17th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator theHon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the High Court’s decision, given by Mr. Justice Starke, that the owners of blue peas acquired by the Government in 1942 at 15s. a bushel were entitled to the full market value at the time of acquisition, and as His Honour gave judgment with costs against the Commonwealth for the full amount claimed by Mr. William Edney Peterson, ofWestbury, Tasmania, farmer, for £2,659, and against Stenhouse and Company of Devonport, Tasmania, produce merchants, for £1,239, will the Minister for Trade and Customs state what action, if any, the Government proposes to take to see that justice is done to all other growers of peas whose crops for that year were acquired at 15s. a bushel?
– In view of the extraordinary decision given by the High Court in this case, and of the fact that thegrowers are receiving 15s. a bushel, or a price 250 per cent, higher than they received previously, and in view of the fact that an allegation with regard to a price of £11s. a bushel was made by some irresponsible officer, I shall undertake to have an examination made of the matter, and furnish a reply to the honorable senator later.
Issue of “ Vote- Yes “ Badges
– Will the Minister for the Interior cause immediate inquiries to be made with regard to a flagrant breach of the electoral law, namely, the issue of “ vote-yes “ buttonhole badges, without regard to the provisions of the Electoral and Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Acts? Will the Minister also inform the Senate who is responsible for the issue of such badges, many of which are seen on the coat lapels of government supporters in this Parliament, and the name of the manufacturer? Will he also intimate whether the department intends to take action with regard to this matter, according to the terms of the acts which he administers?
– I do not know whether the allegations contained in the honorable senator’s question are facts, but if he furnishes me with a statement in my room with regard to the matter I shall investigate it.
– I prefer to put the question on the notice-paper.
Release of Army Vehicles
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army state whether there are any surplus utility trucks or other motor vehicles that were formerly used for army purposes that could be released for civil requirements, in order to relieve the position of primary producers? If so, will the Minister discuss the matter with the Minister for the Army, with a view to speeding up the release of such vehicles?
– The answer to the first part of the question is “ Yes “. The vehicles cannot be released until they have been dealt with by the Disposals Board.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping read the statement in yesterday’s and this morning’s press that unless coal arrives in Victoria the. people of that State will be without gas from to-morrow?. Is the statement true, and, if so, what does the Government propose to do about it?
– The shortage of coal in Victoria has been brought to the notice of the Government, and I understand that the necessary steps have been taken to supplement stocks.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state which department is responsible for the payment of a subsidy on synthetic woollen goods imported into this country and what amount has been paid in that direction in the last six months ?
– If any such subsidy has been paid, it would have been done by the Stabilization Committee, one of whose members is the Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, who. is attached to the Prices Branch of my department. I shall have inquiries made with regard to the latter part of the question, and a reply willbe supplied to the honorable senator later.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been drawn to a statement in to-day’s press that a strike of 17,000 members of the Cold Storage Union had resulted in 44½ tons of butter urgently required for shipment to troops being held up in Melbourne? The press paragraph further stated that 12½ tons in railway trucks outside the stores could not be put into the freezing chambers, and Army personnel were taking over meat reserves in the stores which were for the forces, and which the strikers refused to handle? Is that statement correct, and what action does the Government propose to take to correct this shocking position without delay?
– I have not read the newspaper report referred to, butI am aware of a dispute in the industry, which I understand is being looked into by the Minister for Labour and National Service.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That the days of meeting of the Senate, unless otherwise ordered be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of each week; andthat the hour of meeting, unless otherwise ordered,be 3 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday and 10.30 a.m. on Friday.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That on all sitting days of the Senate during; the present session unless otherwise ordered. Government business shall take pre- cedence of all other business on the noticepaper: except questions and formal motions, and except that general business take precedence of Government business on Thursdays, after 8 p.m.; and that, unless otherwise ordered, general orders of the day take precedence of general notices of notion on alternate Thursdays.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, at 3.45 p.m. on Fridays the President shall put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate; if the Senate be in committee at that hour, the Chairman shall in like manner put the question - That he do leave the chair and report to the Senate; and upon such report being made the President shall forthwith put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate: Provided that if the Senate or the committee be in division at the time named, the President or the Chairman shall not put the question referred to until the result of such division has been declared; and if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment it shall appear on the notice-paper for the next sitting day.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to-
That during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the sittings of the Senate, or of a committee of the whole Senate, be suspended from 12.45 p.m. to 2.15 p.m., and from6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 17th July (vide page 22), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
May it please Your Excellency:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to His Excellency the Governor-General for his splendid leadership and for the valuable service which he has rendered to this country during the occupancy of his high office. I desire also to express appreciation of the splendid address’ delivered by His Excellency at the dinner given in his honour last evening. We all regret that His Excellency is leaving Australia, and we heartily endorse the remarks so well expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and other speakers last night. On behalf of the Opposition, I express pleasure at the success which has attended the efforts of the Commonwealth and British Governments to obtain His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester ,as Hie Excellency’s successor. I believe that this appointment will do a great deal to cement the good feeling that exists between the various parts of the British Empire. Having regard to the great problems that face civilization, anything that can be done to draw the components of tha British Commonwealth of Nations closer together’ is most desirable.
As Leader of the Opposition, I extend a cordial welcome to the new senators who were sworn in yesterday. Now that the majority has been transferred from this side of the chamber to the Government benches, I hope that the new senators will appreciate the importance of this branch of the legislature. “We have, been told at various times that the Labour party, or at least some of its members, favour the abolition of the Senate, but I do not know whether or not that is true. I regard the Senate as one of the most important institutions in this country, and I greatly regret that some members of the House of Representatives have, in days gone by, not paid to this chamber the respect that is its due. Fortunately, there is evidence that the present Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) is determined to do his utmost to uphold the dignity and rights of the Senate. In my opinion, the rigid caucus control of the Labour party, which has been evident for some time, is a retrograde step.
– It has not worked badly.
– I am convinced th at dictation by any outside body as to what the members of the Australian Labour party may, or may not, do is only a passing phase, and that the time i.s not far distant when the Senate will again come into its own. “When that day comes, the States will have proper representation in the Senate, the interests of Australia will receive the consideration to which they aTe entitled, and the Senate will no longer be a rubber stamp for the recording of caucus decisions, as it is to-day.
I congratulate Senators McKenna and Grant on the maiden speeches delivered by them yesterday. The former delivered an exceptionally fine speech, which set a high standard that I hope will be maintained by all honorable senators in the future. We were all interested in the speech of Senator Grant, and I trust that he and the other new senators will soon realize that, although in this democratic chamber various conflicting views must be expressed, in order that the truth may be discovered, such differences of opinion have no effect on the personal relations of honorable senators. I trust that in our deliberations we shall deal with principles, rather than indulge in personalities.
Although the Opposition does not object to anything contained in the Governor-General’s Speech, its members are amazed that the Government has presented to the Parliament a Speech which is entirely barren of policy. I have studied the Speech carefully, as no doubt other honorable senators have done, and I think that all will admit that, apart from references to the retirement of the Governor-General and the appointment of his successor, a review of the war and a tribute to Australia’s fighting forces, the Speech does not contain one item of policy. Notwithstanding that an important referendum is to bc submitted to the people on the 19th August, the only reference to it in the Governor-General’s Speech is the bare statement that it will take place on a certain date.
– That gives an opening.
– That might satisfy the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley), but I repeat that the Speech is barren of policy. There is nothing in it to showwhy the additional powers sought are considered necessary, or to indicate in what way the vesting of additional powers in the Commonwealth Parliament will assist to bring in the “new order “ for which the people are looking, or that Utopia of which some persons in the community speak so glibly. On behalf of the Opposition, I enter an emphatic protest at the failure of the Government to include in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech any matters of policy. I direct attention particularly ‘to paragraph 2 and certain portions of paragraph 27 in the Governor-General’s Speech, and I propose to confine my remarks at this juncture to those particular subjects. I agree with His Excellency’s statement -
The war continues to be the predominant and outstanding occupation of my advisers, and the measures essential to its full prosecution arc the paramount concern of the people.
I also agree with this passage in paragraph 27 of His Excellency’s Speech, when he was referring to the great task of the United Nations -
Not only must they marshal their resources and share equally the perils . . . There can be no relaxation of our efforts until victory is firmly grasped.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has returned from hia visit overseas full of praise for what has been accomplished by the governments and people of Great Britain, the United States of America and our other allies. Let us be practical in this matter. Are we ourselves doing all we possibly can to marshal our resources for the prosecution of the war? Are we pulling our full weight in the struggle? All of us agree that the members of our fighting forces have rendered splendid service to this country. Nevertheless, certain elements within Australia itself are retarding our war effort, and it is time that the Government took action to deal effectively with such people. I refer to the deplorable unrest existing in the coalmining industry.
– What about a suggestion.
– Numerous suggestions and promises have emanated from the Government, but it has never kept any of its promises to deal effectively with
Strikers in the coal-mining industry. All honorable senators will regret to read the following report in to-day’s Melbourne press : -
The manager of the Metropolitan Gas Company (Mr. A. .Evans) said that unless supplies of coal arrived by to-morrow night there would he a complete cessation of gas from Wednesday morning: there would be no meal periods or other hours of supply. Bad weather, it is understood, has delayed a coal shipment for Melbourne.
We also read in the Adelaide Advertiser the following statement dated Sydney, 12th July:-
The Coal Commissioner (Mr. N. Mighell) said to-day that coal production was substantially less than for the same period of last year, although there were now more men in the industry.
The secretary of the Western and Southern Colliery Proprietors’ Association (Mr. W. F. Nally) said that the Government must deal with two serious leaks in production - absenteeism and the darg on output. In one mine, he said, before 1938 miners were filling sixteen skips a man, but in 1941 this was cut to twelve skips. This was typical of what was going on in the industry. It appeared that neither the Government “nor the Miners’ Federation was displaying any concern.
Strikes in nine New South Wales coal-mines to-day involved 3,196 men, and resulted in a production loss of 0,040 tons.
The first portion of that statement was made by the Coal Commissioner, and I doubt whether a statement more damaging to our war effort could be made, ft is certainly in strange contrast to His Excellency’s Speech.
Despite these facts, the Government fails to take action to remedy the situation. Supporters of the Government claim that it does not possess sufficient power to deal effectively with this problem. What the Government requires is not power, but courage to discipline a small section of extremists in the industry who are doing so much to retard our war effort. It was reported in the Sydney press yesterday that six collieries were idle, involving a production loss of 5,500 tons of coal. More than 1,800 men were involved, and this number would have been greater but for the resumption of work at the Richmond Main Colliery after it had been idle for three days last week following the suspension of one miner. The unrest in the coal-mining industry has been discussed in this chamber for the past three years, but in spite of the promise -made by the Prime Minister shortly after he assumed office that the miners would have to work or fight, the attitude of the Government towards these extremists has been one of appeasement. Strikers were called up for military ser-. vice but subsequently these men were released from the Army because of the adverse effect of the call-up on Labour’s policy. The Government then decided that absentees in the industry should be fined, but most of these prosecutions at the direction of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) were withdrawn. When we find that the Government is unable in time of war to enforce the law of the land because of the opposition of an extremist minority in the coal-mining industry what hope have we of retaining responsible parliamentary government in time of peace? I again appeal to the Government to deal with the extremist section in the coal-mining industry. Only a few days ago the Prime Minister stated that Parliament must play a more active part in the government of the country, but it is useless for Parliament to pass laws if the Government is not prepared to enforce them. It will be a very sorry day for this country when any Government admits that Parliament must be subordinate to outside dictation and mob rule. I warn the Government that it cannot continue its policy of appeasement towards the extremist element in the coal-mining industry without endangering not only its own existence but also the authority of Parliament itself. I do not direct any of the criticism I have just uttered against the great body of trade unionists in this country. With the vast majority of our people they have rendered splendid service to Australia in this conflict. However, honorable senators opposite should ask themselves what will be the reaction of the mothers and fathers of men in the fighting services to the Government’s policy of appeasement towards the extremists in industry. What will be the reaction of our Allies towards such a policy, particularly our friends from the United States of America who have been conscripted for service in this theatre of war, and the people of Great Britain who to-day are experiencing great hardships, and whose praises are sung by the Prime Minister? The Government must have courage to enfore the law.
– This Government has displayed as much courage as the British Government or any other government in dealing with strikes in the coalmining industry.
– Undoubtedly, as honorable senators opposite continually remind us, strikes have occurred in the coal-mining industry in Great Britain and the United States of America. However, the action taken by the governments of those countries to deal with this problem has been far more effective than any yet taken in this country. I do not like using strong words, particularly when this matter has been discussed for so long, but I am forced to say that a government which is not prepared to take action can only be looked upon by intelligent and fair-minded people as weak-kneed and spineless. I hope that something will be done to put an end to this deplorable position which is one of the black spots, an indelible stigma on the Australian war effort, and an insult to the memory of the men who have laid down their lives to save this country.
– What about a constructive suggestion from the honorable senator?
– The only one I can make at the moment is that the Prime Minister should carry out his threat and his promise - “ work or fight “. Let him enforce the laws of the land.
– That will not get us coal ; and it is coal that we need.
– That is a lame and weak-kneed excuse. I wish to refer also to the important man-power problem. 1 appreciate its difficulties, but I suggest to the Government that the muddling that has taken place in connexion with it is appalling. The tug-of-war that has been going on between the various departments and departmental heads is unworthy of them. I have obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician figures showing the number of men who have been called up from rural industries. This matter has been discussed in both Houses for over three years, but the Government seems to have an idea that if it sets up a very extravagant and expensive Commonwealth department and gives it a fancy title, it will produce food. What has been the result? Each year the production of butter and other essential foodstuffs in this country has fallen. At the outbreak of war we had approximately 500,000 men engaged in primary industries. By the middle of June, 1943, that total had fallen to 382,000, which meant that 118,000 had been called up or had volunteered, or had gone to munition factories. By the middle of 1944 the figures had recovered by approximately 1S,000. The position as it stands to-day is that no fewer than 100,000 men have been called up or taken out of rural industry. “We have had to feed the visiting servicemen, and we promised to do what we could to keep Great Britain supplied, but through the stupidity of some one those 100,000 men have been called up. Thousands and thousands of them have been in training, but have never been in battle, and would have been better employed after receiving their training in producing foodstuffs for the troops.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the Government should interfere with the High Military Command ?
– I think that the Government should do so, because in the High Military Command there are some people who have not acted in this direction as they should have acted. The Government is prepared to differ with the High Military Command if it is a political matter, but on this practical matter it is simply nonsense to promise to supply the foodstuffs, and to appreciate the importance of doing so, and then to withdraw from rural industry no fewer than 100,000 of the men who are carrying on production. For twelve months we were promised that men would be released from the Army to assist in the production of butter and other foodstuffs.
– Many have been released.
– The figures I have quoted show that 18,000 have gone back into primary production. It has taken over twelve months to release that number, and production has decreased. I know from the practical cases of very great hardship that have been brought before me that Ministers have refused time and again to release men for the dairying and other industries, and that those men’s fathers have been forced to dispose of their stock and close up their farms. That is proved by the production figures which the
Government has released from time to time.
As I have said, there seems to be a crazy idea that if a food control council is set up, with a number of highly paid officers and a big department, food production will be increased. It is interesting to read some of the details supplied by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) on the 21st March, 1944. It was as late as the 28th June, 1943, that the Food Control was established. I find on it a Controller-General of Food at a salary of £1,750 and a Director-General of Agriculture at £1,750 a year. I cast no reflection on those men. I have had the opportunity of working with them and I say that they are excellent men, but it is unnecessary to have a Controller-General of Food and a Director-General of Agriculture. Air. Bulcock holds the latter position, and his was a political appointment, although he is a very able man in his job. In addition, there is the Assistant ControllerGeneral of - Food at £1,500, the Deputy Controller-General of Food at £1,412, the Deputy Director of Food Manufacture at £1,200, the Chief Technologist at £1,100. the Director of Finance at £900, the Director of Service Foodstuffs at £S88, the Chief Executive Officer to the Directorate of Agriculture at £816, the Legal Adviser at £750, the Director of Public Relations at £14 a week, the Director of Civil Supplies at £720, the Economic Adviser at £720, the Executive Officer to the Deputy Controller-General of Food at £672, the Executive Officer to the Director of Food Manufacture at £672, and the Administrative Assistant to the Controller-General at £624. The staff associated with Commonwealth Food Control totals 734, and the cost of the department from June, 1943, to the 29th February, 1944, a period of eight months, was £123,326. With all this elaborate machinery set up at the top, the organization seems to take too Jong to act. I know from -reports which have appeared from time to time that Mr. Murphy, the Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has been unable to get th, men released as quickly as he wanted them released. What hope has the Government of increasing food production, with a big set-up like .that in the department, if it is not prepared to release the men and put them into the industries in which the food has to >be produced?
