17th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator theHon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Stations 2 HD Newcastle and 5KA. Adelaide.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate whether he has yet issued a broadcasting licence in respect of station 2HD Newcastle ?
– The licence has not been granted.
– Were any repre-. sentations made to the Minister by Mr. H. G. Alderman, K.C., of Adelaide, Mr. Norman Makin, or Mr.R. S. Richards, the Leader of the Labour party in the South. Australian House of Assembly, in connexion with the issue of a broadcasting licence for station 5KA Adelaide to the Central Methodist Mission, or any other body in Adelaide?
– I do not quite follow the honorable senator’s question, but, with the leave of the Senate, I am prepared to make a full statement on the matter at a later hour.
– I should prefer the Minister to reply to the question by saying either “Yes” or “No”.
– The nature of the reply rests entirely at the discretion of the Minister.
– I ask the Leader of the Opposition to give notice of the question.
– When the licence for station 5KA Adelaide was approved by the Minister, did he know that one of the clauses of the agreement provided for free broadcasting time to the Australian Labour party?
– I was not aware of that fact when I granted the licence, butit would not have deterred me from granting it had I known it.
Motion (by SenatorClothier) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence for twoweeks be granted to Senator Lamp on account of illhealth.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– This question concerns the Minister for Munitions, who has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for War Organization of Industry, upon notice -
– This question concerns the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : - 1. (o) £12,050; (6) £7,820.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice - 1. (a) Is it a fact .that a recent deputation in Sydney was informed by the Minister that the Government would pay the difference between the average realizations of the 1942-43 and the 1943-44 wheat pools and the concessional price on all wheat sold for stock feed and breakfast food production; if so, will the Minister inform the Senate whether any provision for this money has been made in the present budget estimates ?
Will realization be based on - (i) export price, or (ii) average of export price and home consumption price, and is the concessional sales price of wheat for stock and breakfast foodstuffs excluded in arriving at the realization?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : - 1. (re) Yes. A deputation was informed to this effect by the Minister and provision has been made.
Realization is based on the pool return, including wheat sold in Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
In March, 1944, the Government extended this approval to cover all internees from overseas who may now be released, provided that there is no individual security objection, and provided that on release the internees can be suitably employed or otherwise suitably supported. Those internees whose release is considered are of many nationalities, but are predominantly Italians and refugee Germans and Austrians. No Japanese will be included amongst those considered for release. The Government on whose behalf these internees arc held will be responsible for their repatriation at the end of the war, but Cabinet approval has been given for the Minister for the Interior to consider on their individual merits applications for permission to remain permanently in Australia by any white internees from the
United Kingdom or other British Territory who have been released in Australia, and to grant approval in cases where (a) the applicant has been certified as a “ refugee alien “ ;
Acquisition of Property at Darwin.
– On the 14th September, Senator Amour asked me as the Minister representing the Minister for the Army the following questions, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply particulars, In the following form, showing the amount, if any, which was paid or recommended to be paid to any other person, or persons in the Darwin area: - (o) Name of person; (6) name of firm; (c) amount paid to person;
– The Minister for the Army has now supplied the following answers- : -
Debate resumed from the 20th September (vide page 1051), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the following papers be printed:-
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending 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.
Upon which Senator McLeay had moved by way of amendment -
That there be added to the motion the following words: - “and that the Senate considers that the action of the Government in using public funds for Labour party propaganda, and the utilization in the role of public speakers of members of the civil service as advocates of government policy, particularly in relation to the recent referendum, is contrary to established practice and dangerous to democratic public administration “.
– When the debate was interrupted on Wednesday last, I was dealing with the statement of a member of the Opposition that the first referendum proposal was mere window dressing. I propose to prove the necessity for fuller powers to deal with repatriation, in order to disabuse the minds of those who believe that that proposal was window-dressing. To do so, it is necessary to go back to the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which has been in operation since the last war. Provision was made in that act for settling returned men on the land, but it was found that the Commonwealth Government had no power to acquire the land of any State without the State’s consent.
The Commonwealth Government had to go on to the open market to buy land which had been alienated from the Crown.
– I have heard other legal opinions on that. I am told that the Commonwealth Government had the power to acquire State lands.
– The The Government then in power ceased to administer some provisioning of that act, deliberately declaring that it had no power to do so. It bought land through the State instrumentalities for the purpose of settling returned men, and in some cases used the State instrumentalities to settle them upon Crown lands. The Commonwealth Government had no power to fix the price of thecommodities that were necessary to enable the returned men to be settled. It believed in private enterprise, as the party opposite still does, with the result that prices went up everywhere. Even the land, other than Crown lands, increased in price.
– Because agricultural producebrought high prices at that time.
– - But the government bought land at its enhanced value, bought other things at high prices, and paid money for the settlement of returned men.
– Many soldiers made their own choice of land.
– O - Of course they did. They were supposed to be free to make their own choice of the land that they wanted. As I say, the Government paid enhanced prices for land. The prices of machinery, implements required, and all the necessary foodstuffs, increased. The advances made to returned men were strictly loans and not gifts, the understanding being that the settlers should repay them plus interest. The then Government helped private employers and outside individuals to exploit the returned men on the land. It appointed a commission to investigate the cost of producing wheat. That commission discovered that approximately 51 per cent, of the cost was accounted for by interest payments. Then the Government wondered why the undertaking was a failure. It could not be anything else.
The Government also made provision to supply some of the returned men with homes, but it did not give them the homes. It paid exorbitant prices for the land upon which it built the homes. The price of building materials also increased. Governments, ofwhich some honorable senators opposite were members or supporters, made no attempt to control prices. They were concerned only that private enterprise should obtain its “ cut”. I was honorary secretary of an association, formed by ex-servicemen who occupied war service homes. In that capacity I had an opportunity to study the activities of the War Service Homes Commission, and I found that when these unfortunate tenants could not pay their rents, they were evicted from their homes. That was done under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act then in force. The DeputyCommissioner forRepatriation, Mr. Hutchinson, told me that the commission was not providing homes for returned soldiers as such; it was building homes because it was a good paying proposition provided that the tenants had constant employment. Unfortunately, the administrations then in office forgot to provide that employment.Correlated to the matter of rehabilitating our servicemen are the problems of the continuance of price fixation, and orderly marketing schemes. Senator James McLachlan said that all he had to do as an advocate of a “No” vote at the recent referendum was to tell the people what a government could do if the additional powers sought were conferred upon the Commonwealth. What he did not say, however, was that even the present powers held by the Commonwealth and StateGovernments could be abused. “ No “ advocates indicated very clearly how a government composed of honorable senators opposite would have abused the proposed new powers. The increase of prices which took place after the last war will inevitably occur again unless action be taken to prevent it. On that occasion the anti-Labour governments made no attempt to stabilize prices. This Government has stabilized prices. Senator James McLachlan and his colleagues who opposed the referendum proposals presented the very worst picture to the people of this country. The honorable senator spoke of the many hundreds of regulations which had been introduced by this Administration, but he did not mention that he and his colleagues in this chamber had endeavoured to secure the disallowance of only six of those regulations. They agreed to the others.
I was a member of a State legislature when repatriation schemes were in operation after the last war, and I say, unhesitatingly, that if the soldier settlement schemes of the last post-war period are to he the model for similar schemes when this war is over, the ex-servicemen will be “ settled “ all right. What is the use of settling ex-servicemen along our great rivers and on irrigation areas as was done after the last war unless stabilized markets are provided for the commodities which they will produce ? It is not only in recent times that this Parliament, with the aid of the Parliaments of the States, has considered the provision of markets.
– The BrucePage Government did a good deal in that direction.
– Not Not because it was in favour of the principle, but because economic conditions drove it into doing so. I have said sufficient to show that honorable senators opposite are not sincere in the statements made by them in the past. Senator James McLachlan gave us a “ typical “ example of a man who had a certain amount of capital invested. In the first place, I think, it was £8,000. He secured a mortgage and did something else with the money, and then the present Government, because of the exigencies of war, took possession of it. Finally, in this typical case, the man had only £12,000 left, which he invested in war loans. The honorable senator referred to the income taxation of this year and next year to prove that that man would get only about £4,000 because of the high imposts. I shall give another example, not a typical but a true one.
-Cannot a typical example be that of a true case?
– T - The word “ typical “ could be made to cover any case. I draw attention to the position of a man in the building trade, who, at the outbreak of the depression, had a house, a plant, and capital for the purpose of carrying on building operations of the total value of £2,500. At the end of the depression he had no plant at all, had lost his house, was out of work, and was receiving an allowance of 4s. lOd. a week from the Government for food. No allowance was provided for house rent, and nothing remained of his capital. But in the “ typical “ example referred to by Senator James McLachlan, the man had an accretion of capital to the amount of £4,000. The honorable senator said that, in that case, the system was wrong, but he proposed to do nothing to alter it. Regarding the case that I have cited I also say that the system is wrong, but I shall do everything I can to alter it.
– I was referring to taxation.
– Adm Admittedly. The honorable senator showed that the person referred to possessed capital amounting to £4,000, and he must have acquired that by exploitation of some kind. The ordinary worker, who is employed for a wage, would do well to save even £1 a week, and he would require perhaps 40 years to acquire as much as the individual whose case was cited by the honorable senator.
– Where did the man referred to by the honorable senator get the £2,500?
– By By exploitation of a kind. He employed labour, and gradually built up his capital, but he finished on the ration allowance of 4s. lOd. a week, and no money with which to pay rent. I think that the dole also provided 2s. 5d. for each of his four children.
Senator Sampson made reference to the same principle as that spoken of by Senator James McLachlan. He said that after six years of war and smashing up things - he mentioned a good deal of furniture inside the home, including the .piano - we could not be better off than previously; but Senator James McLachlan proved that, in the “ typical “ case cited by him, a person was £4,000 better off after six years of war. Since honorable senators opposite cannot agree among themselves, they should confer before making such contradictory statements in this chamber. Despite all the smashing of things that has occurred during the war, “big business” is, in fact, increasing its assets. The large financial groups have benefited during the war to the amount of- £12,500,000. The large industrial establishments have increased their assets, some with bricks and mortar and others with improved machinery. Honorable senators opposite have spoken of the waste that has occurred during the smashing-up process, but always from the point of view of the property owner. They were anxious to induce the Labour Government to protect the property rights of the wealthier classes when it first came into office, and raised no objection whatever to the Government exercising full powers in that direction; but now, when the war position has improved, they are telling the Senate about all the waste that has occurred in connexion with government instrumentalities. They say nothing about the awful waste of human life that the war has occasioned; their sole concern seems to be the loss of property and capital.
– Does the honorable senator say that about members of the Opposition who have lost their sons in this war or who still have their sons in the fight?
– All All that has been heard from the Opposition side has related to wastage of property and the expenditure of money.
– Does that imply that we think that the war effort should be relaxed?
– H - Honorable senators opposite are not the only members of Parliament who have sons at the war.
– The Opposition is concerned about the waste of human life.
– I r I refuse to be inveigled into a personal argument of that kind, but neither honorable senators opposite nor their colleagues in the other branch of the Legislature have yet referred to the wastage of human life due to the war.
– The honorable senator remarked that we on this side do not agree amongst ourselves.
– App Apparently they do not, because they have not mentioned the matter. Senator Sampson went to some trouble to give to the Senate a definition of “socialism”. Quoting from the Oxford Dictionary, he said that socialism meant collective ownership, and he then proceeded to give a dissertation setting out his views on collective ownership. By means of an algebraical formula I shall endeavour to show what collective ownership means. Before raw material can be converted into a manufactured article, labour must be applied to it. There is no other way. Raw material cannot be made into goods merely by associating money with it; there must be applied labour. In the application of labour to any given raw material, our existing economic set-up provides for a profit to the person who applies the labour to the raw material. Therefore, I propose to apply the algebraical sign “ A “ to the raw material and “B” to the applied labour. The resulting profit is “ C “ and the finished product is “ D “. Expressed in algebraical terms, D = A -)- B + C. Having obtained the manufactured goods, or the finished product of the land, as the case may be, its distribution then becomes necessary. In distributing the finished product D, there must be further applied labour, which we shall call “ 2B “, and as additional profit has to be provided for, we call it “ 2C “. The Labour party believes that all that is necessary is to take the two profits - G and 2C - and, instead of dividing them among a few “ idle rich “, they should be distributed among the community.
– “What about the capital that created “ A “ ?
– E - Evidently, the honorable senator believes that capitalism gives employment to the workers, hut it does nothing of the kind.
– .Where does the raw material come from?
– T - The raw material may be the land. For instance, wheat cannot be grown without applied labour.
– Capital is required to buy machinery.
– In In my formula I have made provision for profit on capital, but I am not now discussing capital; I am discussing the factors which go to the manufacture of commodities. I want ‘ the profit to come back to the people. That does not necessarily mean that profits shall be distributed in cash. The results can be distributed in many ways, as, for instance, by the provision of more social amenities for the .people. I commend the present Government for the advance that it has made in respect of social services. What has been accomplished so far is not all that I desire to see, but there has been a distinct advance. The distribution may be made in the form of a shorter working day. However, the greatest benefit is derived by so organizing society as to provide greater social security for - all. That is to say, we moist do away with a state of affairs under which men returning from the war will have difficulty in finding jobs; we must give to them social security. In this respect, also, I commend the Government for its social security legislation. Summed up, the arguments of the opponents of the proposals recently submitted to the people mean that they stand for private enterprise - the principle of “ every man for himself”, the right of every man to engage in business for personal gain. Those views have been expressed by honorable senators opposite on many occasions. If they take that stand, I say to them that the workers and their organizations have an equal right to exploit the community in their own interests. Consequently, I expect the Government to give effect to some planks of the Labour party’s platform, by placing on the statute-book legislation in the interests of the workers. The interests represented toy honorable senators opposite have had things their own way for many years; the rights and privileges of private enterprise have been regarded as sacrosanct. However, for many years the Labour movement has been working to accomplish its purposes, and I expect that before long some of Labour’s objectives will be reached. In this connexion I shall make a few suggestions which honorable senators opposite will, no doubt, regard as revolutionary. By evolutionary means, Labour has gained control of the treasury bench, and I hope that, within the limits of the Constitution, much-needed reforms will soon have the sanction of law. I know that such reforms will deprive private enterprise of the franchise privilege which honorable senators opposite endeavour to uphold. Let us consider industrial arbitration, for instance. The Labour party has endeavoured for years to perfect our industrial arbitration legislation and machinery. I speak from personal experience in this sphere. Under the existing arbitration law, the right of private enterprise and not the settlement of a dispute is the paramount factor in the eyes of the court. I said earlier that I would suggest several amendments of the existing arbitration law; but I shall go further. The existing law should he entirely repealed. We must abandon the antiquated ideas on which it is based. The first principle of our arbitration law should be social justice; the rights of the individual should be the paramount consideration. When speaking on Wednesday last, I pointed out that under the existing law, the first step taken by the court in respect of any dispute is to order the employees back to work, whilst, at the same time, the court takes no cognizance of any action on the part of the employer who has contributed to a dispute. Parliament should make it mandatory for the court when it orders the employees back to work before hearing a particular case, to direct the employers at the same time, to take no further action in a dispute until the court has adjudicated upon it. I can see nothing wrong with that principle. In addition, too much red tape is now encountered before a party can gain access to the court. Indeed, this feature of existing arbitration procedure is itself sufficient to drive one crazy. The procedure must be simplified. I commend to the Government, the procedure now laid down, in the South Australia Industrial ‘Code, whereby a dispute can be automatically brought before the court upon one of the parties giving notice of motion. Hitherto, the parties were obliged to prove the facts of an industrial dispute before the court could proceed to deal with the matter. Another suggestion, which I commend to the Government, and which also, I have no doubt, will make honorable senators opposite squeal, is that Parliament, and not the court, should lay down the maximum working week. Overtime should either be completely abolished, or rates prescribed in respect of overtime should be made sufficiently high to put an end to this form of exploitation of the workers. The trade union movement has also been fighting for years for the provision of annual leave in all industries; but only quite recently the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration decided to grant this right to the workers. However, it fixed the standard leave at seven days, regardless of long service considerations. I urge the Government to fix the standard annual leave in all industries at a minimum of 28 days annually. The Government should also lay down a minimum provision inrespect of sick leave. To-day, many awards do not provide for sick leave, and in some industries where such provision is made, the sick leave provision is abrogated in the case of weekly contracts. The Government should lay down a minimum period of 28 days’ sick leave in all industries, and also provide that such leave be cumulative. When an employee becomes ill he should be entitled to 28 days’ sick leave in respect of each year in which he has not lost work through illness. Only recently I read of the case of an employee of the South Australian railways, who, apart from hi3 annual leave, had not missed one day’s work in 28 years.
