes habit able. It is quite possible to educate the aborigines. I have educated half-caste children. One girl was able to learn shorthand and typewriting, but she said that nobody would give her a job in an office even if she became proficient. If these Australian natives are regarded as fit only for domestic work and for jobs on the land, their position will be hopeless. I trust that due attention will be given to “this matter, so that this Parliament will not have to blame itself for any accentuation of the problem. New Zealand and the United States of America had a native problem similar to our own, but they faced up to it. If one walks down the Macquarie-street of Wellington, one sees brass plates on the suites of dentists, doctors and lawyers, bearing the names of Maoris, but in Collins-street, Melbourne, or St. George’s-terrace, Perth, one looks in vain for the names of any Australian natives who have been educated up to a professional standard. Very few of the Australian aborigines have received even the rudiments of learning. It has been found impossible to get anybody to take over the schools in Western Australia. Frequently, one reads advertisements in the Perth press for teachers for the aborigines. The salary offered is so low that, when deductions are taken into account, it does not amount to much more than £1 a week. Much better wages can be obtained for war work. It is deplorable that the aborigines are receiving practically no education at all. I make a plea for them because I know that they can be educated. I have seen them in some of the mission stations. There is one at New Norcia where the inmates do school work. The women are taught needlework and the men become good craftsmen. Although this proves that the natives can be assisted to help themselves, the tragedy remains that nobody wants the half-caste. Some of -them have enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, and if they are good enough to be soldiers they are also good enough to be regarded as ordinary citizens.
I have already referred to the need for the nationalization of the medical services. I have become more convinced than ever in the last three weeks of the necessity for a national health scheme.
I have received letters from people on this subject from various parts of the Commonwealth, and particularly from a medical practitioner in a locality not 300 miles from Canberra, who told me that in his town he had had to perform an operation with the aid of a hurricane lamp. I am glad that I was not the patient, who, however, recovered. That is typical of the difficulties which confront doctors in country districts. In some districts, however, there are no doctors at all. In a portion of the Kalgoorlie electorate a doctor was required. Advertisements offering reasonable remuneration were inserted in various newspapers, but no doctor applied for the position. Yet, that district had a good school. The education system of the State being nationalized meant that teachers were available. They went to that district because it was their duty to go, but there was no doctor within 500 miles of the school, notwithstanding that the district contained a fairly big population. Honorable senators will realize how serious a position would arise in the event of an accident, a serious illness, or an outbreak of disease in the district. In another portion of the same electorate, about 104 miles from Kalgoorlie, ‘ the local miners contributed £37 10s. a week to provide the district with the services of a medical practitioner. Once a week a doctor was supposed to visit the district, but as he had a good practice in Kalgoorlie, he seldom visited the outback place. When I was there last May, I was taken to see what was known locally as “ the pride of the village “ namely, the twin sons of a Yugoslav woman. At that time her children were almost ready to attend school; but the doctor had never visited her. When I suggested that a visit by a doctor at the time of her confinement would have been helpful, she replied that she was glad that the doctor did not come, because, in that event, she might have had two girls instead of two boys. She was perfectly satisfied. My point is that although some residents of the district pay £37 10s. a week for medical attention, they are given practically no medical service whatever. These, I know, are extreme cases, but they show the necessity for providing a medical service for every person in the com- m unity. I have seen the fine hospital, and 1 know something of the excellent medical services which are available to the people of this capital city. What is good enough for Canberra is good enough for any other part of Australia. Conversely, what is good for the rest of Australia, -is good enough for Canberra. I am amazed that, by coming here the people of the Australian Capital Territory have lost the franchise, and have been deprived of some of the rights of citizenship. To me it is amazing because many of them are specialists - men and women with keen intellects who fill important positions. They perform a valuable national service; yet they are deprived of one of the cherished rights of citizenship, and in that respect are placed in the same category as lunatics and criminals. Nowhere in A’ustralia are there people better fitted to elect, a government than in Canberra. The residents of this city are intelligent people who know how to make up their minds, and by their association with these legislative halls, as well as in other ways, they know what is going on around them and in the world at large. Perhaps that is why they have been deprived of a vote. I hope that during the life of this Parliament that anomaly will be rectified. To me it is ridiculous that thousands of people in this territory are denied the -full rights of citizenship because they have sufficient intelligence to occupy important positions associated with the administration of the nation. Residents of the Northern Territory also are in a. somewhat similar position. There was a time when it could have been said that they lived in remote place.5, and were isolated from the rest of Australia; to-day we are grateful to them for what they have done since their territory was violated by Japanese aggressors. Yet, although they elect a representative to this Parliament, he has not a deliberative vote. I hope that the anomaly also will be rectified soon.