As I have said previously, there are three things that this Government should do in order to improve the position. One is to give the producer a payable price, another is to give him the experienced men to do the job, and the third is to improve the position in regard to supplying food to Great Britain by displaying the courage, to ration supplies. I again compliment the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) on reducing the butter ration in Australia from S oz. to 6 oz. in order that people in Great Britain should receive some assistance in the dreadful strain they are undergoing. It is deplorable to find that production has still diminished, and that 100,000 men have been taken out of primary industry. The war will be over before the Government departments can decide between themselves which men should be released. It is a fact that of all the personal applications that I have made to date not one has been granted.
– The honorable senator could not have had a very good case.
– I have submitted some of the best possible cases for the release of practical men. Fathers have come to me with medical certificates stating that they were broken in health and could not carry on unless their sons were released from the Army. Some of. these sons have been in the Army for three or four years. The usual thing is for the applicant to receive a stereotyped reply from the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) stating that for certain reasons the release cannot be granted. I am ashamed to take these replies to the men who made the applications because I know the facts of the cases, and I knowthat they are genuine. No doubt it is quite easy for a man in a government department to write a letter of that kind. We who have been Ministers have had experience of the administration of government departments and know the muddling and confusion that goes on when control is vested in three or four authorities. I have before me a typical reply from the Minister for the Army to an application for the release of a soldier to undertake essential work. The letter states that, owing to the soldier’s medical classification and the fact that he was in an operational unit, his release could not be recommended. On the same day that I received that reply from the Minister, I also received a letter from the soldier’s father stating that the soldier concerned had been an inmate of a military hospital in Adelaide for three weeks suffering from malaria; yet it was stated that he could not be released because he was in *an operational unit. Men who have endeavoured unsuccessfully to obtain release from the Army have told me that they have been stationed in Queensland, month after month, idling their time away whilst their parents were struggling to carry on their farms. I appeal to the Government to speed up these releases, and to do what it can to correct this dreadful anomaly.
Any one who visits the capital cities frequently will realize what an alarming growth has taken place in Commonwealth Government departments. It is to the muddling which is going on in those departments that the fall of food production may be attributed. Recently I obtained from the authorities a list of civil employees in the Commonwealth Public Service in 1939, and in March, 1944. This list includes Commonwealth factories, Allied Works Council undertakings and war departments. The figures show that there has been an increase during the war of 126,000 employees. That is on the civil side only. It all comes back to what the British Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill) has said so often: “ The Administration is becoming top-heavy. There is ‘ too much harness and not enough horse ‘ “. The sooner this Government stops the warring between various departments, and makes a real and practical approach to this problem, th© sooner shall we secure an increase of food supplies.
Another matter that is causing a great deal of concern to the taxpayers is evidence of the same muddling and lack or co-ordination in the establishment of new munitions factories. As the war progresses the demand for munitions is decreasing, yet the Government continues to erect new munitions factories. No doubt some of them have great political value, but I am confident that many of them will never produce an implement of war for use in this conflict. Despite the shortage of man-power, there are men and women in munitions undertakings throughout the Commonwealth who have to “ go slow “ to keep themselves in employment, because the orders for munitions are insufficient to keep the factories going at full pressure. It has been reported to me that, because there was no work to do, in May of .this year the Government approved of the provision of up to £10,000 a week to pay workers in one or more of the following munitions factories in New South Wales : - Lithgow, Bathurst, Orange, Forbes, Wellington, Mudgee, Dubbo, Parkes, Cowra and Portland. That report was sent to me to see if I could ascertain whether or not it was true. I have passed it on to the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) and challenged him to deny it, but, so far, that honorable gentleman has sidestepped the question, I believe it is also a fact that some of the wages paid out of this fund wore at overtime rates. Obviously, the man-power authorities cannot absorb all the employees that are becoming available. Could there be any clearer evidence of muddling than that? I know that Ministers themselves are aware that this is going on, yet we are told that the Government will improve the man-power position and marshal all Australia’s resources so that we may pull our full weight in this war! Obviously, that cannot be achieved if we continue on the lines which the Government is following to-day.
Another matter with which I wish to deal whilst on the subject of marshalling our resources and pulling our weight, is the attitude of the Government towards the forthcoming referendum. The Prime Minister has announced that soon another victory loan will be launched. We have also been informed that in the last financial year the Treasury had to resort to the use of bank credit amounting to more than £70,000,000. In the past, we have always prided ourselves upon the fair manner in which proposals for constitutional reform have been submitted to the people of this country. We have all held the opinion that Parliament should set an example of fair play. When referenda were held during the terms of office of governments formed by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, the practice wa3 for the proposals to be submitted to the people by the Chief Electoral Officer in the form of a pamphlet stating the “Yes” case and another stating the “ No “ case. Usually, 4,000,000 such pamphlets were issued and the expense borne by the Government. That practice was followed in 1937. Apart from the speeches made by members of both Houses of this Parliament, that was the only means used to submit the important questions relating to the control of marketing and aviation to the people of Australia. I say to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane), and ask him to convey my statement to the Government, that the people of this country are amazed and disgusted at the misappropriation of treasury funds by the Government for “ Yes “ propaganda. We find that influence is being used with the Australian Broadcasting Commission ; the Department of War Organization of Industry is being used for “Yes” propaganda; and the Department of Information also is working day and night for the same purpose. The money for all these activities is being provided by the Commonwealth Government. In addition, thousands of men in the Commonwealth Public Service, receiving high wages, are travelling around Australia working for and advocating a “ Yes “ vote. That is an abuse of the trust which is vested in the Government, and I believe that these activities will so disgust a large proportion, of the people of this country that unless the Government is prepared to appoint a judge to inquire into the matter and to end these abuses, the forthcoming loan may be affected seriously. It is wrong for a government to be so biassed and so partisan when dealing with important questions such as these. I suggest that the matter be given serious consideration and that action be taken to curb these undesirable activities.
– The Leader of the Opposition agreed to the “ Yes “ case.
– That is a lie!
– “Well, all his associates did, and it was purely accidental if he did not.
– If the honorable senator will read the records of the proceedings at the Constitutional Convention, be will see clearly the attitude which I adopted. The Leader of the Senate was present and knows how I voted. I said unequivocally that I was not in favour of these additional powers being transferred to the Commonwealth Government.
– The bill was passed by this chamber.
– That is a very poor excuse, and I am sorry to hear responsible members admitting that money is being used for the purpose which I have mentioned, and regarding it as quite a proper thing. On behalf of the Opposition I enter an emphatic protest. I hope to have an opportunity later to offer some remarks on the subject dealt with yesterday by the Prime Minister. I quite agree with the sentiments expressed in that portion of the Governor-General’s Speech that every effort should be made to win the war, but I regret that a decision was made to take the referendum during the war. To deal with the evil of strikes and absenteeism in industry, and to solve the problems of man-power, the Government should have sufficient courage to take the action required. It should not say to. the people that additional powers are needed., when what it most requires is courage.
.- I had hoped that the debate would be continued at this stage by one of the honorable senators who have appeared in this chamber this week for the first time. Like the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) I, too. offer my personal congratulations to honorable senators opposite who yesterday delivered their maiden speeches. I agree with my leader that their addresses were of a high standard. They indicated that the advent of those, honorable senators will be a distinct acquisition to the Senate, and that they will render valuable service to the country. One could hardly regard the speech by Senator Grant as a maiden effort, because some of us have known him as an able speaker for many years. Senator McKenna displayed tolerance and common sense in the course of his able speech in moving the adoption of the Address-in-Reply
In common with my leader, I express regret that this was the last occasion on which the present occupant of the high office of representative of His Majesty the King in Australia will officially open this Parliament in Canberra. As a former Minister for the Interior, I had the privilege of coming into close contact with His Excellency the Governor-General, and I say quite sincerely that on his departure from these shores we shall have lost not only a valuable adviser but also a personal friend. Lord and the Lady Gowrie, a typical English pair, who have resided amongst us for many years have not only endeared themselves to us in this Parliament, but have won the admiration and affection of young and old among all sections of the people throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, because of their clear understanding of Australian problems and their willingness to offer sound advice. The people generally have a high personal regard for both His Excellency and the Lady Gowrie.
In the course of Senator McKenna’s speech he referred to things which should be done in the post-war period, to which we hope we are rapidly approaching. lt was my privilege on Sunday last to listen to an interesting broadcast address by Mr. Wallace, Vice-President of the United States of America, who has recently returned from Soviet Asia and from China. Nobody who listened to that, very able address could have failed to recognize that the United States of America is already paying great attention to post-war problems, particularly with regard to overseas trade. Mr. Wallace dealt with the great change that is coming over that particular part of the world. Hundreds of millions of people who have hitherto lived under comparatively primitive conditions are awakening to a new set. of conditions. Those people will require different kinds of foodstuffs from those used in days gone by, and one of the results of this unfortunate struggle will be that there will be such a great awakening among those people that they will not be content to live under conditions similar to those prevailing in the past. China, which has fought so well against the Japanese beast for over six years, will be a very different country from that we have known in the past, and Australia should take complete stock of its opportunities in the post-war period. The Government is to he commended upon the fact that it is turning- its attention to post-war problems. If I have any criticism to offer with regard to its post-war policy, it is that it seems to have far too many idealists associated with post-war activities and too few realists. I am not enamoured of the speeches delivered by professors and others. The great majority of them are very estimable people no doubt, but very few of them have had much experience in the business world either as employers or employees, and they are inclined to base their post-war proposals on statements from text-books by professors of economics.
– Often written by themselves.
– Yes. The address by the Vice-President of the United States of America shows that that country realizes that there will be great trading possibilities and that they are preparing for the development that will take place. In Australia we must look at many of our problems through different eyes from those which we have employed in days gone by. We are still inclined to be isolationist in outlook, which fact is largely due to our remoteness from the thickly populated countries of the world. We cannot be blamed for that outlook, but we must change our attitude. I realize that, even if we wished to do so, we could not go back to the “good old days “. In many respects they were “ bad old days “. Nevertheless, I do not think that as the result of four or five years of disastrous war we shall, in some mysterious way, bring about a “new order “ in which problems which have perplexed humanity for many generations will automatically disappear. I believe that we should be much more courageous in approaching problems than we have been in the past, par ticularly problems associated with other countries and those relating to the expenditure of money. Although I look forward to the day when the burden of taxation will be eased, I think that it will be many years before we can again say that we are enjoying the benefits of low taxes. In my opinion, any “ new order” must come gradually; and in bringing it about whatever government may be in office will need the assistance of all parties. The Government will make a grave mistake if it bases its post-war policy on socialism. There is a tendency, particularly in the left-wing of the Labour party, to advocate a mora rapid implementation of the policy of socialization than in the past. Senator McKenna referred to this problem when he said that the Government should always recognize the part that private enterprise must play in the building of a nation, but Senator Grant gave the impression that, in his opinion, private enterprise had failed in that respect.
– ‘Any benefit to the nation resulting from private enterprise is only incidental; private enterprise is not interested in the nation.
– I disagree with the honorable senator. If he will examine some of the great achievements of private enterprise in this country, he will, I think, admit that they have been in the interests of the nation.
– If so, it has . been only incidental.
– If an enterprise has benefited those who have developed it, surely that is an indication that it has been well managed. I invite honorable senators to study the history of one of Australia’s greatest industrial undertakings, namely, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which is sometimes referred to as a huge octopus. Recently, I read a review by a man who for ‘about 50 years was on the board of directors of’ that company, in which its humble beginnings and development are recorded. No person having read that statement could regard the achievements of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited as other than most creditable to all concerned and of benefit to the nation. What benefit would the employees of that company gain if the enterprise were suddenly taken from private enterprise and put under government control in conformity with a .policy of socialization of industry? Similarly, would the employees, or the policy-holders of a mutual life assurance company, such a3 the Australian Mutual Provident Society, be any better off if their undertaking were placed under government control? In my opinion, there would be no advantage to them. Indeed, such a change might be to their detriment, because many of these concerns treat their employees far more generously in the matter of benefit funds and pension rights than does any government.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the people as a whole would not benefit from the change?
– In my opinion, the people would suffer. One of the greatest injuries that could be done to any British community would be to stifle initiative and the desire for individual advancement. I admire any man who has the courage to start on his own account, by opening a shop, or establishing a small factory, or by setting up in practice as an architect, surveyor, engineer, doctor, chemist, and so on, after having gained the necessary diploma. For the most part, such men are the backbone of private enterprise.
– Private enterprise exploits the people.
– I deny that that is so. Individual enterprise is the basis of the Empire’s strength, and I would be sorry to see any change come about which would stifle initiative on the part of the individual. In saying that, I recognize the right of the government of the day to protect the people against exploitation. The Government already has power to protect them. One reason why I am convinced that the referendum proposals soon to be submitted to the people will be overwhelmingly defeated
– Is that the honorable senator’s prophecy?
– Yes. I believe that there will be an overwhelming “ No “ vote, and I shall do my utmost to secure it. I was about to say that one reason why I believe that the people will reject the Government’s referendum proposals is that they do not wish to have their initiative stifled by making every person in the community a government employee. I now refer to the problem of migration. I pointed out earlier that Australia is a very wealthy continent which still remains largely undeveloped, and, therefore, we shall require many more millions of people to ensure not only our future prosperity but also our defence. Whilst it is likely that many will migrate from Great Britain to this country after the war, we are doomed to disappointment if we imagine that any substantial influx of migrants will come from that quarter. It is clear that the old problem of unemployment will not confront the people of Great Britain after this conflict is ended. We shall have to look to other European countries for the greater proportion of migrants. We have every prospect of attracting large numbers of migrants from northern European countries whose peoples are experiencing difficulties as the result of the war. When I was Minister for the Interior tentative arrangements had been made prior to the outbreak of the war for the inauguration of migration from Holland and Switzerland. It then seemed possible to maintain a steady flow of migrants from those countries to Australia. In respect of migration generally I impress upon honorable senators that when wc attract people to this country we should endeavour to make them Australians as quickly as possible. In the past we have shown a tendency to treat migrants as foreigners simply because they do not speak our language; and we have continued to adopt that attitude towards them. Indeed, that is one reason why migrants from foreign countries have been inclined to segregate themselves from Australians and to become rather clannish. We have not extended a welcome to them, and have not tried to make Australians of them by realizing the difficulties confronting them as settlers in a strange country. In this respect the United States of America has set us an admirable example. During the la«t few years most of us had the opportunity to meet soldiers and sailors from that country. One cannot, help noting the variety of their names. It is clear that their forbears, and, in many cases, the men themselves, have come from practically every European country. However, on their arrival in America migrants from each Eiiropea.ii country have been given every opportunity to become Americans as quickly as possible. As soon as migrants have arrived in this country we should help them to become good Australians as quickly as possible. I believe that many of the people who will come to Australia from European countries ravaged by war will make very desirable citizens, and we should encourage them to come here. The importance of the problem of migration is emphasized by the fact that the islands and countries to the north of Australia are over-populated. The population of Java is 40,000,000, whilst the population of the Netherlands Eat Indies is 70,000,000, and further north extending to China there are hundreds of millions of people. In the near future those countries will be within a few hours flight of Australia. It is useless for us to declare that we shall stand by the White Australia policy if we do not realize that we cannot hold this country with a handful of people. We may be compelled to retain a high rate of tax in order to develop this country as it should be developed, anc! to encourage migrants to settle here. I for one will not grumble unduly at my burden so long as the money is expended wisely in the proper development of Australia. We can best ensure the maintenance of peace in the future by seeing that our allies in this conflict band together for that purpose, and remain strong enough militarily to enforce their decisions. The main weakness of the League of Nations was that it was only a talking shop, and did not possess effective means to enforce its decisions. We know that the League was unable to enforce sanctions because those countries situated close to the offenders were afraid of reprisals, and, therefore, failed to stand up to their obligations as members of the League. Further, no League of Nations in the future can maintain peace should any of the great powers refuse to join it.
That fact was clearly demonstrated after the last war. Great Britain and the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, to their sorrow, endeavoured to set an example to the world by disarming, but such disarmament was interpreted by other countries as a sign of weakness. Therefore, in the future, whether we like it or not, our allies must band together and maintain peace with the backing of powerful armies, navies and air forces.
