17th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator theHon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from the family of the late ex-Senator Richard Darcey a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy and condolence passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of the late ex-senator.
Opera tional Programme - Amenities - Issue of Coupons.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform the Senate whether the Australian Army is to take any further active part in the war?
– I undertake to obtain an early reply to the honorable senator’s question, although the answer is obvious.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The provision of football guernseys, with other sports-wear for all units of the Australian Military Forces, is undertaken and controlled by the Australian Army Amenities Service which distributes to individual units throughthe relevant State Army Amenities Service in Line of Communication Areas. These goods are issued for communal use of unit personnel.
The Rationing Commission is concerned only with the approval and issue of permits for bulk quantities of rationed goods which are obtained against estimates submitted by the Director of the Australian Army Amenities Service on a Commonwealth basis. Every facility has been given to assist this service in obtaining priority of manufacture of these goods.
The Rationing Commission therefore will not accede to requests for individual units as this would result in upsetting the foregoing arrangement and involve a duplication in supplies.
Station 2HD Newcastle - Employment of Mr. Neville Cardus.
– Referring to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald with regard to station 2HD Newcastle, will the PostmasterGeneral state whether, as a condition to the granting of a broadcasting licence to the governing body of the Church of England in relation to that station, the applicant would have to be prepared to grant one-fifth of the representation on the directorate of the station to the Australian Labour party, and provide it with free broadcasting time?
– It is not a fact. Neither the Government nor I as Minister has any jurisdiction over the assets of station 2HD. If certain conditions were agreed to between the vendor and the purchaser at the time of the sale, that is not a matter which concerns me or the Government.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.;Has the Postmaster General seen the statement in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald in which he is reported to have said that, whilst he did not know the price which the Australian Labour party paid for the purchase of station 2HD, Newcastle, the Church of England authorities had an option to purchase the station for about ?17,500?
– The honorable senator is not in order in quoting from a newspaper when asking a question.
– From what source did the PostmasterGeneral obtain the information that the purchase price was ?17,500? I should also like to know whether a Mr. H. G. Alderman had anything to do with the transaction ?
– As I anticipated that questions might be askedupon this subject, I took the opportunity this morning to look into the matter. As honorable senators are aware, station 2HD Newcastle was the property of the organization known as Jehovah “Witnesses whose licences’ for both the station in Newcastle and also two stations owned by that organization in South Australia, one in Adelaide and the other at Port Augusta, were withdrawn. Honorable senators will recall that the Commonwealth Government instituted proceedings against the organization known as Jehovah Witnesses on the ground that it was an illegal organization; but those proceedings failed. That organization has not reapplied for the re-issue of licences in respect of those stations. Apparently, that organization has decided to dispose of its assets, those assets in Adelaide being sold to the Methodist Church authorities under an arrangement which gave to the South Australian branch of the Australian Labour party a one-fifth share in the station. In that transaction the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee were complied with insofar as special provision was made for the use of the station by other religious bodies. Each of those bodies has since advised me that it is satisfied with the arrangement. I obtained my information with regard to the amount of the purchase price asked for station 2HD Newcastle, through Senator Amour who is the chairman of the Broadcasting Committee. He told me that the vendors were asking ?17,500 for the station. I then communicated with the vendors, who informed me that the station was offered to the Church of England authorities in Newcastle for that figure, the offer being made to Bishop DeWitt Batty. Bishop Batty did not accept that offer, but made a counter offer to purchase the station for £15,000. However, in the latter case no reference whatever was made to any of the conditions recommended in such circumstances by the Broadcasting Committee. I have laid it down as a principle that in the re-allocation of licences the conditions recommended by that committee be complied with. I have received an application for a licence from the legal representative of the purchasers of station 2HD Newcastle to which I have replied that, providing such conditions are complied with, consideration will be given to the granting of a licence. That is where the matter stands at the moment.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether any assurance was given to the Methodist Church authorities before it purchased the assets of station 2HD Newcastle that they would receive a licence?
– No assurance wasgiven that theywould get a licence. They were informed that the recommendations made by the Broadcasting Committee would be observed.
Senator LAMP (through Senator
Aylett) asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
How much longer will Mr. Neville Cardus be employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission?
– Mr. Cardus has been employed only casually by the commission in giving a weekly musical broadcast. His present serieswill conclude on Sunday, the 8th October.
– by leave - I desire to inform honorable senators that, consequent on the departure from Australia of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, Lord Gowrie, His Excellency Sir Winston Dugan was, on the 5th September, 1944, sworn in as the Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Expenditure - Staff of Prices Branch - Social Legislation - Western Australian War Loan Sub-committees.
– Can the Minister for the Interior say what is the legal position with regard to funds expended by companies, chambers of manufactures, banks, and the like, which contributed so lavishly to the expenses of the “ No “ campaign in the recent constitution alteration referendum? Further, can he say whether it is necessary for such bodies to furnish returns showing the amount expended by them in connexion with the referendum proposals ?
– As a general rule, citizens or organizations are entitled to use their resources in advocating the views that they may hold with respect to any matter of public concern. Citizens may spend their own money, and any organization or company can expend its moneys, subject to the provisions of their governing rules or articles of association. The question whether in any particular case expenditure is authorized by such rules or articles is not a matter for government action, but must be decided as between the members of the organization itself, if necessary by litigation. These general rights of citizens and organizations are, of course, subject to the provision of the Commonwealth statute, which requires that, within a fixed period after the declaration of the result of the poll, persons and organizations must furnish returns showing the expenditure incurred in connexion with any referendum campaign.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether, on the occasion of a recent visit to Perth, he met the DeputyCommonwealth Prices Commissioner and his staff? If so, did he address them, and in the course of his address say that if they did not vote “ Yes “ they would lose their jobs, or words to that effect?
– I was in Western Australia during the recent referendum campaign, and I did address the officers mentioned. If I did not advise them how to vote, I made a mistake.
– I desire, Mr. President, to address, through, you, a question to Senator Arnold. What right has he to say that chambers of manufactures and other bodies spent huge sums of money on the “ No “ campaign ?
Question not answered.
– Has the Leader of the Senate any statement to make with regard to the amount of public funds expended in connexion with the recent referendum, and will he say on what authority the money was so expended? He recently undertook to confer with the Minister for the Interior on the matter, with a view to a statement being prepared regarding it.
– Of the sum of £51,000 approved for the post-war education campaign, it is estimated that the expenditure will amount to about £49,736. Of that sum approximately £14,000 was paid- to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department for ordinary postage.
– In view of the statement made by the Attorney-General in Tasmania . that, unless the proposals submitted to the people at the recent referendum were carried, child endowment, widows’ pensions, and maternity allowances would automatically cease, will the Leader of the Senate state whether the Government intends to continue those payments?
– The answer is Yes “.
– Will the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services inform the Senate whether there is any accuracy in the statement which appeared in the press recently that, in view of the result of the recent referendum, the Government would reconsider the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, and would have to re-plan its policy for the future with respect to health and social services? Can the Minister indicate whether the bill providing for free medicine is likely to be abandoned, and whether the policy of the Government, with respect to health and social services, is likely to be affected by reason of the decision of the people at the recent referendum ?
– The Government will give effect to the laws of this country.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD. Has the Leader of the Senate any knowledge of certain resignations submitted by the honorary secretaries of War Loan Sub-committees in Western Australia as a protest against the expenditure by the Government of the public moneys of this country in support of the “Yes” campaign at the recent referendum?
– I should be amazed to hear that any of those organizers gave up any position for the reasons advanced by the honorable senator, but I shall have inquiries made regarding the matter.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD. Will the Minister have a statement prepared showing the total expenditure in each of the States in respect of the disbursement of public moneys by the authority of the Government or its agents in connexion with the “ Yes “ campaign .at the referendum?
– The information asked for will be supplied in detail.
Acquisition of Property at Darwin.
– by leave - On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on the 30th August, Senator Amour drew attention to certain matters relating to the Army Hirings Administration, and referred particularly to a claim by Mr. Neil McMillan, of the Ice and Cold Storage Company, Darwin. I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) has supplied me with information concerning the subject of his complaint. The honorable senator’s criticism is of a general nature, but it appears ito comprise two principal points: that Lieutenant-Colonel Davey, Director of Hirings, Land Head-quarters, recommended to the Minister against the acquisition by the Commonwealth of the McMillan property, for which £16,000 was asked; that a claim for the lump sum of £7,000 for damage done and £500 per annum rental, was rejected by LieutenantColonel Davey. As to the first point, the facts are that in September, 1940, an area of 16 acres in a corner of Mr. McMillan’s property was taken over for a searchlight unit. This area was stated by Mr. McMillan to have been made available to the Commonwealth free of compensation. A small access road was constructed onpart of the area, and a further road was cut through during 1941-42. In 1941 the McMillan brothers represented that the whole property should be bought by the Commonwealth for £16,000. A survey of the property was made and a detailed valuation furnished by Mr. A. E. Miller, Northern Territory Administration, at a total of £6,024 4s. 6d. A copy of Mr. Miller’s valuation is on the Army file. The military authorities in the Northern Territory recommended against acquisition of the property as being unnecessary for Army purposes. LieutenantColonel Davey consequently recommended against its purchase at £16,000. This appears to be the only action taken byhim individually, as the Central Hirings Committee came into being in September, 1942. As regards the second point of criticism, the position is as follows : on 30th June, 1942, a formal claim was made by the McMillan brothers for £7,000 as a lump sum compensation for damage, and an annual rental of £500. The Army offered £1,000 in settlement of all claims, but this was not accepted by the partnership. It should be noted that the Army’s offer was made on the advice,not of Lieuteuant-Colonel Davey, but of Mr. H. G. Alderman, K.C., who was then dealing with Darwin claims. In May, 1944, after the Darwin area had been brought under the jurisdiction of the Central Hirings Committee, members of the committee personally inspected the property and investigated the claim in detail. Although the partnership was prepared to accept £7,000 in settlement, its full claim for compensation was made up as follows : damage to property £9,197 10s., loss of cattle £1,000, disturbance of business £1,500; total, £11,697 10s.
The committee dealt with the claim as follows: - Damage to property: in accordance with the practice followed by the committee, such claims for damage must be deferred until the property is vacated. It will be noted, incidentally, that the claimants ask over £9,000 for damage, although Mr. Miller’s valuation of the whole property with improvements was only slightly over £6,000. Loss of cattle : the claim for £1,000 which was later reduced to £659 was disallowed, the committee not being satisfied that any such loss had been established. Disturbance of business:this claim was also disallowed, the committee not being satisfied that any such loss had occurred by reason of the occupation. The claim for periodical compensation at £500 a year for the use of the land was disallowed for the same reason. The claimants have appealed to the Compensation Board against this decision, and the matter is at present sub judice.
The statements made by the honorable senator on the administrative capacity of Lieutenant-Colonel Davey are wholly unjustified.
Employment of Ex-servicemen - Release of Alien Internees.
-On the 30th August, I asked the Leader of the Senate for some information in regardto the employment of exservicemen, and also in regard to therelease of alien internees in this country. The Leader of the Senate was good enough to say that he would make a statement on these matters. I should like to know if that statement is now available?
– The statement has not yet come to hand, but I shall make it available at the earliest opportunity.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories inform the Senate of the likely date of the resumption of civil administration in Papua?
– I am unable at present to state the date upon which civil administration will be resumed. If the honorable senator cares to interview me later, I shall endeavour to obtain for him any information that is available in regard to that matter.
.- I lay on the table the following papers: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1945.
The Budget 1944-45 - Papers presented by the Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., on the occasion of the Budget of 1944-45, and move -
That the papers be printed.
It has been customary for the Leader of the Senate, when submitting this motion, to read in abridged form the Treasurer’s budget speech. This procedure has served to inform honorable senators of the contents of the budget speech very soon after the Treasurer had presented the papers relating to the budget in the House of Representatives. A week has elapsed since the Treasurer delivered his budget speech for 1944-45, and copies of it have been distributed to honorable senators. In these circumstances I think it will be agreed that no useful purpose would be served by following the usual practice this year of reading an abridged edition of the speech.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
– I lay on the table the following papers: -
Monetary and Financial Conference of the United Nations, held at Bretton Woods, U.S.A., July, 1944 - Documents.
These papers include the draft agreements for a monetary fund and a reconstruction bank which were formulated at the conference. At an appropriate stage it is intended to ask Parliament to express its opinion formally regarding the proposed agreements. An adequate number of copies is available to meet the needs of honorable senators.
Butler’s Gorge Works
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers : -
Prevention of Industrial Disputes
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to bring in a bill this session to implement the agreement made between the Government of Tasmania and the Commonwealth Government for the manufacture of aluminium in Tasmania ?
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answer : -
The final draft of the bill is ready and the Minister for Supply and Shipping is hopeful of introducing it this session.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
In view of the Minister’s reply on the 19th July to a question asked by Senator Brand regarding preference in employment to discharged ex-servicemen, is he now in’ a position to say definitely that legislation will be introduced this session to give effect to section 42a of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act?
– Certain details associated with the (preparation of the necessary legislation to give effect to the Government’s policy on preference matters are still under consideration.
Effect ofWar Pensions.
asked the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Will the Minister honour a promise made on the 30th March last, by the former Minister for Health and Social Services (Mr. Holloway) in the House of Representatives, that he would bring before Cabinet the question of not taking war pensions into account when assessing benefits under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act 1944?
– ‘Subsequent to the promise made by the former Minister for Health and Social Services (Mr. Holloway), Parliament itself decided the question by rejecting the amendment moved by the honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) on this matter.
Mentally AFFECTED Servicemen.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. I have no information which indicates that a naval ship calling at Western Australian port was refused facilities for clothing supplies.
I am not aware of any application made by naval officials to the Deputy Director of Rationing for Western Australia having been refused.