Many girls from all the States of the Commonwealth are living in hostels and boarding-houses in Canberra, but they are unable to return to their homes because of transport difficulties. I am aware that this matter is being inquired into, but it is one of the things which cause irritation, and may tend to inefficiency. These girls are public servants doing national work, and we should show more interest in their welfare. I do not think that it would be beyond the limits of this enormous budget to provide in the bigger establishments a trained matron or nurse to help them in cases of illness. Many young girls are loath to go to a stranger when ill and, in any case, the housekeeper or other person in charge of a boarding-house already has sufficient work to keep her busy. It is our duty to spc that medical assistance is made available for these girls when they become ill. It would be the job of the person appointed to see that the food supplied to girls in boarding-houses and hostels is both adequate and varied. I know what it is to live in boarding-houses, and how a poor diet militates against efficiency. I am not a dietitian, nor do- I know a great deal about the establishments in Canberra, where these girls live ; I speak generally, and am not reflecting upon those in charge of hostels and boardinghouses in this city. We talk a lot about health, diet and nutrition. Here is a chance to do something, particularly for the adolescent girls who are away from home for the first time. We should see that they enjoy the amenities which in some way would compensate them for those inconveniences which the exigencies of the times make unavoidable.
I realize that I have traversed a fairly wide field, and that other honorable senators wish to speak. I am not a mathematician, but I have a sense of responsibility in respect of the millions of pounds which we are asked to vote to finance Australia’s war effort, and provide for essential civilian needs. There is need for every Australian to realize the necessity to fill the loan which is now being floated. Under the present financial system we cannot raise money otherwise. War expenditure must be met, and it is our job to see that the loan is filled as quickly as. possible.
I was pleased that the Treasurer’s budget ‘speech contained references to the work of post-war reconstruction because, in my opinion, this is a matter of supreme importance. Like other honorable senators, I earnestly hope that peace will soon again descend upon the world.
It is gratifying to know that our enemies are now on the defensive. Between now and the coming of the peace we must provide a sound foundation on which we can build in the post-war period, so that we shall not again have thousands of our young people herded together under unhygienic conditions. I know something of the conditions which existed after the last war, because I worked among the young men and young women in some of the camps. I have seen 309 or 400 of them living in camps and in receipt of only a few shillings a week; indeed 7s. was regarded as munificence. Wo do not want a repetition of that state of affairs, and therefore I am pleased that the work of reconstruction is to be catered for. Planning is necessary for not only the men and women of the forces who will return after the wai-., but also those now employed on war work in factories throughout the Commonwealth. We must not allow those factories to close, but must divert their production to the requirements of peace, just as some of them were diverted to war production after the war broke out. The task that confronts us in raising the money necessary to carry on the war and prepare for the peace, and in expending it wisely, is a difficult one, but I am confident that the proposals of the Government will receive the support of honorable senators of all parties.
– Senator Tangney has placed before the Senate a number of interesting suggestions, and we shall all be interested to see how they are treated by the Government during the three years in which it will have an absolute. majority in both Houses of the Parliament; The honorable senator commenced her speech by disputing certain figures cited by Senator James McLachlan in reference to recent loans. I suppose that it can be said that both honorable senators are right; it all depends on what is meant by subscribing to a loan. Honorable senators will recall that Micawber signed a promissory note and handed it to his creditors saying, “ Thank God, that is paid “. When the last loan was floated the Government asked for £100,000,000.