As honorable senators are aware, I am a member of the Censorship Committee. The Opposition members of that committee are disappointed that it has not been able to proceed with its inquiry more expeditiously. The Prime Minister. (Mr. Curtin), on his return, expressed surprise that the committee had not completed its work. Its failure to do so cannot be laid at the door of the Opposition members on the committee. Neither can such failure be entirely attributed to the Ministers who are members of that committee. Although this party was largely responsible for the present set up, I think we made a mistake in asking Ministers to give their time to sitting on a parliamentary committee of that kind, but it would be most disastrous if the work were taken out of the committee’s hands and placed in those of a judge. I believe that the censorship, and the things revealed to us when we made our inquiries, should be closely watched by the Parliament itself, or by a committee directly responsible to Parliament. Many of the abuses that have grown up in the post and telegraph censorship have been brought about by reason of the fact that Ministers in charge of the Department of the Army - and I do not exonerate or blame any particular Minister - have allowed the present practice to develop without keeping a watchful eye on it. Nothing has been more abused than the post and telegraph censorship, as was revealed to us when we held our sittings. Instead of being utilized only for national security purposes, it had become a great collecting bureau for all sorts of information from people’s private correspondence. Liaison officers from every one of the departments - and I do not exempt any one of them - went every day to the headquarters of censorship and secured from people’s private communications information that they thought might be of some value.
– Which was of value to the war effort.
– The Minister knows that inquiries were not confined only to that, because he was a member of the committee. He knows that matters were inquired into which were definitely outside the scope of the war effort. He and other Ministers joined the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and myself in signing an interim report in which we recommended that the censorship should be limited to matters connected with the war effort. That was the original intention, but the Minister knows that the post and telegraph censorship had grown to amazing proportions. We submitted that interim report promptly because we thought it was our duty as public men to stop as many abuses of the censorship as we possibly could and as quickly as possible. I regret that the committee has not been kept at work. One of the rumours current is that a good deal of private telephone tapping has been indulged in. I do not say that that abuse does take place, but once rumours of that kind start, and people begin t,o believe them, great harm is done to the telephone service, which is one of the most valuable we have.
– If an inquiry were made the revelations would not be to the credit of some of the honorable senator’s party either.
– I have urged already that the matter should be investigated as quickly as possible in the interests of a very valuable public service. After the last meeting which the committee held in Canberra, I took the opportunity to visit the head-quarters of one of the censorship officers, and he showed me to what extent telephone tapping had been carried on. In his section it had been done to a very small extent indeed, and so far as I could see the bulk of the tapping had been done in the interests of national security. I saw a list of the tappings so far as one State was concerned, and was told the reasons why certain lines had been tapped and certain conversations listened to. I agree that some things of that kind are inevitable when a country is at war and there are people in it who would act treacherously. The committee should go on with its job.
– Why does it not?
– Because we are never called together. It consists of three Opposition members and four Ministers. I am not throwing the whole blame on Ministers, because I know how busy they are. When the committee was appointed, Senator Fraser was acting Minister for the Army as well as Minister for Health and Social Services, and the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) was not only looking after that department, but was also administering the Department of Supply and Shipping. No matter what government they belong to, Ministers cannot be expected to sit day after day on parliamentary committees as some private members are able fo do, because the burden on Ministers to-day is very heavy. But the Government has made a grave mistake and has been unfair to some of its own services in not letting the committee get on with the job that it was appointed last March to do. We are now in the middle, of July. I will give as much time as possible to finish the inquiries. I particularly want the charge of telephone tapping to be cleaned up and a report made to the Government at the earliest possible moment. I have so many other things to do that I do not want to sit on the committee day after day, but matters have drifted along, only a few meetings have been held, and, apart from making one interim report, we have not done anything to solve the problem of the abuses of censorship, although undoubtedly there have been abuses in every section of it.
– They began when the honorable senator’s party was in office.
– I do not mind what investigations we make, so long as we clear up the matter, and make sure that there will be no more abuses in the future. Owing to the more satisfactory position of our war effort and the present location of the centre of hostilities, certain restrictions can be lifted now which the Government could not have lifted when it came into office, and which we could not interfere with during our term.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) referred to the expenditure of public funds on a “Yes” vote in connexion with the referendum campaign. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) was asked about the expenditure of government money in that direction, and I think he replied that so far as public funds were concerned, there would be equal expenditure on both sides, because we did not know what the taxpayers’ view was and we had no right to spend more on the “Yes” than on the “No” side. The expenditure to-day, however, is not equal. The Government is spending thousands upon thousands of pounds of public funds in putting forward its “Yes” propaganda. As the Leader of the Opposition said, members of the Public Service are being made available to speak in favour of the “ Yes “ campaign, and the Government is actually carrying on a paid advertising campaign. I do not say that the Labour party is not entitled to spend its own money, but the Government is spending public money for the purpose.
– The banks are spending plenty of money for the honorable senator’s side.
– That is not government money. It is improper for the Government to undertake a paid advertising campaign in support of one side of the referendum proposals without giving similar publicity to the other side. That is not an unreasonable request to make.
– There would not have been any need for a referendum had it not been for the Upper Houses of certain States.
– That may be so, but the fact remains that a referendum is to be held, and that the people of this country will he asked to vote “ Yes “ or “ No “. In these circumstances, it is not correct for the Government to spend money subscribed by the taxpayers of this country in support of the proposals. If any money is to be spent at all, it should be distributed evenly between both sides. In fact, I am sure that the Leader of the Senate gave an assurance to that effect to the Senate when the matter was under discussion during the last session of Parliament. I hope that even now the Government will see the wisdom of changing its tactics, and ensuring that equal publicity is given to both cases.
I deplore greatly the fact that the Government is endeavouring to justify the granting of these additional powers to the Commonwealth mainly on the ground that they are required for the rehabilitation of our service personnel. The Government knows perfectly well that the Commonwealth already has ample authority under its defence powers to undertake whatever rehabilitation and repatriation schemes it considers to be necessary in the interests of ex-servicemen. That has never been seriously disputed. Not one phase of the Commonwealth’s repatriation activities after the last war was successfully challenged in the High Court of Australia. One minor challenge was made, Abut the case was dismissed unanimously. In fact, I understand that the present Attorney-General, amongst others, made it perfectly clear in a verdict from the High Court bench, that the Commonwealth had ample power under its defence legislation to deal with the replacement of returned servicemen in industry. The Commonwealth undertook repatriation and rehabilitation schemes of all kinds after the last war. Some were successful and others were failures.
– There were more failures than successes.
– I should not say that. I know of many happy and contented families which were given a real start in life under the Commonwealth’s repatriation schemes. It is true that a number of failures occurred in land settlement schemes, but that was due largely to lack of experience, and proper control over the selection of suitable areas. In my opinion, Australia can look back with great pride upon its accomplishments in that direction. It is quite wrong, therefore, to claim that these additional powers are required by the Commonwealth mainly for the purpose of rehabilitating service personnel. It has been ruled over and over again that adequate power already exists. It is clear that the Government’s main object in putting these proposals to the people is its desire to secure control over “ employment and unemployment “. Once having secured that authority, the Government will have means at its disposal to carry out its policy of nationalization. The rest of the powers included in the referendum proposals are largely padding. It may be argued that the State governments already have all the additional powers that the Commonwealth is seeking. That is so, and I consider that many of these powers can be far better administered by the State governments or by local advisory councils which will replace the State governments .at some future date.
– Does the honorable senator consider the State governments to be democratic?
– Why did the honorable senator not find these things out at the Constitutional Convention when it was agreed that it would be better for the Commonwealth Government to exercise these powers?
– I was not at the Convention, the main reason being that I was not invited, and therefore the other reasons do not matter.
– Does the honorable senator consider that , the Upper Houses of certain States are democratic legislative bodies?
– The Upper Houses are not a baa1 to democracy except in the imaginative minds of certain honorable senators opposite.
Senator Grant rather exaggerated the position yesterday when he said that unless the Commonwealth obtained the extra powers which it now seeks, instead of speaking as a nation with one voice, we should speak with six different voices. The granting or withholding of the additional .powers sought by the Commonwealth cannot alter the fact that we have a federation. The Commonwealth did not possess these extra powers when the Prime Minister was overseas recently, but surely no one will suggest that that right honorable gentleman did not speak as the voice of Australia? Nor do I think that any one would suggest that the President of the United States of America, whose memorable utterances have done so much to inspire not only his own people, but also the people of the Allied Nations, does not speak for the United States of America just because there are 48 States in that .country. In all great international problems, Australia will speak with one voice irrespective of whether or not the ‘Commonwealth .has the additional powers which it now seeks for a period of five years.
When the legislation implementing the referendum was before thi3 chamber, I said that I believed that the Government would have met more success in its campaign for constitutional reform had it held a special session of this Parliament to deal only with the Constitution. Instead of doing that, however, the Government sandwiched the discussion of fourteen important constitutional amendments between two other measures^ one of which, I think, wa3 the 25 per cent. “ tax grab “ and the other was the famous measure of the Minister for Health which will grant free pills to every one. Had a special session been held as 1 suggested, it might have been possible to arrive at a satisfactory compromise. Honorable senators know perfectly well where I stand on this matter. I am not wedded to a system of State governments by any means. I believe that even in my life-time, Queensland may be divided up into three areas, one of which will embody the north of the State, with its great riches and potentialities. I have no doubt that the people of that district will demand a greater measure of self-government than they have at present. I have no desire to ‘ see all executive powers extracted from the six State governments and centralized in the Commonwealth Government. A true system of unification should provide for a great deal of local autonomy, and there should be far more local areas of control than at present. I do not know that this country would not benefit from a re-adjustment of existing boundaries, some of which have been fixed along rivers and have not proved to be in the best interests of the communities residing in those areas.
Once again I express my appreciation of the opportunity presented by the Government to deal with the various problems that arise. The Government now has a full majority in the Senate as well as in the House of Representatives, but I hope that it will not allow itself to become intoxicated with power. I trust that the new senators will bring wisdom and assistance both to the Government and to Parliament generally. I express my humble hope that the series of successes experienced in the various theatres of war may continue and increase, and that the day will soon dawn when a lasting peace will be assured.
Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) [4.12’J. - I join with Senator McKenna and Senator Grant in congratulating His Excellency the Governor-General upon the Speech with which he opened the Parliament. I cannot help contrasting that Speech with the address delivered by him about two years ago, when Australia was in dire peril and probably facing defeat. Now the position has changed so considerably that every member of the community feels comparatively safe. Had it not been for such great leaders as Mr. Churchill, President Roosevelt, Field Marshal Stalin and General Chiang Kai-shek we should probably not have been in the happy position in which we now find ourselves. We could almost link with the names of those great men that of our own Prime Minister, the Right Honorable John Curtin, who was called upon to take charge of the governmental affairs of this country when it was threatened with disaster. Although the Prime Minister is much criticized by his political opponents, I believe that everybody will agree that as the result of his overseas visit Australia will derive great benefit.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) remarked at the outlet that, although the Government had called the Parliament together, it had no policy to submit to it. Of course, the budget had already been submitted and Supply had been granted till September. Probably the Parliament was called together only because of the loud squeals from members of the Opposition, and the Prime Minister has given as much information as possible about his trip abroad. The Lender of the Opposition resorted to his old theme of an all-in war effort. He referred to the situation in the coalmining industry and urged the Government to take action. In April, 1940, when the Leader of the Opposition was Leader of the Senate, and when the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister, every coal mine in New South Wales was idle. Not one ton of coal was being produced, although the war was in progress. Throughout the period when the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate was a member of a government, 50 per cent., 75 per cent, and sometimes 100 per cent, of the coalminers were idle. He cited figures to show that rural man-power was down 100,000 compared with pre-war conditions. When that number of men are taken out of food production, one naturally expects a big slump. The honorable gentleman tried to convince us that there has been a tremendous slump in food production, but he did not cite any figures. Had he done so, he would have had to show in fairness that there has been a huge increase in the output of many primary products. He said that Australia had fallen down on its promise to supply food to the Allies. It is unfair to make a statement, of that kind without saying that primary producers are working overtime to supply this food, in accordance with the promise made by the Government to our Allies.
– Those people are being rationed to supply it.
– That is quite true. I shall furnish a few facts and figures in the hope that they will go out to the public together with the misleading statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in his criticism regarding food production. The acreage of blue peas, for instance, has been doubled as compared with the production when the Leader of the Opposition was a member of the Government. Vegetables of other descriptions are now being produced in twice the quentity supplied when he was Minister for Commerce. The acreage of potatoes ha.« also been doubled. When the Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Commerce, egg production amounted to 71,000,000 dozen annually, but last year the production increased to 87,000,000 dozen, and this year, judging by the figures available, the total will increase to 100,000,000 dozen. The total value of primary produce available when the honorable gentleman was Minister for Commerce was £228,672,809. In 1943-44, the total value was £262,000,000, which shows that there has been a vast increase. The average price of potatoes, when the Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Commerce, was £2 a ton, yet he now talks of potato production decreasing. What a great deal the farmers had then! How the honorable senator looked after them when he was Minister!
– To what year does the honorable senator refer?
– I am speaking of the period just prior to the present Government’s assumption of office. During the regime of the previous Government, the output of dried fruits was about 90,000 tons a year; it is now about 100,000 tons a year. Since the present Government came into office, no fewer than twenty factories have been established for the dehydration of vegetables.
– Which no one will eat.
– The honorable senator would deny proper food to those who fight. The Leader of the Opposition wanted Australians to produce food while Americans did all the fighting, and in the next breath he spoke of the defence of Australia being left to conscripted Americans. The honorable senator cannot have it both ways. It may be that he was unsuccessful in his attempts to secure the release of certain men, and that he was annoyed about it. When the previous Government was in office, there were no factories in Australia for dehydrating meat; to-day, there are several such factories in various parts of Australia with an output of thousands of tons of meat a year. The establishment of these factories was essential to the fulfilment of our promises to our allies. What did previous governments do for the dairymen of Australia? For ten years not a penny was given to the dairymen of Australia to assist them in their difficulties, hut since the Curtin Government has been in office, £7,500,000 has been paid to them in subsidies. I have given facts to the Senate, and I hope the Leader of the Opposition did when he said that the . number of employees to-day in rural production is 100,000 fewer than in pre-war days. His statement shows what a marvellous job is being done by those still engaged in rural production; notwithstanding depleted numbers, they are supplying their comrades in the fighting forces, and meeting the needs of the civil population. Since the war began, no one in Australia has lacked any essential food. In that respect, we in Australia are far better oft” than are the people of Great Britain. These achievements have been possible because the Commonwealth has had full power to act under the Defence Act. The additional powers which the Government is seeking will be necessary if we are to continue these dehydration establishments after the war, and if Australia’s development is to be planned on a nation-wide basis. In addition to establishments for the dehydration of meat, there must be factories for the treatment of fruit and other produce, and these must be spread throughout Australia in order to avoid centralization. For three hours, I have had a rabbit locked in my drawer. I now produce it. Honorable senators will see that the rabbit has changed its form, and now appears as a neatly wrapped packet. There should be no shortage of food in Australia while thousands of rabbits are thrown away every day. Rabbits treated as this rabbit has been treated can be sent to any part of Australia. Such an industry is deserving of encouragement; but if industries of this nature are to be established, there must be power to say where they shall be located, so that the best interests of the nation shall be served. I shall not indulge further in a debate on the need for additional powers for the Commonwealth Parliament; I shall do that later from public platforms in Tasmania. In order to prove that great minds sometimes think alike, I shall read extracts from the speeches of prominent men in Australia. I shall refer first to some remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies). In 193S, he pointed out that, since the framing of the Constitution, we had discovered many grievous anomalies. He then referred to eight matters in respect of which he contended that greaterpower was required by the National Parliament. In July, 1937, the right honorable gentleman, referring to the framers of the Constitution, said -
They did great work, but since then 40 years have gone by and the world has seen some remarkable changes in that time. To-day, what they then believed to be true is no longer true.
On one occasion, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) described the Constitution as “bullockdray mechanism in an aeroplane”. He went on to say -
The Commonwealth Parliament should not have the mere shadow of power that it possesses now, but reality of power.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) pointed out some defects in the Constitution in a speech which he delivered in November, 1938. He then said -
The present system is not only deplorably unsatisfactory, but positively dangerous to our national security.
The honorable member never spoke more truthfully.
In 1942, Mr. Menzies said -
Short of unification there is much room for constitutional change by increasing the powers of the central government . . . My own mind has steadily developed in favour of increasing Commonwealth powers. I do believe that full nationhood requires great power at the centre for great responsibility cannot be discharged without it.