Arrangements between the Rationing Commission and the Department of the Navy have been in operation for some time past whereby, in cases where urgent requirements of goods are not available in Navy Stores in outlying ports, application for special permits may be made to the State Deputy Directors of Rationingby authorized naval officials. For this purpose, officials have been nominated in various Australian ports. No restriction is placed by the Rationing Commission upon the quantities of rationed clothing goods for whichpermits may be issued.
In the case of individual service personnel who cannot be supplied with goods from official stores, the Deputy Directors of Rationing have been authorized to issue permits, upon receipt of an application recommended by an appropriate service officer. These arrangements havebeen adopted with the Australian Military Forces and the Royal Australian Air Force, and were offered at the same time to the Department of the Navy.
Although this arrangement is at present not availed of for individual naval personnel the Deputy Directors of Rationing areprepared to extend individual coupon assistance tosuch personnel if referred to themby an appropriate naval establishment official. 3.In view of the above replies 1 and 2 it is not necessary to answer this question.
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. The ships were sold in 1928 to the White Star Line Limited for £1,900,000. In 1932, the White Star Line Limited went into liquidation and the Commonwealth exercised its right under the debenture to sell the ships. The amount still outstanding in respect of the sale of the ships to White Star Line Limited is -
The final dividend in the liquidation has been paid and no further repayments will be received. In respect of this transaction, the Commonwealth still holds 23.920 shares of a nominal value of £1 each, fully paid, in Ocean Steam Navigation Realisation Company Limited. The High Commissioner, London, recently advised that these shares may have a potential value of £1 each. The value of these shares is a set-off against the outstanding debt.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Minister instruct the Commonwealth Statistician to prepare a table showing the true rental value of all houses in Australia?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
Such a statement of rental averages for all houses in Australia could only be ascertained as part of a general census or quasi census. The date of the next census has not yet been decided, but the information desired will be obtained at the first suitable opportunity.
asked the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
Following recent press and poster propaganda in South Australia by responsible Ministers, has the Government fixed the date on which it proposes to cease payment of child endowment and widows’ .pensions?
-The answer to the honorable senator’s question is “ No “.
Maintenance Costs - Plant Replacement
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Government give consideration to the idea of the Australian Dried Fruits Association that an amount equal to its annual costs of maintenance be tax-free, the association, in turn, to invest an equivalent amount in government bonds?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
As indicated in the Treasurer’s budget speech and in the amending income tax legislation that has been introduced in the House of Representatives the Government proposes to allow taxpayers to deduct from their incomes of the year ending the 30th June, 1945, and subsequent years a sum equivalent to the estimated amount of deferred maintenance subject to the taxpayer depositing with the Commissioner of Taxation a sum equal to the- amount claimed as a deduction. This deposit will be. repaid to the taxpayer upon application after the expiration of six months from the date of the deposit and not later than two years after the termination of the -war. The amount will be treated as assessable income in the year of repayment, but will be offset by the actual expenditure in that year on the deferred maintenance or repairs.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Industry to allow various companies to build up a reserve fund (free of taxation) for plant replacement in the future?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : -
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 30th August (vide page 387), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the following paper be printed. - “Review of the War Situation, 30th August, 1944 - Ministerial Statement.”
– I do not propose to speak at length on the ministerial statement insofar as it deals with the progress of the war. I intend, rather, to direct attention to the immediate problems confronting the Government, particularly with respect to man-power. However, I was pleased to note that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), upon his return from his first visit overseas during the war, paid fitting tribute to the achievements of the British Government and the British people and their leaders in this conflict. He said-
Before turning to the war in the Pacific, I again express admiration of the magnificent courage of the British people under the ordeal now imposed upon them by flying bombs.
I think it proper,here to pay tribute to the great part that Britain and the British leaders have played in this amazing drama. To save themselves, they gave their all, but it was essential that they should save themselves if there was to be held out any prospect of liberation for the countries in Europe Buffering under German domination.
On behalf of the Opposition I endorse those words of praise of the splendid achievements of the British people and the members of their fighting services. We also pay tribute to the forces of our gallant allies, whose records are appreciated by all sections of the Australian community. I take this opportunity to draw the attention of the Government to some of the anomalies that exist in connexion with the treatment of our soldiers, and the problems that arise in relation to man-power generally. I regret that the Prime Minister did not see fit, in response to requests, to place before honorable senators at a secret meeting, certain details of what it was proposed should be done by the Australian Army in this war. We, as representatives of the people, have a perfect right to be informed as far as possible of what is proposed. At present we are kept in the dark, but we allknow, from interviews that we have had and requests that we receive from parents and soldiers from time to time, that great dissatisfaction exists amongst a large section of the Australian soldiers because they feel that, while one section is being overworked and asked to do more than its share, other sections which have been trained have not been asked to do anything. It is almost a physical impossibility for the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to give personal attention to the various requests made by members of Parliament from time to time,but I suggest to the Minister who represents him in this chamber that we are becoming tired of stereotyped replies which show evidence that proper consideration has not been given to the requests which have been submitted. I repeat to the Leader of the Senate my suggestion that, when this chamber is dealing with these questions, we should bo given something more than has already appeared in the press. Without being unduly critical or personal, I venture to affirm that the information supplied has already appeared in the press, and does not give honorable senators what they desire.
I mentionedpreviously in the Senate that a man who had the misfortune to have two sons killed in this war applied to the Minister for the Army through a South Australian member to have his third son released to assist him in his farming operations, but the member concerned and other South Australians who are interested in the matter are at a loss to understand what I may call the inhuman attitude of the Minister in that case, having regard to the present state of the war.
– The honorable senator could not say that the Minister is inhuman. The Minister would be guided by his officers.
– If the Minister for the Army is prepared to accept a stereotyped reply from his officers, and to refrain from giving personal attention to such a request, he is falling down on his job. During my experience as a Minister, I found it necessary to differ from the stereotyped replies that I received from some officers.
– The honorable senator stated a moment ago that it was almost a physical impossibility for the Minister for the Army to give personal attention to the various requests made to him by senators and members from time to time.
– A Minister who refuses a request, coming through a member of Parliament, from a parent who has had the misfortune to lose two sons, for the release of the third son, who has served in New Guinea, is, particularly at this stage of the war, taking up an attitude which cannot be classed as other than inhuman, and I hold the Minister responsible for it.
I am particularly interested in the cases of some of the members of the 9th Division. These men who had a splendid record at Tobruk, El Alamein and Greece, on being sent back to Australia were given only limited leave, and then sent to New Guinea. I am particularly interested in the c ase of a soldier who served for four years, was wounded three times, and yet was unable to obtain a transfer to South Australia upon compassionate grounds for a period during his wife’s illness.
There is a growing feeling, having regard to the number of enlistments in the Australian Army, and the number of divisions that have been in active combat, that the members of the 6th, 7th, and 9th Divisions, particularly the original members, are being asked to take more than their share of the risks and to do more than their share of the fighting. I hope that Ministers in this chamber will use their influence to have this matter looked into. It has been stated over and over again by Ministers that the total enlistments in the Australian fighting services have been about 900,000. Apart from the Air Force and the Navy, we can say that only the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions of the Army have really done any fighting. On studying the problem of man-power, we can come to no other conclusion than that there is much “dead wood” in the Australian Army. If the Government is anxious to deal with the serious and immediate problem of man-power, I suggest that an immediate examination of that problem is very necessary. Members of the forces have written to us from Queensland stating that they have been there for over two years and have been given no opportunity to go out of Australia, or to obtain temporary relief to allow them to return and assist on farms. I cannot use names, because if a soldier’s name is given he is branded by Army officials and is in some cases disrated, but we have had reports from various officers from time to time that hundreds and hundreds of men have been “ cooling their heels “ in head-quarters in Australia with nothing to do. I know that the position was not easy in the serious stages of the war, but in view of present conditions the time is ripe for, a parliamentary committee, on the lines of the American ‘Committee on Military Affairs, to be appointed to look into these injustices, and to conduct a searching investigation into the number of men who are being quartered, kept, and paid at the various head-quarters, so that justice may be done in the matter of Australia’s economic position and so that we may be assured that Australia is pulling its full weight in the war. Such a committee, which need be only small, should be able to inquire very closely into the reports that reach honorable senators from time to time.
– Such a suggestion is a little late.
– Having regard to the drought and the Prime Minister’s statement that he can recommend the release from the Services of only 45,000 men, that number is quite insufficient to meet urgent requirements, I suggest that the time is ripe for a searching inquiry in order to remove the “ dead wood “ from the Army and put the surplus personnel into other and more useful occupations. An overhaul is also necessary in various government subdepartments, munitions factories, the Allied Works Council, and other instrumentalities and organizations created by the present Government. Recently, I have heard reports that certain munitions factories have had insufficient work to keep their employees fully occupied. I wish to make it clear that I do not make any charge against the employees themselves. The fault lies with the system. A huge munitions programme such as that now in operation in Australia must become unwieldy. I shall quote to the Senate instances of the state of affairs to which I have referred. These cases are typical of many that are being brought to the notice of honorable senators day after day. In the Sunday Sun and Guardian of the 23rd July, there appeared a statement by Mr. Vince Kelly to the following effect : -
For two days this week I peeped into what appeared to be a Utopia - a place where there are far too many employees for the work to be done, yet no one was sacked!
– Does the honorable senator wish to see them dismissed?
– No, but I should like to see them engaged in useful employment. The Prime Minister has stated that there is insufficient labour available to carry on essential services; yet, these conditions are allowed to exist in munitions plants in at least two large country towns. The statement continues -
Yet the apparent Utopia, examined close up, is only a sham, and the workers are uneasy in the present and fearful for the future.
They know this state of affairs cannot go on indefinitely, that taxpayers’ money cannot continue to be .poured out to keep on payrolls workers who cannot give production in return, even though they would.
At each town the munition plants have a surplus of approximately 100 employees for the orders in hand.
But instructions from the Factory Board, Melbourne, are that no employees must be dismissed.
Which, briefly, means that 200 surplus employees, with the overtime pay they must be paid for sharing work which is not enough to go round, draw each week £7 5s. each, which cuts out more than £75,000 a year.
To my repeated question why the employees were asked to work overtime, when the plant did not have enough work for all of them, organizing secretary of the Arms, Explosives, and Munitions Workers Union, J. K. Oliver, shook his head and invited me to ask some one else. “ The spokesman for the union is out of town to-day “, he added.
The final paragraph of the statement is as follows: -
General feeling is that the muddle is steadily getting worse, because the Government is delaying telling the employees the real position, and the terrific waste of taxpayers’ money will go on and on until theshowdown comes, as ultimately it has to come.
I repeat that complaints of this nature are being placed before honorable senators almost daily. I have heard reports that in the Allied WorksCouncil, particularly at AliceSprings, there is a surplus of executive officers. It is quite clear that there is still an enormous waste of man-power in the Allied Works Council.
– That is not true either of AliceSprings, or any other of the council’s undertakings.
– In view of the urgent demands for labour, particularly to engage in slaughtering and other food-producing undertakings, there should be a comprehensive overhaul of all government departments and instrumentalities. I suggest also that the War ExpenditureCommitteebe empowered to undertake the task of checking up reports made by responsible men and published by responsible journals, concerning the substantial waste of man-power in this country.
– That is being done all the time.
– The loss of manpower caused by strikes and absenteeism is also a serious factor. I was pleased to hear the Minister for Health (Senator Eraser) say this afternoon that the Government would enforce the laws of this country in this regard. That assurance was particularly pleasing because, in the past, it has been apparent that the Government has not been prepared to enforce even the laws of its own making relating to absenteeism and strikes. In the House ofRepresentatives, the Prime Minister (Mr.Curtin) himself admitted that no less than 2,000,000 tons of coal had been lost in one year because of strikes and absenteeism. Summonses were issued and prosecutions launched, but upon instructions from the Attorney-General, the fines imposed by the courts were remitted. That failure to enforce the law is not in the interests of good government and will not assist the man-power position in this country. The tactics of strikers and absentees are most unfair to members of the fighting forces. Apparently there is one set of laws for members of the fighting forces and another set for civilian employees. We bear from day to day of the severe penalties that are imposed upon soldiers who are absent without leave, or who go on strike. Surely, if itbe right to enforce the laws relating to men in the armed forces, it is also right to enforce the laws relating to civilians whose living conditions are so much better; yet this weak-kneed and spineless Administration is not prepared to do that. If the Government desires earnestly to improve the man-power situation in this country, it should eliminate strikes and absenteeism by enforcing the laws. Recently there was a strike of railway men in South Australia. As soon as the law-breakers had appeared before the court and had had fines imposed upon them, representatives of the Australian RailwaysUnion came to Canberra squealing to the Prime Minister and requesting that the laws be not enforced. Is that a good example to set to the people of this country?Can that be regarded as an example of good government? Do such activities assist this country to achieve a maximum war effort and to provide the foodstuffs so urgently required by the. fighting forces and by our Allies?
– What was the Prime Minister’s answer?
– The Prime Minister said that until Germany and Japan had been completely and utterly defeated it was clearly the duty of all Australians to put forward their greatest efforts, whether as fighting men or as civilians. To back up those words the Government should set an example to the people of Australia.
SenatorFraser. - Is the honorable senator aware that all the coal mines are in operation?
– My friend cannot sidetrack me in that way. He knows quite well that the Government refused to invoke the laws of this country against certain individuals who have done so much to interfere with transport, thus seriously hindering the work of primary producers and others.