– Some employees are afraid to remain away from work even when they become ill, because they cannot afford to lose their wages.
– A - Again dealing with annual leave, I may say that where an employee does not complete 12 months’ service he should be allowed leave on a pro rata basis. In such cases, leave should be determined on a basis of two days’ leave for each two months he has been ‘ employed.
I repeat that the Government must facilitate arbitration procedure in order to enable disputes to be dealt with more quickly and effectively than is possible at present. Even at present, in spite of the general speeding-up due to the war, decisions are not announced in many cases until from six to nine months after hearing. That must be overcome in some way. I suggest that all minor disputes should, upon notification, be immediately heard and dealt with so far as practicable by conciliation commissioners, without having to go through all the paraphernalia of court proceedings.
– How would the honorable* senator deal with the unrest in the coal-mining industry?
– I - I should like to take the honorable senator down a coal mine some day. If I did, he would not “ squeal “ so much afterwards about the coal-miners. Another phase of arbitration is the policing of awards. A policing authority has been appointed, but his office is very much understaffed. It should be mandatory that the officials of the employees’ organizations should also be policing authorities. I should not only allow them to enter premises and question, employers or employees about something of which they have been told in a letter, but they should also have the right to enter any premises covered by an award, interrogate any employer or employee, and inspect all records in relation to times or payments. If they had full authority to do all those things, there would not be the pin-pricks that there are now. It should also be provided that, upon a union official lodging a complaint with the policing department of the court, the expense of conducting the case should be borne by the Government. It has cost the unions thousands of pounds to prosecute employers, and the unions do not, by any means, get all their money back. In one case it cost a union about £130 to prosecute an employer, it won the case, and the employer was fined £8 on each of three counts, or £24 in all. That amount was returned to the union, but it lost the remainder. That state of things seems to me to be all wrong, and should be prevented by an amendment of the act such as I suggest.
There should be a mandatory section providing that the judge shall give preference to unionists of the employees’ organization that has the carriage of the proceedings, if the organization asks for it. At present, the act .provides for preference with a restriction, namely, “ All things being equal “. That is the “fly in the ointment”. We shall not get anywhere unless that is deleted.
I come now to the question of the values upon which what is termed the “ needs “ basic wage is calculated. On top of that wage there is a prosperity loading. I have never been able to understand why the workers in South Australia have 2s. less prosperity loading than those in the eastern States. They have 6s. and those in South Australia have only 4s.; there should be no discrimination. At present, we work on a basic wage founded on a regimen that contains quite a number of articles which cannot be obtained to-day. It is true that there are substitutes. Rice cannot be obtained, but barley kernels can. Still, there is a big difference in the price. The basic wage is assessed upon the price of rice at a given period, but, although there is no rice on the market and only more expensive barley can be obtained, the basic wage is still based on the old figures. The regimen does not take the dearer substitute into account. I could cite a number of other examples, but that should suffice.
Clothing is another important necessity. I know that it is rationed, but I am afraid that the Prices Branch is not doing its job in relation to the quality of the articles which are being produced. The working man “ purchases “ now and then a “ Sunday “ shirt, which is known as a fashion shirt. Prior to the war, it could be bought for from 4s. lid. to 12s. Sd. ; to-day, such a shirt cannot be bought under 15s., and the price increases to as high as 27s. 6d. [Extension of time granted.] The prices fixed by outside factors are probably not within the control of the Prices Branch, but when the basic wage is being considered, it should be remembered that the material provided in such- shirts is absolute rubbish compared with what it used to ‘be. All these matters should be placed under the control of the Arbitration Court, and a pricing authority should be able to equate the price of the commodities included in the regimen to the basic wage. The court should then have authority to direct that the price fixed must not be exceeded unless the basic wage is increased. That system would enable us to have a living basic wage instead of a “ needs “ -wage.
– What is required is a standards bureau attached to the Arbitration Court.
– I d I do not know that that would be possible, but I should like the Government to explore the possibilities of implementing my suggestion.
I am pleased that the Government is making a move towards the control of banking. I wish to make some suggestions on that subject. I shall not deal with the statements of honorable senators opposite, other than to say that previous administrations, particularly after the last war, made no attempt to limit the control exercised by financial institutions and wealthy private individuals over the currency. They talk about inflation to-day and paint a gloomy picture of what will happen if the currency becomes inflated. To curb inflation, control must be exercised, not only in the issuing of the currency, but also after it has gone into circulation. We must examine that matter thoroughly, and although the solution may appear to be revolutionary to honorable senators opposite and their supporters whose minds are still in bygone days, we are living in a changing world, and changes must come. Our entire economy is changing, and I trust that it will change even more rapidly in the near future. I should like to see the Commonwealth Bank brought once again under the control of this Parliament. After all, what better authority is there to control our national bank than the National Parliament, which is responsible for the internal currency of the country. Our banking reform, however, must go further than that. The Commonwealth Bank must have power to issue currency against the productive capacity of this country. For instance, there is nothing to stop the Commonwealth Bank issuing currency to cover the construction of homes in this country. If the money be not provided in that way, at cost, the matter will be left in the hands of the private banking institutions, which willingly will make the money available at a higher rate of interest. The legal currency of the Commonwealth to-day - that is the currency in notes, and coins - totals £190,993,625 10s. On that currency, the people of this country have an annual business turnover of approximately £3,000,000,000. The private banking institutions hold £49,000,000 of that total currency, yet they are able to finance the ordinary commerce of this country to the amount of £2,500,000,000 ! Control of the currency is the most important single factor in our changing economy, and I ask the Government to look into this matter carefully. To-day, a substantial proportion of our currency passes into the hands of the private banking institutions, which deposit it with the Commonwealth Bank at 15s. per cent. Unless the Government assumes full control of the currency after the war, the private banks will be in a position to hold the pistol at our heads, and so to inflate the currency through their cheque system that they will be able to gain full control of industry. The cheque currency must be regulated, and I trust that when the Government introduces a measure to extend the powers of the Commonwealth Bank it will take this factor into consideration. Although the Commonwealth may decide that it has not sufficient power to take over all private banking institutions - I understand that there may be a doubt about the Commonwealth’s power to control certain established banks within a .State - it should at least take steps to control cheque credit by forbidding any currency other than that sanctioned by the Commonwealth Bank. If private banking institutions are to be kept in existence, let them be merely money exchanges operating upon a commission basis. They should not be permitted to use the nation’s currency to issue many millions of pounds of cheque credit. All currency should return to the Commonwealth Bank. Honorable senators opposite say that they believe in private enterprise and the right of every person to get in for his “ cut “, so why should the Government hesitate to call upon the private banks to deliver some of the funds which they accumulated in past years? It would just be a case of permitting the Commonwealth Bank to get in for its “ cut “.
I trust that the suggestions that I have made will be given .serious consideration by the Government, and I assure the Government of my assistance in whatever way possible.
– I should not have taken part in this debate had it not been for the remarks of Senator O’Flaherty in regard to soldier settlement schemes. Anything that I may have to say on this matter will be said with the object of preventing this Government, or any administration which may succeed it, from falling into some of the pitfalls which were encountered after the last war. There are many reasons why some soldier settlement schemes after the last war were not so successful as they might have ‘been. Some of these reasons have been given by Senator O’Flaherty, but, in my opinion, the chief reason was that land and farm equipment were bought at far too high a price. When the last war ended, there was a boom period, just as seems likely to occur again when this conflict is over. If a soldier settler is to be made a successful farmer, land has to be purchased for him and his farm has to be equipped. These purchases must be made at prices which will enable the farmer to repay his interest and his loan, and at the same time to make a reasonable living without having to depend upon a subsidy from the Government. I believe that the Commonwealth has power to acquire land for soldier settlement schemes at a just price. In fact, I believe that some of the State governments have already arranged to acquire land for this purpose. However, the acquisition of land is only half the job. The next job is to improve it. First, it has to be cleared and fenced. Recently,” I came into possession of certain unofficial figures relating to the cost of fencing following the recent disastrous bush fires in Victoria. Men were employed by a government instrumentality to cut posts for the new fences, and it was found that the price of those posts was three or four times higher than just prior to the war. I believe also that the price was four or five times higher than it will be in, say, five years’ time, because, after the post-war boom has subsided, there will be a tendency to revert to normality. That is the danger of expending money in the present abnormal circumstances. I am in favour of the payment of reasonably high wages for a fair day’s work, but it is a truism that the cost of labour is high at present, compared with the rates ruling in prewar days, and that fact is reflected in the cost of farm equipment and improvements. Senator O’Flaherty wants the cost of farm equipment to be kept as low i as possible, but I do not think that he would start to do that by reducing the wages of the employees in industry. The prices charged for fencing, dams, stables, sheds, barns, Asc., are all very much higher than before the war. A man living on a farm must be provided with decent housing accommodation, and, after an ordinary home had been provided, there would be very little left out of £1,000. The present cost of building is 50 per cent, greater than it was prior to the war, and it would be of no use if the capital cost of farms on which returned ex-servicemen were placed was so high that it would be impossible for them to make a living on them.
I had some association with the work of soldier settlement after the last war. I recall the case of one returned soldier, who .was placed on a property, the price of which was fixed fairly by arbitration ; but, by the time the labour required to clear the land had been paid for, and buildings and fencing had been provided, the cost of the property had been doubled, and the occupant could not pay for it. The settlement of ex-servicemen under those conditions inevitably produced discomfort and disappointment, and a few years later an irresistible demand arose for a revaluation of the properties, with the result that the Government had to meet the loss. I grant that there is some room for increased settlement on the land, but it will be of no use if new settlers have to compete with the farmers already on the land. Production has been restricted in certain directions and in others we can produce much more than can be profitably sold in normal times. As an instance, Australia produces twice the quantity of potatoes as the people of this country require, and it is necessary to see that the men on the land grow only such produce as< can be either exported at a profit, or- sold in the home markets at prices which the people can afford to pay will give the farmers a fair return. I have no doubt that the demand for the settlement of soldiers on the land will be so great that the Government will be almost unable to resist it, but the utmost care should be taken, and full inquiries made by qualified ‘ men, before settlement is permitted. Although spectacular schemes for placing ex-servicemen on the land might bring kudos to the Government for a while, it would be foolish to imagine that land could be purchased and farms equipped at a low cost. That could be done only if the general taxpayers were called upon to foot the hill. A carefully prepared scheme should be evolved, and every care should be exercised in putting it into operation. Those who clamour for the settlement of a large number of men in the shortest possible time should not be heeded. If a farmer wished to establish a son on the land, and give him a reasonable chance of success, he would be well satisfied if he could complete the task within six months. During the last war, the Government settled several farmers on the land every week, with the inevitable result. The marketing of the farmers’ produce is of the utmost importance, and payable prices are essential.
– D - Does the honorable senator favour organized marketing?
– In the case of some kinds of produce, organized marketing is essential, and it has already proved more or less successful -with regard to sugar, wheat, and butter. It has been found necessary in Australia to charge a higher price for butter consumed in the local market than the price at which it is sold overseas.
If suitable land were acquired, many ex-servicemen could be established in the dairying industry, but the prices obtained by- the producer for butter and milk have never been sufficient. The dairying industry was established originally by farmers, with the assistance of their wives and families, keeping small herds of cows, and selling butter as a sideline. They were satisfied with almost any price that they could get, and the price has always been too low. The people could well afford to give a better price to the dairy-farmer than he has ever previously received for his product. It is of no use to contend that cheap land and cheaply equipped farms must be provided for ex-servicemen, when we know that present-day costs are about twice as high as they were prior to the war. I am afraid that no spectacular scheme of soldier settlement can be successful. Those who go on the land may have to clear their properties as their fathers and forefathers did. Thousands of acres of country that has been converted into profitable farms could not ha.ve been made profitable, had it been cleared under present-day wages and conditions. A farmer’s job is to produce, and it is the work of Parliament to help him to sell his produce; but settlement schemes that would create a boom would be disastrous- in their results. Sufficient time should be occupied in drawing up the plans, and they should be closely examined by people well versed in agricultural matters.
– I read the budget proposals of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) with great satisfaction. I well recall that three years ago, when the present Government brought down its first budget, it was accused by the Opposition of steering the ship of state upon financial rocks. Ever since that time the cry of inflation has diminished to a remarkable degree, yet on this occasion the Government is budgeting for about £650,000,000, and the Opposition has been silent on the subject of inflation. It was told that, when it budgeted for £300,000,000, it was impossible for a government in Australia to do that, and keep the country on an even keel. I am proud to be a member of the ‘ party supporting a government which has been able to bring down a budget of such proportions, and at the same time keep Australia on an even keel. It has been said that the Labour party is not skilled in the art of government, and that in time of trial it would fail to govern successfully. But the test has ‘been applied during the last three years, and the result shows that, whatever the shortcomings of the Labour party may have been in the past, it has proved itself capable of governing the nation during a time of unprecedented stress.