On the 22nd November, 1938, the honorable member for Indi endorsed the views he previously expressed and which I have just quoted. Another great mind, no less a person than the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), when speaking at the Constitutional Convention in November, 1942, on behalf of the Federal Parliamentary Opposition, said -
I hope that the willingness that has been shown on all sides to arrive at an agreement will culminate in the bill going through every House of Parlament in Australia and become law.
I hope our efforts here . . . will not have been in vain and that a legislative document will be brought into being conferring adequate and indispensable powers upon the Commonwealth to bring about sensible and proper reconstruction in the interests of the nation.
That is a true statement of the position. In view of all these utterances by the present leading opponents of the Government’s referendum proposals, I often wonder whether the statements now attributed to them in the press on this subject are correct reports of what they really say. We want to improve upon our present democratic system. To-day, we have six State Governments and the Commonwealth Government; but whilst this Parliament and the Lower Houses in each of the States are elected on the adult franchise, most of the Upper Houses in the five States in which such assemblies exist are elected by a privileged, wealthy few. Can we really say that we have a democratic system of government when the privileged few are able, through their representatives in the State Upper Houses to tell the Australian people what they shall or shall not do ? The old gentlemen who for the most part constitute the membership of those Upper Houses are now able to prevent the National Parliament from developing this country as a nation. I emphasize that if the referendum is not carried those old gentlemen will retain that power. In spite of those facts, we pride ourselves upon our democratic institutions. If the people of Australia are prepared to entrust complete power to those old gentlemen, surely they can safely entrust the powers now sought by the Commonwealth to the National Parliament which is elected not by a privileged few, but by Australians as a whole. For that reason, if for no other, the referendum should be carried. No longer should we tolerate a system under which old gentlemen who constitute the Upper Houses in five States as representatives of a privileged few can thwart the endeavours of the National Parliament to develop this country. I ask the people to remember that those old gentlemen are more concerned about their own private interests than they are about the nation’s welfare.
I congratulate His Excellency on the Speech he delivered yesterday. During his stay in this country he has shared the sorrows of war with the mothers and fathers of those who have given their lives in our cause in this conflict. The sympathy of the Parliament goes out to His Excellency and the Lady Gowrie as they take their farewell of this country. I also congratulate Senator McKenna and Senator Grant on their brilliant maiden speeches.
– It was with a feeling of sadness that I listened to His Excellency deliver his Speech yesterday. Some of us, particularly Senator Brand and myself, were associated with His Excellency in France in 1917 when he was Brigadier Hore.Ruthven. Y.G. We found him then to be very interested in Australia. Our division was attached to a corps of which he was brigadier on the general staff. In saying farewell to him we recognize how fortunate we have ‘been in having as our Governor-General a man of such calibre.
I congratulate .Senator McKenna on the manner, method and matter of his maiden sp’eech. I enjoyed listening to him. There is not the slightest doubt that he is an acquisition to the debating strength of the Senate. I take this opportunity also to welcome the new senators, particularly the two old diggers who have come from South Australia. With respect to the membership generally of Parliament I recall that quite recently the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) remarked to me that he had been through the Hansard list of members at the time he was elected to the House of Representatives as member for Bendigo. Comparing that roll with the present membership of the Parliament he found that only thirteen men who were members when he was first elected to the House of Representatives some years ago still remain in the Parliament. Out of idle curiosity I went through the Hansard list for 1925, when I was first elected to the Senate, and discovered that of those who were members of the Parliament at that time only eleven remain with us to-day. I extend a welcome to Senator Sheehan, who like myself was previously a member of the Senate and is now back again. I went out for a term, and had the good fortune to be re-elected. Political life has an effect upon one somewhat similar to that of a drug. You get the taste for it, and it is a horrible thing when you have to go out into the outer darkness. I felt my defeat very much at the time. Of course, defeated candidates have to take it on the chin and pretend that it is all right. I bid each of the new senators a welcome, and I trust that their sojourn in this chamber will be as happy as my experience has proved, and that regardless of party politics they will make lasting friendships among their fellow members. I know that I have made many friends on the opposite side of this chamber and in the House of Representatives, and I do in all sincerity wish the new senators a very happy sojourn in this chamber.
Yesterday, I was particularly pleased with the warning which Senator McKenna gave us in his maiden speech in this chamber against repeating the story of the past by allowing the defence of our country to fall into a state of unpreparedness. I was also glad to hear him mention a reconstituted League of Nations. It would have to be a reconstituted league. Many years ago I was a fervent believer in a league of nations that could stop wars and compel nations that had differences to settle them in a peaceful manner by arbitration, but in those years after the last war we forgot that peace must be based on power, because we cannot have peace without power.
I was approached not long ago by Mr. Dwyer-‘Gray, of my own State, who is a very keen worker for the League of Nations Union. I, myself, was responsible long ago for the inauguration of a branch in northern Tasmania. We were enthusiasts, and we once again forgot that peace must be based on power. When Mr. Dwyer-Gray approached me to rejoin the League of Nations Union, I was somewhat diffident about it, because away back in 1930 I had felt compelled to resign my membership of the union, being of opinion that it was working on quite wrong lines, that it was living in a sort of dreamland, and that its influence, although not with the intention of its members, was mischievous and highly dangerous. That was because it was blind and ostrich-like in its refusal to see the deadly peril threatening our existence. What was coming once Hitler came into power after he had been “ in the saddle “ in Germany for a couple of years was obvious to every thoughtful person. Germany had been limited to an army of 100,000 men, butGeneral Von Seckt in a book which
I obtained from the Parliamentary Library in 1932 convinced me of what was coming. Germany carried out the letter of the law and in those days never had more than 100,000 men in its army, but the catch was that Germany trained 100,000 fresh men every year, and thus in ten years bad 1,000,000 trained soldiers, every one of whom had done one full year in the German army and was liable to be called up for a refresher course.
I am more than ever convinced that when this war ends, when the actual fighting is finished, peace must be based on power. The League of Nations was powerless and helpless to enforce its just decisions because it had no power. Unless some body or organization which has the power is set up we shall again be faced with war. I remember the League of Nations Union urging disarmament on Great Britain. We said that collective security was the rock on which our policy should be based, but collective security proved to be a myth, because if all the peace-loving peoples in the world disarmed, they would have no collective power. Where would be the collective security that we talked of? They would have no power to take action anywhere either as individual nations or as a collective body. They would be powerless and the league would be worthless.
During the years from 1931 to 1939, the League of Nations had much to answer for. The results of that disastrous policy are evident now. Apprehensive of Hitlerism, the member states, or most of them, particularly the British, could still urge the members of the league to disarm. All the time that growing menace was there, strategically well placed right in the centre of Europe, and yet they blindly urged the league to strip itself of those very elements of power which I believe, if amassed and employed in time, might have outmatched Germany or curbed it altogether. The trouble was that we relied on the power of words, and not on words of power. There is a vast difference between the two.
The problem of disarmament has to be tackled not only by comparative measurements hut also through national policies. Between good neighbours such as Great Britain, the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, and others the size of their respective armaments matters little except insofar as each desires the others to muster sufficient strength to defend common interests and common principles, but where there is a cleavage between them, and that cleavage is basic, as we have learnt to our horrible cost over these last bitter years, signatures affixed to tabulated parchments will not alone suffice. We have only to carry our minds back to 1928, when the Kellogg Pact was signed at Geneva by 54 nations which renounced war as an instrument of national policy, and, in fact, said, “ We will outlaw war “. I remember very well when, as a member of an Empire Parliamentary Delegation on its way to Quebec, we went across from Southampton to Cherbourg on a Saturday afternoon to pick up some American passengers. That evening an American cruiser entered Cherbourg Harbour, beflagged. On board was Mr. Kellogg on his way to Geneva to sign the now famous pact. If we rely on pacts without power behind them, we shall be living once again in a fool’s paradise, and once again we shall have to pay the price. When the Israelites of old returned from Babylonian captivity to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, they wrought with one hand and carried a weapon in the other. Only on dual lines such as these can civilized society once more be secure. Without strength democracy is doomed. Freedom needs power if it is to survive, and the same may be said of peace. Much nonsense has been talked in the past about the piling up of armaments and the training of men in their use. As an article of faith it was believed that nations had only to accumulate sufficient arms everywhere and the guns would discharge of their own accord. Support of this idea by the union sickened me hecause it would not listen to the arguments against it. The conclusion appeared to he that while Germany accumulated arms, the other nations should disarm lest another armaments race be precipitated, such rivalry hastening that collision of national sovereignty of which wars are bred. To what degree that idea took hold of the public mind we know now to om- bitter cost, and that its proponents should be forever discredited is plain. Arms piled up in a good cause are not the same as arms piled up in a bad one, and just as power is the tool of policy, so policy must be the criterion of power. X hope never to live to see this country in the same pitiful state which it reached during those critical years from 1930 onwards until the crash came. The Nazis have shown that it takes only one nation to make a war. It will take the power of more than one nation to keep the peace. It will take the combined power of all those nations that believe in right and justice and freedom to keep the peace. Therefore. I suggest that a League of Nations or some similar organization is a matter not of choice but of necessity. Enthusiasm for another league will be lukewarm, and I can see no great support for it amongst the people with whom I come in contact, but the reconstitution of a renovated League of Nations, a union of powerful nations which share the same beliefs, must bo supported unceasingly both with policy and arms by the United States of America, Great Britain and other allied nations and liberated countries. In short they will have to maintain the balance of power. Such a league must thrust its roots deep into the life of the world. Later on we can observe whether Germany, shorn of its power, conquests and evil potentialities, is able to become what it has seldom been, a law-abiding neighbour and a decent member of a wider community. I was very cheered indeed to hear my new Tasmanian colleague, Senator McKenna, touch upon that very point in his excellent address to the Senate yesterday. The teachings of history are one thing and the teachers of history are another. I believe that the great powers of Europe have come to their present state through contempt of history. If that be so, are not those who write and expound history to blame for bringing history into contempt? During the early 1930’s the Nazis might have derived some satisfaction from the declaration of members of the Oxford University Union who heralded abroad that in no circumstances would they take up arms for their King or country; but many others who listened to such declarations must have wondered what sort of modern history was or was not being imparted even at that famous seat of lost causes and forsaken loyalties. However, since those days, the blood of Oxford men has flowed for King and country as it always has clone and as it was bound to do. If education had been attending te its business on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and in this country, it would not have taken a second world war to teach the youth of Great Britain, America and Australia why their fathers fought and died in the first world war. We ask ourselves will the fruits of victory be wasted again or left treacherously to rot? Not if the lessons of the past are learned and unfailingly kept in mind. Our people, too long bemused by their intellectual and political leaders, must henceforth weigh with the greatest possible care all that they hear and read about international affairs. What counts there is power, an element, the presence or absence of which controls everything else. That is the truth which the League of Nations Union and we in this Parliament must ever keep in mind. This war must determine whom the owners of power are to be and how that power is to be used. By that decision over vast areas of the civilized world, our fate will be decided, the future of democracy laid bare, and those ways of life which are the heritage of all free men crushed or preserved.
It was along those lines that I wrote to the President of the League of Nations Union in Hobart before I accepted membership of that organization. I believe that the union could do a great work, but we must face reality and not be carried away with our enthusiasms as we were before this conflict came upon us. The interests of other nations must bc considered. This great power, which is raining robot bombs on Great Britain at this moment, has on three occasions in the last 100 years behaved like a bloodthirsty brigand, and I fear will again. How it is to be checked I do not know. The Hitler youth will have to be reeducated. Who is to do that, and how is it to be done? As long as that potential menace is present, we must be on our guard and make preparations to meet the danger. “We must train our people for defence, because the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
I spoke about the referendum during a recent discussion on the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction and Democratic Rights) Bill. Many misstatements have been made about the referendum, and particularly with regard to the convention that was held in Canberra. I was present at the convention and it wa3 unanimously of opinion that a referendum in time of war was undesirable. As to the second draft bill that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) submitted, and which was referred to a committee consisting of the six State Premiers, the Attorney-General, and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), I have very little to say, except that the measure was rushed through the convention. We were unanimous that it should ho referred to the State Parliaments, but we did not unanimously accept the fourteen powers contained in the measure. To say that the convention was unanimous on the subject proves conclusively that those making that statement have not read the report of the proceedings of the convention. That report, which is available at the office of the Clerk of Records, shows that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) was opposed to the measure and said so. A statement was made in Western Australia recently by Mr. J. L. Paton, who, I think, is president of the Western Australian Constitutional League. I propose to read that statement, because it gives a fair summary of the proceedings of the convention. As honorable senators are aware, the convention which met in November, 1942, consisted of 24 members. There were the Premier of each State and the Leader of the Opposition in each State, together with twelve members of the Commonwealth Parliament, eight being from the House of Representatives and four from the Senate. Mr. Pa ton’s statement was as follows: -
After four day3 discussion a committee was appointed to list the powers which it was considered the States should refer.
– Was a representative of each State on the committee?
– Yes. Each State Premier was a member. The statement proceeds -
The committee was appointed on Monday, 30th November, lt sat on portion of Monday, on Tuesday, and on Wednesday till 2.15 p.m., when it submitted its report, together with a draft bill.
The draft was bludgeoned through the convention and the proceedings were all over at 0.25 p.m. In effect, it took the committee just 48 hours to give Australia a new Constitution. The Federal Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) had been fond of referring to the boree and buggy era in Australian affairs; in the matter of making a Constitution he had shown us the difference between a horse and buggy and a flight through the stratosphere.
An important point in connexion with the claims Mr. Curtin made on behalf of the convention was that more than half the members of it were shut out when real business was being done, that was when the committee was framing the powers which it was considered the States should refer.
The Leader of the State Opposition (Mr. Watts) was one who resented being shut out. He had travelled 2,500 miles to Canberra at the invitation of the Commonwealth Government. The committee was made up only of State Premiers, with the Federal AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) and Mr. W. M. Hughes. Five of its eight members were pledged Labour supporters.
The Leader of the Federal Opposition (Mr. Menzies) wag present at the early stages of the convention but was absent from the later sessions. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McLeay) was opposed to the recommendations of the committee being submitted afterwards for the rushed endorsement of the convention because he said the convention lacked sufficient information to form an opinion. He considered that the committee’s recommendations should be left to the States for their decision.
The Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania (Mr. Baker) objected to the bill being “ thrown at us in a perfunctory and discourteous manner, without one word of exposition or explanation “. There were many interesting cross-currents at the convention and their existence made rather ludicrous the attempt of the Prime Minister to “build up” the convention in the estimation of the public.
In actual fact, the committee, during the 48 hours it spent on the subject, did not produce an original document, but rather tinkered with and amended the bill which Dr. Evatt had drawn up for presentation at the opening of the convention.
Most of the powers which Dr. Evatt had listed in his first and second bills were incorporated in the convention’s draft which later, in the. form of a bill, was submitted to the States for ratification.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable senator in order in reading his speech?
– It is not in order for an honorable senator to read his speech, but as Senator Sampson is merely making a quotation, he is quite in order.
– The statement by Mr. Paton concludes as follows: -
It was therefore truer to state that the fourteen powers were the work of Dr. Evatt than it was to state that they were the product of a representative Commonwealth convention.
While the Prime Minister had stressed the representative nature of the convention it was of interest to note the comment of the Labour member of the House of Representatives for Batman, Victoria (Mr. F. Brennan) who had said, “ Seldom have so many men been assembled in one gathering who knew so little about the subject to he discussed “.
I shall not dwell on this matter at length. This Parliament already possesses all of the powers which it could possibly need at the present time, in any circumstances that may arise. The powers now possessed, and fearfully invoked but never exercised at the expense of striking miners, slaughtermen and the like, will remain until after the end of the war has been definitely pronounced. When will that be? No one knows. In the light of the experience of World War No. 1, and of what happened afterwards, it is reasonable to assume that peace treaties will not be signed for several years after hostilities have ceased. There may, or may not, be an armistice when fighting ceases, but it may well be that years will elapse before the Allied Powers proclaim to the world that the war has ended. If that be so, the existing powers under the National Security Act and regulations will still be in force, and will be enforceable. It would appear that there is likely to be ample time for the whole subject of constitution alterations to be studied carefully by a properly elected convention. In my opinion, there is no hurry about this matter. If there was one thing about which members of the convention were unanimous, it was that a referendum should not be taken in a time of war.
– We tried to avoid it.
– That was done by asking the States to refer certain powers to the Commonwealth.