Whilst discussing the question of manpower, I wish to refer to the position that has arisen in various parts of Australia because of the continued dry weather. This problem is one which will accentuate our man-power difficulties. In South Australia the farmers are anxious to dispose of their stock, but they have had advice from the freezing works at Port Lincoln, and from the Metropolitan Abattoirs, that because of the shortage of man-power the stock cannot be treated. The farmers are short of water and feed for stock, and it is disastrous that they cannot dispose of them for slaughtering purposes. The position will get worse instead of better, owing to the serious drought now prevailing. A request has been made to the Prime Minister for the immediate release from the services of the men required for this work, and I am informed that the right honorable gentleman has submitted that request to the Army authorities. In a report sent to the Prime Minister by Mr. Hunkin, Deputy Director of Man Power in South Australia, it is stated that, owing to the absence of rain, it is apparent that the real requirements are still unfulfilled. It is further pointed out that, having completed their agreed tally in about 35 hours a week, no overtime is worked by the men, but an increase of the hours of work would greatly ease the situation. I hope that this matter will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Minister, with a view to the slaughtermen being induced to adopt Mr. Hunkin’s suggestion. Otherwise, I recommend that steps be taken immediately to release the men required for this work. In the report made by the Prime Minister, it was announced that 30,000 men from the Army and 15,000 men from the Royal Australian Air Force would be released, but ten months would elapse before the services of the full number would be made available. That is characteristic of government departments. If justice is to be done to Great Britain, which has reported that the necessary shipping is available to transport meat from Australia to the people who are in sore need of it, no time should be lost in discharging the requisite number of men from the fighting services. A delay of ten months would be ludicrous and monstrous. TheGovernment should make an attempt to cut out the “dead wood” at Military Head-quarters, and should take steps to transfer from munitions and other government factories the labour required to improve Australia’s economic position, and supply the foodstuffs urgently required during the next two years, in order to feed the people of Great Britain and the starving populations of Europe.
– We are indebted to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) for the clear and informative statement on international affairs delivered by him a fortnight ago. It shows that invaluable work was done on behalf of Australia by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) on the occasion of his recent trip overseas. The turn of the tide in this war has occurred as a result of the joint efforts of the United Nations, which have co-operated in a most friendly way and pooled their resources. The co-operation between Mr. Churchill, President Roosevelt and Marshal Stalin should be continued in time of peace. Those nations have wisely worked together in time of war in order to avert disaster, and I hope that they will be big enough, when peace comes, to act conjointly in tackling the problems of postwarreconstruction, which will be almost as difficult as those confronting us to-day. We must see that the actions of the United Nations in the post-war period do not precipitate another war. The close friendship that lias arisen between Mr. (Churchill and President Roosevelt should be extended to Marshal Stalin, to General Chiang Kai-shek, and to the leaders of the other countries that have joined the Allies. Without that friendly cooperation and uniformity of .action throughout the world, future wars cannot be averted. Australia and New Zealand will have to play an increasingly prominent .part in international affairs, because of their interests in the Pacific region, where it will be necessary for the Englishspeaking races to stand firmly together. Australia must state its case in such a way that the world will know that it occupies an important position in the Southern Seas, and that if it should fall, the . result would he disastrous to the people of the British race.
From many aspects, the speech of the Minister with regard to man-power problems is to be commended. Australia has done a good job in this war in view of the smallness of its population, but it must be admitted that mistakes have occurred. Members of the Government should pay attention to the criticisms of members of Parliament and others, who realize that the available man-power has not been utilized, in all instances, to the best advantage. We have had the spectacle of members of the ‘Civil Constructional Corps travelling from one State to another, without doing any work for four or five weeks, but receiving pay at the rate of 22s. a day; but when complaints on matters of this kind are brought to the notice of the Government they are ignored. An assurance was given by the Prime Minister as far back as July, 1943, that no more men from Tasmania would be called up for work in the Civil Construction Corps, yet within two days of that announcement, at least 50 more men were called up. In the majority of instances the man-power authorities have been overriden by stooges - and I make no apology for using that word - in prominent positions in the Civil ‘Constructional Corps.
A reply was received to-day from the Minister for the Interior (Senator
Collings) that 450 aliens are to be transferred to Tasmania, owing to the shortage of labour in that State. Despite the assurances of the Prime Minister,’ the Civil Constructional Corps is still calling up men in Tasmania, and taking them away from that State. Is such a policy in accordance with the dictates of common sense? Here is an extract from a letter from a man who was sent from Tasmania to the mainland, and then brought back to his own State without having done a day’s work -
I joined the Civil Constructional Corps voluntarily, and, after waiting about a fortnight, I was called1 up. I used to work at Waverley Woollen Mills. I worked there for about five years and left to join the Air Force, but I was medically unfit.
Before I was taken in the Civil Constructional Corps, I had a medical and X-ray examination.
I left here on the 2nd May and was sent to Sydney. We were supposed to work on the graving docks, but there was no work for us to do. We were in Sydney round about five days, and then I was sent to Melbourne and from there to Launceston. I arrived in Melbourne on a Thursday and was in Launceston on the following Monday. I did no work of any kind while I was away, and I was paid 22s. a day waiting time from the 2nd May to 23rd May.
I am still waiting on my cheque to arrive, as I need the money to go to Butler’s Gorge to work.
I have received a letter from the Premier of Tasmania calling upon the representatives of that State in this Parliament to protest against further call-ups. I have submitted to the Minister several most deserving cases in which elderly people have tried to get a transfer to Tasmania in order to work at Butler’s Gorge, but up to the present I ha.ve been unsuccessful. The answer given is that the work required in the north of Australia is so urgent that transfers cannot be granted. Yet I have received a petition signed by about 40 members of the Civil Constructional Corps, who have attached their numbers, stating that an injustice has been done through causing them to remain idle. They have explained the treatment received by them. They were sent north in order to build palatial offices for American personnel, but they have been idling their time away on full pay. We cannot get men released even on compassionate grounds. After submitting a petition to the Minister I received a letter from a member of the Civil Constructional Corps, which had been censored before reaching me. It may be a coincidence that this censorship has followed so ‘ quickly upon the submission of the petition to which I referred. I want to know whether letters addressed to me are censored because the Government does not trust one of its own supporters in this Parliament. Does not the Government believe that its supporters here would report any subversive matter contained in letters received by them? I regard as an insult the censorship of letters addressed to a a representative of Ohe people in this Parliament. When I have spoken to Ministers on this subject they have attempted to brush it aside by saying that letters addressed to them have been censored. We all expect that letters addressed to us by members of the fighting forces shall bc subject to censorship, but I repeat that it is at least strange that, whereas before I submitted the petition letters addressed to me were not censored, they are now being censored.
– Does not the honorable senator wish the internees to be sent to work in Tasmania?
– They could be used in other places where men from Tasmania are now working. If labour be so short iri Tasmania that 450 internees have to be sent there to relieve the situation, it was foolish to take men from that State. I do not ask that a promise given by the Minister for tie Interior be honoured, because I do not take any notice of his pledges; but I do ask that the pledge of the Prime Minister, who said that no more labour would be taken from Tasmania, be honoured. The cleaning up of the position in Tasmania took me several months, and even now men are still being called up in that State and sent to the Northern Territory.
The integrity of members of this Parliament is being questioned by the Army authorities. We have reached the stage at which a member of the fighting forces may not approach a member of Parliament in regard to any matter affecting his welfare. General Sir Thomas Blarney has issued a general routine order forbidding members of the fighting forces to approach a member of Parliament in regard to any complaint.
– That is not correct.
– Members of the forces say that it is correct. They say that they are immediately courtmartialled should it. become known that they have approached a member of Parliament regarding any complaint that they may have. If I be wrong, I ask the Minister to say so plainly, so that the members of the forces may know what the real, position is. They clearly are of the opinion that they may not approach members of Parliament, and they say that they have been told by their officers that should it become known that they have done so they will be brought before a court-martial.
– Let me have the names of some of the men concerned.
– I dare not give their names, because I do not want any man who has offered his life in the service of his country to be persecuted. On other occasions, I have given the names of members of the forces who have complained and they have suffered because of it. I never apply for the release of a serviceman unless I have good grounds for doing’ so. We have reached the stage where a man’s chances of release are greatly prejudiced should he, or any one on his behalf, approach a member of Parliament in respect of his release. The position now is that members of Parliament can get things done only by adopting roundabout methods. That is the position in Tasmania.
Grave complaints are made regarding the military prison camp at Conara, in Tasmania. No member of Parliament is permitted to enter that camp. What is the reason? If everything there be all right, why are ‘ members of Parliament not permitted to see what goes on? All will agree that a man who commits a felony should be punished. When I say that members of Parliament are not allowed to enter that camp I speak from personal experience. Following the receipt of a complaint, I sent a telegram to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde), asking him to grant me permission to enter that camp. So far, that permission has not been given. Apparently, the Minister has not the power to give it. He is still trying to obtain permission for me to enter the camp. What have the military authorities to be afraid of? 1 do not say that conditions in the camp are not all right, but the action of the authorities in refusing permission for members of Parliament to visit the camp gives ground for suspicion. I hope that conditions in the camps are as they should be, but I submit that the representatives of the people should be free to see what is going on inside them. The trouble is that in Tasmania,’and possibly in other States also, there are many men in “ cushy “ administrative -jobs who have no sympathy with the men who have undergone hardships in New Guinea and elsewhere. I suggest that either the Minister for the Army, or General Sir Thomas Blarney, should send some of these gentlemen to battle areas in, tropical districts, in exchange for men now in the field. In that way I believe that some of the difficulties which now exist would be overcome. That action was taken by Field Marshal Foch in the last war and he found that it led to an improvement of conditions. Too many men in administrative posts in Tasmania seem to be glued to their present positions. There would be fewer grievances and less trouble with the men if returned soldiers who had experienced the hardships of the battlefield occupied administrative positions. I shall not mention specific cases; but if challenged to do so, I shall indicate certain files which should be examined. I shall not give the file numbers of any men who are still in the Army, but only of men who have been discharged, and are therefore free to speak. Some men now occupying administrative posts will need sympathy when men serving in the Army have been discharged.
I compliment the Leader of the Senate on the way in which he introduced his statement, as well as on the information that he has given to us. I also add my tribute to what has been said regarding the excellent work done for Australia by the Prime Minister while abroad. I conclude by saying that the friendship between members of the United Nations to which the Minister’s statement refers will have to continue after the war if real progress is to be made. Already there is evidence that Great Britain and the United States of America are sparring for trade advantages after the war. Should Russia also adopt a similar attitude, we shall, at- the conclusion of the war, be back where we were before it started. The problems that will confront the world when hostilities cease wi]l be greater than those which the world is now facing.
.- Like other honorable senators, I listened with interest to the speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) when he gave to us a resume of international affairs, and particularly of the present war situation. I am of the opinion, however, that the Parliament is not given as much information regarding present war activities, particularly in the Pacific and South.West Pacific Area, as might reasonably be expected. I realize that during a global war Ministers have to be “ security-minded “, but I fear that sometimes that attitude is overdone. The result is that there is too much apathy among members of the community generally, and a belief that the war has practically been won. The statement now before the Senate is largely a “ scissors and paste “ document, because most of the information that it contains has already been published in newspapers circulating throughout the country. I admit that the information is well compiled and makes interesting reading, but it does not tell us very much that we did not already know. From time to time we read that some admiral or other leader says, in effect, “ One more blow like this and Japan will be finished “. Or we read a report by a special reporter at Allied Headquarters that the war in Europe is almost over. It is true that since the breakthrough in the Caen sector, in France, marvellous progress has been made, but my view is that we have still a long way to go before the job in hand will be completed. I hope that I am wrong. We are particularly grateful that, in addition to the German armies having been dealt a severe blow, the Allied successes have brought to an end the flying bomb menace. Few of us in Australia can realize the conditions under which people in London and other parts of England have lived for the last two or three months; but when we read that nearly one million houses have been either destroyed or damaged, and reflect that that represents as many houses as are to be found in Melbourne and Sydney combined, we can get some idea of the destruction .that the flying bomb has wrought. Yet in the City of London alone nearly 1/000,000 residences have been either destroyed or damaged; and hundreds of thousands of our kith and kin have had snatched from them everything they have worked for and valued in life, including, in too many cases, unfortunately, their loved ones. In a general way, therefore, we can take much comfort from the great progress that has been made. On that score we have every reason to be optimistic. We have definitely passed the stage when we felt that we might lose the war. The United Nations, to-day, cannot lose the war so long as they continue to co-operate as they have done up to date. At the same time, we have much yet to do before we can complete the job. Any one who studies a map will realize that we have a tremendous job ahead of us to defeat Japan, although some of the very many bases which the Japanese captured in the early stages of the war have already been retaken. However, we cannot yet get at Japan itself. Much work must be done before we can really hope to reach the stage when Japan will be prepared to “ throw in the towel “. One of the greatest difficulties which will confront the Allies in the final cleaning-up is the fact that Japan has a huge army not only in Japan itself ,but also on the mainland of China ; and those forces will have to be driven from China before the war can. be brought to a successful conclusion. In the course of conversation with, honorable members and honorable senators generally, I find that many, including Government supporters, believe that much more information could be made available to members as a. whole, particularly with respect to the progress of the war in the Pacific. During the last session the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) asked the Leader of the Senate to convey to the
Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) our wish that a secret meeting of senators and members be held for the purpose of giving to members generally really first-hand new3 with respect to the international position, particularly in the Pacific. That request was not granted. I have attended a number of secret meetings. Frankly, I have been disappointed with many of them, mainly because the matters discussed by many members were not really subjects for such meetings. I now respectfully suggest to the Leader of the Senate that before this session concludes, and during the course of all future sessions while the war lasts, the Government should set aside one day, or portion of a particular evening, for the holding of secret meetings. I am certain that no member of the Parliament will break confidence with the Prime Minister in respect of any information divulged at such gatherings. Indeed, it would be very helpful were the Prime Minister to give to us the same background information which is given to representatives of the press from time to time. That practice was followed when I was Minister for Information; and, without exception, the representatives of the press honoured the confidence reposed in them. At those conferences, full information of a background character was divulged in order to assist those engaged in publicizing the war effort. Matters, closely related to the progress of the war were freely discussed.
– How often were they held?