The opponents of the Labour party predicted that the use of bank credit would lead to uncontrolled inflation, but the Government has wisely set up certain controls, and prices have been prevented from rising unduly. This control must be continued for some years after the war. I regret that the people did not see fit to grant the additional constitutional powers sought by the Government at the recent referendum; nevertheless, I trust that good government will be maintained, despite the absence of the additional powers which are obviously desirable. Prices can be kept steady and undue inflation prevented by the proper use of the Commonwealth Bank. I subscribe largely to the remarks of Senator O’Flaherty in this regard, and hope that the Government will take complete control of the bank of the nation. The time has arrived when that bank should be placed under the Treasurer of the day, who should have sole control of the national finance. If that were done, I believe that the Commonwealth Parliament would control what is undoubtedly the key industry of this country, for without a flow of bank credit industry can be stifled, and another depression brought about. What I have suggested ought to be done during the life of this Parliament; and when it is done, the Commonwealth Bank should adopt a vigorous trading policy.
– It can do that now.
– The policy of the Commonwealth Bank Board has ‘been not to compete with other banks.
– It is not restricted.
– If a client of another bank insists on transferring his account to the Commonwealth Bank, that bank will accept his business, but its policy has been to discourage such transfers. That policy should be altered, and restrictions on transfers of accounts to the Commonwealth Bank should be removed. Managers of branches should be instructed to become active competitors of other banking institutions, and to encourage people generally to do their business through the Commonwealth Bank. By that means the Commonwealth Bank would have greater control over the issue of credit. But more than that is needed; there is also the desirability of the Commonwealth Bank being accessible to traders and others who require finance; the bank should be brought into more direct contact with the actual users- of money. In that way the Commonwealth Bank would have control over finance generally, which is the life-blood of industry. Already, numerous national undertakings have been planned for the post-war period, the object being to provide employment as well as to give to the country the benefit of these works. By means of a planned programme of national works, for which finance will be provided by the Commonwealth Bank, it should be possible to keep the people of Australia fully employed. If there is one thing more than another at which the Government should aim, it is that every citizen shall have the right to full-time employment. The defeat of the Government’s referendum proposals means that the Government will be unable to plan where factories shall be situated and how industries shall be established throughout the country.
I wonder if the people generally realize how close they were to annihilation not long ago. I come from Newcastle on the east coast of Australia, and I know that in that district are concentrated the great steel industry and Australia’s heavy industries generally. These industries are situated within 3 miles of the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, the whole of our railway transport system to places north of the River Hunter must pass through Newcastle. That system is liable to the risk of destruction from an enemy a few miles off the coast. Honorable senators know that on one occasion since the war with Japan began an enemy submarine dropped shells in the Newcastle area. Fortunately for Australia, only one submarine made that attack; but the incident should have brought home to us what might have happened had a determined attack been made by a number of submarines. Australia’s heavy industries might have been thrown out of production for many months. Notwithstanding that warning, it would seem that the people of Australia generally, as well as _ members of the Opposition in this Parliament, are still prepared to allow key industries to be subject to the same risks.
– The people rejected the Government’s proposals.
– That is so, but I regret that some members of this Parliament did their best to bring about that result. Although Australians seem not to have heeded the warning as to the danger of having vital industries so vulnerable to attack, situated on our coast-line, our enemies are not likely to have done so. The people of other countries may see an opportunity to profit from our mistakes. Notwithstanding the defeat of the referendum proposals, the Government may still do something to guard against these dangers by the judicious use of grants-in-aid. I suggest that determined efforts be made to remove key industries from coastal districts. That might be done by providing electric power at cheap rates, or by making the cost of such power a charge against the nation. I also suggest that steps be taken to guard against a recurrence of what happened in the early stages of the war, when vessels from overseas had to be directed to a limited number of ports because facilities for handling them and their cargoes were not .available elsewhere. In its policy of the decentralization of industry, I suggest that the Government should open up new ports. It should also provide in country districts amenities for the people similar to those which city dwellers now enjoy. For instance, children attending country schools should be provided with medical and dental treatment. Greater encouragement to people to remain in country districts would be given if library services throughout Australia were extended.
Since the war began, much good has been accomplished by District War Agriculture Committees. I should like these bodies to be given greater recognition in the post-war years. I suggest the establishment of a national rural council to advise the Government on rural problems. As things are, people with experience of conditions in country districts feel that they can do little to influence the life of the nation. Some means should be provided whereby they shall have an opportunity to advise the administration in regard to matters associated with primary production.
I come now to a subject which is deserving of the closest attention ; I refer to this country’s need of a much greater population. Australia has a lengthy coast-line, but only a small population to defend it. Unfortunately, the statistics reveal a decline of the natural increase of the people. ‘Notwithstanding such encouragements as maternity allowances and child endowment, our natural increase is not likely to be sufficient to meet the country’s need for a much greater population. However, there appears to be an excellent chance of obtaining immigrants who will quickly become good Australians. In this connexion I shall read from a speech delivered by Miss Ravenscroft, who was recently in Europe -
The children of the Jewish refugees who had fled to France were rounded up one morning - all of them, down to the age of two years - routed out of bed at five, and their identity cards destroyed by the French and German police. Sleepy and bewildered and weeping, they were crowded into big trucks and driven away. We know what became of the older girls* - official notices were thoughtfully sent to their parents, informing them that their daughters were now enrolled in military brothels. But what of the younger children and the boys! There has been no news of them.
The statement recites similar stories concerning the children of other occupied countries. On information supplied by the International Red Cross, it is estimated that approximately 11,000,000 children, between the ages of two and twelve years, are now homeless and orphaned in Europe. These children can owe no allegiance to the country in which this dreadful fate has befallen them. They have lost their homes, and seen their country devastated; their future has been ruined. It is the duty of the Government of Australia, in common with other humanitarian governments to do all it can to help these children, who, in view of their tender years, cannot be blamed in the slightest degree for the war. It is our duty to rescue as many of these children as we can from the devastated countries of Europe. But in this work, the Government is also presented with an opportunity to benefit Australia. We should bring as many of these children as we can to this country.
– The Minister for the Interior has already arranged for hundreds of them to be brought to Australia.
– In this matter it is a little absurd to speak in hundreds. The Government could bring at least 250,000 of these children to Australia each year. They are crying out for homes. If the Government be sincere in its endeavour to help them, I can see no reason why it could not do as I suggest. Child migration of this kind has several advantages over adult migration. In the latter case, migrant families, whether they be Germans, Finns, Russians, Rumanians, or natives of any other country, invariably retain the hates, traditions, loves, and prejudices which have grown up with them in their native land. However, children between the ages of two and twelve years will quickly assimilate Australian traditions and our democratic way of life. In their case, none of the problems associated with adult migration will arise. They will not create, or aggravate, labour problems in this country. At the same time, we shall thus be better enabled to increase our population. The Government should now make provision for the migration of these children. In this work, it could very well utilize the National Fitness movement which could be adapted to care for these children until they are either adopted by Australians, or reach the age when they can fend for themselves. Ample accommodation for them is now available in existing military and internment camps; and we have more than sufficient food for them. Personally, I think that it is much preferable to bring as many as possible of these children to this country and accept direct responsibility for their welfare, than merely export supplies of food to them in the devastated lands in which they now live under the appalling conditions I have described. I have no doubt that numbers of Australians would be prepared to adopt many of these children, and do their best to make them true Australians. Those children who are not provided for in this way, can be entrusted to the “care of the National Fitness movement, which will have no difficulty in moulding them into good Australians. Other bodies, such as public health, educational and religious organizations, would readily co-operate with the Government in this work. Under such a plan, we could, within a few years, add substantially to our population and accomplish much in the real interests of Australia.
I direct special attention to the National Fitness movement. This movement was sponsored by the Government of the day about six years ago, but that Government’s interest in it was merely benevolent. In 1941, Parliament passed a National Fitness Bill, one of the principal objects of which was to set up an organization to care for the health of the young people of Australia. Judging bv the debate which took place on that measure, the Government of the day appeared to be most anxious that the organization be not only established as quickly as possible but also given the greatest encouragement. Unfortunately, during the last three or four years the National Fitness movement has not received from the Government anything like the support that it deserves. In this budget it is proposed to provide a sum of only £72,500 for this purpose. It is sad to reflect that while we are expending £500,000,000 on the destruction of human life involved in war, we can afford only so small an amount for the purpose of improving the health and increasing the happiness of the community. I urge the Government to review the proposed provision in respect of national fitness with a view to giving a greater measure of encouragement to the movement which consists in the main of voluntary workers who are doing all they oan in the interests of our youth. Unfortunately, evidence is not wanting that much room exists for improving the mind and physique of our youth. It must be obvious that when so many cases of thieving and vandalism are reported in the press the fullest opportunity is not being provided for the proper care and training of our adolescents. The Government should realize the value of the great work which members of the National Fitness movement are doing. Last Christmas, the movement in Newcastle provided an organized holiday las-ting six weeks for nearly 50,000 children. Had those children been left to themselves, most of them would probably have spent their Christmas vacation playing around’ the streets; but they were provided with healthy exercise under the best conditions. The success of that particular effort has proved of great benefit to community life in Newcastle and the surrounding district. However, the movement cannot be expected to expand its good work unless it receives sufficient financial support from the Government.
– The States have « responsibility with respect to national fitness.
– I admit that; but assistance for this purpose amounting to only £72,500 in one year, would not do credit to a State government, let alone the National Parliament. I shall read two resolutions carried at the National Fitness Conference held in Canberra in 1940 -
The Council expresses its strongly held opinion that there is an imperative and immediate need to use the vitality of this national fitness movement as one means for securing a high ideal of national service. Central stimulus is necessary. Commonwealth direction and encouragement is desired and expected, and Commonwealth assistance must be given if the enthusiasm now available is not to reach its maximum and then fade away to nothing.
That is the point I wish to emphasize. If the Commonwealth wishes this movement to progress, it must render substantial assistance to it. The second resolution passed by that conference was -
Some satisfactory organization by which the Commonwealth gives evidence of its intention to foster this active enthusiasm is necessary if this movement is to be recognized as an “integral par.t of whatever form of organized national service is adopted. That it is a vigorous movement, and that it can be capitalized as a vehicle for carrying national efficiency and national unity to a high plane, should be recognized.
I again urge the Government to realize the importance of national fitness, and to increase the appropriation now proposed for this purpose.
I have raised these few points, because I have great faith in the Australian people and the Australian way of life. I am very anxious to see inculcated in our children the democratic ideal which, I believe, all Australians wish to preserve in this country.
Honorable senators opposite have raised another matter which has been discussed in this chamber on previous occasions. In the past, the supply of labour in industry has been switched on and off to meet the requirements of private enterprise, in much the same way as one switches on electric energy. To-day, honorable senators opposite complain that Labour has not responded to its responsibilities. Charges have been made against the coal-miners. Honorable senators opposite should trace the history of that unhappy industry, and realize the squalor, misery, and poverty under which the miners have been obliged to live down through the years. I am not now excusing the miners; but so long as the nation places greater emphasis on property values than on human values, we cannot really expect from Labour the response about which honorable senators opposite have had so much to say.
– We have again before us a record budget, both as regards the volume of the activities with which it deals and the expenditure proposed to be incurred. I am pleased that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has given consideration to the reduction of a few items of taxation, particularly the sales tax on building materials used in housing construction. This will allow builders and private people building their own homes to do the work at a reduced cost. A certain number of men serving with the fighting forces should also be released to enable the timber mills to cut and season large stocks of timber in their yards, so that timber in the houses will not warp. I have noticed in some States that the plaster in wooden houses cracks, because the timber used in the building was too green. Six months ago I suggested that when men were released from the forces a proportion should be allowed to go into the timber industry, because hundreds of thousands of houses are to be built and I do not want them to be jerry-built as in the past. If the timber is green, the man who builds the home is not satisfied, nor is the man who buys it, because it will be an expense to him all his life.
Senator Arnold spoke of the unsatisfactory housing conditions of the coalminers, and of the heavy taxation which they have to pay. A great deal has been said in both Houses in criticism of the coal-miners for striking, but a great deal of the trouble is caused by their coming into the higher taxation field. I should like to see an ordinary tax on wages, and a special tax on overtime. I know some people who earn £3 or £4 a week in overtime, and I have heard of as much as £2 5s. a week being taken out of a £3 cheque for overtime, owing to the high rate of tax. People resent that, but they would not feel it so severely if a special tax were imposed on overtime.
I hope that when the next budget is brought down those on the basic wage will be wholly exempted from income taxation. It takes a man with a wife and two children all his time to keep out of debt, even though he is earning bigger money to-day, because the prices of goods and materials are much higher.
I was glad to hear Senator Armstrong speak of the necessity for immigration, and I endorse what he said concerning the poor publicity that Australia receives in America and other countries. Last session I spoke of the booklet Know Australia, which was produced by the Department of Information under the present Minister (Mr. Calwell). I know of no other booklet produced in Australia which gives so much information about this country. It should be greatly enlarged and circulated in various countries, particularly in America, so that people overseas may learn what
Australia is doing. The following extract from the Sydney Sun of the 22nd September last came to my notice: - “ American travel bureaux are being besieged with inquiries about Australia, especially by families of U.S. Army personnel “, said Mr. Roland Hill, Sydney representative of American Travel Trade, to-day. “ A letter from my head office in the U.S. advocates more publicity about Australia, so that the vast potential tourist trade may be built up “, he added. “ This is a job for the Department of Information, as the more tourists who come to Australia the more publicity the country receives, and more money is spent here “.
That completely bears out Senator Armstrong’s remarks. I see films from America and other countries showing our people what is done overseas, but the American people do not see films showing what Australians are doing, particularly what our men have done in the fighting in the islands to the north. The pictures we see show what our Allies are doing, but they do not show anything of what is done by our soldiers who fight alongside them. We should send pictures overseas to show the world what our men are doing.
Recently Senator Allan MacDonald stated that the Australian Labour party had expended £20,000 in an election campaign. I am an official of the Trades Hall of Western Australia, and have been a campaign director. I assure the honorable senator that one-quarter of that amount would be a godsend to our party at election time. I can definitely contradict his statement, because it is not true.
I was pleased to hear the remarks of Senator J. B. Hayes regarding the numerous defects’ in land settlement schemes after the war of 1914-18. I remember that in Western Australia returned men were put on land that would not grow grass. I instance the Peel Estate, a large part of which consisted of sand plains. Homes were built there, and a large sum of money was expended in settling men, who eventually were all starved out. We do not want that to occur again. The Government, I am sure, is too far-sighted to allow it to happen this time. I want to see all those who return from this war treated properly. When I was in charge of a big manufacturing business in Western
Australia after the last war I had sixteen trainees under me. They were paid a certain amount by the employer and the balance was made up by the Government. They were smart - young fellows who learned quickly, and four of them are now holding important positions’ in various factories in Western Australia. When the fighting men and the women engaged in munitions and other factories return to civil life they must be assisted to obtain useful employment. If that cannot be done they should be kept on the pay-roll and not allowed to suffer as discharged servicemen did after the war of 1914-18. Many who are now serving have never had a chance to learn a trade, and others have not had a civilian job, while others do not intend to go back to their old jobs. Several of them have said to me, “ I am not going back to my old job, I have been fighting for my country overseas and I feel that I am entitled to something better ‘than I had before “. They want the opportunity to learn a trade and lead a normal life. Many who have been disabled will not be able to do the work which they did before enlisting. Thousands will have to be trained at technical schools in order to give them the chance in life that- they deserve. In the technical schools of Western Australia many of these men are being taught to enable them- to compete with their fellows after the war. They must all be given regular employment, which means happiness in the home. I was once in a rather tight corner myself, but at that time I was fortunate in having enough to eat and drink. I know families who did not know which way to turn after the last war, and I also know what many people in Western Australia went through in the depression years. We should not be worth our salt if we did not look after our own people when this war ends.