– They sold us a “ Pup
– It is true that the States declined to refer the powers sought, but that does not justify incurring the enormous waste of money, time, and man-power that will be involved in holding a referendum in war-time. It is not necessary to do so.
– Parliament has decided to hold a referendum.
– Would any other nation sanction the holding of a referendum in war-time?
– There is no need for any other nation to do so.
– Greater power is not needed by the Commonwealth. I suggest that better use should be made of existing powers.
– The Parliament has said that more power is necessary.
– With all respect, I say that honorable senators on this side of the chamber did not pass the bill to authorize the referendum. On the contrary, they did their best to prevent it from passing. It is true that the Parliament passed the measure, but the Minister should not say that we on this side had a hand in that result. Supporters of the bill, and advocates of a “ Yes “ vote at the forthcoming referendum, claim that without these additional powers Australia can never become a Utopia. Every “ new order” of which I have heard seems to consist of a policy under which something is taken from somebody and given to somebody else. I suggest that the Government should drop all pretence about a Utopia being established by act of Parliament. It cannot be done. The crux of the matter is that if the referendum proposals of the Government be agreed to, the present Government will be able to put into operation its policy for changing the whole economic system and nationalizing the means of production, distribution and exchange. To that policy the present Government is pledged. I speak subject to correction, but I understand that every member of the Labour party pledges himself to support, and at all times to advocate, that objective of the party which provides for the socialization of industry, and of the means of production, distribution and exchange. If I be right, it is clear why the Communists favour a “ Yes “ vote ; the objective is the same in each case. For that reason, I am opposed, lock, stock and barrel, to the Government’s referendum proposals. What the Government aims at securing is too dangerous a weapon to place in the hands of any government.
– As my first contribution to the debates in this chamber is to support the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, so ably moved by Senator McKenna, and seconded by Senator Grant, I desire, first of all, to associate myself with the tributes that have been paid to the Allied leaders for the magnificent part which they are playing in every theatre of war. None of us has any doubt that they will continue to play that part until victory has been won. As I listened to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral yesterday, I thought how regrettable it was that such an occasion should be marred by a war which was not of our choosing, but was forced upon us - a war which demands the utilization of all the resources at our disposal in order that victory may be achieved. That such a state of affairs exists is an indictment of our civilization. On every continent, and on every sea, the battle for the preservation of human rights is being waged against powerful and relentless enemies, whose pathway in their imagination led direct to world conquest; a pathway that for nearly five years has been lit by the flames of burning cities. This has been done by enemies whose lust for domination is symbolized in the ruined homes and ravished territories over which their armies marched. Their regime of exploitation in occupied countries has been responsible for the sacrifice of millions of lives of working-class people. Their cruelty has not. spared oven the aged folks or the infants in arms. That is why the Allied Nations have pledged themselves to do everything humanly possible to drive back and overwhelm by superior strength the enemies of civilization. Our own lads, fighting in the jungle in New Guinea, and in other theatres of war, are playing their part, in that fight. It is up to this Parliament and our people to play their part by ensuring that a reasonable opportunity will be afforded to those lads on their return to rehabilitate themselves in peace, and live as decent citizens of this nation are entitled to. live. That can only be done provided the National Parliament is given the powers necessary to enable it to deal effectively with all the problems which are inevitably associated with post-war reconstruction.
I take this opportunity to pay a speciatribute to the workers of Australia for the part they have played in our war effort. Without the workers we could have no war effort. I pay tribute to the organized trade union movement and mention particularly the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, which has played no small part in gearing up Australia for war. The workers have pledged themselves to do all in their .power to assist the National Parliament to bring this conflict to a swift and successful conclusion, knowing full well that the alternative to active resistance against Fascist aggression is complete annihilation. It has never been the intention of the workers to sit idly by and be annihilated. They certainly preferred peace to war, but the ou:y peace terms available at the outbreak of this war were those offered by the Axis powers, and all of us know what such conditions meant so far as organized trade unionism is concerned. They meant that everything the workers prize to-day would ultimately go by the hoard. Our democratic institutions, our homes, and this National Parliament were all bound up in that issue. The workers also knew that in the event of defeat the time would not be as far distant a? some people imagined when we would witness the sorry spectacle of prominent militant industrialists and other opponents of Fascism, being shot down in the streets of our cities, whilst thousands of their friends and sympathisers would be thrown into prison. That happened in other countries, and it could happen here. The workers are fully cognizant of th’at possibility, and, therefore, are playing their part to-day in this war as they did in the last war, when approximately 360;000 Australians left these shores to fight in defence of democracy in foreign lands. The workers are playing their part today because they realize that the very fate of the trade union movement is in the balance, and will continue in the balance until victory is won. However, that does not mean that the trade union movement will sit idly by and allow industrial conditions to be whittled away under the guise of .patriotism by certain individual employers who, if given the opportunity, would place profits before the nation’s need. The workers will play their part, and they know that the National Parliament as at present constituted will see that other people will play their part also. The workers know from’ actual experience in the workshops to-day that many of the industrial disputes mentioned in this debate and about which we read in the press are the result of pin-pricking tactics indulged in by certain employers who are endeavouring to apply a peace-time economy in time of waT. They know that at the conclusion of the war these same people will be the very first to endeavour to restore a system, of poverty in the midst .of plenty. The last great depression was world-wide. It was not merely an Australian depression. Prior to the time when the United States of America attempted to implement the N.I.R.A. proposals approximately 20,000,000 people were unemployed in that country, whilst in the city of Chicago alone about 375 evictions occurred daily. Imagine, in one city alone, 375 families being daily turned out of their homes and left to starve in the midst of plenty! In the Mother Country we witnessed a similar spectacle. Many British ships sailing from British ports were manned by Japanese crews when, at the same time, 30,000 British sea.men tramped the docks looking for work. That was in Great Britain, the Mother Country, where at that time approximately £5,000,000 a year was spent by the leisured class on hunting. Not only on the other side of the world, but right here in Australia, in Adelaide in my own State, the great majority of the little children who were admitted into the Children’s Hospital at North Adelaide were certified by our medical practitioners to be undernourished. Also the great majority of our future mothers who were admitted into the Queens Home at Rose Park were undernourished. These women - wives of the working-class - who I submit should be given the best of everything, were handicapped and starting a long way behind scratch in their great fight for life, not only for themselves but also for the innocent little kiddies that they were bringing into the world. It is our job to see that we do not revert to a system of that description.
In conclusion, I reiterate that unless this National Parliament is given the necessary powers to deal effectively with the rehabilitation of our fighting services, and the problems which are inevitable in the post-war period, the depression which followed the last war will be a mere infant in arms compared with the depression which will follow this war.
– I should like first to congratulate you, sir, on your re-election to the high office of President of the Senate. We listened yesterday to a Speech b,y the Governor-General, Lord Gowrie, which he prefaced with a farewell message to ourselves and the people of Australia. It was a great opportunity for him to say farewell. We very much regret his departure from his position as our Governor-Genera]. He did a wonderfully good job, first in the State of South Australia, and later as Governor-General of the Commonwealth. There were in Lord Gowrie and his good Lady attributes difficult to emulate. We are to have the Duke of Gloucester, a brother of His Majesty the Bang, as our next GovernorGeneral, and I have no doubt that he will carry out his important duties with complete satisfaction. Lord and the Lady Gowrie had an interest in the common people, and wherever they went they seemed to be able to endear themselves in the hearts of the people. I can only say that I am sorry that Lord Gowrie is leaving us, but a”t his time of life he well deserves that rest which he has so ably earned. It has been to the advantage of this country to have him here as His Majesty’s representative and we regret his departure very sincerely.
I think it will be admitted that in the Governor-General’s Speech there was very little of what one might term policy. In fact, during my experience of nearly a quarter of a century in both State and Federal politics I do not think I have ever listened to a Governor’s or GovernorGeneral’s Speech so bare of ideas as the one delivered yesterday. Usually we look to the Governor-General’s Speech to give us an outline of the policy of the Government, and what it purposes doing during the session. But yesterday’s Speech was simply a resume of the progress of the war, which possibly every intelligent citizen could have made for himself. It was absolutely bare so far as Government policy was concerned. It was not until he came to paragraph 25 that he mentioned the Government at all. There he said -
The Government will ask you to provide the finance necessary to enable the war to be waged and to maintain the various essential services. This will include the necessary provision for increasing expenditure for mutual aid to the United States Forces in this country.
Ever since this Parliament or any other parliament has been instituted we know quite well that at one period of the year the financial proposals knownas the budget have to come before Parliament, so that that paragraph was practically valueless. He went on to say in paragraph 26 -
Since the Parliament adjourned, my advisers have arranged to submit to the people the legislation passed by the Parliament in respect of additional powers for the Commonwealth Parliament. The date for the referendum of the people is 19th August.
I take it that the matter was left there, but perhaps another paragraph, which could have been called 26a, should have been added in words something like these -
If the referendum is passed we are going to do so-and-so and so-and-so.
– We have already said that a thousand times.
– The Government might have said it once more, because at this time it would have been very opportune. I believe that had the Government said what it was going to do if these powers were granted by the people, they would not be granted. That I think was the real reason for leaving the Governor-General’s Speech in its present form. So far as Government policy is concerned the speech is as bare as a frog is of feathers.
Let me refer for a moment to the powers set out in the bill, and the possibilities associated with them. Had the Government set out those possibilities, I do not think that the bill would have been passed. I do not propose at this juncture to say much about the bill, because I said practically all I had to say on it in this chamber some time ago. I am still of the same opinion, and am going to do everything in my power to see that the majority vote “ No “. This is the first time in the history of referenda that an Australian Government has used government funds to propagate its propaganda.
– On a measure of this Parliament? Remember that it is a national and not a political question.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.It is a national question, but when the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) was speaking the Minister interjected that this referendum was not political.
– Yes, and I repeat it.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The honorable senator represents Victoria in which State only recently a gentleman named Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick, a lecturer in history at one of the branches of the University of Melbourne, was struck off the roll of membership of the Australian Labour party because he had dared to write a paper criticizing the “ Yes “ case. Does the honorable senator still say that this is not a political matter? Why was not Mr. Fitzpatrick left alone?
– The honorable senator has not got the right story.
– I only know what has been published in the press. If my story is wrong the Minister has the opportunity to put it right. This is the first time in history so far as I know, that the Government has used government funds for propaganda purposes. I have here a yellow covered book entitled Post-war Reconstruction, with the sub-title “ Temporary Alteration of the Constitution “, containing about 60 pages. At the end of the publication there appears a line stating that it is printed “ By authority of L. F. J ohnston, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra”.
– That booklet was in print whilst the bill was under discussion.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN There has also been some controversy regarding broadcasting. A report of the
Broadcasting Committee was published recently. What the committee failed to publish, however, was the evidence upon which the findings of the committee were based. No doubt it would be most inconvenient to let the people see behind the scenes. All the evidence given at that inquiry should be tabled. It appears that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is being used for “ Yes “ propaganda through the medium of its news services, and I regard that as most unfair. Apart from the speeches made by members of this Parliament the only publicity given to the 1937 referendum at the country’s expense was contained in a pamphlet, stating the case for and against the proposals, each side being limited to 3,000 words.
Some times it is advisable to go a little afield to find out just what people overseas think of us, and for that purpose I shall quote an extract from a New Zealand newspaper - there is a habour government in New Zealand. It reads as follows : -
Thus the transgressions of government departments recoil upon themselves. Had the authority given them been wisely used, there would not be the apprehension which Mr. G. C. W. Keio mentions in an interview published to-day. The case for extended controls and more government in business was not improved in Australia by a recent inquiry which disclosed that public need had taken second place to departmental autonomy.
The Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech gives to honorable senators an opportunity to discuss a wide range of subjects. Usually, of course, attention is directed mainly to the Government’s policy and programme outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech. However, on this occasion, no government policy has been enunciated, so that all we can do is criticize the action of the Government. The first point with which t should like to deal is the manner in which this Parliament has been allowed to remain in recess for lengthy periods, In my opinion, this legislature should have its rightful status. Government by Parliament should replace government by regulation.
– That will be achieved when the war is over.
– That view is confirmed by a press report of a statement made by the Prime Minis ter in Canberra on the 11th July. The report reads as follows: -
Mr. Curtin said to night that he would get back to government 1)3’ Parliament rather than by regulation as soon as possible.
– Does not the honorable senn tor agree with that?
– If I had any idea, what “ as soon as possible “ meant I might. The other dominions have managed to hold almost continuous sessions of their Parliaments, and I see no reason why this country should not do likewise. We have had government, by regulation for the last three years. Never in the history of this country have the doors of the National Parliament been closed for such long periods as has been the case during recent years.
– The honorable senator should not be too sure about that. I remind him of what was done during the regime of the Lyons Government.
– I challenge the Minister to contradict what I have said. During those three years, thousands of regulations and orders under regulations have been issued.
– I have them all here in two volumes.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Yes, and it will not be long before there is a third. How can the Government expect the people of this country to be law-abiding citizens when it is quite impossible for them to be acquainted with the laws to which they are expected to conform? Regulations and orders under regulations are issued in sausagemachine style and they are amended frequently. The position in Australia to-day is this : The people elect a Parliament and that Parliament meets; a government is formed, and immediately starts to govern the country by regulation. I repeat that every other British Parliament has been kept almost in constant session during this critical period and there is no reason why more frequent meetings of this Legislature should not be held. Legislation by regulation has the great disadvantage that although regulations must be tabled in both Houses of Parliament, and may be disallowed by either House, Parliament «i. ls so infrequently that almost invariably regulations are in force for a number of weeks before members of Parliament have an opportunity to examine them and if necessary move for their disallowance. The Prime Minister made the illuminating statement recently that if the powers sought were granted the Parliament would not even have the privilege of disallowing regulations. It seems that when regulations are promulgated, we are not to be allowed even to discuss them. Ministers have many duties to perform, and I do not think they know anything about many of the regulations that are promulgated. Not long ago, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) moved for the disallowance of a certain regulation. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) was then Leader of the Senate, and I well recall that he vehemently declared that the regulation would not be altered. Actually, the regulation was not then operative, having been withdrawn 24 hours previously, but the Minister was unaware of that fact.
– I was acting according to my brief.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN Yes, right or wrong ; and, when the Minister is wrong, he is more determined than when he is right. The last general elections took place on the 21st August, 1943, and since that time the Senate has sat for 124 hours, whilst the House of Representatives has met for 239 hours. Even the most enthusiastic trade union advocate in this chamber would say that a fair day’s work could be done in six hours, but the Senate since the 21st August, 1943, has sat for only six days of six hours, and the House of Representatives only ten days of six hours. Parliament has been in recess for a total of 324 days, and during that time five elections have occurred, one Commonwealth election and four State elections. It is now proposed to take a vote of the people with a view to conferring increased powers on this Parliament.
A good deal is heard about a “new order “ that is to come about. A gentleman visited Adelaide some time ago to talk about post-war reconstruction. A large hall was engaged and a big audience assembled. The speaker occupied the platform for an hour and a quarter; but his address, which was allegedly on the subject of post-war reconstruction, should have been entitled, “ Vote ‘ Yes ‘ at the Referendum “.
– By whom is the speaker paid?
– He is a government servant. I intend to talk not about a “new order”, but the new disorder that has occurred during the last couple of years. We have witnessed industrial disputes throughout the Commonwealth, and they are of daily occurrence.
– They have never been fewer than in the last three years.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN There has never been so much industrial unrest as during the last couple of years.
– Rubbish! Consider the figures.
– I do not believe that the coal mines in Australia have all been working at once during the last two years. There have been industrial disputes in the coalmining, transport, and meat industries, and in connexion with the manufacture of munitions.
– When was there a dispute in connexion with munitions?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.It occurred in Adelaide not more than a month ago.
– It lasted only one and a half days.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.But it affected 400 or 500 persons. Disputes arise on the most paltry grounds. There are strikes for increased wages, although we have arbitration courts for the purpose of dealing with such disputes in a proper manner. Strikes have occurred because employees have claimed that they have not received enough butter or tobacco, or there were not sufficienttram cars to enable them to reach their work. There have been strikes because of too much taxation, and strikes because certain employees had been fined and would not pay their fines. We have even had strikes because of funerals.