– Every two or three weeks. The Postmaster-General knows that that practice was continued after this Government ‘assumed office, because a special officer of the Department of Information supplied certain background information to press editors in order to guide the newspapers in building up public morale. As a Parliament, we should be given much more information concerning the progress of the war than is now the case. To-day, for instance, /Senator Sampson asked a question with relation to the future activities of our armed forces. Obviously, information with respect to the future -movements of our forces cannot be given in public. However, many of us would like to know more of what our troops are doing. It is useless merely to -brush aside the dissatisfaction which exists in the Australian Imperial Force, particularly on the part of men who enlisted and are anxious to do their duty, but now -find they are idle for long periods. The time of these men i3 being wasted. It is only natural for a typical young Australian soldier to become restive when he is sent to lonely areas where he has very little to do. In such circumstances, the general morale of the soldiers deteriorates, and dissatisfaction rapidly becomes evident. This fact is borne out by the large number of absent-without-leave cases which have occurred recently. I believe that in many instances the army authorities are to blame for that fact. Very few men would be absent without leave if they were actively occupied. However, when they -find they have nothing to do they easily yield to the temptation to overstay their leave, particularly when their home folk are struggling to carry on small businesses, or farms, short-handed. Every honorable senator can cite dozens of cases of elderly parents striving to keep a farm going in the face of a shortage of man-power. This dissatisfaction is aggravated when the boys in the Army constantly write home that they are not doing anything, and that life is getting on their nerves. I have not the slightest doubt that in very many cases the army authorities could easily have released young men for short terms in order to overcome the shortage of man-power in primary production, particularly during the harvesting and sowing of crops. The position in which we have thousands of idle men in the Army, while, at the same time, we are crying out for thousands to help in food production, is extraordinary to say the least. I repeat that many of these applications could have been very easily granted by both the Army and the Air Force authorities, but particularly by the former. In the circumstances which I have described it is useless for the military authorities to say that men cannot be released for these essential -purposes. When thousands of young lads in the Army tell the same story they cannot merely be putting up a yarn. Whenever any member of Parliament travels round the country he is told the same story, many of the lads saying that owing to the fact that they have nothing to do they would like to get out of the Army altogether. This position can be attributed largely to the fact that the administration of the army authority in this matter is entirely unsympathetic. 1 agree entirely with the criticisms voiced from time to time by Senator Aylett and Senator Amour to the effect that a large number of senior officers in certain branches of the Army and Air Force deliberately resist all applications for the release of men simply because such releases will adversely affect their own jobs. During the short period I served as a liaison officer in the Army I saw too much of that sort of thing. At a large number of head-quarters, I found that some officers were on the best wicket they have even been on in their lives; and I am. certain that they do not look forward with equanimity to the day when our forces will be demobilized and they will be obliged to return to civilian life. I am convinced of that fact largely because of what I have heard in the various messes. One of the greatest difficulties confronting us with regard to our military set-up is the fact that the’ Government will not separate the home administration from the operational command. I have never been a senior soldier; but my view on this matter has been confirmed by men who have been senior members of the Australian Military Forces, including several honorable senators. They agree that so long ,as we have one Commander-in-Chief with the dual responsibility of leading an expeditionary force overseas and of administering the home forces, dissatisfaction will increase, because delays in respect of releases and general administrative affairs must increase.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the Minister for the Army should interfere with the military organization?
– Circumstances often arise which should compel the Minister to interfere. After all, in Great Britain and in any other country now at’ war, the final word lies with the civil administration. At the same time, of course, the actual military operations are entrusted entirely to the military chiefs. I should be sorry to see the day when the Minister for the Army is subservient to our military leaders. Does the Leader of the Senate suggest that that is the case to-day ?
– I am suggesting that the honorable senator’s main argument that the operational command should be separated from the home command is a matter of high strategy, and the Government, therefore, should not interfere.
– I differ with the Minister on that point. I believe that it is the Government’s job to separate the two commands as I suggest. When the Menzies Government was in office very strong representations were made by honorable senators opposite, who were then in Opposition, demanding the appointment of a borne commander. They asked that a Commander-in-Chief of the home forces be appointed in place of the Military Board, and LieutenantGeneral Sir Iven Mackay was appointed to that position, largely as the result of the joint representations made by members of both the Government and the Opposition parties at that time. Senator Collett, who has been a soldier for many years, will agree that any one charged with the organization and maintenance of an expeditionary force overseas, whether close at hand in New Guinea and the islands or in the Middle East, bears a terrific responsibility. With the administration of the home command and of local affairs, that responsibility should not be thrown uponthe shoulders of the Commander-in Chief, who has to lead and be responsible for the troops fighting overseas. I am sure that this dual command arrangement is responsible for the delays that take place, in relation to releases. Much of the duplication which undoubtedly exists at head-quarters, and the over-supply of officers at administrative centres compared with the number of troops, is due to the fact that one separate senior officer, with the highest possible military experience, is not responsible for the home administration. The Government would do itself and the country a great service if it appointed one of our very senior officers - and although I shall not mention any names
I know one or two who could do it - to conduct a complete stocktaking of the position at various head-quarters in different parts of Australia, apart altogether from the activities associated with divisions which may be overseas.
– We understood that the Government was doing that now.
– I should be glad to learn the circumstances in which it is being done. I know that the honorable senator agrees with a great deal of what I say in regard to the heartbreaking delays in the release of many of these men, who know the conditions existing in their home towns. A few nights ago a Tasmanian senator told me of the deplorable condition of the apple industry in his State, with millions of bushels going to waste for lack of manpower to handle them, while Australian consumers pay exorbitant prices for apples.
– Where does the honorable senator propose to find the shipping for transport purposes?
– Transport is not the problem that it used to be. Only to-day the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser), replying to a question by Senator Sampson, denied that the shipping service between Tasmania and the mainland was unsatisfactory. I urge the Government to realize what it is doing to many of the young men of Australia, whose morale is being shattered by the fact that they have little or no occupation and little or no training, and to see whether it is not possible to expedite the release of many of them, even if for only a period to assist in primary production and other vital civilian occupations.
The result of the referendum recently taken was, as many of us on this side of the chamber forecast, a shattering defeat of the Government’s proposals. I said, when the bill was before the Senate, that never before was a referendum taken under worse conditions, and that real constitutional reform would be thrown back many years as the result. Unfortunately, that, I think, will prove to be the case. The referendum proposals were defeated, not because the people were entirely opposed to the Government’s proposals, or because they wanted to see the National Parliament and Government limited in their powers, or hamstrung, but the large “No” majority was a protest against the inconveniences to which the Australian public have been subjected during the war period - in many cases necessarily, but in some most unnecessarily. I believe that the referendum vote was an instruction to the Government by the people to relax very considerably a large number of its regulations and restrictions, which have given to many persons in certain departments brief authority over the lives and chattels of the people. Those persons will, of course, be very loath to relax their grasp. Unfortunately, mankind is so constituted that those who are given a little brief authority always want still more, and rejoice in being able to control the lives and destinies of their fellows. Additional powers provide them not only with a lucrative form of employment, but also with a great deal of pleasure in ordering other people about. There has been so much pin-pricking and so little readiness on the part of many of the officers in these new departments to make the lot of individual members of the public easier, that the “ No “ majority of hundreds .of thousands of votes was a definite protest by the people of Australia against the unnecessary restrictions to which they have been subjected.
On one occasion I went into a government department in Brisbane to obtain a signature to a permit to allow me to purchase a household commodity for my wife. Just ahead of me was a woman who wanted to buy a new stove. She came from a place about 18 or 20 miles out of Brisbane, and asked a certain officer of the department whether she could obtain the permit right away, because, as she had no petrol, she had come in by means of a horse-drawn vehicle and did not want to have to return on the following Thursday. Apparently, according to the regulations of the department, one had to put the permit in on Tuesday in order to get it on the following Thursday. The officer explained to her in a most offhanded manner that in no circumstances could the rules and regulations of the department be waived’, and that 48 hours must elapse before the permit could be given. I then put in my application, and, because I had “ Senator “ in front of my name, it was signed immediately and handed back to me. I spoke about what had happened, and I do not think it will happen again in that department. I am confident that the Australian people are quite prepared to make any sacrifice if the Government can show them that it is justified, but there has been an unnecessary amount of control by officers who have been given brief authority for the first time. I now suggest to the Government that, instead of looking for new avenues in which to introduce new forms of legislation, in view of the improvement of the war position it should release the controls as much as possible in all departments. I noticed recently that eight senior officers of the Department of War Organization of Industry in New South Wales had tendered their resignations, and that Mr. Ifould, the head of the department in New South Wales, expressed his regret that they should have done so. The only regret that I felt was that 80 of them had not, resigned. I hope that those eight resignations will encourage many more to resign, because we have gone control-mad in this country. That is at least one reason why the referendum proposals were defeated so decisively. Many of the issues of constitutional reform were lost in the maze of controls to which people have been subjected during the last three or four years.
– Another reason was that the Japanese were a little farther away.
– That fact gave an added sense of security, but it presents the Government with an opportunity to make conditions easier for the people. I believe that the Ministers administering many of these new departments and subdepartments have completely lost control of them. At least three or four of these new creations have mushroomed to a tremendous degree. I believe, and my belief is borne out by the report presented by Mr. Bradley, K.C., to the Government, that there is too much overlapping in the Departments of Import Procurement, Supply and Shipping, and War Organization of
Industry. We as members are often requested by our constituents to go to one of those departments. When we do so we are told by an officer at the first department visited that he can go only so far with the matter, and that we must then go to another, such as the Department of War Organization of Industry, which will carry it a little farther. We are then referred to the Department of Supply and Shipping. To give a concrete example, I received a letter from a constituent of mine, the wife of a soldier serving at the front. She has two children, two and three years of age, respectively. Her husband is drawing only a private’s pay, and, in order to make a little more income, she began to make felt toys. That was a very praiseworthy effort on her part to keep the home together and provide a few extras for the children, but she was prevented by the Department of War Organization of Industry or the Department of Import Procurement from going on with the work. She wrote to une pointing out that the quantity of material which she could use was very small, as, naturally, with two little children to look after, she had very little spare time. I had to go from one department to another, and the trotting around I had to do, the number of forms I had to fill in, the volume of information and number of references I had to give, were utterly ridiculous.
– What was the material required ?
– A small quantity of felt of the kind supplied by the Australian Red Cross Society to institutions where soldiers are being trained to make felt toys and slippers. I do not think that that material is in such short supply that this woman could not be given sufficient to enable her to make a few extra shillings. We heard of a case recently of a man, over military age, who was “ scratching along “ making a few toys. He was making dolls’ furniture, and the Prices Commissioner told him that dolls’ chairs which he was selling at 8-Jd. should be sold at 3£d., and that chests of drawers for which he was charging 11-Jd. should be sold for 11¾d., in order to comply with the regulations. I am afraid that so much of this trivial interference has been going on that officers of the Prices Commission and other departments have lost their sense of proportion. Evidence of this small-minded approach to the administration of regulations was revealed in the course of inquiries by the Censorship Committee, of which I was a member. It was admitted in evidence before the committee that letters opened by the censorship authorities were being made the subject of petty rationing prosecutions. For instance, a serviceman may have written to a girl friend enclosing one or two clothing coupons for the purchase of a pair of stockings, or some other article of wearing apparel, and, upon the letter being opened by the censorship authorities, that information would be conveyed to the Rationing Commission and a prosecution launched. To the credit of the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley), when he was asked to permit a rationing inspector to accompany postmen on their rounds he refused flatly and said that the rationing inspector should do his own job. When evidence of prosecutions of this kind was given to the Censorship Committee it was resolved immediately that this “snooping” and “pimping” must cease immediately, and instructions to that effect were given by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt). However, that is typical of the attitude of mind which has been developed by many officials.
– Some of the offences disclosed by the censorship authorities to the Rationing Commission could hardly be described as trivial. In one case < 300 clothing coupons were found, and evidence showed that money had changed hands for the coupons.
– But many of the cases undoubtedly were trivial.
– What is wrong with enforcing the law?
– The Minister’s colleagues on the Censorship Committee agreed that the practice of prosecuting individuals for minor rationing offences disclosed by the censoring of mail to and from servicemen should be stopped immediately. To my mind, there could be nothing worse than the case of the young girl who was fined £5 for using two or three coupons which had been given to her by a priest to purchase a pair of stockings. The girl was not even aware that she had committed an offence. I do not condemn the Minister for Trade and Customs for all these things, because I realize that the task of policing the rationing regulations is a most difficult one, and I do not agree with those individuals who make sweeping condemnations of what they term the “ bureaucracy “. Wot every public servant is a bureaucrat, and there are just as many honest and capable men in the Commonwealth Public Service as there are outside of it. I do say, however, that there has been a tendency in this country towards the establishment of a Gestapo system.
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited bureaucracy and others have been operating in this country for many years. How long is it since the honorable senator became aware of the existence of a bureaucracy here?
– If Senator Grant believes in the practices which I have condemned, he holds views totally different from those which I hold, and if he wishes to see those practices firmly implanted in the life of this country, that is his business; but it is not a system which I support. My desire is to see controls and restrictions removed as soon as possible. I wish to see the people of this country permitted to live their lives in their own way without being kicked around either by union secretaries or by some local upstart clothed for the first time in his life in a little brief authority.
– Does the honorable senator believe in anarchy?
– ‘Certainly I do not believe in anarchy any more- than I believe in the tyranny that has been practised by certain unionists in this country for many years. Men have been compelled to pay political levies even though they have not believed in the principles involved.
– That is solidarity.
– Yes, compulsory solidarity.
– Order ! I remind the honorable senator that the motion before the Chair relates to international affairs.
– I appreciate that fact, Mr. President, but unfortunately I have been led astray by the disorderly interjections of honorable senators opposite.
I shall refer now to the disastrous man-power situation in this country. When I dealt with this matter previously, I spoke mainly of primary industries, but similar conditions exist in almost every walk of life. To-day there are man-power and woman-power shortages in almost every business undertaking; yet we read in the newspapers that in certain munitions factories the activities of which are now on the decrease, orders are insufficient to keep employees fully engaged. Instead of diverting the surplus labour to other essential undertakings, key men are still being called up from other industries, the labour in which already has been seriously depleted. Apparently, in certain munitions establishments men are ‘being paid to remain idle. Obviously, such conditions can hardly be described as economic.