I notice that honorable senators usually talk about the’ men of the fighting forces. What of the women, not only those who went overseas, but also those who have taken work in Australia, even driving trucks and heavy wagons, in order to allow the men to volunteer for active service? ‘They surely ought to be considered. I do not hear many honorable senators speak about the women in uniform.
– Because they believe that women should not engage in such work. I agree with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) that the women are doing an excellent job, and deserve all that we can do for them.
There will soon be plenty of work in the building trade and other callings, but carpenters, builders, and bricklayers must be provided. When work in the building trade was plentiful, there were always ample men available, but after the war we shall have to find men to engage in the building trade. If the training in the technical schools continues, many young men will be able to go out as junior tradesmen and help to build homes. That is one of the first things to be done.
For several years, I have been asking the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) and his predecessor to provide a post office at Inglewood, in Western Australia. Senator Collett told me that the ground had been bought and that the plans were ready for the building, but I know that the work cannot be done in war-time. If, however, money is available to enable the postal authorities to build post office extensions in big cities’ like Sydney and Melbourne, surely something can be done for the people -of Inglewood. This work should be given a high priority. I do not complain about any work that is done in Adelaide, because I know that the South Australian people have had as little consideration as have the Western Australian people. Still, the people of Western Australia are big Australians, because a majority of them voted “ Yes “ on the referendum proposals.
In a climate such as that of Western Australia, and particularly in the district of Kalgoorlie, it is not fair to build walls only 9 ft. 6 in. or even 10 ft. 6 in. in height. Eleven feet is quite low enough. I hope that consideration will be given to my suggestion that no house should be built by the Government or private builders unless the walls are at least 11 feet high. The extra expense would be justified. Health and comfort should be the first consideration.
I intended to speak about wheat and wool, but I shall leave the subject of wool until another occasion. I should like to. refer to what has been said both in the House of Representatives and in this chamber about wheat. I spent half a day yesterday in obtaining material, and I think that I have some useful information for honorable senators. Whenever a Labour government is in power in the Commonwealth or in a State there is always a hue and cry by the Australian Country party and the United Australia party about what the Government should do for the man on the land. The Scullin Government tried to do something for him, but its proposals were rejected by the Senate through the influence of the Australian ‘Country party, whose members still pretend that they are the friends of the farmers. Wheatgrowers throughout Australia to-day are asking why the United Australia party and the Australian Country party members, who appear to be so concerned about them, did not do anything, during the many years in which they were in office, to stabilize the industry and give the farmers fair treatment. The answer is quite simple. The men who refused to do anything for the farmers in the past are now endeavouring to pose as their friends in order to obtain their votes at the next elections. In that regard, I believe that the farmers will be too clever, as they know that, if the Opposition parties again come into power they will again be dominated and controlled by those city interests which brought so many to ruin in the past. In Western Australia, the farmers are practically controlled by men in St. George’s Terrace. Honorable senators, no doubt, know that thoroughfare.’
– It is good wheat country !
– Farmers are not encouraged to grow wheat when they are controlled by financiers. The farmers do not forget that in December, 1938, when the Wheat Stabilization Advisory Committee was being formed, a motion was submitted to include a person nominated by the council of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, and the Australian Country party members voted against it; In spite of that, the members of the Australian Country party . are now “ blowing their windbags “ in an endeavour to convince the farmers that they have worked well for them, and that they intend to do still more for them. I notice that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) smiles, but he knows that what I am saying is true. I hope that for the sake of the .primary producers the Australian Labour party remains in power for a long time. The Government’s wheat scheme has stabilized the wheat industry. The growers control their own affairs, and all the real growers’ associations throughout the Commonwealth have expressed their satisfaction with the scheme and their gratification to the Government. At no time has the Australian Country party ever considered the interests of the small farmer. It has been concerned entirely with the interests of wealthy farmers. The one thing that wheat-farmers desired most was economic stability, and, to-day, they have it, owing to the action of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), and to this Labour Government. If by any chance a United Australia party-Australian Country party government were to assume office in the near future - the possibility, I admit, is remote - it would destroy, immediately, all the good work that this Government has done. Honorable senators opposite are loud in their condemnation of the Scully wheat plan, but I ask them to name one genuine wheat organization of wheat-growers which has denounced that plan. There is not one. The plan has always been favored by wheat-growers.
I turn now to the happenings of many years ago. In February, 1930, the Scullin Government called a conference of wheat-growers at Canberra. The conference was attended by State Ministers and by representatives of all political parties. As the late Mr. P. G. Stewart, former Australian Country party member for Wimmera said, “ It was the most representative gathering of wheatgrowers ever assembled in Australia “. The conference adopted proposals which were included in the “Wheat Marketing Bill 1930, the object of which was to regulate the export of, and interstate trade in, wheat and flour through a board to be known as the Australian Wheat Board, and controlled by wheat producers. The bill provided, also, for a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel, plus Sd. a bushel for rail freight and other expenses. The Commonwealth Bank agreed to provide the money subject to n guarantee by the Commonwealth Government. The bill was .passed by the House of Representatives, but was defeated in the Senate by three votes; ex-Senators E. B. Johnston and Carroll, both members of the Australian Country party, voting against the measure. Having failed to secure the passage of that measure, the then Prime Minister decided, in February, 1931, to raise a loan of ?6,000,000 to provide assistance to the wheat industry in the form of an export bounty of 6d. a bushel, and to provide loans to the State governments to help farmers in necessitous circumstances. On the 7th February, 1931, the Loan Council -and the representatives of the States agreed to the proposals. However, at its next meeting, on the 26th February, the Loan Council expressed the view that an approach to the loan market at that time was inadvisable. Having failed in that direction also, the Scullin Government adopted other measures. In March, 1931, it introduced a fiduciary currency measure under which it proposed to raise ?6,000,000, of which ?3,500,000 was to be for a wheat bounty, payable at the rate of 6d. a bushel on three-quarters of the total quantity of wheat of the 1930-31 season, sold, or delivered for sale, and ?2,500,000 was to be allocated as a loan to the States to assist necessitous wheat-growers. That measure, too, was rejected in the Senate, and on that occasion also members of the Australian Country party were not true to their professed sympathies. I can think of a description which I should like to apply to these individuals, but I shall refrain from using it.
– Three honorable senators opposite were members of the Senate on that occasion.
– That is so. About a week ago in the House of Representatives, the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen) who himself is a wheatgrower, expressed astonishment that he should have been taken to task by a Sydney newspaper for having suggested that wheat should not be sold at less than the cost of production. According to a press report the honorable member .said, at the conclusion of his remarks, “ Before the war the price paid to wheatgrowers was less than the cost of production “. Yet honorable senators opposite are endeavouring all the time to push the Labour Government to assist the wheatgrowers ! I assure them that the Government does not require pushing. It knows quite well the position of the wheat-farmers. When I travelled with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) recently to assist him to make inquiries into various aspects of the wheat industry, I was severely criticized by many individuals. Apparently they did not realize that I was once interested in wheat-farming myself. More by luck than good judgment I had left the industry in 1914. The following is an interesting newspaper report dealing with the Scully wheat stabilization plan -
A preliminary survey of methods of continuing the Wheat Stabilization Plan into the post-war years is being made by the Wheat Stabilization Committee at the request of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully).
Mr. Scully said today he had asked the committee to report to him on methods of liberalizing the plan and of rectifying any anomalies disclosed to administration during the war years.
The survey had been undertaken in response to the wishes of growers’ organization, which apparently had no desire to return to the chaotic marketing conditions. He would make an early announcement of the results.
That indicates that at the growers’ meetings which have been held in the various States, there has not been any major criticism of the Scully wheat plan.
In an interesting booklet written by the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) the following passage appears : -
In 1943, after four years of war, assets and liabilities are as follows: Nine Australian trading banks: total assets, 1943, £536,857,000; total liabilities, 1943, £470,436,000; total increase of assets over liabilities 1943, £66,421,000, showing a total net gain to the banks of assets over liabilities of £12,526,000 during the four years of war. Thus the nine Australian banks are £12,526,000 richer than they were at the end of 1938.
Obviously there is something wrong. That money rightly belongs to the people of Australia. There must be a change in our financial system and I hope that it will come soon.
The State of Western Australia is fortunate to have as one of its representatives in this Parliament, and the Commonwealth is fortunate to have as its leader, Mr. John Curtin. If honorable senators opposite knew the Prime Minister as well as I know him, they would hesitate to criticize his administration. The people of this country should go down on their knees and pray, and wish him a long life. I have no hesitation in saying “ John Curtin saved Australia “.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator McLeay’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President: - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
– in reply - Honorable senators were told, in response to questions asked earlier in the sitting, that the Government had expended £50,504 on the referendum campaign, and that the amount had been distributed among the various States. The sum of £20,987 was expended in New South Wales, £13,278 in Victoria. £4,349 in South Australia, £1,538 in Tasmania, about £3,355 in Western Australia, and £6,997 in Queensland. That was done in order to ensure that the electors might be educated as to the nature of the proposals submitted to them. They were told that the referendum was necessary as the result of the considered action of this Parliament. The fact that a political issue was made out of the matter was not the responsibility of the Government. I have taken part in many similar appeals to the people, and I have done my share of putting the case before the electors in my own way, but I have never experienced a campaign in which the fight descended to such a low level as that to which it was dragged by opponents of the Government. When the rationing of commodities and the fixation of prices became necessary, in the early stages of the war, no complaint was heard from members of Parliament in either branch of the legislature; but during the referendum campaign filthy pamphlets were distributed and misleading statements were made by filthy newspapers and some filthy parliamentarians. Foul propaganda was poured out against the Government for the purpose of distracting public attention from the merits of the proposals submitted to the electors. Posters such as those distributed throughout the States were most discreditable to those responsible for them. Some of the posters showed people standing outside hotels calling for beer, and the legend beneath the picture was “Do you want this for five years ? “ Other posters showed women looking in shop windows for corsets and other articles of clothing, and girls being ejected from the factories in which they had found employment. In each instance the inscription appeared, “ Do you want this for five years ? “
Everybody knows that, if rationing had not been introduced, the distribution of commodities among the people would have been grossly unfair. The Government has done a reasonably good job in its rationing policy. Owing to the shortages of commodities usually procured from overseas, the production of local factories had to be increased. No member in either branch of the legislature objected to the essential measures adopted by the Government until its policy was made a vital issue during the referendum campaign. The bogy of bureaucracy was raised. It waa said by our opponents that the Government had a team of bureaucrats. It is true that for the purposes of price fixing, the war organization of industry, and the rationing of food, the employment of an army of people has been necessary ; but, had the Government not taken action in that regard, chaos would have resulted, and the hardship that has been encountered would have been greatly intensified. It is scandalous that our opponents should have made a major, issue of the control of prices and commodities which the Government has necessarily exercised under war conditions. I was surprised to hear Senator James McLachlan complain about man-power having been taken from the primary producers when a Japanese invasion of this country was imminent. Not only has it been necessary to enlist the services of men and women in the factories of Australia, and to call up men for the fighting services, but every class of the community is required to assist in the war effort. The Government had no option in the matter, because it was faced with a colossal task. Last November, it took 20,000 men and women out of the fighting services for work in essential industries. As a result of a recent decision, another 45,000 persons are to be taken out by June next, making a total of 65,000. The number of munitions workers has been reduced by nearly 15,000, and the latest analysis shows that 45,000 more are needed to carry on the essential -work of this country. Yet honorable senators opposite glibly say that dairymen and wheat-farmers are being deprived of the men they require. Senator Collett and Senator Sampson, as experienced ex-military men, know that the Government cannot say that it requires the release from the fighting services of Smith, Jones, and Robinson, while others are compelled to remain. Although our opponents realize how difficult the position of the Government is in this matter, when the referendum campaign was in progress they did not wish to remember anything about it.
The greatest disaster that Australia has sustained is the defeat of the referendum proposals. During the campaign I visited Western Australia, which has been referred to frequently as the Cinderella State. There I met manufacturers and retailers who were alleged to be experiencing great shortages of commodities. It was said that people in Melbourne and Sydney had all that they required, but that people in Western Australia were left short of supplies. When I inquired as to which commodities the people of that State lacked, I found that in 99£ per cent, the shortages were in respect of goods which were in short supply throughout Australia. One complaint was that a sufficient quantity of towels was not obtainable. One would have imagined that that was a national issue. Luckily, it so happened that on the day on which I arrived in Perth, a thousand dozen towels were received there. I investigated the subject of prices fixation in that State. I must say in fairness that the position was being most satisfactorily handled there. I found an excellent trading community, who were giving to the people a reasonably good deal. I repeat that it is a standing disgrace to some members of this Parliament that, when the present control measures were given effect, no objection was .taken to them, but nothing bad enough could be said about them during the referendum campaign. As Senator O’Flaherty has reminded us, the predecessors of the Labour Government promulgated 1701 regulations under the National Security Act, of which seventeen were challenged and only six disallowed. When the government supported by honorable senators opposite was hamstringing everybody, no complaint was made by them.
– A minority government, too.
– Yes. The people have supported the Government in loans of unprecedented amounts, and have cheerfully accepted the heaviest burdens of income taxation levied in any country.
I have previously said in this chamber that I do not claim credit for the Government for the whole of the success of the present war effort. I have always admitted that the Opposition, when in office, laid the foundation for an enormous production of munitions. The Labour Government happened to come into power at a time when the outlook for Australia was blackest. It has endeavoured to cater for the interests of every section of the community, including the much-discussed wheat-farmer, and other people on the land. Dairy-farmers in Australia receive a subsidy of £8,000,000 a year, producers of milk are paid a higher rate than ever before, and the wheat-farmers are amply protected. Secondary industries are being subsidized, not to assist the trade unions and the Labour party, but the people generally. What is the position? Let us assume that the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) is my tailor and has been charging me £8 10s. for a suit of clothes. The price of suits of clothing having been fixed, he is not allowed to increase his price, despite the fact that he has to import his material. He says to me, “I shall lose money if I supply a suit at the same price as formerly, because I am paying an increased price for the imported’ material “. In order to overcome this difficulty, he prepares an account of his losses every six months. This is checked by the Prices Branch, which sees that the tailor does not lose by selling at the ceiling price, and that keeps down the price of my suit. But the basic wage also has been pegged. That has had a marked effect on governmental expenditure. In the effort to check the trend towards inflation, a stabilization plan has been adopted to serve every section.