Sitting suspended from 6.59 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The outstanding disorder is the trouble in the coal-mining industry, which is seriously affecting the life of the community. Our railways are working under difficulties; travelling facilities have had to be curtailed, and troop movements have been interfered with. One result is that there is now only one train weekly to Western Australia. On the trip from Kalgoorlie to Port Pirie there is accommodation in sleeping berths for 80 passengers, but from Adelaide to Melbourne there is sleeping provision for only 30 passengers. Some better arrangement should be made for travellers who have already spent several nights in the train before reaching Adelaide. South Australia is probably more seriously affected by disorders in the coal-mining industry than is any other State. One result is that, after much trouble, the coal deposits at Leigh Creek are now being worked. The open-cut system has been resorted to, and it is hoped that from that field sufficient coal will be obtained to grant some relief from the troubles caused by intermittent supplies of coal from the other States. Leigh Creek coal has about three-fourths the calorific value of New South Wales coal. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Government did not give much assistance to South Australia in connexion with the opening of the Leigh Creek deposits.
– The Commonwealth made a grant of £100,000.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.That is so; the Commonwealth has recently come to the assistance of the State. Previously, practically the only action taken by the Commonwealth in the matter was to grant travelling facilities to the secretary of the Miners Federation to enable him to travel to Leigh Creek in order to enrol the coalminers there as members of his federation. The majority of the men working on the mines at Leigh Creek are members of the Australian Workers Union, but, apparently, officials of the Miners Federation thought that the opening of the Leigh Creek field might affect coal-miners in the other States, and so they thought it necessary to make representations to the men at Leigh Creek to join their federation. At a time when most people experience con siderable difficulty in getting permitsto travel, it seems strange that facilities should be provided to enable the secretary of the Miners Federation to travel from New South Wales to Leigh Creek in order to persuade men to join his union. I shall not say more about the hold-ups in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales than that they have been practically continuous. Had the men continued to work full time, there would have been sufficient coal to meet the requirements of the nation. Unfortunately, the production of coal has been seriously lessened because of strikes and absenteeism. In the previous session of this Parliament we had before us bills designed to control the coal-mining industry. The Government claimed that the passing of those measures would do much to promote and maintain peace in the industry, and the Opposition hoped that the result of their passing would be to provide continuous supplies of coal; but, apparently, the legislation has not had the desired effect. However, the arguments of the Opposition in this chamber were so convincing that the Leader of the Senate when replying to the second-reading debate, said -
The production of planes, guns and food, although urgent, is not so urgent as is the production of coal. Recently, a small group of miners at Collinsville, for the first time in their career, held up mining operations because they considered that they were not being provided with a sufficiency of meat, and in consequence five ships engaged in the war effort were tied up at Bowen.
Those remarks proved that the Leader of the Senate then realized the necessity to maintain adequate supplies of coal. Another statement which the Minister made on that occasion seems to call for some explanation. After the Leader of the Opposition had offered some criticism of the Attorney-General in regard to coal production, the Leader of the Senate, in a defence of the Attorney-General said -
On the contrary,he has brought down sonic of the most drastic regulations that have ever been conceived, inan effort to apply remedies to the ills from which the industry is suffering. Numerous prosecutions were launched against the miners, and fines were collected from them.
At that stage Senator Spicer interjected -
And the fines were remitted.
The Minister continued -
That happened on some occasions, in an effort to ensure industrial peace.
That does not make sense. If the regulations were framed by the AttorneyGeneral to give continuity of coal supplies and to promote industrial peace, why should the Leader of the Senate say that the fines .were remitted to ensure industrial peace?
– There is nothing wrong with what I said. It was a case of trying something, and if it did not succeed, trying something else.
– Under the legislation passed in the last session, it was practically agreed that the coal-mining industry should be handed over to the Coal Commissioner, and that the Miners Federation should deal with strikers. There has been some evidence of an attempt on the part of the Miners Federation to exercise control, because when miners broke the rules of the federation, fines were imposed on them. Later, however, the fines were paid out of union funds. That does not make sense. I do not know that a man would be greatly concerned if he knew that his union would pay any fine imposed on him. Recently a delegation of members of Parliament from overseas visited Australia. Among them was Mr. Collindridge, who represents a mining district and has considerable knowledge of the coal-mining industry in Great Britain. While in Australia he delivered a broadcast address relating to the control of coal-mining in Great Britain, and he also visited the coal-fields of New South Wales with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Forde). Both men addressed the miners. Mr. Collindridge appealed to them to .produce as much coal as possible in the interests of the war effort of the United Nations. Unfortunately, he did not give to the miners the very information which, in my opinion, was most likely to induce them to make the maximum effort.
– A former Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, made an attempt to get more coal, but he did not get anywhere.
– He at least visited the coal-fields, which the present Prime Minister has not yet done. After Mr. Menzies had addressed an audience of between 200 and 300 coal-miners, who were probably the most reasonable men working on the mines, he asked where the rest of the miners could be found. When he was told that they were on the recreation ground and that they numbered a couple of thousand, men, he decided to visit the recreation ground and address them there. He had a fairly good reception.
– What did he get out of it?
– He had the satisfaction of speaking to the men face to face and telling them what he thought of them. As Mr. Collindridge did not give to the miners some facts which he might have given, I shall state those facts now. I shall compare the output of coal mines in New South Wales with the output of mines in Great Britain. In the coal mines in New South Wales, approximately 17,450 men are working. In 1943 the loss amounted to 335,787 man-shifts, or an average of 19.2 shifts for each employee. In the British coal mines 711,726 miners were employed in 1943. There was a loss of about 890,000 man shifts, or an average of 1.26 man-shifts for each employee. On the same basis our loss in 1942 averaged twelve man-shifts, whilst in 1943 our average loss was 19.2 man-shifts or an increased loss of 50 per cent, over that of the preceding year. Honorable senators are aware that the Acting Prime Minister stated publicly that at the present production rate we would lose more coal this year than was lost last year. Mr. Collindridge could have told the miners those facts. Had he done so he might have produced some effect, but he did not do so. There seems to be something in the old saying that “silence is golden “ because the coal-miners later presented Mr. Collindridge with a gold watch.
During the last few weeks members of Parliament have been inundated with literature from various sources boosting various schemes for the development of the Northern Territory as a means of settling ex-members of our armed forces on the land. Recently the American Minister to Australia, Mr. Nelson T. Johnson, was reported in the press to have travelled 2,500 miles through the Northern Territory, and at the conclusion of his tour he gave to newspaper reporters some of his impressions of the prospects of the development of that part of the country. He was reported to have said that it would be quite possible to make a Chicago of Newcastle Waters. I take this opportunity to warn the Government against wild cat schemes.
– The Government has never made any proposal to settle exservicemen in the Northern Territory.
– The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) has had much to say in the past concerning the opportunities offering for the development of the Northern Territory. Many of the schemes now being put forward are spectacular. Some time ago I toured the Northern Territory when, with two colleagues, I was deputed to revalue all the leases in the back country of South Australia. On that job we travelled 57,000 miles. Therefore, I can speak with some knowledge of that part of the Commonwealth. I advise the Government to ignore all spectacular schemes. At the same time, we should make early provision for the settlement of our ex-servicemen. We should take steps immediately to secure land suitable for closer settlement. However, much land suitable for this purpose is at present available in each of the States in districts which are already served with adequate railway and road communication. At this juncture the Government should buy suitable land in advance and reserve it for closer settlement schemes, taking it over when our ex-service personnel are ready to take occupation. I urge the Government to give immediate attention to this problem in order to avoid the bungling that occurred in the settlement of our ex-soldiers after the last war. On that occasion, owing to the Government’s failure to obtain suitable land in advance, much of the land purchased for this purpose proved to be entirely unsuitable. We should tackle this problem immediately, and thus avoid repeating that mistake.
I now desire to refer to taxation. Although a person on a fixed salary may find the present rates of tax somewhat drastic, he is able to make provision for the payment of his tax. On the other hand, manufacturers, primary producers and persons in business find the payment of tax a nightmare. I bring to the notice of the Government the case of settlers in Victoria and the south-eastern part of South Australia who, after their flocks of sheep had been destroyed by bush fires, were assessed tax on the money which they received from the insurance companies in respect of their losses of sheep. That money was taxed as profit Many of the flocks destroyed included breeding ewes which were worth three times the amount of money paid in respect of them to the settler by the insurance companies.
– I have never heard of the case mentioned by the honorable senator.
– I am to introduce a deputation to the Treasurer to-morrow on the subject.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Another case is that of a manufacturer who is in business in a big way. In one year he made a profit of approximately £63,000 on which he was assessed tax amounting to £60,000. He paid that tax. It was only right and just that he should; but, later, the Prices Commissioner investigated his prices, and told him that he had been selling on a margin of 12 per cent, instead of 9 per cent. The Prices Commissioner then informed him that on this account he owed the Government £27,000. In the circumstances of the case it is most unfair that this man, after paying tax amounting to £60,000 on an income of £63,000, should now be asked to pay to the Government an additional £27,000.
– On the 3ame year’s income?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN Yes.
– Will the honorable senator give the details of that case to me later?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Yes. Having regard to our man-power position generally it is clear that many members of the fighting services could easily be released for essential work. Every honorable senator is requested by constituents to support applications for the release of members of the armed services in special cases. I appeal to the Government to give prompt consideration to such requests. In the past, such matters have not been dealt with as expeditiously as they could be. For instance, I applied for the release of a man on the 20th January last, but it was not until the 11th July, after much correspondence had passed between me and the Army authorities that the latter notified me that the man in question could not be released. In another case, I applied for the release of a man from the armed services in order to provide assistance for his aged father and mother on their farm. Two months later I received a very emphatic reply from the Army authorities that the man could not be released. However, on the same day on which I received that notification the parents of the man telephoned me and thanked me for my services in the matter, telling me that the man had arrived home that morning.
– Such cases are quite common.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Such a state of affairs should be promptly remedied, I am somewhat disturbed concerning the deterioration of our relation in some respects with the United States of America. The American press generally is somewhat alarmed on this point, taking the view that our relations with their country are becoming somewhat strained. I take the following extract from a leading article published in the Chicago Tribune : -
Mr. Curtin told reporters in Brisbane that Australians themselves had furnished most of the fighting forces and contributed most to the defence of their country in the battle for Australia against the Japanese.
Perhaps it is a Prime Minister’s duty to convince his people of their strength, but whatever Mr. Curtin’a motives, he did not state the facts. Nobody in America is trying to traduce the valor and heroism of Australians, but when General MacArthur established his head-quarters in Australia the flower of the Australian armies were guardingEgypt. Many of the soldiers who remained at home did not have guns with which to fight. America furnished the weapons and the generals to defend Australia from Japan.
America has no territorial ambitions in Australia. We offer Australians nothing but friendship and co-operation in winning the Pacific war and in keeping the peace after the war. We have been assigned the task of maintaining peace in the Pacific. We shall not be able to do the job unless we have full control of strategic bases, and Australians may be un willing to let us have them unless the people are convinced that American power stopped Japan. To that extent Mr. Curtin’s statements constitute a disservice to the peace of the Pacific.
That shows exactly what they are thinking in America.Commenting on the demands of the newspaper, it was reported in the press that the Prime Minister hinted at the reciprocal use of defence bases by armed forces of the United Nations after the war, and that he added that access to bases was entirely different from control over them. He is also reported to have stated -
I am certain that the strategical measures necessary for the preservation of peace will not be overlookedby the United Nations. Requisite arrangements will surely be made to ensure that the necessary strategic interests for that peace are met.
– Did not the Minister for Trade and Customs refuse the McCormack press the right to publish a newspaper in Australia?
– There is no doubt about that.
– Was that right or wrong?
– We have in our midst a number of Americans, who probably read that paper. They should not be denied the right and privilege of seeing it while they are with us, whether our people here think it right or wrong.
In the Australian-New Zealand pact we claimed all the islands and bases to the north of Australia, nobody was to touch them because they belonged to us, but now apparently the Government is quite prepared to allow America to use them. The following remarks of Sir Keith Murdoch on his return from the other side of the world are quite significant -
Australia should be definite in her point of view, but the sooner wo get away from such gross crudities as the Australian-New Zealand pact the better for our position in the world.
– The Australian people do not share many of Sir Keith Murdoch’s opinions.
– Perhaps not, but I do not suppose that Sir Keith Murdoch worries very much about it.
In the early part of my remarks I neglected to congratulate the mover of the motion. I was impressed by the speech he made. The only point I wish to make is that ho is sitting on the wrong side of the chamber. That, however, is a matter of opinion so far as he is concerned, because he has a perfect right to sit where he wishes. I should like to offer a word of warning to the seconder of the motion. For some considerable time all new members on the other side of this chamber have begun by telling us about a depression that occurred in 1930 or 1931, and tho thousands of people who were then on the dole and unemployed. Sometimes, however, they fail to check their figures because, as each new member comes in, tho total climbs by thousands. I remind honorable senators opposite that Australia has a very limited population, and that if they increase the total of those on the dole and unemployed in 1930 and 1931 by many more thousands, they will have only a few politicians and the members of the Public Service left. It would be better for them, therefore, to check up on their figures.
– Is that all the honorable senator has against me?
– The total has risen considerably during the last twelve months, but the figures which the honorable senator gave yesterday are the highest we have had.
I wish to refer shortly to the Prime Minister’s visit overseas. First I draw the attention of the Leader of the Senate to another indignity which this chamber has had to suffer from a subordinate chamber. Yesterday the Prime Minister made to the House of Representatives a statement regarding his visit overseas. Members of that House have the opportunity, when discussing the Addressin.Reply, to comment on that statement favorably or otherwise, but it has not been placed before this chamber. The Leader of the Senate informed to-day that he intended to present it to-morrow in conjunction with a speech which he proposes to make, but he also said that honorable senators on this side who had already spoken on the. Address-in-Reply would not bc allowed to make any comment on the Prime Minister’s trip overseas. That is rather unfair.
– That is new to mo. I wanted to speak on it.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The Leader of the Senate told me that those who speak to-morrow will have the opportunity of dealing with the Prime Minister’s trip abroad whilst speaking on the Address-in-Reply. It is most unfair that those of us who have spoken earlier in this debate should be debarred from making any comment on it.
– I remind the honorable senator that he can deal with that subject now if he 30 desires.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN Unfortunately, I do not possess a copy, and therefore anything I said about it would be to a certain extent hearsay. Not only I, but a very large percentage of the people of this country deplore the fact that the Prime Minister’s visit was so hurried, and that he was so pressed for time. He was in Britain practically on the eve of the invasion of the European continent, probably the biggest event that history has ever had to record. Instead of remaining in Britain - where many of our men are fighting - and going across to Normandy, as did Mr. Churchill and Field Marshal Smuts, he hurriedly left.
– Why did he leave?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.I do not know.
– Then, why the innuendo? There is a dirty suggestion in what the honorable senator has said.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The Prime Minister went to London to attend the conference of the Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Field Marshal Smuts was there also, but he did not have to rush away. Why did Mr. Curtin do so? Mr. Fraser,
I he Prime Minister of New Zealand, who also attended the conference, has visited practically all the New Zealand troops in every combat area, but our Prime Minister went from Britain across to America, and then, came on to Australia. He did not even se*> our boys who are fighting in the islands to our north. It would have been a friendly gesture on his part had he visited Australians fighting for the British Empire wherever they were.
– We cannot spare him if the honorable senator can.
– Surely honorable senators opposite could have spared him for a day or two.
– As a matter of fact, he met them in different parts of the world.
– He did not go into one fighting area. He might have met them in civilian life, but it is a great pity that he did not visit the fighting forces.
– If he had done so, the honorable senator would have blamed him for staying away too long.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.I should not have been annoyed had he stayed away longer. I am speaking not about John Curtin, but about the Prime Minister of Australia. I would not be alarmed if he stayed away altogether. He went to the other side of the world as the representative of this country, and he passed by our boys who were fighting away from home.
– Is that the only fault that the honorable senator finds with him?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.No. I could find a great deal of fault with him, not as John Curtin, but as Prime Minister. In fact, as Prime Minister I could not sum him up better than by saying that he is the finest chameleon that we have ever had in the office which he holds. A chameleon is an an animal which is able to change its colour to harmonize with its surroundings. When Mr. Curtin is in England he is a Britisher, when he goes to America he becomes Americanized, when he returns to Australia he is an Australian, and, probably when he gets into caucus he is an isolationist.
– I appreciate greatly the welcome that has been extended to me and to other newcomers to this chamber. Whilst I realize that this is a States legislature, I hope that even in the advocacy of what may be regarded as purely State matters, I shall not lose sight of the fact that I am an Australian. I trust also that other honorable senators will agree with me when I say that Australia must come first.