– For decades, shareholders have been receiving payment for doing nothing.
– I am afraid that shareholders would not care to subscribe to a venture conducted according to the methods advocated by the honorable senator.
– The same state of affairs existed under the cost-plus system introduced by the Government of which the honorable senator was a member.
– I suggest that the honorable senator should read the report of the War Expenditure Committee on the cost-plus system. If evidence of extravagance is required, one has only to peruse the records of the Allied Works Council. That body has not thrown away the people’s money in handsful, but in shovelsful. Only a few days ago I read an article on the Rocklea Munitions Factory, in Queensland, which was described as a “ £4,000,000 white elephant “. Originally, it was to be a munitions factory, but owing to an- alteration of plans, it was to .be used for the repairing of aircraft engines. Now, apparently, it is to be what the natives of New Guinea call a “ something nothing “ ; yet the plant is being kept in operation although there is nothing to be done. The men and women of this country do not seek a life of idleness; they want to be fully employed. It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to deny these allegations, but where there is smoke there is fire, and so many statements have appeared in the press about these matters that it is hard to believe that the allegations are all groundless. The taxpayers of this country have not grumbled much, despite the heavy impositions that have been placed upon them. Taxes in Australia are as high as, if not higher than, in any other country, and the Australian people have been prepared to tighten their belts, but if must not be assumed that they .are willing to permit the Government to continue to play the fool with their money when the need for funds is not so urgent. They are looking forward to a substantia] reduction of war expenditure in the not-distant future, and I am sure that they will be very strongly opposed to any suggestion that the Government should be permitted to experiment on amateur socialistic schemes with many millions of pounds which it is hoped will result from the disposal of war equipment by the recently appointed War Disposals Commission. That money should be used to balance the ledger, and should not go “ into kitty “, as has been suggested by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley).
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in anticipating the discussion on the budget which has been introduced into this chamber. I ask him to confine has remarks to the motion now before the Senate.
– I hope that the Government will take the defeat of its referendum proposals in the spirit in which it is intended - a severe chastisement - and will mend its ways. The people of this country are looking forward not to a continuation or extension of war-time controls, but to the abolition of restrictions at the earliest possible moment.
– I had not intended to take part in this debate, because the desire of the Government is to proceed with its business; but some remarks have been made which I consider warrant an immediate reply, lest a wrong impression be created. Charges have been made against the Administration of this country which have no foundation in fact, and if Ministers sit in silence, then, of course, that silence is taken to mean acquiescence in the alleged guilt. Senator Foll has said something entirely out of accord with the facts. He declares that Ministers have lost control of their departments. If there is to be a fight, let him say which Minister has lost control, and then the Minister concerned will have an opportunity to ask for further information on the matter. That is one example of the loose statements made by honorable senators who have not taken the least trouble to consult the Ministers concerned about assertions which they allege in this chamber to be facts. Ministers are always available and on the job. They have no occupation other than their ministerial duties. In that respect, they are unlike Ministers in previous govern- ments, to whom parliamentary life was a mere sideline, to which they devoted the fag-end of their time, using the greater part of it in attending to their private affairs. Senator Foll got an old maxim off his rhetorical chest by saying, “ Where there is smoke there is fire “. Everybody knows that fire is a bad master in any circumstances, and that a good citizen, on seeing smoke, does not wait till fire breaks out before giving the alarm; burt Senator Foll, with the assurance of a political saviour, waves his arms and declares that Ministers are guilty of the offences which he alleges against them, because where there is smoke there is fire. The wise and honorable thing for him to do, when he sees smoke, is to do his best to prevent an outbreak of fire.
Unkind things have been said about the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) ; many remarks have been passed with regard to price-fixing, but all of those statements can be replied to satisfactorily. Price inflation, which leads in other countries to the starvation of the common people, and to the enrichment of the already over-rich, has been prevented in Australia to a degree that has not been exceeded in any other country. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), under whose control price-fixing falls, is well able to defend himself, but the remarks that have been made on this matter are in line with the whole trend of the debate. A quotation from a newspaper was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), but an assertion which he said established a fact was disproved months ago. We are now told that the Allied Works Council is doing certain things at present, and that the man-power position has been so badly handled that in certain departments there are surplus men, who should be made available for more urgent work in other directions. There is not a vestige of truth in that allegation, because everyavenue has been combed, and all available men have been released.
– It must have been a funny old comb.
SenatorCOLLINGS. - There are funny old leaders of oppositions, and they do not increase their capacity to be funny by a departure from accuracy. If these statements be true, the Government ought to be driven from office; but the fact remains that no country engaged in this war has made a better all-in war effort than has Australia, with a population of only 7,000,000. That result could not be achieved by overloading certain departments with man-power.
– And the people of the country have suffered less.
– That is so. Nobody has gone hungry or short of food in Australia as the result of the war, but during the last depression, people were on the dole and starving children were born of parents so underfed that their offspring suffered from malnutrition.
I am now speaking on behalf of the Allied Works Council, of which I am the ministerial head. I have no need to make any apology, either to honorable senators or to the people of this country, for the work that that body has accomplished. Honorable senators will have an opportunity in a few days to witness in this building a pictorial exhibition showing what that department has accomplished, but I refuse to be silent while the organization of which 1 am the ministerial head is slandered time after time. Senator Toll has made statements in this chamber concerning another department. Every one of his assertions relates to matters which are already known to Ministers. We know why prosecutions were ordered, and why the Department of War Organization of Industry interposed and said, “ You cannot do this or that “. We know that the reason was that the country is engaged in an all-in war effort, and that, if the dykes were opened in one place, there would soon be a breach somewhere else.
I did not hear the remarks of Senator Aylett in the first part of his speech, but I did not expect an attack to be made on me by a member of my own party with regard to the administration of my department. At any time I am ready to receive honorable senators from either side of the chamber, and to give to them the facts regarding any matters that may be exercising their minds. With regard to the Butler’s Gorge job, Senator Aylett either does not know the facts, which is inexcusable, because he could get them from me without trouble, or he does know them, in which case he is blameworthy for having been so cowardly with regard to them.
– I am not complaining about the Butler’s Gorge job.
– I know what the honorable senator is complaining about, and, before I have finished, he will probably have reason to complain. The Butler’s Gorge proposal is important to the State of Tasmania, which has in that locality a greater supply of water from which to generate hydroelectric power than is to be found in probably any other part of Australia. It is vital to Tasmania that that power should be developed as far as is humanly possible. It is more vital now than ever before, because of the intention to establish a great industry there. I took the trouble during the recent long parliamentary recess to go to Tasmania especially to see if I could unravel the difficulty of the further extension of the hydro-electric power there. I consulted the Premier of Tasmania, who told me how difficult the situation was. At his request we had sent to Tasmania a number of aliens in order to undertake this work. A dispute occurred among some of the trade unionists, who objected to working with the aliens. The result was that we promptly withdrew the aliens, and the work ceased. I told the Premier of Tasmania that if he wanted the job done the Allied WorksCouncil would do it, but that it had no pool of labour except the aliens. I asked him to make clear to his Government that the Allied Works Council did not want to go on with the work, and had never desired it, but that if the Government of Tasmania wished the council to do it, it would undertake it. I pointed out that we did not want a recurrence of the trouble that had arisen through the trade unionists refusing to work with aliens. He advised me, as soon as he was in a position to do so, that he desired the council to go on with the job. In reply to a question submitted by Senator Sampson I stated this afternoon what the council intended to do. I said -
The Allied Works Council hasbeen designated the constructing authority for the Butler’s Gorge project. No other hydroelectric projects at other centres in Tasmania have been mentioned to date. The terms and conditions, as approved by the Prime Minister, provide that -
1 ) Civil Constructional Corps conditions he extended to the project;
approximately 450 aliens he transferred to Butler’s Gorge from the mainland;
these aliens be subject to a determination to be issued by the Director-General of Allied Works to bring their rates in relationship with the rates paid for other labour on the job.
So far we are getting along well, and I am sure that Tasmania, despite the remarks of Senator Aylett, will be glad that the council has proceeded with the work. Senator Aylett said that these aliens are internees or prisoners of war. The facts are that they are all internees, and that there are no prisoners of war amongst them. In the second place, Senator Aylett claimed that, while we were sending aliens or prisoners of war to do this job in Tasmania, we were taking men from that State to the mainland, where they were moved from pillar to post, and, finally, when no work was found for them, they were returned to Tasmania. There is not a word of truth in that allegation. The personnel office of the Allied Works Council in Tasmania has been closed for months, and we are not calling up any men from Tasmania for work on the mainland, unless they volunteer to leave that State in order to undertake high priority jobs elsewhere.
– Then the Minister does not know what is going on in his own department.
SenatorCOLLINGS - It is of no use for the honorable senator to persist in remarks along the lines of the speech made by him this afternoon. Immediately he had delivered it, I got into touch with my departmental officers in more than one place, and made sure of my facts. The statement I am now making is true in every detail, despite Senator Aylett’s slanderous utterances about my officers.
– I say that it is not.
SenatorCOLLINGS.- He makes statements in this chamber under parliamentary privilege which he would not make outside.
– I shall repeat my statements on the public platform as soon as I return to Tasmania.
– Quite recently Senator Aylett submitted a certain matter to me, as he was perfectly entitled to do. It had relation to a request for naturalization. I had had the case before me for months, and knew all of the facts regarding it. I asked Senator Aylett to leave with me a letter which he had received from one of his constituents, and I promised to look into the matter and make a report regarding it. At the time when he left that letter with me he made a serious charge against two officers of another Commonwealth department, which is administered by one of my colleagues. He mentioned the names of the officers and the amount of graft which he said they were receiving. I made inquiries and I have the file, but I am not going to disclose its contents. I wrote to Senator Aylett, and I have a copy of the letter in my hand. I marked it “ Confidential “, so I shall not go into details.
– Having gone so far, the Minister might as well disclose its contents.
– In that letter I told him I was prepared to give to him the story about the case which he was championing, if he was prepared to substantiate the charges which he had made in another direction. In his reply he concluded by saying : “ I do not feel disposed to deal with officers of other departments through your department. I prefer to work through the proper channels.” I remind the Senate that it, was to mo he made the charges against the officers of another department. When I try to prevent him from making inaccurate statements he says that he refuses to work through my department because the matter concerns another department. Yet he made the charge to me, .not to the other department. The honorable senator’s own State is entirely in disagreement with him; the Government and the people of Tasmania want the job proceeded with, and it will he proceeded with by the Allied Works Council in spite of the honorable senator.
– I agree that the joh should be proceeded with.
– The aliens who will be employed on this work have not been called up by my department, but Iia ve been made available to it by the man-power authorities. My department knew nothing whatever about these men until they were made available to it. They were then enrolled in the Civil Aliens Corps, and since then my department has control over them because it controls the job that they have to do. These aliens realize that they have been given sanctuary and are being fed, clothed, and cared for by Australia, and being physically fit because of the excellent treatment that they have received, they are delighted at the prospect of doing this work. The department is pleased to employ them on it. They would not be so employed if we had a reserve of Australian man-power on which to draw. If Senator Aylett does not know that Australia has no reserve of man-power, my colleagues in the Ministry know it.; there is never a Cabinet meeting at which some Minister does not ask if it is possible for more men to be made available for this or that work. One . of the latest requests that has been considered is for some hundreds of mcn to work in the sugar industry of Queensland. Does Senator Aylett think that I, a representative of Queensland, would not make men available for work in the sugar industry if the department which I control had men who could be spared? The honorable senator prefers to make his charges under cover of parliamentary privilege, knowing that, unless they are replied to, they will be accepted as true by many persons in the community. They are not true. No member of this chamber is denied access to any Minister at any convenient time, but the honorable senator prefers to rise in his place in this chamber and make statements which are incorrect - I shall not say that he knows them to be incorrect - rather than inquire for the facts. It is not necessary for me to say more, but I wished to place before the Senate the facts concerning the work at Butler’s Gorge. We shall go on with that job. I regret that Senator Aylett did not come to me before the Senate met and have a chat about this matter, because I could have enlightened him concerning it. The honorable senator will admit that I have always given the fullest consideration to the matters that he has brought forward.
– In the statement before us, two matters predominate, the first being the Prime Minister’s review of the war situation. That statement does not contain anything new.
– It is the best statement dealing with the war situation that we have yet had.
– That may be so, but any citizen who has followed the press reports of the progress of the war would know as much as we do about the subject. I admit that the statement gives a fair synopsis of events. It is a pity, however, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) did not take us more into his confidence, perhaps by means of a secret sitting, and tell us more of the talks that he had with Mr. Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Had he taken that course we should have had more knowledge of what is in the minds of the leaders of the United Nations than we have now. We are all glad that the statement has revealed such a favorable war situation, and that even since it was made the position has improved still further. The United Nations are pressing forward, and we all hope that it will not be long before the European situation has been cleared up and we shall be able to devote all our attention to the enemy in the Pacific.
The document refers also to the position in relation to foodstuffs. This is one of the biggest problems that Australia has to face, because the drain on Australia’s man-power has seriously affected primary production. As the war position improves, and the battle zone recedes farther from Australia, the opportunity to release men to engage in primary production and other avocations which need additional man-power will become greater. This afternoon we have heard the Government roundly condemned for its handling of the man-power situation; we have also heard the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) take up the cudgels on behalf of the Government. I shall not attempt to adjudicate in this matter; I simply say that it was news to me that the Allied Works Council is being employed on hydro-electric undertakings in Tasmania. I thought that that body had been established in order to undertake defence works, such as the building of roads, aerodromes, and harbours. If we have reached the stage at which the Allied Works Council can undertake jobs in Tasmania which should be undertaken by private contractors, I say that it is not fulfilling the function for which it was established. It cannot be said that the development of a hydro-electric scheme in Tasmania has anything to do with the defence of this country.