Honorable senators opposite object to the Government’s desire to introduce a “new order”. The Government has begun to give effect to its social service scheme, for which £30,000,000 has been provided. Much of that policy has already been implemented, and more of it will probably be put into effect in the near future. Does any honorable senator opposite say that an increase of widows’ pensions was wrong, or that the invalid and old-age pension should not have been increased ? What objection could be raised to the proposed hospital benefits? Do they suggest that the Government should not help the governments of the States to build more hospitals in order that the community may be healthy and virile, and that Australia may become the great country that we all desire it to be? Can honorable senators opposite draw attention to one item on the programme of the Government that was not fairly presented to the people, and which has not met with their support?
The Government is determined to carry on a vigorous war effort, but its difficulties with regard to man-power are tremendous. It is committed in the budget to reverse lend-lease operations with the United States of America costing £110,000,000. Up to the present, Australia has produced commodities for the forces of the United States of America to the value of £169,000,000, and we have had from that country, virtually for nothing, lend-lease goods to the value of $731,000,000. But that is only half of the story. Senator James McLachlan foolishly commented on the circumstances in which the United States of America came into the war. I shall not reply to his remarks, because it would bc wrong for me to discuss that matter, in view of the fact that so much has been done for us by our American allies. People have asked me to give a comparison between the assistance which the United States of America has given to us and that which we are giving to that country by way of reverse lend-lease aid. We are practically breaking even, but for every dollar that the United States of America has expended on us, it has expended $100 in bringing its own men in its own ships to the South-West Pacific area. Australia, of course, did ask for assistance from the United States of America. I have as much courage as anybody in this House, but I was frightened when, at the outbreak of the war, it seemed that the Japanese would invade Australia. This country was not ready to resist the enemy when the Americans came here, and I take off my hat to them. British forces are soon to come to our assistance. We hope to have them here soon, but that will create another problem for the Government. A British army and a British fleet will be based in Australia, and that -will impose a colossal task on this country in providing the necessary food for additional personnel. We are already feeding the troops of Allied powers in our own territory, apart from the necessity to supply food for our own servicemen, which renders necessary the rationing of the civil population. We are doing our utmost in order that our obligations to Great Britain may be discharged. If we do not supply the Mother Country with the food that it needs, the morale of the people may break. They have experienced five years of perpetual darkness and reduced diet, and we must give them food. Although our population is only 7,000,000, we should be big enough in this crisis to do all that we can, and not indulge in the criticism which has been heard in thischamber. The members of this Parliament are only a small section of the 7,000,000 people in this country which has made the greatest war effort of any country in the world. Australia is the only country that I have seen or known, but it will do me. In both the industrial and military fields Australia has a wonderful record; Australian men have fought in almost every theatre of war; there is much in the Australian people of which we have good reason to be proud. In saying that, I repeat what I have said on many occasions, that I take second place to no man in my loyalty to the Old Country. Australians have fought alongside the men of Britain in the defence of Britain. Many of the bombers which have defended the Old Country have been manned by Australians. In a time of crisis men should be big enough to forget party politics. The budget before us is evidence of the task that still remains to be done. We are all in it; we must do the job together. I am confident that honorable senators on both sides have the right outlook regarding their responsibilities. We have big things to do; national problems of great magnitude await our attention. Let us not, therefore, occupy our time by talking of the sale of a radio station under an agreement which may contain provisions that we do not like. Senator James McLachlan talked for about threequarters of an hour about the coal-miners not doing as much work as they should. Does he not think that there is something behind the trouble in the coal industry 1 I do not say that every coal-miner is an angel, but I do say that they have done a colossal job. They are back at work. Probably the honorable senator spoke as he did because he has not had any experience in industry, but has had a good job all his life. Like him, I have never had to wear dirty clothes at my job, nor have I ever gone hungry; but I am a keen observer. In a time of crisis a man should think twice before he criticizes a body of men like the coalminers of this country. As I have said, they are working, and we are getting coal, and, in the light of those facts, it ill becomes the honorable senator to speak as he has spoken. Such an attitude does not help the war effort, or increase the output of the coal mines which is necessary if other industries are to be kept going. I regard the budget before us as a credit to the Government and to Australia. It contains a record of some of the major achievements of the Government - achievements in which it has been assisted by the Opposition. When the Appropriation Bill is before us there will be further opportunities to deal with some of the extraordinary speeches of certain honorable senators opposite.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Silting suspended from 5.J/S to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– Honorable senators do not enjoy the privilege of honorable members of the House of Representatives in having what is known as Grievance Day, when they are given an opportunity to speak generally on all matters exercising their attention. However, our disadvantage in this respect is overcome to some degree by being able to discuss various topics on the first reading of bills, which the Senate may not amend. This evening, therefore, I shall put before the Senate several matters of general interest.
It would seem to be almost a waste of time to refer again to the mismanagement of the Parliament. During last session I spoke on this matter at some length, and was given cause for hope that some improvement would be effected. However, that has not been the case. The Senate was called together on the 30th August last. We sat for two hours, and then adjourned for a fortnight. Since then, this cham!ber has met on five occasions, but not until this moment has any business, which would really justify our presence here, been placed before us. It will be apparent to you, Mr. President, and to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) that that is not a satisfactory way of directing the affairs of the Parliament. It is costly to the country, and also to the honorable members and honorable senators; and it also impairs the dignity of this chamber, which, in its transactions, is not entirely dependent upon the House of Representatives. This chamber accepts no dictation as to its conduct. Not only were honorable senators brought here unnecessarily early, but we have now been told through an inspired press that this period of the session must close the day after tomorrow. If that be the intention of the Government it means that in three sitting days honorable senators will be called upon to review intelligently a proposed expenditure of £653,000,000 of public money, and also deal intelligently with at least six important bills at present on the notice paper of the other chamber - The Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1944, the War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Bill 1944, the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Bill 1944, the Income Tax Assessment Bill 1944’, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Bill 1944, and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration Bill 1944. Such a position verges upon the absurd; and unless steps are taken to remedy it, this chamber will fall in the estimation of the public. The desire to have a 100 per cent, attendance at a caucus meeting is not a sufficient excuse for summoning a meeting of the Senate. If no other remedy can be found, I suggest that representatives of each party in this chamber, together with the Leader of the Senate, wait upon the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to endeavour to arrive at a more businesslike method of summoning the Senate. Out of consideration for honorable senators from distant States, who are o’bliged to remain in Canberra during the long week-end adjournments, some improvement was promised in the amenities in this building. That promise has not been honoured. Honorable senators and honorable members from Western Australia are greatly inconvenienced in several ways. I understand that private members on the Government side are sometimes conveyed to Melbourne and Sydney by motor-car, whereas I and my colleagues from Western Australia after spending five nights in the train, and being tipped out on the Perth platform at 6 a.m., have been refused facilities for the collection and transport of our heavy baggage to our homes. That sort of treatment, to put it in the vernacular, makes “the troops” a little restless. The Prime Minister, in reply to representations made to him on this subject, stated that the disabilities suffered by honorable members and honorable senators from Western Australia are relative. I presume he meant that they are relative to our duties. That, of course, is specious reasoning, and it suggests to me that the Government requires only the will to make arrangements more in conformity with our needs.
– What did the Government which the honorable senator supported do about the matter?
– This position has always been unsatisfactory, but I am prompted to mention it again at this juncture because it is becoming worse. The recent referendum was an unfortunate experience which the country might well have been spared. I agree with the contention that after 40 years the Constitution calls for review in certain respects; but such a review should be most thorough, and should be conducted with the skill displayed by those who drafted the Constitution. The whole set-up of the recent referendum was untimely, illogical, badly conceived and badly bungled. Those who did not know the gentleman mainly responsible for it, namely, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), found it very difficult during the referendum campaign to follow his contradictions. I agree with the statement of the Leader of the Senate this afternoon that a deal of misrepresentation was indulged in during the campaign. I should like to add that the referendum was also marked by a display of ignorance on the part of advocates who went up and down the country reiterating like parrots a number of statements supplied to them in hand-books. I also agree with Senator McKenna that a great number of people did not know what the referendum was about. Their confusion was worse confounded by the spate of propaganda. One unfortunate feature of the propaganda, which was exhibited in Western Australia as in the other States, was the fact that the Communists tacked themselves on to the Australian Labour party. Furthermore, political opportunists, desirous of forming new political parties by taking advantage of the circumstances brought about by the referendum were also well to the fore. There was also a very vicious campaign of whispering which spared neither the truth nor personal reputations. It is a great pity that we cannot act decently in our public life. I shall not attempt to traverse all aspects of the referendum campaign. One question put to some people at a meeting was, “Do you want to see 90,000 public servants lose their appointments ? “ Even the Leader of the Senate has not denied the allegation that he threatened a body of public servants that if they did not vote “ Yes “ they would lose their jobs.
– I said that if I did not advise them, I made a mistake, implying that I did not advise them.
– The Leader of the Senate has not denied the allegation I made against him.
– I deny it now. Professor Copland was with me at the meeting, and I made no reference to the referendum.
Senator -COLLETT. - I believe that unless the present control of prices, including the price of land, and the rationing of certain commodities and materials are retained for some time after hostilities cease, we shall encounter great confusion and suffer very great hardships. I have no doubt, however, that these controls can be exercised under the Constitution in peace-time, by the Commonwealth in collaboration with the State governments, because I believe that the spirit of federation is still very much alive among the States. The expenditure incurred by the Government on “ Yes “ propaganda has already been discussed in this chamber, and also in the House of Representatives. All I wish to say at this juncture is that prior to the referendum the Leader of the Senate assured us the public moneys would not be used to defray the cost of the Government’s “Yes” propaganda. But that has been done.
– We did not say that we would not spend any money.
– Wha What was said is in Hansard. Another feature of the referendum campaign is the stress laid upon the fact that the majority of the members of the services voted “ Yes “. It is a very small majority when examined, and I am not surprised at it, because I noticed very early, through the service journals and reports received, that the Government was deliberately flooding the forward areas with “ Yes “ propaganda to the exclusion of any views of the contra case. The Government used a form of misrepresentation which may have repercussions at a later date. In fact the Government has been remiss in many ways in regard to the services. It does not understand them. It has affronted the land forces on a number of occasions by its actions, such as perpetuating the two-army system, with distinctions in the conditions of’ service, inviting one to volunteer for the other, later refusing them the opportunity to fight the enemy, allowing the commands to be “ monkeyed “ with, and excluding from the press such accounts of the doings of the armies as would keep the people in touch with their kin and enhance their pride in the deeds which have ensured our safe defence.
When wc look at the American methods, which I do not suggest should be altogether copied, we get a very different impression as to who are pulling or not pulling their weight in the present great conflict.
On top of all this there is the vexed subject of preference in employment after discharge. On this the Prime Minister is still hanging fire, and the bill which he promised is eighteen months overdue. I do not profess to understand honorable senators opposite who, from their places in this chamber, have declaimed against the treatment meted out to returned soldiers by this Parliament after the last war. I do not understand this belated protest. Some 25 years have elapsed since that war ended, and, apparently, it is only now discovered that 25 years ago Australia sadly neglected the men who fought in it. We had from the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) a statement which completely absolved Australia and this Parliament of any neglect. In fact, the Minister showed that this Parliament had given the returned men a wealth of repatriation equalled nowhere else in the world.
– Does the honorable senator say that the returned soldiers got the preference which they were promised ?
– The Government gave them preference in the Commonwealth Public Service, and the business people gave them a very good measure of preference.
– Not all.
– In most cases the conditions were very good indeed. I think that such utterances as have been voiced here to-day are a kind of dying note of the referendum, and very much importance need not be attached to them.
As regards a land settlement scheme, much of what Senator O’Flaherty said was, of course, correct, but the fate of the returned soldiers on the land was the common fate of almost everybody engaged in agriculture during the first decade after the last war. The report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry told us that the wheat industry was in debt to the extent of £150,000,000 as the result of unsuccessful farming or unsuccessful marketing. The references which have been made to war service homes were not at all justified. The Government never offered to. give the soldiers homes. It offered and did provide the means for the soldiers to obtain homes of their own under very fair conditions. Over 30,000 ex-soldiers availed themselves of the assistance of the War Service Homes Commission, and I think that at least 15,000 are to-day in full possession of their own homes as the result of the operation of that scheme. That, I think, is a, satisfactory answer. I suggest that it would be better if we tried to inculcate in all the members of the defence forces the feeling that, all of us are immensely grateful for what they have done, and intent on doing the best possible for them in making their future assured.
Mention of man-power brought up in this chamber the matter of government responsibility for the conduct of the war. A position existing nowhere else in the Empire prevails in Australia to-day. The Commander-in-Chief in the field also controls, or is alleged to control, everything else associated with the land forces right up to the doors of this Parliament, and we have been told that the Government should not interfere in the realms of higher strategy. Higher strategy belongs, primarily, to the sphere of civil government, which is guided by, inter alia, certain immutable strategical laws and, presumably, by a complete knowledge of the geographical features of this continent and its environment, a pre-arranged census of its material resources and man-power, and a consciousness of its commitments with friendly nations. Upon these factors it bases its strategical plans - aided by expert advice - and instructs the commander or commanders who are to give effect to them, at the same time advising him or them what means will be available for the purposes of those plans. Here we discern a sharp division of authority. At home we mobilize, as best we may, for three purposes, that is, first, to preserve the nation and its life; secondly, promote and collect our resources; and, thirdly, to supply the forces with men and materials in accordance with our means. I put those in the order of their importance.
Campaigns, whether offensive or defensive, are determined by the commander on the spot - subject always to veto by the Government which must be kept advised of the progress of .events. A veto may be exercised where and when the Government has other ideas in view and is desirous of conserving men and materials for an operation likely to make a major contribution to the success of a strategical conception. In brief, that is the general arrangement which should obtain with a nation in our circumstances. Let me invite the attention of the Senate to the position of Great Britain, which is maintaining fleets and armies over the world. It is not the senior Commander-in-‘Chief who directs these but the “War Cabinet of the Government operating through the Board of the Admiralty, the Army Council, and the Air Board, together with other authorities directing the multitudinous civil ancillary but vital services. They work as one co-ordinated whole and, through them, the commanders abroad, or engaged in the home defences, receive their instructions and supplies. Has this system ‘been successful? Has ours been equally successful on our home front? We had such a system in the early months of this war. We had it during the war of 1914-18. It waa a mistake to alter it. If what I envisage happens during the next twelve months, we would be wise to revert now.