I listened with great interest to the speeches made in this chamber to-day, and I was struck particularly by the fact that the utterances of honorable senators opposite indicated that the information which they had obtained on various matters obviously had come from anti-government sources. They complain that the Government is not conducting the war in the way that they would conduct it if they were in office. In adopting that attitude they are merely adhering to the tradition that they are the representatives in this chamber of anti-Labour forces. In the economic set-up of this country there are two distinct factions: First, there is the working class, in which I include everybody who is engaged on the production of the necessaries of life, and secondly, there are those whose sole aim it is to exploit the working classes. I am. proud to say that all my life I have been associated with the working community, whereas my friends opposite are, and always have been, associated with the exploiters, whose views they voice in this chamber. Whilst they seek to impress upon the Government that they desire only to help the working people of Australia, it is obvious that their aim is to return to the status quo. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) severely criticized various phases of the Government’s administration. Apparently, in the eyes of that honorable senator, everything that the Government does is entirely wrong; yet last year the people of this country returned it to office not only in the House ofRepresentatives, but also in this chamber. I point out that criticism is not always helpful to a government or to an individual. Sometimes a pat on the back can accomplish more than all the criticism in the world. I commend that thought to the Opposition. Perhaps if they were to offer a little more genuine assistance and a little less unnecessary criticism, more progress would be made.
Mention has been made of government by regulation. Every one agrees that government by regulation is undesirable; but mere criticism of regulations does not help to overcome that difficulty. In some cases it may not be the repeal of a regulation which is necessary as much as a consolidation or amendment of that regulation. Again I urge honorable senators opposite to endeavour to help the Government instead of resorting to continuous criticism.
I come now to a South Australian matter, and again I urge the Senate to bear in mind that my approach to these problems is that of an Australian. Senator James Mclachlan referred to the Leigh Greek coal deposits, but evidently he knows little about them, because he could only indulge in criticism of certain unionists. These fields are among the biggest deposits of sub-bitumenous coal in Australia. In addition, there are vast mineral deposits in the vicinity. I think that every mineral which is sought by Australia can be found within smelting distance of the Leigh Creek coal deposits. I realize that at present the problem is one of man-power; but when that difficulty is overcome, there is no reason why the development, of these coal-fields and mineral deposits should not result in the establishment in South Australia of industries equal to or even bigger than those already established in the eastern States. That development should be undertaken in the interests of the nation. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, has admitted that that State is not in a position to tackle the job, and has appealed to the Commonwealth Government for assistance. I believe that at the earliest .possible moment the Commonwealth Government should investigate this project. I am confident that the Government will be seised of the necessity to assist South Australia in that matter just as it is assisting other States to-day.
Senator James McLachlan also criticized what he described as “wild cat” schemes for post-war development. One such scheme was” the provision of water for the interior of Australia. I maintain that this could be done. By all forms of transport, including camel, horse, and motor car, I have travelled probably more than any other member of this -chamber through the interior of Australia. The great necessity of those regions is water. The time must come when the development of the interior of Australia will have to be given serious consideration by the people of this country and by this Parliament. The provision of a good water supply to those areas would enable Australia to be self-supporting in many foodstuffs now imported from overseas. There is a climatic variation which, if adequate water were provided, would enable tb production of an extensive range of commodities. Schemes such as this are not so “ wild cat “ as Senator James McLachlan would have us believe. It has been established by engineers that it is quite possible to divert rivers to new courses, and there is nothing fantastic about the suggestion that the rivers of northern Queensland should be diverted to the centre of Australia.
Honorable senators opposite who criticize every action of the Government, and endeavour to make political capital out of restrictions which are necessary in the interests of our war-time economy, are playing a political game which is not quite fair to Australia. Let them consider for a moment the serious difficulties in which this country finds itself to-day. The war has created tremendous problems, and after all Australia is a country with a small population. Whilst we must pay a tribute to the generous assistance which has been given to us by our Allies, we must not blind ourselves to our own responsibilities. Instead of arguing that this or that power sought by the Commonwealth at the forthcoming referendum is really necessary - I believe that not one member of the Opposition has not said at some time or other that all these powers are necessary - honorable senators opposite should pull their weight with the Government and assist it to solve the problems with which it is confronted, so that we may be able to carry this war rapidly to a successful conclusion, and at the same time ensure that when the war is over there will be no return to depressions. There must be a new economy in which our aim shall be to produce for the common need and not for the purpose of exploitation.
– In rising to address the Senate, I feel somewhat like a traveller who has visited various places, some of which have left a very favorable impression on his memory, and who, returning later to those former scenes, has noticed changes. Some of the changes are for the better, and some of them may not meet with his approval. So, in returning to the Senate, I notice a remarkable change in this chamber. Whilst regretting, from a personal point of view, the removal of certain picturesque figures in the parliamentary life of this country, one feels that those alterations are in the interests of the nation. We are witnessing the departure of an outstanding personality, and that fact was forcibly brought to our minds yesterday when His Excellency the ‘GovernorGeneral delivered his final address to this Parliament. Rightfully, honorable senators have paid tribute to the place that both His Excellency and his wife have filled in the life of the people. Lord and the Lady Gowrie succeeded in their high office two eminent Australians in .the persons of Sir Isaac and Lady Isaacs. Lord Gowrie had a difficult task in following a couple of whom I believe Australia was, and still is, proud. I trust that in future years this country will again produce a son and daughter who will bc able to occupy these high positions. In the meantime we are to have amongst us a member of the Royal Family, sent, no doubt, as a tribute to the magnificent part that Australia has played in this great world conflict.
The motion before the Senate expresses thanks for the Governor-General’s Speech, and under the .Standing Orders it has been possible for honorable senators to debate many matters in discussing that motion. I notice that the Senate has became a little more turbulent than formerly, particularly during the last quarter of an hour or so, although it is generally looked upon as a most placid chamber. I hope that as the result of the influx of virile personalities this chamber will discharge the functions in the government of this country which the founders of federation hoped that it would fulfil. I believe that the Senate is capable of playing a more important part in the political life of Australia than it lias in the past. I noted with interest the remarks of former honorable senators who recently severed their connexion with this branch of the Legislature. Most of them said that some alteration in the make-up of the Senate was desirable. It has been stated that the method of election to this chamber has brought about certain anomalies. That is not the fault of the present Government. Many years ago there was an agitation for an alteration of the method of electing senators. AH of the suggestions as to the desirability of the abolition of this chamber are due to the fact that the powers already possessed by this body have not been fully utilized. I hope that despite the majority that the present Government has at its disposal in the Senate, it will use the legislative powers of this chamber in coping with the great problems that will confront us in .the near future. If that is done, the Senate will occupy the position in the parliamentary life of Australia which it is rightly entitled to fill. Subjects of great national importance will bo discussed here, and the Senate should not merely re-echo decisions reached by the House of Representatives.
During the course of the debate, my mind went back to the time when I first entered this chamber six years ago. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator James McLachlan had something to say to-day with regard to the coal-mining industry. I recall that, on the very day when I made my first appearance here, the Senate was discussing the position in the coalmining industry, but one would have thought, from the remarks of .the Leader of the Opposition to-day, that the coal problem and the turmoil in the industry had all occurred within recent months and since the advent of a Labour government. He deplored the Government’s lack of courage and told us what the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) should have done; but what did the Leader of the Opposition say when the AttorneyGeneral of this country was a man of his own political faith and when the coal fields of New South Wales were the centre of a great industrial upheaval? What courage did the then AttorneyGeneral display with regard to the recalcitrant coal-miners?
– The war was not in progress then.
– If it had not actually begun every member of this chamber was aware of world-shaking events in the older countries of the world. At that time the then Prime M inister of Great Britain was endeavouring to avoid the storm that was about to break. Every member of this Parliament knew the danger that was imminent, and realized the part that Australia would be called upon to perform in the event of the storm breaking. We knew that it would be necessary for the industries of this country to be organized to a pitch that had never formerly been attained. As a matter of fact, most of the debates in this chamber and in the other branch of the legislature were directed towards the creation of .machinery for dic purpose of conducting a war. The Attorney-General of the day went to the New South Wales coal fields and addressed the coal-miners. He told them to be good boys and go to work. To-day, the Leader of the Opposition and Senator James McLachlan find fault with the present Administration for endeavouring to bring peace and harmony into the coal fields. They know full well that coercion has never been successful in inducing the workers of this or any other country to perform their daily tasks. They are aware that a measure known us the “Bog Collar “ Act did not succeed in bringing about industrial peace on the waterfront. That measure caused a lingering anger that repeatedly led to hold-ups in industry. Evidently, the Leader of the Opposition and those who think like him would be pleased if the present Government would, do something which would cause a complete cessation of work, because it might enable them to gain political kudos, and to some degree restore the reputations lost by them through past failures. I believe that the present Government has handled these difficult problems in a manner which entitles it to appreciation, rather than condemnation, from every good Australian. During this war the workers have surrendered many of their hardwon privileges. They have submitted to increased hours of labour, to the pegging of wages and to almost unbelievable conditions in order that the great war effort of Australia may be continued. From their homes have come thousands of men who have gone into industries, the ramification? of which they were totally un familiar with, but they have applied themselves to the new tasks, with a zeal that has won general admiration. A similar remark may be passed regarding Australian women. They have left congenial occupations for the grime of industry, and have done a remarkably good job. But because one slight ripple has occurred on the industrial sea we find honorable senators in the ranks of the Opposition, and the press who support them, magnifying the seriousness of the present disputes beyond measure, and belittling the war efforts of Australia, for whatever comfort they can obtain from their accusations. Despite this carping criticism, our workmen have done a fine job, .and will continue to do it. until victory is achieved.
Reference has been made by the Leader of the Opposition to paragraph 27 of the Governor-General’s Speech, relating to the co-ordination of Australia’s war effort. He says that he agrees with the statements in that paragraph, yet his remarks are sufficient to cause disunity in this country. He desired to know something about the position in the coalmining industry, and inquired whether Victoria was within a day or two of reaching a crisis so far as coal supplies were concerned. The reports appearing in our newspapers may be correct or they may not, and I suggest that the responsible Minister should at least make an investigation as to the exact position. Assuming the position is as serious as it has been represented to be, is it the fault of the Commonwealth Government? Is there not a government in Victoria which is charged with the duty of seeing that the wheels of industry arc kept moving, and that the internal economy of the State is maintained? A shortage of coal in Victoria is not something new; it has existed for nearly two years. Last Christmas, train services in Victoria were considerably curtailed; on many lines only a skeleton service was maintained. What has the Government of Victoria done to remedy that situation? Practically the whole of Victoria is lighted with electricity generated from brown coal, yet the Government of that State has so administered its affairs that thousands of tons of black coal are used to generate electricity for the running of the suburban railway services whilst there are millions of tons of brown coal almost at the back door of the generating station, If the State Government had done its duty, and had taken advantage of the war situation by insisting that there should be a proportion of brown coal used in industry, Victoria would not be in its present unsatisfactory position with regard to coal supplies. It is useless for honorable senators opposite to try to lay at the door of the Commonwealth Government the blame for the situation now existing in Victoria. They should have a word with their political friends in that State. In Victoria there is a composite government, comprised of members of the Country party and of the United Australia party. [ ask honorable senators of those parties to consult with their political confreres in Victoria, and to urge them to do something in the interests of their State.
This debate has brought before the Senate a number of other important subjects, one of them being post-war reconstruction. Some honorable senators opposite have indicated that they are not satisfied with the actions of the present Government, but I point out that until a month or so ago the Government was fully employed in directing the nation’s war effort. The forces that have been arrayed against Australia have fought with a determination and a virility unsurpassed in any previous campaign, and the Commonwealth Government has done well in organizing the resources of the country to meet the onslaught of the enemy. Now that the war situation seems to be somewhat clearer, the Government is directing its efforts towards the solution of the problems which will confront Australia when the war is ended. I have heard nothing constructive from honorable senators opposite - not a word, not an idea, that was worth considering. The Opposition has not put forward one useful suggestion which the Government can use as a foundation to work upon. Consequently, the Government must face the task itself. It is to be commended for what it has already done to meet postwar problems associated with industry and the housing of the people. The rehabilitation of the men and women of the fighting services and those engaged in various war activities will constitute a tremendous problem. I remember the time when I stood- in this chamber and urged the then Government to make available £250,000 to provide Christmas relief for a section of the community which needed it. I recall that those who then controlled the treasury-bench replied that we should be wasting our own time, and the time of honorable senators generally, if we persisted with such requests, because money for the purpose was not available. The Government of that day had no vision ; it could not plan any developmental undertaking so greatly needed in this young country. Senator James McLachlan criticized the Prim* Minister (Mr. Curtin) for not visiting various battle-fronts, but the honorable senator would have done well to reserve his criticism until he knew more of what occurred at the Imperial Conference which the Prime Minister attended. Those people who think that Australia’s path in the post-war years will b” easy are mistaken.
Reference has been made to the subject of immigration, but when we reflect on the condition of Great Britain and other European countries, we realize that many difficulties will have to be overcome before Australia will attract suitable immigrants from other countries. “We must make it possible for Australia to develop its own natural resources, and to increase its population by means other than immigration. Will honorable senators opposite say that the social legislation proposed by the Government is not part of a sound post-war scheme? Will they oppose a scheme to give medical benefits to those who need them ? Honorable senators opposite may criticize the Government’s policy in regard to hospitals, but they cannot say that it has no policy in connexion with post-war problems. I hope that when the Government’s legislative programme is before us we shall have something constructive concerning them from honorable senators opposite and their friends outside the Parliament.
I was amazed at the attitude of some honorable senators opposite in regard to the proposals of the Government to obtain additional powers for this Parliament. Opposition members condemn the Government for not doing certain things, yet they fake every opportunity to prevent the Government from doing the things that are necessary in the interests of the community.
– Did the honorable senator support the last proposed alterations to the Constitution?
– I did. This Parliament is in a unique position among the Parliaments of the self-governing dominions. In pre-federation days, men with vision realized that six colonies, working separately could not achieve what could be accomplished by a united people under one government, but when they advocated a federation of the colonies, there were many who opposed the idea, fu those days, there were people who thought they saw their vested interests endangered if some of the powers vested in the colonies were transferred to a national parliament, and so they made it difficult for those great Australians who had vision to give effect to what they realized was necessary for the development of this young country. The Constitution under which we work ro-day was the result of compromise in order to form a framework upon which future generations of Australians might build a greater edifice. Those men who succeeded in inducing the people of Australia to agree to the creation of the Commonwealth thought that, as the result of experience to be gained in the future, the Australian people would grant to their National Parliament all power to do the things which this Parliament should be able to do in the interests of the nation. So, to-day, an appeal is being made to the people to ‘transfer certain powers from the States to the Commonwealth, not .permanently, but only to lend those powers to the Commonwealth Parliament for a period of five years. What is five years in the history of a nation? The exercise of these powers unwisely may mar the future of the nation for well over a century. The war is now in its fifth year, and a Labour Government has been in office for a considerable portion of that period. Can any honorable senator or any person in Australia truthfully say that, during the time the present Government has held office, it has abused the Commonwealth’s war-time powers? What do we find to-day? The croakers are abroad as they were abroad when great men were endeavouring to establish the Commonwealth. They are playing upon the fears of the people. Who are these persons? Chief among them are many who, in a crisis, could not hold a political party together, let alone lead a nation in a crisis. They now suggest to the people that these powers should not be transferred to a government which has steered this country through the greatest crisis in its history, that such powers should not be granted to the National Parliament to enable it to meet the great problems which will confront the nation in the immediate future. Yet these people call themselves Australians, and describe this Parliament as the National Parliament of Australia. I believe that the decision of the people at the forthcoming referendum will show that this Parliament can be trusted with the powers now being sought. What reason is being suggested why the workers should not vote in favour of the granting of these powers? The workers are being told that they should have the right to select their own jobs, and to determine the place in which they will work. It is said that they should not be directed here or there by some government official. In short, they are told that the granting of these powers to the National Parliament will mean industrial conscription, that the body and soul of the worker will not be his own. What was the position when the conditions of which I have just reminded honorable senators existed in this country? At that time, were men or women able to select their employment, or their place of residence? Of course, it is logical to tell a worker that he should have the right to select his own job, and the place where he will sell his labour. That is an ideal which I hope will be achieved. It can be achieved when jobs are plentiful and workers are scarce; but when the reverse is -the case no worker has the opportunity to demand where he shall work. He is denied that right by those who control his very life. During the depression, men were directed to perform laborious tasks in various parts of the States, ill-fed and ill-clothed. They were unfitted to do the tasks which they were directed to do, not by Labour governments, or by any Department or War Organization, or by man-power authorities, but by anti-Labour governments in the State parliaments.
– And at how much a week?