– There is nothing more vital.
– Many factories operate on electricity generated by hydro-electric power.
– If men can be employed by the Allied Works Council on hydro-electric works in Tasmania, I submit that men can be spared also for vital industries in other States.
– The Allied Works Council is constructing private buildings.
– Yes. We have heard a good deal lately about the possibility of industrial conscription in the future, but it seems that we have industrial conscription with us already.
– We have had it for two years. Has the honorable senator only just discovered that fact?
– Industrial conscription may be necessary in war-time, hut we do not want it in times of peace. We appear to have it already in operation in connexion with undertakings which are not war-time jobs.
– The hydro-electric undertaking in Tasmania is a war-time job.
– That is a ridiculous claim. The provision of foodstuffs is a matter of vital concern to Australia in view of the poor season that this country is experiencing, particularly in South Australia. It is our duty to increase the supplies of foodstuffs.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I was referring to the adverse seasonal conditions being experienced in rural areas in South Australia. Certainly, I do not blame the Government on that score. I sincerely hope that Providence will never visit this country with both a Labour government and a drought in the same year. However, a drought seems to have settled in South Australia, and the prospects are that we shall be short of cereal crops. Adverse seasonal conditions will also cause a serious shortage of fat stock. Large numbers of fat cattle and sheep are now available, but these cannot be killed owing to the shortage of man-power at freezing works. In the meantime, this stock will lose condition, and even should they be saved, they will hardly recover sufficiently to maintain meat supplies, not only for the home market but also for export. Man-power is also short in abattoirs in each of the capital cities, where slaughtermen are badly needed. It has been announced officially that 30,000 men will be released from the Army, and 15,000 from the Air Force by the 30th
June next. However, that date is nine months ahead. In the meantime the Government should endeavour to expedite this release of man-power. My experience in supporting applications for release of men from the armed forces have been most unhappy. Applications must go through a cumbersome routine. Both the army and man-power authorities must agree before an application is granted ; but, usually, when I have tried to get men released, those authorities have “ passed the buck “. The first step in this routine is that a prospective employer must apply to the Army for the release of a man. Then the man himself must also apply for release. Should the Army authorities agree to the application, it is referred to the man-power authorities. In many cases in which the Army has so agreed, the man-power authorities have refused the release. I have had very little success in handling such applications. For that reason I was astonished to hear the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) say that “ hundreds and hundreds “ of men had been released from the Army for urgent work in Queensland.
– The 400 men of whom I spoke were released for work in the sugar industry.
– The Minister spoke of the release of “hundreds and hundreds” of men! Perhaps, large numbers have been released for special work in Queensland. In fact, I heard a Queensland member of this Parliament boast that 600 men had been released from the Army for work in his electorate. However, so far as I can ascertain, other States have not had so fortunate an experience in this matter.
– South Australia does not grow sugar, and Great Britain urgently requires sugar.
– The Commonwealth does not assist any industry in South Australia to the same degree as it assists the sugar industry.
– South Australia receives a grant annually from the Commonwealth.
– And the Commonwealth takes back much of that grant in taxes. Recently, when the State Government endeavoured to develop a coal mine at LeighCreek in South Australia the Commonwealth did not give any assistance in that project until the mine looked like proving successful. The Commonwealth then made available a grant of £100,000 for that purpose. However, in the early stages, it placed obstacles in the State’s way in that instance. Apart from releases of members of the armed forces, man-power could be made available to primary and secondary industries generally by the release of large numbers of men now engaged in munitions factories. In view of the favorable turn of events in the war, surely many men could be. made available from that source. In addition, a great number of men in uniform to-day are engaged in unnecessary duties. I also draw attention to the fact that thousands of men who have been in camp for two years, and are now fully trained, have not yetbeen engaged in actual fighting. We hope that the necessity for them to do so will not arise.Could not at least 50,000 men coming within that category be released to relieve the shortage of man-power in primary and secondary industries generally, conditional upon their being called up should the necessity arise? That call-up could be effected within a few days, and as the men are already fully trained they would be ready for immediate action. After listening to this debate I am. convinced that the armed forces are not short of man-power. Senator Aylett, who assisted a former Minister for Labour and National Service for some time, has told us of men who have been paid 22s. a day while travelling up and down the country awaiting a job. In addition, the Minister for the Interior, who is in charge of the Allied WorksCouncil, has said that he has sent over 400 men to Tasmania to do an urgent civil job. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) also has told us what is happening in the munitions factories. I am convinced that thousands of men could be made available immediately for essential industry from the sources I have mentioned.
.- I direct attention to the menace of communism in this country. Members of the Government, particularly those in close touch with industrial organizations, must be aware of the undue influence Communists are exerting in our economic life. It is useless to say that their number is insignificant. It is the harm they are doing that matters. In factories, in the public services of the Commonwealth, and in educational departments they are cunningly preaching and giving effect to a pernicious doctrine. They are disloyal to Australia and the Empire. The Commonwealth aud State Governments should either make such employees take an oath of allegiance to the Crown, or instantly dismiss those engaged in white-anting government institutions. Admittedly, it would be difficult to bring to heel disloyal and disruptive persons, but something drastic must be done. In the industrial sphere, trade unions frown upon Communists ; but the frowning stage has long passed. They have wormed their way into the inner councils of many of the bigger trade unions. Mr. John L. Lewis, leader of the Labour Federation in America, describes Communists as parasites on trade unionism, and in Australia they are parasites upon the Commonwealth.
Quite recently a case was brought to my notice of communist subversive influence in respect to our war effort. In a subsidiary government factory in Melbourne, aircraft parts are being made. The foreman is a returned soldier of the present war who realizes the necessity of producing without undue delay spare parts for Royal Australian Air Force machines. Realizing that the workmen had not been doing a fair day’s work, he kept close watch on what was produced from day to day. Being an experienced engineer, he told the workmen that they should speed up. The younger hands, bitten with the communist bug, aud influenced by professional agitators, called a mass meeting last Wednesday with the object of having the foreman removed. The motion was carried by a fair majority. Many of the workmen walked away in silent protest and did not vote. The fate of that foreman is still in the balance. These facts, supplied to me by three employees in the factory, afford undeniable evidence of the sabotaging of our war effort. If the truth were known, the same influences are at work in other government factories. Here is a clear-cut instance of communistically inclined youth, akin to the Hitler youth of Germany, overriding the good sense of patriotic, older and more experienced workmen. What is the Government going to do about it? Who is governing this country? I should say that a majority of these discontented or go-slow fellows consists of dilutees of the various craft unions. In the factory to which I have referred, about eight returned soldiers from this war are employed. They are certainly unskilled men, but they are not given any work which will help them to improve their technical skill. Behind their backs, they are referred to as damned fools for ever enlisting. It is time that the Government took notice of ‘what this com1munist element is doing. I do not know what the Government intends to do, but it is its duty to do something, because unless it awakes to what is occurring there will be trouble in this country.
– Like my colleague, the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) I had no intention of taking part in the debate, but the Government cannot allow some of the statements that have been made, particularly by Senator Aylett, to go unchallenged. He made the very definite statement that members of the forces had been courtmartialled because they had approached their State or Federal member.
– I said, “ would be court-martialled “.
– The statement made was that they had been courtmartialled, and I asked the honorable senator if he could name any instance in which that had been done. His answer was that, if he gave the information the man concerned would be victimized by the Army as long as he remained in it. I think that the honorable senator made that quite clear.
– Yes, I made that statement. I admit it.
– Before a statement of that kind is made by a member of this Parliament it should be checked, because it is unfair to both the soldier himself and the officers. As Acting Minister for the Army, I have had a few months’ experience of army administration, and while I know that mistakes are made, and possibly injustices are done by certain officers by and large, I can say that everything is done as far as possible for the soldier. Senator James Mclachlan jays that there is a conflict between the man-power department and the Army in regard to releases. On the one hand, a number of honorable senators ask for men to be released, whilst, on the other hand, Senator Sampson this afternoon asked the Government whether it was the intention of the Australian Army to proceed on active service.
– Senator Sampson asked if we were remaining in the war or pulling out.
– That meant, “Are the Australian Air Force, Navy, and Army going to take any further part in the war?”
– I referred to the Army. I asked if it was going to take any further part in the war.
– The Army will certainly take a further part in the war. While Senator Sampson asked that question, other honorable senators want servicemen released. Which is it going to be? Are we to retain the fighting strength of the Army or is it to be demobilized ? The Commander-in-Chief and the War Cabinet laid down conditions upon which a certain number of men would be released for food production and other essential civilian services. That has been done. The first step towards a release is an application by the soldier himself; then it has to be recommended by the War Agricultural Committee of his district, and the Man-power Department, before the Army releases him. I therefore cannot see where any conflict exists. Earlier this session the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) made a statement on this subject, and I asked him to give me the name of the soldier, but that has not been done. In many instances, the statements made are of a general character.
– I will give the Minister half a dozen names.
– I know that the honorable senator and Senator Brand have to say something, but their statements are general in character. Quite a number of men have been released from the Army, as Senator Brand knows, aud if time had permitted I would have obtained the records showing the number of those released in each State. I hope I shall have the opportunity to (io so, in order to prove to honorable senators opposite that each State has been treated fairly. However, I am more concerned with the questions raised by Senator Aylett than with general statements made by’ members of the Opposition. As I said, having had the opportunity as Acting Minister for the Army, I know the difficulties in some cases where, releases have been sought, and I also know that it would be an utter impossibility for the Minister for the Army to investigate personally each individual case. He must, therefore, hold some officers responsible for the accuracy of the information conveyed to his department, and for the decision subsequently arrived at. I remind Senator Aylett that the Adjutant-General’s branch of the Army deals with 5,000 letters from, members of Parliament, State and Federal, every month. This entails keeping a staff of considerable size to attend to the work. I defy Senator Aylett to bring to .me one case in which any serviceman has been courtmartialled because he has communicated with his Federal or State member. I have had from time to time to refuse to accept the recommendation of the Army authorities and to use my own discretion, and I have had to do the very thing that has been mentioned here this afternoon, that is, to ask the officer concerned to grant a man’s release on compassionate grounds. If I thought that a case warranted it, I would take that course, because as a father with three sons in the services, I hope I possess some human sympathy. Not only have I done that from time to time, but the Minister for the Army has also done it, despite the decision of Army officers. It is entirely wrong for Senator Aylett to state, as he did to-day, that members of the forces are not allowed to communicate with members of Parliament. I give that assertion an emphatic denial.
The Minister for the Army advises me that in the Adjutant-General’s Branch on an average 5,000 communications a month from Federal and State parliamentarians are being handled, and a large staff of officers is engaged on the work. No action such as the court.martialling of Army personnel for interviewing members of Parliament is taken by the Army authorities against soldiers. Neither the Minister nor the AdjutantGeneral knows of any case where a man has been court-martialled for having made representations to a member of Parliament. Definite instructions are issued to Army officers that they must take a personal interest in the men under their control, understand their difficulties, even their domestic worries, and generally help them to solve many of the problems that confront them.
– That is elementary.
– The commanding officers did that before the Battle of Waterloo.
– I know that the practice is old, but it is being continued. Senator Aylett referred to a general routine order. For all I know, some such order may exist, but if it prevents a member of Parliament from being approached by a soldier it is not being enforced. Whilst it is possible that there are a few commanding officers who do not carry out the instructions which I have cited - and, after all, I suppose that there are in the Army officers who, like some members of Parliament, lose their sense of proportion now and then, and use their power and position to the detriment of those under them - I believe that the overwhelming majority take a personal interest in the men under their control.
With regard to the allegations made by Senator Aylett about conditions in the detention camp at Canara, in Tasmania, the Minister for the Army gave Senator Aylett an assurance that the fullest investigations would be made into these complaints, and the investigation is now proceeding. ‘Senator Aylett’s telegram to the Minister asking for permission to inspect the camp did not come before the Minister until after Senator Aylett had left Tasmania. Provision is made for weekly visits to such deten tion camps by official visitors specially appointed. They consist of two or three reputable persons in the area, including a clergyman. There is, however, no objection to any senator or member of the House of Representatives in his private capacity making a visit to see any one in the camp known to him personally, and the Minister will arrange for Senator Aylett to visit the Canara detention camp whenever it is convenient for him to do so. The commanding officers and staffs of military detention camps are specially selected to improve discipline and the morale of those detained, and their aim is to improve and reclaim Army personnel who have been sentenced by the approved Army courtmartial for offences.
– Will the permission offered to Senator Aylett be extended to any one else?
– I said that any senator or member of the House of Representatives could make a visit in his private capacity to see any one in the camp known to him personally. I have from time to time seen the transcript of the proceedings before courtsmartial, when I have been asked to intervene in an endeavour to reduce the sentences imposed on members of the forces. I have personally taken an interest in those cases and have often sent for the Judge Advocate-General to discuss the matter with me. I think that that is the proper approach to make. I must say that often, when representations have been made, even by members of Parliament, their side of the story and the information conveyed to them has not been altogether correct. There may be isolated cases in which men have been treated unjustly and subjected to unwarranted detention, but as the representative in this chamber of the Minister for the Army I give to honorable senators <an assurance that any cases brought to my personal knowledge will be investigated. It is not much” use honorable senators making allegations in thischamber without supplying adequate information to sustain their charges. Earlier in the session, a statement was made in this chamber by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the alleged ill treatment of a soldier in South
Australia. In reply, I said that I should like to know the name of the soldier concerned in order that I could make a personal investigation. I have not yet been given the name. My desire is to assist soldiers, and I know that the same view is taken by the Minister for the Army.
– Does the Minister agree that if a father has already lost two sons in this war he has a good claim for the release from the services of a third son?
– That is quite a different matter. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that there are some parents who have four and even five sons in the fighting forces. In such cases, it is always my endeavour to place before the Army officials concerned a case for the release of one or two members of the family.