Apart from these considerations, the problems of demobilization are going to be immense and vexatious. To cope successfully with them necessitates a strong administration fully acquainted with the semi-static conditions of this community. That is a government responsibility and should not be thrust wholly upon commanders. In the services there is a continuous process of attrition of strength by wastage. According to some figures which I saw in the press in the last 48 hours, that wastage is considerable. Any one who has been on service knows the degree to which it may attain. No doubt the Government is aware of this and recognizes that a residue from the wastage has some value for civil purposes and production. I do not know how it is disposed, nor the basis of the plan which permits of releases in the future for the assistance of rural industry. The tone of press comment suggests confusion in the minds of the interested public. Senator McKenna has told us that our part in the history of the current war has not been marked by any public scandals. I do not know whether that is denied. The honorable senator cannot be unaware of a rigid censorship existing in the land. When that is lifted, and people’s tongues are 1(med. and their inclinations given scope to operate, I shall be very much surprised if we escape without some public scandals. Senator Aylett raised my interest, and I am sure that of other honorable senators, by expressing concern in regard to the right of members of the fighting services to communicate requests or complaints to their parliamentary representatives. For the benefit of honorable senators and others, I point out that the governments and commanders have always discouraged that practice, and quite rightly so.
– But they do not prevent it.
– I am sorry to hear that. I consider that such practices should be discouraged. An appropriate means of obtaining redress for grievances is provided in military regulations, and I consider that the system works very well. Outside influences are harmful to the preservation of discipline and also to efficient administration - the terms are really synonymous. Interfering persons, especially those who hold positions of potential power, are particularly dangerous. To illustrate my point, I shall recount to honorable senators an incident which occurred during the last war. Towards the end of that conflict, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Hughes, visited France and had an opportunity to address Australian troops. In a burst of generosity he suggested that any soldier who had a grievance should write to him personally, and gave an assurance that no disciplinary action would be taken. The response was instantaneous. The right honorable gentleman received thousands of letters. The letters were sent back to the various commanding officers by Mr. Hughes with the request that no disciplinary action be taken against the senders. Some of them, in fact, were passed on to me. When the commanding officers received the letters containing various complaints made by the soldiers they were investigated and if necessary appropriate action was taken by the officers to whom the complaints should have been made in the first place. The Army regulations on this subject are brief, and, in my opinion, quite plain. Regulation 293 of Regulation and Orders for the Australian Military Forces and Senior Cadets states, in paragraph 1 -
Officers and soldiers are forbidden to use any method of obtaining redress of Teal or supposed grievances other than those prescribed by the A.M.B.. or authorized by these orders. Anonymous complaints and complaints to the press are forbidden.
– Does every soldier receive a copy of those regulations and orders ?
– He is supposed to be acquainted of them by his officer. That regulation is quite simple. It means that if a soldier has a complaint he may take it in succession to his company commander, his commanding officer, his brigade commander, his formation commander, and so on to the Military Board.
– To what part of a soldier’s training do those regulations apply?
– To the period of his recruit training. The honorable senator must have been told that when he was a soldier.
– I certainly was not.
– If the Com- manderinChief were to issue a general routine order, it would be based on that regulation. Any commander has the right to act similarly.
– I have never known a soldier who was able to get to his commanding officer if that commanding officer happened to be a general. I should like to know how many soldiers have succeeded in reaching General Sir Thomas Blarney.
– I am not personally acquainted with the new army. I leave that problem with the honorable senator. On occasions I myself have received complaints, but some experience of army ways enables one to deal with such matters fairly, in the best interests of the soldier who is complaining and of the service generally. Matters which affect the use and the welfare of the forces as a whole may be viewed apart. These are in our proper sphere. Here, members of Parliament with discretion can do a great deal to improve conditions. Some pre-knowledge of essentials is valuable in forming any judgment. At one time, I imagined that I knew something of the Army and on occasions could be helpful; but I regret to say that since this Government has been in office I have not had a single invitation to visit any service, camps or works.
In the form of a postscript to the subject it may not be out of place to suggest that the fighting forces would attach some value to, and would greatly appreciate, the production of some proof that the Prime Minister of this country has a personal interest in their welfare and in their great achievements.
I come now to the matter of secondary industries. Most of us are keen on implanting and developing such industries in this country. The pressure and the necessities of war have accelerated this process greatly and I believe that, with wise guidance, we may look to a prosperous future. I shared recently in a close investigation of the possibilities of Western Australia, and I believe that we have cause to be encouraged. In such matters however, we must be logical and face the factors of competition and opportunity. For the moment, I am concerned with the construction in Western Australia of wooden ships of a nominal 350 tons burden, which can be used most successfully between points on the long coastline of Western Australia. I have visited the shipbuilding yards and I understand that several of these ships have been completed and that others are on the slips at Fremantle. On the last occasion on which I inquired of the Government, I was informed that the estimated cost of each ship was £20,000. However, quite recently, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) told the people of Western Australia that each ship was costing £30,000 or more than £85 a ton. Bearing in’ mind the transport means of the future, and the prospects of the industry, the absurdity of the position’ is revealed by comparison of these costs with those prevailing elsewhere in the -world. A recent examination of British shipbuilding costs showed that British utility ships of 10,500 tons and of a speed of 10 or 11 knots, built to meet war emergency, cost only £21 a ton dead weight. Even faster 10,000-ton cargo liners, with a speed of 15 knots, cost only £35 a ton, compared with £45 a ton for the cheapest American 10,500 tons welded ships having a speed of 11 knots and £62 a ton for 15-knot victory ships. The higher-quality American, cargo liners cost up to £84 a ton, whereas Swedish cargo liners capable of doing 15 knots cost £58 a ton. It is obvious, therefore, that the position will require some adjustment after the war if this industry is to remain in existence in this country. We have an excellent team of craftsmen in Western Australia, brought together with some difficulty and I desire most earnestly that the industry shall be maintained after the war. It is plain that we must review our methods of construction if we desire to maintain a flow of work for these men.
Listening to the speeches of new senators, one’s ears naturally caught those of Senator Grant and Senator Nicholls. With all respect, I say that in this community nothing is to be gained by restating the case for socialism - even as interpreted by the Trades Hall - or advocating class legislation and promoting class consciousness. Such tactics can not have useful results. Every week we hear some one hammering at the Mosaic law, the Ten Commandments, and the Christian code. That has been going on for thousands of years; yet we must still have our sanitary squads, employ police to prevent crime, and maintain courts of justice to punish offenders. I believe in. reasoning and compromises. In most men there is an inherent spirit of fair play and I believe that our social system is improving gradually. On the other hand, I am not sure that we are proceeding on the right lines. We do not quite know what we are aiming at, and we know even less of the correct methods to obtain our ends.
Senator Grant dealt with a matter which, at the time, was also in my own mind. He mentioned that as the Japanese forces retired so did the enthusiasm for a “ new order “ seem to wane. I agree that that is the case. The simple explanation probably is that with the prospect of victory, hysteria has departed, and the nation’s perspective in respect of reality has been restored. Nevertheless, I believe that we require a “ new order “ in many things. Circumstances in this country favour its inauguration. To discover it we need the intellects and goodwill of a body of men and women of capacity and authority to study the problem collectively and at large, in an atmosphere apart from that marking a parliamentary committee or royal commission, as they usually function.
I have referred to the speeches by certain honorable senators. I now venture to invite attention to the practical nature and educational character of those delivered by Senator McKenna and Senator Armstrong. They bear marks of work and study. I do not attempt to detract from tie virtue of the speech delivered by any honorable senator, but those two impressed me.- I also commend, if I may, Senator Nash upon “his effort to represent the needs of Western Australia. He has referred to the merits and requirements of the port of Esperance. I agree with what he has said, and I support him. In advocating the development of Esperance, he has emphasized one of the great draw-backs of
Western Australia- that of overcentralization. That State comprises a million square miles, and that immense area has been provided by nature with a number of outlets and intakes for its trade, yet very little has been . done to develop them, except in the cases of Fremantle and Geraldton, where the local communities have profited as a natural result. Take for instance Albany and its great natural harbour. For twenty years or more, only a few hundreds of pounds of public money has been expended on it, yet it has behind it a rich area of vast extent, the people of which have to ship or receive their goods through Fremantle, which itself is frequently congested, partly owing to a railway system which is not providing, at present, the service which it should. The position generally is unsound in that regard, and true development cannot take place without some alteration.
I have suggested that Australia is favorably situated in respect of social progress. Like Senator Arnold, who expressed good sentiments in that respect, and made an appeal to our common sense, I am not fearful as to the future, provided we keep our heads, and the people can be set an example of courage and patience under adversity and given capable and honest leadership, showing that the state is not to be sacrified for the party. That is all that I propose to say at this stage, although there are many other matters which ought to be discussed. As I mentioned earlier in the evening, the manner in which the business of this Senate is conducted is not conducive to close and useful study on the part of honorable senators.
Senator COLLINGS (QueenslandMinister for the Interior [8.48]. - We have just listened to a speech which I think could fairly be described as indicating the attitude of mind of members of the Opposition in this chamber individually and collectively. The honorable senator who has just concluded his remarks began by saying that he did not like the arrangements made for the transaction of business in the Senate. He said that, within the next three sitting days, we should be expected to pass a number of important bills which called for a proper opportunity for consideration. The fact is that the Opposition in the House of Representatives has been guilty of the tactics which are adopted in this chamber whenever a worthwhile debate develops. Every device known to those who are clever at manipulating and taking advantage of the Standing Orders was resorted to in the other branch of the legislature, where numerous formal adjournment motions were tabled, merely for the express purpose of preventing the Government from making progress “with the business in hand, and we are now faced with the necessity for passing legislation through this chamber with “ unseembly haste “. There is no good reason why there should be unseemly haste, because we could sit all night.
– And every night.
– Yes, and some of the honorable senators supporting the Government will be found standing up to the strain when some honorable senators opposite will be incapable of doing so. Whenever there is a government in office that is prepared to do something for the common people, every device known to those who are clever at taking advantage of the Standing Orders is resorted to in order to prevent government business proceeding as it should. I recognize that the obstruction resorted to in the Senate takes a milder form than in the House of Representatives, but honorable senators cannot have it both ways.
I was interested in the remarks of Senator Collett, because he had something to say about a matter which comes under my control, that is the transport arrangements made for senators and members. The fact that the National Capital is a long way from Perth or Kalgoorlie was well known to Western Australian parliamentarians before they became candidates for their present positions. They were anxious to get here, but there is now a continual wail from honorable senators from Western Australia and other distant parts of the Commonwealth that more desirable transport arrangements are not made for them. It has been said that honorable senators from distant States have to spend a long week end in Canberra, but each of us is paid waiting time. That is more than many of the wage “ plugs “ are able to get. Honorable senators are paid, not only for all waiting time, but also during wet weather, and their tears about what they regard as hardships do not worry me at all.
– Do not Ministers get consideration for waiting time?
– They are paid for all of the time that they spend in Canberra, and so are private members. The job is so good that they do not want to lose it, or that is implied by their remarks preceding general elections. It is said that members on the Government side are provided with motor car transport to places not mentioned. Presumably the honorable senator who made the complaint meant Sydney or Melbourne.
– I said that.
– The honorable senator’s voice is so gentle and modified that it is difficult to follow him; but the statement is not true. Motor cars are not provided for members to take them either to Sydney or Melbourne.
– Never ?
– The honorable senator did not say that that happened on odd occasions. He deliberately stated that members on the Government side got motor car transport to Sydney or Melbourne.
– So they did.
– A Minister may have offered a ride in his car to a rank and file member, but to suggest that motor car transport is provided for members who support the Government is not only not in accordance with fact, but is also entirely unworthy of the honorable senator who made the statement.
– I can give the names to the Minister.
– I do not object. It will merely disclose that there are good-natured Ministers; but the Government does not provide motor car transport for members as stated. Senator Collett remarked that the transport position was getting worse than it has been up to the present. Of course it is. The transport systems of this country are being more strained to-day than ever before. The coal position is deteriorating, not because the coal-miners are not working, for they are, but. because the demand for coal is greater than ever before. The transport systems are more congested than they have ever been, whether they are provided by rail, aeroplane or road. Those conditions are becoming worse. If honorable senators dislike the difficulties of transport there are comfortable places in which to remain in this National Capital. There is no reason why they should depart immediately Parliament rises in order to go somewhere else where, according to their judgment, the amenities are better than in Canberra.
Another matter discussed was the conduct of the referendum campaign. T dislike post-mortems. They are gruesome examinations.
– But very necessary.
– Yes, and political post-mortems are not less gruesome than others.
The appeal to the people at the referendum had a certain result, and that is the end of it. We can draw lessons from the event, hut apparently, because everything was not done in accordance with the wishes of Senator Collett, the conduct of the referendum entitles it to wholesale condemnation. Not only was the referendum badly managed, but the Army arrangements, according to him, were all wrong. The dispositions of the Army are not what they should have been.
– I did not say that. I said that the organization was wrong.
– The honorable senator was dissatisfied with the way in which the war news is recorded in certain circumstances. Obviously, incidents which the honorable senator thinks should be starred are not those which somebody else thinks should be given special prominence. He said that there had been interference with the High Command. He did not like the disposition of the forces; he did not like the bungling connected with the referendum; he did not like the way the Army was conducted ; he did not like the way the war news was presented to the public. His whole discourse was most mournful and his manner so unhappy and depressing that when he said “In conclusion “ I confess that I was overjoyed. We were then told that some one had said that the farther the Japanese were driven back the less enthusiasm there was for a “ new order “. The honorable senator has never had any enthusiasm for any “ new order “ or for any innovation. He does not want a “ new order “. He and other honorable senators opposite are in this Parliament for the express purpose of preventing, if they can, the establishment of any “ new order “ by means of legislation passed in this Parliament.
– What is the “new order”?
– I have only one hour in which to speak, and I shall not occupy my time by entering into a controversy with the honorable senator. I answer his interjection briefly by saying that the “ new order “ which we on this side envisage is, in the main, the direct opposite of that for which honorable senators opposite stand. There is no truth in the statement that the Government’s enthusiasm for a “new order “ has waned.
– I did not say that. I did not refer to the Government.
– When he made his statement about the “ new order “, the honorable senator pointed across the chamber in the direction of the government benches: I could almost pick out the unfortunate individual to whom he referred as having said that as the Japanese were driven back, so the enthusiasm for a “ new order “ waned. I say to the honorable senator that the present Government is the only government in the world which, during the war, has done anything to bring the “new order “ a little nearer. The honorable senator complains that what the Government has done to improve social services is wrong. I content myself with saying that the Government, instead of driving the “ new order “ hack, has done its best to bring it nearer. As I have said, honorable senators opposite do not want a “ new order “ ; they want to see a continuance of the “ old order “ which has been exceedingly good to them. However, to those whom we on this side especially represent the “ old order “ is anathema, and, therefore, the Government intends to continue with the job of trying to bring the “ new order “ nearer. The Government is faced with one gigantic task which has three phases. The Government’s first and paramount duty is to fulfil Australia’s share of the war burden until the struggle has been brought to a victorious conclusion. Its second responsibility is to govern the country as it should be governed in a time of war; its third great task is to prepare for the peace. The Government is doing its best to fulfil its duty in those three directions. Senator Collett is not pleased with the way the war is being carried on. Reading from a red book he told us that a soldier has no need to invoke the assistance of members of Parliament because he already has eight or nine superior officers to whom he can make his complaints.
– The Minister approves of that, I suppose?