– -At that time, if a worker attempted to exercise the right which, to-day, he is told is his, ho and his family were denied the miserable pittance known as the dole, and wore condemned to the soup kitchen and starvation. Nevertheless, opponents of the Government’s proposals are now going amongst the workers and telling them of the awful things that are likely to happen should the referendum be carried. Honorable senators opposite will have to devise a more intelligent argumentto induce the people of this country, who suffered as the result of the exercise of certain power by the State governments during the times of which I speak, to cast a vote in the negative at the referendum, I hope that the powers sought will be granted to the National Parliament because this country, which is still in its infancy, must be developed. Members who, in their places in this Parliament, and on public platforms outside, paint a magnificent picture of Australia’s future, do nothing towards the realization of that objective. Australia is capable of becoming one of the greatest nations in tie world. By the development of our resources we can make Australia a bright gem in the Pacific. When the National Parliament is enabled to function as the founders of federation intended it should function, and wo gather some of the inspiration which led those great men of the past to nail to the masthead the slogan, “ One flag, one people, one destiny “, Australia will be on the road to achieving the destiny which those men envisaged.
-Is that not the case to-day?
– The vision of honorable senators opposite has been smeared in order to protect certain interests in this country. I should say that if the honorable senator himself were left to his own devices, and expressed his own sentiments, he would express truly Australian sentiments.
However, in recent months there has unfortunately arisen in this country certain forces which demand that honorable senators opposite shall not give expression to the ideal which they hold deep down in their hearts. After we carry the motion now before us expressing our pride in the achievement of the members of our fighting forces in the various theatres of war, and our inflexible determination to prosecute the war until victory is won, we should go forward and endeavour as Australians to build up a great country. Should we do so, those who occupy this country in the future will take pride in the fact that men in our day and generation had the vision to see the great mission which this country has in front of it.
– I owe to honorable senatorsan apology for the fact that I have not yet presented a copy of the statement read by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in the House of Representatives yesterday. Honorable senators will realize that such a statement involved careful and. considerable preparation. I had hoped to read a copy of it in this chamber yesterday. However, I have arranged to make available copies of the Prime Minister’s speech to honorable senators to-morrow, when. I continue my remarks on the motion now before the Senate. The Prime Minister’s speech can then be discussed by those honorable senators who have not yet taken part in this debate. As the statement contains nothing which will be the subject of legislation at an early date, no honorable senator will be denied the opportunity to discuss fully any subject of a legislative character.
I propose to reply to one or two points made by honorable senators opposite. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) referred to the tremendous shortage of man-power. There is a shortage of man-power. When this country was in jeopardy the Government called up every available person from primary and secondary industry, and no honorable senator opposite objected to that course, because Australia was then in dire peril. As the result of the movement of the war to the north, some men hare been released from the armed services. The Government decided to release 20,000 men from the fighting forces for work in primary industries. However, it is most difficult to implement such a decision. Senator Sampson, who is an ex-soldier, and honorable senators generally realize that it is not merely a case of the Government saying to General Sir Thomas Blarney that it wants Smith, Jones or Robinson released from some battalion which is engaged in an operational area. However, the Government’s scheme for release of army personnel is being implemented as quickly as possible, and a considerable number of men has already been released. At an early date as the result of the visit of the Prime Minister to Great Britain and the United States of America, our man-power generally will be combed out. At the same time, I issue the warning that, despite the claims of primary and secondary production, we cannot afford to bleed our armed forces of their personnel. This country has commitments to the Allies, to itself, and to the British nation, and wc are not prepared, even at the risk of leaving primary production and secondary industries short, to depress unduly our fighting strength. I recently had the honour of being chairman of a committee of officers of all branches on this very question. 1 was told before I presided that there was a man-power shortage of 30,000, even if all the existing regulations and restrictions were retained and providing only for urgent essential work. As a matter of fact the figure that I should have been told was 44,000 short, so when people talk about, releasing Jones or Robinson, they should give the matter careful thought. It is a slow process. We still want more man-power despite the fact that to some extent the war zone is moving north from this country. We have an enormous army to feed. We have a huge army of civilians to feed. We have tremendous obligations to Great Britain and also to India. All these matters are under close observation at the moment. As Senator Aylett said this afternoon, the Government has given special attention to the food supply problem. The figures have improved as he correctly said in some cases by 100 per cent, despite the fact that the hardship of the shortage of man-power is felt in every State. In Queensland the sugar industry, one of the items under my control, offers a tremendous problem. The production is lower. We imported the fertilizer for that crop from South America, paying £18 a ton subsidy on it so that the sugar-cane grower should have his superphosphate. We are prepared to go on with it because we are under an obligation to provide 100,000 tons of export sugar for other parts of the Empire which cannot get ii without our help.
I am the Minister in control of rationing, and I can tell the Senate of an amazing thing that came to light after the last issue of coupon books. In my home there are myself and a young child who eat sugar. The supply of 1 lb. a week for each individual is moro than liberal. It is not used. We made three issues of 6 lb. a head to make jam. When we checked the returned coupon books we found that the unclaimed sugar coupons were only 1 per cent. It is a disgrace to the people of Australia that, while sugar was wanted overseas, they had just in a wanton desire to use up all their coupons claimed sugar that you and I know cannot possibly be used in the average household. On the food from we face a tremendous problem. We not only have to process the food, but we have to bring the tinned plate from the United States of America under lendlease, spread it over the factories of Australia, and store what we are unable to place with the factories. We have to get the woman-power and man-power to staff those factories, in some of which a most disagreeable class of work for women has to be done. Their hands and clothing become dirty, and the place is full of steam. They receive a rate of pay which is not comparable with that in other industries, such as the clothing trade. The Government is having a look at that matter, and an application will be made to the Arbitration Court for a special hearing for that industry, in an endeavour to give those in it a salary or wage that will make a most obnoxious job at least a little more attractive.
We produce millions of cans of foodstuffs, and have not the cases to put the cans into, because there is no kimber available in Australia to make the cases. That is an admission to have to make - that there is not sufficient timber in Australia to make the cases for our canned produce.
– Is not hardwood of any use?
– Hardwood would be all right if it could have been kiln dried years ago, but when it is used green and shipped abroad it warps, so that it actually draws the nails out of the boxes. There is a problem for Australia to be faced with - plenty of growing timber, but not enough bush mills and not enough employees to work them. The whole man-power question is a ghastly business; but I take the word of the Prime Minister that man-power is better handled in Australia than in any other part of the world that he visited.
Some man-power regulations operated by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) in connexion with the Allied Works Council are very drastic. The council, when it started, could call up a man and if he did not come something happened to him. As that work diminishes, and what is left comes back to the control of the Department of the Interior, some of these men will not be wanted, and there should be some reduction in that regard. There is a good deal of comment about regulations, but every regulation is sponsored by a Minister. He has his advisers, as all ex-Ministers know. They submit to him that, in order to operate a certain restriction or control, a regulation ought to be drafted. It is drafted for the perusal of the Minister, sent to the Crown Law Department, and, if in order, eventually gazetted and becomes law. The relaxation of some of those regulations is under consideration at the moment by every Minister. I am the Minister who banned imports. When we did so, we banned imports from both sterling and nonsterling countries. I have already ordered a revision of the restrictions to see if some might not be lifted to make the lives of the people a little brighter.
– And some more put on.
– We are also having a look at that possibility. There has been a prohibition of the import of hair nets. A million of them could be imported in a space of about half a cubit yard. To the average woman, more particularly a woman in a factory, it if a great help to her morale if she know* that her hair is tidy. Instances of that sort are occurring every day, and whereever we get hold of them we simply say that they ought to be rectified.
Senator Sheehan has amply covered the adverse comment that has been made from the other side on the referendum. I suggest one line of thought in regard to it. Assume that the referendum if not, agreed to and that six months after the war price control disappears. Then not only the workers will suffer by the resultant inflation but the rich man will feel it just as badly. I cannot understand the opposition to the proposals. If, as Senator Sampson has said, Australia has to prepare itself for a further onslaught in the years to come is it not logical for the government of the day, whichever part3’ it represents, to get ready to resist it? Munitions and armaments of war would have to be made. We could make munitions for the Australian Army, but if we used any of the annexes, which have cost us approximately £180,000,000, to make anything in a government shop to sell to the ordinary trading public, the law would prevent us. If we did it, we would have the High Court on our wheel. Some day, as I have said in this chamber before, the powers of the High Court will have to be studied. I was asked by Senator Herbert Hays about a certain legal action on blue peas. The Prices Commissioner fixed a price of 15s. a bushel. Some irresponsible individual in some department had made a statement that the growers were to get £1 ls. a bushel, although the highest price ever paid for blue peas in the history of the industry was 6s. 6d. Taking the 15s. rate, the increase allowed over that price was 250 per cent. I assure the honorable senator that I have the file, and I know all about it.
Senator Foll stated that some Government money has been spent on the referendum in support of the “ Yes “ case. 1 confess that it is being spent, as it has every right to be. I repeat what was evidently taken facetiously, that this should not be a political issue. Honorable senators may laugh, and ask “Why?” This deliberative assembly passed the bill by the majority required by the Constitution, and so did the House of Representatives Parliament resolved that a referendum should be taken. Am I right or wrong? lt then becomes the job of this Parliament to say to the people, “ We are asking you to give yourselves authority to enlarge the powers of your own Commonwealth Parliament, not for the Labour party or the United Australia party, but for the National Parliament”. We have therefore endeavoured in the handling of th» publicity of this subject to be quite as fair as we possibly could be to both sides. 1 am the Minister controlling newsprint, and I obtained a return from my officers of the quantity of newsprint asked for by each political party. I asked no questions about individual parties, but brought in the lot. I found that the opposition to the Government case had asked for 30 tons more than those supporting our case had. I decided that that was not right, so I sent it back to be rectified. Wherever possible we have endeavoured to hold the scales evenly.
– Private people are rationed in regard to paper, but is the Government rationed?
– Certainly. The scheme of newspaper rationing boils down to various classes of paper. Newsprint is all imported except 25,000 tons made at the mill at Boyer, in Tasmania, which is the sole property of the newspapers of Australia. It is controlled by a voluntary pool under my direction, which caters for daily, weekly, Sunday and country newspapers. There is a further small pool known as the Minister’s pool, out of which I look after all the “ also-rans “, so that there will be no suppression of any line of thought in this country so far as I am concerned. Each party, whether Labour. United Australia party. Socialist, or any other, has as much right in that regard in this community as any other.
Senator Sampson and I believe another honorable senator said that the Governor-General’s Speech did not con tain an outline of the Government’s policy. Surely honorable senators are aware that a campaign is now pending for the referendum to be he.ld on the 19th August, and that the Prime Minister has just come back, and properly thought thar be should meet Parliament and make a statement. That statement has already been made to the House of Representatives, and will be made here to-morrow afternoon. Honorable senators well know that shortly after the referendum has been taken Parliament will reassemble, and that on that occasion the budget and whatever legislation is to be brought down will be announced to Parliament. There was therefore no justification for honorable senators to expect a full programme to be announced on this occasion.
The speech made by Senator James McLachlan to-day was, frankly, one of the worst I have ever heard. He went out of his way to indict the industrialists of Australia. We admit that there have been disputes in the coal-mining industry, and that there has been one hold-up on the waterfront. There have been no stoppages of any note at all at the munitions works. There is a slowness in certain slaughtering arrangements in Sydney, probably not due to the men at all. We have no trouble in Victoria ot in any other State. I suggest to the honorable senator that it is a monstrous thing to make a sweeping statement that the industrialists of Australia have impeded the war effort.
– I did not say that at all.
– The honorable senator quoted my speech on the Coal Production (War-time) Bill. I repeat every word of it, and I will add, that we have done everything possible to get the coal mines working. I reiterate what I said in my other speech that the coal miners are a class of men that you and I would have to live with to understand. Money does not interest them. It is a rough arduous industry with a shocking background, in which we have a number of men who are ageing, but in 1942 they produced the greatest output of coal in the history of Australia. One of my lend-lease officers who has just returned from the United States of America informs me that from inquiries which he made in America and Great Britain, our miners are doing a better job than arc their colleagues in either of those two countries. My informant is an expert on production and knows what he is talking about. Senator James McLachlan quoted production figures for 1943, but when I asked him the source of his information, he could not tell me.
Although Senator James McLachlan is one of the most experienced members of this chamber, and, I believe, has the dignity of the Senate at heart, he made the astounding assertion that in twelve months this chamber had sat for only six days. I flatly contradict that, and say that it was 29 days. I have had the figures checked by the Clerk of the Senate. Unfortunately, the honorable senator’s inaccurate statement has gone to the press and no doubt will be published all over Australia. The honorable senator was not even fair enough to admit that the Commonwealth Government had encouraged the development of the Leigh Creek coal deposits in every possible way. His own State Premier can inform him that we have sent delegations to South Australia in connexion with that matter, and have provided financial assistance amounting to £100,000. It is our desire to give whatever further help may be necessary. The sooner coal can be produced in every State of the Commonwealth the better it will be for industry in this country. I should like to see more coal produced in Victoria, but unfortunately the seams are not big enough, and mining is an expensive process. However, I am hopeful that some day we shall have the benefit of our own coal supplies.
When I was a member of the House of Representatives fourteen years ago, it appeared to be the desire of the parties to which honorable senators opposite belong, to insert penalties in industrial legislation wherever possible. Senator James McLachlan wants to know now what the Government intends to do about the coal miners. We tried imposing fines, but it was useless. We then got the unions to fine them, but we were still unsuccessful. We even went so far as to call some of them up for military service, but it was of no avail. When a govern ment supported by honorable senators opposite was in power, the then AttorneyGeneral, now Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham, brought down an arbitration bill which was the most brutal piece of legislation in the history of this country. It provided that men who went on strike could be sent to gaol and others fined up to £1,000. When the Scullin Government was in office, although not in power, because it lacked a majority in the Senate, it altered the entire measure and wiped out all the penalties. It is impossible to bludgeon Australians.
I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 38, I hereby appoint the following senators to be the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications: - Senators J. I. Armstrong, R. E. Clothier, J. S. Collings, B. Courtice, W. G. Gibson, B. Sampson, and O. Uppill.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 28a, I hereby nominate Senators S. K. Amour, J. J. Arnold, W. E. Aylett, W. J. Cooper and Herbert Hays a panel to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
. - I wish to draw the attention of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) to a promise which he made to me during last session. It will be recalled that I brought to the notice of the Senate the question of the patent medicine trade in Australia, and the Minister for
Health (Senator Eraser) made a statement in which he said that ho had no constitutional authority to set up an inquiry into the trade. I pointed out to the Minister that in 1906 this Parliament did possess that power. In fact, it set up a body which made an exhaustive inquiry into the industry, and made a valuable report upon it to this Parliament. Possibly the Leader of the Senate has forgotten the matter; and I take this opportunity to ask him to give consideration to the question and to let me have a reply as soon as possible.
– I wish to refer to a statement made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) in relation to the supply of timber for fruit’ cases. I have been very interested in this matter and I have made numerous applications to the authorities for man-power to work in the South Australian forests, particularly in the south-eastern district around Mount Gambier. The South Australian Perpetual Forests Limited have large supplies of timber in that locality ready to be out forcases. Three or four months ago I had the opportunity to accompany forestry officials upon their annual inspection and at five mills which we visited, only one saw was in operation at each whereas two wore available.I. believe that had man-power been available we could have increased considerably our supplies of timber for fruit cases, perhaps even doubling the output.
– Minister for Trade and Customs) [10.8],- in reply - I shall see that Senator Arnold obtains the information which he has sought, and I thank Senator James McLachlan for his suggestion about timber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration. (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 17 of 1944 - Pence Officer Guard Association.
Lands Acquisition Act, or Lands Acquisition
Act and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Land acquired for -
Commonwealth purposes -
Postal purposes -
Denmark, Western Australia.
National Security Act -
National Security (Building Operations)
Regulations - Order - Restrictions on building operations - Exception.
National Security (Economic Organization) Regulations - Order - Exemption.
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Asbestos cement sheets (No. 2).
Control of -
Essential materials (No. 7).
Leather goods (No. 2).
Refrigerators and refrigeration equipment
Sale of meat (No. 4).
Employment of outdoor selling agents (South Australia) (No. 2).
Manufacture of -
Domestic furniture (No. 3).
Milk industry (Queensland) (No. 2).
South Australia milk vendors (No. 3).
Use of land (2).
National Security (Industrial Property)
Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (647).
National Security (Universities Commission) Regulations - Order -Declaration of approved institution.
Senate adjourned at 10.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 July 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440718_senate_17_179/>.