– In the case to which I have referred, the third son is now the only son.
– I have two sons of my own in the fighting forces and anotherson who has just turned eighteen has enlisted, so that I can say that I have some feeling for these people. I repeat that on behalf of the Minister for the Army I am prepared to give my personal attention to any representations that are made to me, and to endeavour to see that justice is done.
– Did the Minister say that I had never made representations to him ?
– Not to my knowledge. I am not aware of any personal representations being made by the honorable senator. He may have addressed communications to me.
– Dozens of times.
– That is quite possible. When allegations of the kind contained in the statement made by Senator Aylett to-day are voiced in this chamber, surely the Government is entitled to some further information to support the charges. I deny emphatically that any soldier has been court-martialed because he communicated with either his Commonwealth or State member of Parliament.
is to be congratulated upon the statement which he made in this chamber on the war situation. That statement has been referred to in certain quarters as a “ scissors and paste “ composition; but despite that insinuation, I believe that it is a most important pronouncement giving a clear indication of the progress of the war. At the moment the future looks very bright indeed for the Allies. We are entitled to hope that it will not be very long before the climax of the European war is reached ; but, we must not lose sight of the fact that when the European conflict has been brought to a successful conclusion, we have still to face the Japanese menace. I remind honorable senators that in Malaya and adjacent territories there are many thousands of Australian soldiers who have yet to be released from the clutches of the Japanese.
In the course of this debate, reference has been made to the question of releasing men from the armed services. Like other honorable senators, I have had occasion to make quite a number of applications to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to have various individuals released from the Army. Although in the majority of cases I have not been successful, I have met with some degree of success, and I have always had from the Minister for the Army himself and from the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser), who represents the Minister for the Army in this chamber, the utmost courtesy in respect of any application that I have made. I realize, however, that the final decision in a majority of cases does not rest entirely with the Minister for the Army himself. Obviously, some regard must be paid to the decisions of high Army officials. The remarks by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) about removing the “ dead wood “ from the Army seemed to me to be most appropriate. The outbreak of war made necessary the building up of a huge military machine in this country. Throughout the growth of that organization, certain individuals who have been stationed in one locality continuously, and probably will continue to be stationed in those localities until the cessation of hostilities, have become a law unto themselves. Apparently, upon some such individuals rests the responsibility of deciding whether a soldier is to he released from the fighting forces. We have been informed by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) that 400 men have been released from the armed forces to carry out work in the sugar industry in Queensland. I am very pleased that the Minister has been able to assist the sugar industry to that degree, and, if possible, I should like the same sympathetic consideration to be given to the gold-mining industry in Western Australia. With’ the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), I happened to be in Kalgoorlie not very many weeks ago when an endeavour was made to obtain sufficient labour to keep the gold mines in operation by providing adequate supplies of firewood. I. know that the Minister immediately made representations with the object of having labour for this purpose released from the Army. I am not aware whether the representations were successful or not, but I am very much concerned with the difficulties of the gold-mining industry in Western. Australia. That industry has been more seriously depleted of labour for war purposes than any other industry. When the outlook for Australia seemed very black indeed, 75 per cent, of the personnel engaged in gold-mining went into the services or undertook other work allied to the war effort. Conditions brought about by this depletion h.a.ve been accentuated by the firewood shortage and. the greatly reduced output is a severe blow to the economy of Western Australia. Despite these disabilities those employed on the goldfields have carried on valiantly and to the best of their ability. Some time ago, the Commonwealth Government made a grant to enable the mines to be kept in workable condition so that mining operations could be resumed as soon as the Avar ends, but I urge upon the responsible authorities that immediate consideration be given to making at least 10.0 men. available for work on the goldfields. I do not care whether that labour is drawn from the Army or from, some other source; but if it is not forthcoming it will bo physically impossible for the mines to be carried on.
– I think that the Department of Labour and National Service is the cause of the trouble.
Seantor NASH. - I do not know exactly which department is responsible; the matter is most urgent.
The speech by the Leader of the Senate contained the following statement: -
This has been a total war of all the people. All have been called upon to serve, and many to- suffer. The spirit of service and sacrifice has created a widespread resolve that an age of peace and better social order leading to a fuller and more abundant life must supplant an era of war. of social indifference, economic insecurity and want.
That is a most important statement, not only from the point of view of the war effort, but also in the light of Australia’s economic situation in the post-war years. Senator Foll said that the Government had suffered a shattering defeat at the recent referendum poll, and claimed that one reason for the rejection of the referendum proposals by the people was a protest against the “ pushing around “ to which the citizens of this country have been subjected in recent years. Contrast that statement with the passage from the speech by the Leader of the Senate which I have just quoted! It was inevitable that some “ pushing around “ would result from the imposition of- governmental controls and restrictions, but can we, as the representatives of the people of this country, take the responsibility of saying that the time has now arrived for the relaxation of those controls? I say that the question is too serious to consider for a moment at this stage. We are by no means out of the wood so far as the prosecution of this war is concerned. True we are having great successes, but a stiff task is still ahead’. The Australian people will have to continue their sacrifices and to make available their financial support so that, at the earliest possible date we shall be able to bring back to this land those many thousands of good Australians who are now prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese. When our people are not liable to be menaced by Japanese or other foreigners, the .time will be appropriate to speak, of removing controls. T admit that many of the present controls are irksome, but to. some degree this is due more to the methods of officials than to government policy. The inconsiderate attitude adopted by some of the officials leaves -room -for a good deal of criticism. At the recent referendum, the ‘Government sought an opportunity to obtain powers for this Parliament which would have enabled it to legislate in the best interests of the people in the post-war period. Although the proposals were rejected by a majority of the people, the electors of Western Australia supported them ‘solidly. It is interesting to recall that, .not many years ago, the people of that -State recorded a vote in favour of secession from the Commonwealth, but :it. the recent referendum they made a complete volte face, and decided that, despite the irritating effects of war-time controls, it would be better for the people of Australia to be -governed in the main, in the post-war period, by the National Parliament than “by the parliaments of the separate States.
– How does the honorable senator account for the decision in New South Wales?
– I am mainly concerned about Western Australia, and the people of that State proved themselves to be big Australians. The principal reason why a majority of the people of Australia recorded a different decision from that of a majority of people of Western Australia was that misleading propaganda was spread throughout the Commonwealth by the press and the broadcasting stations. Despite strenuous efforts on the part of certain interests in Western Australia to induce the people to record a “ No “ Vote, those interests failed lamentably. In the presentation of the arguments submitted against the proposals of the Government, a large -section of .those who urged the people to vote. “ No “ deliberately misrepresented the true position. Freedom of the press is an accepted principle, but on the occasion of the referendum we had an exhibition of unlimited licence on the part “of the newspapers.
We have been -told that the Government suffered a shattering defeat, yet I conlend that the people defeated themselves. They had an opportunity to act in their own interests by making available to the National Parliament, irrespective of the political complexion of the party in office, powers which it was generally admitted should be conferred upon the legislature. Paradoxically, the civil population has let the fighting men of Australia down. Those who have witnessed the horrors of war were quite prepared to give to the Government an opportunity to legislate in the national interests in the post-war period, but those who rejected the proposals showed little consideration for the interests of both .the members -of the fighting services and the many thousands of workers engaged in war-time production. The net result of the referendum, therefore, is most unfortunate. What will be the position in the post-war period, when this Parliament no longer exercises the powers now being used under the National Security Act, but desires to maintain the -financial equilibrium of this country? I fail to see how price fixation can be continued and profiteering prevented.
At the conclusion of the war, when thousands of members of the fighting services will return to civil life with, their deferred pay, a great deal of ready money will be available in the community. There are record deposits in the Savings Banks throughout the .Commonwealth, apan from deposits in the trading banks. What will become of that money, if there be no control over prices and profiteering? Those are two matters with which this Parliament should have the right to deal, but, in view of the .decision of the people at the referendum, the Parliaments of the States are now called .upon to do what the people have declined to allow the National Parliament to do. Having regard to the political make-up of some of the State Parliaments, I see little hope of their doing as good a job for the people as the National Parliament would have done, had the necessary powers been conferred upon it. I regard the result of .the referendum as nothing short of .a national calamity. I trust that the Government will introduce legislation designed to ameliorate the regrettable -situation brought about by the decision of ike people.
The speech by the Leader of the Senate also indicated that a proposal had been agreed to by the Government of Great Britain for an examination of the possibility of arranging for migration to Australia, on the understanding that the results of the investigation would first be submitted to the various governments for consideration. This is an important aspect of post- war reconstruction, and the Government should give the utmost consideration to the idea of bringing to this country as many thousands of British children as can be obtained. Children from the United Kingdom up to the age of about ten years could be educated to a proper Australian outlook, and would prove most desirable citizens. It would be far better to have migrants of that type from the Mother Country than to bring out people from the large industrial and agricultural areas, most of whom would probably have reached the age of 35 years or more.
Another point in the speech was that the Government has pledged itself to share with the United Nations the task of relief and rehabilitation, and that Australia’s contribution to the relief and rehabilitation policy would be based on its national income, the approximate figure being not less than £10,000,000. We are informed that a bill will be submitted on this matter at a later date. There again is an indication that, not only a national, but an international obligation rests on the Government. It must consider the immediate disabilities of our citizens and also the suffering and destruction that occurred amongst people of our own kith and kin over-seas. Prior to the attacks on the people of Great Britain by robot planes, only one house in five was still standing in London. This fact enables us to obtain some conception of the suffering and loss which have afflicted the people of Great Britain, and, in my opinion, the sum of £10,000,000 as Australia’s contribution to the cost of the relief and rehabilitation plan is inadequate. Another aspect is that this problem confronts the whole of the United Nations and their allies. The Government knew how its responsibilities to the people of Australia could have been met, but because of misrepresentation the people were hoodwinked at the referendum into acting against their own interests. We have international problems as well as our domestic problems to face.
– Could not the Government hoodwink the people?
– The Government did not attempt to hoodwink them. It presented a clean, straight-out statement of facts to them, but, unfortunately, some people who were more concerned with serving their own interests than those of the nation, set out to deprive the Government of powers which it needed. That a mistake was made will become increasingly evident as the days pass. I cannot forget the aftermath of the last war and the depression years, and I fear that, unless this Parliament be given greater authority than it now has, there will be a repetition of what occurred then. After the cessation of hostilities there will probably be a period in which money will be plentiful and there will be little or no unemployment, but that period will not last long. When a more normal state of affairs returns, many serious problems will have to be faced. This Parliament, is not clothed with sufficient powers to do the job that will’ then be required of it. There is not much foundation for the statement that citizens of this country have been buffeted and bruised by the controls that have been exercised, but the time has come when the burden on the people should be eased.
A good deal has been said about releases of men from the fighting services to engage in other necessary work. I cannot understand why effect cannot be given to the suggestion of the Opposition. There are many thousands of highlytrained personnel in the Army who have never seen actual warfare, and there seems to be some merit in the suggestion that they should replace men who have seen service in battle areas. It has been stated that the Government will not interfere with the military machine.. In some measure I subscribe to that policy, because I believe that political interference with the machine may be detrimental to the war effort.
– It may work the other way about, also.
– If political interference with the military machine be permitted, the blame will rest on the Government should things not go satisfactorily. As a layman, I think that it is possible for the military authorities to make available to industry more men than are now being released from the fighting services. The Government says that it intends to release 45,000 men.
– It must be remembered that arrangements have been made with certain people overseas.
– I do not want to be misunderstood. I suppose that the decision to release 45,000 men from the fighting services is the result of consultation with allied commanders, because there must necessarily be arrangements between the participants in the war as to what shall take place in each country. I do not ask that the agreed quotas be interfered with, but I do suggest that we should do all possible to assist the industries of this country, which are experiencing many difficulties through shortage of man-power. Most of the criticism of the Government has been in relation’ to the shortage of man-power No one can argue successfully against the economic controls exercised by the Government, because the result of those controls is that Australia is in a better position than almost any other country in the world. I hope that the Government will examine the possibility of releasing additional men from the fighting services, and also that the policy of the Army in relation to the utilization of the services of the Australian Imperial Force divisions will be reconsidered, so that men who have fought in the Middle East and elsewhere may be replaced by others who are eager to do their share.
Debate (on motion by Senator Grant) adjourned.
Australian Army: Courts-martial; Prison Camps - Hirings Administration: Acquisition of Property at Darwin - Civil Constructional Corps - Blue Peas - Ventilation of Parliament House.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise to make a personal explanation in regard to certain charges that were levelled against me this afternoon. Speaking earlier to-day, I said that I had been informed by members of the fighting services that there was a general routine order prohibiting service personnel from approaching members of Parliament in connexion with complaints, and that if they did so they would be courtmartialed. At the time the Minister representing the Minister for the Army said that no such order had been promulgated; later, the Minister said that he was not sure whether it had been issued.
– The honorable senator said that men were court-martialed,, and I asked for specific instances.
– I thank the Minister for his assurance that members of this Parliament may, if they so desire, visit prison military camps, but I do not agree with him that I was not refused permission. I have in my possession a letter from the Minister stating that the Army would not grant me permission, and that he would endeavour to get that permission for me. I accept his assurance that it will be obtained. I did not say that conditions in the camps were unsatisfactory; what I said was that the refusal to allow members of Parliament to visit the camps provided a ground for suspicion that things were not what they ought to be.
I wish to correct a statement made this afternoon by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings). He said that he was always willing to receive members of Parliament. It is a fact that he has seen me on a number of occasions and has always given the same reply. However, his attitude this afternoon makes me wonder whether it might not be dangerous to visit him in his office. Not only did the Minister introduce irrelevant matters, but he also laid a specific charge against me, namely, that I had laid a charge against two officers of another department. There was no more foundation for that charge than there was for his statement that no more men from Tasmania had been called up by the Civil Constructional Corps. I have taken that matter up with another responsible Minister, who is dealing with it in a proper way. As to the calling up of men from Tasmania for work with the Civil Constructional
Corps, I have here a letter which sets out the position clearly -
Mr. T. J. Chatters,
You are an enrolled member of the Civil Constructional’. Corps and your number is C.V.T.104770.