– It was oversubscribed by £1,800,000.
– The members of all political parties realized the need to obtain the money, and they helped in every way possible, both by personal subscriptions and by inducing others to subscribe. Unfortunately, however, that loan was not subscribed by the due date and consequently the Government extended the time. Later, it announced that the loan had been oversubscribed. It was stated subsequently that £20,300,000 had been subscribed by the Commonwealth Bank on the IOU of the Government.
– That is not right.
– So long as the government of the day will fill loans in that way, loans will always be filled. The Commonwealth Bank is a government instrumentality, and so long as it is possible to say to the bank, “ Here are treasury-bills - otherwise promissory notes; pay out the money”, so long will it be possible to fill loans. When the final figures were announced, they revealed that only one in ten of the adult population in Australia had subscribed to the loan; in other words, only one person in ten believed that he or she could afford £10 or more to assist the country in its war effort. On = this occasion something better than that must be done. Honorable seu a tors on this side are prepared to render all the assistance in their power to achieve a better result. Last night, Senator Armstrong delivered a most interesting address on the magnificent war effort of Great Britain. He demonstrated how every person there was pulling his full weight in the war. I believe that we would do well to heed the honorable senator’s words and try to induce the people of this country to make their war effort equal to that of the people of Britain. Much more could be done in connexion with war savings certificates. Last year, the people of Australia subscribed £9,000,000 in this way, but their effort was small in comparison with that of the people of Britain who raised £240,000,000. The population of Australia is about one-sixth of that of Great Britain, and had per capita expenditure on war savings certificates been equal to that of the British people, instead of £9,000,000 having been raised by the sale of Avar savings certificates the amount would have been £40,000,000. We can do better than we did in connexion with the last loan, and, as I have said, we on this side are prepared to render all the assistance in our power. Up to the 31st March last the people of Britain provided £1,000,000,000, by means of war savings certificates. Australia subscribed £35,000,000, but had we subscribed an amount equal to that subscribed by the British people, on a per capita basis we would have purchased war savings certificates to the value of £166,000,000. The Government lays great stress upon its huge war expenditure, and claims a certain amount of credit for spending so much money. The true test, in this matter is, not how much money is expended, but the value that is obtained for the money expended. During the regime of the Menzies Government, war expenditure in 1940-41 amounted to £170,000,000, and in 1941-42 to £319,000,000. During that period that Government maintained, equipped, paid, and fed four divisions of the Australian Imperial Force overseas. In respect of the ensuing twelve months, this Government is budgeting for a war expenditure of £570,00.0,000, but it ‘intends to maintain overseas only two divisionsThus it is maintaining half the fighting forces maintained by the Menzies Government at almost double the cost incurred by that Government,
– The honorable senator does not understand the position. ‘
– The facts speak for themselves. It is useless to expend a lot of money if we do not obtain full value for it. What is the good of expending huge sums of money in respect of an army which the Government will not allow to fight, although the personnel are willing to do so. The true test of our war effort is the men and materials we provide’ for the common cause of winning of war. The Opposition will help the Government in every way possible to obtain every penny it requires to enable it to achieve a 100 per cent, war effort. At the same time, we have. a duty to the people to see’ that’ the Government obtains full value for its war expenditure.