– Tes ; and I also approve of a soldier approaching a member of Parliament if he feels inclined to do so. I have yet to learn that when a man enlists to fight to preserve his rights, he loses his rights.
– If the Minister believes that, he should have the regulations altered.
– The present Government is not responsible for the regulations. When a previous government called for volunteers for the fighting services, it did not present recruits with a book similar to that from which the honorable senator has quoted tonight. It would have been foolish to do so. Therefore, I say that it was unkind of the honorable senator to produce that book here to-night as evidence that a soldier need not do certain things because he has other ways of achieving his purpose.
We were told that one of the troubles associated with the recent referendum was that Communists were associated with the Labour party.
– So they are.
– That may, or may not, be so. For the last half century, the Labour party has been accused of association with all sorts of people; but it has never been so ashamed of its record, or its associations, that it has had to alter its title at almost every election, as our opponents have done. When I was a young man, it was regarded by many as a crime to belong to the Labour party. We were told that Labour men believed in free love and all sorts of things; any man associated with the party was an outcast and regarded as practically a pariah of society. In order to discredit the speeches made by honorable senators on this side, some Opposition senators have indulged in sneers about socialism. Evidently, the thought of being a Socialist “was so horrifying to Opposition senators that the Oxford Dictionary and other volumes were searched to find a definition of socialism. Honorable senators opposite do not know what socialism is, and even when they read the dictionary meaning, they do not understand the explanation. I may add to their mental confusion by giving the definition of socialism that is contained in the Encyclopedia Britannica. The definition there is simple, and consists of only two words : “ Applied Christianity.” Honorable senators opposite may sneer at us on this side, because we stand for a Socialist order, and say that all wealth is the result of human labour applied to raw material, and because as Socialists we demand that the creation and distribution of wealth shall be carried on for the public good, instead of for private profit. In all earnestness, I say that socialism is an attempt on the part of intelligent human individuals to .put Christianity into operation. It is said in some quarters that Christianity has failed. In all seriousness, I say that Christianity cannot have failed, because it has never yet been tried. Each day our proceedings in this chamber are opened with the recital of the Lord’s Prayer, which contains the petition : “-Give us this day our daily bread”, but because of our wrong social order, and because so many people stand for wrong ideals, there are thousands upon thousands for whom there is no certainty of daily bread. During the debate, it has been said that there can be no guarantee of security without a police force. That is because man has never tried to treat his neighbour as himself, and because the Ten Commandments have never been acted on. The result is that, throughout their lives, insecurity confronts the working-class population of every country. Eoi- large numbers of people there is no proper provision which will ensure to-day’s bread or next week’s dinner. Therefore, I say to honorable senators opposite that they should not spend their time on earth resisting those who .would get nearer to the teaching of the Great Master, who said : “ Suffer little children to come unto me, . for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” In this great country, because of a wrong social order, little children are being destroyed, body and soul, in the slums of our cities ; yet, when we on this side become enthusiastic in trying to bring about a “ new order “ - not by any revolutionary process, but step by step - we are subjected to a barrage of opposition and have to listen to slighting remarks and sneers as to our motives. I know that honorable senators opposite are quite pleased that the referendum was defeated. Perhaps, I can deprive them of a little of their satisfaction. The British Empire is not going to crumble because the referendum was defeated. However, it is significant that no Government in Australia which has been unsuccessful in submitting proposals for constitutional reform to the people, has ever been defeated at the subsequent general elections. Honorable senators opposite can work that out for themselves. To that degree, the defeat of the recent referendum may be taken as an indication that the tenure of office of this Government is secure. There is nothing terrible about the defeat of the referendum ; because I think that I am right in saying that on only three occasions out of 21 have the people agreed to grant increased powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. On the other occasions they were afraid to change. They have heard so much of the philosophies espoused by honorable senators opposite, that, for the time being, at any rate, they do not want even a new constitution let alone a “ new order “. Supporters of the “ Yes “ case are alleged to have exaggerated the facts by saying, for example, that we said that we could not do what we wished to do for the ex-servicemen unless the referendum were carried. Advocates of the “No” case declared that for 30 years the Commonwealth had been giving the ex-servicemen a fair deal, and, therefore, the Commonwealth Parliament could go on doing that work without acquiring extra powers. It is true to say that Australia has given to the ex-servicemen a better deal than any other country in the Empire. But we have never been satisfied with that deal. We wanted additional powers in order to enable us to do more for the ex-servicemen; but when the Government brought down a measure to provide for preference of employment to all ex-servicemen the Opposition emasculated that measure. They objected to preference for members of the Merchant Navy and other personnel, to whom the Government wished to give a preference that was really worth while. Recently one honorable senator opposite said that not sufficient man-power wa3 being made available to the dairying and fruit-growing industries, whilst on the same afternoon Senator Sampson asked if it were not a fact that Australia was pulling out of the war in view of the efforts of the Government to release men from the services in order to help carry on the industries which his colleague said were languishing for lack of man-power. Honorable senators opposite cannot have it both ways. I come now to the frightful charge levelled against the Government that it expended money improperly on the referendum campaign. The taking of the referendum was not a party matter. Senator Sampson smiles. He cannot he excused, for any semblance of ignorance on this subject because he, and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), attended the Convention at Canberra which initiated the proceedings which lead to the submission of the Government’s proposals to the people. The leaders of the Government and Opposition parties in each of the State parliament: attended that Convention.
– There was no talk at all at that Convention about a referendum.
– Yes. A committee appointed by the Convention brought down a set of proposals exactly the same as those submitted at the referendum; and after a discussion in which I and the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Sampson took part, the representatives of each of the States pledged themselves to put through their respective parliaments legislation to transfer the fourteen proposed powers to the Commonwealth. However, only two of the States honoured that undertaking. The remainder either “monkeyed about” with the matter, or did not do anything about it. For that reason the Government had to submit the proposals to the people ; and the Government having done so the Opposition now says, “Ah, the Government asked for too many powers. If it had asked for only one or two, instead of fourteen, the referendum would have been carried “. The Opposition advances these arguments despite the fact that even among themselves they cannot agree upon which two, or three, of the fourteen proposed powers should be transferred to the Commonwealth. The fact remains that because the referendum was not carried, many things that could have been, and would have been, done for the general benefit of the people of this country, cannot now be done except under the greatest difficulties. For instance, if we now desire a national plan in respect of a particular problem, the matter must first be thrashed out at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and, by the time the Premiers have resolved all their difficulties, the Commonwealth will have very little opportunity to get on with the job.
Much has been said as to what the nation is going to do for ex-service personnel upon their demobilization. Honorable senators have asked whether the Government will guard against the follies associated with soldier settlement after the last war. A Labour government was not in office in this Parliament on that occasion. No one knows more intimately than I what happened to the thousands of ex-servicemen who were settled on the land after the last war. They were “ settled “ on it, because the class represented by the Opposition in this Parliament got in on the ground floor with their land jobbing, and, in many instances, sold estates for this purpose which were not suitable for land settlement.
– And in nearly every State, a Labour government bandied those projects.
– And it was because of such mistakes that this Government sought additional powers from the people in order to enable it to deal effectively with the problem of land settlement for ex-service personnel after this war. Therefore, I cannot understand how honorable senators opposite can take such unholy glee in the fact that the referendum was defeated, unless I am uncharitable enough to believe that it is because the defeat of the referendum renders much more difficult the introduction of a “ new order “. That, of course, will mean that the abolition of the “old order” will be considerably delayed, and thus greater opportunity will be given to the interests represented by the Opposition to distribute the loot. After the last war, the ex-servicemen were taken down at every stage of the game. They were settled on land to grow tobacco and wheat which was not suitable for that purpose. The result was that a royal commission which inquired into the wheal industry many years afterwards, came to the conclusion, that regardless of whatever bonuses, or bounties, were paid to the wheat-grower in order to relieve his situation, 40 per cent, of the growers would never get out of debt, even if they lived to be as old as Methuselah. The defeat of the referendum was one of the crudest blows that has ever been dealt to the people of this country, lt would not have been defeated but for the attitude adopted by the Opposition in this Parliament. That point was made perfectly clear by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane). Members of the Opposition knew perfectly well that all of the restrictions imposed by this Government during the war were inevitable. Nevertheless, each of those restrictions was exaggerated during the referendum campaign by supporters of the “ No “ case. Their propaganda reminds me of an incident which occurred shortly after this Government assumed office when representatives of the press interviewed me as Minister for the Interior. They said, “Have you heard of the terrible food shortage in the
Northern Territory?” When I replied that I had not, the press representatives said, “ Things are very bad up there “. When I asked how they knew that that was so, they replied that one newspaper had detailed a representative to go to the Northern Territory to investigate the position, and that that representative hal found that there was a great shortage of food. When I asked that particular press man what foods were found to be short, he replied, “ They could not get tinned green peas anywhere, and there was no bottled beer “. That is similar to the exaggerations indulged’ in during the referendum campaign by supporters of the “No” case. Senator Sampson, after dealing in an erudite manner with socialism, concluded his speech by «ay;ng, “ I do not want to be a socialist, I want to be a free man”. I was never more amused than when I heard that remark. It is the best bed- time story that I have heard. I should like to know just how much freedom Senator Sampson really enjoys. Under existing conditions, if it were not for the fact that we happen to be in pretty good jobs, we would not have much freedom. But the man in the street, who really makes our civilization possible, and who frequently did not know where he would obtain his dinner the next day, was never given reason to say, “ I am not a socialist, but I am a free man “. When an honorable senator on this side referred to the workers he’ was asked by interjection by an honorable senator opposite what he meant by the term “ workers “. He replied that he was using the term in its widest sense. What do we mean by the term “ workers “, and what do honorable senators opposite mean by it? When honorable senators opposite want any fighting done to whom do they look to do it? - in the main to the ranks of the working-class. When they want coal hewn, and when they want production on the food, front to whom do they look? - to the ranks of the working-class. There are only two classes in society; and it is just as well to stress this fact occasionally in order to prevent honorable senators from getting off the track. There are those who do the work, and those who “ do “ the workers. Senator Collett reminded me very much of Emerson’s words, “ Society is mainly divided into two classes, the one that goes ahead and does things, and the other that stands off and always asks why it was not done some other way?” That is exactly the attitude of Senator Collett to-night. The term “ worker as we on this side understand it, means every unit who is contributing either by hand or brain a useful effort to the community. As honorable senators opposite understand it, it means a unit of energy, useful only so long as they can make a profit out of it as they do out of their machines, except that it is human and the machines are not. Senator Collett said that he could not see the advantage to be derived from some of the things which we are doing with regard to social services. Under the existing social order created by the interests which honorable senators opposite represent, a machine in their factory is a far more important unit to them than are the individuals who operate it. I spent the best part of my working life in a factory. I have seen men tending these intricate machines, which are wonderful and almost human in their operations, covering them at night so that the dust from the floor and from overhead will not get into them, and immediately a creak was heard running with the oilcan to preserve them for the boss, although their own joints were creaking with arthritis. I have seen them stick to these machines even when attacked by influenza, and I know that they have died at their jobs, because machines are unfortunately more valuable under the “ old order “ than the human units who operate them. I have been through this mill, and it hurts. Those of us who had to go through it will never forget that the “ old order “ cannot go on for ever. Honorable senators opposite cannot expect the workers to let them “ get away “ with the system of exploitation which rules to-day. The “ old order “ will not last for ever, despite honorable senators opposite and the profitmaking class which they represent as against the wealth-creating class. Whether the Government does its duty to the full or only partially, the fact remains that its advent in control of both Houses of the legislature at this stage of Australia’s history is another landmark on the road to progress, which means that the “ new order” is coming and the “old order-“ is doomed.
A good deal has been said regarding finance, to which Senator Collett made passing reference to-night. I was astounded to hear another honorable senator opposite speak of the bank smash, which occurred in New South Wales, and I could only explain his ‘temerity in saying what he did by the fact that bc could not have known what happened. It is true that the Savings Bank of NewSouth Wales closed its doors. At that time the late Sir Robert Gibson was chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board. He was no friend of the Labour party, and he did not believe in our revolutionary financial methods. A day or two after the Savings Bank of New South Wales had closed its doors, he made a nation-wide broadcast. I was so interested a listener that I can repeat to the Senate his opening remarks word for word. This is what he said -
Ladies and gentlemen, there was no occasion for the Savings Bank of New South Wales to close its doors. The only reason was the fear of nervous depositors. I assure you, ladies and gentlemen, who are listening to me to-nigh1 that no such calamity can possibly happen to the Commonwealth Bank over which I have the honour to preside, because we are our own note-issuing authority and we can meet any demand which depositors like to make on us. But if you are nervous abou.t your security in the Commonwealth Bank, I ask you as a favour to myself and to the bank to take your money out, because wc do not want it if you are afraid. I can assure you, however, that there is no need to be nervous, because no demand can be made on the bank which we are unable to supply.
We recently lost a revered senator who never tired of talking about his theory of financial reform. I refer to the late ex-Senator Darcey. Honorable senators opposite have nothing to be afraid of in what the Labour Government understands by financial reform. We have raised money for war and for carrying on the government of Australia in three ways: first, taxation; secondly, loan flotation; and thirdly, the use of bank credit. We have used in proper proportions all three methods of financing the war and keeping our country stable. We have had no difficulty, and are satisfied to go on as we are doing. People need have no fear. The country is quite safe.
I wish to make a few remarks for the benefit of my Queensland colleague, Senator Foll, who is occasionally rather prone to assume a responsibility to which I do not think he is quite entitled. He is inclined to pose as an authority on banking procedure. He said recently that the Commonwealth Bank was a people’s bank, which had done certain things that had had a steadying effect on the private banks. When I heard that, I thought to myself that, if that were so, obviously the private banks needed steadying. That is all that we have said. We want a people’s bank that will have the effect of steadying the predatory operations of the private banking institutions. There again honorable senators come back to my definition of socialism. The sole motive of the private banks is profit, because they are owned by shareholders who expect dividends, but the Commonwealth Bank, properly owned and operated’ as it once was, and as we hope it will be again some day, has no incentive whatever to make profit, except to render service to the nation by making currency and its control the servant of the people instead of their master. When that is brought about, we shall have a financial policy far in advance of anything we have ever had. It was unwise of Senator Foll to say that the private banks had been steadied as the result of something which the Commonwealth Bank had done, because, if they were not steady previously then they were unsatisfactory. If they were, there should have been no occasion for any steadying.