Employing authority - Allied Works
Place of work - Mainland.
Method of transport - Rail and steamer.
You will be at - Hobart railway station.
At - 8 a.m. Tuesday, 29th August, 1944, where you will receive your rail and boat ticket.
You will be met at your destination by a representative of the engineer-in-charge.
Delegate for E. G. Theodore,
Director-General of Allied Works
I shall leave the matter there. The letter I have just read disproves the Minister’s statement. However, this is not. an isolated case. Other similar cases have been brought to my notice recently, but in respect of them I have been able to obtain exemptions through the manpower authorities. Mr. Chatters was definitely called up; but the Premier of Tasmania asked Tasmanian representatives to take up the case because he considered it essential that Mr. Chatters remain in his ordinary occupation.
-On. the 30th August Senator Hays asked me a question concerning blue peas. I now inform the honorable senator that it was announced to-day by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that compensation for blue peas acquired from the 1941-42 crop will be increased in accordance with the decision given recently by the High Court.
– I take this opportunity to bring to your notice, Mr. President, the faulty ventilation in not only this chamber but also throughout the building. I have not been a member of the Senate for long, but since I have been here I have found the air so fetid as to be almost stupefying. In such conditions I shall not be able to give of my best to my constit uents. I am of opinion that no honorable senator working in such conditions can give to intricate subjects, such as the budget, the concentration and consideration they deserve. When I happened to mention this matter to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, he told me that, owing to faulty air-conditioning, alterations had to be made to the Cabinet room. I suggest, Mr. President, that you might take up the matter with Mr. Speaker and the Joint House Committee with a view to having an investigation made into the whole of the ventilation arrangements in the building. As an immediate improvement I suggest that the heat be turned off for a couple of hours at certain times. I have worked in airconditioned buildings in the tropics, including Manila, and also in the City Council chambers in Sydney which are also air-conditioned. I did not find the atmosphere in those places so enervating as I find it in this building; , In the council chambers in Sydney considerable improvement was effected by cutting off the heat a few hours before closing time each day.
.- On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on the last sitting day I raised a matter regarding the acquisition by the Army authorities of a property at Darwin owned by Mr. McMillan ; and to-day the Minister representing the Minister for the Army read a statement in reply to the criticism I then made of the Airings Administration, particularly with respect to LieutenantColonel Davey, the officer in charge. The Minister, in his statement, spoke of an. area of sixteen acres on the corner of Mr. McMillan’s property. The property consists ‘of 16,000 acres. The Minister also said that a claim was made for ?16,000: Of that amount the sum of ?11,370 was claimed in respect of the property itself, the additional amount being in respect of loss suffered by Mr. McMillan through being dispossessed of his property and. having to acquire another property which he would have to “fence, and on which he would have to improve the grasses, in order to make it fit for carrying stock. When the case was first brought to my notice, I could not understand the discrepancy between the figures of ?11,370 and ?16,000, and, as I could not support a claim in those circumstances, I referred the matter to Mr. H. Alderman, K.C., who at that time was accompanying the Broadcasting Committee as a representative of the press. He expressed this opinion -
This point is a good one. It is: The property is worth ?11,370 to any one; but it is worth more to some one who has a butchering business in Darwin. The claimant has such a business and is entitled to a special value.
Mr. Alderman went to Darwin to report on this property, but although he was prepared to go into court to substantiate the claim that the property was worth ?16,000, he reported on his return that he could not advise theGovernment to purchase the property. He failed to make an investigation, yet that was his report to the Minister for the Army. After he had been paid for a job which he failed to do, he said that it was impossible to agree upon any basis of compensation. He suggested that the valuation should be fixed by a judge of the Supreme Court. I disagree with that contention. I again submit that an amount of ?7,000 should be paid immediately to Mr. McMillan. Before the Army acquired this property, a conferencewas held at Darwin. It was attended by Major-General Steele, who had with him the Government’s valuator, Mr. Miller, whilst Mr. Snell was the valuator for Mr. McMillan. Mr. Snell valued the property at ?11,000 and Mr. Miller agreed with ‘ that valuation. I now come to a letter which was written by Major Laidlaw to Mr. McMillan on the 13th November, 1941. It reads as follows : -
It is desired to construct a road for defence purposes through your property.
Major Laidlaw then continued ;
A cattle pit is to be provided at the point where the road crosses the existing fence. Whilst the necessity of using your land is regretted, this land is essential to the defence of the country.
Yet the Minister talks about an area of 16 acres! “Writing to Mr. McMillan in November, 1941, Major Laidlaw said - .
You will be entitled to compensation for loss or damage arising from the use of your land. I would be glad to know what annual compensation you consider reasonable in the circumstances.
In view of this advice, I interviewed the Minister for the Army and he sent me to Major-General Steele. Major-General Steele has written as follows: -
Senator Amour and McMillan called on me regarding compensation for the McMillan property now being used extensively by troops in Darwin.
Ipromised to make available to the Minister my views on the matter and I now submit them.
McMillan Brothers own a property in the Lee Point area in Darwin. Lee Point is one of the most important tactical areas in Darwin and on the McMillan property there has of necessity been constructed -
extensive entrenchments and wire entanglements.
The property was an essential item in the business of McMillan Brothers - butchering - and cattle were held there for a period prior to slaughtering.
In my period of command, McMillan suffered to such an extent that it was more than doubtful that they could carry on business on the property, and the purchase of another property appeared almost obligatory. Since then, the tempo has quickened considerably and I doubt if the property is now of any value as part of the business. Before I left Darwin, I had ordered a survey and an assessment of damages, but they were not completed when I left.
To me the essential questions now dominating the case are -
Has the action of the Army deprived McMillan Brothers of the use of their property as part of their business?
I consider the answer to this is “Yes”.
Is it the policy of the department to make adequate compensation for loss or interference to business occasioned by the use of the property by the Army?
I assume the answer to this is most definitely “ Yes “.
It will interest the Minister to know that during the whole time the Army has been in Darwin, McMillan Brothers have done everything they could to assist, suffered considerable annoyance and actual loss to troops cutting fences and allowing cattle to escape.
The Hirings Administration said that it could not be proved that cattle had escaped -
Other than making dignified protests to me as Commandant, they did not make, to my knowledge, any claim whatever for compensation. I am satisfied that no claim would now be made if it was at all possible for McMillan Brothers to use the property in the manner originally intended, i.e., breasting and killing paddocks.
Major-General Steele goes on to say that, because no valuation was submitted to him, he could not say what the valuation should be. The authorities have cast a slur upon Mr. McMillan. They asked what had hedone in the war effort. They also claimed that the property was actually abandoned by Mr. McMillan, implying, of course, that Mr. McMillan ran away. An elder brother of Mr. McMillan, as the manager of the company, resided continuously for twenty years inDarwin, and he came south in order to see if anything could be done for the family. His brother, Maxwell, remained in Darwin until the Army authorities took over the ice tanks, and the property was rendered useless. Last week, the elder McMillan applied for permission to return to the property, but was refused permission. Lieutenant-Colonel Davey had a valuation which he said was supplied by Mr. Miller, but he refused to allowme to see it. I questioned Mr. McMillan on the matter, asking him why he bad made a misstatement to me. He then sent a telegram to his brother in Darwin to which he received a reply advising that Mr. Miller said that he had not made a valuation of the property. That did not satisfy them, so I communicated with the then Surveyor-General, Mr. Percival, who informed me on the 12th March, 1942, as follows: -
The Administrator telegraphed me yesterday advising that : “ Regarding valuation McMillan Bros, property Darwin this cannot be finalized at present but will endeavour to do so in due course “.
Mr. Maxwell McMillan telegraphed to Mr. Neil McMillan from Darwin on the 4th February, 1942, saying, “Miller has signed nothing “, so that either the alleged valuation by Mr. Miller must have been a forgery, or it is a lie to say that it ever existed. How could the department have arrived at this alleged valuation? Where did they get it from? I next got into touch with Lieutenant-Colonel Davey, but he could not find the valuation, so he informed me. Now that I am questioning the valuation of £5,000, he says that there has been a subsequent valuation by Mr. Miller of £6,024 4s. 6d. The claim was for £7,000. I should like to see the document in which that second valuation is submitted. It is the duty of the Minister to let the Senate see both the first and second valuations made by Mr. Miller. We are entitled to see them if they are procurable. He further states that a claim was submitted for £11,697 10s. No figure of that kind was ever submitted. When the committee went to Darwin, it may have done what Mr. Alderman did - had a look at the place from the boundary pegs. I do not know what it did, but I understand that it had all the documents and returned ; because in this case all the documents were tabulated and supplied to Mr. Alderman, showing the business dealings that Mr. McMillan had had in Darwin over a number of years. It was not a “ Johnny-come-lately “ business, because the brothers went to Darwin, pioneered the place, and did their utmost to build it up and supply the needs of the people of Darwin. They did not sit in an armchair at the Victoria Barracks like Lieutenant-Colonel Davey. The Hirings Committee had been to Darwin and said that no damage had beendone. I have here a fairly good map showing the road that the Army constructed. That was the first road. What I have is the first sketch, because the Army would not allow Mr. McMillan to take a plan of his own property. They had enough ability to draw a rough plan, which shows the two roads which were constructed as mentioned by MajorGeneral Steele. I do not know how much was paid to Mr. Alderman, but I have asked a question about, it. I do not know how much the Hirings Committee cost the country for its trip to Darwin, or how much it will cost to take the case before the Compensation Board, and from the board to the High Court. But I do know that the Army did its best to dispossess Mr. McMillan of his property in 1941, and he has not received a penny for it. In the meantime the Government has allowed all this wilful waste of money, and has paid for other properties. There has been no quibble about paying large sums to big business. I have asked how much the Government has paid to Vestey Brothers. I could also askhow much it has paid to hundreds of other big firms, but I know what the reply would be. The Government will continue to get into trouble while it allows departments to take over places and deal with the owners in the way that has happened in this case. I hope that the Minister for the Army is prevented from sending this ease before any compensation board. I should like him to allow me, with any other person whom he cares to nominate, to go to Darwin to inspect the place, to take with us Mr. Snell and Mr. Miller, and let us have a proper look over the property. I was prepared to do that when the Japanese were bombing Darwin, but the Minister, when I asked him to allow me to go, replied, “Would you go?” Yes, I would have gone, and I will go to-day. I feel that something must be done to stop this expenditure of Commonwealth funds on a case which is “ open- and shut “. They had the advice of the Commandant, Major-General Steele, who was quite competent to determine what was right. They say that they had a valuation from Mr. Miller, but that gentleman said that he did not make a valuation. The then Surveyor-General said that the valuation was not completed. Mr. Alderman was paid to go there, and when he went he said, “ I cannot give a valuation; a judge should determine its value “. Now, when I propose to do something, the officers of the Army say that the case is sub judice, because it has to go to a compensation board and from the board to the High Court. That will cost more money than Mr. McMillan originally asked, and more than the £7,000 which he subsequently claimed.
The Minister who represents the Minister for the Army is not present, but I urge the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) to arrange that somebody with common sense goes to Darwin to make a proper ‘ investigation without cost to the country. If he does not do that, I ask him to determine that Mr. McMillan be paid compensation based on the evidence that he has before him.
– I support the request made by Senator Grant for improved ventilation of this building. This is essential in the interests of those who use it, and I trust that you, Mr. President, will do all you can to have improvements effected.
– I agree with Senator Grant and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that the atmosphere of this chamber is at times soporific, and that there is room for improvement in the ventilation of the building. The subject was dealt with previously by the Joint House Committee. I understand that instructions were then given to the engineers to woke a complete investigation. It was found that the cost was prohibitive, be the committee was advised that £25,000 would have to be expended to install a satisfactory system of airconditioning. However, I shall consult with Mr. Speaker, and the matter will again be brought before the Joint House Committee.
SenatorKEANE (Victoria - Minister for Trade and Customs) [9.41]. - in reply-I undertake to direct the attention of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to the matter which Senator Amour has brought to my notice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator,&c. - No. 22 of 1944 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union.
Australian Wool Board - Eighth Annual Report for year 1943-44.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 132.
Customs Act - Proclamations prohibiting the exportation of goods (except under certain conditions) -Nos.605,606.
Defence Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 119, 120, 122, 123.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 121.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 124.
International Affairs - Ministerial Statement by the Minister for External Affairs, dated 8th September, 1944.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth purposes -
Forbes, New South Wales.
Hay, New South Wales.
Health purposes -
New Farm, Queensland.
National Security Act -
National Security (Agricultural machinery ) Regulations - Order - Agricultural machinery (No. 3).
National Security(Economic Organization ) Regulations - Order - Economic organization (Interest rates).
National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Order - Torres Strait Islands elections.
National Security (Food Control) Regulations - Order - Distribution of food.
National Security (General ) Regulations - Orders -
Control of footwear (Styles and quality) (No. 4).
Heating and cooking appliances (Control of manufacture) (No. 3).
Heating and cooking appliances (Retail Sales) (No. 5).
Immobilization of vessels (No. 3).
Manufacture of toys.
Navigation (Control of public traffic) (No. 3).
Prohibition of non-essential production ( General ) .
Taking possession of land, &c. (67).
Use of land (14).
Order by State Premier - New South Wales (No. 49).
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (276).
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Rules - Camp (2).
National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 53-55.
National Security (Timber Control) Regulations - Order - Control of Timber (No. 14) .
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 118, 125, 126, 127, 129.
Navigation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 133.
Rationed Goods- Supply and Distribution - Report of the Commissioner (Mr. W. J. Bradley, K.C.) appointed under the National Security (Inquiries) Regulations.
Senate adjourned at 9.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 September 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440913_senate_17_179/>.