Much has been said upon the methods of raising money required for war purposes, livery honorable senator ‘agrees that every penny required to win the war must be provided. There is no dispute on that point. Neither does any dispute exist on the point that money can be obtained by three methods. The first is by taxation, the second by loans, and the third by bank credit. All of us agree 1 hat governments in every country in the world are using these three methods. There is no dispute on that point between the Opposition- and the Government.’ What we disagree upon is the degree to which each of these various methods should be utilized. I agree with the statement made in this chamber that any of these methods can bc free of interest. Taxes are normally free of interest to the Government. Loans can he free of interest and, in some instances, that has been the case. Bank credit may or may. not be free of interest as the Government decides ; but, whilst each of these methods can bo free of interest, none can be free of cost. Taxation may be free of cost to the Government, but it is certainly not free of cost to the taxpayers. Loans may be free of cost to the taxpayers, but the Government may have to pay interest on them. Bank credit may be free of interest but it is certainly not free of cost. The cost of bank credit is reflected in the increased prices of commodities. “Whenever bank credit is issued, an increase of the prices of commodities, whether it is noticeable or not, is caused thereby. In every war, governments have been obliged to use bank credit rather extensively, and, consequently, in every war prices have increased substantially. In Australia we have already seen a rise in the price of even basic commodities which are included in the retail price index, the increase, in some instances, being as high as 25 per cent. Further, no method of price fixation can prevent prices from rising. One’ can deliver lie same quantity after adding water to milk, but the value of the milk is thereby reduced. Similarly, by the use of bank credit w#> water, or depreciate, our currency. That is, we reduce its purchasing power.
For instance, the present purchasing power of our £1 is only 15s. compared with 20s. prior to the war. Senator Tangney said that she was alarmed at the increase of prices of commodities in the eastern States. All of us are alarmed at those increases. Recently, I tried to buy a chair; and I do not exaggerate when I say that the prices asked for the chairs I examined were as much as 300 per cent, more than their pre-war prices.
– What is the attitude of the honorable senator’s party towards th<> limitation of profits?.
– We believe in the principle of strict limitation of profits. I repeat that prices in Australia have increased, and that no method of price control can prevent them from increasing if the Government inflates the currency. I now wish to examine the various methods that can be used to finance the war - taxation, loans and bank credit. We know that taxes are levied according to the ability of people to pay, that is, the greatest burdens are placed upon the shoulders of those best able to bear. them. Our taxation system is as equitable as that in any other country. When we raise revenue by way of loans the greatest amounts to a certain degree are contributed by those who can afford to do so. However, when we resort to bank credit, and thereby cause prices to rise, those who suffer most arc the poorer people and particularly those with large families. A famous Labour man, and one for whom I, and every member of this chamber, has the greatest respect, once cabled from London to his colleagues in Australia, “Do not inflate the currency. Inflation robs the worker of his wages “. That mau is the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). To-day, the inflation which this Government’ has embarked upon is not only robbing the worker of his wages, but also the savings bank depositor of his savings, the pensioner of his pension and the soldier of bis deferred pay. It is placing the greatest burden upon the poorer sections of the community. At the same time the big commercial man, and the big manufacturer, are not suffering at all. The manufacturer is not hit by inflation for the simple reason that as he is -paid on a cost-plus basis, he is able to pass on the tax arising from inflation in the pricesof his goods. I urge the Government to guard against inflation because it places the greatest burden upon the poorest people, and, particularly upon those with large families. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to tomorrow, at 10 a.m.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I should like to bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for Information certain undesirable aspects of the press reports dealing with the Japanese atrocity in which an allied airman captured in New Guinea was executed by the Japanese. I urge the Government not to permit any further reports of that kind to be published. I do not question the authenticity of that report. The point I make is that reports of that kind are most undesirable in view of their possible effect upon the mothers, wives and sisters of Australian service men now held as prisoners by the Japanese, or who may be captured by the Japanese in the future; When I read that report in a local newspaper, I immediately burnt the newspaper fearing that my wife would read it. I had not the slightest doubt that if she had seen it she would not have slept that night. Probably, thousands of mothers, wives and sisters of Australian prisoners of war would react in a similar manner to such reports, and would be seized by fears concerning the possible fate of their relatives who are now in the hands of the Japanese. Possibly they would be wondering whether their relatives were safe, or like this unfortunate airman, had been executed in. cold blood. Such reports, obviously, have a most harmful effect on persons who are naturally highly strung. I ask the Minister for Infor mation, or whoever is responsible, in the interests of the feelings of those who have close relatives in the fighting forces, to think of the effect of such reportsbefore publishing particulars of atrocities perpetrated by our enemies. It is bad enough that such things should happen, but it is a severe strain on the people concerned to have the story continuously put before their eyes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 October 1943, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1943/19431014_senate_17_176/>.