Let me now conclude where I began. We have accepted the responsibility of governing this country. Next week we shall have been in office for three years. Prior to assuming office we were, of course, the Opposition. After we assumed office we had to carry on in the House of Representatives with the assistance of two or three independent members. In the Senate we carried on in a minority of two. In other words, we accomplished a political miracle. Politically we carried on and achieved what appeared to be impossible. Even during that period, as my colleague the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) reminds me, we passed legislation which was deliberately designed to bring the “ new order “ a little nearer. We have now a majority in both Houses of the Parliament, and anything that I say here to-night need not necessarily be interpreted as a threat. It is not intended to be so. It is merely a statement of hard cold fact, that honorable senators opposite have had their “ run “. There will not be any more of the “ comforting “ situation in this legislature to which they have been accustomed during the long years that have passed. From now on the Government proposes not to please them, nor to do things and apologize because they are not done in a way which they think right. We have a direct charter from the people, who demand that, after the war is concluded, there must not be any attempt to put the common man back into the bondage from which, during the war, he has been able temporarily to escape. During these years of war, there has been full employment for every physically able man in the community. It is a sad commentary on our so-called civilization that only when a war occurs and when, faced with a common danger, the people are prepared to submit to sacrifices to enable the war to be prosecuted, can every man and woman in the community be guaranteed a sufficiency of food, clothing and shelter. The job of this Government, as we understand it, is to see that the temporary benefits which the people have had because of the expenditure of money for war purposes shall be converted into lasting benefits. They have been for a while removed from poverty and insecurity. As we interpret the people’s verdict as given in August of last year, we have been told to take over the reins of government in order to ensure that not only in war, but also in peace, there shall be a full application of human labour to raw material for the creation of the wealth which is necessary to give all of us a life full of work, health, joy, pleasure and culture. In short we ask that the “ old order “ shall be obliterated as far as possible and that we as a Government shall be allowed to do all that we can to bring the “new order “ nearer.
– I take this opportunity to place on record my protest against the tactics adopted by the Government in issuing a wireless licence to a certain company in Adelaide, and also, according to reports that have appeared in the press, against a similar procedure followed in respect of a licence to a Newcastle station. When all the facts of these transactions have been revealed, they will prove beyond doubt to he political collusion and to have been carried out by a number of prominent Labour, party men in such a way as to reduce administration to a very low standard of morality. The prominent members of the Labour party concerned in these deals include Mr. H. Alderman, K.C., a wellknown Adelaide barrister, who acted professionally on behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He is a rabid supporter of the Labour party, is in close touch with Cabinet Ministers, and has been working for the Government in a professional capacity. Mr. R. S. Richards, leader of the Labour party in the South Australian House of Assembly, has also been associated with the transactions. It is quite obvious that these individuals have been in close touch with the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) for some time in connexion with the issuing of these licences. Early in 1941, as Acting Postmaster-General, I decided, for security reasons, to cancel the licences held by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Broadcasting Committee set up by this Parliament to deal with broadcasting matters generally recommended certain actions in connexion with the re-issuing of these licences which were in demand by a number of organizations. Recommendation 51 of the committee’s report tabled on the 25th March, 1942, states -
New licences should be issued to religious and educational interests in preference to any other interest (paragraphs 385 and 414).
Paragraph 385 states -
Those newspapers that have started publication in recent years and those that failed to take advantage of their opportunities when licences were first issued stand in no better position for the grant of a licence at some future date than any of the other unsatisfied applicants. They can still purchase existing licences with the consent of the PostmasterGeneral. We feci that new licences should bc issued to religious and educational interests in preference to any other interest, and that licences should be renewed not more frequently than annually as at present.
Paragraph 414 reads -
As regards the general problem, we consider that Australia is a Christian nation and that Christian teaching, both in its spiritual and moral aspects, is of great importance to national morale and national development. We note that church organizations have been granted only a very small portion of the 99 existing licences, and we regret that church applications have been rejected from a number of States. Moreover, we have been impressed by the broad and tolerant attitude of church witnesses who, in many cases, have individually represented a number of different denominations and we believe that certain church councils or combinations of churches could effectively operate stations. We therefore recommend that, if additional licences he granted or former licences re-allotted, the claims of religious organizations should receive earnest thought.
That was the unanimous finding of the all-party committee, and it is quite obvious from his comments and his replies to questions that the Postmaster-General was familiar with it. I regret that the Postmaster-General has interpreted these recommendations in a manner amounting almost to the prostitution of his high office. The honorable senator’ must have been aware that when the licence for station SKA was issued to a church organization, a condition of the agreement under which that organization had purchased the station from the vendor was that the South Australian Labour party should have a share in it.
– That is incorrect.
– I shall bring evidence of that fact as I proceed. I should like the Senate to note that the PostmasterGeneral has denied the charge. An agreement dated the 5th February, 1943, was entered into between Sport Radio Broadcasting Company, the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission, and the Workers’ Weekly Herald, on behalf of the South Australian Labour party. Paragraph 3 of that agreement, which is on a file in the Postmaster-General’s Department, is extraordinary. It states -
The shareholders agree to sell all their shares in the said companies unencumbered to Workers’ Weekly Herald and Adelaide Central Methodist Mission for the sum of £8,500.
But paragraph 13 of the agreement states -
The purchase price of £8,500 shall be payable by Adelaide Central Methodist Mission which shall have the right and (subject to the later terms of this agreement) the duty to take up shares in any further capital issues by either companies beyond the present shares or to make any loans to cither company which may be necessary to provide funds to carry on.
The agreement, then, was to sell a fourfifths share in the station to the Adelaide Central Methodist Mission, and a one-fifth share to the Workers’ Weekly Herald, on behalf of the South Australian Labour party, but the whole purchase price was to be paid by the Central Methodist Mission. That means, in effect, a gift to the South Australian Labour party - a political organization - of approximately £1,700.
Paragraph 20 of the agreement states -
1 ) The Workers’ Weekly Herald on behalf of the Australian Labour party shall be entitled to broadcast over the air through 5KA and 5AU free of charge -
That means that, in addition to the £1,700, the Labour party receives free broadcasting time of one hour a week - presumably in perpetuity - and when a writ has been issued for a Commonwealth or State election, four hours a week. Obviously, that gift is substantial. The agreement is on the PostmasterGeneral’s file, but when I asked him if he was aware that the Labour party was to receive free broadcasting time, his answer was in the negative. In his reply to Senator James McLachlan on the 14th September, the Postmaster-General said -
The representatives of the applicant company were advised that consideration would be given to renewing the licence if the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, with respect to facilities for religious broadcasts, were complied with. Before the licence was re-issued, the company submitted evidence in the form of an agreement which stipulated that certain facilities for broadcasting would be made available to church interests.
The agreement submitted by the company to the Postmaster-General made reference to the earlier agreement of the 5th February, in which free broadcasting time and a free share in the station were provided for the Australian Labour party.
The first paragraph of the agreement, dated the 17th May, states -
Memo, as to terms and conditions of agreement between His Grace, the Archbishop of Adelaide,Rev. Samuel Forsyth on behalf of Central Methodist Mission and the Hon. Robert Stanley Richards, M.P., on behalf of Workers’ Weekly Herald relating to broadcasting stations known as 5KA and5AU in contemplation of the renewal by the PostmasterGeneral of the broadcasting licences for 5KA and 5AU and in further contemplation of the completion of a certain agreement whereby Adelaide Central Methodist Mission and Workers’ Weekly Herald become the legal owners of all shares (except one) in the companies to which the said licences were hitherto issued.
– Why not quote the whole of the agreement?
– I am quoting from the agreement which the PostmasterGeneral himself produced and which already appears in Hansard. An extraordinary feature of that agreement is that it provides free broadcasting time of one hour a week for the Catholic Church, but other religious denominations are not given similar treatment. It is provided in the agreement that the company may take into consideration thegranting of further time to other organizations. I point that out to show the Minister’s conception of fair play, and indicate how he appreciates the principles underlying the recommendations of the Broadcasting Committee. It is not “ playing the game “ to drag party politics, with all their sordidness, into matters of this kind, giving special treatment to a particular political party, and tying up the matter with a charitable organization like the Central Methodist Mission. The Australian Labour party asked thatbody to provide, free of cost, 1.700 free shares, one-fifth of its profits and one hour a week of ordinary time for broadcasting and four hours at election periods. Had the licence been issued to the mission without any such provision, the money earned would have been used for a worthy object, I regret that those associated with this deal were prepared to saddle a religious organization with an encumbrance involving a loss of thousands of pounds. I place on record the fact that it is obvious that, in the early stages of the transaction, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) was not acquainted with the whole of the facts. He was asked -
Is it a fact that the Government re-allocated a South Australian broadcasting licence where the Labour party has a fifth share and free broadcasting time?
The Prime Minister replied as follows : -
Yes, except that the agreement between shareholders of the licensee company made no .provision for free broadcasting time to the Australian Labour party, although this agreement quoted conditions of free broadcasting time for churches, including others than the church which held four-fifths of the shares in the company.
In view of the charges made against the Postmaster-General, and the replies given, the file produced by the Minister to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) contains, even at a cursory glance, astonishing information showing the inaccuracy of the Prime Minister’s explanation. The following facts appear from the file: -
At least two copies of the agreement of the 5th February, 1943, are on the file.
There is a letter of the 23rd March, 1943, from Mr. Alderman’s firm to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, enclosing a copy of the agreement and putting forward a request for a licence.
On the 29th March, this correspondence was forwarded to the Solicitor-General, Sir George Knowles, for his advice.
On the 22nd May, the ‘Solicitor-General gave legal advice to the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs with reference to the sale to the Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald. That he had the agreement before him is clear, because he quoted several of its paragraphs. Incidentally, he points out that there are only eleven shareholders holding one share each in the Port Augusta Broadcasting Company Limited, one being Mr.
I may add that it appears to me not to be in the public interest that broadcasting licences should be the subject of bargaining.
On the 19th June, 1943, the Acting Director-General, Mr. Fanning, sent a memorandum to the Postmaster-General for use in discussing the matter with Cabinet colleagues, explaining the agreement and attaching a copy, not only of the application from Mr. Alderman’s firm and the agreement of the 5th February, but also a copy of the Solicitor-General’s comments.
On the 26th June, 1943, there is a memorandum from Mr. Fanning in these terms -
The Postmaster-General telephoned me this afternoon and intimated that after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer he had decided to proceed with the issue of broadcasting station licences to the Sport Radio Broadcasting Company Limited and the Port Augusta Broadcasting Company Limited, the shares in which companies have been purchased by the Central Methodist Mission and the Workers’ Weekly Herald, Adelaide.
– H - How does the Leader of the Opposition link up the Labour Party with that ?
– The Workers’ Weekly Herald acted on behalf of the Australian Labour party. I place on record my strongest protest against that action, and sincerely trust that the Postmaster-General, who has power to cancel broadcasting licences on any grounds whatever, will cancel the licence in this instance. The South Australian Labour party should not get any free time, and the licence should be issued to the Central Methodist Mission, which could co-operate with other religious organizations, and any profit could be devoted to charitable purposes. When the negotiations in connexion with station 2HD Newcastle are brought to light, I hope that there will not be a repetition of the unsavoury practice of exploiting religious organizations for the benefit of any political party. I conclude by summarizing my considered views of the transaction as follows : -
The Central Methodist Mission is an organization which has performed charitable work- of outstanding value to the community of South Australia, and I am unrestrained in my commendation of its efforts.
The pistol-at-the-head tactics adopted’ towards a charitable organization by those engaged in these transactions is reprehensible, to say the least.
The arrangements- leading up to the issue of these licences by the PostmasterGeneral, on behalf of the Government, has reduced political morality to a very low level.
The political collusion between the Postmaster-General, the Government, and Mr. H. G. Alderman, as agent for the original owners, and Mr. E. S. Richards, M.P., leader of the South Australian Labour party, in the matter of a public service such as wireless broadcasting, has further stained the record of this Government in the eyes of the people.
The participation by the Labour party in considerable financial benefit, at the expense of the work and objects of the Central Methodist Mission, is little, if anything, short of criminal connivance on the part of the Commonwealth Government and the Labour party in South Australia.
I urge the Postmaster-General to ensure that all the relevant facts bc investigated by a royal commission, and, if he has nothing of which ho has reason to be ashamed in these transactions, he will grant the request.
– I take exception to the use of the words “ criminal connivance” on the part of the Commonwealth Government, and ask that they be withdrawn.
– Objection having been taken to certain words, I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw them.
– Out of respect to the Leader of the Senate I withdraw them.
– I hope that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) -was more accurate in the remarks which he has just made than he was in the figures which he disclosed to the Senate some time ago in relation to the wheat industry. The Government has been accused of using public money for the purpose of political gain. Legislation was recently passed providing for the holding of a referendum, and the money expended by the Government in connexion with it ‘ will be appropriated shortly by Parliament. I recall an instance in which the Leader of the Opposition was a member of a Government which used public moneys for the advancement of a political organization known as the Democratic Front, without the authority of this Parliament. A sum of money was taken from a secret fund, and that action provided a first-class example of misuse of public money, for a political purpose.
– Has the Government a secret fund now)
– No; not for tho purpose for which the money was used on that occasion. The then AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) built up an organization in Sydney, and I think that it will be admitted that. £5,000 of public money was used in an unorthodox manner.
– That matter was reported on by a royal commission.
– I know that; but the fact that a secret fund was resorted to was admitted. The referendum arose from the convention held at Canberra to consider the proposed alterations of the Constitution. The purpose of that convention, at which all States and all parties were represented, was to avoid a referendum at the present juncture. The various State Premiers and Leaders of Oppositions, on return to their respective States, recommended the passage of legislation ratifying the transfer to this Parliament of the proposed additional powers, but the recommendations were not acted on in every instance. Of the 1,700 regulations passed by this Parliament under the National Security Act only six have beery disallowed. The Opposition had a majority in this chamber and could have disallowed any regulation. The fact that it did not do so is an indication that the regulations were acceptable to the Opposition. During the referendum campaign “big business “ got to work and provided the money with which the advocates’ of a “ No “ vote set out to defeat the Government’s proposals, but despite the negative vote on its proposals the Government will go ahead with its policy. Some time ago I saw a document which contained an important statement by a spokesman of the trading banks in opposition to the Government’s proposals. Previous governments did not attempt to prevent the building of a superstructure of credit. Although the defeat of the referendum will not frustrate the Government’s intention to give effect to its promises to the people, it may have a serious effect on returned service personnel. The complaint is made that the Government has not given effect to a policy of preference to returned soldiers,but it is not generally admitted by those who voice that complaint that only in the sphere of the Commonwealth Public Service can the Government put that policy into operation. Unfortunately, there is every likelihood of returned servicemen being placed at a disadvantage because the people refused to transfer additional powers to the Commonwealth. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by SenatorKeane) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at11 a.m.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Eighteenth Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1943-44, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Customs Act-Proclamations prohibiting the exportation of goods(except under certain conditions) - Nos. 608-610.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth purposes -
Morpeth, New South Wales.
Pittwater, New South Wales.
Health purposes -
Alice Springs, Northern Territory of Australia.
Telephonic purposes -
Geraldton, Western Australia.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of -
Essential materials (No. 8).
Toothbrush handles (Revocation).
Fly and insect sprays.
Navigation (Control of public traffic) (No. 4).
Taking possession of land,&c. (42).
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (78).
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Order by State Premier - Queensland (dated 14th September, 1944).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 130, 131, 135, 136.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Sixteenth Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1943-44, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Senate adjourned at 10.20p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 September 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19440926_senate_17_179/>.